Even though Team Pank returned to PAYDAY 2 after the micro-transactions were removed, we weren’t long for it. I’m not sure why we stopped playing exactly, although I think it mighta just been how things looked to be moving. The h3h3 stuff was coming down the chute and if John fkn Wick doesn’t belong in the crew, YouTube personalities definitely don’t.
It’s been a struggle since then to find stuff that we can all just agree to play regularly. We’re not the type of crew that wants to game hop. We get into one game and we play it for four years straight. It’s part of why I started making The Take! I’m basically trying to get us back into our comfortable groove. To that end, I recently suggested that we return to Left 4 Dead 2, our first love.
And in order to play L4D2 properly, one has to have their HLDJ binds in order. HLDJ, if you don’t know, allows you to play music and sound effects over the voice chat in games built in Valve’s Source engine. Besides our shared library of Juggernaut, Bitch clips, Team Fortress 2 one-liners, and Randy Savage bon mots, each member of Team Pank has their own set of sound effects that they’ve personally curated. Logan favors R. Lee Ermey quotes from Full Metal Jacket. Simon has a bunch of Zer0 lines. Cyborg tends, I think, to only have a few from various sources, rather than collecting in bulk. And I have a selection of Sideshow Bob clips and what meager offerings I could glean from the soundboard on Rockstar’s website for The Warriors, one of my all-time favorite games. Of course, the one I really wanted wasn’t available there: Cleon’s “That was a love tap, sucka!” which I need for unavoidable friendly-fire incidents.
Now, I have the technology to record gameplay footage and I could have collected a clip that way, but it would have been marred by the accompanying noise of the rest of my warparty brawling in the back alleys, the sounds of Cleon’s fists connecting with some hapless Destroyer’s face, the ambient sounds of a restless Coney Island. You know, all the other stuff going on. I wanted it clean and crisp, no interference. HLDJ’s stringent audio requirements already take a huge toll on a clip’s quality.
Yesterday, though, I found a piece of software that allowed me to finally get that sound clip, beautiful and unobscured by the rest of the soundscape. PSound permitted me the privilege of unpacking all 20,000+ sounds in The Warriors to find the single one I was looking for, but I found the damn thing and now it’ll live in all its 16-bit, 10025 Hz glory in Left 4 Dead 2. I grabbed a few others too: Logan’s favorite Lizzie war cry of “You’re not the kind of pussy we like!” and Swan’s “Why don’t you tie a mattress to your back?” I’ll have to go back in later for Virgil’s “Pah-dy pah-dy pah-dy” and Cowboy’s quip about getting a chinstrap for his hat though.
Anyway, what does all this have to do with The Take!?
Access to assets!
A thing I learned from my participation in the Team Fortress 2 fandom was that fanworks can promote your game better than the largest ad budget and give it a longevity that mere updates can’t hope to provide. One way to foster those fanworks is to make as much of the assets as possible accessible to the fans. If your fans have access to the sounds, the models, the music, the story, all the parts, then they can use those parts to create more for them to engage with.
Mind you, TF2 wasn’t so open originally. At least, not without some work on the user’s part. In order to collect sound effects and voice lines from TF2 (or any Source game) in the bad old days, you had to use GCFScrape. But because it was possible to dig into the code with that tool, you had people making song remixes, hilarious dubs, and cross-pollinating within Valve’s other IP for comedic effect.
Let me tell you though, collecting voice clips for my HLDJ binds was a lot fkn easier once they started just cataloguing that shit on the wiki.
By contrast, Overkill seemed to purposely obscure their voice clips to prevent people from having any sort of fun with them. There was a tool back then that could unpack them, but they still all had filenames like “9q97oieuf98wu4phtp49ntp98v4nt”, were in no particular order, and a good third of them didn’t play anything when opened. (The Warriors‘s sound clips were merely numbered, but were organized according to character, thankfully). It wasn’t until well into PAYDAY 2‘s life that someone got enough of a hair up their ass about it to dig through all those files to find us something to work with.
And the difference was clear. I think PAYDAY could have had the same longevity and relevance TF2 did (ignoring all its other terrible design choices), if they had made more stuff accessible rather than trying to lock it down. PAYDAY’s characters were just as open-ended as TF2’s, they started getting enough personality to actually work with after HoxOut, and people were fkn THIRSTY for more content. (That’s another thing: if you want people to create fanwork, you have to give them something to think about. PAYDAY: The Heist didn’t give you much to work with personality wise, save for Hoxton’s accent and Wolf’s endearments (which is why people went so crazy over Houston, incidentally). HoxOut gave us the characters’ relationships and opinions, which raises Questions. Fanwork is about answering Questions).
And to be clear, this isn’t just about sound effects. Almost every aspect of PAYDAY was harder to access, largely because it had a fairly small fandom. The smaller the fandom, the fewer people who are gonna have the know-how to get those resources to the rest of them. TF2 might not have been wide open in the beginning, but it already had a large enough following just by virtue of being a Valve game that enough people could get the references and assets the rest of the fandom needed to create the fanart, fic, and everything else that sucked more and more people into the game. It was a self-perpetuating circle that is still, to a diminished degree, rolling along to this day. PAYDAY took a lot longer to get large enough to have enough hackers involved in fandom to give us access.
The more extra-curricular content there is for your fans to engage with – and the more people to keep each other excited about it – the longer the life of your game will be.
tl;dr, it is my plan to give you as much as I am able to provide, right out the gate. I don’t want you to ever think to yourself in regards to my game, “Man, I sure wish I could draw these characters, but there’s no good references of the models, golly gee golly damn, I guess I’ll just draw some furry porn* instead.”
P.S. Game’s almost rebuilt. Just putting a few things back in order like kicking people from your lobby and refining the SWAT AI. Then a demo.
*Get dat dosh.