In our first interview celebrating 15 years of Ghost Recon we interviewed Ghost Recon developer John Sonedecker; for our second interview we reached out to a Ghost Recon modder who developed a tiny mod in the year after Ghost Recon’s 2001 release that made a huge difference to Ghost Recon visuals and gameplay – Craig Fortune (known as NovemberRain).
Enjoy our interview!
Before we get into your exciting new projects, let’s go back, back to your modding days!
Ghost Recon fans will remember you as the first person to release a fogless mod for the original Ghost Recon, back in 2002. What was your incentive to create a mod that increased the draw distance by removing fogging in Ghost Recon?
Hi Rocky, thanks for getting reaching out. It’s a nice little “blast from the past” talking about my Ghost Recon modding days
As for my motivations for Fogless, I think we can all agree that Ghost Recon was a little bit on the excessive side with the fogging. At the time I was running some budget graphics card (a GeForce MX440 I think), but even that was running the game pretty comfortably.
Away from the technical aspects, and more toward the gameplay aspects, it was a lot of fun to methodically move around a map, lining up your sniper shots from a ridge line and watching for the perfect moment. I found that with the stock fog settings you just didn’t have the range you’d really need for that type of gameplay.
The funny thing is that Fogless is one of the simplest bits of development I think I’ve ever done.
Did you play much Ghost Recon back then? Single player, co-op, multiplayer adversarial?
Mostly Single Player. To be honest a lot of the time I spent with Ghost Recon was playing around with doing little mods for my own amusement. Fogless is just the only one I ever actually publicly released.
Can you remember any mods you used to play back then?
Most of the mods I used were additional skins and various missions that people had worked on too. There was some really quite extensive stuff being made out there.
Your tiny 150kb mod has been downloaded thousands of times, with comments calling it one of the best mods on Ghost Recon.net, which is quite something amongst 574 mods, some of which are Gigabytes in size! How does it make you feel to know it is still downloaded today and helps gamers get even more out of the classic Ghost Recon?
It’s a bit crazy to to be honest! It was only a few months ago when I stumbled on a Youtube video where someone was explaining all the mods they thought were worthwhile getting, and there it was, Fogless, well over a decade on!
After that I looked around online and found it being mentioned all over the place. Someone even continued on with a new and updated version for it, expanding it to cover more missions etc. It’s really nice to see something that I just did for a bit of fun whilst learning is still used so many years later.
Did you mod for any other games?
I did some stuff for the original Operation Flashpoint, as wonky as that game felt at times, it was still great fun to put little missions together in the mission editor. Again, mostly stuff for my own learning. I used most level editors I could get my hands on at least a little bit.
Do you play any other games?
I’ve recently purchased an HTC Vive, so I’m playing lots of VR things at the moment. Rec Room is easily one of my favourites. If you manage to get into a game with some nice people you can have a really good laugh just messing about. I did accidentally punch my ceiling throwing a basketball in it though!
Ghost Recon Wildlands is only a few months away; have you been following its development?
I was quite impressed with what they showed of it at E3. Visually it’s top notch, I’m maybe a little unsure about the zooming around in vehicles bit though – there was something about the much more measured pacing in the original Ghost Recon that isn’t present in the more recent titles. Not necessarily a bad thing, just different.
As you’ve probably gathered, game development has long been a passion of mine. Modding was, and still is, a great way to get into development. After modding games for a while, I ultimately ending up getting quite involved with the GarageGames community, which is arguably one of the key communities in giving “Indie development” real momentum in the early-to-mid 2000s.
The community was based around the Torque engine, formally used in the earlier Tribe games. You got access to the full source code, which was a big deal back then – I think lots of former modders jump onboard.
It was around 2010 that I setup BoxFrog Games, and also moved on to using Cocos2D on iOS, and ultimately then on to Unity too, which is where I do pretty much all of the development work for BoxFrog Games nowadays. It was always just as a bit of hobby, but over the last year it’s really grown into much more.
Tell us about Lost Wing
So Lost Wing is about as different from Ghost Recon as you can get I think! It’s a super-fast (no really, it gets faaast) arcade style game all about dodging obstacles and firing lasers.
Lost Wing actually started out as a little one day solo “game jam” I did, just to have a bit of a break from some other stuff I was working on. Even after just that one day of development on it, something felt quite nice – it scratched a little arcade itch. People I had sent builds to felt the same, so I continued on with it, and it sort of snowballed from there. The visual style developed as Tim and Adam (Fellow “BoxFroggers” – both Artists) got involved, which in turn informed the synth wave music in the game too.
Tell us about BoxFrogGames, especially how that weird name came to be?
Well, “Mad as a box of frogs” is a bit of a mouthful, so we abbreviated it. I’m not sure if that helps answer your question though!
What frustrates you about the gaming scene these days?
One moment, let me grab my soapbox…
1. People who (very vocally) go after a game for it being “bad” because it’s not something they personally would want to play. There’s plenty of room for every type of player and every type of game. If you don’t like a game then play something else – no need to spend your time and effort “hating” on something, life’s too short. Look on comments boards for just about any AAA game out there – this sort of behaviour is ubiquitous and people seem to have just accepted it as just part of online gaming.
2. Bro-gamers, Trolls, Griefers, “Git gud”, “Noob”. All that stuff, I can’t stand it. nearly always the same people as above I guess.
What excites you about the gaming scene these days?
VR is definitely up there. We’re finally at a point where VR is not only feasible, but there’s genuinely good consumer equipment out there. Give it 5 years to become more affordable for a mainstream market and I think we’re going to see some incredible things being created. I implore anyone who has yet to try it to give it a go, it’s one of those things that you just don’t appreciate until you’ve experienced it first hand.
Which games are you looking forward to?
Astroneer is looking really nice, I think that’s due to have an Early Access release in December. I really like playing co-op games, and the visuals are really nice too. I think there’s been a bit of nervousness about it after the No Mans Sky debacle, as they’re both “procedural space games”. I hope it doesn’t affect their success, as their offering is something very different to NMS.
Final words for Ghost Recon fans, or a final comment about the original Ghost Recon?
I want to give a very big and very genuine thank you for keeping the Fogless mod alive in the community, it’s really quite humbling to see it in wide-use some near-14 years later.
See you in Wildlands