Interview With Sicilian Vespers

By Scott Parrino 16 Feb 2009 0

Author: Lloyd Sabin

Lloyd Sabin reporting here for The Wargamer. As a fan of the Total War series  since Shogun: Total War, I have downloaded my share of mods over the years. Luckily most of them had been excellent, although I have had the bad luck of downloading a few turkeys also. The modding community for Total War games is quite vibrant and diverse?even if you have very particular tastes in what you are looking to do with your own ?vanilla? install.

The mods produced by Sicilian Vespers are no exception. They add a tremendous host of overhauls and tweaks to the games, and the latest version of the Sicilian Vespers mod, for Medieval 2: Total War -  Kingdoms, is of equal quality. I had an opportunity recently to ask the author some questions and he was kind enough to respond with the below interview. Enjoy!

1. Thanks for agreeing to answer these questions SV. First things first: what kind of work do you do for your day job, and when did you get into modding? How old are you?

I am 43, and for most of my professional life, I have been an iSeries System Administrator/Security Officer. For the past four years, I have been working in the Applications and Middleware field, as an Enterprise Application Administrator. I have been modding since the introduction of the original Medieval: Total War.

2. What was your opinion of the state of the initial release of Medieval 2: Total War?

I believe it was a very good effort, and left a gem for the modders to craft to their liking. I may be in the minority here, but I believe companies like Creative Assembly will take a game to a certain point, knowing that the modders will pickup where they left off. This, In effect, will extend the life of their product.

3. If you could arrange to have an hour-long meeting with the department heads over at Creative Assembly, what would you ask them? In turn, do you have any suggestions that you think would help them in developing the Total War games?

What would I ask them? I would ask for a job! What could be better than making games, and actually getting paid for it? Regarding suggestions, I would definitely recommend that they get more input from the major modders out there. We have a lot of insight into the features of the game that could be improved.

4. Can you name a few aspects of M2TW that you do not like? Are their features included that make you scratch your head and ask ?What the hell was CA thinking??

This would definitely be adoption and heir selection. I would have really liked to have seen some sort of regency feature, where the Queen rules during her son?s minority. This would have allowed us to retain the integrity of the various royal families, and eliminated the problem of adopted characters taking precedence over natural children in the lines of succession.

5. What was your first modding experience with Medieval 2: Total War? Did your work as part another team or did you immediately start your own? Do you work better by yourself?

Prior to modding Medieval 2: Total War, I was very heavily involved in the Chivalry I Total War project, as a developer. The Medieval 2: Total War Sicilian Vespers (SV) mod actually began as an attempt to gain modding experience for the next version of the Chivalry mod. So the SV mods were a one man show for most of their existence, and since I do tend to work better on my own, it worked out quite well.

6. How much time you usually spend working on individual projects? For example, how long did it take you to develop your latest full mod, Chivalry II: The Sicilian Vespers 3.0 (ChivII3.0)?

This is difficult to gauge. The modding is all done in my spare time, so it varies considerably from week to week. ChivII3.0 had a somewhat longer development time due to a CTD in the 2.7 beta that was only overcome by moving the mod to Kingdoms.

7. It is obvious that you are an historian, so people over at The Wargamer are interested in what led you to choose your mod?s name [as well as your online name] since the actual Sicilian Vespers were a violent but rather short episode. Did events like the Sicilian Vespers influence your design/gameplay decisions? If so, how? What else influences you in developing a mod?

SV began as a late era mod based on the historical Sicilian Vespers rebellion. I was out to gain Medieval 2: Total War modding experience like I said above, and I wanted to do something different, thus the choice of the late era which is not often covered. The Sicilian Vespers was a brief event, but it induced a 90 year civil war between the two Sicilies, and was a fascinating topic for a mod.

As far as my online name is concerned, I was actually reading a book about the Sicilian Vespers when I first registered at the guild and the TWCenter (twcenter.net). I personally believe that the Sicilian Vespers was one of the defining moments in Sicilian history. In one event, you have a people, who to this day still live by the Norman code of chivalry, tell the Pope, the French, and the world??we will not be enslaved.? It is a subject that always fascinated me.

8. Following on the above question, how much historical research do you do in preparation for a new project? Is it a labor of love, something you enjoy? What part of the development cycle do you absolutely hate?

Being an historian, the research is my favorite part of modding, and really is a true labor of love. I already have a great deal of historical background knowledge, but there is always something new to learn. The only part of the development cycle that I dislike is bug hunting: there is nothing more demoralizing than an elusive CTD!

9. What kind of balance do you aim to strike between historical accuracy and ease of play? Is this always a tough part of development? Do you typically work with an era that you are already familiar or do you research events and time periods that are unknown to you?

I like to maintain as much historical accuracy as possible, and players of SV know that it is not really an easy mod to play. It is really for players that enjoy a challenge and want that historical immersion. It isn?t really a tough choice, since I am really making a mod that I personally want to play. From my point of view, there is nothing more disappointing than blitzkrieging your way thru a campaign, or a mod?s campaign balancing that allows the map to become completely ahistorical in a short time.

I usually work with any era that interests me. I have modded everything from the Bronze Age to World War II, so if my knowledge is lacking in a certain area, it is no problem to fill the gaps with a little research.

10. Does the work of modding ever take away the pleasure you get from gaming? Do you get so overexposed to a game that you just can?t play it for a while?

There are definitely times when I just need a break. For the most part, I really don?t get to play as much as I?d like, and I really have to make a conscious effort to take a break from modding, so I can just play the game.

11.When you aren?t working on your own projects, what other modders? work do you enjoy for Medieval 2: Total War? Do you have favorites for technical fixes, graphics, etc?

When I am not playing one of the ChivII:SV mods, I tend to favor the Broken Crescent and Rusichi mods for Medieval 2: Total War. I also like The Lord of the Rings:TW mod and IBFD for Rome: Total War.

12. What are you working on now? Is the latest release of Chivalry II: The Sicilian Vespers 3.0 and its patches the last major work you will be doing for M2TW? Are you looking forward to the release of Empire: Total War?

At the moment, I am working on the next release of ChivII: SV. Some of the new features will include a lot of new 2d artwork, minor bug fixes, new units, retexturing of the Muslim factions, the addition of the Rusichi Russian models and textures, a revamped Anglo-Saxon faction, and XAI. I am hoping to add a new faction or two as well. I still have a lot planned for ChivII:SV, so I don?t foresee starting an additional  Medieval 2: Total Warproject at this time.

Regarding Empire: Total War, I am definitely looking forward to it, and the new opportunities it will bring. The first thing that comes to mind is the Italian Unification.

The Wargamer and the author wish to thank Sicilian Vespers for his time and participation, and look forward to this great modder?s next installments.

The Sicilian Vespers mod may be downloaded here: 

Version 3: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/downloads.php?do=file&id=2079

Patch to version 3.2 http://www.twcenter.net/forums/downloads.php?do=file&id=2176

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