DasTactic aka DAS24680 – Distant Worlds: Universe
Welcome to week six of our Monday Modness series. Modders have many skills, and some of them utilize those skillsets to reach their audience in unique ways. This week we’re going to interview DasTactic, formerly known as DAS24680. I’ve been watching his YouTube videos for a good long while. What I didn’t know is that he has also modded a couple of games, and now, we get to find out what he did. Enjoy.
Question: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Answer: My name is Darren Sprott, and in my professional life, I work as a creative consultant for clients in the areas of advertising, marketing, corporate identity, and web development. Before starting my business, I worked in a number of advertising agencies as an art director and creative director.
In my private life, I am married (we just had our 30th wedding anniversary in December) with three lovely girls. The girls have now all left home so my wife and I are “empty nesters.” We live on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast [in Australia] and my main outside interest is surf lifesaving.
Computer games have variously been both a fun hobby and, I guess, an unhealthy addiction over the years. I feel I have the balance right now because I no longer have withdrawal issues if I don’t play a computer game every day. I’ve even been able to travel without a laptop in recent years.
My first computer was a Tandy TRS-80 that I bought back in 1983 while I was at university and that was where I first became interested in code.
My YouTube channel started as a bet I had with my eldest daughter at Christmas some years ago to see who could get to a million views first. Her approach was to try and make a viral video while I just started to record computer games.
Question: What was your role in creating the mod?
Answer: The ‘Das Chrome’ mods I made for Distant Worlds: Universe were entirely created by me. The mod is a re-skin of the user interface. There was very little code that I needed to change other than some MHTML in the game’s help files.
Question: Why did you chose to mod this particular game?
Answer: Distant Worlds: Universe is one the best 4X games I’ve ever played, and it is a game I keep coming back to time and time again. It is a game largely created by a single developer but while the base mechanics of the game are incredible, the interface looked very tired to me.
My original intention was to mod the game to test some illustration methods in Adobe Illustrator that I needed to nail down for another large project I was working on. I needed to find a relatively quick way to create scalable RGB illustrations and I needed a test environment to estimate how long the illustrations would take. Originally I was only going to change the top toolbar but in the end I generated all of the interface, resource and flag images.
Question: What does your mod improve on from the base game?
Answer: I hope it makes the game more immersive for players, and I hope it helps players more easily identify the different classes of resources (which is a stumbling block for new players). I made sure the licensing of the mod was completely open so other modders could take any or all parts and make changes as they saw fit.
Question: Where do you feel you could have done more?
Answer: I could definitely have done more with the mod personalising [the UI] for each race in Distant Worlds: Universe – particularly for the Star Trek-Picard Era mod. For that mod, I did create different color schemes for the races, but I didn’t change the button styles. The original mod was created using 5 referenced colors in Illustrator, so changing the look of the mod for specific races was the very simple task of changing these five colors in the color palette and then exporting the images.
Question: How did the community receive your mod?
Answer: The mod was very well received on the Matrix forums from the comments I received. Some players who were used to the original interface stumbled over the changes, but that’s fine.
Question: Did your mod achieve the goals you set out to achieve?
Answer: From my perspective, the mod exceeded my original goals. As the scope expanded, though, there were a few images that appear to be hard-coded into the game and so I couldn’t change those. I also found working within the confines of the MHTML help files very frustrating and would have preferred if they had been in a different format. The help files replaced by the mod are a bit of a hit-and-miss affair.
Question: Is there some other modding project you hope to take on some day?
Answer: As far as taking on another modding project someday, I guess that is something I would welcome but not look for – if that makes sense. I certainly don’t have anything in mind.
Question: I recently noticed that you changed your name from DAS24680 to DasTactic. Why the change?
Answer: When I first joined YouTube it was to only put up videos for friends and family so the name wasn’t important. I tried to get ‘Das’, which was taken. Then tried ‘Das123’ which is what I use on forums, that was also taken. Then ‘Das246’ – taken. Then ‘Das12345’ – also taken. Even ‘Das2468’ was taken. So the first one available was Das24680. I had meant to change the name ever since I started getting subscribers. Even at 100 subscribers I thought “I can’t change now, I’m getting too popular.” Ha ha. I actually thought I would have need to start from scratch on YouTube. I wanted a name that was easy to remember. The other day I was looking through Reddit to see if there were any roguelikes that I should look at and came across a post where people were talking about YouTubers. The reference to me was ‘Das (and a whole lot of numbers I can’t remember).’ After that I looked back into it and indeed I could change the name and keep the channel so decided to make the change. DasTactic was relevant to my channel’s theme, and I could secure the .com domain so I went for it.
Question: I see, will it have any impact on your channel and its content?
Answer: I’m closing in on 20,000 subscribers, and I wanted to try getting the channel to look more professional. The subscriber milestone and the change of name seemed like an ideal time to make the change. So I’m going to start using intros and outros as well as thumbnails – which I’ve rarely bothered with in the past. I also have a “top secret” idea which I’m really excited about to try and bring extra viewers into the fold. That should be launching within the coming month hopefully.
Question: Are you worried about losing some of your subscribers due to the new changes?
Answer: Not so much worried about losing subscribers as losing views. I really wanted to make sure the viewers knew of the change of name beforehand so that the new name didn’t just appear as something in the subscriber list they had no idea who it was. If I had had to start from scratch I wouldn’t have made the change. Unfortunately on twitch.tv I will need to start again but my subscriber base is much lower over there.
Question: What do you have planned in the future?
Answer: Other than the “top secret” project I mentioned, I really just plan on keeping on doing what I normally do on my channel.
Question: Any chance you’ll look into getting more exposure by doing more mods or featuring a mod-making video on your channel?
Answer: I would definitely consider making more modding videos: both on making simple mods as well as installing mods. I feel very strongly that developers who open their games up to modding should be supported by having the mods highlighted on channels. Mods themselves often take base games to places that developers can’t go for a variety of reasons. I think this helps both the games as well as the modders. I believe that the most important modding videos now are the ones that help people through the process of installing them. We take for granted that everyone has the same computer skill level as ourselves and so many of the modding installation tutorials skip too many of the simple steps.
Once again, we learn something new about a modder and a popular YouTuber. Not every modder is looking to change the most obvious aspects of the game, but as any DW:U player will tell you, it’s the small things that matter when the big things are the best. I’d like to thank Darren, and you dear reader for sticking with me. This series is almost at an end, but do not fret, there are two more before we’re done. See you next week.