Interview with Raven Shield Modder Masaketsu
As a part of our celebration of Raven Shield’s 12th year anniversary, we talked to the modder Masaketsu who contributed to several Raven Shield mods. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name’s Masaketsu, I’m the founder of KetsuCorp which is a software and modding team. I personally specialize in UI Design, CGI and Texture Design. At the lower end of the spectrum I focus on C++ and have significant experience in completing entire mods.
Did you have any prior relationship to the Rainbow Six franchise before Raven Shield?
Absolutely! Before claiming any name akin to my own, we developed miniature unit and reskin packs for Rainbow Six & Rogue Spear. We’re exceptionally fond of the old titles and even love the Ghost Recon franchise prior to the Advanced Warfighter title.
How did your interest in modding start?
I started modding in the days of half life, often my curiosity to develop new features is what drove me. A critical mindset and cynicism is what it takes to conduct such an enterprise, trusting in your instinct to never settle for less or normal, always go onto bigger, bolder ideas. I guess the shortest way to explain how it all started? I was very difficult to please and I expected more from everybody and that included game devs.
Suddenly the highly demanded SDK for Raven Shield was out, do you know who released the Software Development Kit (SDK)? Did someone leak it out? How did you obtain it?
Now that’s a funny topic! There are so many stories as to how this source was let out amongst the public. Some stories involve UTPT Decompiling, others involve angry or upset Redstorm developers who leaked the source in annotated format. In the end it a story of creation, a big bang as it were. I won’t make any calculated guesses as to it or its origins but I will say this; someone out there gave birth to RavenShield modding.
With the SDK for Raven Shield out, how did this help in making mods?
Great question, the SDK was pivotal for co-developer .Twi who focused heavily on its source to help create some rather magical creations. In the end, RavenShield 2.0 is at its core a conversion so it didn’t matter as much, but for .Twi it became the bindings of how to make disciplined programming efforts surrounding the RavenShield core.
What were some of the initial challenges dealing with the Raven Shield Unreal Engine 2 with and without the SDK?
Prior to release(s) of future patches, vis a vis 1.56 and before, RavenShield enjoyed a quiet, privately led cabal of development. When patches were implemented later to strangle modding support outside of official expansion packs, the community began to nurture discontent. The challenges didn’t come from the software aspect it came from budding developers who left to better shores once these patches killed creativity.
You’ve been in modding teams for Raven Shield, can you tell us a little about who they were and how you co-operated with each other in creating mods?
I’ve worked alongside several highly respected members of the community in RvS and decided that we needed to lead a concerted effort. I’ve collaborated with Vadim and I especially loved my development time with .Twi but officially speaking KetsuCorp is a single group I have worked with directly throughout my time with RavenShield mods. I met Vadim through Unfinished-Games, a group with a sarcastic monicker pointing at the state of modern games when completed. Vadim was the one who alluded to me a great deal more on how the system of modding worked, especially weapons.
We built a great working relationship trading ideas and sources for new techniques in software. It was through Vadim that I learned of .Twi or Twilight. Both are skilled programmers who wielded a determined attitude. These people, my friends became my inspiration to fight against apathy and fatigue and they were the ones who truly taught me how I can make a change. Really at the core of the community were revolutionaries in design. Myself included.
Were there any specific features that were hard to implement that did and did not manage to implement successfully?
Oh god yes. 3D Ironsights, Picture-in-Picture scopes, restructured AI. You could think of KetsuCorp and other developers for RavenShield mods but what seems special or great is the product of slimming down even grander ideas. In modding if you start at the top (think like a game creator) and then pragmatically start whittling down all of the fat, eventually you get something that is tethered between impressive and reality.
It’s how we fight against small manpower and overwhelming requests.
You co-developed the popular RvS 2.0, what was your overall goal with this mod?
Ahh, RavenShield 2.0… That’s not just a small topic, mind if I elaborate? Sure. So in the beginning the mod started out with two guys. Myself and another, his name is Carlos and he lives in Brazil. We were both passionate young and we began to talk about adding ironsights. Weeks later we were already writing concept plans for it.
The original plan was to have the name “Rainbow Six 3: Complete Edition” which was to combine requirements for the other expansions, ironsights, immersive UI and a quicker and more efficient AI. None of it could be considered a single goal I think. At the end of it we had RavenShield 2.0, we had recruited the aid of people from Ordnance Project, texture artists from my own background and it all came to head when we had a set release date for Christmas. Twilight, Carlos, Perry, Akpin, all of the contributors in many ways came together to give this gift to the world. But, we can always do better.
There was some controversy leading up to RvS 2.0 release. Reports had it that Ubisoft had sent you a cease and desist order, was this true? What happened from when you received the letter and until you could release the mod without fearing any actions from Ubisoft?
I’m glad you asked this, there was a big legal fright from Ubisoft (or so it would seem) Essentially a few days into the release we had personally received a withheld phone call requesting the mod be ceased or legal actions be taken. We were very unnerved by this. Now, given how tough things were just getting the mod out there we weren’t comfortable just letting it go so we had to look into this very quickly so we could fix it. Ms-kleaneasy of the Ubi forums was the responding party, and while legal discussions were conducted we came out of it with a strange response.
Ubisoft claimed they had no knowledge of filing any claims and any communications had to have been the work of hackers or trolls or an unknown third party. Whatever the case it was very malicious. To this day, I’m still unsure given the legal processes but the ramifications were huge for all involved. All I know is this, I’m grateful to have RavenShield 2.0 released and it enjoy a veritable download pool on MODDB.COM.
Strangely enough, during the time of us complying with the request the mod was torrented heavily against our requests. I guess you can’t stop people, and in the future I hope to see the semantics and heart of that situation be taught to others. Mod teams are aspiring game developers who I think are more than aware of the legal ramifications of copyright and property breach laws. They aren’t looking to steal attention from releases, they’re trying to help make a title better and in the long run keep the title sale-worthy. We make your titles last.
Bottom Line: Ubisoft did not prevent us releasing this modification, and we to this day believe this was the work of someone personal and malicious, Ubisoft co-operated entirely with our members to ensure transparancy and clarity was provided
From what I remember, the 1.6 patch from Ubisoft made it harder to mod the game. How did this impact your motivation going forward?
If you know me, then you know that nothing changes my motivation to do anything in this world. Sadly however, 1.60 patch drove many away from the title which did make things exceptionally hard for us to continue with less manpower. My motivation was a similar one to that of .Twi’s, no matter what a company or organization can do to stop people who love what they do, we will always fight on. That’s a lesson for life as well. Motivation is the one thing that keeps us developers from getting fatigued. The mark of a good developer is not the one who has the easiest job, it is the one who looks at problems and solves the toughest ones first. He or she is the one who develops new solutions to solve possible future problems before they ever start.
It’s the person who wakes up at 3:00AM and says “That’s a genius idea, I’m going to work now!” and then you find them up at 23:00PM still working. He is unafraid of sleep loss and heartbreak. With 1.60 I felt shocked that we could not simply use mods outside of the expansions but there was also a strong sentiment towards ways of thinking that helped us get in or around it. The most important factor was that we loved RavenShield and that was not going to stop anyone, least of all me from asking questions on how to make mods. Nowadays it’s must different.
Which mod are you most proud of looking back?
It’s not for me to say, really. If I had to pick any I wouldn’t pick one I would say all of them. To me, building mods is a career improving opportunity but at the heart of it I love any opportunity to work with others creatively. I have some incredible friends I have made through my digital travels. Recently we got into PC Gamer Magazine, the ‘Mod of the Week’ section hosted by Chris Livingston. Rainbow Six Door Kickers was a surprising turn of events and we worked hard to create a true-to-series creation.
The Project VI was very promising, what happened?
Answer: Project VI… Such ambitions! Project VI was the boldest project we ever undertook at the time! With small game development groups, a life impacting change can be very positive or very devastating. I underwent some extremely terrible troubles in the years surrounding Project VI and we lost members and development capitol. It was truly the darkest time of my life and it showed in all of my development work. Me and .Twi, the last two remaining developers of mods for RavenShield looked at each other quite defeated.
He was a programmer and I’m an artist, what do we do? We were aiming to offer the real Rainbow Six experience as it should have been. In Retrospect, calling it quits was painful for both of us to admit. One of the things a developer won’t tell you is how much it hurts knowing you cannot finish a dream. KetsuCorp bounced back and so did I, someone very special to me motivated me when I lost all hope.
Now we’re developing incredible projects on other engines and platforms, but at the end of the day without motivation as I mentioned prior it is almost impossible to fight on. Project VI is very special to myself and others. What I can say about Project VI is this; it was a monument, a testament to all the love we felt for Rainbow Six. It was RavenShield’s dying breath and last stand in a world with increasing abandonment of mod support. It was RavenShield’s last.
What does Raven Shield mean to you 12 years later?
RavenShield is a part of my origins. It is a tactical shooter that offered a level of tension rarely emulated now. With the likes of Insurgency and other titles, we’re a far cry from slowly pushing a door inwards only to see the bad guy take a shot. It means creativity and passion, as the developers who built it (RedStorm) were as equally in love with developing the Clancy franchise as much as we were in modding it. Looking back, RavenShield is the ultimate counter-terrorist experience.
Any title that comes after that with Mr. Clancy’s name on it should attempt to honor his work and RedStorm. We would like to imagine that RavenShield is a jewel in his digital crown, and his epitaph should not be marred by corporate posturing. We would like to see collaboration with Ubisoft to revive RavenShield.
When was the last time you played Raven Shield?
Essentially when Project VI (or PVI as we call it) was shut down. This was about two or so years ago. Someday we would like to host servers on there and other R6 titles and maybe return to modding a title such as it. For now we are not working on RvS.
Have you tried any other mods for Raven Shield?
Yes! Anything Akpin has created, Twilight’s Zombie and Mercenary mods are a great experience and of course Ordnance Project. These are a part of our culture and deep in our souls we know that we spent a lot of hours of frustration and enjoyment with both making them and playing them.
We miss RvSGaming and it was our mod home.
What was your favourite feature, map, weapon/gadget in Raven Shield?
Probably have to be any of the Airport maps or Island Estate, those maps were in my heart forever as being the most tense firefights ever endured. Weaponry I am a firm believer in the MP5/10A2, nothing feels more satisfying than placing a two shot, controlled pair grouping into an enemy tango at 50m and then “tango down.” Add five other members to your fireteam and you have yourself an awesome day! Features? Dynamic leaning/posture, it was fluid and it was excellent in design.
I’d love to see a full remaster of the engine with HD assets, and if Ubisoft ever did do the impossible and contact us they would have our design group at their hands to develop what we believe is the community’s desire to have real Rainbow Six back.
What do you think of the current project Rainbow Six Siege?
I say this with every release since the best days of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, it is good, but can be better. If they observed all the wanted features of all titles and managed to successfully get these titles into one single franchise, they would be able to do the thing they’ve wanted since Ubisoft entered into the Triple-A game market; compete. They often miss the things that make them able to fight off an intellectual property war vis a vis Battlefield Vs. Call of Duty. Here’s my thoughts: With each Rainbow Six title they offer something great, something very good in the concept, but they abandon things they don’t think would work for that title. For instance, in RavenShield we had mod support, many weapons and fluid door controls.
By Lockdown these features were abolished and in return the title was a catastrophic failure. Yet, one of the best features we ever saw were the Goggle HUDs. By Vegas they had done their best to bring the engine dynamics of RvS in to play again, but added a cover system which made the game seem arcade-ish. The customization was welcomed, strongly even. Had Ubisoft followed in Clancy style, used RavenShield’s systems, adopted an immersive HUD (make it toggled to on/off status for preference), kept the cover system but also allowed leaning and fixed collisions, and then did the graphical vista’s of Siege and of Patriots…? Then you’d have your Siege systems like breaching, and so on and forth. Plus the PEC or Persistent Elite Creation mode, (so long as they provide legitimate kit out and weaponry, no odd colours) and bumped it to Six-Vs-Six? You would beat EA.
How do you rate the AnvilNext engine Siege is currently running in terms of modding?
I don’t think it has anything to do with the engine. This is a company decision and if they want to add mod support they will need to deliver a title that can allow for source code work, an open-ended addon system and release framework or SDK’s for animators and designers alike. I can’t comment on the engine but really on the business practice. If they manage to invite developers, they will have a lasting game.
Do you think the current climate in the industry by discouraging fanmade content to force DLC on consumers will last? How does this impact modders with their motivation and aspirations on becoming full-time game developers in the future?
It’s an ugly world and it isn’t getting prettier. Discouraging development and making an excuse about DRM as reasons for doing so is very dishonest. Right now there is no business legislature to avoid video games being monopolized. Observe the true face of the current game industry and you will see a market of pay-to-win or in-game content that is purchasable by real currency.
The motivation to develop is being sent down the financial path. It impacts modders because it teaches them that unless the potential for money can be made it just isn’t worth it. The truth is 90.00% of gaming developers come from a modding background and when they lose motivation they’re turning towards Indie development to make minor income so they can get a career. At the end of the day, as long as companies continue to provide controlled titles of income-oriented nature (Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc.) there will never be a need to accept developments that may improve the game if they cannot try to put a price on it. Therefore, companies will more likely adopt releasing DLC for premium costs over ever allowing someone else to do it for free despite how much money it saves.
Skyrim is one such title whereby DLC is released for premium, but the developers of mods far exceed that of the content of the DLC. Bethesda has been very kind in allowing modders to express their talents and then finally look at their resume or CV’s and hire the ones that would make their future titles even better. Ubisoft can learn a thing or two about the practices of Valve or Bethesda, inviting modders in.
One day I was talking to a friend who shares in my passion for tactical realism and we both looked at some of the mods available. Shaking our heads we took upon the task of making a quick month long project. We loved what Door Kickers was trying to do in letting modders in and we said ‘why not’ and a month or so later we had a finished mod. KetsuCorp is very perfection-driven, we will continue to work with Door Kickers until it is not necessary to patch or upgrade our work. It is a short, sweet and enjoyable title where a player can emulate top down, precision based tactical maneuvers in a game.
PC Gamer featured your Rainbow Six mod for Door kickers. How did this exposure feel and motivate the team?
It was very exciting! When I heard about this I was in college and I had just been told that my work was featured online. Our ratings went through the roof and it was very exciting to see! We had some people complaining it was just luck, but I don’t think that will dissuade us from enjoying a solid review on our hard work!
How did the developers of Door Kickers respond to your mod?
Being congratulated for it was very nice, certainly something we would definitely appreciate for a long time to come. The folks who develop Door Kickers are a real great bunch, they offer tools and support for the budding developer and it is very nice to know we have them as personal friends of ours and people we can talk to.
Have you heard of R6 legend John Sonedeckers’ Ground Branch? Will you consider modding this title?
Now that is a name I haven’t heard in a long time. John Sonedecker’s efforts to see a real, time-honored tactical title is always something we have admired. We know of Ground Branch through several contacts and we are eagerly awaiting its finish if we can just get some idea of a release date. If they are in need of a professionally testing the work both means and product wise we will be happy to consult, etc. In saying that, we will definitely mod this if the support is available, failing that let us know what we can do to help improve the product be it before or after the release.
What are you currently focusing on and what are your future ambitions?
Two Words: Computer, Science. I’m studying my posterior off to ensure my life is in a good place, part of that requires I commit heavily to studying constantly and I am enjoying the development cycles and learning new techniques. My future ambition really aims at being with the one I love, she and I are very special and I have to see to it that we have a life to enjoy. So, my love life and my career are the only things.
What is your dream project?
Any project where I can take the artwork of my other half and put them into a world she and I can create. I know that sounds romantic, but my dream project is anything where I can get the love and support of my family and at the same time work on the things I am good at. As a modder who specializes in tactical simulations and military enhancements, it comes as a surprise I’m sure, but I am quite the sentimental player. I think if I had to build one project, a career based one, it would be with Ubisoft or with Bohemia Interactive to help create a truly immersive experience. I specialized in realism and that is where my talent comes in. If I can make it authentic, then I’m happy. That would be my dream project at any level, with any kind of support, too.
What games are you currently enjoying these days?
I’m not really playing games as much as I wanted to. My other half and I don’t have the chance to, but when we both can together I will seize it. Anything co-operative I will love to play and anything with fantasy or roleplaying aspects is always the best! If I had to clock my hours gaming it wouldn’t be gaming per se, it would probably be the 400 hours of testing the mod we are building for Armed Assault III right now….!
Do you have a message for our readers and fans of your mods?
An incredibly warm thank you! The people who have supported our work have the most amount of patience. For those who love our work with Tom Clancy titles, we especially appreciate your dedication to the cause. We love the titles as much as it could be loved and you do too! Don’t ever forget that only you have the power for good, wholesome change. If you want something never be afraid to learn how to get it.
There are too many opportunities in life that are disguised as frightening or scary risks, ventures. If you can negotiate the fear, you can learn to transcend pain. I am exceptionally grateful to my family, especially my soul mate, she and I have a wonderful bond and she has supported my developments from the moment we’d met. I am very lucky to have my development team, I work with some very smart and talented individuals who don’t see problems, only opportunities to learn more.
To you, AGR-S, to the long lost veterans of RavenShieldGaming, to all of the fans in love with Rainbow Six and other tactical titles, we salute you. KetsuCorp is not just a mod team, it is a collaborative struggle to learn more and create beyond our own expectations. Without the critical thinking and requests of your fans, we would not have sought to create such high quality or daring modifications at any level, ever. Thank you.
We at AGR-S.com thank you so much for your time for this interview with us. We wish you good luck in the future and thanks for extending Raven Shield lifespan with great content!