Zen Rowe here; for anyone that doesn’t know, I am the Mod Community Manager here at Studio Wildcard.
We’re starting a new segment where we will look at the mod authors and the projects that can add so much extra life to a game.
Today we’re going to be talking to Garuga123!
Why don't you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about the project you are sponsored for.
I go by Garuga123 for the most part for my online presence. I'm the creator for the series of mods known as ‘ARK Additions’, with ‘ARK Additions: The Collection!’ being my sponsored content.
My concept for these mods is to introduce creatures into the ARK world that I feel sort of... missed their chance with the game. ARK has a lot of very popular or famous prehistoric species present in its world, but there are a few species that I felt deserved a spotlight as well. So I create these creatures to match ARK's aesthetic as close as I can, while also trying to give them unique mechanics or systems to make them an interesting part of the world.
That's amazing, We don't have too many creators in the community that create new creature assets.
If you don't mind me asking, could you tell us a bit about your background? What do you do outside of modding?
Of course! For as long as I can remember, I was always pretty artsy. I did a lot of illustration since I was a kid, and started doing digital work with software like ZBrush or Autodesk Maya once I got into Highschool. I was very interested in becoming a character modeler or animator for a game developer, so the majority of my artistic focus was developing that set of skills.
For the last 3 years I was enrolled in a Masters of Fine Arts program, so outside of modding that is what was taking up all my time, haha. Otherwise, I'm usually playing videogames on PC or PS4. Videogames are a pretty large influence for me, with the Monster Hunter series being my biggest influence. I tend to follow any sort of media that has dinosaurs or interesting creatures pretty closely!
Wow, so your background ties pretty heavily into what you do for your mods. It's always interesting to see how our history can impact our creations. Monster Hunter is a great game to take inspiration from as well.
For anyone that wants to find you, do you have any social media channels that you are active in?
I don't use very many social media platforms as much as I should. I use Discord for most of my modding endeavors, which has most of my future ideas, as well as some image and video teasers of various upcoming projects. (https://discord.gg/ZMD4YF6)
I also have a Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/fatalis575) and a Twitch channel (https://www.twitch.tv/aegis575) which I use relatively often to stream my working on mod content, with the occasional game streaming as well.
That is fantastic, being able to see someone's workflow in action is an incredibly useful resource for new mod authors that might not be familiar with the particular medium they are trying to tackle. On top of that, attempting to stream while you work is incredibly difficult, there is so much trying to draw your attention. That's impressive.
What originally brought you to start modding for the first time? Was it for ARK or for another game?
It actually surprised me quite a bit when I stream. More people are interested in the development process of a mod than when I'm just casually streaming a videogame I'm playing. It's really cool to see people in the community be interested in that side of things.
ARK is actually what brought me into modding. ARK was the first game I was aware of that had such an open and accessible modding scene. Being able to access all of the game's content and work with it was amazing to me and I wish it was something that more developers were open to.
It's a funny story of how modding started for me: Back when Scorched Earth released, I was hosting a server for myself and about four friends. As we played, I began to get bored with the progression of ARK and was trying to find other things in the game to entertain myself with. I had a silly idea: ‘It would be cool if I could roleplay as a Deviljho from Monster Hunter, and cause trouble for my friends as they went about their routine in ARK.’
This is when I started developing the Monster Hunter mod that became so wildly popular. Originally a private mod for just myself and friends, I made it public to avoid the complications that came with hosting a server with a private mod. It became a huge endeavor that I never expected, but I had a lot of fun adapting the creatures into the ARK environment and gained a community presence of sorts. When that mod, unfortunately, received a DMCA takedown after about a year of being public and I had to stop development, I wanted to keep using the ARK Devkit and developing skills in Unreal Engine. So my focus shifted to working on the "ARK Additions" content, developing my own creatures with their own ideas behind them.
Yeah, it's unfortunate, I know that a lot of people like seeing their favorite characters from TV and other games popping up in the world, but unfortunately that is an ever-present risk to such creations. Mods that use that content will probably get taken down at some point and copyright law is a messy thing that I don't recommend getting pulled into. I am glad that the experience did not discourage you from continuing!
Let's switch gears for a moment because I'd like to talk about your creations. In particular, I'd like to look at my favorite one, the Brachiosaurus.
(Credit to @UpFromTheDepths for this video)
This thing is fantastic. When you showed me some videos of the working creature in development, I was awestruck. The first time I saw it rear up I was thinking "What is it going to do? Is it afraid? Is it going to fall over? Will it do a trick?", and then those legs came crashing down and it was a great moment of suspense in the design of the creature. The taming mechanic was a fantastic touch as well.
Can you give me a bit of a high-level rundown on your process for creating a creature like this?
The first thing I always do is try to consider what species are interesting or known to some extent, ones that don't already exist in-game. Brachiosaurus was a pretty obvious choice for this, being one of the most well-known species of sauropod, I'm surprised it didn't make the cut!
When I decide on a creature I want to do, then I start throwing around ideas about what could make it unique to ARK. ‘What is something that does **NOT** already exist in ARK's mechanics?’ With this, I came to two conclusions for Brachiosaurus: The taming method, and its ability to cycle which resources it can harvest. The taming method was fun and relatively simple on paper. ‘This thing is way too big to be walking on hind legs. If it collapsed it would surely be out of commission for some time.’ At the same time, being one of the most known dinosaur species, I wanted it to have a presence. This is done with two important factors, the first being animation.
In my workflow, the animation process is without a doubt, where I spend the bulk of my time working on these creatures. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, I want to have created a creature that feels alive; I want its movement to be fluid and immersive. Everything down to the fat shaking as it walks is an important detail that can help to elevate the player's immersion and interaction with these characters.
The second factor is Brachiosaurs' main attack, its massive stomp. When Brachiosaurus feels threatened enough, it will proceed to rise up onto its' hind legs, in an attempt to flatten its pursuer outright. This attack is devastating and makes for quite a sight when you witness this creature suddenly become two times taller!
As threatening as this may be, this is your best opportunity to bring down the Brachiosaurus. When Brachiosaurus receives enough damage to its' hind legs in this state it will collapse and go unconscious, allowing for the player to tame the beast.
As I'm continuing my modding, I'm finding that the taming method is one of the most effective ways to create a unique experience. A massive core mechanic of ARK is its' taming system, so implementing new and challenging ways to tame a creature is fun to conceptualize and execute, as I did with Brachiosaurus and my newest (and possibly favorite) addition, Acrocanthosaurus.
Would you say you managed to capture your original vision for what these creatures would be? Did you have to make any compromises along the way?
Unless I'm forgetting something during my time in developing them, no I don't believe so. Of course, there are requests for various mechanics or details to be present in a creature, but many of these would either make the creature too powerful within the game or just not be feasible in creating that immersive experience. When I create my creatures, I try to keep all of ARK's core assets in mind as well. I don't want to create any major imbalance with my content, but add an ‘addition’ to ARK that can be used alongside any other creature within the game.
I think that's a great way to approach adding new creatures. And yours blend so well with the core game that if I didn't know better I would have a hard time identifying that they weren't.
Since I've got you here... do you have any super-secret content that you are working on that you would be willing to reveal for us?
Hmmm... I think the most interesting one to mention would be my idea for Scutosaurus. I don't want Scutosaurus to have a true attack; instead, its main ‘attack’ will be a parry. In mechanics terms, I'm going to try and make the animation for this detect if it's within the hit window of an opposing creature's attack. If this is true, the Scuto will take significantly reduced damage, and deflect that damage onto the attacker instead! I can already imagine how difficult this will be to balance, but I think this will be a very unique tactic in approaching various aspects of the game if I can do it correctly!
That does sound interesting! Aside from balance, are there any other significant challenges you expect to face when creating it?
Definitely the coding itself. Out of everything in the development process, coding and blueprinting is the area I have the least experience with. A lot of the mechanics I create go through several iterations before they finally become clean and functioning enough to be publicly released. This being said, I'm very proud of Brachiosaurus and Acrocanthosaurus for the complexity of their blueprinting!
I look forward to seeing what you manage to create with this idea!
To wrap up, is there any advice you would like to give to any new mod authors that would like to make new creatures?
Youtube may be your greatest asset. I can safely say that at least 70% of my knowledge of modeling and animation software has come from hours of Youtube tutorials and having the drive to learn and understand.
Also, ARK uses Unreal Engine! If you can't find a solution to your problem in regards to the ARK Devkit itself, try searching through normal Unreal Engine tutorials! I've found a lot of blueprinting solutions for my various issues by finding Unreal forum threads of people with similar issues in the base engine itself!
Sound advice for anyone interested in making mods for ARK! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today, Garuga.
Until next time, Happy Modding!