Edain Mod in 2017: State of the Team
Greetings, companions of Edain,
After the recent Rivendell Spellbook News, we wanted to take the time to talk about the current state of the Edain Mod and the team as a whole. It's something a lot of you have been asking about, so let's get right into it.
You have noticed that progress on the mod has been going slower than it used to. There are many different reaons for this. A big one is undoubtedly the departure of our founder and leader Ealendril in early 2017. He was not only a major creative force, but also responsible for almost all of Edain's coding. On top of that, he contributed significantly to nearly every other area of development. And ultimately, this was why he decided to leave: Modding took up so much time for him that he couldn't devote as much as he wanted to other parts of his life.
(Among other things, Ealendril has since published several fantasy novels - if you're a German reader, do check out his Arakkur series! We weren't surprised at all to see that he's a force to be reckoned with no matter what he puts his mind to!)
By unanimous team decision, Ealendril's role as leader went to Lord of Mordor, who has been deputy leader for years and majorly shaped the creative direction of Edain. FG15, also one of our most active members and most talented coders, took over as new second-in-command. So why have things still not been going as fast as in the old days?
For one, the adjustment certainly wasn't easy and we never expected it to be - there was a significant transition period where work on version 4.5 slowed down dramatically as we figured out how to go forward. However, even now that we have new structures and workflows in place that we're happy with, what's true for Ealendril is also true for the rest of us: As we get older, we start to feel the stress of Edain more and more while the time we can devote to the mod grows ever scarcer. When we started working on Edain, a lot of us were still in school. But that was ten years ago! Since then, many team members have gone on to university or even started their careers. We're still passionate about Edain and Lord of the Rings - but as we grow older, they have to make room to share our attention with all the other responsibilities that come with adult life.
Ealendril was not the only member we lost along the way. Thorongil, Adamin and Radagast have also decided to pursue other things. We wish them all the best! But this did create another roadblock for a time, leaving us with no one to create new skins and models. Crucially, this stalled development on the new Misty Mountains faction which still needs quite complex structure models. That was a major reason why we decided to pursue less graphics-heavy concepts like the Spellbook rework for 4.5 first (the other major reason being that we do feel it's something the mod desperately needed, as it may even add more overall gameplay variety across the board than a single new faction would).
Luckily, we have since had the pleasure of welcoming some much-needed fresh blood among our ranks. Trapper has reinforced our mapping team while Joragon has joined to fill the modelling void. As the decision to postpone the Misty Mountains until after 4.5 had long been made by that point and reversing that would delay the next release even further, we thought he might start with another fan favorite request instead. We're sure you're going to like what he's currently working on...
So progress on Edain 4.5 continues, but the slower pace is probably something all of us will have to get used to - team members as well as fans. Which brings us to a second important point:
Communication with the community
Many of you have been asking for more communication from the team, and it's true that there have been longer periods of silence at times than we would have liked. Once again, there are several reasons for that.
The most obvious one ties into what we discussed above. With less time to devote to creating new content, we simply have less to share and news posts become less frequent by default. However, it's important to note that a lack of news has never meant a lack of progress. There will be times when we are discussing and working on a whole bunch of interesting projects internally, but none of them are yet fully ready to be shared with you.
The Lorien spellbook, for example, has proven a difficult task to get right and we went through iteration after iteration to make sure it's up to Edain's high standards. It has always been our philosophy to only present the best possible version of any given feature and take the time we need to get it to that state. Looking back, it probably would have been wiser to divide the siege rework and the spellbook rework into two separate versions and release 4.5 with just the siege changes before we start work on the spells. But that ship has sailed.
We certainly underestimated the effort it would take to get the spellbooks to a place we're happy with. Miscalculations like that can always happen, unfortunately - after all, we never claimed to be perfect! However, now that we're committed to the project, we don't want to release a half-baked version of it just for the sake of getting it out there faster. We want to do it right despite all the turbulences. We feel this philosophy has been an integral part of Edain's success over the years and is a major reason many of you are still here.
So why don't we fill the time with work-in-progress announcements or at least give estimates when we can release the next news post or new version? First off, it comes down to time again: We only want to say something when we actually have something to say. After all, would you rather we hang out in the comments section promising you the next update is coming soon, or actually work on making that happen? When in doubt, we'll always choose the latter!
It's true that at least setting tentative dates would give people something to look forward to while we work, but we have long since learnt to never make promises we aren't absolutely sure we can keep. And since we're all doing this in our spare time as a hobby, we simply can't ever be 100% sure until something is fully done. Even showing you that Battle Wagon above is a risk - that one's still in progress, and may not end up being implemented exactly as you see it now. Making more promises may feel like it alleviates uncertainty in the short term, but could actually increase it in the long run.
Maybe it turns out the game doesn't actually support our concept the way we had envisioned it. Maybe we only notice a crucial issue after implementing an idea and seeing it in action. Or maybe it simply turns out we don't have the time to get it done in the time we promised. This will only lead to frustration for you and increased stress for us. If our professor or boss sets us a deadline for a paper or important job, for example, that will always have to take precedence over Edain. Not to mention that Edain is not even our only hobby - some of us play several instruments or sports, for example.
To be sure, we don't want to downplay the importance of Edain. For many of us, it's been a big part of our lives for years. We have met many friends along the way and it's been incredibly rewarding to see such a passionate community grow around what we have built. Modding is immensely creatively fulfilling and a source of great pleasure to all of us. However - and this is the crucial part - that is what it has to remain. If Edain ever became a burden instead of a pleasure, if it strained our private lives or took a toll on our jobs or education, that would be the one and only thing sure to eventually kill the mod.
Lately, we got the impression that quite a few people need to be reminded of this.
"The mod is dead!"
There's another big reason communication from our side has declined. Coming home after a long day of work with maybe an hour or two to spend on Edain, the last thing we want to do with that time is read comments along the lines of "It's been a week since the last update, clearly the mod you worked on for ten years is dead". And those, dispiriting as they are, are actually among the more harmless ones we've been getting.
Even more frustrating are those people who apparently feel that because we have spent years working on something we provide entirely for free, we have entered a contract to fulfill every single demand they make of us. We've even had comments telling us that the mod itself has no value if we don't also constantly talk to people about it. This went so far as someone telling us that if we can't respond to comments, we should never have made the mod public in the first place.
To these people, we have a very simple answer: We never did any of this for you. Firstly, we did indeed do it for ourselves. Because we wanted to make the Lord of the Rings strategy game nobody else seemed willing to make. Because we wanted the creative fulfillment that comes with a project of Edain's quality and scale. Because we found friends among the team, and for countless other reasons you're free to judge as self-serving if you must.
But we also did it because we knew there were other people out there who felt like us - that while BfME was a great game, it could be even better, and that Tolkien's world deserves to be explored even further. It has been our great honor to foster and build a community of like-minded players. And we don't mean only people who enjoy the mod unconditionally, far from it! Player feedback and criticism has been a major factor in making Edain what it is today. We don't ask for blind adoration. But after ten years of doing all we can to bring you the best possible LotR mod, we do ask for a certain measure of trust and respect. We ask you to believe us when we tell you that the mod is not dead despite the slower pace, without us having to repeat that every few days or "prove" it to you with a constant stream of new content.
And the thing is: We're well aware that the large majority of our community consists of considerate and respectful players. But it's human nature to notice the loudest and most destructive voices the most, and these types of comments have been eating away at our motivation to engage with people lately. Just think about that the next time you're thinking about throwing some ill-considered demands at us. If your aim is to get more news and faster releases from us, this is the surest way to achieve the exact opposite.
To those of you who do stick by us even when the going gets rougher, however, we want to say: Thank you! We hope this post has both illuminated some of the reasons why things have slowed down a bit as well as reassured you that despite all this, we're not going anywhere. For as Tolkien himself said: "Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens."
We're still as determined as ever to bring you the best Lord of the Rings strategy game out there. And we're still glad for every companion who wants to accompany us on that journey!
Your Edain Team