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Interview - (2006-04-06) Brother Laz
Title Interview - (2006-04-06) Brother Laz
Description Onyx interviews Brother Laz for the Phrozen Keep on his current and future mod projects.
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You're one of the old-timers here at the Phrozen Keep. What kept you going for so long?


Partly the fact that there is no good competition for Diablo 2. I was disappointed in Dungeon Siege, didn't want to touch Sacred with a ten foot pole and World of Warcraft just isn't a Blizzard game anymore, so I just stayed with D2.

Also, I didn't want to release a half-finished mod and then quit. There was always something that needed to be tried out, fixed, improved upon, and so I was unable to put down the mod for a long time. Call it e-pride if you want.


Now that Median2006 has been released in its final state, could you describe the mod and its major features?


It is a 'partial conversion' mod, and its main feature is the new skill tree. All classic LoD skills were thrown out and replaced with a shared skill tree with 45 new skills, and five class-specific 'innate' skills per class.

The mod is more difficult than classic LoD, mostly through AI tweaks. There are many ways to make monsters harder, but increasing their life tenfold and giving them instant-kill attacks is not one of them.

The ultimate goal was to make sure the players would use a variety of attacks, not just because of immunities, but because the skills have genuine strategical advantages over each other depending on the level layout and monster mix.

And all that for the low, low price of 8.02 megabytes!


Your Median series as a whole caused quite a hype. What's the secret behind their popularity?


Getting a new mod off the ground can be very hard, but I did have a head start thanks to the popularity of Demon Trip for 1.09 in modding circles and my image at the Keep as a cynical jerk who happens to be very good at skill editing. This ensured I got at least some attention when Median 2 was first released.

The first releases of Median 2 probably weren't actually worth the attention, but it had no competition and the pretty new skills attracted a lot of players.

The feedback from the first wave helped me improve the mod and pointed out its flaws, which I then fixed in Median 2 SE and Median 2006. The players and site owners were patient; after all, I was the Demon Trip guy, the skill editing guy, so everything I touched was guaranteed to turn into gold, and if it didn't, it was probably just ahead of its time.

When Median 2 SE was released and the mod was finally good enough to fend for its own without the Brother Laz myth attached to it, it started popping up in various places around the internet, and Median 2006 even more so.

And the rest is history.


What is the feature that you'll never implement into a mod?


I was going to say 'level editing', but I'd get eaten by a pack of rabid players who still foster the delusion that some day I might actually throw them a new level if they've been nice.

Likewise, the politically correct answer 'damage overflows' would be a lie, since certain players seem very adept at finding ways to do about five times as much damage as intended until the nerf hammer comes down on them.

So I'll probably settle for 'imported monsters'. It takes a lot of work to add a converted monster and make it not look awfully bright, out of place, oversized and god forbid it has an incorrect viewing angle too. It can be done to great effect, if you're Joel or onyx. I am not.


Would you share your plans for future mod projects?


I'm torn between a huge mega-patch for Median 2006 and a whole new mod. So far, I'm gravitating more and more towards the latter. Many players have asked, begged or demanded me to make Demon Trip 3, and who am I to ignore my player's wishes? Hehe.

This assumes Flagship remains faithful to their tried and true Blizzard approach to deadlines and pushes the release date of Hellgate London back to the next decennium, of course.


1.11 is?


According to one Peter H. who used to work for a major game company, 1.11 was made by Blizzard South, aka not the guys who made the actual game, to keep the players excited about Blizzard's wonderful and ongoing support of their most successful title.

The fact that the 1.11 files are broken out of the box and don't even work without some extensive repairing doesn't bother the actual players, though, who have lots of fun soloing the totally impossible uberquest with level 1 smite and two particular items.

As a result, many 1.10-based mods face the problem that the average b.net player has 1.11, and doesn't even know what a Diablo 2 directory is and why he can't buy one on Ebay, let alone how to downgrade to 1.10 to play a mod. The procedure may or may not involve deleting the whole D2 directory, installing Windows 95 and/or sacrificing a chicken on the Cathedral altar.

We could blame the players for not reading the instructions about downgrading, but that would not be very nice and I'm always nice to everyone.


Are there any Diablo 2 mods that you like and play (besides your own, of course) and if so, which ones?


The mod I played the longest was Seven Lances for 1.09, which was like watching a train wreck. I just could not stop playing.

After that, in more recent times, Back to Hellfire by onyx is a great mod. It is quite the opposite of Median 2006, turning the game into a dungeon crawl complete with D1 monsters, a grinning Horazon and a surprise attack by the Butcher. It is also quite hard to get started, but a lot of fun once you get moving.

The mod I'm looking forward to the most is Shadow Empires by Joel, which promises to be a great mod if it ever gets completed. It's basically a total conversion with new skills, new areas, new monsters and new everything else.


With Diablo 2 being a fairly old game nowadays, how do you see the future of the Phrozen Keep?


Diablo 2 may be fairly old, but look at the number of players on battle.net. It is still one of the more successful online games out there.

There is still a future for the Diablo 2 mod scene, if only the Keep vets would just face reality and stop playing World of Warcraft. That game is nothing more than an addiction and increases the risk of brain cancer by 'up to +133', in WoW terms.

There is a certain inexplicable ebb and flow in the Keep's popularity, probably related to the Nasdaq, planetary conjunctions and the release of yet another broken World of Warcraft patch. Don't worry, it will get better. It always does...


Have you ever modded games other than Diablo 2?


Long ago, when I was young and untamed, I made a couple of tracks for Monster Truck Madness, which were never released because I didn't know much about that whole 'internet' thing yet.

I also made a feeble attempt at a Diablo 1 mod, but that game was about as moddable as a concrete block and I eventually gave up without getting anywhere.

I don't care much for 'games' with a lifespan of 5 hours and more bloody gibs and dynamic anisotropic quadrilinear lens flares than depth of gameplay, so I'll probably remain faithful to LoD until a worthy successor (read: Hellgate) is released.


Anything else you'd like to add in closing?


If you're new to the mod scene, don't attempt to include the moon and stars. Start small and gradually add more content. Scientific research proves that you are much more likely to finish your mod if you actually make progress.

If your first post on the Keep says something like 'I want to make a Discworld/Star Wars/Wheel of Time/LotR/World of Warcraft mod, how do I...', you're headed down the wrong path and it's a one-way road to hell.

Besides, I'm closely watching every total conversion thread and laughing maniacally when another overblown project bites the dust. Then I kill a kitten.

There is nothing weak or wrong about making a small mod and gradually improving it. Most of today's high profile mods started out as small hobby projects, and most of today's dead mods started out as the next best thing since Lord of Destruction.

Keep the black flame burning!

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