Thank you for joining me Alex (Kingo64), we'll start as we always do, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?†
Hey! My name is Alex, Iím a full-time software developer and a fairly recognisable member of the Blade & Sorcery Discord server. Iíve been modding the game Blade & Sorcery for a bit over a year now and have obliterated any notion of Ďfree timeí I once had since starting The Outer Rim. Itís been said that I have Ďa bit of a personalityí, and Iíve been blessed with many friends from modding communities over the years, notably from a now-defunct forum called Facepunch.
Iíve been pretty fortunate and grew up with computers and video games from a young age. Without the internet you kinda needed to figure things out on your own, stumbling around through game files, seeing what you could change, trying to make the villains of the game bark like a dog for your own amusement. Modding was always one of the big appeal factors when it came to games for me since it essentially meant that the games were never Ďdoneí as long as people remained interested itís like an endless sunset.
Iím still not sure if Iíd ever want to work full-time in the video game industry but I suppose thereís always a possibility if I change my mind? There are always opportunities out there.
What are your favourite games of all time and what do you love about them?†
Ha, Iím not too good at picking favourites. I suppose Iíve always enjoyed first-person shooters the most; along with role-playing games. I think Iíll just throw out a fly fishing line and reel off a big list of names and see if we get any bites.
- Unreal Tournament Ď99
- Quake 3 Arena
- Battlefield 1942 & 2
- Halo: Combat Evolved
- Garryís Mod
- Worms Armageddon
- Half-Life 1 & 2, Opposing Force, Blue Shift, Black Mesa
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series
- The Elderscrolls III: Morrowind
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series
- The Witcher 2 & 3
- Id Tech 3 classics such as: Jedi Knight series, Call of Duty + United Offensive, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Soldier of Fortune 2: Double Helix
- Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Before we start talking about your mods, I'm guessing you're a huge Star Wars fan. There are tonnes of games, movies and other media in the franchise. What are your favourites?†
Fun fact, I wasnít much of a Star Wars turbo nerd when I first started the project but I have had to do a fair amount of research into the lore, wikis, and books in order to create The Outer Rim in a way that respects both the Star Wars Expanded Universe / Legends and the canon. Fact-checkers are welcome.
For those of you who have not watched the TV series ĎThe Clone Warsí, do yourself a favour and watch that. Specifically with the ĎUltimate Episode Orderí (you can find that online) which restructures it chronologically. It masterfully fleshes out the Star Wars universe and gives a plasteel backbone to the characters in the prequels and what they should be remembered for. This TV series in its totality is arguably better than the movies.
As Iíve mentioned earlier with the games, I highly recommend Jedi Outcast / Jedi Academy from the Jedi Knight series along with the Knights of the Old Republic series. They are the primary inspirations for The Outer Rim when it comes to gameplay design.
The sequel trilogy had a fairly mixed reception from Star Wars fans, what are your feelings about it?†
The sequel trilogy really garners a lot of mixed feelings from everyone. For younger audiences, this will likely be their introduction to the Star Wars universe on the big screen - bright-eyed without prior conceptions of what to expect, who theyíll see or what may happen. Itís all new to them and itís all fantastic. Theyíll grow up and look back fondly at the time they saw Star Wars Episode 7 in the cinema when the older generations were audibly grumbling at the thought of it. The same thing happened when The Phantom Menace came out and the same thing will happen again when the re-animated corpse of Darth Plagueis rears his head 15 years from now when another trilogy is announced for the next generation of kids.
Personally, I thought the sequels were incredibly lack-lustre, disappointing, and almost a deliberate betrayal to the Star Wars ecosystem theyíve built up over the years. Itís no surprise some people prefer to stick their head in the sand and just pretend they never happened. All of the characters were either unlikeable or forgettable; excusing Kylo Ren - a pale imitation of Revan. The story was poorly developed, ham-fisted, and mostly surmounted to nothing (Last Jedi particularly). There was a very clear agenda on Ďthrowing away the past / wiping the slate cleaní to absolve themselves of the original trilogy and prequels. I understand that their intention was to create a fresh footing to tell new stories on but it ultimately backfired on them pretty hard, unfortunately. Red Letter Media, in particular, gave a pretty good summation on the recent movies that mostly match my opinions for those looking for a meaty analysis.
Rogue One was fantastic though, congrats.
Talking about mods now, you started out modding back in the height of the Oblivion days with a few small compatibility patches, have you done much modding between then and when you discovered Blade & Sorcery?
Well, to be frank, Iíve been modding games since the dark ages before stable internet connections and when we used to get games on discs in magazines. It made sense to me to try and create new content for yourself where possible, whether it is custom maps/campaigns, gameplay tweaks, asset modification, rather than waiting for the next game. Games were often released as a final distributable copy rather than the evergreen update cycle we expect today and often did not receive patches outside of expansion packs.†
Generally, when I make a mod itís for personal use and may be shared with my friends at most. More often than not because the mod is an opinion piece on gameplay tweaking, or a compilation of other mods, or simply not worth uploading. Another big factor would be the fact that it was only within the last couple of years have I ever had an upload speed that could transfer information faster than a person flapping a blanket over a smokey fire.
Between the Oblivion days and now, the most prominent mods Iíve released would be the shader packages for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl and Clear Sky, known as STALKER Shaders MAX, which primarily focused on improving performance and improving graphics - a necessity for my low-end 7300GT and mid-range 9600GT that I had back in the day which struggled to play the game.
But yeah, mostly was just kicking back, enjoying everyone elseís mods until the creative itch started to kick in. Itís difficult to manage time with social life, work, family, friends, hobbies.
How did you discover Blade & Sorcery and what is it about the game that keeps you coming back?
I bought it on a whim whilst growing out my VR library and was surprised by how polished and enjoyable the melee combat was, easily the defining feature of the game. The fluidity and believability of the melee combat have really set it apart from other games that have attempted it such as Boneworks and those not courageous enough to try such as Half-Life: Alyx.
Even though itís still currently a sandbox game, Iíve found it to be much more replayable than any other VR title Iíve played. I think itís really setting the precedent on how good melee combat and item interaction should be achieved. In the VR FPS space, Pavlov VR has potential but itís still stuck in its Counter-Strike mindset and Hot dogs, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades (H3VR) still has controls that make QWOP look like a walk in the park. Personally, Iím not really looking for online matchmaking when I want to play VR games, I kinda just want to pick it up and do my own thing - play however I want. Thatís something that Iíve been able to do with Blade & Sorcery and the replayability Iíd like to see in non-story driven VR titles.
Each major update for the game has given us a glimpse of what to expect in the released version. The roadmap is really promising and I canít wait to see what it develops into after it leaves early access. After many conversations with the lead developer over the past year, itís pretty comforting to know that he shares the same opinions on gameplay design, decisions and direction as I do and I feel confident in saying that the gameís in good hands.
The mod support for the game is incredible. Iím surprised by how large the modding community has become given the niche nature of the game. Itís a testament to how building a game with a positive attitude and public SDK only strengthens the community and widens the appeal, ultimately serving a more diverse and enjoyable experience for everyone.
For anyone who hasn't played it yet, can you tell us about your biggest mod - The Outer Rim?
The Outer Rim (TOR) is a Star Wars total conversion mod for Blade & Sorcery which adds a humongous amount of content. There are 100+ lightsabers along with many blasters and other items to boot. The mod also includes custom maps, an optional player home, custom NPCs, and arena waves. Itís actively being developed and still has plenty of content planned and yet to be released.
It is without a doubt, the largest mod available for the game with a focus on attention to detail.†
If you like Star Wars, get it.
If you donít like Star Wars, try it out anyway.
If you donít have the game but have a VR setup, get the game then try this mod. Itís worth it.
If you donít have a VR setup, sorry - play it at a friendís place?
The Outer Rim has been a huge success. When you initially started working on it did you imagine it would be as popular as it is?†
It was pretty evident on the Blade & Sorcery Discord server that The Outer Rim was going to be a big hit when it eventually came out. The prototype weapons I released when I was still learning the SDK and Unity, Lightsabers U6 and E-11 Blaster Rifle, were a hint of what was to come. Those mods were largely successful on their own, given that the innovation and quality of scripted weapons were not like what we have today bar a few exceptions, notably MulleDK19ís Mjolnir among others.
What I didnít expect was for my peers in real life to recognise the mod and realise I was the creator, or how wide of a reach it would have - driven by gameplay footage uploaded to sites such as Reddit. Itís pretty surreal to see yourself directly influencing your own Youtube feed when Youtubers decide to play Ďthat Star Wars VR modí.
Do you work alone on the project or do you collaborate with other authors?
I primarily work alone on the project. Thereís something cathartic in knowing that if something in the mod doesnít meet my expectations I only have myself to blame, improve, and resolve. Itís not difficult to manage large projects such as this with many moving parts, itís just a very time-consuming process with a large learning curve. Iíve branched out to others who I feel could do a much better job than I, namely 3D modelling and texturing.
One long term collaborator of the mod is Plasma, a prominent modder from the Jedi Knight community, who has created models for the majority of the lightsaber hilts among other unreleased items from the next major version. Other authors who have contributed assets to the mod include Sakhado, uiojkl09 (Butters), Vale-X and Spongy.
There are a lot of mods made by others that extend The Outer Rim or add new Star Wars related stuff. Do you have any favourites?
I hope I donít get crucified for this but I havenít actually played any of the other Star Wars mods so I canít really answer that question well. In fact, I havenít really had much time to play the base game as is or even my own mod outside of dev/testing.
Now that U8 has been released, are you planning to add any cool new force powers using the magic system?†
Yep, thatís all been planned since the beginning over a year ago - with the intentions of being deeply tied into the skills tree proposed for the future version of the game, U9. There wonít be any force powers in the next major version of the mod, TOR 3, which is focused on blasters, but when I get around to it itíll be worth it. The big backlog of stuff I have planned is daunting for me to say the least and exciting for anyone else.
If you want an idea of what is to come in regards to force powers just play the Jedi Knight and KOTOR series and youíll know what to expect.
What is the status of a U8 update for The Outer Rim, I know a whole load of people are waiting on it?†
The next major expansion pack for the mod, Clone Reinforcements, is mostly complete in respects to content and features however the magnitude of changes presented by U8 essentially forced me to remake the mod, virtually every file needed to be modified on some level to be made compatible, no stone left unturned. The mod got nuked essentially.
There have been many challenges and issues to face with the mod that still exist today directly due to what U8 has given and what it has taken away that prevent the mod from being fully playable or meeting my expectations. Iíve been in contact with the lead developer of the game throughout U8ís release and have been trying to report and resolve issues where possible to expedite the process. Iím hoping U8.4 should be the one to fix it.
Ultimately, I donít know how big of a change U8.4 will be, what it will add, what it will do, how much itíll break, how much it will solve. But if it turns out to be big, it might set me back a few months, who knows? Itís a big game of ďare we there yet?Ē but the car is misfiring and billowing smoke and the kids in the back just want to get to Disneyland.
Editor's Note: The image below is a sneak peek of a new map coming with the†Clone Reinforcements update to The Outer Rim.
Do you have any advice for authors who want to create mods for Blade & Sorcery?†
If you have an idea for a mod, just go out and try to make it yourself. Take it as a challenge. Yes itíll take time, yes youíll have difficulties, but if you put in the effort youíll be surprised by what you can achieve and how easy it is to learn and improve. There is a vast amount of tutorials and learning material out there on Unity and modding.
Specifically to B&S modding, you can find information and example mods in the Official SDK and on the Blade & Sorcery Discord server in the #modding-howto and #mod-help sections.
Is there anything else you'd like to say to the community?
Itís pretty thrilling to see how the VR community has continued to expand over the last few years as the games have become more compelling and the hardware more affordable. I encourage those with a VR setup to give the game a go, itís a lot of fun, highly replayable, and a great place to flex those modding muscles. Weíre welcoming new modders all the time and you know what they say; the more the merrier.
A big thank you to those who have supported my work, whether it be leaving a nice comment, contributing their time to help others, leaving a donation, or who have shared it with their friends and loved ones. Itís a passion project with the intention of sharing good times, good memories, and hopefully inspiring people in one way or another.
And also if you are wondering, yes I do read all the messages - I just donít have the time to reply to everyone. Your comments have not fallen on deaf ears when you share your ideas, criticisms, and compliments.
A big thank you to Kingo64 for taking the time to talk to us! If there's an author or mod project you'd like to know more about, send your suggestions to†BigBizkit†or†Pickysaurus.†