The Ancients Speak

The Ancients Speak

Description: Yohann, jbouley, Alkalund, Joel, Myhrginoc and Paul Siramy are interviewed by onyx on the Phrozen Keep's 10th birthday.

Categories: Interviews

With the Phrozen Keep celebrating its 10th anniversary, there is nothing more natural than turning back to the past years of its existence. Hence, I present to you this interview - six individuals who have played an important role in the site at one point or another. They might be gone now, but they have all left their mark on the site and community, and on Diablo 2 modmaking. While there are many more who deserve to be included in this article, these six were the only ones I was able to contact.

First, it's [b]Yohann[/b], creator of the most popular Diablo 2 plugin ever - PlugY, The Survival Kit. When he appeared out of nowhere back in 2003 and said he was going to create an infinite stash plugin, very few believed his words. And here we are that many years and that many versions later, PlugY rules the world of Diablo 2.

Next we have [b]jbouley[/b]. He was one of the first co-admins of the site in the initial years of its existence and single-handedly kept the Phrozen Keep going while Phrozen Heart was busy with external issues. Jbouley is also the author of the popular Sanctuary in Chaos mod.

[b]Alkalund[/b] was also one of the co-admins of the Phrozen Keep. He was known for his excessive post count due to the great deal of help he provided to people on the forums in many different areas of modmaking. He used to carry the title Postaholic and be a very important asset of the Phrozen Keep staff. He's also the author of many tutorials that still apply today, years later.

[b]Joel[/b] was a Senior Moderator of the forums and a well-known modmaker. His ambitious projects shook the world of Diablo 2 modmaking. Unfortunately, very little of his work was actually released to the public. Joel was the author of the canceled Cabal Wars project and later, the Shadow Empires mod. He created many modmaking tools and wrote and edited a giant amount of tutorials for the community. While away from the Phrozen Keep nowadays, he's still working with Nefarius on Metal Storm.

Next, it's [b]Myhrginoc[/b]. A description of his contributions to the site and modmaking in general is unnecessary. He used to be a co-admin of the Phrozen Keep and then, a Senior Admin in the uncertain times after Phrozen Heart left the site in 2006. Myhrginoc was known for his deep research in the area of Code Editing. Without a shade of doubt, he's one of the persons directly responsible that the Phrozen Keep still exists today.

And last, but not least - [b]Paul Siramy[/b]. While he wasn't a modmaker, his contribution to modmaking is invaluable. He's the author of many and many modmaking tools that made unthinkable features possible. Above all, he's the creator of Winds1edit - the map editor for Diablo 2 that everyone uses. Among his other tools are DT1Tools - a set of programs to edit and create tiles, D2txtanalyzer - a tool that scans and analyzes the .txt files for errors, Dc6con - a program that converts images from .dc6 to .pcx and vice-versa, and many, many others. Paul Siramy also did a great deal of research and documented most of the Diablo 2 file formats.

So without further ado, here we go with the questions:

[color=yellow]ONYX: How did you get involved with the Phrozen Keep back in the day?[/color]

YOHANN: Firstly, I often visit the site to see news about D2 Modding and see what things can be do.
I always wanted to make an infinite stash and the better place to get help was here for sure. Therefore, I ask my first question on the forum the September 23, 2003. After some research (and see as a fool for many people), I found a way to do it.
I wanted to use it in vanilla and mods so I implemented it as a plug-in called 'PlugY, The Survival Kit'.
I release my first version, 6 months after it was the March 18, 2004.
I improved it by adding some others features and now people know me as the PlugY author, it's my main contribution to Phrozen Keep.

JBOULEY: I honestly don't recall precisely how, but I suspect I had been looking for some kind of mod or trainer and stumbled across the site and its forums. I do know that once I found the Phrozen Keep, I was instantly struck by its member-friendliness and the integrity of the site in terms of how it didn't focus on cheats but on a whole new gaming experience.

ALKALUND: I googled for diablo-related sites, stumbled across the Phrozen Keep. I was imediately hooked with the possibility of enhancing the gameplay and fine-tuning it to my needs (I played mostly single player/LAN at the time). There wasn't much that could be done back in the day (that was early in 2001). Enabling mana potions from vendors was pretty much possible and awesome though!

JOEL: I was bored of classic D2 around 1.05. As i already played god by modding D1/HF back in day, I jumped up the D2 mod bandwagon. I was delightfully surprised to see all those txt based thingy and such. Then i started playign around, got hooked and quickly drove to code editing. When Sir_General showed that we could compile actual C/C++ into D2, I was definitively sold.

MYHRGINOC: I showed up in late 2001. I had been playing Diablo for several years, and Diablo II since the pre-release stress test. (D2 and LoD are still the only games I have ever bought at release.) By the end of the year however, I had gone through countless boss runs and then cow runs on, joined games where I wandered through lesser-traveled areas while others hit the usual places, etc....and I felt like there could be more. Blizzard was full of unfulfilled promises, especially runewords, and it was obvious they were in no hurry to do something about it. So I stumbled on a reference to the Phrozen Keep and found a community of people who had taken matters into their own hands. I knew I was in good company.

PAUL SIRAMY: Ouch, I need to exhume some very old memories... [After few hours of research] Back in the years 2000/2001, I was playing Diablo II on a lot. I was in a guild, and I was writing on-line documentations for our members. It was about Set and Unique items. It was of course a time consuming process so I decided to make a program for doing the hard work of creating images and html pages for me. By some Google search I came upon the Phrozen Keep forums. There I found how to extract files from MPQ, and the item DC6 file format. Because I wanted my documentation to be as accurate as possible to what was in the game, I had to do some researches on how the items were *exactly* changing colors. I ended up by writing a documentation on that subject (still here in the Knowledge base), and by coding my very first Diablo II mod making tool. It was showing in a single image all the possible color variations an item could have. At that time there were still many interesting things to discovered about the game, and finding them and making tools was a lot more fun than playing the game (not mentioning the pretty good ambiance in the forums), so I stayed at the Phrozen Keep.

[color=yellow]ONYX: What place did the site have in your every day life?[/color]

YOHANN: Well, for me it was the official forum of PlugY.
So yes, Phrozen Keep site was really important.
Well, It's an hard question so I use my joker ;)

JBOULEY: Initially, a fairly minor place in my life, as the early days of the Keep offered only a handful of mods, and they were very basic, as the knowledge of changing fundamental game mechanics was terribly limited. But I was intrigued enough to begin doing some very simple mods of my own, mostly spell graphics changes. I realized the huge limitations of these early mods (my own included) but I increasingly found that I considered various people on the forums friends, and then the complexity of the modding abilities grew rapidly, as did the forum size, and my own role grew in proportion. I would hang out on the boards more (this was before Facebook and Twitter, so it was social media for me at the time). I would also do more complex modding of my own. That led to helping other people out when they had questions, which eventually led to becoming as moderator. And that, eventually, led to me becoming a co-admin.

ALKALUND: I was reading/writing on the forums for several hours a day, scattered through the day, so I'd say it was a big part of my life for 3 years at least. The amount of information about modding we compiled on the site was truly inspiring, and I was always hungry for more, wanting to know more and do more with the game. Eventually the site and forums moved for the second time, and I was asked to moderate a few forums and, after that, to be a senior moderator. Needless to say I was on the site even more then, and for a good while. Finally, I became one of the site administrators, a position I very much enjoyed for as long as I could dedicate myself to it.

JOEL: Back in the day, it was almost eveyrday, eveyrtime possible. I spent countless hours modding D2 answering/asking q on the forum. I liked how everythign was new in what we did.

MYHRGINOC: It didn't take me long to see this was better than just playing the game. I downloaded some mods: Sanctuary in Chaos, Eastern Sun and Ancestral Recall played a large part of my D2 gaming at that time. I learned how to make simple edits and why some features described on Arreat Summit didn't work as advertised. I peeked into the Code Editing forum and realized that years-passed classes using assembly language gave me a footing there. And I began to get more knowledgeable and more active. By May of 2002, a mere six months from my joining, the good people who kept the place running agreed I might be of help, and coincident with the site reorganization that month invited me to join the staff. After that there was no keeping me away!

PAUL SIRAMY: At that time, I was unemployed, so I dedicated a lot of time to the site. In fact my life was almost entirely dedicated to Diablo II mod making. I was usually coding and exchanging knowledge in the forums for 10 to 12 hours a day. Since I spent another 10 hours sleeping, there was not many time left in my life to do anything else ;) This period of my life had made me an expert in C. It has improved my programming skills, as well as my english level far better than school. Today I'm working in a big insurance company, coding in C under Unix, and I think that if I am there today, this is indirectly due for a good part to my past Phrozen Keep experience :)

[color=yellow]ONYX: Why did you leave the Phrozen Keep and have you thought about returning?[/color]

YOHANN: Ah, an easier question, so I will answer with only two words: job / Wedding
So I think I must wait my retire to get time like before... ;/

JBOULEY: I left the Keep because my own life was becoming far too busy for the stresses of being a co-admin or a D2 modder, much less both. I had a lot of work responsibilities, I eventually had a baby on the way, and it was too overwhelming. There were times I thought I might be able to at least return to modding, even after I left my role as a co-admin, but it just didn't work out. I loved the modding, but it took a lot of free time, and I already had too little free time for myself. It was a sad time for a long time.

ALKALUND: Real life commitments that were taking more and more of the time I had to spend in hobbies like D2 modmaking and the Keep. Eventually I moved to a different country to pursue my Ph.D. in Mathematics, and slowly my interests shifted to different stuff. I thought about returning several times, but since I could never return to my old days and with the same level of commitment as I had before, I didn't go through with it.

JOEL: Real life. Got married, then had to defend my phd thesis then applyign for positions and get a baby. I slowly drifted alos because of the less novelty feeling that was there after all those year.

MYHRGINOC: My wife and I lost some important people over the next few years, and by fall of 2007 we were seriously shell shocked. The last death was the hardest: in addition to grievous personal damage we had to administer the estate...and it was not a simple one. I was already maintaining a professional career and something had to give. It was not easy to decide to leave the Keep and it was not easy to stay away, but there are only 168 hours in a week and I can't change that. Since that time I have considered returning, especially when the ebb and flow of all my commitments reaches low points...but I know I can't be a passive observer...been there, tried that, couldn't keep my trap shut. So I stepped away, and even now I don't see how I could fit it in.

PAUL SIRAMY: Three reasons. First, I found my current job. While I'm having the chance to work in the things I like the most, when I come back home the evening I usually don't want to code again... at least not immediately, as my head need a good pause. Second, I have 2 children (6 and 2 years old). Curiously my wife want me to play with them on week end rather than letting me sit down in front of my computer ;) Third, and that's probably the main reason, I found a very addictive and funny MMORPG game in flash, and it was so interesting that I wasn't motivated enough to work with the good-old Diablo II mod making scene. After 2 years playing this game, I became completely tired of it. I have stop playing it just 2 weeks ago, and it'll certainly be a definitive break. Therefore, I'm finally coming back to my first loves, and here I am back to Phrozen Keep. For now I'm trying to find all the stuff I miss during 2 years, but I'm already working on a small tutorial about colormaps.

[color=yellow]ONYX: Now that the site is 10 years old and with D3 in the horizon, do you think there's future for D2 modmaking?[/color]

YOHANN: D2Modding won't completly stop the day where D3 will be available but for how long? That the question...
Well, I think a little increased of the site subtitle must be do urgently after we get D3 ;)

JBOULEY: I look to how people still speak fondly of D1, and want to go replay it at times, and how some of the mods of D2 brought back elements of the original Diablo game. So, I think that interest in modding D2 will continue (especially since it will take a while probably before D3 is easily moddable, if it ever is). If D3 proves moddable in a fun way, interest is modding D2 will wane, but will probably take a while to die out.

ALKALUND: I believe modmaking for D2 is approaching the end of its days; that is not a bad thing in my eyes though, and I'm sure as long as someone is interested in it, the amazing resources and piles of info modmakers have compiled over the years will be most invaluable.

JOEL: Yes. Nefarius and I actually put the game on its head. cosniderign D3 looks like a walk in the Carebears park, we'll stick with D2 ;)

MYHRGINOC: I am not optimistic. D2 modmaking is fading even with D3 only a glow on that horizon. There are hundreds of downloads in our library and the opportunities for a newer modder to innovate are somewhat limited. The game itself shows its age. But should D3 bomb and be locked down, then people may decide modding an old game is better than suffering a new disaster. That would be my reaction at least.

PAUL SIRAMY: Good question. It'll depends on how addictive D3 will be. This is only my own opinion of course, but I think we haven't explore all the areas of Diablo II mod making, the potential is still great. The problem is that we can already do such lots of things that doing better will takes times to implement in a total-conversion mod. Code editing is opening so many new areas that I'm sure it's possible to make great things in the future... but will there still be an audience then ?

[color=yellow]ONYX: Are you anticipating the release of D3 and do you expect it to top its predecessor?[/color]

YOHANN: For me, there are good choices done already. So yes, I think it will be better than D1/D2.
In D1 stats and spells management was really good but in D2 it was a complete failure for me (it's why I have add the unassign possibility in PlugY). In D3, they make stats automatic and add the possibility of reassign skills. It's better than D2 for sure but I think they could find better. Anyway, we will have fun to try a lot of differents builds.
I like the idea of random dungeon in a static world too, it will be good for the immersion.
For now, there are only one thing I fear it's the single player mode.
Blizzard don't want to see us play quietly alone on your computer, they want us to go on So what they will do for that?
I guess we must 'wait and see' for now...

JBOULEY: I'm very much looking forward to the new game, and I think it will probably top D2, though I'm not sure if it will be a major seller in comparison to other games with much more advanced graphics. The game looks nice from what I've seen, but I wonder if it will be heavily competitive in the overall market. But it does have some history, with the Diablo franchise's popularity, so I could be proved wrong.

ALKALUND: Oh yes, I'd love to play D3 when it comes out. I am trying to keep my expectations as low as possible though; there are quite a few things I did enjoy in D1 over D2, and vice versa. I expect the same to happen with D3, so it is all good in the end.

JOEL: I am, just for the gigs and playing with something new. Actually, it may also contains new media for the old D2 :p

MYHRGINOC: Yes I am. After thirteen years in the Diabloverse there is no way I can ignore it! But my D3 activity will be restricted, at least for a while longer. The demands on my time will not be less just because Blizzard releases a game. Besides, my equipment is somewhat antiquated; I have been waiting for Microsoft to recover from Vista's fiascos before I make any major investments in gaming machines. Depending on D3's requirements I may or may not be able to buy in when it is released! As for topping the charts, I don't know. With more and more gamers all the time a game that captures the interest cannot help but have a huge following. I haven't followed the news and don't know if there is much competition, but I know developing a new game is no less an effort than making a movie these days. So there will be a big rollout and plenty of opportunity to see if Blizzard still has the old mojo.

PAUL SIRAMY: To be honest, I almost don't know what D3 will be / looks like, as I'm not following its advancement. Knowing Blizzard, it has great chances to be a great game... I just hope it'll have that special 'magical' thing, and not only be a sequel in 3D of D2, my greatest fear.

[color=yellow]ONYX: When D3 does come out, do you think you will get involved in its modmaking scene?[/color]

YOHANN: Like D2, I won't do any modding before finish it in solo.
However, there is a difference due to my few free times I guess I won't finish it before at least one year!
Well, the only thing I can tell it's that I won't do a big project in D3 modding...

JBOULEY: There is no way I'd have time. Aside from work and raising a little girl and spending time with my stepson and wife, I currently run two blogs of my own ( is one of them, but the other one I must keep a secret for professional reasons) and I have some light moderator duties at a non-gaming forum. What free time I have has been used (and will continue to be) for writing fiction (science fiction/fantasy/horror and also erotica), which is something I'm very much involved in right now.

ALKALUND: It all depends on the amount of free time and whatever else is happening with my life at the moment. While I may get involved with it in some capacity, and I will most certainly go after D3 mods, I'm afraid I won't be dedicating the same amoung of energy as I did with D2 modmaking.

JOEL: Depends of what we can do with.

MYHRGINOC: The mod scene itself depends somewhat on how successful D3 turns out, both in gameplay and whether it can be modded. The people who made the early discoveries in D2 were true explorers as Blizzard didn't make it easy or straightforward. Perhaps D3 will have similar traces to scout and toolmakers will blaze trails for us lesser pathwalkers. Or Blizzard might look back at our D2 successes and try to lock us out. If D3 isn't a turkey then people »will« mod it if possible. What we saw at the Keep will occur again, and the Keep is definitely in position to be at its forefront. Of course, that is the general answer; in my own case involvement will depend on available time...and whether I like D3.

PAUL SIRAMY: I'm not sure. I'm terrible when it comes to 3D. Diablo II is a game in 2D, with all graphics and animations in 2D. Therefore I can work on this kind of 'ressources' with no problem. But D3, as a modern game, will almost certainly use 3D everywhere. Unless I'm learning how to work with 3D, I'll be very limited in what I'll be able to make. There will still be areas where I should help, like textures, background, database... but don't expect me to create a 3D viewer of monsters / items... Or maybe on the contrary the game will be so great that it'll motivates me to overcome that 3D problem of mine :) ? If the game comes with a Mod editor tough, I won't have many things left to work on.

[color=yellow]ONYX: Do you have anything to tell the people who are still frequenting the Phrozen Keep today?[/color]

YOHANN: Thanks for help and feedback many people gave me to elaborate PlugY. I was happy to work with the site's community.
However, I have one regret; it's to haven't release all my works done in modding, especially those I have done with Kingpin.
Well, sometimes I still come to visit the site anonymously, so I don't forget you.
For the future, I hope that the release of D3 will be an important day for new and old modder of Phrozen Keep.

JBOULEY: Just that community is what made Phrozen Keep a great place to be when I was there, and I still judge my experience at any discussion forum by my experiences at Phrozen Keep, and have found only one forum worth sticking with long-term since Phrozen Keep. I don't know if that sense of community persists, but if it does, nurture it, continue it, and enjoy each other's company and contributions.

ALKALUND: Please read the forum terms of service! Ok, not really... I wish you all have a great time modding this fantastic game; it is a greatly rewarding experience that will not only enrich your D2 gaming experience, it ought to teach you several other skills you can use elsewhere in life ;) and to everyone, including those who mostly play mods instead of making them, it is my sincere hope that the Keep is a place of value to you. Cherish your time at the Keep, I only have fond memories of the site and I'm sure you will have too :)

JOEL: That they should continue ;) D1 modding is still alive, so D2 should be too for a couple of years again :)

MYHRGINOC: The strength of the Keep lies in its people. That was true ten years ago and it is still true today. Look around the site, see what interests you in our lore collection and downloads, read the forums and join conversations that interest you. Should D3 be what we hope it will be, there will be plenty of opportunity for each member of the Keep to make a big mark. Above all else...have fun!!

PAUL SIRAMY: Thanks you for being here for so long :)

[i]Note: original spelling and punctuation are preserved.[/i]

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