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Interview - (2002-07-18) JBouley
Title Interview - (2002-07-18) JBouley
Description Deathscythe of the Phrozen Keep interviews JBouley on his Sanctuary in Chaos mod and mod making in general.
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DEATHSCYTHE
Please tell us something about your self.
JEFF
I'm in my mid-30s, married and with a stepson. I work as a writer and editor mostly, for magazines, newsletters and Web sites. Try to watch movies when I can, especially science fiction, fantasy and comedies. Try to be active in the church, seeing as I was a deacon for my father-in-law before I left Chicago to move here to Maine so we could be closer to my wife's son.
DEATHSCYTHE
Where did you come up with your username?
JEFF
Jeff + Bouley = jbouley. Not very original, of course. ;-) When I got my first personal e-mail account years ago with AOL, I actually came on board early enough to get my first initial and last name (plenty of other "jbouley"s at AOL now with numbers or other things after their name. I should know, I get a lot of their e-mail inadvertantly)...and jbouley just kind of "stuck" with a lot of my usernames for various purposes.
DEATHSCYTHE
Where did you start modding?
JEFF
I started modding with D2. I've never been a huge computer game player. I like them, but not a lot of time. But when I was in college, I devoured the early Ultima games. I think I started with Ultima 3 and went all the way through to Ultima 4 or 5. Loved those games. But my stepson spent some time with us for summer one year, and his copy of D2, which was not "legitmately purchased," shall we say...wouldn't work in my wife's computer. So I bought a fresh new copy, and when he left to go back to his dad's home, I kept playing the danged game. Before long, I discovered modding through diabloii.net when they were still cool and paid attention to modders. I suggested all sort of idiotic things to established modders like Fusman and others who were active back then. I was such a newbie. It wasn't until I started modding myself that I realized how much couldn't be done...at least at the time. A lot of stuff that truly was impossible back then is possible now through .dll editing.
DEATHSCYTHE
What's the greatest challenge you encounter in the mod?
JEFF
If you meaning modding in general, the biggest challenge is probably the frustration at not being able to do certain things that I want to do. These are things I could do if I knew hex editing and had time to dissect the .dll files, but I've just got too much going on. If you mean the greatest challenge with my mod in particular, it's getting myself to stop adding new things so that I can actually release updated versions on a semi-regular basis.
DEATHSCYTHE
Can you give me some summary of your mod?
JEFF
Sanctuary in Chaos is basically my effort to do as much creative stuff as possible without ever altering anything but the .txt files and substituting some animations here and there. I don't have an interest in delving into the coding at all right now. Basically, I offer a lot of variation in my mod. You can use the Horadric Cube to make a ton of different things, from potions to special charms to unique and set items and...just lots of stuff. I also added many new weapons and armor to the game and really made some changes to the sorceress skills. I altered all the character skills somewhat, but I completely reorganized the sorc. You can also "gamble" in ways that have nothing to do with the normal gambling screen. There's so much stuff in my mod, from new gems to new monsters to even little hidden "quests," that I have to have clues drop as treasure throughout the game and have NPCs give extra clues. I guess the best way to think of my mod is that it's a bit more fast-paced than vanilla D2 (monsters are literally faster, overall tougher and more numerous), and it gives your a wide range of playability. Because of different items in my game and something like 60 new gems, you can really replay the mod over and over as the same character or different characters and still be able to play in a completely different way. If you want to be a boxing barbarian, you can. If you want to be a spell-casting paladin, you can. If you want to rely on gems to make your items powerful instead of seeking out runewords or uniques or sets, you can.
DEATHSCYTHE
What is the best thing about your mod?
JEFF
Variety. Which I guess I already covered before. That can also be a challenge for players because they want to know what an item does right away. Sometimes, they don't want to wait for the clue that tells them how to use the item in a recipe or how to combine it with something else or how to open it or whatever. Another good bit of variety in the mod is the sheer number of changes to monsters. In some cases I've just made existing ones look a little freaky in some cases, but the overall effect is to make it seem like there are a lot more monsters, and I ended up with interesting effect by accident, like monsters with telekinetic attacks that you cannot see (but which damage you and knock you back), so you cannot dodge them. ;-)
DEATHSCYTHE
What did you find the hardest part about making a mod?
JEFF
For me, it's finding time to do everything that I want to. Because I'm always thinking of new things that I want to do. Now I want to start a whole new mod, but finding time in my schedule is really rough. As far as the mechanics of modding itself, I think the hardest thing is altering monsters without getting some kind of crash eventually. Usually involving animation problems.
DEATHSCYTHE
What major ideas and concepts are you adding to your mod?
JEFF
I don't know how much more new stuff I CAN add without delving into the .dll code...but I always manage to surprise myself. I think the next thing to get added will be an additional way of adding powers to existing magic items, aside from socketing them.
DEATHSCYTHE
What did you want to include but have been unable to?
JEFF
I'd really like to radically alter the barbarian, assassin and paladin skills, but those are really hard to mod extensively through just .txt editing. Unless I can find time to learn hex editing and figure out the .dll files, I'll never overcome that hurdle. I wish I DID have the time to pick up that skill.
DEATHSCYTHE
Is balancing everything difficult?
JEFF
Yes and no. I find that if I've made characters too powerful, I can always balance things back out by making a few physically immune monsters. ;-) Seriously, though, it can be hard. In my mod, money is probably too easy to come by. On the other hand, there are lots of things to spend it on, and recharging some of my items can be dang near impossible. But I've been lucky. Most people have no major balance complaints in my mod...and I've been going from sheer instinct. I know some modders who work out complex algorithms to make sure their changes are balanced. I just go with what "feels right."
DEATHSCYTHE
Do you have any advice to the newbie modders?
JEFF
Develop a lot of patience and a thick skin. Something that looks easy can easily eat up your entire evening because it won't work right or crashes your game. Many things I do now are second-nature, but that's only because I've been modding for what, maybe two years or close to it? And there are still a bunch of things I don't know still. Hang in there, newbies...I was once one of you, and I remember how it feels. Visit the Phrozen Keep forums often, use the "Search" function to find threads on what you need to know (or post a question if you cannot find anything), read the tutorials at the Keep and study the file guides. You'll get it eventually if you persevere...


Anyone wishing to check out the Sanctuary in Chaos mod can do so by visiting the official website at http://sic.d2mods.com.


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