Mike Schell Interview
By: Jester
Published : 6th February 2002
Contact
: Here
Feedback : Here
Reference Links
:CHR character utility |muzzle flash utility

Mike Schell remains an active and respected member of the Rogue Spear and Ghost Recon communities. His skills at reverse engineering our favourite games are unsurpassed and have led to the release of his much acclaimed CHR Character Utility and more recently his Ghost Recon Muzzle Flash Utility. Mike Schell granted Ghostrecon.net a brief interview allowing us an insight into his background, his techniques, and his gaming preferences.

1) Tell us a little about yourself, Mike, for those of our readers unfamiliar with you from the RS community. How old are you? What do you do for a living?

I'm 23, I am a programmer with a life insurance company (developing front-end systems and automation apps for the companies various departments/employees). I've been married for 5 years to Kelly. I spent 4 years in the US Air Force as a Satellite and Wideband Communications & Electronics Tech (operated, repaired, and setup comm systems). Spent almost 2 years in the guard afterward. I'm a civilian again now :)

2) How long have you been modding computer games?

Since I was 7 or 8 years old. My father brought me home a TRS-80 from his Coast Guard station when they upgraded their systems. I learned BASIC programming on that, and "modded" many of the BASIC games that came with it.

3) What games have you modded and/or made utilities for?

Mod wise, Freespace2, Quake I&II, Total Annihilation, Doom I & II, Operation Flashpoint, and of course the Rainbow Six series. Utilities wise, Janes USAF, Freespace2, Quake I&II, Operation Flashpoint, and again the Rainbow Six series.

4) What tools do you use to write your utilities?

Visual Basic 6, and Visual C++

5) What tools do you use to "take apart" things like character and weapon models and maps?

I've created most of the utilities I use to reverse engineer the file formats. One utility represents binary data in colors (very helpful for spotting patterns). Another utility I created is basically a suped up Hex/Dec Editor. I've added and built on it over the 5 years I've modded. It is really quite a powerful tool, and I'm making plans to release it in the near future.

6) How do you find information in a model file, as you did when preparing your muzzle flash utility?

Using my hex/dec editor utility. The first thing I look for are strings imbedded in the binary format. These are usually good clues to use in identifying the data contained in a particular section of a file (i.e. texture file names denote material entries).

From there I look for values normally associated with a format of the given type. For example, if I'm decoding a GR 3D model file, I'll look for vertex arrays (usually denoted by floating point values), surface normals (also denoted by floating point values grouped into 4's), face indices (usually long or short integers), etc.

It's a long process, usually helped along by a lot of trial and error in game testing (i.e. changing values, then looking for the effect of the change in-game)

7) Describe your work environment when coding/modding (computer specs, work area, lighting, music).

I work on a PIII 733mhz PC, with 256mb of RAM, a 40 GB hard drive, and a GeForce2 MX400. Nothing high end, but it meets my needs. :) My work area is a simple computer desk in my den, lighting is usually pretty low (I like low lighting :)). I usually have Sister Machine Gun or KMFDM blaring in the background. If not them various movie scores (Braveheart, Last of the Mohicans, Star Wars, etc) or Electronica (Juno Reactor, Propellerheads, Cirrus, etc).

8) What games do you have installed that you actually play?

Total Annihilation, Earth 2150, Viper Racing, FreeSpace2, Operation Flashpoint, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, StarCraft (my disk is currently busted though :( ), Rogue Spear/Urban Ops, Ghost Recon, HL Counter Strike, SimCity 3000, and various emulators (SNES, Genesis, NES).

9) Are you still making mods and utilities for Rogue Spear, or have you dropped RS for GR entirely?

I'm still active in the Rogue Spear community. I'd like to eventually finish my character modeling utility for RS.

10) What GR mods/utilities are you working on that you're willing to tell us about?

At the moment, nothing. With the announcement by RSE that modding tools would be released soon, I stopped work on my own projects. I will be updating my CHR character utility in the future, likewise I'm taking a little time of to work on some mods of my own :)

11) What's up with you and Chuck Barris, anyway?

Due to pending legal action, my lawyers have informed me not to speak of any matters concerning Chuck Barris and I.

 

GhostRecon.net would like to thank Mike for taking the time to answer our questions!

 

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