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Road To The IGF: Weekday Warrior's Paul Ohanian

Continuing our interviews with Independent Games Festival 2007 entrants, we look at the modding side of the competition, and talk with Paul Ohanian about Half-L
Continuing Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, which profiles and interviews Independent Games Festival 2007 entrants, today’s interview tackles the modding side of the competition, as we talk with Paul Ohanian, associate producer and programmer on Half-Life 2 mod Weekday Warrior. The mod was produced by Cut Corner Company Productions, a team of 14 who developed as part of their final year at the Guildhall at SMU. The game is a “total conversion mod made in the vein of the old-school adventure games” and is “Set inside a modern corporate office environment”. Weekday Warrior casts players as Doug Smith, “a very bored man with the untapped potential for greatness”, who finds a “mysterious encrypted message” in his email inbox, leading to Smith and his “idiot coworkers” having to save “the entire floor from certain doom”. We spoke to Ohanian about the mod, its entry into the IGF, and his feelings on the mod scene in general. What is your background in the games industry? This past June I graduated from the Guildhall at SMU, a graduate school focused on game development. Shortly after graduation, I accepted a programming position at Pandemic Studios in Los Angeles. I am currently working at the studio on an unannounced project. What fostered your interest in the mod scene? I was interested in game development, and the mod scene was a logical first step. I have always been an avid PC gamer and enjoyed making maps for several games when I was a kid. When was Cut Corner Company Productions formed, and what brought you together? “CCCP” was formed for a class at the Guildhall at SMU to create a mod using the Half-Life 2 engine. Every person on the team had worked in some way with each other on other mod projects. Weekday Warrior was the final mod project before graduation. What inspired Weekday Warrior, and why did you decide to make it? We were given the task to make an adventure game using the HL2 engine. We chose an office environment inspired by the movie Office Space and The Office. We thought this environment would provide something different for the HL2 mod scene. What attracted you to make the mod for Half Life 2? Half-Life 2 has some of the most advanced mod tools available. Our team consisted of programmers, artists and level designers. HL2 allowed every person on the team to use programs and techniques used by current game development companies: XSI, Visual Studio, Hammer. The programmers on the team also had extensive experience with Quake2 which helped in development early on. What were your expectations from your mod, and do you feel the end product lives up to those expectations? We set out to make a HL2 mod like nothing that has currently been done. Weekday Warrior ended up with many redesigned/new system to create this unique game. Another expectation was to create a game that would appeal to both hardcore and non-hardcore gamers by focusing on adventure game play instead of traditional shooting. What do you think the most interesting thing about your mod is? During the game, the player must play mini-games based in an office environment. Some games include office golf, darts, and trashcan basketball. All of these games use Havok physics and came out great. How long did development take? 6 months. What was the development process like? We had several leads including lead programmer, lead level designer, lead artist, lead game designer and producer. This group met every week to plan out and evaluate the current development plan for the project. We had several team milestones during development including alpha, beta and gold. What do you think of the state of mod development, and how do you think mods fit into the industry? I think mods are very important to the game industry. For me, making Weekday Warrior was one of reasons I decided to pursue a career in game development. Mods provide a means to practice and improve game development skills not currently taught in college. What do you think of the state of independent development? The current game scene is heavily dominated by large console game titles. Much development news will be focused on new consoles. I look forward to see what games will be made using mod tools on X360, etc. Have you checked out any of the other IGF games or mods? There are several mods being entered by different development teams at the Guildhall. I closely watched the development of Shanty Town. Which ones are you particularly impressed with, and why? It always amazes me to see the quality and innovation that goes into mods entered into the IGF every year. Which recent indie games do you admire, and which recent mainstream titles do you admire, and why? Recently I’ve really enjoyed Guitar Hero 2. The game mechanics are very simple and appeal to both hardcore and casual gamers. I haven’t been following the indie scene recently. Do you have any messages for your fellow contestants or fans of the IGF? I know many of developers on other mods developed at the Guildhall. I’m very proud to be associated with Guildhall and all the great high-quality mods that have been produced over the past year at the school.

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