The Minions Speak: Spotlight on “Loki’s Minions CTF” for Quake 2 by Todd “Tungsten” Northcutt

The Minions Speak

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Spotlight on “Loki’s Minions CTF” for Quake 2 by Todd “Tungsten” Northcutt

As if a new addition to the Quake universe wasn’t enough, Capture the Flag – one of the most popular modifications for the original Quake – was to be included right on the Quake 2 CD or so we thought. Time considerations kept CTF off of the disc and disappointed fans, forcing them to wait for the Quake 2 “point release”, which was to bring them all the multiplayer mayhem lacking in the original release.

Fans, however, were not content to wait on id. Several teams jumped out of the gates early, bringing mods to the Internet almost immediately after the source code was released.

Loki’s Minions CTF and Vanilla CTF were two of the earliest available modifications of Quake 2. Both were server-side mods hoping to fill the void left by the lack of an official CTF modification from id. Loki’s Minions CTF (LMCTF) would eventually grow to become one of the most popular Quake 2 mods released. Recently, the team has branched out, offering single player missions for Quake 2 and Half-Life. Both of Loki’s Missions, as the single player releases are called, have been wildly successful. 

lmctf_headerThis week the GameSpy Spotlight shines on Loki’s Minions:

GameSpy: A little background on the team, if you would. What are your names and occupations in that “other” world? Do any of you foresee professional game development in your future?

Der Kommissar:
Real Name — John
Occupation — illustrator, designer, Madison Avenue art director and deep space explorer
Professional Aspirations — Yes, a SP level design position would be wonderful if I were part of a dedicated team. But if I were offered a paying job with a group that didn’t seem as dedicated at the good folk at LM, I honestly would choose our mod over the pro team.

Mr. White:
Real Name — John
Occupation — Television Director, Freelance Video Director and Computer Artist……oh ya……deep space explorer :-/
Professional Aspirations — Yes, but I’m afraid a job as a level designer would probably offer about 1/3rd of what I make now. Honestly, the only way I think this would become a profession for me is if the LM team went pro.

Real Name — Keith
Occupation — Software designer, amateur web designer/artist…..and I built the space shuttle.
Professional Aspirations — Hard to say really. Working on LMCTF (and the single player ESCAPE) was a labor of love and the passion for the game was held by the entire team involved. Once something like that becomes a job then you have pressure (well, more pressure) because you have deadlines to meet and you have to answer to executive types. One of the best things about the projects we have worked on together was that we only answered to each other.

Real Name — Dan THE man
Occupation — Lead Game Programmer. I also pimp part time. Vampire is one of my best workers. He brings in lots of cashola. The chicks really dig his fangs.
Professional Aspirations — I started out programming pinball games for Capcom. Next I did video games at Konami, Incredible Technologies, and am now on the Mortal Kombat team at Midway. It doesn’t get much bigger than that. It’s pretty cool hanging out with Ed Boon (creator of Mortal Kombat), Mark Turmell (NBA Jam, NFL Blitz) and Eugene Jarvis(Defender, Robotron, Crusin). We are working with the latest hardware from 3DFX, and all the next generation console systems – Nintendo’s Dolphin, Sega’s Dreamcast, and Sony’s Playstation 2.

GameSpy: The origins of the mod team were with the clan Loki’s Minions. How did you make the leap from players to mod authors?

Der Kommissar: Only the programmers were in the now-defunct clan. They aren’t on the development team anymore (working on Diablo2) and haven’t been since 1998. The lead programmers originally were Jormungard and Surt, then Hati and now Batstone whose been with us for a year. We hope we don’t lose him to anything… it’s almost like Spinal Tap’s drummers. My own jump to mod development wasn’t so great, with my education concentrated in design and architecture and a decade of experience with computer graphics.

Mr. White: I think in hindsight the mod should have been called something different. I remember Jorm saying he had called it Loki’s Minions just because he was in the clan and couldn’t think of anything else to call it, and that he regretted it later. Oh well, it’s our name now so it doesn’t really matter. A rose by any other name could still frag your ass off…or something like that.

Vampire: I had started map design for Q2 the second there was an editor available for it so I guess I was a player at the same time a map builder. I was never part of the LM clan (although at the time I really wanted to :) but I sent a sample of a map I was working on at the time, which was just a segment of LMCTF01-Meltdown, and he took me aboard the development team. That was the best thing that ever happened to me….well aside from getting married and the birth of my son.

batstone: I barely even played Quake in my life, but then last year some time Cygor[IT] showed me this LMCTF game. I instantly became addicted. Playing in software mode sucks. I then thought that it would be awesome to do an online tournament, base it on sportsmanship and professional sports, and give prizes to the winners, etc. Cygor and I checked out the Ragnarok tourney that Clan LM was doing. They decided to can it, so we took it over, stole the name, and pretty much created everything from scratch. I next became pretty good friends with Hati and Grafvullod from Clan LM. I knew that they needed new programmers so I talked to Hati about joining the team, and he sent me to Der Kommissar. My wife has a long list of people that she is going to castrate that have ruined my life and hers because of the addiction.

GameSpy: LMCTF and Vanilla CTF were two of the very first mods for Quake 2, both server-side and both successful during the long wait between the release of Q2 and the “point release.” While Vanilla remained server-side, LMCTF took the complete opposite route, eventually offering over 30 high quality maps, a tournament mode, multiple model and skin sets and a zillion other fantastic features. What prompted the big turn around? Was it the “threat” of id’s official Q2CTF knocking you out of the running or simply personal satisfaction?

Der Kommissar: id’s CTF was bare bones and purposely so. I remember an interview where Zoid said he had to hold back from experimentation to keep the game simple for everyone. We didn’t have the pressure he did and if we tried things that didn’t work nobody cared. So we added things to improve CTF, not so much to make it different, but make it better. The offhand hook for instance; even L-Fire once told me it was good because it allows defenders to catch up with a flag carrier while shooting, promoting more player-player interaction. Radio sounds were another enhancement. Plus, all the subtle things like informative interface. We’ll continue tweaking CTF for Q3, we’ve already compiled our long list of features we think will improve the game, although I sure id will do probably half of them with their out-of-the-box product.

Mr. White: The original LMCTF was a server side only mod because there were no artists or map makers on the team yet. Slowly the team started assembling artists and mappers with the end goal being the release of a full blown custom mod (LMCTF3.0). We knew the points release was coming, but we didn’t know when. We knew Zoid would have some kick ass features in Q2CTF so we figured we’d have more. I think in a way Zoids hands were tied by the fact he was now working for ID. He wasn’t able to enlist the help of the public for maps, sounds and art. I think that’s one advantage we had over him as we got to choose from the works of dozens of people. The advantage he has over us is that he gets paid :-(

Vampire: When I first started making Meltdown I had no idea what I was going to do with it. At the time there was no CTF mod out there. My previous mapping experience was for ThunderWalkers (Quake1) and I knew that I only enjoyed making CTF style maps; I never like making DM maps. Soon after Vanilla and LMCTF was released as a server side only mod. I submitted some sample screenshots of what I was working on to both teams but after careful consideration I thought LMCTF was more my kind of game. I think after LMCTF3.0 we were just sorta waiting for Zoid to release Q2CTF and then the project would simply pass on in favor of Q2CTF. But it didn’t and we all still felt that more could be added to the game of CTF so the project continued. And it still goes on!

batstone: I was not even playing Quake at that time. But I would like to add that I often eat peanut butter and fruitti pebbles together, and boy is it a tasty treat. Somtimes I will rub peanut butta on my nipples and bum, and run in the streets nekkid.

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GameSpy: The release of Loki’s Missions “Escape” and “The Xeno Project” was a big leap for those used to seeing only multiplayer releases, and was in some ways totally unexpected. Was a single player mission something you’d always been interested in doing? How different was it than working on a multiplayer game?

Der Kommissar: At heart, I am a SP mapper and story teller influenced by my AD&D; days. I try to hold back on gimmicks (which sometimes fail in multiplayer games) but I just can’t stop myself. Then Mr. White asked Vamp and I if we wanted to make SP maps with him while I was already thinking about my own SP project. It was good working in a group because it forced me to discipline myself to working within someone else’s (Mr. White’s) story.

Mr. White: I always wanted to try my hand a single player mapping. It’s a totally different experience as you’re concerned with 1 player progressing through a series of levels where certain goals have to be met and results have to happen….unlike DM or CTF which is just an arena for fragging where game flow becomes the focus. The release of Half-Life furthered my interest in SP mapping as all sorts of possibilities opened up for scripting and such. The down side of SP is that once you’ve played it, it’s over…unlike DM or CTF which can be played on the same maps for years without getting boring.

Vampire: Up until that point I had never considered making a single player map. All the mapping I had ever done was for multiplayer as I always thought that a single player map only lasts as long as it take to play it once. But then Mr.White presented DK and I this idea he had and I really had to jump in. After all, I knew I would be able to work well with the team. ;). But in this particular project I was really excited because it was my chance to really stick my hands into the code and make a whole new monster that used the existing Plasma Rifle from LMCTF.

batstone: I didn’t have too much to do with that besides some minor coding, so I can’t take much credit, but I would further like to add that sometimes when I’m bored I will ride my bicycle into a brick wall at high speeds, then when I’m done I will get back on the bike and do it again. Do you remember those Big Wheels we used to ride when we were kids? Those rule. Sometimes I ride my big wheel into a wall too.

GameSpy: Both of the single player missions have been an amazing success, with well over 6000 downloads of “Escape” and nearly 8000 “Xeno Project” downloads. Were you expecting this kind of success? Now that you’ve seen that there’s a want for quality single player missions should we be looking for more?

Der Kommissar: For Q2 SP maps, I’m very surprised Escape did so well. I’m holding back for Q3 editing or any engine that allows us to create rooms with more polygons without loss of frame rate. Don’t underestimate the influence a higher polygon count can have on a SP experience; detail and drama made possible by efficient polygon rendering should really blow people away. I’m already drafting sketches for a SP mission… but this is more than a year away from release. Soon it’s all going to be about LMCTF for Q3.

Mr. White: LMCTF for Q3 will be a priority but you’ll definitely see more releases from Loki’s Missions. Right now I’m working on ‘The Xeno Project 2’ for HL. I think ‘Escape’ was the last thing we’ll do for Q2 but I’m dying to see what we can do with the Q3A engine in single player.

Vampire: I really didn’t expect Escape to take off like it did! But so far I am only planning on tinkering with the Q2 LMCTF code, trying out some of the cool ideas we have on our list, in preparation for Q3. But you never know when White might have another cool idea that will get me going.

batstone: Hopefully there will be some more single player games, ’cause the first one these guys did kicked some major frickin’ aZZZZZZ, and I’m not just saying that because I am on the dev team. I really mean it. If there were like a contest of single player mods, we would have take 0th place. That’s like one better than 1st place. Ours go to eleven.
GameSpy: Both Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament are scheduled to include CTF right on the CD. Do you think this will have an effect on the CTF mod community. Would you care to share your opinion on the future of CTF mods in particular and mods in general?

Der Kommissar: Q2CTF never really impressed me but id’s Q3CTF is going to be downright awesome. Zoid’s showed me a couple things they were doing/considering and I was genuinely dumb struck. Q3CTF will not only be fine-tuned but revolutionary. But I believe multiplayer mods won’t be as popular for Q3 as they were for Q2, that is to say, there will be more people playing them, but fewer mods. Q2 multiplayer was hampered by it’s SP support and frankly, there was room for multiplayer improvements and tweaks. Not so for Q3. id’s work is going to be one tough cookie to measure up to. Also, download sizes will be bigger: Q3 maps, 24-bit textures & skins are much bigger than Q2’s and people will be less likely to download tons of 40+ MB files. On the development end, Q3 mapping is almost certainly going to be more difficult and demanding on the system, fewer people will be able to dedicate themselves to this time-consuming art. Furthermore, RPG’s (i.e., Diablo 2, Evercrack), Tribes, TF2, UT, Halo, etc. are all going to be popular. In the days of yore, Quake mods were the only exceptional online games. The Quake “platform” will still be #1 but nothing like the glory days of Quake hegemony.

Mr. White: DK’s right….Q3ctf is going to be hard to beat. I still think that ID will have to keep it fairly simple and straight forward though, which leaves some room for the mods. We have a lot of ideas for our own mod, we’ll just have to see what features ID includes and where we can improve the game.

Vampire: There seems to be a lot of CTFish games coming out in the near future so it will be hard to come up with some original ideas but we have a list, a long list. One of the best things is that we are public players ourselves so we get to hear a lot from other players and their ideas. It’s nice to have such a large sounding board. But for me it is the creation of the mod that turns me on.

batstone: Q3CTF will definitely be great, but you’ve heard of the saying, “Once you get the offhand grapple, you never go back.” I think overall there will be fewer mods for Q3.

GameSpy: Can you single out any one moment during this Loki’s Minions experience that shines as your highest moment? How about a lowest point during it all?

Der Kommissar: My highest moment was umm…. hmmm, I can’t think of any exceptionally good moments. Hmm, that ain’t too good, is it?! I would have to say whenever I really get cruising on level design I hit 80+ hours a week for a month or so and just LOVE it. Lowest point? The custom sky in my hella-awful map Neurothon crashed people in software mode. I finished it days before we released LMCTF 4.0 and it never got playtested properly and ended up laggy and unplayable in every way imaginable. At the time I didn’t know excessive sounds or transparent objects would be so unwieldy. Live and learn I guess. :-(

Mr. White: Highest moment — That would have to be our many release dates. Of course there are always some problems and bug reports that’ll make your heart sink but that’s outweighed by the overwhelming appreciation that people have shown us. Lowest moment — When my ADSL broke for a week and I had to use dial-up 56k to play on-line games.

Vampire: The highest moment is the very second when I do the very final compile of a map I have been working on for months. Or seeing the plasma soldier actually firing plasma at me. Now that was freaky! The lowest moment would be every time I go on a public server and someone kicks my sorry butt all over a map that I designed. Isn’t there a rule against that?

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batstone: My highest moment is when I go on public servers and kick Vampire’s sorry butt all over the maps he designed. I have made tons of friends on line and lately have been going to LMCTF LAN parties. It’s great to see people playing the mod that I had part in creating. Lowest moment – I used to take things too personal, and people would really get under my skin when they would rip on the mod for stupid reasons and reasons that weren’t even true. However, I have become older and wiser. I still value people’s opinions, but I really don’t get upset about anything people say, unless they are one of my friends. There’s this dude I know named bosstone that plays LM. People often get us mixed up because our names are almost the same. So whenever someone complains about the mod or complains of a “phantom” bug (I never have any bugs ever ever ever), I will just blame it on bosstone. If the dev team finds a bug, I blame that on Hati ’cause he is not around to defend himself.

If you’re interested in learning more about the games now that you’ve heard from the people behind them, we’ve got you covered. Everything you need to get started with Loki’s Minions CTF – from the files available at FilePlanet, to tips, tricks and strategies offered by The Rainbow Bridge, to coverage of clan competition at The Arena – is all right here on the GameSpy Network.

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