Mod on the Spot - Serious Box Solid
By Pan

Welcome to the fifth (and special!) episode of "Mod on the Spot" - this time I, Pan, will be writing about the time I've spent with "Serious Box Solid" and its sequel "Serious Box Solid 2"!

Serious Box Solid has always been an important mod to me. Not because of the series it came from per se, but more because of what I wanted it to accomplish. As most people can tell from my modding history, I find it very important to push what a game can do when it comes to modding. With Warcraft 3 you could do anything you wanted with it. I feel the same way for Sam games despite how hardcoded they can be. Be it with S! Kart or Serious Escape or any other project of mine. I just want to see what can be done in Sam and what people will have fun trying out and playing at events.

And I think Serious Box Solid is the epitome of that dream. A horde based arcade shooter turned into an asymmetrical competitive multiplayer game. That's pretty far from the game it's based on and there's been plenty of struggles to get it there in the first place. I remember the reason I started working on the project. Metal Gear Solid Online had been taken down and was dying out. The latest Metal Gear Solid wasn't going to have any online components in it (at the time) so it seemed obvious what my next passion project could be and Finzy felt the same. It was quite a struggle to figure out how to make anything work like Metal Gear Online did considering the differences in genre but we found a way to imitate most things. I think working on a few projects in the past, like our DM mods and the Ape Escape campaigns, which had helped regulate our work flow in those early days of SBS.

For Finzy, working on Serious Box Solid came from him playing a minigame in Ape Escape 3 - Mesal Gear Solid - in which a monkey based on Snake must infiltrate a warehouse filled with other monkeys. Not only did this spark his interest in Metal Gear Solid but it was also the basis of "Fort Box Warehouse", using a similar layout for some sections of the map. Perhaps we should think about bringing some Mesal Gear love into SBS2 in the future.

Early testing of Fort Box and the Codec.

SBS 1 had humble beginnings for sure. It had 1 mechanic, crawling, and regular Sam elements. The mod was a little archaic in development where things were added as we thought of them in our mini team meetings. Codecs for distraction, box disguises and the such came a little bit later in development. Seeing what SBS is now in comparison to its early days is really telling. It had really come into its own over the time of its development. If only the BFE Total conversion style and the workshop itself didn't make that such an awful pain. And since the mod got so damn big it got hard to keep track of requirements and additions. Hell, not even that, but we had to experiment with a lot of mechanics to see if they'd work and when they didn't work out it could be quite disheartening. But we were also surprised. SBS has always been skill based and luck based, especially with maps like Tanker.

I genuinely thought people would hate how you had to learn and adapt to the parachute to land on the map but it ended up being appealing and the SBS pros ended up loving that map. (Thank god!) The same can be said for the Snake vs Snake mode which seemed more well liked than previously expected. With maps like Showdown with tense stealth based sniper engagements. Kerotan Rescue was a game mode I personally liked but unfortunately never picked up any fans. Can't win them all. But I do love hearing that frog croak!

SBS2 with working Snake Sense and new maps.

I also made my first map from the ground up without any ports for SBS - "Shadow Moses". It was unfortunately the worst map in the SBS line up but I am glad I made the effort of making my own map. It's a great way to learn what does and does not work and gives you the much needed experience to create something better. Never be afraid to take that first step with map making, you'll be thankful you did. Finzy made the first map, Fort Box Warehouse, from the ground up for the mod.

It's still amazing to see how it went from Alpha to Beta to SBS 1's final release. And now seeing how it has evolved with SBS 2 is such a nice feeling. Even Rassvet Jungle has evolved in SBS2 but you know we're keeping those crazy crocodiles. It will be worth investigating if SBS 2 will ever get a campaign. People seemed to like the Virtual Missions that we had from the original SBS but they were hard to make and the Sam Enemy AI doesn't make being 'properly' stealthy very easy. But hey, who knows. 

First tests of Tanker and Snake vs Snake.

The Snakes have always been a contentious class for SBS. People either love playing them or hate playing them and I believe that's mostly attributed to the fact that you couldn't use your favourite models on that team unless I specifically went and made them compatible. This was an unfortunate side effect of the Total Conversion traits of the original release. But thankfully with SBS2 it's much easier to make your own custom model and if people don't have it then the model still works fine and doesn't leave you at a disadvantage. I'm thankful for that as it was one of the most glaring issues for the original. And now that Snakes have "Snake Sense" it's so much easier to get on that team and know exactly what to do.

That's not to say Guards don't have it good. Without team chat it's always so difficult to coordinate with one another without letting a Snake know you're on their case. With "Alert Mode" you can now signal to all guards from anywhere on the map that you've found someone. Ryason55 has worked very hard on these additions and without him SBS2 wouldn't be as special as it is. He's truly made it the best the mod could ever be and I'll always be thankful. And hey, sequels need new and improved stuff! The old SBS1 models had tears and bad bone assignments on them at every corner, a side effect of my amateurish approach to modding at the time. Whilst I'm still an amateur at best I know I've definitely improved and you'll see that in almost every model in SBS2. Better texturing and bone assignments and no rips and tears. I've also decided to use high poly models and all Metal Gear characters will use the roughly same art style for the sake of consistency, fan models not included of course. There's no way I can make a VR Headset wearing Raccoon fit in with Solid Snake.

Middle East Warzone and Peace Island

The future of SBS 2 seems bright. People are making their own models for it so that they can enjoy it more and the maps all seem to work. It's very unfortunate that the release event was plagued with an FPS dropping bug that the testers and I did not know existed. But with that fixed hopefully the mod will be much more enjoyable to play and run a lot better. When we know they all work I look forward to adding more maps, gadgets and utilities. Speaking of gadgets though, how nice is it that we can have proper Stealth Camouflage now thanks to HD's items being included in Fusion? And all those foresty trees and grass models for Rassvet based maps? So many new ways to improve the sneaking experience. I can only hope some people may be inspired to make their own maps for the mod.

Either way, Serious Box Solid and its sequel wouldn't be anywhere as 'good' as it is without the help of 7Smoke and its testers. We've had a lot of old members who used to play leave the Sam community as a whole but I haven't forgotten them as they helped make one of my biggest projects flourish in my eyes. Serious Box Solid may not be for everyone but it makes me happy to work on and see being played even if it's only a tiny bit. And that's the best outcome I could have hoped for.

The Serious Box Solid 2 Release Event!