WAW Post-Mortem

“It is with much regret that I have been watching from a distance as a battle has raged on; I cannot stay quiet any longer. A few days ago one of my friends brought to my attention that there was a lot of discussion going on over in the WAW forums. The team has opted to take a hiatus (meaning break – of course) from the world of HL2 modding, on the grounds that they were not enjoying it. I have no qualms with this idea, and in fact applaud them for having the balls to say such bullshit and expect many of the folks they ran over in their quest for that big fun ballroom in the sky. Seeing as no one provided any sort of post mortem, and even I skimped on the dictation from that period of nearly 6 months that I was working with them, I provide you with my side of the story. I hope It’s not taken too bad, although I really don’t care for feelings at this point.”

– Robert Chatman April 4th, 2007

Team Members

I approached WAW back in August 2006, via email, asking them if they were looking for another coder. I had taken some time off of HL2 since working with the Birthstar Frontline folks, and felt that I had straightened my head out enough that I could endure fighting through the chaos of the source client and server dll’s. I was accepted; few questions beyond “do you know C++?” were posed, and like a cannonball, I was blown into meeting with the team and into their development structure.

I met Doug (Afro Joe) first, a very nice guy at the time – he seemed to have jokes and absurd comments for just about every occasion. Doug has some serious personality issues, and from what I saw, is just an all around lazy oaf. He was ridden well into the ground, and deserved every moment of it; he brought it on himself.

MadDog was introduced as a concept artist at one point and we seemed to get along as well. He had joined only days after I had. He was also the only person I never got onto a first name basis with. Probably the only even keeled person, although fairly opinionated, he was definitely a good addition to the team.

Johnny (Olah) Salazar, amazed to find me, seemed like a bit of a dick, although it was clear that he knew his shit. For the last couple months I would spend hours reading his code, and idolizing him. I learned in late January that he was actually not a dick. He was just as confused and frustrated as I was.

Alex Jordan was the lead, and my intermediary. For the first four months I really didn’t interact with anyone other than Alex, which began to set off warning buzzers around mid November when I started seeing lots of grounds for change in the group, namely in the way management was taking place, Allow me to elaborate.

Structure

When working on a mod team these days, often small (between 2 and 10 people), pressure is something that needs to be shared. Imagine the word mod floating in space, not acted on by any forces (forces being gravity, no rocket engines, no strings or liquids, and most importantly no people looking for it to be done). In this system, the mod will float aimlessly and have no issues. Once you begin to add forces to this system you need to make sure you start adding people to hold it up. Now imagine ten folks stretching on a planets surface. These ten people are standing there getting ready for a mod which falls onto their shoulders. These ten people may find it easy to manipulate this large word around in their environment fairly well. Let’s say one of the guys says fuck it and gives up, now there are nine people. The word may still be easy to manipulate, but eventually there is a breaking point. This point where the mod becomes nearly impossible to manipulate is when people begin having issues and struggling.

It was nearly exactly this situation that I watched go on in the WAW team. Olah had been there nearly a year and a half when I started there, and was far beyond fed up. He had watched the crew fall apart. One member in particular Afro Joe, the supposed Animator, was a particular bottleneck. Olah tried to explain to JoeDoug countless times that he was “holding the team up” and “needed to get in gear”, only to be ignored and scoffed at. I am a big believer in taking care of home before inviting others over to play, so you should really understand that this was throwing off a number of lights and warning buzzers in my head; telling me that things needed to get straightened out, and fast before a real prospect came along that screwed up WAW.

I began probing my friends, east and west, to see if I could track down an animator for the project. Time and again they shot me down, being either too busy or for some reasons unknown to myself, outright refusing. It was not until far later that one of them actually explained to me what was going on and I had to take up arms. Around December 14th I had my third meeting with Alex, Trying to beg him to get things in gear. I had noticed a consistant trend of the game lagging. There was a discussion that I had with Olah where he warned me that I shouldn’t push myself too hard because there wasn’t any thing aside from code moving. I stood in awe, watching the antics that were going on inside WAW and amazed that nothing was being done about it. So much was out dated, and mind you I was still new blood, never really accepted fully into the group because I had different views on things. Regardless, I gave WAW close to 20 hours a week through to December.

Communication & Documentation

IRC was their main means of communication. Everyone basically idled in one/all of the WAW channels: #WAWTEAM, #WAWADMINS, #WorldAtWar. It was actually rather strange the first time meeting everyone, but I was certain that I wasn’t going to make it with them very far. I have a long history of fighting with IRC ops and debating things with people in chat rooms at all hours of the night. I stand by my convictions even in the face of an op with nothing more than the ability to kick me to restore what every operator in IRC is looking for – peace and quiet.

This situation was a little different, however. I was the op, and one of three contributing developers in the WAW team. It shouldn’t be difficult to see that I would be irritated when Afrojoe broke ranks and began bad mouthing me in our public channels. Another character in this story is a douche bag that has sprouted the fingers to type asinine shit about anything in order to provoke a response, by the name of Rob_F. The other players that need to be mentioned at this point are StandingCow – one of the WAW moderators, Dan (SWATJester_os) Rosenthal – the only military advisor, Alexei (Sirrus) Popov, and a few IRC/Forum Ass hats with nothing better to do than complain about me forty two hours a week.