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Reflecting on modding Jedi Academy 14 years later


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As I lay here pondering how to solve the latest challenge in my endeavor to build the largest Sith Temple map ever released, I can't help marveling at the fact that it's been 14 years since JA was released and we're still going. I can't explain why I still have such a passion for creating mods for this game. Sure there has never been another SW game quite like the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight franchise, but is it more than that? Even though it is so limited in what we can realistically do, we never seem to stop trying to push this engine and its tools to their absolute limits in the quest to create something awesome, something beautiful, and of course, something fun.

 

I invite anyone to share their thoughts on JA mapping in 2017 (and beyond), what it means to you, and what keeps you going.

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I've wondered why does this game have such a good and active community and not others, like Republic Commando and the Kotor franchise. Maybe it is because there has always been mod tools available to modify the game assets, or maybe it is because the multiplayer community was always active and the fact that you could customize your character via skinning allowed people to dwell further into what was possible to be done. 

 

Also, some people released amazing things back in the day, and they inspired others to learn. I'd have never been as interested in modding as I am right now if I hadn't seen maps like sithcouncil, or jedi's home, or mods like Movie Battles and Forcemod. There was always people pushing further and that was really inspiring.

Smoo, PK_Azlon and Langerd like this
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I still remember my first foray into mod creation. I was feeling festive one Christmas Eve back in the late 90s and made a Santa skin for Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight. Later I made Jedi Knight skins of myself and my friend as Jedi Knights. I never released any of them though.

 

When I learned that Jedi Outcast would launch with modding tools being released, I was determined to learn mapping. I was so excited about it that I had a dream that I was a Jedi running around this imperial-like base. Once I had learned how to map well enough, I created the place from my dream and released it on jk2files as Phantom Knights headquarters v2 (the first version was an awful, amateurish release that shall never be spoken of again LOL!).

 

The map was named for my old Jedi Knight clan that I attempted (and failed) to resurrect for JO. It's in part for nostalgia that I keep my clan tag after all these years, the other reason being the possibility of running into one of my old JK clanmates again. Azlon I took from my favorite manowars 2 skin, a purple mandalorian.

 

Of course when JA was released, I was eager to continue improving my mapping skills. I discovered my PKHQv2 map didn't port well to JA so I decided to partially rebuild it. Then I decided to expand and redesign it. I had a lot of false starts and setbacks and would walk away from it frequently until I could come back to it with fresh eyes. It was 9 years from the time I started it to the time I finally finished and released it. (It's called Phantom Knights Training Academy, you can download it on this site). Graduating design school was what inspired me to finish it. I finally had the fresh eyes I needed to draw out a floor plan that would work. After that it only took a couple weeks to finish.

 

More recently I had the necessary inspiration to tackle a project I always wanted to build, tried numerous times before and always failed at for lack of good ideas. That inspiration came from playing a ton of SWTOR. I finally had the inspiration to build a decent Sith Temple. So I started working on it, and to keep myself motivated, I announced it and teased it on the forums here. Things were looking good, but unfortunately, being a divorced mother of 2 with a lot on my plate, I've had to take a lot of breaks, and then after a clean install of Windows 10, I forgot to copy over my Jedi Academy backups, didn't realize I forgot, and deleted the old backup to recover space. I lost everything I was working on.

 

On the plus side, the positive support I got for the previous version I lost was enough to keep me motivated. I vowed to redesign the whole thing in a way that was less troublesome to build and script. In particular, that damned 4-floor diagonal elevator had to go! I was proud as hell that I pulled it off, don't get me wrong! As a first-time script writer, I was amazed by how long and complex it was. A four-stage selector switch, activation switch, inner doors that traveled with the elevator car and outer doors that sealed the shaft, and 4 call switches. And let's not forget that the elevator moved diagonally. The amount of conditional scripting was insane because I had to account for every combination of conditions. Out of curiosity, I copied all of the completed Icarus script to MS Word and it amounted to roughly around 30 pages. Needless to say, this time I am aiming to keep it simpler. Multiple vertical elevators instead of one multi-floor. I'm also working from the top down to avoid running out of ideas when I get near the end of the build

 

Just talking about it all is exciting. What's worse is I keep having ideas to add to it! I'm afraid my reach will eventually exceed my grasp. I'm still not sure why I love doing this so much, but I do, and the fact that I get to eventually share it with this community when it's done makes all the work worth it. Ideally, I'd like to blow this community away with the biggest, best, most feature-rich Sith Temple ever released for this game. Because that is the map I want to see. That's the map I feel the JKhub community deserves. I only hope it doesn't take as long as my last map LOL!

Smoo, Jeff, Noodle and 3 others like this
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I'd love to write a big post on my experiences and observations, but sometimes simpler is better; I can't write too much right now because I'm at work, a job I got directly because of my JA modding history.

When your passion/hobby is supporting your livelihood (and you still enjoy it), that's real shit. Don't know where or what I'd be doing without taking that step to start modding.

PK_Azlon, Ramikad, Smoo and 2 others like this
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Quoting John Miles "Modding was my first love...". I started modifying the Vampire Redemption game, using Milkshape and Maya 3.0. It was clumsy at best, but it worked. I was able to modify Christoph Romuald and turn him into The Kurgan from Highlander. Shortly after, Jedi Outcast came out and it changed the game for me. Not many in here may know me from the Lucasforums era, but that's where I started. My first contribution was a Jango Fett model that had everyone asking for more, but instead of doing a lot of models, I dedicated most of my time to figure out how to export new animations and compile a .gla file. At the time, everyone said it was impossible under the circumstances, but I proved them wrong and started a new era with custom animations for the game. Soon after that, Dave Turner contacted me to be part of the Dark Forces mod and the rest is history. Now I feel like it is time to come back to my first love.

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