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Noobs Guide to Building a Mod

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  • Indi

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 07:18 PM

Noobs Guide to Building a Mod


I thought I would create this guide for the modding community of GTAF, as I think that GTAF has one of the best modding communities going around, I've been modding for about 4 years now, and have done work on the RenderWare Engine, RAGE, Source and some of the Unreal Engine. But mostly I work on Source as this is the most ideal engine for me. But without further adue... let's get down to business.

What is a mod?
Mod means modification, modification means changing something from it's original into something else. All there really is to it, you're just changing a game into something that can be yours.

What is an engine?
Engine is the heart and core of how a game is run, it is the holy grail, it holds all of the code, the models, the shaders, the reflections, physics. However physics can be seperate engine, sometimes it's implamented in the engine, sometimes not. Rockstar uses Euphoria by NaturalMotion, others like VALVe uses Havok as well as Ubisoft, depends. Think of it as an operating system: Mac, Windows; an operating system is what programs are ran from, exact same with a game engine.

Leading a team
It really does take time and committment, it isn't a walk in the park to lead a developer team, so if you're new and you really, really want to lead your own team, then I do advise someone that you know quite well and someone who does know his stuff, but please do not argue with them, agree to disagree is the best way, but also try to share ideas between people throughout the team, and never get cocky otherwise you will lose respect. If you however do not feel that you are up to the task but have a great idea, then it can be sometimes difficult to convince a big mod team to go along with them, just show some concept, visually; then who knows.

You have an idea, but do you think it is good to execute?
I've had a lot of ideas that have been pretty cool to my head, but at the end of the day, you think like a businessman, even though you are giving your mod away into the wild for free, you must think if it is actually a good mod to create. Is it fun? Will it engage the player? Will the player feel like he is the actual character? You know... stuff like that, I know a lot of GTA mods don't get as serious as that, but San Vice and GosTown are some pretty epic f*cking mods and they did a pretty big thing in my opinion.

Think realistically, aim for targets that you know you can reach, no point in saying "I don't think I'll reach this... always worth a try". NO! Wrong attitude, you either know or you don't, you can take a risk, hell a lot of game companies took a risk like VALVe, look at where they are now. They are huge.

Getting a Mod Team Together
The most valuable thing that I have been told and have taught myself along the way as a modder is that, you need to convince someone that your project, YOUR MOD. Is going to be a success, I have contacted many people and have said that this mod will succeed and it won't be a failure and that their work will get released, which none of my projects have failed to get released... but they still have indeed told me that they cannot take the risk and they have to look at it as "just business", no matter how ambitious, or how good your mod is. You're going to have to create some work yourself first before you get some talented people behind your back to help you along the journey. Valuable tip that, use it. If you have any friends that you have known and have talked to for a pretty long time, and ones that you can trust for them to stick by you until the very end, then hire them. But another tip: don't hire people who have NEVER ever finished something, this is bad for your mod, this shows that a person who has applied or who has asked to join your team is a lazy and sloppy worker. His idea may be good, but his execution of it is sloppy. Think like a professional, you want your mod to be one of the best? Then think with logic. Logic is king.

Also, to get a team together... you can look on GTAForums for your GTA mod, Polycount, ModDB, or even Steam. Yes, Steam. I have found some people to help out through using the search function, think outside of the box. You might even get some real industry developers to help you out if they are kind and willing. biggrin.gif.

Ok, you've explained how I get a team? But now what?
Well, if you have a good idea, then you can get lucky like I did, I kind of just went to ZAZ and asked if he would help, and I guess he liked the idea and did something to it. The first mod which I am very proud of and got me into modding was the JAWS: San Andreas mod which I led and did some of the odd jobs here and there to make it succeed, the original plan was to recreate all of Amity Island, but it never happened because I gave up on it, I wanted to move onto other things, to increase my knowledge in how games are made.

I suggest learning how to mod first, like some texture work, pretty easy to do. I'll explain how to do texture work in another section, as well as modeling, and other things that are made inside of a game. Once you know the beginning bits of a mod, and you can contribute to your own mod, then I think you're good to go, never let your workers do all the work, this causes some arguements and them thinking that you're a lazy little tinker who lets his team do all the work. NEVER DO THIS, EVER. BAD. Project failed, because it then gets out that you are a bad boss. If you are the leader, you are the boss. You might think "Wow, a boss?, that means I get to tell people what to do?". No you don't, some bosses are bad at managing their team, they sit on their ass all day. Don't ever do this, I despise these types of bosses. I've created small mods that have increased my knowledge on game development, and I did the majority of the work on TLaD Unlocked as it increased my knowledge each time, it made me tiink more openly on how to tackle things, and this will happen to you eventually when you learn stuff.

Think realistically, aim for targets that you know you can reach, no point in saying "I don't think I'll reach this... always worth a try". NO! Wrong attitude, you either know or you don't, you can take a risk, hell a lot of game companies took a risk like VALVe, look at where they are now. They are huge.

The Roles in a Game Development/Mod Team
    Leader - Self Explantory, the one who is in-charge of everything, the guy who holds it together, he's the one that decides the ins and outs of what goes on, he should be the good guy, not the bad one.
    Co - Leader: I don't think one is needed, if you are good at managing a team then you are good at managing one, a co-leader I think shouldn't be put down into the mod unless it's someone reliable if you're on the sick and can't work on the mod for the time being, sort of like a Deputy Primeminster, stands in when someone's out.
    Game Designer: I think in a mod this title is not needed, if someone shows you a portfolio where he has done some very nice work, then hire him. You'll be needing him for ideas as he knows what he's talking about.
    Programmer - Yes, this guy is the most important one. He tells the engine how to assign materials, how animations react to the world. You have many types: Engine, Physics (how objects react in the world), Graphics (Lightning, Shading, Reflections), Gameplay (Think GTA missions, adds a feel to game), Sound (Applies sounds to when a car crashes. use this example to apply to others) Network (Multiplayer). That's just some of them. A versatile programmer can handle everything, smart guy indeed.
    Modeler - That guy who creates buildings, the characters, the weapons, the street lamps, makes the world feel real.
    Texture Artist - A talented person who goes into designing and illustrating a painting or even a drawing (depending on the type of game styles: Cartoon, Realism, Street... you have many) and normally hands to a UV Mapper or also a Modeler who then applies it to a prop, character, or generic ( general) models.
    UV Mapper - The second guy to apply the textures to a modeler, uses X, Y, Z co-ordinates to place the texture in the correct place, it depends if the texture is correctly scaled (Length x Width) for a model to look real good.
    Level Designers - Those guys who create a mission or how the mission progresses, there's many types of how developers define Level Design, Half-Life for example is just one long strain of events, it continues on and on, and the story leads on where the environment takes you, it basically forces you to go through somewhere and how to lead onto next. GTA's level design believe it or not is more linear, it's one mission and go to the next. Ok, just imagine one guy comes in shooting, go to checkpoint. End. Just imagine this as the design.
    Concept Artist - One of my favourite sets, one that draws up an artist's impression of something that was proposd by a programmer, game designer or leader, draw up the concept, gives it to a modeler to put in-game.
Oh yeah, the tools, you gotta love these guys, and you must respect them. They give you what you need to make a mod.

For GTA modding, you'll probably use these tools:
Sanny Builder - You can make missions with this, spawn pickups, actors (imagine like film, one that does something), Sanny Builder is probably the best mission editor that you'll get for GTA mission editing.
IMG Tool - This opens up GTA IMG files which is a zip file basically that contains all of the models and textures in the game, the most common one is GTA3.IMG, in VC... this has everything inside of it. SA is different as it is much bigger and has lots and lots of clothes and head models for haircuts.
3DS Max - One of the best modeling software out there, regulary used by game developers and mod developers.
ZModeler - Yet another great modeling tool, spoken to a lot of people and they prefer this, depends on personal preference, have a go at them.

However, 3DS Max is costly... ZModeler, go with that... you still have to pay, but it's good. Nothing comes cheap in this world I'm afraid. I don't suggest Sketchup though, it's up to you but it's kinda buggy with the RenderWare engine, and the lightning on models doesn't look as good. Again, up to you and your mod team, I wouldn't personally suggest.

Texture Tools:
TXD Workshop - My favourite one, you export a TXD from a GTA IMG file, then you open it in Workshop, export as a PNG, or JPEG.. then open up in a image editor such as Photoshop, GIMP, Paint.Net, or Paint, then you just re-import into the IMG with the TXD file selected open, very simple.
Photoshop - Not free, but my absolute favourite, great tool.
GIMP - Another one, great tool.
Paint.Net - And another one, just a great tool. Don't use them, but if anyone has experience in any of them, and has the most knowledge, use them. There's so many more apps out there, just try them out. You can make textures with any type of software.

OpenIV - Probably the best kit you'll get as far as IV modding goes, it has everything. In the beginning days you had seperate tools, in this you get the whole package.
ZModeler - Best kit I have heard that imports custom models into IV. You're gonna have to actually replace the model in-game whilst opening an RPF file with OpenIV. Doesn't take long though tounge.gif.

Texture Tools:
Have a look at the same as the III era just above the "GTA IV:" where I started writing about the nice tools, nothing much different. just opening an RPF with the textures inside it instead of an IMG file from the III era, if you're wondering why the file names changed, it's because of the RAGE engine, III era GTA games ran on RenderWare which was created by Criteron Games.

Nothing much else, I'm trying to aim specifically on GTA modding since it's being posted on GTAF. All I will tell you is that there are many communities out there that mod games for other games. There is tools there, but you take this knowledge that I have tought you and you can also adapt it to other games. The best suggestion is that to always be a student, you know... don't ever envy someone just because they are better than you, always think positive, think that one day you will be as good as them, or maybe even better. Ask them for some help, always respect them, even though you may not know them in-person. You know their mods, learn how those mods are created, designed e.t.c., never stop learning, always be a student.

There are many sites that will host your mod, among GTA I'll list some of them:

Those are just off the top of my head, Google for others if your looking for country specific.

Games Industry
If you plan to make the shift from a mod maker to a professional game developer; well, mod makers are game developers, but they are amateur ones. But as I was saying, if you plan to work in the industry when you begin to know what you want in life, then making mods is great, and be sure to keep them in a portfolio to show to your potential employers to show them that you are capable of doing stuff. Many people once they finish College courses tend to apply with no proof of what they can actually do, they just list the courses they've done and stuff.

In the day, mod makers were actually the beginnings of a game development team, lots of game companies hired modders because they are smart, intelligent people, and they know a lot more than game developers that have been taught by tutors, mod makers have an advantage because they are a game player themselves, and they know exactly what they want. So people making mods, I have got to give it off to you. Because this gives you a tremendous advantage to what kind of mods you've done, because it will guarantee you a job out of the others.

Lots of mod makers miss out on advertising their stuff, I mean a lot of mod makers don't have to, as if the mod is really good; it gets on great gaming websites, and that's always a plus, but if you ever did want to market the mod. Try creating graphics for fans to use, just help spread the word about your mod, obviously don't have a mass-advertising campaign as there would be no need in my honest opinion. But a bit of advertisement wouldn't hurt!

Send me a PM, or E-Mail me at: [email protected]

Thank you. smile.gif.

Other Links:
There are so many tutorials for GTA modding out there, at GTAF there is a modding database for all tutorials compiled by Dutchy, take a look, I've explained the frequent tools that are needed, but if you want to learn more, just head on over to the tutorial's section of GTAF by clicking here:

leik oh em jeez!
  • leik oh em jeez!

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 01:51 AM

"Is it a good idea?" Should probably come before building a team. Other than that, good job.

  • Indi

    Don't cross the streams.

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 06:28 AM

QUOTE (leik oh em jeez! @ Friday, Jan 6 2012, 02:51)
"Is it a good idea?" Should probably come before building a team. Other than that, good job.

Indeed it should.

Oh and thank you biggrin.gif.

  • NaidRaida

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 01:42 AM

Noob: Another word for a retarded person.

Newb: Another word for a person who is new with something.

Iīm pretty sure you mean "Newb" or "Newbie" in your title, donīt you?

  • Indi

    Don't cross the streams.

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 03:28 AM Edited by Indi, 14 January 2012 - 11:28 PM.

QUOTE (NaidRaida @ Saturday, Jan 7 2012, 02:42)
Noob: Another word for a retarded person.

Newb: Another word for a person who is new with something.

Iīm pretty sure you mean "Newb" or "Newbie" in your title, donīt you?

It's too late now to change the topic title, it's just a word though. So it isn't a major deal to change in the topic.

But I did not know the difference smile.gif. Thanks.

  • NaidRaida

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 07:40 PM

I know, not a big thing, just to let you know in general.

Nevermind, your tutorial is well done. icon14.gif

Twilight Sparkle
  • Twilight Sparkle

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 08:21 AM

Now thats a complicated forum.But anyway, thanks!

  • TheGodfather.

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 09:17 AM

Pretty good work with the tutorial but getting a team is really hard work..

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