It's that time again, I am Zen Rowe and today we’re going to be talking to Eco, the creator behind a plethora of decor mods!
Eco, You likely need little introduction, but for the sake of anyone who has yet to experience your mods tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi hi! I'm Eco and I have several different projects for ARK. They vary from décor items to creatures. I try to listen closely to what the community wants or needs via suggestions or by watching your play styles.
The RP community has been a strong influence on my current and future projects as I try to bring more in-depth immersive items that you can interact with. Such as the Stone Oven from the Inca Empire, it just doesn't cook meat it cooks historic representations of meals from the actual Inca Empire. Meals involve creating each ingredient such as Rice, Quinoa, or Corn Flour. It serves to make cooking exciting and more enjoyable when you sit down for a meal!
Your mods are some of the most popular in the Workshop, Eco. Seeing you branch out into more functional additions like this has been a joy.
Do you have a background or hobbies that have influenced and guided the design of your mods?
I imagine your empire mods involve a lot of historical research.
I grew up in a very art driven yet technological driven home. My mom has always been sewing or creating paper art from as far back as I can remember. My dad has made quilts and taught me the in's and out's of computers.
When I was younger I would sketch all the time, in my teens I fully went down the Bob Ross painting trail and enjoyed every minute. My love of nature, photography, and art kind of all met with graphic design. For some time, while I was still in school, I created websites for people and even had a chapter published in a technology reference book! I then transitioned into sewing where I created plush dinosaurs and other monsters! This was an amazing experience as my creations were accepted into galleries across North America and even one in Paris! They were even published in magazines for several years. I still have a few in my office now as I just couldn't part with all of them
I'll take ten... uh... for my god-daughter.
Yes... for my god-daughter.
When I'm not modding I am usually reading as I have collected over 500 vintage books. I find them fascinating and even more enjoyable if someone has written or drawn inside the cover. Sometimes I wonder who owned them and if they lived in a gorgeous Victorian home!
Quite possibly the favorite thing about creating the Empires Collection is the research that goes into each one. I truly love history and finding out that the community in turn dives in deeper to find out more about the Empires is just as amazing! I absolutely love what I do and having the ability to share that with you pushes me to create a better experience with each new mod! I feel like all of these experiences and my love of dinosaurs has drawn me into the world of modding. My goal is not to change the game that I love but only add to it!
I know a lot of players love your creations in ARK, but it sounds like you lived a fascinatingly creative life as well!
Now if anyone wanted to follow your modding endeavors or wants to see what other artistic creations you've made, where can they do that?
I think it's important to be creative it lets your mind expand and grow! I tend to be active on Twitter with Sneak Peeks or sharing wonderful builds from you! For all things mod related, update information, sometimes random sketches, or tech support I have a wonderful Discord full of great community members and staff!
What prompted you to cross the bridge from more physical forms of art to modding?
From a young child I always had a love of dinosaurs and would often “borrow” them from my brother. From our first Atari I was fascinated with games and how they worked. ARK is definitely my first modding experience and it has been a wonderful adventure! It truly brings together all of my interests and there is so much to learn! Every day has a story that is waiting to be written and I am just discovering the words.
When my brother told me about this new dinosaur game coming out I couldn't contain my excitement! One of my best friends actually gifted ARK to me when it first came out and we ran off into the great unknown! I played for quite a while before ending up on a PVE server setting down roots on Herbivore Island. It's a beautiful spot to build yet full of Brontos... They constantly would knock down all the beautiful trees I so carefully kept alive. I would fly across the ocean every day to get wood just to make sure the island trees were safe. I remember pestering the server admin for refertilizer just to have the Brontos knock the trees down again. It was at this point I decided to create my first mod for ARK. It was a learning experience for sure and continues to be! Every mod I make helps build the next one as I learn a new process or gain new ideas. But all of this was never done alone, I've made some lasting friendships with other devs that continue to help me grow, motivate me, and who have created a modding community based on sharing knowledge and doing what they love!
I take it that those Brontos are who we have to thank for the "Eco Trees" mod? That was your first one, wasn't it?
Yep eco Trees was the very first to start it all! It's gone through many phases along the way as I have learned better was to optimize and also ended up expanding into eco In Wonderland.. you know the one with all the crazy looking trees
You have certainly come a long way since then. Between your empire and primordial mods, you've also begun to cater to a wide variety of aesthetic styles as well.
Personally I'm proud of my stick figure achievements but what you have accomplished in terms of variety boggles my mind.
Would you be able to give us a bird's-eye view of your design process for your empire mods?
I like to think months in advance for my projects. This allows me time to do research, gather input, and start the creative process of designing items. What I may be working on today may take many forms until it's finally released as I try to consider how it will be physically used in PVE and PVP, what benefit it has for you as a whole, and visually if it with the overall ARK theme.
The very first step is picking an Empire which is probably the hardest part! The Empire doesn't need to be well known but instead I look for how they shaped the world either by their art, beliefs, or ways they interacted with other Empires. Then I dive into the research! Any article, picture, or book I can find becomes my main focus as even the smallest of details are important! My friends give input as well as they each have backgrounds in history, weaponry, or art.
Once furniture, building design, food has been chosen then the designing starts! Pieces are created in 3ds Max and the Dev Kit. Texturing is always a huge focus as well. You can change the whole style of a building by the color and pattern.
Then quite possibly the only boring part is creating the blueprints but without them the item would never come to life! A lifeless structure has now come to life with floors you can place décor on and textured walls that immerse you in the famous architecture of that Empire!
You certainly put a lot of care and attention into your mods.
What would you say are the most challenging parts of the process?
That would probably be keeping the poly count low, though I do use programs such as Simplygon, which removes a lot of the unnecessary bits, I do tend to go overboard on the detail and have to scale things back as I know not everyone has a workhorse PC. Balancing the wants vs needs can also be a juggling act as well. Sometimes combining objects with multiple functions ends up being a good compromise! On whole I would say where I struggle the most is graph work. I tend to understand it once I see it completed and can expand on it for future projects but the initial time from idea to working object may take me much longer than most and even help from other devs. This is definitely something I am working on each day as I try to expand my knowledge and use that to take my creations to the next step!
Well, that's one of the things that is great about modding. You have a functional sandbox to experiment with and learn other skills in.
Now, the question I'm sure many have been waiting for...
Do you have any super-secret content you are working on that you could leak for us today?
It definitely is and that's what I love about it, the learning never ends!
I do have another Empire chosen! I gave hints on Twitter and I believe only one person guessed correctly. Coming in January will be the Babylonian Empire! Their history is deep and rich with confrontations and they quite possibly changed the world forever. Their architecture was breathtaking and showed their wealth in every detail.
One of their most known buildings was the Hanging Gardens. It was a gorgeous building and I want to make sure to include as much detail as possible. As with all my other mods I try to consider how things are created and will be used on all maps so that it's more accessible for you. In this case the Hanging Gardens will need a bit of rework so that it can be built anywhere and still look fantastic!
There also may be some time spent on some new creatures too but I can share that info later..
That's going to be an interesting one. Babylonian architecture is something that I think a lot of people hear reference to in media but may not have actually seen.
I think we'll all be looking forward to that release!
Before we sign off, Do you have any advice for mod authors that want to try their hand at projects similar to your own?
Never give up! If you have a dream or an idea there is always a solution. It may take more time than you expected but you will learn and discover new things. If you get stuck reach out for help in the ARK Modding Discord! There is such a wide range of people with different areas of knowledge there. The more you know and understand the better experience it will be, the greater your passion will be for what you are creating.
Finally just be you! Create what you love and share it with the world! A map is a painting you get to walk through, a mod is a toy you get to play with!
Thank you for that, and all of the wonderful mods you have created for the community!
Until next time, Happy Modding!