Interview With ‘First Strike’ Dev Team

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As a Star Wars fan and as a gamer, there comes a time when the typical run-of-the-mill Star Wars gaming experience might not be enough. Where’s the next great first/third person multiplayer action experience? If you don’t want to wait, there’s a great solution out there now. Surprisingly, I’m not referring to another LucasArts title, but to another game called Battlefield 2142. For some time, a dedicated group of developers and artists have donated their talents to creating a Star Wars based mod to this game. Now you can have realistic and satisfying gameplay set in the Star Wars universe using familiar characters and weapons.

This mod is titled “First Strike” and the development team is hard at work on the next release of the mod, anticipated for late April (possibly early May). There’s some exciting new sets and features to look forward to, but the one thing that has me and apparently many others excited about this is three words: Battle. Of. Yavin. That’s right, Porkins. You too can do the trench run!

I recently had the opportunity to interview the development team to get their thoughts about the mod and what’s coming up for the next release. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll be reading next:

  • New trailer
  • Dev team profile
  • Exclusive interview with the development team
  • Screenshot gallery including views from the upcoming 1.2 release
  • Links

Read on to find out more about First Strike, more on the new release, and the interview!


NEW TRAILER

To give you a taste of the First Strike experience, and a glimpse at some 1.2 features, here’s a game trailer that puts it better than any amount of words can:


DEV TEAM PROFILES

FSDev| TALON
My duties on First Strike focused primarily on lore work, verifying the accuracy of assets and providing reference material. I have also done some work developing the storylines for the map loading screens. Eventually I couldn’t avoid getting my hands dirty and allowed my games industry background to get the better of me and did a little modeling work including the DL-44 and DH-17 blasters and a few other little surprises that you’ve yet to see in game yet. I am currently a freelance game developer and have worked on many games in the past including Need for Speed, Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter and Battlestar Galactica.

Imperial
I’m one of the more recent additions to the team. I try and focus most of my work on coding; however I end up doing a lot of mapping and some simple texturing as well. Before I joined the team, I really had no experience with modding, but I’m currently working on a degree in computer engineering and that comprises of a lot of programming which I was able to fairly easily relate to modding the BF Engine after working with the editor for a bit. I also worked with Photoshop a lot in the past and run a web design business, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to learn basic texturing and setting up the stats system.

FSDev| BLITZ
I have worked on FS since the winter of 2005, I kinda do a lot of different things and I try to educate people to help them become better and more diverse modders. For the BF engine I have functioned as a level designer/mapper, some VFX, coding (the walker being my biggest challenge), texture artist, modeler, QC, Project manager and for 1.0/1.1 I was the executive producer which I have now handed off to Jay so I can spend time with my family

I have done some minor work for about 5 other mods, and I will continue to support FS as long as we have a great community.

FSDev| Dutch_Razor
I started work on the mod shortly after it was formed, saw the ad for more members on totalbf2.com and basically I thought hey, let’s work on a Star Wars mod. I didn’t know anything about modding back then but I had the star wars fact file for lore (which turned out to be mostly inaccurate), I probably drove the coders crazy with my impossible ideas . After the basic game concepts were formed and there was less work for lore, and more lore people, I started modeling in Sketchup. My first 3D model ever, a water farm! I’m not sure if it ever got textured, but since then I’ve switched to 3DS Max and made the Echo Base Buggy and the X-34 (Luke’s) landspeeder, which can be found in several Tatooine maps.

Though I had a short experience at VFX (the engine didn’t like the Corvette sized X-wing explosion very much), I’m now mostly a redundant member, not having done a lot of work due to being in my final year of high school.

FSDev| RedMonkey999
I began my First Strike career as a lowly forum peon, but at the very end of 2005 I applied to the team as a modeler, and FSDev| xEROHOUr brought be on the team. When I first joined, I was tasked with creating lod (level of detail) and col (collision) meshes for statics to be used in our Mos Espa map, but I quickly moved on to more challenging and interesting modeling tasks such as the A-Wing Starfighter, and the loved-by-all Ewok Tree Village. Since those early days I have greatly expanded my modeling, and modding skills in general just by gaining as much experience as possible. I’ve currently taken over most of the production QC (quality control) duties on the team in addition to my modeling duties. The production QC post means that virtually all of the models being made will have to pass my ever-watchful and extremely critical eye prior to being finalized and imported into the game.

Things that I’m known for on the team:

  • King of side projects
  • Champion of turning First Strike space combat into a BF2142 port of the X-Wing series
  • A 0.45 K/D ratio in the First Strike community games

Credit also goes out to the rest of the dev team: JayBiggs, Ulversial, Steb74, Faculty, Hermann, General-Unco, YoshiBoy, Bandu, Imperial, Havoc, Neko, and Woodrow.


DEV TEAM INTERVIEW

JN: First of all I would like to thank the First Strike development team for taking some time out of their busy lives to answer a few questions for the readers of JediNet. Version 1.2 of the mod is going to be released soon and so anticipation is very high for this right now.

First question is really an introduction, to those not familiar with this mod and its history. Can you tell me how First Strike got started? How was the team formed?

TALON: Heh, well we have to delve into the distant past to bring the birth of First Strike to light. It started way back in August 2005 (Quite a while before I got on board towards the end of 2006, which in itself feels like an age ago) a handful of guys had an idea to create a Star Wars game made by the fans for the fans, which still holds true today. Sadly since then a lot of that original team moved on including the founder Aquila. It then fell to xEROhOUR to go on a solid recruitment drive to get the mod back on track. There was a real need to re-organize and re-structure the mod from the ground up. He managed to persuade some talented guys that frequent the BFEditor forums to join up, and that’s where Blitz entered the scene, followed soon after by the original Galactic Conquest crew ex Shattered Faith. He became Mod Leader and guided us well on the road to our first release. We had a solid team that worked extremely hard to bring that first release to the public. Following that Blitz stepped down as leader, but stayed on the team (heck the guy deserves a life as do we all). Next up to take on the reins was JayBiggS who now guides us towards our second release, and unfortunately at around this point xEROhOUR also left the team as did several others who felt they had committed enough of their time working on the first release (which they did, and their hard work is appreciated). After some more restructuring under JayBiggS guidance we headed full steam towards our next release with solid plans for that and future releases still to come.

JN: In terms of creating a mod for BF2142, why Star Wars? What are your thoughts on BF2142 itself?

TALON: Well Star Wars is a property close to all our hearts, most people on the team are hardcore Star Wars fans, and as such we find it a joy to work on and add our own little slice to the Star Wars universe. You also obviously have a large potential player base with all those Star Wars fans out there in the world so it made good sense in this regard too. Then you have the limitless possibilities that the Star Wars universe offers you, a whole galaxy of potential worlds, characters and lore to dip into for ideas for new maps which can be extremely inspiring.

As far as BF2142 is concerned the main reason we chose to go with this engine was that it was a more polished version of the BF2 engine, and importantly it had Battlewalker code already built into it which would come in handy for us when we introduced AT-ST and in the not too distant future, AT-AT Walkers. Unfortunately the mod support for BF2142 is not as strong as it is for BF2 which has lead us into quite a few problems, but we’ve come through them and managed to get performance and functionality out of the engine which even made the boffins at DICE say “How did they do that?”

Imperial: Well, I really had nothing to do with the choice of Star Wars here as I joined in rather late in the game, however for me I don’t think I’d ever work on a mod that focused on anything else. Star Wars is just something I’ve loved since I was a little kid and I’ve always loved playing the excellent Star Wars games LA would release, but unfortunately in recent times the quality of these games has been sub par. So, for me it’s about creating a Star Wars game I can really enjoy playing again. One of the big things that was a key reason for picking this engine though, if I recall correctly was the fact that it can handle such large online games (64 players). There really are no other engines out there with that capacity.

JN: Have you received any feedback or contact from LucasArts or official sources? Is so, can you share it?

TALON: No, we haven’t received any feedback from the good folks at Lucasarts.

JN: How does the FS mod compare to Battlefront, in your opinion? How is the game play different and/or better?

TALON: Well I have a very soft spot for Battlefront as I used to spend endless hours playing that game. It was what we all wanted, a Star Wars game in the style of the excellent Battlefield games. The first one was pretty good, but the sequel rested on its laurels a bit and didn’t really take the game franchise that much further forward and I think a lot of people found it quite disappointing. Our aim with First Strike was to make a more realistic (as realistic as anything can be in a fictional fantasy universe) war shooter. We feel the game play is less arcadey than SW:BF and we have also built in a lot of team play supporting game mechanics that should further distance us from that game. And our space map battles are far more fun.

Imperial: In my opinion, FS is light-years beyond Battlefront. Battlefront is like the definition of an arcade game, with no real attempt to be lore accurate. Because of that fact, the fun factor in the game, for myself at least, fades away extremely quickly. FS, on the other hand, strives to keep game play fun and variant between maps while preserving as much lore wise as we can making things semi-realistic, to the level of realism you see in the movies. It makes for a great environment that never gets dull and ideally will keep people coming back to play for years.

JN: Everyone’s anticipating the 1.2 release. Both as developer and user, what are you most excited about in 1.2? (related: the site says release is late April/early May. Can you give a target date? I understand it might change.)

TALON: It is hard to say as there is so much in the new release that is going to give added dimension to the game as a whole. Ryloth, our first combined arms map has a lot to offer being the first map in which players are going to be able to face off infantry against heavy armor and aircraft, which is a very exciting prospect. I think on a full server that is going to get really messy. But then you’ve also got a map that every red blooded Star Wars fan has been waiting for with baited breath… The Battle of Yavin! I challenge you not to shout out “Cover me Porkins, I’m going in!” When you first play that map, followed by whatever other quoted lines you can remember. We really have captured the atmosphere and excitement of that battle and we think you’ll be really ecstatic when you finally get to play it. The other thing that excites us about this release is the potential influx of new players which should really bring the First Strike gaming community up to the next level.

Regarding a target date we can’t really give you anything more accurate than what we have already posted on our website. We are aiming for a late April release, but if by that time it still isn’t considered by the team to be ready then we will work on it into May, ensuring that we release a stable and polished expansion of First Strike to the public.

Imperial: The thing that really excites me the most about 1.2 is the potential boost in our population we hope will occur. I really am looking forward to the day I can hop on anytime and play some FS with a reasonably populated server.

JN: Does the FS mod work on the Mac version of BF2142, and if so, how would one install it? (or link to instructions)

Imperial: It does, right now you’d need to run the installer on a windows machine, then copy the FirstStrike folder from your mods directory on the PC to your mods directory on your Mac. For 1.2 I’ll be attempting to create a Mac installer though.

JN: I’ve noticed that First Strike has a thriving gaming community. Are there other multiplayer games the community (or clans/groups) is active in?

TALON: Well we can’t really comment that much on the community’s other gaming habits. I’m aware that some of the community being Star Wars fans will have obviously played other Star Wars games in the past, those who like the space combat in particular will no doubt have, and maybe still do play X-Wing or X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, etc. Those who prefer the ground combat I expect will have played Star Wars Battlefront or other FPS games obviously including BF2142. I personally at the moment am rather partial to a little Call of Duty 4 when I’m not testing or playing the current version of First Strike as the real world setting provides a nice change of pace.

JN: Has the dev team included any “easter eggs” in the mod (especially 1.2)? If so, can you provide details?

Imperial: Yep, and nope. Go look for them, telling you spoils the fun of it.

Blitz: I could tell you but then I would have to kill you JK. We do have some easter eggs in already that people are just starting to notice (been to the Ewok tree village lately?)

JN: Is the dev team looking for new recruits at this time? If so, what skills or duties are you looking for, and how would one apply for the team?

TALON: Well we’re always on the look out for new talent. Currently we are particularly looking for coders and skinners, but other positions may be available for modelers and mappers etc. If you think you’ve got what it takes check out the recruitment section on our forums, there you will find instructions on what you need to do to submit an application to First Strike.

Imperial: Absolutely, we are desperately in need of Texture Artists, Mappers, and Modelers. Animators and Coders certainly couldn’t hurt either.

JN: Last question. Actually, this is just the part where you get to include your “plugs” such as other mods team members are working on or have done, links to personal websites or blogs, etc.

TALON: Well Bandu, one of our members is developing a little Star Wars single player project for the Crysis engine which looks to be shaping up quite nicely titled A Day in a Life which you can find details of here…

Crymod forums

I also work with an independent games company that is developing casual games (yes, I am a busy boy) you can find our website here, and even play a few of our games if you like…

http://www.smashmouthgames.com/

JN: Thank you once again for answering these questions and for all the great work you have done. We all look forward to 1.2!


SCREENSHOT GALLERY

We’ve put together a nice little collection of in-game screenshots. Enjoy! There are much more to be found at the First Strike website and forums.


MORE LINKS

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