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- by Anya Palkowski category News
- If you're highly attuned to the modding subculture, and have been since the Diablo II days, then you may know minor celebrity Prosper, also known as Cakester, from some entanglements he had a while ago with a series of Fallout modding communities. GamerGaia’s Cameron Walker managed to snag him for a brief look at his projects, ideas and experiences with the fickle world of independent developing.
- GamerGaia: Prosper Cakester Fallout Wireframe
- For the uninitiated, modding is short for "modifying" and refers to the practice of tweaking or completely overhauling a game's technical functionality, often using tools provided by the developers themselves. It's a pursuit as old as the game industry itself, and one that has allowed certain games to live well past their prime (fun fact: Counter-Strike was originally a player-created mod of Half-Life that was later picked up by Valve for official production).
- GamerGaia: Prosper Cakester GECK
- Prosper’s claim to fame (or notoriety, depending on whom you ask) in the modding community was an ambitious mod for Fallout 3 that aimed to bring multiplayer to the stubborn Gamebryo engine using the Fallout Script Extender (FOSE). Inspired by an earlier mod that brought Diablo II’s Rogue Encampment to the Capitol Wasteland, Prosper began to wonder about pushing the limits of Fallout’s engine to create a multiplayer experience like the one so many people enjoyed on Blizzard's BattleNet. Was it possible, he wondered, to add a new dimension to a purely single-player game without direct access to the code itself?
- Here's a brief low-down on the rationale. Cracking a game's code open to the core is a colossal task for most people; it’s possible only through reverse-engineering, something that would have taken Prosper years to accomplish with the Fallout engine. Instead, he resorted to the more immediate memory editing and reading, working with FOSE to try and adapt the game engine to operate over a network. The learning process began on the Bethesda Game Studio Forum; he posted his plans, started coding for network play, and experimented with script variables and other coding tricks that would make it possible.
- GamerGaia: Prosper Cakester Multiplayer Test
- Modding, as it turns out, is not a cakewalk. An active modding community is generally a supportive place to be, steeped in a culture of mutual benefit where ideas are free and users are forthcoming with both advice for newcomers and updates on their current projects. When Prosper’s ideas first came to light, modders with custom projects on Nexus Forums approached him privately to ask him to develop specialized multiplayer services based on the work he’d already shown off – but the build was hardly complete. After creating a multiplayer service for a custom game world that another modder had created for the engine, he anticipated little trouble translating it to the Fallout 3 universe, but he was sorely lacking in working source code to provide to his askers. He’d experimented with P2P (peer-to-peer) playing over a local network, but never with a server complete with game lists and live chatting. Multiplayer simply wasn’t ready.
- Aware of the limitations of the industry,and its tendency to advance so quickly it leaves old models in the dust faster than independent programmers can hammer them out, Prosper’s designs on Fallout multiplayer were slowly defeated by a lack of motivation and fulfillment. So discouraged by the stress of finishing projects that he often trashed them well before completion, he attracted the criticism of those in the community who wanted solid results. Faced with a dwindling following for Fallout 3 as New Vegas took the spotlight, Prosper felt his project becoming trivial and unwanted. The cause to which he’d devoted so much of his time and energy was losing steam and supporters.
- In what may have been a reaction bred by disillusionment, he began to visit his former haunting grounds with offensive behavior, driving former supporters away and attracting the unwanted attention of moderators. "I took on a new personality," he said, "I was warned once for acting like i was on drugs and the second time for being harsh... and finally I just fought the mods themselves."
- GamerGaia: Prosper Cakester Rorschach in Fallout
- What eventually got him kicked from The Nexus, one of his two major outlets for advertising his ideas and results, was what he describes as an unprovoked attack by a number of respected modders. He suggests that it was because of his ambitions for Fallout multiplayer that he was ejected from the community without warning. Regardless of how or why it happened, Nexus was lost, and so too was his most appropriate stomping grounds.
- Prosper has lost the official Bethesda Soft Games Forum, too. Not only did he manage to get himself threatened by Bethesda’s legal team after suggesting they allow encryption of plugins, but he was permanently banned after he bluffed at having a leak of sensitive Fallout 4 documents. Take this with a grain of salt – until Bethesda's reaction made him think otherwise, Prosper himself intended for it all to be a joke. Six minutes after posting pages upon pages of backdated material originally developed and scrapped for Fallouts 1 and 2, his account was frozen, both on Bethesda’s official forum and on the popular image site on which he stored his documents.
- Does it point to twitchy fingers at Bethesda nervously pulling documents in fear of letting potential Fallout 4 quest material out into the open? Maybe not, but it begs the question of why seemingly outdated documents were treated like highly sensitive leak material.
- Prosper closed the thread of his personal history by inviting the forgiveness of his fellow modders. He seems to recognize that his behavior invited some of the criticism it got, and even went on to say that a modding community is defined by the way its members treat each other. Needless to say, he’d prefer to have his rights restored on Nexus and BSG so that he can continue to promote and gain some recognition for his projects.
- GamerGaia: Prosper Cakester Diablo For Fallout Mods
- Asked about the progress and future of Fallout multiplayer, Prosper told us he might “one day have an open beta where many players connect and have a PvP battle.” He places his completion percentage at 60%, but as with all art, inspiration is hard to come by. "There is no money being handed to me for the cause of making a game," he clarified, "or promise that I will get money as a result of pushing the project any further."
- You could say that Prosper's struggle with continuing a labor-intensive project without any visible reward is emblematic of the vast gulf between stability and independent art. It was the ideal of bringing new dimensions to an old engine that made him start a project that no one on the same forum had so much as considered – but what does all the hard work amount to in the end?
- Modders (or PC gamers in general) may be the hipsters of the gaming world, but Prosper expressed a surprising desire to join the mainstream. It seems like the perfect answer to a modder who’s looking to get something back for his or her hard work: create novel applications with development tools and get paid for it too. But the projects he's completed – copying video frames onto 3D objects in real-time, animating novelty creatures on request and rendering alternate game worlds with the user-creation tools of G.E.C.K. – don't, in his view, put him at the top of the pan-industry must-hire list. They're "neat hacks," he says, but not useful to major developers.
- Is working for a developer like Bethesda Game Studios the light at the end of the tunnel? There are lots of modders who are passionate about independent, non-commercial work; like Prosper told us, "Modding can be very rewarding." But for some, the lack of concrete benefit is just too discouraging. Interest dwindles; projects languish and simply die away.
- GamerGaia: Prosper Cakester Fallout Temple
- In Prosper's words, "the best work comes from modders that are professional and polite to one another.” However, it’s also important that modders “have the confidence to keep to themselves their own creative ideas, so that they can develop on them first." As a result, members avoid saturating the board with "idea topics with nothing to show," creating a community with less posturing and more results.
- In a field where modders rarely step outside their comfort zone, Prosper took a chance on a crazy project. His website is no longer available, but his YouTube channel still keeps records of the work he’s done, including multiplayer tests and various skinning and rendering projects that he’s kept picking away at over the years. He has considered moving to Obsidian's new game: "once all the issues are worked out," he said, referring to DLC, patches and fixes for the G.E.C.K., "modders should have a very good reason to mod New Vegas rather than Fallout 3." Though development has stalled, for reasons I’m sure you can imagine, we’re hoping letting him talk out the issues will help him get back on the horse.
- What did his colleagues on Nexus, the forum his lofty goals got him banned from in the first place, have to say? Well, some very unkind things, but in the end, “damn if he hasn't shown what one man can do with a dream.”
- If you feel up to a detailed explanation of multiplayer functionality as applied to the various algorithms at work in Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas and their respective DLCs, take a look at the raw transcript of one of the conversations we had. Click for pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
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Challenge yourself this year...
Learn something new in 2017
Learn something new in 2017