What could you do in seven years? Work towards a doctorate? Start your own fast-food empire? Get in line and wait for Duke Nukem Forever? Or would you spend that time making a Deus Ex mod?

The Nameless Mod by Off Topic Productions is a tongue-in-cheek look at online communities which is based on – you guessed it – the original Deus Ex game. Oh, you little sleuth, you! It’s also apparently really, really cool, having received numerous positive reviews and thousands of downloads in the tentative couple of months that it has been on the market thus far. One could hazard that anything less would be gravely disappointing – the better part of a decade went into this mod’s creation – but it’s still quite encouraging to see success stories like this.

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Goth girl? This MUST be cyberpunk.

The Deus Ex modding community isn’t nearly as large or prominent as, say, the Unreal or Half-Life mod groups, but because it’s based around this decade’s Most Awesome Freaking Game Ever™, there’s a lot of loyalty and enthusiasm alongside the stench of coffee and general unwashed-ness that accompanies most developers. And when you gather enough enthusiasm, know-how, and raw manpower, you end up with what’s called a “total conversion” mod – an entire rehash of the original game engine with new sounds, graphics, and game rules. The Nameless Mod is one such venture, promising at least 30 hours of unique gameplay in a built-from-scratch game universe which is so extensive that it actually outweighs the original Deus Ex game.

So, how did the team manage to pull together such an enormous project and keep themselves motivated over the seven long years that it took them to complete it? In this Gamasutra interview, some of the mod’s creators go into detail about the creative process and the challenges involved in making a mod with a development time that’s longer than the average AAA commercial game.

"What the hey? Where'd those giant floating letters come from?"

We worked very hard to establish a community around the game,” said Lawrence “Trestkon” Laxdal, the mod’s producer. “To be sure, we did a lot of internal back patting, but nothing beats encouraging words from fans anticipating your work.”

What can we learn from TNM? Two things, probably: for a start, the fact that a game is old doesn’t stop it from being ripe for modding. For example, a great deal of Unreal Tournament 2004 mods are still being developed to this day, despite its comparative age – much to the delight of a whole whack of mod fans. Secondly, there’s nothing more important than the backing of a dedicated team and an enthusiastic community that just wants to have fun.

The mod weighs in pretty steeply for us bandwidth-conscious South Africans (it’s a little under one gigabyte), but if you have the megs to spare you can get it over here. Also, be sure to read the Gamasutra interview if you want more details on the developers – it’s an interesting, educational look at the challenges they faced during their labour of love.

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