Why no-en­emy mods are made.

How mod­ders are re­mov­ing en­e­mies to cre­ate stress-free ex­pe­ri­ences

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - Sam Greer

Mods for games are usu­ally ad­di­tive. New fea­tures, for­got­ten con­tent… mods are usu­ally about putting more into a game. Yet in re­cent years we’ve seen the rise of a par­tic­u­lar kind of mod that takes things away. Specif­i­cally, tak­ing away a game’s en­e­mies or threats. We pre­vi­ously cov­ered a mod which re­moved all dan­ger from first-per­son sci-fi hor­ror Soma – it later be­come an of­fi­cial game mode – but there are plenty more games out there get­ting mods that do the same and they’re equally fas­ci­nat­ing.

The nerve-shred­ding Alien: Iso­la­tion seems like an ob­vi­ous can­di­date for the no-en­emy treat­ment and Paul Huwe, senior sci­en­tific soft­ware de­vel­oper at NASA, took it upon him­self to cre­ate that ex­pe­ri­ence. “I did find a ‘no alien’ mod, it didn’t re­move the alien, but rather spawned it as an in­ert NPC,” he ex­plains.

“In ad­di­tion to be­ing very jar­ring, it pre­vented the alien from per­form­ing scripted events which I found both in­suf­fi­cient and ex­pe­ri­ence-de­stroy­ing. Given all this, I de­cided to try to make my own mod which would have the alien act like nor­mal, ex­cept that it would ig­nore Amanda. In that way I could ex­plore the sta­tion in a far more en­joy­able fash­ion.”

It was a task which didn’t prove too tricky for Paul. “I started with an­other mod­der’s (Mat­tFiler) Alien: Iso­la­tion mod­ding guide and script­ing tools,” he says. “Af­ter us­ing these tools to ex­tract the con­fig­u­ra­tion files, the mod sim­ply re­quired edit­ing long XML files.”

Edit­ing those files and test­ing the mod was te­dious and re­quired care­ful at­ten­tion to de­tail, but af­ter 40-60 hours the mod was ready. At the time of writ­ing it has had 1,392 down­loads. That’s not a huge amount but it shows that there’s def­i­nitely an au­di­ence for this kind of ex­pe­ri­ence.

If it seems out­ra­geous to re­move the threat from Alien: Iso­la­tion, it might seem down­right sac­ri­le­gious to re­move en­e­mies from Dark Souls. But that’s ex­actly what mod­der Jg­w­man did with Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin.

mak­ing peace

“There’s cer­tainly a tan­gent dis­cus­sion to be had here about whether the main ap­peal of the Dark Souls games is their dif­fi­culty – I was sim­ply drawn in by its weighty melee com­bat, mon­ster de­signs and darker at­mos­phere,” they ex­plain. “Though I cre­ated the level ed­i­tor with the goal of al­low­ing other play­ers to cre­ate sur­pris­ing new en­coun­ters, I knew that it could po­ten­tially be used to re­move chal­lenge from the game, and that didn’t bother me. I’m per­son­ally of the opin­ion that if you’re not harm­ing any­one else’s ex­pe­ri­ence, you should be able to

ex­pe­ri­ence the game in any way you like. If some­one wants to ex­plore the world of Dark Souls II as an empty sand­box, I’m glad I can help them to en­joy the game.”

Cre­at­ing the mod was not the most straight­for­ward task, how­ever. “Given that FromSoft­ware does not sup­port com­mu­nity con­tent (quite the op­po­site, in fact), cre­at­ing mods for the Dark Souls games tends be com­pli­cated,” says Jg­w­man. “For this mod in par­tic­u­lar, I had to essen­tially dis­cover how many of the game’s file­types worked on my own, with help from oth­ers knowl­edge­able about Dark Souls II.” Fel­low mod­ders Ben­zoin-Gum and At­vaark proved par­tic­u­larly help­ful.

Re­mov­ing the en­e­mies and threats of Dark Souls might seem blas­phe­mous but the sit­u­a­tion was com­pletely dif­fer­ent for the cult clas­sic Mir­ror’s Edge. Fans were clam­our­ing for a way to re­move the dan­ger from the game and just en­joy its won­der­ful free run­ning. Mod­der Save­rio Rug­gieri, known as S1y, would even­tu­ally cre­ate an op­tion for this with his No En­e­mies mod but started with a very dif­fer­ent aim: tak­ing on the role of a pur­suit cop and chas­ing run­ners in­stead.

up and run­ning

“Thanks to the help of some col­lab­o­ra­tors, we were able to in­te­grate a com­plete char­ac­ter in first and third-per­son but a whole part of the AI was miss­ing: NPC run­ners flee­ing from the player,” Rug­gieri says. “Un­for­tu­nately, not hav­ing com­plete sup­port of mod­ding tools from the pro­ducer, the ini­tial idea was fi­nally aban­doned be­cause there was no frame­work that would al­low me to in­ter­face with the game code.”

Leav­ing that project be­hind, Rug­gieri turned his at­ten­tion to a no-en­emy mod.

“The prob­lem with the stan­dard maps, how­ever, is that they are ba­si­cally thought of as lin­ear paths, with some vari­a­tions of the route but which in­evitably lead from point A to point B.”

Rug­gieri wanted in­stead to of­fer a space with mul­ti­ple routes, and al­low play­ers to make bet­ter use of the maps. “Hence the idea of cre­at­ing a new map, which is more or less a faith­ful re­con­struc­tion of the one viewed in the orig­i­nal game. I took care to also in­clude many build­ings that were orig­i­nally in­ac­ces­si­ble, el­e­ments of the game present among the as­sets but elim­i­nated from the fi­nal prod­uct, and many ad­di­tional graphic ef­fects. All this to of­fer a free-roam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that the ba­sic game did not have.”

None of these mods are hugely pop­u­lar but they do still have an au­di­ence. With Fric­tional now of­fer­ing a no-dan­ger ex­pe­ri­ence as an of­fi­cial part of Soma it’s per­haps time to ask whether more games could of­fer sim­i­lar ways to ex­plore their worlds. Not every­one has nerves of steel af­ter all. But, even if ‘no-en­emy’ or ‘no-threat’ modes stay out of the of­fi­cial ex­pe­ri­ence, there are many mod­ders out there that are will­ing to step in and pro­vide that ex­pe­ri­ence for every­one.

IT MIGHT SEEM DOWN­RIGHT SAC­RI­LE­GIOUS TO RE­MOVE EN­E­MIES FROM DARKSOULS

Imag­ine a world with­out sud­den stab­bing sen­sa­tions.

FAR LEFT: A no-en­e­mies mod makes for a rather dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence.

LEFT: Tak­ing out dan­ger in Mir­ror’s Edge to let fans fo­cus on free run­ning.

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