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 The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody

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Tesvixen

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PostSubject: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Sun Nov 08, 2015 11:24 pm


In the world of Fallout modding, there are a handful of names that are known in just about every part of the world.  A handful of names that you can post on any modding forum, in any language, and people know who you're talking about.

Best known for high-quality ports from an almost unfathomable variety of games, Dragbody is a legend in the modding world, and a rare example of someone who truly mods for the enjoyment of others.  So let's sit down with him and examine the man behind the mods!


Q: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me! Tell us more about yourself.

A: My name is Richard and I live in Atlanta, Georgia. I've moved three times since I got involved with the Fallout modding community, though. In 2013 I moved from Atlanta to Phoenix, AZ. It was cool because I got to see the real geography of New Vegas. Then in early 2014 I moved to San Francisco. I had a great time there but, by the end, I was ready to leave. About five months ago I moved back home to Atlanta and I'm very happy to be back.

Q: What sparked your interest in modding the Fallout games?

A: I was never a PC gamer before New Vegas (and, in fact, NV was my introduction to the Fallout series). So I began NV on console. I played it through several times neurotically collecting every item I could and maximizing my character's stats. I was very, very proud the day that I equipped a stealth boy and snuck up behind the Legendary Deathclaw and killed it with one hit of my shishkebab.

I was clueless about the modding community at that point because I had never modded anything before (with the exception of The Sims many years ago). I was viewing YouTube videos about NV glitches that allowed for maxing out stats when I ran across some mod videos. My mind was blown. Not only did the game look more interesting, the collector in me wanted to add new goodies to my footlockers!

I got on Craigslist and bought a $400 gaming PC so I could play NV. Looking back, this was a risky move, but I really lucked out. After downloading an amazing amount of mods and irreversibly cluttering my NV folder, I started to dabble my toes in modding waters. I eventually convinced myself that if I read some tutorials, I could figure things out. I started with some retextures then started playing with armor mash-ups. I fumbled my way through until I slowly figured out what I was doing. A few months later I released my first armor pack on the website then known as the VGU and worked here and there on my Legion overhaul.


Q: Is there particular aspect of it that you enjoy, and what would you consider your field of expertise (or favorite type of thing to mod, if you prefer)?

A: I definitely find that rigging is my favorite aspect of modding. When there is a model in-game, I want to see it move correctly and really fit visually. I've rigged many more armors than creatures, but I also really enjoy rigging creatures. What good are all those armors if you can only kill the same vanilla enemies while wearing them?

Also, I really enjoy voice acting! I voiced Achilles and the Merchant in CNR and Carlos and Chip from the Courier's Cache. I was also supposed to do Porter's lines in NVB3 as I can do a pretty good Super Mutant voice.


Q: Are there any aspects you find especially challenging?

A: The most difficult thing, for me, is doing modding tasks outside of the areas that I find exciting. I did all the companion scripting for Achilles in Caesar's New Regime, but it was never really fun. It was much more fun for me to rig Riddick's armors and race while NoNoodles did the scripting. This is why I think having modding teams is a great thing. For example, I see so many mods out there that have a ton of scripting and other GECK work in them but lack good models and textures. Take TitanFallout for example. When Hopper first started working on that, I saw the model he was using and thought, "this needs something better." So I put together something from all vanilla assets for the Nexus and then rigged two Titans from Titanfall for G.U.N. The result, I think, is greatly improved over what that mod would have been without our partnership.

Just to be clear, this isn't about pawning work off onto other people, but rather finding others with whom you can work synergistically. So many modders who can do amazing things in GECK have told me that their brains hurt while watching me do fairly simple stuff in Blender. So it's a matter of finding a place where your talents can fill a void... at least for projects that focus on more than one aspect of the game.

At the end of the day, you have to keep modding exciting for yourself. In the intro above, you state that I mod for the enjoyment of others. This is true, but it is also true that I mod for myself. I create mods that I would enjoy, then share them so others can enjoy them too. But if I'm not having fun, then the mods grind to a halt, and then no one has fun.


Q: You're an accomplished martial artist, which is something that a lot of people probably don't know about you. Tell us a little about that - some details about your chosen style, how/when you got started in it, etc.

A: I've been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for over 8 1/2 years. To this day, BJJ is about the only thing that takes precedent over modding when it comes to deciding how I spend my free time. I've been competing for about 8 years and have won medals at several international tournaments. In fact, I would say about half of my modding time has been done while I'm still covered in sweat from the gym.

Q. That takes a great deal of discipline and dedication, especially when competition is a factor. Are you actively competing these days?

A: Yes I am. I took two 3rd place medals back in August at the Atlanta International Open. This was disappointing as I'd taken 1st place the two years before. Next year I'll be competing in early February, late March, and probably September.

Q. What is your greatest accomplishment as a martial artist? And are there any further accolades that you're aiming for?

A: In 2013, I competed at the purple belt level (Master 1, middle weight) in the Pan Ams in Irvine, CA where I took 3rd in my weight and 2nd in the absolute. I received my brown belt on the podium there and I was very proud. My next goal is to simply keep training hard, to keep improving my skills, and to represent my team well. It would be easy to say that my next goal is a black belt, but the belt means nothing if I don't have the skill behind it.

Q. So even before we became friends, I've had this curiosity about the origins of your screen name Dragbody. Tell us the story behind that!

A: Oh no! This is such a boring story, ha. It has been suggested before that my name comes from the fact that I port a lot of armors, i.e., that I am dragging bodies from one game to another. The true origin is that I used to play Halo competitively when the first generation xbox had just been released. I would get together with friends to have LAN parties (xbox live didn't exist yet!) and we all needed names for our Master Chief. For a while, I went by Larcen (from the old Sega game, Eternal Champions). Then, one day, I just decided dragbody sounded cooler. It was the name of a band that I was familiar with and I just liked how it sounded. The name stayed with me through many years of Halo competitions--where most people would still remember me as "drag" rather than Richard--and through till today. If you search "dragbody" on YouTube, the results are still a mix of mod videos and that old band's music. For the record, I never liked the band too much--just the name, haha.

Q: Speaking of dragging bodies, are there any games whose content you wish you could mod with, but haven't been able to get the files?

A: I've been very fortunate to get access to almost every model I've really wanted over the years. Between people like Elonir and Luxox extracting models, chrrox doing noesis plugins and other work, and programs like ninja ripper, there aren't that many games that are inaccessible to modders.

The one exception to this is Brink. That game uses the same "megatexture" technology used by RAGE and Wolfenstein where instead of having thousands of small textures in a game, these games run on a small number of textures that are enormous in size. There's just no way photoshop or a similar program could open a 128,000x128,000 texture. However, RAGE had a mod kit that was released with actual textures in it and some guys out there figured out a complex way to rip some usable texture files out of Wolfenstein RAM dumps.

Brink, on the other hand, was never cracked. My first Nexus armor pack had some (ugly) Brink inspired armors and I later worked on creating a more accurate version of The Anger outfit. Nevertheless, I always loved the design of the outfits in Brink and to this day, it's the one game I really want models from but that has never been accessed.

It's also worth noting that a few games have been released fairly recently so I haven't been able to work with their content as much as I'd like. These games include Mad Max, Dirty Bomb, and Dying Light.


Q: Suppose that someone approaches you and says "I want to learn how to mod" with no prior knowledge - what advice would you give them?

A: I would first ask them if they know what they're asking!

For people who want to mod because they want to have creative control over some aspect of their game, but their real goal is to play the game, I would advise them to save their time. Being a modder requires sacrifice. As I said before, I used to play New Vegas all the time--obsessively even. I looked forward to Honest Hearts more than I look forward to most new games! But, once I started modding, my actual play-time disappeared. To this day, I have never done a proper playthrough on PC and I have never played Old World Blues or Lonesome Road. I kept thinking I would take a hiatus from modding one day, build my ideal load order, then have the most epic playthrough of anyone ever in the history of Fallout. With Fallout 4 only a couple of days away, I don't know if this will be harder or easier now to actually do, ha!

Also, if the person just wants to mod because being a modder seems cool, it needs to be known that modding is not as glamorous as it might appear. For every person who leaves a kind word, there are fifty who say nothing and another person who wants to say your mod isn't lore friendly, that it crashes their game, or that it would have been cooler if you'd done it a little differently. It can be pretty nerve racking to work really hard on something--to pour your heart and soul into a mod--and then have people tear it down.

The point is this: If you want to be a gamer, then just game. Don't get distracted by thoughts of modding because it will slowly chew into your playing time and make it harder for you to really enjoy the game. You'll stop playing the game immersively and start wondering if you could exit the game and tinker something more to your liking in GECK or Blender.

However, if the idea of modding still interests someone after hearing this, then it's probably because the platform for creative expression is exciting to him or her. Some people enjoy digging around in game mechanics one way or another and seeing something come to life. They take joy in seeing others enjoy their creations. If I'm talking to someone like this, I would recommend deciding where you want to aim your efforts. You can't just say, "I want to create a DLC-sized mod," because that target is too wide. If you want to become a texture artist, then get some texture editing programs and start reading/watching tutorials. If you want to become a character modeler, then do the same--get Blender and/or Max, perhaps even zbrush and start studying. Once you've made an independent effort, then you can bring your progress to the community and say, "Look at how far I've gotten on my own." Then you can ask for advice on getting around roadblocks or getting tips from experienced people. Soon, you'll build a network of friends who can help you.

On the other hand, writing someone and saying, "teach me how to do what you do... I have no experience and I'm starting from the absolute beginning," will not likely get a good response. Too many people who think they want to mod bail on the idea once a program or process intimidates them. Most modders know this and so they're unlikely to take people under their wings who don't show some independent effort first to demonstrate true determination and desire to learn.


Q: I once asked you who your 'Samus' was - meaning, which character you admired/enjoyed the most - and your answer was Riddick.  Tell me about what the character and his universe means to you.

A: When it comes to explaining what I love about the Riddick universe, it's hard to put my finger on it. I loved all the movies and the games were great. But there are lots of good movies out there and plenty of good games that I haven't invested as much fan energy into as I have the Riddick universe. Really, I could discuss Riddick for a long time and go off on many tangents.

But this touches on something a little bigger when it comes to seeing Riddick relating to the Fallout universe as a whole. For me, modding has always been exciting because the Wasteland can serve as the intersection of many fictional universes that would otherwise never come together. This truly gets at the heart of why I have ported characters from other games. There is something about my personality that likes to accumulate, consolidate, and curate. Playing NV is cool, and playing RAGE is cool, and playing other games can be cool... but can any of that really compare to wandering the Wasteland with Riddick at your side (and maybe Deadpool, Krieg, Daryl, Riley...) while you're battling RAGE mutants, deathclaws, and fighting off raiders dressed in raider garb from Afterfall, Defiance, and Mad Max? And this is just a tiny example!

This is why I love Fallout. It is the place where this all comes together.


Q: Speaking further on the subject, what other worlds/universes really interest you?

A: I really love Stephen King's The Dark Tower. When I started New Vegas, I immediately thought the Wasteland has some similarity to Mid-World. Victor in Goodsprings has some parallels to Andy in Wolves of the Calla, for example.

I still think a total overhaul of New Vegas into a Dark Tower RPG could be very cool. Roland's flashbacks to his life in Gilead was, imo, the best part of that series and I think being able to become a Gunslinger in Midworld during the conflict with John Farson could be endlessly fun.

I was also a huge fan of Fury Road! That movie really blew me away.


Q: Speaking of Roland, that happens to be the name of your custom courier in New Vegas.  Can you tell us some more about him?

A: I'd love to! Anyone who has seen many of my screenshots will have seen my character based on Dante from DMC4. He is the character I prepared for the "epic playthrough" I mentioned above. His name is Roland and in his backstory, he actually carries around the Dark Tower book "The Gunslinger" with him. His father named him Roland after the character in the book but my courier hasn't read it yet. He is saving it because after he reads it, he doesn't know if he'll have anything in life left to look forward to.

Also, it is worth mentioning that this character isn't a courier at all, but is a former NCR trooper who was blacklisted. His story follows an alternate NV story that asks, "What if the Courier had died?" Roland is hired by Mr. House to discover who killed the courier and recover the platinum chip. I've got several chapters of a fan fiction written on this, so I won't spoil it further in case I ever get around to finishing that up.


Q: Besides modding and kicking peoples' asses (laughs), do you have any other hidden/unusual talents?

A: I used to do vocals for a hardcore band called Crossbearer. We've got a few old recordings you can still find online called 'Honesty and Heresy' and 'Transgressor.' And, it's not a "talent," but a unique trait of my personality is that I'm vegan. I'm 34 now and I've been meat-free since I was 17. I've been totally vegan for most of that time period too. Yes... I'm a BJJ fighter who doesn't eat animal products. Where do I get my protein from you ask? Cram and Blamco.

Q: You've become a big fan of Walking Dead in recent months. What is it about the show that appeals to you? Any characters you're particularly fond of?

A: I am indeed a fan of the show. I actually live very close to where it's filmed. I've met the actress who plays Maggie and walked past the actor who plays Morgan while at Whole Foods. I have friends who have met Michonne, Rick, and Glenn too. In fact, my roommate is a stunt guy who has been an extra in 3 seasons of TWD and knows the entire cast. But that's neither here nor there...

I always heard people talk about TWD but I put off watching it for a long time. I had a sense it was one of those shows I needed to binge watch one day. That day finally came while I was living in San Francisco earlier this year. I think the show is interesting because it focuses so much on the human factor of a zombie apocalypse. The cast of characters is large and diverse and it makes you care about where these people's stories are headed. You have to watch the next episode to see how things are going to turn out for your favorite characters.

It's also similar to Game of Thrones in the sense that the story is about a world of characters who could all die in any episode rather than a single hero who is invincible.

As far as the zombies go, though, TWD requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief. The fact is that "walkers" just aren't that scary and the outbreak that lead to the apocalypse would never have taken place. The military and local law enforcement agencies would have isolated the zombies long before society collapsed. I think Fear the Walking Dead really suffered by trying to show the gradual breakdown of society while the zombies took over. It was just so implausible.

As far as zombie fiction goes, I think the zombies shown in World War Z and 28 Days/Weeks Later are much more intimidating. For example, the look of terror on the face of Robert Carlyle while he runs from the infected in the opening of 28 Weeks Later, or the scene where the zombies in WWZ dive at the helicopter that's extracting Brad Pitt and his family from the apartment building, is unlike anything you would ever see as the result of walkers.

Nevertheless, TWD has successfully made me care about how the story will develop. And I enjoyed making the Daryl Dixon companion mod, the Rick Grimes race, and other TWD themed mods.


Q: In closing, is there anything awesome in the pipeworks that fans of your mods should look forward to?

A: It's hard to say because there are so many unknowns with Fallout 4. What will our modding limitations be, for example? How long will it take to create updated nif import/export scripts? What program(s) will support them? When will the GECK be released? When will nifskope be updated? How will we be able to account for hair and clothing movements that appear to use jigglebones? What will modding look like for modular armor assembly? Will the voiced protagonists ruin everything? And so on.

I've created hype in the past for things that ended up not coming to fruition. For example, I don't think Willhaven will ever be completed. The Dead Money Horror Overhaul hit some major snags and will never be what I envisioned. My NCR Trooper Overhaul is still technically unfinished and I wish I had done the Legion overhaul quite differently. My Riddick mods are coming down to the wire and I don't know what they'll end up looking like. My armor mods are confusing for people to download who haven't been following my mods for a while... You get the point. But I also accomplished quite a lot. I rigged over 1,000 armors, released two voiced companions with Riddick and Daryl, ported over 50 other races, released one of the most popular quest mods on the Nexus with the Courier's Cache, and assisted with many of NV's most popular mods like Beyond Boulder Dome, Project Brazil, NVB3, The Inheritance, The Frontier (forthcoming, of course), and lots more. So, I've accomplished a lot, but it's a fraction of what I wanted to do.

This much is for sure though... what I have coming in the pipeworks is a chance to start fresh. I was a total noob when I started modding NV and some of the roots I established back then were hard to get away from (like the armor pack format, my sloppy folder structure, etc). I now have a good deal of experience and some actual skills I can use. So, whatever the future holds, players can know it will be as good or better than anything I've done before.

To get a little more speculative, assuming that FO4 modding becomes roughly similar to FO3 or NV modding, I will want to start with lore-friendly expansions more like Nivea's Spice of Life. For a long time while modding NV, I felt compelled to port at least one armor from any game from which I had content. But I don't think my FO4 modding will be anything like this. Rather than dropping armors from, say, Batman or Assassin's Creed in a footlocker somewhere, I will want to stick with lore-friendly games that can be seamlessly woven into FO4. This means I will focus on games like RAGE, Afterfall, Metro 2033/ Last Light, Special Ops: The Line, and Mad Max while also ensuring that I add as many creatures into the world as possible. Really, you only need one favorite armor to wear... but you can kill countless monsters while wearing it. So doing something like a MoMod for FO4 will be high on my radar.

And, of course, I will want to port all my Riddick content into FO4 in a big way. I've got a story in mind that harmonizes the Riddick and Fallout worlds where Riddick can actually be on Earth without contradicting any canonical Riddick sources.

I also want to say thanks to Tesvixen for taking the time to do this interview and to anyone who has read it and/or enjoyed my mods over the years.
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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Mon Nov 09, 2015 12:24 am

I'm just learning to mod and each time I hit a wall I say "Ok I can't do this, I'll just wait on Fallout 4" But I keep finding myself going back into 3ds Max and figuring more out. So I think I'm doing it for the right reasons. Dragbody's words are really inspirational and give me hope that I can figure this out and succeed!

Really great interview with the legend himself! Thank You very much!

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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Mon Nov 09, 2015 12:30 am

Wow, this was a nice interview. Tesvixen asked everything i've ever wanted to know about dragbody.

Either way, no matter what kind of content dragbody did or will make, we still love it and we'll still be looking forward to it.

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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Mon Nov 09, 2015 12:50 am

Wow, Dragbody seems like a unique and really cool guy. Obviously I knew about his mods, but I never knew about his martial arts expertise or that he was a vegan or that he was in a band for sometime. Pretty cool. I've always wanted to get into modding, mostly because there are some characters/armors I would like to add to my Fallout NV/Skyrim games. Sadly I'm not that smart, so it probably won't happen....at least not for a while. That's fine though. I rather have the experts do the modding.
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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:37 am

It was interesting to read about you Drag, and about Tesvixen,
great good interview thanks a lot about you learned,
but I so I understand you were interviewing each other Smile
but as a whole I liked the read,Thank you and good luck in modding,
drag,you really top class mode. Music
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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:47 am

Based on what dusildorf said, I was wondering, @Tesvixen are you ever gonna ask someone to interview you or even interview yourself? I would also like to learn a little bit about yourself.

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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:50 am

@mpaz96 wrote:
Based on what dusildorf said, I was wondering, @Tesvixen are you ever gonna ask someone to interview you or even interview yourself? I would also like to learn a little bit about yourself.

Dragbody did just that, actually. Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Mon Nov 09, 2015 4:07 am

@Tesvixen wrote:
@mpaz96 wrote:
Based on what dusildorf said, I was wondering, @Tesvixen are you ever gonna ask someone to interview you or even interview yourself? I would also like to learn a little bit about yourself.

Dragbody did just that, actually. Very Happy

Oops, didn't saw that, thanks.

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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Mon Nov 09, 2015 3:27 pm

Ah yes Very Happy very much looked forward to this. Very satisfying, very well put together.
Even if I knew a large chunk of the info here, I still found it interesting and surprising!
It's actually so thorough that it deserves several read-throughs.
Thank you for this, Tesvixen, you're a mad genius on many levels  
Much appreciated! cheers and looking forward to the next installment Hello Hats Off

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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Mon Nov 09, 2015 5:21 pm

Oh my. This is a very nice interview; definitely good to know what makes the minds of the greats of our modding community tick.. what goes through their heads.

@DVAted I had knowledge on quite a few things myself, and it speaks truth. To be honest, when I did modding on the VGU, it was very little... and as a matter of fact, most of it was just for audio mods for weapons as, well... audio files for a lot of console-based item ports (IE: Halo weapons) were rather hard to come by, so it took some really decent audio capture hardware to take a good snippet, and then software to make it not sound like it was coming from a sewer somewhere..... ANYWAY, the audio was about the only thing I was willing to touch having had experience with it in the past. The major stuff such as working with intermediate GECK/Creation Kit features was rather a scary thing for me to attempt without the fear of an immediate crash and/or screwing something up.

Modding in general I found out very quickly requires a lot of sacrifices, such as time.. time for gaming in the game you're modding especially. I'm a gamer myself, and that back then wasn't something I was really ready to delve into. Still kinda not, but we'll have to see come time for Fallout 4's Creation Kit. In emphasis, I hope more people have a chance to read this interview and not only appreciate the system modders have created, but respect it in terms of the scope involved.

I remember Dazzerfong told me something along the lines of what dragbody has stated here long ago too... -sigh- Good times.

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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Mon Nov 09, 2015 10:17 pm

Man thats super impressive. Pleasure to get to know you better Drag.
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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Mon Nov 09, 2015 10:53 pm

Wow, I listened to Drags band Crossbearer and it's really good.

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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Tue Nov 10, 2015 1:27 am

i love your riddick mod with DUST "let him sleep through the apocalypse" and i also used achilles through DUST for many hours, i also didnt even realize that i have used all of the mods u have mentioned in this interview some time in my many years of gaming with mods so thanks you have great tastes.
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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Tue Nov 10, 2015 4:30 am

A great read! I'm new to GUN, but I'll definetly be looking out for more of these interviews.
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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Tue Nov 10, 2015 7:38 am

Good interview, But the orange and yellow all mashed up together really hurts my eyes.

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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Tue Nov 10, 2015 9:38 am

What a great interview! @Tesvixen you're doing great job!! Thank you so much!!!

Need to read your cross-interview - anxious to learn more about our GUN fairy, who never refuse helping noobs as myself either with stupid or really complicated questions :-)))

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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Wed Nov 11, 2015 1:56 am

Just wanted to thank you for the advice to us new potential modders. You bring up points I had never thought about. One thing is for certain, I don't feel like I have to learn everything there is too learn. That is a big weight off my shoulders. I have been drawing since I have been old enough to hold a crayon (and my parents still have pictures to prove it) so I know what unconstructive criticism is all about. Listened to people comment on my work in galleries when noone knew it was me, and that is quite interesting. Thanks again for the advice.
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teegfonv

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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Wed Nov 11, 2015 8:54 pm

This is really insightful! Its always nice to learn a little more about modding legends. I really emjoyvthe modder interviews. Thanks to tesvixen for these, it puts more of an actual face to some of the great talent out there that we owe many of our fantastic mods too
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Sklone

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PostSubject: Re: The Modder's Corner: an Interview with Dragbody   Wed Nov 11, 2015 9:24 pm

i love all you work drag and its nice to get to know more about you. also props vixen very awesome interview very thorough.looking forward to the creative ideas everybody brings to the table in Fallout 4.

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