Interview with LaroLaro: The TF2 Contributor Extraordinaire

Hectic Glenn

Site Director
Staff member
Aug 8, 2004
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[br]The most recent surge of new content for Team Fortress 2 was The Shogun Pack released a fortnight ago. The pack contained 8 new items all made by the talented community favourite, LaroLaro. Also behind the homewrecker and the tank buster polycount pack, he is the most successful contributor to TF2 other than Valve themselves![br]I managed to grab some time with LaroLaro to ask him about experiences with Valve, the Shogun pack and his thoughts on how TF2 has changed.[br]Interview follows -

[br]Glenn: Your latest work, The Shogun Pack, last week. Who did you work with on this project and what was your brief?[br]

LaroLaro: Back in October last year, I was approached by Sega (SOA) asking if I was available to create some cross-promotional items for TF2, to promote their soon to be released game, Total War: Shogun 2. Obviously, this was an amazing opportunity pretty much impossible to turn down, so I replied with the expected fan-boy enthusiasm.[br]Not only is Sega a big name but this gave me a free ticket to get a whopping 8 items into TF2, completely sliding over the brutal rejection of contributing items to TF2 normally. After a looong hiatus, 4 months later, I was given the go ahead to start the item production for 8 items in total - 4 weapons, 4 hats.[br]The brief was pretty simple, I was given a list of items by Sega: "Kunai, Katana, War Banner, War Fan, Top Knot, Ninja Mask, Geisha Hair and Kabuto" and a handful of promotional art to get into the mind frame.[br]

So you designed the items from scratch yourself and were given full creative freedom?[br]Apart from the ideas, yes I did![br]


As usual, your content looks exceptional. How long has it taken you to produce these 8 items and what kind of feedback have you had?
Thank you! I was given roughly a month to complete the items, so that gave me a good 2-3 days to complete each item from scratch - the concept art, model, UV, texture, compiles and a number of revisions, x 10 models in total.[br]This workload had me bouncing off the walls with the deadline creeping, so I worked a good 16 hours a day for a straight solid month. Am I sick of seeing my items? You betcha.[br]In terms of feedback, a Sega employee and I conversed over Steam chat. Sega were very swift and responsive, allowing me to get on with the work without the usual long winded back and forth over emails.[br]More excitingly, I got some rare response from the man himself, Mr Robin Walker. He had me reeling with his compelling words of wisdom, things like "Great" and "Thanks".[br]

Some people have said "TF2 has too many items" and that TF2 is becoming too watered down. Some of this anger has even been directed at yourself, what would you say in response to those comments?[br]

I play TF2 a great deal and played from the very start, so I can completely understand what people are saying.[br]However, I would like the players to understand the situation that the contributors are thrown into when getting their items in TF2, especially before hurling abuse at them. Contributors are completely under the mercy of Valve, contributors NEVER get a say on game mechanics and/or weapon stats. That is Valve?s job. You send an item off to Valve, they can do whatever they want with it, change its name, change the class it was meant for, its textures, the compiles and the way its placed on the class, give it a low price in the store, make it expensive as hell, give it UP stats, give it OP stats, anything.[br]


So the blame can't really be pointed at any contributor, unless its a specific visual thing. Then fair enough haha, that's their problem. I personally feel like my Tankbuster items are too dark, but is there anything I can do about that now? Sorry guys. Contributors are just players who got lucky and managed to go a step further to put their creations into one of their favourite games.[br]As for the beautiful examples of keyboard poetry I receive, "F*CK YOU A**HOLE, GO DIE IN A DITCH, GREAT JOB ON MAKING THE SOLDIER OP YOU PR*CK"...The stats are not my fault and there really isn?t anything I can do about my submissions now. While heartwarming, people are better off pointing their guns towards Valve, because it?s the only chance there is of getting something done about it. The only thing you are going to squeeze out of me will be the odd chuckle or two.[br]

In the recent GDC presentation, Valve said that "Using the same proven microtransaction system that supports the Mann Co. Store and ?Mann-conomy? in Team Fortress 2, you can ship more content to your customers as frequently as you like." Do you feel that this kind of system will work for games that don't have the level of popularity that TF2 has?[br]

Personally, no I don?t. It?s a very complicated matter and I can only say anything from a consumer?s perspective and as someone that benefits from it directly.[br]
I feel that micro transactions is just a previously unused business ploy that consumers are only going to clock onto sooner or later, unnecessarily charging the player for things that could otherwise be completely free.[br]I think Valve only pulled it off because they had already got the fish on their hooks. For smaller games and indies, eagerly waving your open hand in front of new customers is just going to put them off. So only those titles and companies that have a good respectable track record like Valve are going to be able to benefit.[br]For games that go down the micro transaction route, however ?honest? the reason is, I feel like it?s just a huge declaration that the given game just wants money and that?s it. There will be no way to shake that label and it will be the underlining the atmosphere of the game, negatively affecting its purity.[br]There?s no doubt people can still have a decent relationship with a game like that, but those players will still be keeping an eagle eye on what?s going on and taking every chance they can that doesn?t require real world money. Now I don?t know about you guys, but I just simply want to enjoy a game without having to open my wallet every 5 minutes.[br]


I regularly bump into you on the GTFO Gaming TF2 servers and can see you have a genuine love for TF2, has this helped you in wanting to develop content for the game and support Valve?[br]

Being a freelance illustrator/concept artist, I was initially drawn to TF2 because of its wonderful art style and setting and back then I found it very creatively inspiring.[br]Even a year before the contribute page went up I had created a sledgehammer skin for the Axtinguisher, which later came to be the Homewrecker in the first community item additions. After that, I created the Tankbuster pack simply for my love of TF2 and the chance of the items getting in-game, a box of Valve swag and a signed poster ( after which 8 months down the line I never received. *COUGH ) not knowing my items would be sold further down the line.[br]While I love TF2 and its great community, unless I get asked directly to create items for TF2 again, I don't think I?m going to submit anything anytime soon. It appears to be getting increasingly harder to get your items added to TF2 from contributions and being a freelancer, I?m not a fan of speculative work and leaving things like labour up to the chance of payment. Over at the Polycount forums there is 200+ page thread of genuinely great inspiring work, most of which, is just getting overlooked everyday and that just puts me right off.[br]

Hopefully your success will inspire others to produce their own content. What tools do you use and where would you recommend someone starts?[br]

For establishing yourself as a modeller, practice a great deal before you start contributing to TF2. It's not something you can just learn overnight and like everything creative, it requires great deal of passion, determination and undoubtedly a lifetimes devotion to the field. Not just a random whim you had while on the toilet.[br]
In terms of 3D software it really doesn?t matter, no one program is better. Personally, I use Maya, namely because it?s the first one I came across when I was learning. There are a number of 3D programs you can use, for example: Maya, 3ds Max and Softimage XSI. However, because these are professional 3D packages, they all cost $3000+/?3000+. So I?d recommend to beginners to work with the trials or free 3D software like Blender to test the waters before committing financially to a industry standard program.[br]


How can people support your work and contributions to TF2?[br]
As with every contribution to TF2's Mann Co. Store, The creators get a generous 25% royalties of all sales and bundles of their items from Valve. So if you enjoy my work, I would be totally honoured if you supported me and grabbed them in the store.[br]

Lastly, what is next for you? More TF2 or new projects on the horizon?
Well, it?s been a very long on-going passion of mine to create my own game. Thankfully, the money I have received from my TF2 endeavours have enabled my project to be financially secure, allowing me to focus on getting a game done and out there. If you want to know more on the matter take a look at my blog! Pardon the nekkid ladies -[br]I?d like to give a huge thanks to Valve for supporting the contributors so generously, enabling me to pursue my aspirations in life. Thanks to the players that have supported me so far and graced my work with such kind words and thanks for the great interview Glenn! See you over at the GTFO servers sometime![br]Glenn
You could just view it in a nicer format from our articles section! I was kind and fixed that up for you anyway :p
Interesting read.

Thanks for the interview, Glenn!