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This 'Battlefront II' Modder's First Creation Was a Middle Finger to EA

EA didn't want a pink Darth Vader, so this modder made it for them.

by Patrick Klepek
Jan 4 2018, 6:00pm

Image courtesy of James Hourigan

The reasons for making a mod vary from designer to designer. For some, it’s a way to be part of developing a game, even though it’s not their job. For others, it’s merely a venue to express creativity. For James “Destauch” Hourigan, modding became a form of protest. Until this week, Hourigan had never made a mod. But the lifelong Star Wars fan, incensed by the way Electronic Arts handled Star Wars: Battlefront II, was fed up.

Thus, “Darth Vader in Pink." It’s common for modders to make small color alterations to game models. In that sense, Darth Vader in Pink is nothing special. But in this case, context matters. The Nexus Mods page for Darth Vader in Pink is mostly blank. Besides teasing a white version of Vader and installation instructions, it has a single quote:

"Darth Vader in white probably doesn't make sense, versus in black. Not to mention you probably don't want Darth Vader in pink. No offense to pink, but I don't think that's right in the canon." - Blake Jorgensen

This comment, uttered as EA failed to grasp how seriously it had bungled the launch of its biggest 2017 game, came from EA’s chief financial officer to GamesIndustry.biz. When pressed on why EA had Battlefront II’s loot boxes alter a player's damage count, rather than sticking to cosmetics, Jorgensen argued the company was limited on what it could do with the Star Wars franchise—i.e. no pink Vader.

Hourigan, like many other fans, didn’t buy it. Battlefront II doesn’t come with modding tools, nor does EA actively support modding in any meaningful way. Players aren’t supposed to use mods, cosmetic or not, while online, but there aren’t large reports of players being banned for goofing around, either. Whether that changes when EA introduces its own customization elements into Battlefront II remains to be seen.

(Probably.)

Hourigan says you'll be able to download Vader in white eventually, too. Both stand as humorous protests against EA’s decision making on a game that Hourigan himself is still playing, despite reservations about its monetization. To learn more about why he’s still playing Battlefront II, what it means to mod as protest, and more, I recently spoke with Hourigan, a mass media major at Georgia’s Valdosta State University.

Waypoint: What's your history with Star Wars?

James “Destauch” Hourigan: Though Star Wars is just a movie series, it’s had a massive impact on me. The Star Wars universe was a place I’d escape to when I wanted to take a break on life. I watched the heroic efforts of Luke Skywalker and cheered him on, I watched the fall of Anakin Skywalker and mourned. They were great theatrical experiences that really made you feel like you were there, like this place was real. And it applies to games like Knights of the Old Republic and Republic Commando, as well. And to see this universe be soiled through EA's money-first ideology, it not only annoyed me, but really took some of the magic out of Star Wars. So I just had to do something.

That prompted you to make a pink Vader mod for Battlefront II?

Hourigan: The pink Darth Vader mod was created as a lighthearted protest to Blake Jorgensen's comments on why there are no cosmetic loot boxes in the game. He used the slippery slope of if they add cosmetic unlocks there would be pink Darth Vaders running around and that would break canon.

But honestly, even if they did add a pink Darth Vader, I’m sure people would prefer that over the game altering Star Cards we have in the game now. Those Star Card loot boxes are a real issue because they unbalance the game, and though they removed the option to pay for them, there are plans to bring it back. The idea of paying to have advantages over people, especially in a gambling like method like loot boxes, it really disgusts me.

Creating a protest mod is one way to send a signal. Why’d this comment bother you?

Hourigan: It bothered me because Star Wars is such a rich expansive universe with so many outfits. Even if they actually cared about canon (which they don’t, they just used it as an excuse to defend their flawed system), they could’ve had so many outfits that were canon friendly. Outfits that could pay for the free DLC they plan to add, without having these game-altering Star Cards ruin the game.

Are you still playing Battlefront II? Were the changes made as part of the reaction to the game's loot boxes enough to keep you interested?

Hourigan: I still play Battlefront II, but mostly on PC, so I can have my criminally fashionable pink Darth Vader outfit. The changes made had nothing to do with my continued interest in the game. Honestly, there haven’t been enough. We still have an awful squad system, and the loot box grind is still there. Just because you can’t pay for loot boxes doesn’t mean they still don’t unbalance the game.

I stick around honestly because I’m a Star Wars fan and with EA's monopoly of the brand, it means I don’t really have the choice to play something else. It’s a real shame Disney entrusted Star Wars game development to such an anti-consumer company.

You talk about EA having a "money first ideology." Aren't all publishers like that?

Hourigan: I’m not ignorant enough to think they all aren’t money first, of course they are. What I meant is that there needs to be a balance between being pro-consumer and making money. Look at Microsoft, for example. Their req packs in Halo 5 make loads of money, but they are cosmetic only and don’t affect the gameplay experience. All I ask from EA is to deliver a method that can still make them money and not break the game.

Is there something EA could do to fix the game for you, or is it fundamentally flawed?

Hourigan: The game itself, at its core, is a pretty fun game, it’s just made infuriating when these Star Cards are used. They give the user a large advantage. Imagine if in tennis someone had a card that let them run faster, it’s like that. The game could be fixed if they phased Star Cards out and replaced them with a cosmetic system, much like Overwatch has.

Couldn't you have just...not bought the game?

Hourigan: Well, on console, me and a friend shared a copy of the game. This was early on in the pre-release trial, we weren't aware of the issues then. When I saw all the great cosmetic mods on PC, it lured me into buying the game on that platform. I spend more time making mods for it now than playing it.

Finally, what'd you think of The Last Jedi?

Hourigan: Oh, boy. To me, as a movie on its own, The Last Jedi is a good film with minor narrative inconsistencies. But as a Star Wars episode, it's a disappointment with massive contradictions to established laws of the Star Wars universe. Honestly, you’re telling me that none of these ships have shields? Rey is powerful in the force with no lineage? The Republic had no established military? It’s these things I dislike. Things that would likely slip past an average viewer. Also, Canto Bite was a huge drag.

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