My Modding Career

Modding is dubious to me. Games that were altered by fans can be confusing and difficult to get into. It goes beyond or even past the intentions of the developers. I like my games clean and locked, plug & play. But when I was riding my bike this morning, I remembered that I used to be a bit of a modder myself.

That was in 1996. There was no Starcraft yet. Warcraft II had just been released in Europe and my friend Christian had subscribed to a German gaming magazine. We had a lot of time and very few games – a sure recipe for getting more out of a game than it actually offers.

A standout feature of Warcraft II were the individual voice samples. Each unit responded to being selected as well as to issued commands with a handful of randomly rotating responses. We had already discovered that units that were clicked on repeatedly without further instruction would eventually react impatiently, annoyed or exasperated. So one of our afternoons was spent trying to squeeze every last enraged phrase out of each and every servant of war. After exploring every possibility of the game and pushing the level editor to its limits, Christian opened up a new dimension of fun for me. I suspect he had read about it in his magazine.

The voice samples were editable. At the time, Windows had a rudimentary audio editor that allowed us to rearrange or delete parts of the files or play them backwards. Even in the pre-Internet era, this tool tied us to the computer for hours, speaking sentences in reverse and reversing the process. Now it was supposed to be possible to change the samples of our peons, ogres and paladins in the game? Hell yeah!

Unfortunately, we didn’t think of recording our own voice samples and renaming the files accordingly, but editing was fun enough. We skimmed through each file looking for meaningful changeability. “Don’t touch me!” became “Touch me!” – which, in retrospect, makes me heavily uncomfortable, since it is a Blizzard game and “don’t” seems to be the very word that is now systematically blanked out when that phrase is uttered at Blizzard.

The editing was painstaking, but what magic: it worked! Up until then, games had been a monolithic whole for me. I had no understanding of the individual files that the program accessed as needed.

Whenever someone says “Fällt dir sonst nichts ein?” (“Can you think of nothing else”), to this day I quietly think to myself: “Fällt dir sonst waaaaaaas ein?” (“Can you think of whaaaaaat?”) – It does not really work in English. And when switching from “Your wish is my command” to “Your command is my wish,” the result didn’t sound like “wish” (Wunsch) but “punch.” (Punsch, the hot alcoholic beverage) For 25 years, this phrase has been reliably triggered by my brain whenever punch is mentioned: “Your command is hot spicy wine to me!“. I had only forgotten where this nonsense came from until this morning.

That afternoon in 1996 opened up a new horizon for me. The horizon of modding. But I decided not to pursue this course. Too complex.

I’m sure you’re not wondering why I came up with this text while riding my bike. Here is the answer anyway:

At a Wall Jump video conference, I noted that the “sound” category is unexpectedly underutilized. In that same conference, Joshua and I talked about how text ideas are best created within a self-imposed “framework.” I put one and one together and here’s my new series: the first sound that comes to mind for an important game – That will be the text.

This idea would have been lost, however, if I hadn’t forgotten my headphones at home one sunny December morning. This had two wonderful consequences: I heard the call of a crow, which reminded me of a video game and thus of this project, and I had my head free to come up with this text.

This post is also available in: German