jueves, 24 de marzo de 2011

GordonCZ Interview (English)

By Brazilian Blizter

GordonCZ is one of the most important mappers and modders in Blitzkrieg community, with 3 chapters, 2 campaigns and several single missions released untill now.

His campaign "Achtung Panzer" was the most downloaded in the history of the old Blitzkrieg Portal (30.862 downloads), and probably one of the best axis campaigns to Blitzkrieg, included the commercial ones. "Motherland Calls" also is a classic, not so popular as "AP" because the changes in gameplay, but very challenging and fun once the player get used to.

Now, when everybody (included myself) was declaring the death of Blitzkrieg, he came with a new work "Buzuluk to Prague": a custom chapter where we follow the operations of the Czechoslovak forces in the last years of World War II.

q) Hi GordonCz, tell us a little about the man "behind the nick".
Well, my "civil" name is Jakub, which can be translated to English as Jacob, James or simply Jim. As you know, I come from the Czech Republic (it's that small country right in the heart of Europe).

The main areas of interest for me are computer games and World War 2, while around 10 or 15 years ago, the evolution of computer games allowed me to merge these two hobbies together and to go along the way that lead me up to BK.

And why do I focus particularly on modding the games? Let's say that when there is a good game, I still see more potential of it and therefore I constantly think about how to improve and expand it. And BK definitely had a lot of such potential.

q) You are with Blitzkrieg since the first days, am I right? How did you discovered blitzkrieg and could you explains us a liittle about your passion on this old game?
Yes, quite right. Actually, my road to BK was somehow determined by my passion to strategy games in general. You know, such as Warcraft 2, Age of Empires, Z, Dune 2 etc. When Sudden Strike was released, it was like a dream come true and actually my first World War 2 strategy I played. And from Sudden Strike, a direct path lead me straight to BK, as I was looking for something more in that scope.

I remember that the really first time I heard about BK was thanks to one Czech gaming magazine, where there was a demoversion included on a bonus CD. This was a moment when my heart started to beat for Blitzkrieg. I was simply amazed by the beautiful graphics, detailed models, chatching music (I still do listen to it as mp3), intuitive gameplay and also by the fact that dogfights were finally possible.

q) How did you start to make maps?
It is closely tied to Sudden Strike again. I had experiences with map-making already from Warcraft 2 and Age of Empires, so it was kind of easy to get to know also the editor included in Sudden Strike Forever add-on. That's why I wanted to begin making maps also for BK as soon as possible. It's kinda funny to say it now, but the map editor and mission-making process in BK seemed extremely complicated to me by the times I was trying to learn how it works. *cough* Especially, when compared to the editor of Sudden Strike, where the scripts did not need to be written manually. I thought I would never be able to learn how to write LUA scripts properly to make my BK maps actually work as regular missions.

And as every beginnings are tough as it gets, I soon realized that there were no easy-to-understand tutorials on map making, and so I had to learn by trial-and-error only. But as BK2 was announced soon after, I was motivated to overcome these difficulties for the sake of future map-making for BK2, which looked very promising at first. (Some of the gamers may know me also from Nival and CDV forums where I was watching the BK2 development closely.) The effort slowly started to pay off and later on, I was able to create some of my first functional maps. I must say that maps created by gamers like kun@ and others helped me very much in this stage, as I could learn a lot from their work.

Finally, thanks to my old BK fan-sites, I was then able to get into contact with milknova and Lee and their BKPortal, where I also published Operation Blau, which for me was somehow a reward of my previous mapping efforts and a "struggle" with the editor. Back then, I thought it was my first and also the last project for BK. When I think of this opinion now, it sounds as something incredible from today's perspective.

q) It seems you usually work allone. Tell us about the creation process of a big campaign as "AP".
Yup, I rather prefer to work alone on my projects, mainly because it allows you to remain a master of your freetime and ideas throughout the whole development process.

Achtung Panzer is a bit of a specific case when talking about the creation process. The motive behind this campaign was actually a disillusionment from BK2 demo. I was shocked that BK2 is way too much off the tracks, so I rather decided to stay with BK1. (I personally find both demos being crucial to my "career" as BK mapper and modder, as BK1 demo dragged me into BK1 while BK2 demo drove me back to its hands.) And that's how AP was born - as an attempt to expand on the pros of the BK engine and minimize its cons. I wanted to change BK to a better wargame aimed mostly on refined tactics rather than a brute force. These ideas were later expanded in MC.

The creation process itself, as with every other project, was not an easy walk all the time. First of all, you must have an idea and an endurance to finish it. While the idea is an ignition of every project, the endurance is crucial for such a large campaign as AP. To be able to finish it, you are well advised to work systematically. So, you'd better sketch the rough outlines of how the campaign should look like at first - I mean how many missions do you plan for it and what chapters they should be divided into. As it was my first full-fledged large-scale campaign, I also had to find out what was necessary to make the campaign run in the end, so going through the various files of original BK campaigns was an inseparable part of this phase. During this preparation, it is also necessary to make some historical research, at least to prevent you from including wrong units in the wrong time.

After you have everything ready, you can start making the maps. Unlike in my other projects, I used the random map generation tool for some maps of AP, mainly to spare the time. These were then polished and modified to include more details and to better fit their large scale composition. But as this editing process became pretty laborious with later maps, I never used it again in my projects and rather created all the maps fully manually.

Also to save a lot of time during mission testing, I used a special approach. It was based on a process, in which I placed only several crucial units onto the map, wrote a complete lua script for the mission and run the map as a single mission. I spared tons of time especially during testing offensive missions, because to find out if the script was working properly e.g. when the objective was to capture a village, it was fair enough to temporarily occupy that certain village with just a few enemy guns or vehicles. These placeholders were later swapped for the regular number of enemy units and I was ready to focus on testing of only the gameplay and difficulty balance in the second phase, as I could be sure that the script worked just fine.

When all the missions were done and tested, it was time to convert them to scenario missions by adding core units, changing the placement of the files and writing all those chapter scripts and other necessary stuff. Final stage was just to test if the campaign works in its entirety. While I was sure that all the missions work properly, I could simply use cheats to go through the missions and chapters as quickly as possible, so this last duty could have been done fast enough.

Using this method of development saved me really lot of time and allowed me to produce many misssions almost in a blink of an eye. Easy, isn't it?

q) Do you still play Blitzkrieg? If yes, who are, in your opinion, the good mappers to blitzkrieg?
Actually, I don't have much time for playing any game right now, including BK. Moreover, I'm a person who likes to modify games rather than just play them all the time. That's why I'm always trying to invest my free time primarily into mod-making.

I believe that everyone who decides to provide anything like a map or mod for the community deserves a tribute. Because only thanks to such people, BK could survive for so long. Yet there are definitely my favourite mappers and modders in the BK community, I'm going to keep their names for myself because I would like not to forget someone on the list. ;-)

q) Blitzkrieg has seven yers old today, do you believe this game still have a future?
This is kind of a tricky question, but honestly speaking, everyone of us must surely realize that BK is definitely behind the peak. The situation was even worsened, when BKPortal ceased to exist and sadly the community got fragmented a lot during the following months. Due to this decay, I was also very sceptical about the future of BK as many others, but luckily thanks to the fan-sites like BKPE, Blitzkrieg showed its strong potential to survive even such crisis.

So yes, it seems BK still might have a future, despite not so bright as it was back in its golden era.

q) And how about you? Can we expect some new project for Blitzkrieg in the future?
Well, maybe. Who knows...

Visit GordoCZ's wbesite

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