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Interview - (2006-10-16) TrueMage
Title Interview - (2006-10-16) TrueMage
Description Onyx interviews TrueMage for the Phrozen Keep on his Battle or Elements mod project.
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Let's begin with the usual question - who is TrueMage in real life?


Well, I am 30 years old man. icon_smile.gif I have higher education on engineer - economist speciality, but I work as the system administrator and the programmer at trading firm. I have the wife, but have no children. I live in Russia, more precisely in Nizhny Tagil, the medium-sized town in Urals region. You now, mountains, Chusovaya river and such things.
Computers are my hobby, as well as music (I have musical education), books, astrology (Yes, astrology as serious discipline, not as cheap reading matter. For example I worked on synthesis of astrological archtypes and Jung psychologies), martial arts, and physics. My first computer was ZX Spectrum.


How did you find the Phrozen Keep back then and what made you stay for so long?


I think I found the Phrozen Keep in usual way. icon_smile.gif I played D2 when game was released and then, after long break, I returned to play D2 (patch 1.09 times). When I realized that this great game is too easy if you kill Baal on Hell in twentieth time, I started to search mods (I knew that such things are exist because I saw CD with "The Grapes of Wrath" mod - illegal, slightly changed copy of "The Fury Within" mod). So I googled Phrozen Keep and, after a short acquaintance, I understood that this is greatest resource about D2.

So I started to play various mods. Of course, majority of mods was not so interesting, because represented no more than drop mods. But few mods have involved me very strongly. Next step was understanding that I like not all aspects of these mods. So I thought "What the...? I can to make great mod! Well, at least, not very bad mod, but this mod will contain all these things that I like so much". And I started to make "Battle for Elements".

D2 modding appeared more interesting business, than it seemed to me earlier. The more I learned about the mechanics of game, the more I understood that I know very little. Besides I have found out that I have so much ideas for mod, that I have not time to implement all. So I understood that mod will develop for long time.

Other aspect that keeps me on Phrozen Keep for so long time (and I think this aspect will keep me here to end of site existance (hope this will never happened) is tremendous and amazing friendliness of site members. Actually I never didn't feel so warm and nice atmosphere on any other site. On this site I really feel myself among friends and I appreciate it very high.


Describe the main features of your Battle for Elements mod.


Well, mod contains many features, but I'll describe few shortly.
1. Main feature of mod is item souls of course. You can extract soul (i.e. transfer properties from item) from almost any item in game and insert this soul into almost any item. This flexible system allow player to assemble items he or she want to have.
2. Second feature is Elemental theme of mod. Many aspects of mod are based on this theme. For example, new areas, such as Elemental Planes, new socket fillers (aka elemental fragments) and so on.
3. Reworked system of runewords. I use Scandinavian runes and "aett" system for this.
4. Very ramified system of cube recipes. For example, when player assemble Ring of All Wonders, he or she can choose what properties will be taken from lesser rings.
5. Amulets of morphing that morph character into various monsters and grant it with some monster abilities.
6. Two new character statistics: Luck and Endurance. These statistics affect to many aspects of game.
7. This mod is much more difficult than vanilla Lord of Destruction. Actually, you can forget everything you knew about LoD playing balance and start your exploration over.

This is not all, but even simple mention of all features would take too many time and place. I can say only that I rebalanced all in game.


Your mod is very popular. What's the secret behind that?


Really? Well, I think that first reason is player opportunities in mod. These oppurtunities are great, player have really many ways to develop his or her character. Second reason is that I never thought how to reach high number of downloads. I always done what I like in mod and what I thought must like to my players. I think that this is only way to make good mod. To do as you like. If modmaker make mod with only wish to make it popular, then this mod will have no spirit. Third reason - I still actively work on mod and I listen my players. Players work with me together, even if I don't apply all they want in game. I think there are another secrets, but these points are general.


What's your stance on the following: does a modmaker need to listen to all his players and implement all the features they ask for, or should he stick to the plans and visions he has for the mod?


Oh, of course modmaker should listen to players. Feedbacks really help to modmaker to see his or her work from other points of view. Besides, players have just brilliant ideas sometimes. But modmaker should NOT listen to ALL players. I tried to listen all players in past, this caused very bad effect: I felt that mod literally slips out at my hands and becomes unguided. Terrible sensation. Modmaker should always keep own vision and main line of mod. He or she should balance between own vision and players feedbacks wisely.


Easier said than done Anyway, what is the feature of Diablo 2 you'd never want to change or remove?


Heh, I quiveringly treat almost all that Blizzard done. I almost always try to keep original possibilities and remove or change only if this conflicts with mod too hard. I'd never remove any character classes, I'd never remove any original skills from game. I started make completely new skills for character, but I'll keep all old skills as item only skills. I'd almost never remove any original graphic from game. For example, I added many new graphics for weapon and armor in mod, but used it as graphic for exceptional and elite versions of items, and kept normal graphics unchanged. So you got the point.


In your opinion, why Diablo 2 continues to be going strong after all those years and did you ever expect that when you started playing? In other words - what's the secret ingredient of Diablo 2 that keeps it alive?


Game dynamics. Pleasure of the player from developing and equipping character. PK possibility. Hardcore mode. Deep game mechanics. Balance. Horadric Cube.

Randomized areas, monsters and drops was revolutionary things for release time. Tons of monsters, items, etc.

And no, I didn't expext such popularity from D2 when I started playing. "Heh, just hack'n'slash" I thought.

And main reason - game diversity! Almost any type of players able to found something interesting in this great game. Wants action? Take it. Wants RPG? Take it. Items creating?... And so on. Usually such synthesis practically doomed for failure, but not in this case. Developers done impossible.


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


Of course.

Zy-El , Escape from the Afterlife, Hell on Earth 2, Median, Ancients: The Fury Within, Nude Assassin

Zy-El was particular mod that caused me to make my own mod finally (Thanks to Kato).


Do you have any advice to newbie modmakers?


Heh, tons of advices. But newbies seldom listen to advices, they prefer to learn on own mistakes.

First of all, don't stop modding if something seems to you too complex. Trust me, the further you will promote, the more you will understand that it was not so complex.

Secondly, make mods for soul, not for popularity, DON'T make drop mods! There are more than enough such mods in our File Center. Make own, unique mod with own, unique ideas.

Use Phrozen Keep as invaluable source of knowledge, but always use "Search" button before asking question.

Be not afraid to deny authorities. Make own testing of existing knowledge. We have several cases when people denied knowledge settled within years.

Remember that D2 modding is time-consuming hobby. Don't think that you'll made great mod during couple of months. Be prepared for serious work.

Share your knowledge, this will be helpful for everyone who mods D2.

Enjoy by modding! This is very interesting thing actually. icon_smile.gif And enjoy with amicable Phrozen Keep' society.


Anything else you'd like to add in closing?


First of all, I want to say "Great thanks!" to all Phrozen Keep members. Especially to site admins and moderators who was so patient and helpful to us all. Thank you very much!
Secondly, great thanks to Blizzard Entertainment and especially to Peter Hu for patch 1.10.

To all modmakers: Keep up excellent work!

To all players: Play our wonderful mods.

To both: Let's keep Diablo 2 alive forever. Well,... at least while Diablo 3 will came out.
Thank you, Onyx, for this interview.

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