Interview: Moviebattles II Team
Interviewing the Moviebattles II team
We had the chance to speak with the Moviebattles II development team today about creating this behemoth of a mod and what's in store the popular multiplayer mod. As you may know, they recently released "version 1", the latest build of MBII, which added new mechanics and new maps to the game.
Click here to download and view the full change log for V1.
What is Moviebattles II?
Moviebattles II (commonly referred to as MBII) is a fast-paced objective based multiplayer experience that builds off the unrealized potential of the Siege game mode. The action takes place in quick 5 minute intervals, and players who die within that timeframe spectate until the round is complete. To begin, the player can choose a side to align themselves with: the Rebellion or the Galactic Empire. Each side has numerous exciting class archetypes.
The Rebels have the basic but respawnable Soldier, the advanced Elite Trooper, the versatile Clone Trooper, the highly trained ARC Trooper, the incredibly strong Wookiee, the quick and precise Hero, and the force wielding Jedi. The Imperials have the Soldier and Elite Trooper in common, but also contain the deadly Super Battle Droids, the powerful Droideka, the cold and calculating Bounty Hunter, the gun slinging Mandalorian, along with the infamous dark side using Sith. Each class has a variety of unique abilities and traits, giving them a unique advantage in battle. For example, the Mandalorian comes equipped with a jetpack and a flamethrower, while the Arc Trooper relies on Pulse Grenades and the PLX Rocket Launcher in order to get the job done.
The experience is much like configuring your force preferences in Multiplayer: you get an allotment of points to customize your character’s build. You also have a bevy of playermodels to choose from. From there, you are ready to jump into the action and fight to complete your objective. This could involve securing the Throne Room during the Invasion of Naboo, or Escaping the Death Star in the Millennium Falcon. MBII has over forty incredible maps for the player to explore, each varying in objective, pacing, and who is on the offense. The mod also revamps several core mechanics, such as a new robust sabering and weapon system. The game has been modified in order to provide an authentic, exciting combat experience for the community.
Sitting down with MBII
JKHub: Would you mind introducing yourself and telling us a bit about your role in MBII?
Serath: I’m Marian, and I’m known in the MB community as Serath. I currently study at the Slovak University of Technology and I develop games in my spare time. I have experience with engines like Unity and Unreal and have created (and even published some) 2D/3D games. I’m mostly a game designer and a programmer, but I do occasionally bump into other areas like level design and 2D art. I joined the MB2 team about 3-4 years ago and have been there ever since.
Sxx²: My name is Dylan, known as Sxx² over at the MB community, but most of the folks over at JKHub will know me as Tx606. I’ve been involved with Moviebattles for 4-5 years, starting as a beta tester. Nowadays I’m keeping myself busy with level design, running beta test sessions and leading the MB2 project together with DCM.
MaceMadunsus: I’m Alex, known by the MB community as MaceMadunusus, or MaceMadanus/(M)ace as a lot of people like to do as a joke. I am currently starting school again after a two year absence for Mechanical Engineering. Movie Battles has always been a favorite project of mine, and I have been on the development team for over 7 years now and it has been 11 years since I started modding in the Jedi Knight community. My primary role has always been Level Design, but I do bump into other areas fairly frequently. While I didn’t make every level in MB, with the time I have been there, there is likely something I have touched in just about every single one of them. I also have experience with numerous other game engines and even have some content featured within them. An example of that would be PlanetSide 2 on the Forgelight engine. I am also pretty fluent with the Unreal Engine.
Good’Ol’Ben: Ello, my name is Hemmo. I’ve been involved with MB2 since 2006 in some degree. First off as nothing more than an enthusiastic player. Then in 2008 I joined the team as a tester and soon after as the lead tester. I was also responsible for steering the boat that is the MB team from like 2009 to early 2013. Eventually I decided to “retire” as my life has required more attention. These days my role is nothing much more than a tester again. If I do find something worth my time, I’ll do it, be it textures, sound or code. Outside of the MB2 community I am a front end web developer and a game programmer.
JKHub: How many active developers are a part of MBII's current team?
Serath: Huh, there has been a huge boost in developers in the last couple of months, I don’t know the exact number, around 20? We have programmers, level designers, 2D artists, but are kind of short on character modellers and animators.
Sxx²: Serath’s estimate of about 20 seems accurate. I suppose the key word is 20 here. There have been periods of time where there were roughly 5 people active, for instance. Luckily ‘retired’ developers tend to show up once in a while and assist with things, so that’s pretty helpful. We have roughly 20-30 (this number changes constantly) active beta testers as well.
MaceMadunsus: I would say slightly shy of 20. We have been very grateful to get an influx of new talent recently that has really helped out. It was really good for the team after having a rough time with a low amount of active developers. I had to take a near two year break from MB as well, that I recently returned from to finish up a few levels. We all do this in our free time, so the number of active developers fluctuates quite frequently.
Good’Ol’Ben: Pretty sure others answered that. Though I’d like to think that the entire community takes part in the development at least to some degree.
JKHub: What are the main inspirations for the mod's changes to the mechanics and gameplay?
Serath: Well, we try a bunch of improvements in the beta that never see the light of the day. We’re inspired individually by the things we see all around us, whether its books, movies or other games. Then we kind of try to fit it in the Star Wars universe and see if it works. If it does, we improve upon it until it seems good to us and then let public decide if they like the changes or not.
Sxx²: We try out many features internally, and change numbers around quite often. However with V1 we’ve been trying to close the gaps between classes a little bit. Balancing things is quite difficult and we’ll often think of other games like Counter-Strike, TF2 to see how situations are handled there. In the future we’ll also aim to release more smaller balance patches in a more frequent rate. This is so that we can try out gameplay changes in public - it helps us see how specific features work out for the average player.
MaceMadunsus: As Sxx and Serath both said, we try a lot of things in beta and constantly tweak numbers until we get a result we are happy with. Internally, there are a lot of debug tools only available within the beta build that allow us to see how everything is handling, from force power drains, to weapon damage and hit locations, to saber blocking point drains and disables, and more. While this isn’t as beneficial to being able to constantly record all this information to a database from beta as well as live for us to put into charts to see how everything is functioning, it allows us to see things we might have missed and make more accurate judgements than just flat out guessing based on play. An example of this being with the recent hit location modifier changes. We noticed a huge difference in damage across the torso area between the chest and the waist and though it would be logical to standardize those numbers a little more. This same change also required some damage values for weapons to be lowered to allow for the same Time To Kill (TTK).
Good’Ol’Ben: Inspiration? Other games and their interesting mechanics. Balance-wise it’s mainly feedback from players as well as ourselves. It’s fun to have the game evolve based on who’s working on it. That’s part of the beauty of MB2. It’s very different in terms of what it was before much due to a completely different developer team.
JKHub: What has been the primary motivator for working on MB2?
Serath: Huh, back when I started I was pretty excited that I’m a part of a development team that made such an amazing mod as MovieBattles and I wanted to add a bit of me into it. Overall seeing everyone working on things pretty much motivates me to do something too. Obviously, seeing people play and enjoy something you created feels amazing.
Sxx²: Well I’m a big fan of Jedi Academy and enjoyed playing around with mods. Seeing players still playing MB2 is a huge motivator for me to try and improve things further.
MaceMadunsus: The players. Seeing people play and enjoy the mod is simply the biggest motivator. The fact that it is still played today, is something simply amazing and something none of us expected. If you ever see me in-game, you will see me talking and interacting with people frequently. Even with all the experience with how MB handles, there are always things I can learn, and seeing the different perspective of players outside of beta and how they interpret a level and getting their opinions of things are important to me and help keep me moving forward and improving anything I have worked on.
Good’Ol’Ben: Playing the game myself.
JKHub: What is your favorite aspect of MB2?
Serath: I like a lot of the things about MB2, that are unique and I haven’t seen them anywhere else. If I had to pick one though, I would probably say that the various different classes with bunch of unique abilities that uniquely fit into teams and represent different play styles and roles. In MovieBattles, each class can be played in various different ways, and it’s really different how it’s played per each individual player.
Sxx²: I’m a big fan of all the different playstyles all the classes have. There are many ways to play a single class, which is really great since you can pretty much adjust your class to whatever style you like to play. This also gives a huge amount of replayability, so you won’t get bored as fast as you’ll have plenty of point configs you can try out.
MaceMadunsus: I love the diversity of everything. Every class, even those with similar weapons like the E-11, has the ability to play entirely differently due to its role, abilities, speed, tankiness, additional weaponry, and more. Each level is entirely different, and requires different tactics with certain teams having advantage in one area, and the other an advantage in the next. The mod has similarities with Siege, Counter Strike, and a bunch of other games, but manages to combine them in such a way that is simply unique. The asymmetrical class balance as well as unique objective and level styles things I believe are extremely important to MB's identity.
Good’Ol’Ben: The melee fighter mechanics fused with gun combat. I don’t think many other games have a similar approach to it. That’s why I can’t drop it. There’s no good alternative.
JKHub: What are your thoughts on the source release, and the future?
Serath: Definitely an excellent news for any JKA Modder. We currently got a couple of guys that are trying to implement the OpenJK support for MB2. A few of our team members also actively work on OpenJK.
Sxx²: I was pretty surprised to see it getting released. OpenJK is an amazing project and I hope MB2 will properly make use of it in the near future. Perhaps on the long run Movie Battles 2 could go open source, too.
MaceMadunsus: It was one of the best things to happen to JKA, though a little late. It was one of the things I personally pushed for years, specifically working with Ford Dye while he was still at Ravensoft. I hope we can fully switch over to requiring a stable OpenJK build in the future thanks to all the work they have done with bug fixes and performance increases. Though I don’t think you will be seeing any updates for MB on the rendering side of things, simply because redoing all that content for normals, gloss, parallax or whatever else that gets added to Rend2 would be a task that would be too much work for us to even consider doing.
Good’Ol’Ben: I’m hyped. There’s so much that can happen in the future. OpenJK is a tremendous project which has opened up so much possibilities for the future of MB2.
JKHub: Is there ever a thought of "after MB2"? (MB3?)
Serath: Actually, there is. Mace and I have started to work on the spiritual successor to the MB2 mod about a month ago. It’s being made in the brand new Unreal Engine 4. Compared to other engines, it feels great having so many tools already pre-programmed and ready to use. We have decided to no longer pursue the Star Wars franchise due to possible license infringement issues. Don’t worry though, our own universe is inspired by the giants like Mass Effect, Prey 2 and Star Wars. This essentially gives us more freedom to not be limited by a certain franchise, which is really awesome. We already managed to implement various different classes, with a bunch of different weapons. The game looks beautiful so far and I’m looking forward to showcase the content in the near future.
Sxx²: I suppose Mace and Serath will know more about the current situation than I do. Wildebeest and a few other people initially started MB3 (“SW UDK”), however the project never truly got off the ground. Another spiritual successor is currently in the works, so I hope it turns out to be something nice.
MaceMadunsus: There was an MB3 built within UDK started by Wildebeest and myself for the first few months before we brought the rest of the team into the picture. As Sxx said it never really got off the ground, and that is partially my fault. I started having some personal issues and was the only one with a level close enough to being completed for the first alpha release when I had to stop working entirely. That kind of brought the initial project to a halt. Now, as Serath mentioned, we have started work on the spiritual successor using Unreal Engine 4. We wanted to stay away from Star Wars, while still keeping the same ideas intact and making our own universe. This would allow us to expand the team and game without worrying about a cease and desist or other copyright/licensing issues. It is still in its early stages, and we actually do have two playable levels already. This engine is absolutely fantastic and I can’t wait to see how great things will be in the end. Even though we are literally making everything from scratch, including simple entities like doors and buttons, everything is just so much easier to use and fun to do than it ever was within Radiant. From a personal perspective, it feels good to not be limited by an old engine anymore and I cant wait till we are far enough to promote and have more people willing to hop on the team.
Good’Ol’Ben: MB2 will live on. I want to be playing this when I’m retired and have more spare time again. Open sourced JKA guarantees that we have a near-infinite amount of options now. As for MB3? It might happen. I’ve kind of promised to join the new project once I’m done with my BA on Media Engineering. ^^ MB3 should be interesting as long as we can kick it off the ground. It might actually be more than just a bunch of 14-year-old youngsters modding their hearts out. Albeit there’s nothing wrong with that either.
JKHub: How much longer are you planning on working on this project? / What's next for MB2?
Serath: As long as possible. I like to think that the mod will live on forever. So let’s see in another 10 years if I was right. It would be amazing seeing people still playing the same game we played and developed as teenagers. Well, anything might happen. If we publish the successor, uhm let me correct myself right there… when we publish the successor, it will probably bring some people to MB2, because they will want to see where it all started.
Sxx²: For as long as there are people playing it! As I’ve mentioned before we’ll be aiming to release more smaller patches in the short term. We have a couple new developers on board who will hopefully be helping us bring some new content. On the long term I hope that we can start making use of OpenJK and perhaps get a launcher done too. Perhaps a new Anti-Cheat would be neat too.
MaceMadunsus: As long as I can. I may not be in MB2 forever, but I would love to continue its legacy for as long as possible with its successor. I would love to get the launcher done, and full use of OpenJK. Don’t be surprised to see more level related updates from me either. I have got additional changes to Comm Tower and Death Star in the works right now. Some changes of which, actually came from the successor’s version of Death Star and trickled back down to impact MB2. Some model optimizations are coming that I have worked with another new developer (Spaghetti) on for a few weeks, and I hope to see some more usability updates to some parts of the game as well that we haven’t touched in years. I also cant wait to see any additional game modes that we have been working on finally make it live.
Good’Ol’Ben: I’ll stick around as long as there are players. MB2 is great fun and that’s mostly thanks to the people who I’ve met through the game. My MB2 friends mean the world to me. We’ve grown up together and learned to know each other so well. That’s something I can’t experience again to the same degree ever again. What’s next for MB2? OpenJK, a potential spiritual successor and a ton of fun. Plus I am definitely hoping to see you dear readers and friends on the servers as well. GLHF!
That's all for now, folks! Be sure to give the Moviebattles team some love in the comments below and check out their site for exciting new developments and discussion for their mod!