If making games was as easy as playing them, we'd all be developers, there'd be millions more games on the market and most of them would suck. One need only look as far as YouTube to prove this theory; yes, you'll find the occasional talented amateur effort (alongside ripped TV shows and commercials) but the vast majority of "user" made content blows chunks.
Modding games is no different. For every amateur developer capable of turning out a Hexen or Counter-Strike, there are countless more whose names will go unpublished, whose levels will go un-played and whose efforts, tireless and dedicated they may be, will go unrecognized. The fact is, making games isn't as easy as playing them, and although a considerable number of PC games now ship with a generous pack of dev tools and most people (with a little effort) can learn to use them, making a game with them isn't as easy as playing one - not even close - although this fact certainly hasn't stopped many modders from trying.
Enter: Long Nguyen.
"I'm a huge fan of all things horror, but I especially love zombies and the 'zombie take-over' scenario," says the 27-year-old Nguyen, creator of the much anticipated Out of Hell mod for Unreal Tournament. "Before I started on Out of Hell I was really obsessed with the Resident Evil, Doom and Silent Hill games, and as a result I wrote some short stories about a zombie apocalypse."
Nguyen, like an Umbrella Corporation of one, took the seemingly dead Unreal Tournament and, riding the current cultural obsession with all things recently-deceased-and-yet-still-living, molded it into a horrific creation of his own, then added in a few demons "for the sake of the story," he told ModDB.
"I've loved videogames ever since I was 10 and had always wanted to create a game one day," Nguyen recently told The Escapist. "With the release of modern games and their tools and editors, something I had only previously dreamt about became a possibility. Because I'd always vented creativity in one way or another, whether it was painting, writing stories, drawing comics or making boardgames, this became the next step in that whole process because it's all of the above rolled into one!"
And twice as complicated, as Nguyen immediately discovered. Like many would-be game designers, he had absolutely no idea how to build one when he started, aside from a general understanding of how to make computer-generated graphics. What he did have, however, was a vivid imagination and time.
"A lot of my time ... was spent self-teaching," he says, "reading tutorials and building things from scratch. Because I began to develop better techniques for doing things and my art improved, I couldn't help but go back and overhaul what I had done previously, a habit that eventually attributed to the delays."
And by delays, Long means "years." Four of them, to be precise. Over that time the game has gone through several iterations and acquired something of a cult following, with over 9,000 registered users at the mod's official web forum and over 25,000 downloads of the game's demo, representing tens of thousands of fans all clamoring, like the undead at the door, to know when they can get their hands on the product of Nguyen's brains. If Nguyen has anything to say about it, they won't be waiting for long.
"I hope to release it this summer so that I can begin branching out and pursuing other projects," he says. But delays and unsatisfied fans aren't all Nguyen has accumulated over the years. He's also zombified an employee of sorts (unpaid) in the form of composer Justin Lassen, whose credits include a stint as a remixer for such artists as Madonna, Robert Miles, Lenny Kravitz and NIN; he's also a former employee at Interplay.