6 min read
Gaming Made Me - Myth: The Fallen Lords / Myth II: Soulblighter
The gameplay was brilliant and ahead of its time - ahead of our time, even, yet to be matched by any other game I can think. Real projectile physics meant to do damage with an arrow it had to physically intersect the enemy unit
This game introduced me to online ranked gaming, with all the camaraderie and ugliness that that entails. I had played online games before for fun, but on Bungie.net I played to win. I mastered the rules to the extent that intuition drove my actions. I don't know how many times I saved my army from massacre by pulling them away from a deep body of water because I correctly and semi-unconsciously felt the presence of an army of undead Thrall or single Wight (the equivalent of a suicide bomber) laying in ambush. Countless hours of practice allowed me to win archer battles by dancing mine around so their volley of arrows hit and the enemy's missed. While other RTS games at the time amounted to attack-move-repeat, Myth demanded micromanagement.
The gameplay was brilliant and ahead of its time - ahead of our time, even, yet to be matched by any other game I can think. Real projectile physics meant to do damage with an arrow it had to physically intersect the enemy unit, not pass a successful die roll. Terrain height and positioning mattered. Weather mattered. With Myth I came closest to the experience of professional Starcraft players, though I never was the best player on Bungie.net by a long shot. Nonetheless, when I was playing a Last Man on the Hill game on a map like For Carnage Apply Within and doing everything right, systematically destroying my opponents through a better understanding of the rules and mastery of the interface, the experience could only be described as sublime. It was the only time a game has made me feel more like an athlete than player.
Myth 2: Soulblighter
I continued playing ranked matches online in the sequel, but ignored the original game types and maps for a mod calledWWII: Recon. It was a very simple total conversion that had one new unit and several items that could be picked up and used - a medkit, rocket propelled grenades, concussion grenades, and fire grenades. I probably spent as much time playing Recon as I did playing the vanilla maps in TFL, if not more. I became very, very good at Recon, despite it being far more difficult to master than Myth. It took the micromanagement of the base game to an extreme. I was most comfortable controlling a single unit, though my favourite game type provided three. I would use these extra guys as "extra lives" not as a squad as might be expected. Dodging bullets and hiding behind hills and rocks was difficult enough, but grenades and RPGs added another level of complexity altogether. Grenades bounce, roll down hills, are easily dodged, but when I was at my best I used all of these factors to my advantage. The RPG was launched by targeting an area about one third of the distance to where it would land. Suffice it to say, it required extraordinary skill and practice to be able to hit a moving target by aiming at a spot on the ground closer to you than the enemy, but it was an effective weapon because the range was so great and a direct hit was an instant kill. I was eventually able to kill enemies who had wandered out of sight-range by intuitively calculating their position from last known direction. It was wonderfully satisfying, moreso than a headshot in Counter-Strike ever was. Anyway, I only mention Recon because it was what I played and enjoyed the most and was actually just a mod. How Soulblighter "made me" has to do with its modding tools and community, not the game itself.
I still believe Myth 2: Soulblighter had the most productive, creative, talented modding community any game has ever seen. WWII: Recon was easily the most popular online mod, but there were countless others, both multiplayer and singleplayer, that still amaze me with their innovation and polish. Dorfball was a multiplayer game that basically amounted to dodgeball between two teams of dwarves. There were several types of balls in play with special abilities that stretched the abilities of the scripting system in impressive ways. Jinn was a singleplayer futuristic total conversion that had brand new 3D models - an incredible technological feat, take my word for it. The two guys who made it were hired to work on Myth 3. Some other total conversions included LEGGO My Myth (which did what it sounds like and predicted the popularity of the official LEGO games), The Wild West, Civil War, and then the commercial expansion-quality work of a group called Creation which made singleplayer campaigns such as The 7th God. Creation did mindblowing things like allow warriors to block arrows with their shield, have units mount and dismount horses, and other things that Bungie said was impossible in their engine. My own contribution was the concept and "design" of a multiplayer map called Pirates of the Caribbean (this was before the film but in the middle of my obsession with the golden age of piracy). I was only 16 years old and a complete modding newbie, but lucky enough to have my idea realized by a talented artist that created the map and units to my vague specifications. Bungie liked it enough to include it in their commercial release of a Myth: The Total Codex, a compilation of the Myth games and 3rd-party mods. Going to Electronics Boutique at the age of 16 and seeing the name of a mod I conceived of on the box of a game by Bungie was a little crazy, as you can imagine. I knew I had to keep doing this.
I started spending a lot of time with the mapmaking tools Fear and Loathing, learning how to script singleplayer maps, modify unit properties, create new units and projectiles and objects, etc. I eventually joined a mapmaking group called The Cartographers of Myth and we started an ambitious project - a singleplayer campaign around 8 levels long that would be a prequel to Myth: The Fallen Lords. By the end of the project I was writing the level introduction text, populating and scripting levels, managing a team of about 6 people, and basically getting my hands dirty in all aspects of mod creation other than the art. It was immensely rewarding work that taught me an incredible amount about game design and development. I met insanely talented people during this time, many of which are now in prominent positions in the game industry. The small chatroom I hung out in every day while fiddling with map properties in Fear and Loathing was frequented by, to name just a few, two current lead designers, an AI programmer, and a tools programmer at Bungie, a producer and a programmer at iPhone developer Freeverse, and an artist/programmer I worked with closely who went on to get a job at Rare and I have since lost track of. At the time these guys were mostly just enthusiasts and fans of Bungie and weren't even among the most active modders. Like I said - The most productive, talented, creative modding community a game has ever seen.
We never finished the campaign due to key members leaving for University and a general fizzling out of ambition, but that experience modding Myth 2 was what made me sure that making games was what I wanted to do with my life.