Interview with Raven Shield Modder .Twi
Following our focus on Raven Shield on its 12th anniversary, we decided to talk to Raven Shield modder .Twi.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you are currently active with?
Thanks for your interest in interviewing me! In real life, I am a teacher in my mid-20s. I enjoy basketball and spending time with my wife. I have a few main projects on the go right now, including modding a Raspberry Pi computer into a game console.
Did you have any prior relationship to the Rainbow Six franchise before Raven Shield?
I had not even heard of Rainbow Six before I found Raven Shield and Athena Sword in a bargain bin in early 2007! I was not much of a gamer before that, but had just gotten my first computer and was looking for shooters to play.
How did your interest in modding start?
When I really got into the online multiplayer community, I quickly realized that hacking was a huge problem. Especially on a couple of my favorite servers, there were a few players that everyone suspected of hacking but had no proof. Punkbuster was mostly useless, so I started looking into other solutions. I found an old mod by a guy named Neo, called “Newbcop” that attempted to catch hacks. Newbcop didn’t actually do much, but it showed me that it was possible for users to code mods in Raven Shield. From there, I had to figure out how to set up my game to compile custom code. It was much harder back then, without any sort of official SDK, and the only resources where one could learn was, ironically, hacking forums. So in order to defeat hackers, I ended up being a frequent visitor on their sites.
Suddenly the highly demanded Software development Kit (SDK) for Raven Shield was out, do you know who released the SDK? Did someone leak it out? How did you obtain it?
To put things simply, in order to compile code for Raven Shield, you need a copy of the game’s source code. Without an official release of the code, modders such as myself as well as hack creators had to write their own approximate version of the source code to use in compiling. Of course this was the source of a lot of bugs and frustration. At some point around patch 1.56, UBISoft experimented with a limited test release of the official source of the game to a few testers. One of the beta testers (I don’t know who) broke the non-disclosure agreement and leaked the source code to a Russian gaming forum. In retaliation, UBISoft stopped the test release, and even put anti-modding measures in their final patch (version 1.60). The official leaked source code floated around between people in the know for a few years, but (as far as I know) never actually was made available for public download. When I started making more mods, I was contacted by Vadim of the Ordnance Project, who sent me a copy of the leaked code.
With the SDK for Raven Shield out, how did this help in making mods?
Modders no longer needed to try to write their own messy version of the source code! We now had an official copy of the code, that would compile without flaws. This meant that we could now mod the game to the same extent as modders had in other Unreal Engine games. In addition, the official source code was an amazing resource for figuring out how the original developers had done certain things. However, this didn’t mean that it was easy to make mods! The UBISoft so-called “SDK” only included a bunch of text files containing code. A prospective modder still had to go through many steps to set up their game to compile. That was the reason I released my own SDK, which was pre-set up with the needed tools to make mods.
What were some of the initial challenges dealing with the RvS Unreal Engine 2 with and without the SDK?
Before the release of the SDK, the game engine source code created by the various hacker communities were extremely inaccurate and buggy. There was no guarantee that anything would compile properly, and some areas of the game, such as the menus, were completely inaccessible. After UBISoft released the source code, and after the subsequent leak, the biggest issue was that UBISoft removed the ability to compile in patch 1.60! So in order to mod the game, modders had to use an obsolete version (1.56).
You’ve been in modding teams for RvS, can you tell us a little about who they were and how you co-operated with each other in creating mods?
I first joined the Unfinished Games team, creator of the Ordnance Project mod. Unfinished Games was led by Vadim, a modder who initially wanted to add Russian weapons to the game. Vadim and I got along great, and are still in touch occasionally. Vadim taught me how to create custom weapons for the game, and I taught him how to get around the anti-modding stuff in version 1.60, so that Ordnance Project could be released on the current version. I also was loosely associated with Masaketsu’s Ketsucorp team, who made Rvs 2.0. I wrote code to implement a few of his desired features, but was not an official member of the team since I didn’t want to add too much to my workload at that point. After that, Masaketsu and myself formed the Project VI team. Masaketsu focused on the materials such as new textures and models, and my job was to implement the new materials, as well as gameplay changes through code.
Were there any specific features that were hard to implement that did and did not manage to implement successfully?
I have many projects that never turned out! Most of them were mods that would be uninteresting to the average Raven Shield player, but I tried just for fun. For example, at one point I was working on a mod that would use the Raven Shield game engine to run a 2D sidescroller Mario-style game. Another time I made a multiplayer mod that allowed players to fly, but it was buggy (for example, you couldn’t reload while flying), and not very popular for long. For my attempts at realism mods, I did manage to implement bullet physics (such as dropping over long distances) and also bullets penetrating thin materials, but I could never get these features to work properly in multiplayer.
You co-developed the popular RvS 2.0, what was your overall goal with this mod?
Masaketsu’s team’s vision was to preserve the core tactical experience of Raven Shield, but upgrade the parts of the game that showed their age. So the focus was on graphical upgrades. Most of the gameplay upgrades were small changes for realism, such as tweaks to the friendly AI.
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 when you received the letter and till you could release the mod without fearing any actions from Ubisoft?
The cease and desist was fake. Masaketsu received a phone call from someone claiming to be an UBISoft representative, threatening legal action. At that point, we shut down our work on the mod until the team was able to actually contact a real UBISoft representative, and get confirmation that we were good to make the mod. Unfortunately, the realism gaming community has a few very extreme members, whose view on how to mod Raven Shield didn’t match our own. This caused division between Masaketsu’s team and some people who had previously supported the mod. I have my suspicions that it was one of these former supporters who made the phone call, though I don’t know exactly who.
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?
I began modding after 1.60 had already been out for ages, so circumventing the anti-mod protection was standard for me from the start. I do remember that it had discouraged Vadim a lot from working on and releasing his Ordnance Project. I am glad that I was able to help bring Ordnance Project to version 1.60.
Which mod are you most proud of looking back?
My favorite of my own mods is the R6: Zombies mod, which added wave gameplay against zombies for single and multi player. I am extremely proud of all aspects of the mod, including the look of the zombies, the maps that I created for it, and the unique multiplayer experience. The R6: Zombies mod, when played online, has features such as the ability to join a round in progress and to respawn dead players after a successful round. This was some of the toughest code I’ve ever written.
The Project VI was very promising, what happened?
Unfortunately, both Masaketsu and myself had a lot going on in real life, and the workload we had assigned ourselves on the mod was enough to keep a small game studio in business! Masaketsu would get an enormous amount of models and textures made and sent to me, when I was busy with my job or with basketball and unable to do anything with them. Then, when I’d get free time and start working on code, Masaketsu would be unavailable and I’d be working on stuff alone. Eventually we decided to call it quits – I didn’t feel that we’d be able to do the mod justice with the way things were going, and Masaketsu was moving into modding the ARMA series of games.
What does Raven Shield mean to you 12 years later?
Raven Shield is still the best multiplayer experience I’ve ever seen. It got everything right that shooters like Call of Duty get wrong. I still know every detail, every glitch, and every exploit in each default map better than I know the layout of my house.
When was the last time you played Raven Shield?
I last played Raven Shield about a month ago. Usually every month or two, I will get an itch to play again and see what the multiplayer community looks like. I always see old names that I recognize from years ago, still playing and enjoying this great game. And I actually still have a modding project on the burner for Raven Shield as well! It’s a server tools mod that gives added functionality to administrators in a multiplayer server. Work on it is pretty slow, but I hope to finish it before Raven Shield turns 20!
Have you tried any other mods for Raven Shield?
I have tried every mod I could get my hands on! Some of my favorites include Masiro’s Pistol Mod, which added a bunch of new pistols to the game, and Neo’s Santa Hat mod, which made every player on a server have elf hats instead of helmets.
What was your favourite feature, map, weapon/gadget in Raven Shield?
For multiplayer, my favorite weapon was the FAMAS G2 with miniscope. Of the assault rifles, it had the highest rate of fire, which made it a weapon of choice for experienced players. I sometimes would pull out the VSS Vintorez when I wanted a bigger challenge. My favorite map in multiplayer was MP Training on survival (every man for himself). It had a great combination of open lanes and vertical gameplay in buildings. For singleplayer, my favorite loadout was the AUG with silencer, and flashbangs. I would set up two operatives with this loadout, and speed-run the maps with no planning stage, just me and one AI buddy.
What do you think of the current project Rainbow Six Siege?
I am very excited for Siege! It seems like a great combination of the tactical nature of Rainbow Six with new features and innovation. I feel it’s a better successor to the R6 line than the canceled Patriots.
How do you rate the AnvilNext engine Siege is currently running in terms of modding?
I don’t know much about AnvilNext, but I have heard that there is no real way to mod the engine. Knowing UBISoft’s stance against modding, I would not be surprised if there is zero support for fan-created content. After all, if fans can make their own maps and mods, why would we bleed our wallets buying each incremental DLC?
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?
I think eventually there will be an equilibrium with regard to DLC. Right now, with games like COD: Advanced Warfare being basically pay-to-win with microtransactions, the fans are starting to realize how ridiculous these things are. But the flipside is that the indie game community, with strong interaction between devs, fans, and modders, is growing greatly! I think the industry will soon strike a balance between the two approaches. In the short term though, this attitude by the major game studios will create a brain-drain situation. The people who would normally make the best game developers – modders and gamers – now have a high barrier to entry in the industry. Soon that’s going to come back to haunt the studios.
What is your dream project?
I’d love to be part of a Raven Shield: Remastered team. Just like Microsoft is re-releasing the old Halo games with updates, I’d like to be part of a team bringing Raven Shield to a modern game engine like Unreal Engine 4. (UBISoft, take note!)
What games are you currently enjoying these days?
I am on my second play-through of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which I consider the greatest RPG I’ve ever played. I’m really enjoying some older PC games right now, including Age of Empires II and Descent II. In addition, I love playing vintage console games on emulators, such as Super Mario World for SNES.
Do you have a message for our readers and fans of your mods?
Thanks for the support over the years! Without people like you, Raven Shield wouldn’t have had such an amazing community and wouldn’t have been such a long-lasting game.
AGR-S.com would like to thank .Twi for his work on Raven Shield mods and extending the game for many people. We wish you good luck in the future and hope to see you again! Check out .Twi’s youtube channel for some unreleased Raven Shield mods.