State of the Workshop #2
By Pan



Welcome to State of the Workshop! In this wonderful issue we'll be discussing Enemy Resources and Custom Enemies. Be they reskins, fully original creations or somewhere inbetween, I've had several modders including Soulmyr, Kommandant Danny, Noam, Urban and Mauritsio give their opinions on this type of resource. What do they think of them? What do they do well and what do they do badly? Find out below! We've got some very indepth opinions for this one and it's a fantastic read.




Mauritsio
Honestly, I struggle to think of an instance in custom campaigns where enemy resources have been used in an interesting way. Then again, I may not have played too much. Now most of the enemy resource suffer from two "problems": they are either directly derivative of an existing Sam enemy or they are too derivative from the Sam art style. Are either of those problems with the resources themselves or the effort put into them by the creator? No, not at all. It starts getting problematic when you want to implement them in an SP/COOP map. On one end, trying to remember all those Biomech re-colors or the Scrapjacks with Lava Golem weaponry becomes troublesome for the player to "micro-manage", especially if you just introduce them once. On another, suddenly coming across a swarm of enemies from a totally different game without properly changing the scene of the level you're in to fit will stand out like a sore thumb.

What I think is needed is a proper balance of mapper and resource creator effort. Take for example, the futuristic variants of the BFE enemies YANexus has been making. Their attacks and aesthetics are so different enough for them to stand out, but the player is familiar with them because they're all based on BFE enemies. Assuming they are nicely balanced, a proper mix of regular and "future" variants of these enemies could add a big Wow moment when the player first encounters them - instead of just "oh look, it's a biomechanoid - but with flamethrowers." (Again, I'm not trying to bash on the efforts made to these re-coloured enemies. They just have different uses.)

As for enemy adjustments - the same thing I said in the previous episode - it's a free country (I hope), so make those Rocketeers fire a dozen cannonballs at once if you so desire.



Soulmyr
Custom enemies have mostly left a bad taste in my mouth. When I see a map that requires an enemy resource pack my expectations immediately drop to the floor. The vast majority of them are painful to look at, don’t really do anything all that interested, and are terribly balanced/utilized.


Let’s start with the most obvious one – a lot of them just look bad. I honestly cannot fathom how people can look at all oversatured ugly Biomechanoid recolors and think “Yeah this is fine”. And let’s not forget all the enemies with player weapons glued onto them. Why, you get such masterpieces like – an arachnoid with a rocket launcher bigger than it’s torso, strapped on the tail. Or a giant arachnoid with rocket launchers which don’t even rotate properly.

But hey it’s not fair to judge a book by it’s cover, and I can look past the kindergarten design of these enemies if they were actually fun to fight. But that’s usually not the case. One of the worst things about custom enemies is how much goddamn health they have. I’m not talking about giant dudes either (although those enemies aren’t good either), I’m talking about regular-sized enemies that have 10 times the HP. There’s nothing fun about a kamikaze that takes 5 rockets to kill. If these enemies had some sort of damage progression, like limbs getting destroyed, or changing behavior and attacks based on HP then maybe it could be an interesting enemy, but I’ve never seen that happen.

Actually this is more of a problem with balance now that I think about it. Health, damage, speed and size aren’t properly balanced and you get enemies which don’t feel fun or fair to fight. But even if their stats are well balanced, a lot of them are really just things that are already there in the base game. Like a beheaded that shoots lasers is a zorg, a hitscan biomech is an arachnoid, a rocket arachnoid is a major bio and so on. So a lot of the custom enemies just end up feeling unnecessary, and only confuse the player because it’s more things to keep track of during the heat of battle.

Now I can sit here and bash on the custom enemies all day, especially the ones that are undeservingly sitting on as the 8th most subscribed item on the workshop but they are not always bad. Custom enemies can really add to the feel of a custom map. Plastic Patrol and Doctor Vortex’s Island of Evil come to mind. BFE Enhanced is a larger project with a considerable amount of custom enemies. I’ve also seen a lot of promise in Danny’s DOOM 2016 enemies or YANexus’ custom BFE enemies. Maybe those will inspire people to be better.


Kommandant Danny
Custom enemies, ah how nice...


Let's begin with checking what kind of enemies we have usually seen so far from SS2 to SS3:
-Enemies with different sizes.
-Enemies with different HP.
-Retextured enemies, mainly colors. May have additional models connected, like a different weapon.
-Enemies with different projectiles/attacks, rarely new animations, new abilities very rare if not none.
Mixes are common, like retextured ones with different HP and attacks etc. .
Many people liked them and it added more variety to maps and mods, but unfortunately time flies and these are becoming boring and stupid.

How could you solve that ? Easily - add more animations (these are very important), sounds, try to change the model/mesh a bit, add custom eye pleasing effects and of course implement completely new abilities people have never seen before.

There is one small problem though - SED lacks proper documentation on everything including advanced AI creation and not many know how to create animations or work around meshes, but let's leave that for now since it can change in the future. This is why I hope to create my own documentation for such a purpose.

Anyways, maybe we can take the Albino Gnaar as an example on how to make enemies way more interesting. Basically it's just a white bigger gnaar that does more damage. What if we added some leap, pound, close/medium/far distance attacks and gave the sounds more growls so it feels like a beast. See, it's not a stupid bigger retexture with different HP anymore, some simple addons made it cooler. Unlickily almost every enemy works like that Albino Gnaar causing them to be boring as hell nowadays.

I personally have met like 3-4 modders since 2014 who created high quality, greatly detailed enemies based on the Serious Sam ones, completely new ones modeled and animated by hand as well as ported ones from other games.

It's as i said before Croteam's fault people find a lot of stuff in SED hard, but also the main reason is the fact modders rarely put a lot of love and time into their projects ending up with mediocre or sometimes even bad content. Learning the Editor takes time, yes, but after you warm up everything starts to become easier and easier.
The only needed thing is patience and effort and boom you create something good that many will enjoy.
Enemies are probably the easiest part of SED so learning that one takes even less time.

Short conclusion - a lot of so called "custom enemies" that we see today are becoming boring and they don't provide cool variety anymore. What we need is a documentation file that will be soon published by me, modders who create enemies to become finally patient, put effort into their work, develop more interesting original ideas for attacks and behaviors (even if someone doesn't have lots of knowledge and the animations aren't super good for the new abilities its's still better than what we got so far)

UrbanDeHuman

I think what qualifies as a great addition to custom enemies is a sheer spectrum of usage that the custom enemies can provide to the mappers and mod creators. Solais' "Ultimate Resource Pack" can definitely count as a great Custom Enemies pack, because not only does it add a big package of custom enemies, but they still can be fitted into the Serious Sam-themed maps/mods. There is a flaw in this, though, because some of said custom enemies are just reskins of already existing enemies, just with different attacks, but for some it works perfectly. Not to mention, I think that URP's Beheaded Firecrackers and Bombermen are a must-have for any SS3-themed map/mod.


What doesn't work as a great addition to the mapper's enemy package are those custom enemies pack which don't fit to Serious Sam's artstyle or gameplay. It's really hard to put them into your map if your map's artstyle doesn't correlate with the custom enemy pack. Harbinger's Quake 1 Enemy Pack quickly comes to mind, because the only good usage that they'll find is in Quake-style maps, which are really niche if they even exist. Another thing that makes mappers not to use them in their maps is the quality of those custom enemies packs. You wouldn't want a poorly made enemy to be in your map. What makes the enemy poorly made or unwanted is: 1. Bad animations 2. Broken or unbalanced attacks 3. Either bad rig or bad models and texture that don't fit into the map's artstyle

If I would've given a suggestion to anyone who wants to make custom enemy resource packs, I would've said that I'd like to see more custom enemies that are more lore-friendly, fitting to Serious Sam's artstyle and basically add quite a good gameplay element to the whole game's formula that doesn't correlate with other elements in a bad way. You have to think smart and careful if you want your custom enemy resource to be usable literally everywhere.



noam 2000


Custom enemy resources is somewhat of a difficult topic to discuss, as the quality between them tends to vary quite a lot, compared to other kinds of resources like weapons. There are definitely great ones, that show a lot of effort put into them and provide new unique attack patterns and make up for excellent new enemies to fight against, such as Danny's upcoming DOOM enemies, and the amazingly creative enemies by YANexus. On the other side though, we have the typical recolored enemy with a different projectile set up for it - and we have a whole ton of them. Not very creative, not a whole lot of effort or thought put behind it and ultimately don't exactly help to create a unique set of variety for enemies.

Truthfully, desgining a new enemy is a much more complicated thing than desgining a weapon resource - you have to think of what attack patterns it's going to use, how does it blend/does it fit in the gameplay, and of course making everything actually work, from setting up the model with all its different animations to setting up the puppet. To create a truly unique enemy, a lot of work is required, so I don't think it's all too surprising people tend to take the easy route to new enemies and just take an existing enemy and edit it just enough to be able to call 'yours'. Admittedly, I do it myself even when I need something new or different in my enemy roster, but don't have the time to spend designing a new enemy from scratch.

Therefore in the end, I think it all comes down to how much you are willing to spend time and effort on your new enemies. SED is just flexible enough to create some pretty crazy ideas for enemies, especially with scripting, so all that is left is for you to persuade these ideas. I think we can all agree that the workshop could benefit from more unique enemies, as we have enough of the generic vanilla edits.




There you have it! Definitely some long winded but fair opinions there. It's abundantly clear that the workshop is in desperate need of more unique experiences. Whilst custom enemies are a great way to learn and try new things - it seems that SED requires people to push that further and thankfully we seem to be getting that.

A big thanks to the modders for taking the time to write for us and also the readers for taking such an interest. The next State of the Workshop will be covering Custom Weapons and Weapon Mesh Edits. We hope you'll join us for that as well!