"Conversion Pack" mod is the largest mod I've worked on for Battlefront II in
terms of both scale and visibility, and a large part of that is because
it is the most visible mod for Battlefront
II - the most downloaded of any individual mod, with over
half a million downloads.
said, I have mixed feelings about the mod. It's not especially
well-crafted (if the people who worked on this in the past put this
together today, it would be leagues better) or especially notable for
anything except its scale. It is
two very important things, though. It's a mod that meets a
very popular request - seeing Battlefront
I content in Battlefront
II. And, secondarily (and most importantly), it's the first mod to do
Tied into that is the reason I ended up helming the development of this
mod. When it was originally developed, it was a mod with a reasonable
(and obvious) scope - convert the maps from Battlefront I for
use in Battlefront II.
This isn't particularly hard, although it required a little dedication
(and that task has since been done and redone by many to much lesser
fanfare). The initial concept of the mod generated substantial traction
(it was a
popular concept, after all), and that popularity was where the mod
sort've went off the rails.
As the mod gained popularity, the developers working on it started
throwing in their own touches - a unit class here, a new map there (cf.
Scope Creep 101). It continued getting developed and seeing interim
releases; releases that were playable but not "complete" (or relatively
bug-free). And as the mod grew and grew, more people in the modding
community offered bits and pieces to it.
I was one of the many that offered his own bits and pieces to the mod -
I had a concept I wanted to rework into a larger mod, but I think I
wanted the ready-made visibility that the Conversion Pack could offer,
and so I offered it in to that. As I started developing that (which, at
around this point, became the largest in-progress addition to the
Pack), the original project leader reached his limit in terms of
dealing with the endless cycles of iteration on the mod. Because I was
the developer currently with his hands in the mix the most, he offered
me the task of running the development of the mod.
I stepped in, my previously-in-development part of the mod essentially
finished. With my addition, the patch was supposed to be seeing a large
"2.0" update, and I decided that we should target this for a "final"
version of the mod. The endless additions to the mod were retarding any
chance for the mod to ever be fully bug-checked, and there was obvious
burnout of people working on it.
Now, at this point, most of the damage had been done. The protracted
development timeline of the mod meant that there was little consistency
in quality and a high rate of source file loss (which often meant that
popular additions to the mod couldn't ever be bugfixed). Regardless, I
put together a large testing team and put together a systematic test
plan to identify, map by map, issues with the mod. After compiling this
list over weeks of testing, I organized fix and cut lists, and
addressed or removed features, respectively. I iterated through this
testing several times before finally making a public release of the mod.
After the public release - which was overwhelming in its popularity - I
started aggregating user feedback. There were still several bugs that
we'd missed and there were numerous user change requests. I accrued
these for several weeks and put together a large patch to address these.
Looking back, despite my general feeling of success in taking an
overwrought project and slimming it down to the point of completion, I
still made several decisions with which I am unsatisfied.
My biggest error, I believe, was in allowing my original additional
content to stay in. It was well-received at the time, but I believe
that had more to do with the context of the content than its quality
(it referenced the highly popular Knights
of the Old Republic games). More importantly, it added
even more stuff to
an already over-large mod.
Another piece I wish I'd done differently was in how I addressed legacy
issues. Like I mentioned above, there were issues with source files
being lost or inaccessible. Generally, I took an attitude of "fix, and
if I can't fix, cut," but I couldn't do that with several of the
conversions that were the core of the mod. With those, I'd simply
acknowledged the errors and did my best to minimize their effect on the
player. If I'd been a little more knowledgeable at the time (or,
simply, not as overwhelmed with things to address), perhaps I would
have taken it upon myself to simply rebuild a lot of these conversions
- the effort is minimal, and it would have resulted in a more
consistent, bug-free experience.
My experience with the "Conversion Pack" mod was a great one - it not
only gave me a lot of experience, but it gave me a lot of exposure
within the community. Looking back, I wish that my earnestness in
getting this done had been matched by a little more practical
knowledge, but I wouldn't change the experience.