With the retail release of Killing Floor (pre-order here!) quickly approaching, ModDB met with Alex Quick — the lead behind the Killing Floor mod — to talk to him about the experience of transitioning from mod to game development. In his own honest way, Alex recalls how Killing Floor made the jump to retail and what it took to get it there:
ModDB: So how does it feel to be a bonafide game developer now?
Alex Quick: Pretty good! It's warm and comforting, like baby seal-skin slippers.
ModDB: I'm sure many mod teams would like to know, how did Killing Floor strike a deal for retail?
Alex Quick: I was hanging out on RO's (Red Orchestra) IRC last October asking questions like, “how the hell do I port KF to RO guise”. Around this time Red Orchestra was the first non-valve game to host steam mods and I thought it might be a way to extend KF's life. At the time, I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about the future of the mod — the fan base was pretty small. I ran into the mighty “Rammjaeger” who (and this confused me because he was willing to talk at length to a complete stranger about random mod porting) was the president of Tripwire. Funny thing is, I was pretty dick-ish about the whole thing and I basically just dumped KF on him and let him do the entire port job for me. Thankfully, he didn’t just tell me to piss off and do it myself. I would have probably told me that. Long story short, in the process of porting he played it and showed it around the office. There was a general consensus that it was a fun mod and something they wanted to do more than port. The rest is history. Although I still wince when I think about my lazy-ass-ness. Good old 20/20 hindsight.
ModDB: Did you shop the mod around to a lot of people before coming to Tripwire?
Alex Quick: Not really, no. It’s important to remember that at this time, Killing Floor had a very small fanbase and the 2k4 crowd had mostly moved on. I didn’t really think anyone would be into it.
ModDB: What was that experience like, working with them?
Alex Quick: Amazing! And a serious learning experience. I’m not going to bullshit you guys and pretend like it was smooth sailing all the way along through. It took me a while to get in sync with their plans for the game. At first I was just going off and making wild changes without running it by them. Some stuff got rolled back or scrapped, some advice was exchanged (in one direction) and I figured out how to get with the flow. Now that I’ve been able to do that, it’s been a seriously rewarding and very, very maturing experience. When you work with guys as talented as the ones at Tripwire, their win tends to rub off on you — the short time-frame really intensified that. They were working an insane amount and I just had to learn to step up my own game to keep up.
ModDB: Did you have to change your attitudes towards the designs of Killing Floor in order to make the jump to retail?
Alex Quick: There was an initial brainstorming session where a lot of cool ideas got put forward. We sent them our “demands” and they sent us theirs. It was really fun. Then the reality set in and stuff actually started getting made. That’s when some sacrifices had to happen. Being honest though, there was way more added to the mod than taken out. The basic gameplay remained pretty much the same, but a lot of the annoying stuff was shaved off to make it more widely accessible. Like, you can now use iron sights on *all* the guns, not just the guns that Alex wanted you to use them on. But to answer the question: yes . I had to basically wise up to the fact that I was making a game now and not a mod. Mods can be intentionally oblique, aggravating and they’ll probably be lauded for how hip that makes them seem. Trying that in a professional setting would result in a lot of creative and talented people having to look for new homes around that burning oil drum at the underpass.
ModDB: For a long time you were working on the fabled 2.51 patch; how much of that content will we see in the retail release?
Alex Quick: Most of it. The cock-n-balls Clot was unfortunately left on the cutting room floor, but pretty much all of the critical changes were worked through and — if they made sense — implemented.
ModDB: So the patriarch is in? Does he still have a rocket launcher for an arm?
Alex Quick: Yeah, he’s in and badass as ever. Ask the plate sized hole in my torso.
ModDB: What are the major changes in KF from mod to retail? Which ones were the hardest for you to make?
Alex Quick: The biggest change KF veterans will notice is the Trader. In the mod, she was always hanging out in this one place; you could just run to her, stock up, then start looking for firewood and unpacking the marshmallows outside her door. Yeah, it was a camp-a-thon. It made the gameplay get pretty stale, so the Tripwire guys wanted to have multiple locations for her to potentially appear in each map and a little GUI guide which would show people how to find her. I was initially skeptical about the GUI arrow, because I was still thinking in a 'I am a hardcore modder person making hardcore mods for hardcore people' mentality — which didn’t mesh too well with Tripwire’s intentions to sell the game to more than three people. As it turns out, the arrow is totally critical and without it you just never make it to the shop in time.
ModDB: How do you think its hardcore fans will recieve it?
Alex Quick: There are two kinds of hardcore fans: There are those who will take the changes in stride and appreciate what’s been done to improve the game.Then there are those will be pretty pissed off with some of the new ease of use stuff, initially. They’ll rage and fume and post vitriol on the official forums about how the modders sold out and god is dead. After that they’ll probably just play the game, because they’ll quickly realize that it’s as fun and addicting and challenging as ever — the changes do nothing but improve the gameplay. Oh yeah, and the chainsaw is back. I think everyone should dig that.
ModDB: Any other new weapons we can expect?
Alex Quick: Well besides the chainsaw, the broken pipe was replaced with a machete. Frankly, when you’re talking about serrated combat knives, fire axes, and chainsaws — a length of rusty piping seemed a little wuss. It's basically just a far stronger version of the knife, while sacrificing a bit of speed and versatility (just hacky hacky, no power-slash). Oh yeah, I also hear you can double fist the hand-cannon now. Watching them fire in succession is probably the greatest non-pornographic event you’re ever gonna see on a monitor.
ModDB: From a level design perspective, did you rework the layouts of the maps much? How many maps are in the retail release?
Alex Quick: There were moderate changes to the maps, but nothing like a total re-do from the ground up. KF veterans are still going to get that “welled up with nostalgia” thing. Some additional sneaky little paths for specimens were added to keep the gameplay fresh and of course there are now many more little hiding places for the elusive trader. The retail release has 5 maps: West London, Biotics Labs, Offices, Manor, Farm.
ModDB: What's the word on the official SDK to create custom content for KF?
Alex Quick: It’ll be out at the time of release; and because it’s Unreal Editor we’re talking about here, I can bet you money that there’ll be like a dozen new custom maps to play within a few days of the game being out. Some of them may even be good :)
Thanks to Alex for the interview. If you want to check out Killing Floor's humble beginnings, visit the old mod profile. The retail version of Killing Floor releases May 14th on Steam.