When I first started college in 2004, I was assigned work study at my school’s Incubator Center. Work study is a way for broke college students to earn some extra money by being helpful, and the Incubator was a building filled with start up companies.
On my second week of school, and first day of work study, I ended up meeting one of the Incubator companies: Agora Studios, who was making websites but wanted to branch into games.
Half-Life 2 would be releasing soon, and the plan was to create the first full conversion mod.
A total conversion is a mod of an existing game that replaces virtually all of the artistic assets in the original game, and sometimes core aspects of gameplay. Total conversions can result in a completely different genre from the original.
We announced Plan of Attack on April Fools Day and released the first beta soon after in 2005.
The goal was to find the same kind of success arc that Counter Strike had. Counter Strike started as a Half-Life 1 mod, and was discovered and bought by Valve, the creators of Half-Life.
As a student, I worked about twenty hours a week for free as a 2D texture artist and level designer on Plan of Attack. I even found a summer job in the area to continue working on it.
Plan of Attack was featured in PC Gamer (above), German magazine PC Action, and we did get noticed by Valve. Some Valve employees joined us for an online match, and offered good suggestions to improve the game.
Agora Studios ended up finding success in a different way. With their background in websites, Agora made a stat tracking site called ModStats that would track every bullet fired across every server in Plan of Attack.
This caught the attention of Vicarious Visions, who paid Agora to create an integrated website for Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land, where players could post high scores and share uploaded graffiti tags and skate deck art drawn with the Nintendo DS.
Plan of Attack was nominated for Best Half-Life 2 Mod at the Independent Games Festival (IGF) in 2006.