World of ModCraft: Discussing World of Warcraft and Its Mods | Interview with Zensunim

I want you to think of your favorite online game. Now imagine the things you wish you could fix about it yourself. Well, there is a thriving mod community for Blizzard’s popular MMO World of Warcraft that has done exactly that. This time around, I sat down with my good friend Zensunim, the creator behind various Warcraft mods, including the GTFO mod, to discuss how he got started with modding the game and why it is necessary.

So Zen, Care to Introduce Yourself?

“So I’ve been a mod author since vanilla WoW came out.Not immediately on launch though, so around 2004.  But the year after, when I started seeing the mod scene take off. And I was actually really impressed by the extensible nature that can be brought into an MMO. So I started developing my own mods for the community to use.”

Obviously, You’ve Been Playing for a Long Time. And to do a Custom Mod Would Require Some Kind of Knowledge, Where Did You Get That From?

“So I’ve been a programmer for, I guess, commercially for about six years before playing World of Warcraft. So I’ve never actually programmed in the scripting language that Warcraft had. But there were a lot of actual books and such that people have written in Wikis that explains, you know, this is how we make an add-on. And here’s the, you know, API that well has provided that you can hook into to make your add on work. But usually, to begin with, I take an existing add-on that I like or do something similar to what I want it to do and I just look at the code in there.

Oh, Blizzard requires all add-ons to be open source format, where people could just read the code that’s in there. So that’s a nice thing for anyone who just wants to get started, look at what an existing add-on is and make a modification to it or see how it works and tinker around with it. And eventually you start learning enough that, okay, maybe I can make my own version of this add-on, or I can make my own that does something that this other add-on doesn’t do. And or maybe even fix a few bugs that you found in this add-on then tell the add-on author, hey, I fixed this bug change, you know, these line numbers. And that’s typically how open source communities work. And I see a lot of that, in the WoW add-on community, of people collaborating and helping each other out.”

For Those That Don’t Know, What Exactly is the GTFO Mod That You’ve Developed?

“So the mod just makes a loud sound when you’re standing in something that you’re not supposed to be standing in. And as I was saying, before, the game does a very poor job telling you, it has gotten better over the years. But certainly, in the beginning, it does a very poor job telling you that you are standing in bad stuff. Originally, I developed this mod, for the Illidan fight during the Burning Crusade.

So during that fight, I was an offensive tank. And my job was to actually tank a fire ad that comes halfway in the fight. And I need to stand in one type of fire but not stand in a different type of fire. So the animation of the fire didn’t match the actual zone of damage that you can stand in. So this is where I was saying it has taken a very artistic approach to showing where the bad things are, as opposed to a more exacting one as opposed to just painting a line on the ground. Now it’s a big, fuzzy flame of fire, but you don’t quite know where the cutoff line is. And if you try to play it safe, you end up running out of room and, you know, causing issues for the fight. So you have to play very efficiently. And yet, be careful what kind of fire as well, I couldn’t tell. So I just made this add-on. So it would buzz at me if I was standing in the wrong type of fire. And, you know, honestly, that was just good enough for me.”

Not a Question Here, But Wanted to Separate Out the Moment GTFO Became More Public

“And what turned it into a public mod was we recruited a new healer. And we couldn’t get back to the old end fight because the council fight before had the new healer kept standing in the various ground effects. Because she was too busy looking at healing bars. She couldn’t even look at her own feet at times, and she would end up dying.

And the raid wanted to kick her out. They were going to give her one last chance. But after you know, spending an entire evening wiping on this one boss, and they’re like we’re supposed to be working on Illidan and not supposed to be working on this boss. And so I decided to modify my add-on to not only just warn about the Illidan fight, but now warn about this particular council fight. I put it together and I just sent it to her privately and she just put this on her computer and thank goodness she trusted me on this one. And yeah, she installed it. We did the next raid night. She came in there. As soon as she heard the buzzer she knew to move right away. And yeah, we were able to defeat that encounter one shot because she wasn’t dying anymore.”

I Learned That GTFO Could Be Used as an Accessibility Option

“And actually, I had some people who were almost completely blind or completely blind tell me that my add- on helped them to play casually with their friends because it kind of lets them know that you know, their friends already have to tell them over Discord. Hey, you got to move a little bit over here, you follow me that sort of thing. But this gives them just a little bit of extra reaction time to get to know the fight because they can’t see any of the visual stuff on screen”

Now, I’ve Seen You Stream Working On Your Mod When New Content Drops. But Can You Go Over a Bit of How You Actually Work On Updating the Mod When New Content is Released?

“So this is a multi-step process that makes it really difficult to do, again, because Blizzard doesn’t make it easy on me in terms of identifying what you’re supposed to stand in and what you’re not supposed to stand in. And on top of that, they throw in all those various conditions, like you’re supposed to stand in it when this happens, or when X happens if you have this debuff or not that debuff or you’re this class, you’re supposed to stand in it. And so I have to personally go into these various encounters, and I try to do that on, let’s say, the public test builds to make sure that I’m able to go on there and test it before it comes out on live. 

Because people don’t really expect the add-on to be working on the, you know, on the PTR. But,  I tried to go in there, try to find out, okay, this is what the fights are going to be like, and then I can at least have it prepared. 

So when the new patch drops or something, I can have several of them ready to go. But they’re  very often times that it’s not the same as when I got to test it. So they made changes, so I have to quickly go in there and fix any bugs. So I’m usually very busy on patch week, trying out all the new content and trying to get as far as I can into these things just so I can test my add-on and push out updates.”

Now You’ve Told Me a Story Before about Somebody Related to Blizzard Actually Using Your Mod. Do.You Remember That Story?

“That’s J. Allen Brack’s father. So the President of Blizzard’s father uses my add-on. And actually just from going to Blizzcon and talking to the developers there, I’ve learned that roughly 50% of the Blizzard employees that play WoW actually use GTFO. So that was really neat to hear.”

Signing Off

These quotes are mainly some of the highlights of our conversation. Zensunim and I have known each other for quite a few years and had a rather lively conversation about different MMO’s. Talking about various mechanics that exist within these MMO’s. I would strongly suggest that you give this interview a full listen as it was really fun for both of us to actually do this. Man, I certainly have to sit down with Zen again in the future to have a focused talk just about MMO mechanics. Let me know if that is something you folks would be interested in.

I want to take this time to give a big thank you to Zensunim for sitting down with me for this interview. It was really interesting to hear both his insight into the world or Wow and the creation of various add-ons that he has made. The versatility of WoW and its mod community will never cease to amaze me. Make sure to check out Zen’s mods if you haven’t. Also, give him a follow on Twitter and check him out on Twitch. He really loves his Hitman games and you might even catch him working on GTFO for the next update.

Twitter | Twitch | GTFO Mod | SmartQuest Mod

Join the conversation!!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Big Coffee Energy!