Zen Rowe here again, back for another spotlight on our glorious modding community.
Today we’re going to be talking to Kiwiboys!
Who are you and what do you do?
Hey, my name is Jordan Dargaville otherwise known as Kiwiboys I am the mod author of Ark Settlements a growing project that adds new layers to the already great Ark experience. Ark settlements started out as a simple enough project allowing players to place plots and built settlements but now it's grown to a mod that adds full city management with NPC’s and an economic system that connects to all of the other city aspects such as the current mood of the city and the city's supply chain
That's a pretty intense modification.
ARK itself doesn't really have much in the way of existing mechanics for you to tie into for that kind of system, right?
That's correct, One of the reasons I take a while to come out with new updates is everything I want to do needs to be built from scratch, to add to the difficulty there are also some limitations on what I can and can’t change so I can keep the mod as clean as possible. I’ve had to come up with a few creative ways around certain issues one of the first issues I ran in to was the plots themselves there was no such thing as a settlement and I couldn’t allow plots to be place-able just anywhere. I created a town hall that acts as the city controller most of the mod code runs from here things like supply and demand checks, weather to upgrade a building or not, initiating UI and self-checks to detect problems if they occur.
Making mods can definitely be an exercise in creative solutions.
May I ask about your background? Does your education or personal experience tie in well with helping you design the overall system or influence the direction of your solutions to problems?
Most certainly does, I’ve been always interested in games. I finally started making my own content in Unity 5 years ago and recently completed a degree in Information technology I focused mostly around networks architecture and security but also studied C# and C++ which are most common in game design. I only started using Unreal engine when I began this mod but it’s not too different from Unity.
Shhhhh. Don't let Epic hear you!
We'll talk a bit more about ARK settlements in a moment, but I do want to focus on you a bit. When we make our mods we tend to focus ourselves entirely on that and most of the people who enjoy our creations don't know a thing about us.
So tell me, aside from making mods, what other things do you like to spend time on? Do you have any other creative hobbies?
When I do manage to get away from my computer I try to do some projects things like woodworking or designing a 3D printable lamp things. I do play the games mostly around simulation or open-world allowing me to create my own narrative, but I usually find myself working on games the most since it’s what I love to do, every time I solve a problem or get to a new milestone you get this feeling of success and you can look back at your work and see where you’ve come from and where you are now.
I can relate to the feeling, seeing your own progression in skill and surprising yourself with what you can come up with is a very satisfying thing to be able to look back on.
So for anyone that wants to follow what you are working on, do you have a twitter, or discord, or any other social media you engage with?
I’ve always been thinking of what the best platform would be to communicate with the gaming and modding community, I eventually decided to go with discord. I may start a twitter down the track but currently the best way to find out what I’m working on and how it's going would be the Mods discord channel there’s already a growing community and I’m always open to suggestions on things. The discord link is https://discord.gg/v9JwVc8
Thank you for that, prepare for a flood.
You said you were working with unity before, were you making games for yourself or were you making mods that used that engine? What made you decide to start making mods?
I started with Unity when I left school, I wanted to make games but back then I didn’t realise what went in to making games. At the time I thought it would be easy make some art write some code and done! Well let’s just say that didn’t end up working out so well. I didn’t understand the concept of scoping or planning out milestones. The past 5 years I’ve been learning the “to do’s” and “do nots of the game industry. And with each failed Idea that set me back to the start of a new project I got better and tried again. I started modding because it seemed like a fun idea and I wanted to learn Unreal engine. I always played ARK in Single player and trying to build an entire town takes quite a bit of time.
Sounds like modding has served you well in that regard, ARK settlements is definitely an ambitious project, I can't imagine you would have gotten it to this point if you hadn't learned a lot.
Do you take any inspirations from other city-management style games when designing features?
In a way I do, this mod is based on sims city’s and other survival management games, just like in these types of games you need to manage your city. To grow it you need to build more buildings and with everything apart from a few buildings requiring an upkeep you need to plan out the city carefully.
Would you be able to give us a high-level view of what your design and development process looks like for ARK Settlements?
Sure thing, usually I have a plan with the core features I want in the mod, When creating new plots there’s quite a bit that needs to be done first I need the plots themselves each plot type is made up from currently 4 individual buildings. One for each tier of the city so the building needs to be recreated each time, they then need to be added to the upgrade system and that allows them to be interacted with and upgraded this part doesn’t take too long as they all share the same parent class without going in to much technical detail this means all the code on the parent is shared to all the children it cuts down on code duplication and saves time in the long run. Finally, the functionality of the building needs to be written for example shops need a shop system for work without this its just a building that can be upgraded.
That's a good insight into how you approach the design.
Do you have any other mod projects that you work on?
Not currently, So far everything that I’ve come up for has been added to this mod so it's becoming more of a mega mod that what it was originally supposed to be. I was thinking of creating a separate mod that works with Ark settlements the separate mod would add RP aspects to the game like citizen personalities, questing restaurants and activity plots along with other roleplaying activities, but then I might just add them to this one I'm not quite sure yet.
well, if you want my opinion, that sounds like a fun idea!
While I've got you here, do you have any secret features or plans for ARK settlements that you can share with us?
What's to come? Leak the goods!
Well everyone's been waiting patiently for the next update so along with the AI update the stone tier will be finally coming to the mod with even larger buildings than before players will also be able to control aspects of the mod with a partial configs access allowing them even more freedom with the mod!
That does sound exciting! I'll have to take a peek when you get the update out.
Before we sign off, do you have any advice you would give to new mod authors?
Thank you for this opportunity, I’d like to say to the new mod authors out there, always keep an open mind when working on something, when you run in to an issue don’t be afraid to ask for help or look for answers if that provides no help look for alternatives to achieve the same goal and never give up because at the end that’s the only way fail.
We should put that on an inspirational poster.
It's been a pleasure talking to you, Jordan. I look forward to seeing where you go with Settlements!
Until next time, Happy Modding!