We’re on a mission, people, a mission to discover how one mod changed the entire face of a AAA gaming franchise. If you missed last week’s briefing, get yourself up to speed here, then lock and load for Part 2 below…
In a nutshell, one Swedish development team, Refraction Games, made the legendary online WWII shooter, Codename Eagle (1999). Refraction were then acquired by another Swedish outfit, Digital Illusions CE (DICE), and together they would give the world Battlefield 1942, back in 2002. BF 1942 proved itself both highly popular and highly moddable, and it’s as the Battlefield modding craze is beginning to really heat up that we now find ourselves, almost half a year after its original release, in January 2003.
The scene is Manhattan’s West Village, home of Trauma Studios. Trauma is a group of friends under Frank DeLise (including Tim Brophy, Stephen Wells and Brian Holinka), who had started tinkering with EA’s official Battlefield Mod Development Toolkit back in October 2002. An Operation Flashpoint fan, DeLise was on the lookout for another modern military shooter, and saw in Battlefield 1942’s solid FPS gameplay a good base from which to work. He began simply, by modding in a Challenger tank, and encouraged by this early success, decided to go the whole hog and create an all-new, modern combat mod for the insanely popular WWII shooter. With Trauma established, work began in earnest, and the team soon expanded to twelve, located all around the world. Some of the team were even military personnel, and all of them spent every moment of their free time working on the Desert Combat mod.
Back to January 2003, and in their 0.1 version of the mod, the Trauma team have already replaced every weapon in the game with modern equivalents suited to the two new sides, the United States and Iraq. Several vehicles were also firmly in place, including an A-10 ‘Tank Killer’ and an AC-130 cargo plane that doubled as a mobile spawn point. Work was also afoot on refining the helicopter flight model, although this proved difficult. In an IGN interview at the time, DeLise stated that “The hard part is that the helicopter is based on plane physics, so there is no magic cover in the system. We had to make a replica of a helicopter that would really fly, and we couldn’t really pitch the blades as well so we had to compensate for that by creating multiple engines for the props. So it was very difficult to make it useable.” These were Battlefield’s first helis, and they were enormous fun to fly once (painfully) mastered, although for many the first dozen or so flights were spent flipping them over, turtle-like, and exploding in their teammates’ faces. Eventually, the helicopter flight model became more workable, and in fact lead to another treat for the pilots and propeller-heads – Harrier jump-jets, with proper VTOL!