Cube Experimental is one of the more impressive mods you’ll play for Fallout 3. Even more impressive, it was created entirely by one man: Dennis Weich, a member of acclaimed modding group SureAI.
In this week’s modding interview, we had a chance to fire some questions his way on the topic of his labyrinthine Cube, a work that took him 5 months and some 500 scripts to complete.
Can you briefly introduce yourself, Dennis?
I’m 22 years old and come from a town called Starnberg, which is situated on lake Starnberg not far from the Alps and south of lovely Munich, Germany. When I’m not staring at the mountains, I’m a commercial assistant for processing information. And for sure I’ve been a modding enthusiast for the past seven years.
Cube Experimental is a massive accomplishment. How long did it take you to develop from start to completion?
I worked five pretty long months on it. Two months of level design and three months of scripting and voice dubbing. Scripting was a lot of work, because I had to do my best to make the sterile minimalistic environment look interesting and alive somehow. After I wrote 500 scripts, I felt a little bit messed-up and decided to release it.
What were your influences in designing the Cube? I assume the sci-fi film “Cube” was the most significant, but I also got a bit of a Portal vibe at times.
You know, when I first started working on the mod, I was sure I wanted do something easy to experience the Fallout engine and see what it would be able to perform. Then I remembered this Canadian movie I watched a few months ago called CUBE, and thought: “Hey, they did the shooting for the film in one scene. It’s not a big deal to create something like that in a game. Some cubes, some traps, find a way through, that’s it.”
But then I figured out… “Hell, that’s not that easy.” The gameplay was very frustrating and boring as well. So I decided… now I have a challenge: make the cubes fun, or at least interesting to play through.
Luckily, one major question of the movie came into my mind: “What is beyond those cubes.” And that’s the reason why the facility, the story and everything around was built up (Portal-like). While I worked on this project, I really had no plan where this would lead to. What was an interesting experience was working without a concept, ’cause I could decide spontaneously what should happen next. Which is nice sometimes, like an author writing a book. Or like an adventure while you create the mod itself, which in my case, I found very motivating, which urged me to go on and on.
But to make it clear; to have no point was not the plan. The plan was to make a point, like an entrance to a world you want to create. But don’t draw the whole picture before starting with your work, because then it can be attention handling of ideas and plans you’ve created previously. And where is the fun in having a mountain full of work without a chance to be creative during the process. Especially as modding gives you that freedom to be creative â€” use it.
The mod was also influenced by a lot of other games like BioShock, Half-Life. Also the Lost series is involved.
There isn’t much traditional combat in Cube. Was it your goal to create a more atmospheric, less action-driven mod from the beginning? Are you a fan of non-violent games/mods?
By the way, what is violence? We don’t have this in German computer games. The German version of Fallout 3 is super non-violent, even the robots don’t blow up.
Yeah, the reason why I avoided combat was the feeling of loneliness I tried to create in this whole complex. Like exactly the same feelings the Hacker had when he first was put into this deathtrap. This way the player is constantly searching for hints of other life-forms and is more advertent for the environment and the story.
Cube Experimental features full voice acting. For the benefit of modders that might be wondering how to find real voice actors, how did you arrange for both the German and English voicing?
For the German version of the mod, it was really easy to find some professional voice actors, ’cause Benjamin, our voice coordinator, worked simultaneously on the voice recordings for [SureAI's upcoming Oblivion mod] Nehrim at that time. He picked some voices, so I had hands free to concentrate working on the mod.
Hacker: Martin Sabel is a professional actor, he also voiced for the German version of “The Pitt” DLC.
Tronos: Andi KrÃ¶sing is a professional voice actor and has a recording studio in Berlin.
Service System: Inga Interwies is also a voice actor, works mostly for commercials.
For the English version it was a little bit harder, but we made it with a delay of two months.
Hacker: Stig Finsen Sydtangen Nice guy from Norway, he wrote to me on ModDB. He is also a voice actor in some Half Life mods. He is a (voice) actor in training I guess.
Tronos: Joseph Plachno is the father of a friend of John Izzard, who did the proof-reading.
Service System: Crystal Lonnquist is an upcoming actress from New York.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of modding?
That depends on which engine you are used to working with. For a sandbox engine like Gamebryo, it is learning the hundreds and hundreds of objects. And after that, finding a way to put them together and set them into a new context. For example I built the cubes out of vault floor panels, and I think nobody realized this. Some guys wrote to me: “Wow, a lot of great assets you’ve created for your mod!” And in fact, I’ve created not a single one. So if you are creative enough, you can create awesome looking stuff with that engine. The challenge is: be creative!
SureAI seems like a pretty tight group. How did it come about?
This is a long story, but I will make it short. Back in summer 2003 I worked on this total conversion “Arktwend” for Morrowind. One day I decided to turn on my 56k modem and upload some pictures of the mod on the internet. After I posted them at the German forums, there was a guy called Lukas (one of our current musicians), who joined me. Then we decided: “Now we are two persons, we need a team name,” and he came up with “SureAI.” Later on in 2005, Johannes joined the team (He and Ben had an interview with you in 2007, I guess) and brought in his project “Myar Aranath,” our second Morrowind total conversion. Then we started working together on Nehrim. Since 2006, more and more very skilled guys and girls joined our team to help working on Nehrim, which is an awesome deployment.
Have you played any good mods lately? Any recommendations?
I feel a little bit bad right now, ’cause I know for sure. There are many great mods out there, but when it comes to Bethesda games, I am much more a developer then a gamer. The only thing I do sometimes is browse though the forums and check what’s out there. I am personally more interested in quest mods than anything else. So here is my short mention of German Oblivion story-driven mods (no full release yet, but hopefully there will be an English translation some day):
My recommendation for Fallout 3 is the tool FO3Edit. This tool is very useful if you work a bit unclean in your mod. Used it for Cube Experimental. Another great tool is TES4Gecko. It is an Oblivion tool, but you can also use it to create esm files for Fallout 3. This is also an essential tool which allows the realization of a total conversion like Nehrim.
Finally, how is production on Nehrim progressing?
Very well! It’s in our interest to release the game as soon as possible â€“ there’re just a very few months left until it will come out. To show you our current status you can watch our two world demonstration videos we have uploaded on YouTube.
Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PYs9CWCmTg