Coming up on Year 4 of development on Part 2!
Project Brazil's 1st Installment went live in May 2013. For the most part it was well reviewed! We took several months to fix bugs and get it stable before releasing the 131 update that December, which has been online for 4 years next month.
Our mod incorporates a remastered Vault 18 will all new level designs and new voices for several characters. It also spans 2 major branching quests, the NCR and Raider Alliance, each with 5 main quests and thousands of lines of dialogue in many deep quests with profound changes to the way the plot plays out. Even small choices play a big role, ensuring each character type and decision spawns a new way of seeing the story unfold, often spawning whole new plots with unique endings.
We also feature all new remade textures on most Vanilla assets, especially clothing, either my work, Vlad's, Dargbody's or Macintroll's. We also have some extra contributions from many other modders.
A lot of people keep asking what is taking so long!
Most of what is left to develop is that yellow zone. It incorporates the NCR and Raider 4th main quests, which are mirror twins of each other from opposite perspectives. Making sure all the content matches in quality and the deeply stratified code passes the ball from start to finish is a big job. We've spent most of April just fixing errors in the early quests that come back to haunt the 4th main quest. Things like Kira being kidnapped not being finished, or the companions being imprisoned and needing a way to escape with the player's help, all had to back track and update to their final architecture.
The level design is 100% done. There are no missing areas required in the game now."
All the main dialogue is complete and voiced, animated, and lip-sync is done.
The art assets are done.
We just need to record a few minor character voices that we just added for Venders and Merchants.
I just finished this new Enclave outfit last night!
I used the original fallout 3 model and hand sculpted new normals for it, from 512x512 to 4096.
I'm also making the end game cinematic slideshow and an in-game cinematic t replace the dream everyone hated. (The dream is a wild wasteland event now.)
HD textures on almost everything. :D
A lot of the work left is just a waiting game as Rick codes the Main Quest, so I've been taking the time to upgrade the art here and there and fix bugs. Trying to make myself as the team lead useful! There's nothing to write, no 3D art that NEEDS to be done, and with the voices now cut, there's just the new stuff to quickly slap together.
When this big document turns green, the mod is ready to be launched.
As you can imagine, I am very tired.
I had planned on this being done in 2016. Not, in the middle of 2017, still ambling along doing slow and steady tasks towards completion. :p
Since I live out in the middle of nowhere, and have since 2014, it has been a real challenge to stay sane. With minimal human contact outside of family and working online as a remote freelancer for 3D art and writing, it is a very lonely, very quiet life. A radical change from pre-2014, when my life way WAY more exciting. (I used to jump out of planes into 3rd world countries and get shot at for a living.)
Keeping your drive to do giant projects alone is hard in an anti-social setting.
The only person to motivate you, is you.
It's kinda like being the last man alive on a trip to Mars. That is how I describe it to friends. You're alone, on this long journey, totally isolated, with just a mountainous work to complete. And when you finally get there, you won't get paid! XD
It's important to remember for all our fans, we don't get paid to do this. We have a pay-pal set up, and donations go largely to helping keep me alive, maybe getting 10-30$ in a month. Someone will sometimes pick something out of my steam wishlist, which is nice. People who donate get a message from me by email and a unique desktop for my next indie game project.
But other than recognition by the modding community, which is fickle, and a nod from indie devs and possible future job prospects, there is no rational reason to continue developing this huge mod.
So why keep going?
Because I believe it is important. Project Brazil is wikid cool. It's hard to underestimate its quality and sheer entertainment value when you play this massive story. The characters are memorable and really come alive, often asking tough moral questions that leave you thinking afterwards.
I'm not saying this as a dev on the project, but as our player base says, it is like playing a brand new game. And it is a good game. I was deeply inspired by KotOR I and II, Mass Effect, Fallout 1, 2, 3 and New Vegas, and it really shows.
Project Brazil, just objectively, for its clearly being a mod, feels like one of my favourite games from the last generation of good PC RPGs. The engine is old. It is limited. The dev tools, the GECK, is a frustrating mess. Things that take you ten minutes in RPG Maker or the Unreal Engine, or Unity, take you half an hour or more in the old GECK.
Imagine just playing your favourite old game, with outdated graphics, a few major flaws in the story, and some patches that aren't as fun as the rest, over, and over, day after day, for years.
That is what making a mod this size is like. Only YOU have to fix it.
It gets exhausting. Exasperating, is better word.
Waiting for updates is like Waiting for Godot.
How do you get to the finish from here?
This is where we have to take a dive into a motivational speech.
Most of the people who read this dev blog every month are fans of the project. Sometimes other modders will drop by to see what this thing is about. So when I feel exhausted, I usually turn to my friends and tell them, "you got this."
Sometimes its gonna suck and you don't know why you're here. And when that happens, when you don't believe it, that's the time to tell others, "hey, you can do this," because if you can't tell yourself, tell them.
At 5+ years of work, we are now a landmark in our community, and a benchmark by which other mods are measured.
"Is it going to be like Project Brazil?" is an honest question that other quest modders get, and they almost always answer, "No, we're not crazy, we want to do something we'll actually finish."
Why would you make a mod this big? That's nuts. As was said, 98% of big mods just evaporate with time - for a reason. This shit is next to impossible, and the payout is negligible.
But, miraculously, we haven't quit yet.
Mostly because Rick and I believe it is important. Finishing this matters to us.
Project Brazil was not my first big mod. It was the first big mod that I was personally responsible for, but I'd worked on other mods previously making art assets, level designs, writing dialogue, and testing.
When I sat down to write Project Brazil, I did so simultaneously while designing the levels. Granted we had Bethesda's modular kits, so the art was like LEGOs, but I had to make new art too. I found it very relaxing, and the writing process was deeply engaging, because I knew what I wanted to write.
I knew it had a BIG feel to it, but until I stepped back and looked at the sheer volume of dialogue and design documents, I didn't know just how big.
This is the part where the Dunning-Kruger Effect kicks in.
When you are just starting out making games and mods, you are utterly ignorant. So ignorant you don't know where to start. Most quit, and even more never try. But after a few successes, maybe helping a few teams out, you are very motivated, and so you throw yourself into the task of learning and making things on your own.
Some of the things you make turn out great! Others? You learn by untangling knots that the best way to untangle knots is not to let them happen in the first place. By tying a lot of knots, sometimes you get caught in the rigging, and you learn a sort of zen patience in just accepting the problem and working it out. Working yourself out in the process.
There is a method to design that isn't immediately intuitive. You have to make mistakes on the journey from concept to screen. You have to fail. And be willing to make mistakes and fail again, often doing so increasingly in the public eye.
That takes guts.
Nobody in the public eye is free from scrutiny. The moment you post your first mod, or first indie game, the criticism begins. You get people doubting you, sniping your art and writing, mocking your code. Because you don't know what you're doing quite yet, it's obvious, and the bar is miles above you. Critical people are never wrong, because they never need to prove their mouth with their deeds.
Other modders and devs look like gods.
You're just a peasant, with your pitiful squeak of an offering. They don't even have time for talking to you. You're not in their scene.
If you stop now, while they aren't all watching, it's easy to slink away and just quit quietly.
Some people might be let down, but you got away clean, right?
The excuses to quit are endless. Jobs call, school has exams, girlfriend wants to break up, kids need attention. Maybe you're just bored.
You've seen the same low res texture on those vanilla rocks 10,000 times.
They disgust you now.
Low res, low poly rocks.
Fuck those rocks.
Fuck me! Why am I enduring this!?
You start to hate the things you loved, as the frustration and exhaustion take hold. You see the volume of the work and it literally burns your eyeballs just to look at it. The urge to quit is palpable.
And maybe you should? Maybe your calling is elsewhere. These gods that make it look so effortless, with fully formed communities and paying job offers -- those guys aren't like you. They're cool.
But now, you've caught the bug.
You, despite your insecurities and early attempts, are one among the gods. A meek god. More like a sprite of the lower realms no one has ever heard of.
But you create worlds.
Flawed as they may be, you've done some things most human beings will never even attempt:
Learned an arcane language of code and logic,
conjured faces out of a grey blank abyss,
raised mountains where once there was a void,
all while staring into a glowing box of light in a dark room alone.
And some people liked it. Some people really liked it, and want you to continue.
The voices of unrealized characters call to you. Telling tales and spinning adventurous yarns possible in a land that acts as the realized imaginations of your childhood made manifest. A sandbox made of possibilities.
At this point you have to be pragmatic. You have a life plan, and that life plan is limited. There are only so many 5 year blocks of life that you have to live, and few you will be able bodied.
Will you spend 5 years, the length some people are in middle-school to graduating high-school, college, or a career in the military, alone, by yourself? Every day for hours you'll be muttering over your keyboard conjuring spells into a light box, weaving arcane sentences in an inhuman tongue, pushing imaginary clouds of points in space, imbuing the waves of human speech caught on electron threads into the voice boxes of people you had to animate from just cyberdust.
What we do, is wizardry.
Make no mistake, we are what they would have called witches just 100 years ago. Burned us alive for heresy, because only a god can make a human face. We claim to create worlds.
Today we are junior wizards. I am 28. Next month, May 21st, I'll be 29. There is this Tech Industry myth that most game devs by this age are considered middle age and have already made their first breakout hit. I made a mod. Many of you aged 17, 18, 22, you're just starting out and have tools that at your age I couldn't have dreamed of. Some of the other modders I know are in their 40s and 60s and have been making code as long as code was a word related to computers.
It's not done for glory, but as a hobby. Though some take it further, you shouldn't make the mistake of greatness. Just instead, be yourself, and do what you love for the joy of it. In the end, that is all you have.
Do you want to do this, or not?
The path to becoming a Wizard isn't easy. It's not meant to be. There are hard times to face, and the battle is mostly within yourself just staying motivated in the doldrums.
It turns out magic is quite banal in reality. And it costs something: work. An lots of it.
98% of mods fail. At least 80% of indie games fail in development - some while in Early Access. Some make it to launch a broken heap!
What do you want to do?
What do you want to create?
I want to make worlds.
Even after the trials and misery of a mod that drags on for ages, long after the romance is burned out, I still look forward to conjuring characters in new worlds better than the last.
But it begins with finishing this one, whatever it takes.
I don't have a certain plan after Project Brazil is done. No one has called me to tell me I have a job.
I only have some sketches for a 10 year plan full of smaller projects with budgets and teams. Worlds I want to make. Characters I'd like to conjure. Possibilities for emergent experiences I want to enable.
Will people even remember us? Do people still want to meet their online girlfriend, or figure out who Kurtz really is? See the quests in the wasteland we spent years building?
I think there is an audience for it, and I intend to deliver.
I have to. This is what I do.
I create worlds.
If I were to quit, what would I be?
That's an answer I don't intend to find out.
We're going to finish this. And it is going to be amazing.
If that is also what you dare to dream of? I'd suggest you bear down, and do the same.
You can read more about our progress on the Design Documents Found Here. In the mean time, you can keep track of us on ModDB, Fallout Nexus, or Facebook. We've got a thriving online community centered around each one.