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Interview with Mecha the Slag
Written by Unknown on 05.08.2012 Time 20:22

Jonas "Mecha the Slag" Kaerlev is one of the best and most active modders in the Team Fortress 2 community. Ever since his debut with TF2Ware two years ago, he's been working on a variety of customg ame modes. May it be Parkour Fortress, Super Zombie Fortress, Advanced Weaponiser, Bombermod or Robot Fortress - he's involved in it one way or another. Tony "azureguy" S. interviewed him about his work and also talked a bit about Source modding in general.

 

 

 

azureguy: Why did you choose the name "Mecha the Slag" as username? Just a random choice or is there a reason behind it?

Mecha the Slag: I used to go by some other uninspired usernames, but felt I needed something I could stick with. At the time, my friend Hackett had temporarily changed his username to "Hackett the Slag" as a spoof. I really liked it, so I applied it to my old username, and as a result Mecha the Slag born. I like it because it's already an insult by default (Slag being British for prostitute), which insinuates that I require no glorification.

 

azureguy: How did you get interested into programming and game making? Was it a game or was it something else?

Mecha the Slag: I'm part of the video game generation, so I've grown up with the evolution of gaming. I've always enjoyed video games from very early on. My interest in making games probably comes from the fact that I'm very judgmental about media. I can't watch a movie and not find something I didn't think should have been corrected. The same goes for games - when I notice something in a game that I don't enjoy, I want to fix it.

 

azureguy: I still remember your old website as well as your older projects. There was talk about a MechaEngine back then. What was that engine exactly, why did you started and ended it eventually?

Mecha the Slag: It was a very ambitious project, definitely too ambitious, but it was intended as a game engine that would provide few but excellent tools. It was ultimately never meant to be, I wasn't skilled enough at the time to complete such a project.

 

azureguy: You eventually focused on Team Fortress 2 and Source Engine modding. Why this game? Also, was your first TF2-related work the Travis Touchdown model, or something else?

Mecha the Slag: I don't exactly remember the order of appearance; whether I made TF2Ware or the Travis Touchdown skin first. It was probably Travis. I think the reason most people like to port over characters is because they want to see the worlds unite and interact with each other. I really enjoy No More Heroes, and I wanted him in a game that I also really enjoy: Team Fortress 2.

Unlike Travis, TF2Ware was created by complete accident. I was playing with a few friends and I wanted to have a quick laugh. I had learnt the basics of SourceMod by looking in other people's publicly available plugins - So I made a very rough and ugly SourceMod plugin named TF2Ware. It was amazingly fun. We started arranging nights where we would play TF2Ware, then people from all over the internet started joining because they'd heard of it; and suddenly it was one of my most successful creations. It's nuts. As one of my friends said: "you're never recognized by what you want to be recognized by".
Definitely the scenario.
I refined the plugin, expanded the gamemode and suddenly Slag Gaming was born. Oops.

 

azureguy: How did you came up with the ideas for your mods?

Mecha the Slag: A lot of the times it's just the fascination of blending two worlds. A lot of my mods are taking existing concepts and applying them to TF2, with a few exceptions. It takes ground in my need to improve things that I'm not satisfied with

While the mod I'm probably most known for these days is Parkour Fortress, my personal favourite is Super Zombie Fortress (SZF). SZF is based on an existing mod, Zombie Fortress, but I added a significant amount of gameplay elements, a lot of them borrowed from Left 4 Dead, although quite a lot of original stuff is in that mode too. It differs from the rest because it requires an extreme amount of team work and each game has a lot of progression. For instance, you'd be very sorry to see your last Medic dead in SZF, where in normal TF2, you don't really go out of your way to help a medic in peril if it means you're taking risks.

 

azureguy: What are the unique quirks and limitations of the Source Engine and Team Fortress 2 modding in general? Is it fair to say that Source modding could be better?

Mecha the Slag: Not being able to modify the client end is the biggest and most frustrating limitation of modding for an existing game. It's like being Einstein where the chalkboard is stuck being an unbreakable glass barrier - you know you can do wonders with it if you could just get to use it.
I understand why Valve wouldn't like to see it being used, though. A lot of wrongdoers could mess things up. In a conversation I had with Robin Walker a while ago about implementing server-side HUD elements, he mentioned that he was concerned about people using it to appear genuine and scam people out of money or items. It's not really in Valve's interest to spend time and resources on something they won't be using themselves, so it's not Valve's fault that modding for Source games is poor. But it would be nice with an expanded set of tools available.
But even though we don't get a lot of treats as modders, Drunken F00l (who is now a Valve employee) recently implemented custom chat colors in CS:S and TF2 for modders to use. Definitely hope to see more of that in the future.

 

azureguy: Is it correct that one can only make maps and plugins for TF2 but no true standalone mods like “Minerva” for Half-Life 2 and "Portal Prelude" for Portal?

Mecha the Slag: Valve provide their Source Engine 2007 build and Alien Swarm build for developers to use. You could make a total conversion with these. But they're awfully outdated, and documentation/tools available are limited. The builds also have restrictions of what you can do with them, since you don't have access to the full source code, only limited parts of it.

I honestly have no insight in how Portal: Prelude was made. I assume it just asks Steam to overload system files onto the Portal engine. It would allow you to change the appearance of the game, but not actually gameplay mechanics. Anything new would have to be made in Hammer.

 

azureguy: You also made some non-TF2 related games like Tengoku.Me, Invert Inc. and No More Plumbers - any comment about those? Also, do you plan to eventually make some commercial games, or do you stick with your mods and small games for personal research/entertainment purposes?

Mecha the Slag: No More Plumbers is from when I made fan games. It was a fun experiment but I've moved on from when I made those several years ago. Tengoku.Me is probably the last fangame to come from me. I haven't been working on it as much as I should - recently I've been focused on developing my own commercial game in Unreal Development Kit (UDK). It's one of my dreams to release a commercial game, and I hope to finish the game I've started in UDK, then release it on Steam using their newly introduced Greenlight system.

 

azureguy: You've been collaborating with other people on some projects. Who are these people and how did you ended up working with them?

Mecha the Slag: I'd like to give everyone the chance to play around with the code I've made. Unfortunately due to the fact that there are people with bad intentions in the world, that's not exactly possible. So what I did instead was hand pick ambitious people in the community and give them a chance. People like LiL'GuY and girl, who are now a part of Slag Gaming, have put so much time and effort into my plugin Advanced Weaponiser that I at this point almost consider it their's. They're great, I really owe them the world.

People who are interested in mapping or modelling usually contact me, showcase their idea or concept, and we workshop that until we end up with a finished product. A lot of people have really good ideas, and I'd love to help make it possible if it's something I can get behind.

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