Mod on the Spot - 7Smoke Tennis 4
By Mauritsio

Welcome to the eight episode of Mod on the Spot! It's the series that alternates between having an external view on the mod from an author, or a retrospective by the creator itself - this time, it'll be a little bit of both. We're looking back on the development and impact of one of the more special Serious Sam campaign mods there is - of course, our very own 7Smoke Tennis Project, in particular, the fourth edition!

When I think about Tennis, the very first thing that comes to mind is the levels and work put into the fourth project. I think 4 was always the one that was the biggest deal among the general Serious Sam community. At the time we were doing something (14 levels in a single campaign) that no other mod could replicate. The previous mappacks could only gather six people tops. Of course, Tennis was a lot different then than it is now, what with the 2018 project going for a much higher quality standard. There are a lot of lessons learned in the original four mappacks - mostly about level design, and team-oriented work, which we carried over into the 2018 mappack.

When you see this, you knew you were in for a good time.

A little history now. People keep asking about the "strange" name given to the mappacks. What does this even have to do with Tennis? The only thing we see is some guy covering the place with bullets, not tennis balls. Is this all just a dream version of Wimbledon?
No, it isn't, obviously.
The name is derived from the "YouTube Poop Tennis" videos. Two or more collaborators work on a video series - person 1 makes video 1, then person 2 makes video 2 continuing the story, and after that person 1 does video 3, so on so on... (Unrelated, but this one was always a favorite of mine).
And that was the idea for the first three mappacks, which noam 2000 organized back to back in just a year. The "original trilogy" of Tennis was, as is to be expected, slightly a big mess - we didn't really know what we were doing with the theme of the campaign, which shows mostly in Tennis 2. Since we were young and naive, we didn't see what was wrong with it until the very end. Our biggest mistake is pretending that this was a big deal for Serious Sam and modding in general, when in reality, it was just another custom campaign in the pile. But in the end the levels were still enjoyable!

Nobody ever let go of this exploit in Tennis 2...

Tennis 4 is when we dared to pull out the big guns. After a break, and some doubts whether we even wanted to keep going with all this, the development plan for the fourth project was announced - and something strange happened. Perhaps because of the longer absence, Tennis 4 gathered 15 interested mappers to take part in the creation! While the final release only had 14, this was incentive for us to pull out the really big guns. We started being extra lenient with deadlines and gave plenty of people more working days than they needed (and sometimes deserved), paid closer attention to ensuring a cohesive story (which was still mostly held together with duct tape), held one another increasingly accountable for design decisions (in the areas that REALLY mattered, anyway), and introduced voice acting for the first time to the series (with mixed results). In the end, the mod received positive and mixed reception overall - there were some genuinely good reactions in there despite all the errors we blatantly made and ignored. Seems like a few of our maps even caught the attention of Croteam!
And if it seems like I'm being too negative about the specifics of this project, I'm not! A lot of people enjoyed T4 and that's something you can't take away. Plus, it was rather integral to 7Smoke's history. The takeaway is that we're accepting our mistakes now, and embracing them all at once to make Tennis 2018 as excellent as we can make it. It's surely going to be a coup de grĂ¢ce for "7Smoke modding" - if that's something that even exists.

An easter egg mural from Tennis 4, commemorating its 14 collaborators.

Of course the best Tennis 4 moment was that release event in March 2016. The wars between the two servers, which carried over into the Blue 2018 release event, the constants ringing of "blocked, there's probably a mechanism nearby" in our ears and maps breaking left and right giving hilariously unintentional results - I'd say it made up for almost every mistake we made along the way and every complication (especially the times when Noam had several mental breakdowns during development). Almost, because there's some things that can't be forgiven. Such as a certain blooper level.

It's Solgar!