For this week’s Founder Spotlight, we sat down with Duke of Rock. Enjoy this detailed interview!
Q: You are the author of the five-part series called “Spawn of Medusa.” If I recall, this series took nearly a year to complete, due to the massive work involved. Can you tell our readers more about the series, how it developed, and what inspired you to devote so much work to a single story arc?
Yes, it took about a year to complete the series. I had hoped to have it done quicker originally, but the Season 4 bug bit and like many other authors, I pushed away from the table for fear of publishing something broken due to the issues from its release. However, I did work on the maps a bit through the “dark times” and when I was able to get the fire back, so to speak, it helped me get the latter episodes published faster.
A lot of the early development time was taken more trying to make cool tricks with the Foundry tools. In the original Spawn of Medusa, getting the Halon system visual on the Klingon ship took me a little while. I still was breaking the ice on the Foundry tricks, and object placement was still basically “dots” on the map, so it took me time to get the hang on it. When I worked to place the different objects in the Medusik Imperial underground chamber map, I had to factor in the different levels stacked to get everything placed right, but as I finalized the map, it was a bit of a breakthrough for me. It inspired me to try something original for the 2nd episode. I found I could place objects outside the windows of the ship map, and I was able to place debris spewing plasma onto the outer hull of the ship as viewed through the window. As a good deal of this episode dealt with repairs to the ship, I came up with the idea to expand my “Halon” system trick in a unique way using a shuttle. It took a good deal of time, as it was before we could see the objects we placed on the map, but I set up the scenario so you went to the window where the plasma was damaging the hull and could make visual contact with the shuttle. I next set it up where the shuttle would fire two Halon streams at the plasma, extinguishing it, but only after you gave the order to do so. Setting up the triggers was easy, but getting the blinking lights on the shuttle in the right location and the Halon Streams to appear to fire from the bow of the shuttle took time. A lot of place object, preview map, back and forth, etc. It was a task, but when I succeeded, I felt it was well worth it.
I got the story title and idea from the Clash of the Titans movie that happened to be on as I was pondering what to do my next Foundry mission on. I always liked the story of the Medusa and how she had the power to immobilize men by turning them into stone. I saw it as an opportunity to create a similarly powerful alien species with a matriarchal society. As I worked on the mission, the ideas kept coming on expanding it, using old Earth myths regarding Atlantis, as well as pulling something from a TNG episode with the Argus Array and blending it together. The Argus Array map was my proudest achievement as far as custom builds. This all basically required the series to expand to 5 parts, which was not my original intention.
Q: Was there a “best of times” and a “worst of times” when making these missions?
I’ll go with the “worst” first. I created my first mission, Omega Directive Revisited part 1 and released it. It had no special tricks, and was my first real dive into the Foundry after studying your (Kirkfat’s) tutorials for 2 weeks. The story had some gaps in regards to location, different enemy types, and my map designing was still in its infancy. I submitted it for review back when PeregrineFalcon was doing reviews and got whacked with a 2 star based on the story believability and simplicity. Still, it didn’t discourage me, just fired me up to make the 2nd part much better. I released Part 2 and it fared much better, but the first part still was kind of lame, so I deleted it and turned Part 2 into the entire mission. It’s held at just under 4 stars since it’s been out. After that, Spawn of Medusa came to be. I used a Klingon character I used in the Omega Directive Revisited mission in the beginning of SoM to put a small link to the missions. She ends up playing a fairly large part in the Medusa Series. Next, after I released Spawn of Medusa 3, the Season 4 disaster hit and the jello floor syndrome started. Players were falling through the floors into oblivion in maps and bad ratings were starting to flow, so it was definitely the “Worst of Times” as I had to pull my missions like many others did.
The “best” of times came shortly after I released the original episode. I had a few friends play it and they enjoyed it. The mission had the quick burst near the top that a lot of missions experience. I went to bed that first night and the next day, I had a 5 star review from the Grand Nagus himself, also stating it was going on the Nagus list. For a fairly new author who had used the Nagus list to find good missions to try, it was a thrill to see that. It seemed to start getting plays after that, so it really fired me up to get moving on the next episodes. Right after that, I also started frequenting the starbaseugc.com chatroom, and met many of the great friends I have today. That definitely made the best of times possible. Even thru the “dark times” in Season 4, the friendships I gained there made the whole thing bearable.
Q: Are you satisfied with the amount of plays? Or, are you frustrated by the search results, ranking system, and the UI elements of community-authored missions like yours?
I don’t think most authors are ever satisfied with the amount of plays, except maybe a few of the top of the authors with missions on the very top of the list. *Winks at* RogueEnterprise. Truthfully, I was the first to play and rate First Cause, Then Effect when he released it, and when I saw the quick success it received after I played it, I was glad to see a friend get such great props. The mission deserved it, and I still don’t think Rogue himself expected the explosion of plays it received, but its success is well deserved. I think it is also harder for a series to get as much recognition as the individual missions because the different parts can jump each other back and forth in the ratings. That leads into the UI part of the question as well. A lot of missions get played based on their position on the Top Rated section of the Community Authored tab. The Top Rated is the default, so naturally the missions near the top garner more attention. I have some of my later episodes being played more than the earlier in a couple cases, basically because one came before the other on the list. I would love to see the mission choices broken up more for the selection process, plus now it seems that when new missions are succeeding early, there seems to be a type of “drive-by” sabotage occurring on a lot of new missions. It is aggravating to see it happen. That is what frustrates me more than anything with the current rating system. I don’t mind getting a 1-star rating because someone didn’t like the mission, but many are experiencing multiple 1-stars with no reviews in very short periods of time, and it is not because they are bad missions. It’s actually quite the contrary, most are great missions by talented authors.
Q: Are you optimistic about season 6? What are your hopes and what are your fears?
I am always hopeful when there is a new Season approaching. With the possibility of more content for the game and Foundry, I am looking forward to seeing what new toys we may be able to access. I really hope we will see more features, maps, and gadgets. I also really would like a more restrictive rating system. I know it could create issues if missions had issues and could not be completed, but I would love to see the ability to rate missions come only after completing the mission in its entirety. This ability to pick up / drop and rate system (with intentional sabotage) needs to go. Also, a better mission selection system could be implemented. As for my fears, I get nervous from the memories of the Season 4 debacle. I truly hope that was a one time thing with the Foundry, as it would really hurt the foundation if it were to occur again like it did back then. It really soured a lot of players toward Foundry creation and the desire to play Foundry Missions.
Q: If you could convince the devs to push a single “big idea” in relation to the Foundry and STO, what would it be?
For a single “big idea”, if I had to choose one, I would love to have a three dimensional map construction ability. Being an “older dude”, my tech knowledge isn’t at a high level as far as what is possible in the programming world, but if it would be possible to have this feature, it would sure make the custom map and map feature creation easier. Would save a lot of back and forth. I’m sure you Foundry authors know what I mean.
Thanks for your time!