Community Interview: Tribal Wars Mod for Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars

April 8, 2010

With the recent release of the Tribal Wars mod for Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars, we thought it would be fun to fling a few questions at the people behind the mod and pick their brains. Tribal Wars artist Alex “Arcanox” Halchuk was kind enough to answer every single last one of them and sheds light on what the mod is all about, its origins, the team behind it, their plans for the future, and much more.

For those who’ve never heard of Tribal Wars, can you give us an overview of what the mod is all about?

Tribal Wars is a total conversion mod for Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars. It was inspired by other sci-fi shooters which involved the premise of CTF battles with futuristic armored soldiers. In this mod each player is fitted with jetpacks and an array of powerful weapons, and each team dukes it out in a match of Capture the Flag. It’s not only the best shooters that determine the balance of each game, but also the most swift fliers as well as strong teamwork that really decides the victor.

What was your original vision for Tribal Wars?

Our vision for Tribal Wars was to assemble a product that draws on some gameplay elements like jetpack flight, and sliding across terrain as a primary means of movement, as well as having missile type projectiles for most of the weapons. There have been other titles that have utilized these ideas in various forms, but really haven’t brought it all together in quite the fashion that we think is best.

Our other objective was to expand on those core concepts and develop a more robust experience around them. There were actually many gameplay elements from ETQW which we believe would work well with our mod, like the objective-based gameplay. Other features from ETQW such as vehicles, capturable spawn points, XP system, and deployable turrets could be included as well. Lastly we wanted to develop a commander type role for fireteam leaders. We felt that the nature of the game could take on a more tactical role, and while the mod may have a lot of open ended action, it’s probably best played when you coordinate with all of your team members. We were hoping to include a way pointing system that would be tied in with the limbo menu. We would also repurpose the targeting laser as a means of issuing commands to your teammates without removing yourself from the action.

Unfortunately due to time constraints we had to remove a lot of our secondary concepts and we settled on developing a much more simplified version of the our original concept. We decided to key in on player movement and combat, and really refine those areas before we continue to add more content.

What type of new weapons/grenades does Tribal Wars have?

We’ve settled on 3 basic weapons for each player. The first is the Ion Rifle which is one of the more useful weapons in the game, primarily because of it’s splash damage capabilities. It’s somewhat similar to the rocket launcher in Quake because you can simply peg the surrounding area of your enemy and still deal damage. If you happen to be a crack shot, you might take a gamble at hitting someone in mid flight, and dealing quite a bit of damage that way.

The Gatling Gun is a high rate of fire weapon that’s good in almost any situation. It’s similar to any sort of support machine gun you’d find in most shooter games. It can be effective up close, or at longer distances. It can be a very good weapon provided that you can be consistent in your targeting.

The Blaster Rifle is what I’d consider the revolver of all of the weapons. It’s designed more for the skilled shooter, and it’s very accurate. The only caveat is that you have to hit your targets directly, and you only have a limited number of shots before the weapon overheats. If you’re in the middle of a battle with someone, drawing this weapon and finishing them off quickly before they even know what hit them is a very viable tactic.

There’s also the classic Grenade which isn’t all too different from the ones in QUAKE Wars. They can be useful for hitting an enemy coming over a hill, or to tag someone hiding around a wall.

Mines are also an important tool to use as well, especially in a defensive capacity. Placing them in doorways and your flag can be very helpful to your team. It’s important to remember that with the number of people flying through the air, often players aren’t paying attention to what’s on the ground, so crafty placement of mines can really be a boon if you use them wisely.

What aspect of Tribal Wars are you most proud of?

Much like any other game developer, I’m just pleased that it’s fun to play. Games are always supposed to be about having fun, and if you have a product that you put together that simply isn’t enjoyable for you or anyone else, then it’s not really served it’s purpose.

Additionally, I should say that I’m fairly pleased with the art style and visuals we were able to put together. I’m primarily an artist and did quite a bit of work on this project and to see it all come together in the end made the creation process very rewarding for me.

How much input have you taken on board from the community?

We actually value people’s opinions about the project and it’s direction. Generally this project has been somewhat secretive over the course of development, and as a product of that, we haven’t been able to get very much feedback initially.

Now that it’s out in the open, we’re certainly willing to listen to others about how the gameplay of the mod could be improved and what sort of features we can add in. We certainly didn’t nail down things in the Beta, and while they were better in the released version, they still need some more work. We’ve actually listened to most of the gameplay related suggestions about the mod and have implemented them into the latest patch which should be released very soon.

How big is the team behind Tribal Wars? Can you give us a quick overview of who’s responsible for what?

I’d describe the team as a very small, but it has some pretty talented and motivated individuals who made this all happen. While there were small contributions from many different people along the way, these are probably the biggest contributors to the project.


Andrew: Did 95% of the work related to player physics, probably the biggest challenge for the project.

FeaRog: Helped implement the new player physics directly into the game and laid the foundations for the new netcode system.

AO: Finished up our new netcode system as well as the framework for a projectile manager system for non-hitscan weapons. Developed the CTF gametype, as well as many other changes to ETQW’s code.

Timestar: Built most of the custom systems that permit you to throw mines, grenades, and even the flag. He also did some work with the gametypes, and adding a bunch of useful scripting states that tie in with a number of different game elements.


Arcanox: Modeled, textured, and animated the character models, weapons, and Armory Station. Did a good portion of the texturing for the levels, as well as designing both of the maps.

Neolight: Provided most of the concept art for the environments, as well as doing a fantastic splash artwork graphic which we use for the main menu and promotional graphics. He also painted the sky dome for Icepick as well.

Level Design:

Chris: Produced most of the BSP work for the mod. Team bases and their interiors were mostly assembled by Chris. He is also responsible for some of the entity placement on the maps.

Acidrain: He did the megatexture work for Chthonic as well as the stuff system.

Dug: He did the megatexture work for Icepick.

How did you guys meet?

We came from varying backgrounds. Most of the people who were involved with the project very early were Tribes enthusiasts who were contacted by myself and we produced most of the groundwork for future development. I drafted all of the game play elements that were required for the project, and we were able to develop a very early build of the game which included basic physics.

Once this very early build was constructed we reached out to the ETQW modding community for some assistance with the mapping and programming. Some of the folks idling in IRC were eventually quite instrumental in getting this project from a rough alpha build to a feature complete state.

Do you have any interesting anecdotes from development?

Andrew published some of his physics work, including a video well before the official announcement of the mod. Needless to say, this turned quite a few heads in the Tribes circles and had many people wondering about the origins of the video.

Some of the earliest builds of a project like this have a sort of mystical quality to them. You can really reminisce at how crude some of your first assets you dropped into the game were. Their simplicity and imperfections gave them a lot of character and made them special.

Tribal Wars was recently released to the wider public for the first time. How does it feel to get your mod out in the open at last?

While I think it’s great that we’ve come this far and released the project for everyone to play, I’m still looking to improve on the project and looking for a lot more refinements. I’m a stickler for details, and there are a number of things that I personally am not satisfied with. There’s quite a bit more pressure to produce fixes and adjustments in a budgeted amount of time.

What can we expect to see from the Tribal Wars team in the future?

In the immediate future, there’s a 1.1 patch that’s going to be released shortly that includes a couple bug fixes and adjustments to the gameplay. Most of the changes have been based on feedback from the community and it should address most of the pressing issues with the mod.

Looking ahead of that, the 1.2 patch is going to include a more ambitious set of goals, but we aren’t entirely set on the specifics of what that might include. There are some programming systems that we’d like to include that should make the networked performance of the mod much better. We were also looking at refining some of the player inventory systems, and preparing those areas for additional content.

Many thanks for Alex “Arcanox” Halchuk for taking the time to answer our questions. If you’ve got any burning questions about Tribal Wars that we didn’t cover here, feel free to post them in the comments.

Interested in finding out more about the mod? Check out the Tribal Wars website!