FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 1.0 (Updated as development continues)
Please read carefully so as to get a detailed understanding of what the mod entails.
- What is 'Ničija zemlja'?
Ničija zemlja (Nichiya Zemlya) is a Half-Life total conversion located in a post-apocalyptic Serbia. The name comes from the Serbo-Croatian word for No Man's Land (modern Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian) which historically refers to the area of land between fighting groups above the trenches in World War I. In this case, it describes the devastated and often dangerous land left in the aftermath of the fictional nuclear destruction.
- Why Serbia?
I'd wanted to make a game featuring a ruined city for a long time but there was never much of an idea of what the setting would be and how things would work apart from being some kind of generic Fallout copy. Following the release of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and later Metro 2033, it became clear to me how well Eastern Europe fitted into the post-apocalyptic/dystopian type of gaming. I'd been interested in Russia for quite some time following the release of the Half-Life mod "Paranoia", regularly reading articles and looking at photos of various locations in the country. One of Russia's most faithful allies throughout history has been the small nation of Serbia when it was both a kingdom on it's own and part of Yugoslavia. From this I became much more interested in learning more about the region since my own only real knowledge of Serbia came from the Yugoslav wars. Learning more about the history, the people, the culture, I realised that it would be a perfect setting for a post-apocalyptic storyline, and quite original considering there are next to no games featuring Serbia, except for the usual cliche bad guys appearing in certain titles. What's especially nice for me is that the country uses both Latin and cyrillic so signs are often in either script or bilingual so you get a real variation of styles and fonts on text based props.
- Where in Serbia is the game located?
The game takes place in part of the municipalities of Belgrade, although the city is built from real life, the surrounding locations are all fictional. You will see signs to other parts of Serbia and directions to other countries like Croatia but you wont be able to reach them. I will post a map of the game area with relevant landmarks and environmental hazards at some point in the future.
- How did the nuclear war happen and who else was involved?
I've deliberately kept that vague on purpose, much like how you never learn what happened to Moscow in Metro 2033. Why the bombs fell and who else was part of the war is irrelevant to the storyline, it's what happens following the aftermath that matters.
- How long has it been since the destruction?
Roughly 25 years ago...
- Who is Stefan Brajović?
In Serbian tradition, Stefan is derived from the Greek Stephanos which means "crowned with wreath" and is a name shared with many of Serbia's historical kings. Having learnt this I felt it was very fitting for the name of the game's protagonist. Stefan himself starts off as an ordinary guy who's just trying to survive in the new world, he was born some years before the war but remembers little of the former life. One of the few memories he has is of playing with toy soldiers pretending to be part of the army, his father served in the armed forces of Serbia and Montenegro many years ago and gave him his old shoulder patch which he still wears to this day. Once tasked with finding the pregnant mother, he realises that his calling has finally come and he has a chance to make his mark in history, however futile the efforts may seem.
- What can we expect as basic gameplay?
The main genre is semi-linear fps. The game will be broken up into about 6 chapters, most of which have a 'hub' which connects to other areas. If you've ever played Quake 2 or Kingpin, you'll know how this works; basically you can freely go back and fourth between areas in a hub but once you exit the chapter you cannot return. This means that although the storyline is linear, there is a certain amount of freedom to explore if you wish. Some areas will be open when you enter the hub, some areas will be blocked and you'll need to do something to gain access (ie present identity papers at a military checkpoint to pass through the barrier).
- What kind of locations will there be?
Obviously listing them all would be spoilerific, but some of the areas will include several villages and rural roads, an orthodox church, an industrial complex, Belgrade itself and the underground 'Metro Beograd'. Whilst the areas are not the most original, they will be as faithful as needed to Serbia's nature.
- Who is friend and who is foe?
There are different factions which will serve their own purposes, I haven't fully realised who is who yet but there are two factions that will appear in the game for definate. The first aren't so much a faction but a group of hostile "bandits" and the surviving criminal element who rob and kill to survive. They don't pose much of a threat, armed only with small arms and whatever they've managed to salvage over the years, but in groups they can be a problem if you're not careful. Second of all, is the "New Yugoslav Army", essentially a group of communists with a nostalgic memory of the Socalist Federal Republic Of Yugoslavia. They believe capitalism is to blame for the war and that it can never be allowed to fester again so long as they live. I will also possibly include some kind of fanatical religious cult and a nationalist faction at some point but I need to think more about those before comfirming their existence.
- Will there be mutants?
Yes, I will include a few types of mutants possibly even including a boss or two. I will brainstorm some ideas for the mutants and make some concept drawings in time.
- Will there be any special environmental anomalies?
There will be various radioactive deformaties that burn, electrify, suffocate, throw the player around etc. You will be warned and educated about some of them via your comrades in arms.
- Will we see any female combatants for once?
Yes! Serbia has a lot of women in active service in the armed forces, so in the future it would make a lot of sense if some of the female survivors can take care of themselves!
- What weapons will feature?
I'll not spoil it by listing all the weapons, but some included will be Serbia's own version of the AK called the M70 and the more recent M21. There will also be some bolt rifles from ex-Yugoslavia times and possibly some custom-made weapons. There will be plenty of ways to kill things ;)
- Are there any special items or equipment that you will use?
You'll need a gas mask to survive in the ruins of the city because of the lethal poisons in the atmosphere, taking it off will result in almost instant death. You'll also have a protective helmet and flashlight attatched to your combat armour. There may be some other items that will feature in future too.
- Once we do catch up with the girl, is it going to be a frustrating escort mission?
No! I am one of those people like a lot of others that detest having to protect vips and hostages from being killed by 90 bad guys all gunning for them resulting in instant fail if they manage to succeed. The AI will work as it did in Paranoia, whereby they move and hold position by themselves and instruct you to do things whereever necessary. It is the same with the girl, she will take cover and not move from that spot until it is safe to do so. Obviously, if she does manage to get shot at enough times by enemies then it will be mission failed, we can't make it too easy can we? ;)
- Is this really Half-Life 1?
Yup, I'm using an advanced renderer from another open-source mod called Paranoia. It allows for more detail than standard HL and features bump-mapping, projected flashlight, colour decals, 3D-skybox and much more.
- Why aren't you making this on the Source engine?
There are a few reasons;
> I've never been interested in Source development, even when HL2 was first released. whilst it is without doubt the superior engine technically, a heck of a lot more effort and time is needed to make something for the Source engine, for a project like this it'd be 4x as much work easily. You have to take into account the higher detail expected in both environments and textures, the sheer amount of custom content to be made and then imported into the game by lengthy processes and tools and an SDK that is prone to breaking often. It all makes for a large headache I'd rather not endure.
> I have been mapping since HL first came out back in 98 (worldcraft 2.0 baby!), so I'm a 14 year veteran of the Goldsource engine and I know the limitations of what's possible and what isn't and how to achieve the seemingly impossible or improbable. Just take a look at the media and judge for yourself!
> There might be a possibility to make the mod into a stand-alone game with the Russian Xash engine as it basically supports everything that GS does without people needing Half-Life. However, it's too early to talk about that yet.. just know that Ničija zemlja will always be free whatever transpires.
- Will this work on my non-Steam (WON) version of Half-Life?
At the moment, I am developing the mod on my primary machine which has no internet using WON and testing it on the Steam platform on another computer, so it works on both versions at present. This could change at a later date before a release is made though, so it is recommended that you have a version of Half-Life with Steam.
- Will there be any COOP multiplayer?
Most likely not, I'm a single-player enthusiast and making the campaign by itself is a lot of work without adding MP into the mix. In the future, that might change but don't be surprised if it doesn't.
- Where do you get your textures from?
I make them myself from photo references found from various sources, many of which are taken from Serbia itself and then I use additional references from other ex-Yu and Eastern-European countries like Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Poland and many many more. I also use some stock material to make quick textures whenever I can't find the relevant photo sources I need.
- Can I help you with the mod?
I'm not actively seeking people to help out just yet but if you want to help out then you must show some of your previous work. If you live in Serbia, especially in Belgrade itself then photos of... anything would be the biggest help I can get!
- How long have you been working on this?
I started development officially in May 2011, over a year ago now but a lot of that time was spent doing research, gathering references, coming up with storyline etc. I have probably only been actively making the levels and content for the mod for about 7-8 months. Development always starts off slow because you're still defining the project and brainstorming ideas, eventually things will pick up and the amount of content made will increase.
- When will the mod be released?
It's too early to give a date for release, so all I can say for now is "When it's done".