Hello mate! I know you are not used to a high frequency of news from us but you ll have to do with.
Indeed a lot of things are getting less blur recently and we aim to end the development of dniepr as soon as possible. (Bendix and I just started sending apply for some french video game company...(ubisoft?))
The first news is the recent change with our hosting. We moved both dniepr and logistique website to our new server (elseware-experience) We can't tell you exactly what is going on but it's just a matter of time.
Secondly, The second map (made by Bendix) has made huge progress. It's slow but as every content is custom, we can't make it faster.
Let the pictures speak for me.
And at least, the interview we did few month ago for the website "L4DFrance.fr"
Thanks Gravel "TheBaconMan" Mathieu for his work.
The worlds of the customs Left 4 Dead campaigns has given us really amazing creations in the past, with mods like I hate mountains or Dead Before Dawn.
It’s now the turn for Dniepr, one of the most ambitious project of the moment, to be under the spotlight. Without further ado let us go meet the actors behind this project tinted in mystery...
Dniepr : Journey to the East!
For those asking themselves about the signification of this strange little name, let it be known that Dniepr (written in English as Dnieper) is a East European River. The scenario will plunge its players in an ambiance rarely touched up to this day : To hell with gloomy forests and complicated urban complexes, we will be traversing the cold atmosphere of Ukraine. Welcome to the lands of Tchernobyl, welcome to Dniepr.
The campaign, in development for left 4 dead one and two ,will be composed of four chapters. Following a similar infection to the one found in the United States, the zone has been abandoned for months. To save their skin, our survivors are brought to walk around in an abandoned mall, (Chap 1 : Mall of Ukraine), then on the borders of the Dnieper river that goes through the town (Chap 2 : Waters Of The Dniepr). Finally, our fine team will find themselves traversing the deserted streets of the mysterious town called Prypiat, the city having been completely deserted following the nuclear accident of Tchernobyl ( Chap 3 et 4).
In order to illustrate this, the team working on the project, which we will talk to in the second part of our interview, gave us exclusive rights to show their trailer presenting the campaign in greater details. (Viewed below, trailer’s in HD).
The team behind the project.
In order to learn more about this ambitious project, we went to meet the three people in charge of this quirky little mod. We therefore found and talked to our three frenchies, the first being
Guillaume « AnKOu » Boitel, 21 year old Ajac student doing a master degree in computer science Rennes. Mapper, he's been gathering skills for the last 5 years, beginning so long ago with Counter-Strike then on Left 4 dead since the last year and a half .
Mael Vignaux, better known under the pseudonym "Khelben" deals with everything that enter in any way the ear of the player. He is notably in charge of the campaign soundtrack.
Last but not least, Dereau "Bendix8" Benoît, 20 year old, student in its second year at MJM Graphic Design in Rennes in 3D/Animation. Mapper, he is also in charge of creating the original models and of the general coordination of the project.
Those three partners have all diverse experiences in their respective field , Bendix8 et Khelben even worked together before on the Half Life 2 mod called Logistique. Bendix8 explains in greater details how the Dniepr project began with the arrival of AnKOu :
"The idea of Dniepr came from a thought i had in while working on Logistique. When you spent a great deal of time on the same project, there comes a point where you find yourself becoming weary... i then gave myself the objective of creating a little parallel level for Left 4 Dead. It was love at first sight when it came out. As the months came and went and seeing the work done on the campaign, i've decided to contact Ankou about reuniting our two projects (he was also working on a level happening in Prypiat). From those circumstances, Dniepr was born."
Ukraine and it's picturesque charm...
As i'm sure you all understood, Dniepr has been on the workbench for a great deal of time, and its team knew how to use their past experiences in diverse projects in order to give us a really enticing work.
Khelben & Bendix8 : Dniepr is an campaign set in Ukraine, in East Europe in an post-apocalyptic world. The mod is currently being developed for Lead for Dead 1 and 2. Alarming ambiance and complete background are to be expected.
One of the many strength of the campaign come from its surprising background : Ukraine and the cold ambiance of the distant regions of Eastern Europe, which set it apart from everything we have ever seen in the original game. The team is especially trying to transcribe the ambiance reigning in those parts as close as realistically possible, putting extra effort on the town of Pripyat.
Ankou : Regarding the places the player will visit , i've inspired myself with various structures of Prypipat, like its pool and two or three buildings.
Bendix8 : We decided to set the entire campaign in Ukraine. After this decision, i've done a great number of graphical research to “transplant” the campaign in the land, to place a scenario that could work and to really immerse myself in the country ambiance. As for the veracity of the levels, we inspire ourselves with what we like in our research, but we still leave a great deal to be done by our imagination in order to create levels adapted to the game and interesting in terms of graphics, gameplay, engine limitations and of the global atmosphere we are trying to create .
Maps, sounds and original models?
The repartition and organization of the work is one of the keys to success for this kind of project having several creators. Because of this, the two mappers divided the workload, doing two maps each, since the development of a chapter can take up to several months of work. Furthermore, thank to the experience and mastery Bendix8 has with animation tools, the campaign will contain a great number of models created for the occasion. "The realization of most of these models and textures , stretch the workload even more, but evidently improve the final product. By doing this, we can really give out an original atmosphere without totally recycling the original game content."
But we mustn’t forget that not everything is that simple when creating a game, a few problems sometimes appear to give a hard time, most notably to the mappers. In fact, the level of details present in the chapters is sometimes too much for the Source engine to work with, creating errors or really nasty bugs. Those problems impose to the mappers numerous hours/ days of "debugging" to find the cause of the problem.
Rare thing to find in an left 4 dead campaign, the mod will benefit from and all-original “soundscape”, thanks to the hard work of Khelben. Excluding the engine sounds (infected noises and weapons sound are kept since their exclusion would confuse the player), the rest of the campaign score will be completely original. The team attaches much importance to this point of development that should allow them to set them even more apart from the rest.
Khelben : It’s hard to really feel original when you’re creating a mod, if we use the sounds from another game. The visual part is there sure, but it’s still remain a frustration, knowing that not everything came from you. Having a importance quite important in the workflow (other than my role as a musician) we really want to push the boundaries to the maximum. Towards a completely exclusive game.
With all this attention to details for the mod visuals and soundtrack, it would be easy to believe that the team forgot about additions to gameplay. Do not worry, the gameplay has not been forgotten and WILL receive some additional surprises. On this point, the team seem very finical, even if they’re sewing their lips shut about the events that the player will face while playing the campaign.
Bendix8 : As for the case of the events slowing down the player progression in the game or needing a bit of thinking, ,i’m am sorry, but i won’t say much. It’s a surprise ;). In any event, we are trying to create events that changes in each part; this in turn should break in part the linear gameplay of the levels and of the game in general.
Often forgotten by the mappers, Versus mode could very well, for once, find its place in this campaign; in any case; our 3 stooges say they are "extremely interested" by it. While the two mappers are aware that the acceptance of the mod in the E-sport circle would be a great bonus, they also understand the fact that the desires and needs of those e-players are a bit different than the majority of non-professional player.
What about a release date?
Although the project is advancing at an incredible rate, it still doesn’t seem to be ready to be released . For an example, the third map is only approximately 85% done, according to Ankou. There’s also a great deal of details left to do (optimization, creation of the navigational mesh for the AI, bugs squashing, extra fiddling). The second map is also still in development, but should take less time to finish.
In fact, at the moment this article was posted, more than half of the mod mapping has been completed, according to Bendix8 ; the soundtrack on the other hand still has a bunch of work left to overcome, most notably is the theme which is still being worked on.
Bendix8 : As for the release date, we don’t want to take unnecessary risks telling a date we’re not 100% sure. It will be done, when it will be done.
Thanks for reading !
See you soon