Ever wondered what a stroll around the magnificent decks of the Titanic would feel like? As ever... there's a mod for that.
The Titanic Mod for Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven aims to do exactly what it says on the tin, which is to put the RMS Titanic in Mafia. This isn't just any old 3D model seen from a distance, however - the mod team is trying to make "one of the most detailed and accurate free 3D recreations of the Titanic ever made". Players will be able to explore the ship in freeroam mode, and the work done so far really does look stunning:
On top of all that, the mod even comes with its own storyline. It promises fully voice-acted missions, complete with cutscenes and a new soundtrack.
"Thomas Angelo is sent to deliver an expensive vehicle to Mr. Salieri's cousin along with the gang," says the mod description. "When rival mafia boss Morello finds out about the deal he makes sure this trip isn't going to be pleasant. He will do everything to get that car."
And, of course, the famous sinking of the Titanic is included in this mod. The player will be able to run around the ship as it floods, and watch the boat transform "from a luxury liner into a disaster scene".
Work on the mod has been ongoing for some time - and I really do mean some time. Robin Bongaarts, the mod's lead developer (and maritime engineer from the Netherlands), told me he began work on the project in September 2006.
"It is no coincidence that my profession is of a very similar subject the mod is about, since both have grown out of a nerd-like interest I have for Titanic and large ocean liners in general," Bongaarts told me. "Back in 2006 just before this mod started, there weren't any Titanic games out there that allowed you to freely roam around the ship. Sure, there were Ship Simulators and Adventure Out of Time, but they all had their limitations in one way or another.
"When I found out about the 'moddability' of Mafia, I reckoned this would be a good place for me to attempt making my own virtual Titanic... engines such as Unreal Engine and Unity were far less accessible to hobbyists back then as they are now. So, using an existing game like Mafia would make the whole thing a lot easier since I'd only have to model the boat and throw it in there. How hard can it be, really? *cough*"
The mod was originally supposed to be a simple 3D model, but Bongaarts discovered tools such as Sketchup and Cinema 4D which streamlined the modelling process, and with this came greater ambitions.
"Not having a clue about game/mod development, in-game implementation and how complicated and big a ship like Titanic really is, I thought I was now able to model the whole thing in a jiffy," Bongaarts said. "I started in September 2006, expecting development to take about three months. It took four years before the mod even remotely started to take shape."
After finishing school and college Bongaarts also found that he had significantly less free time available to work on the mod. While the project has taken much longer than expected, Bongaarts said that working on the mod has become "a thing of my life" and that he would "honestly miss it" after it was complete.
Bongaarts told me that while the core mod team is fairly small, plenty of people have been involved in the project's development. Lead programmer Asa managed to introduce mechanics not present in the vanilla game, such as allowing the player to swim or climb ladders. "Programmers, 3D modellers, a soundtrack composer, voice actors" and other enthusiasts have all lent a hand - and someone even made a custom installer for the mod. "Without all of their help this mod wouldn't have been where it is today," Bongaarts said. "I may be tying the thing together, but had to be shown how to make proper knots."
Earlier this year it was announced that the first part of the mod would be released in Q2 2021, but some "pesky problems" meant that the release date had to be pushed back. Bongaarts told me there's still some polishing to do - an elevator needs to be added before he can start bugfixing - and then beta testers will take a final look at the mod before Part One is shipped.
It sounds like there's still plenty of work to be done after the release of this first section, as Bongaart has three more parts planned. These will be focused on the rest of the planned interior of the ship, the sinking, and the storyline aftermath. "When any of these are going to be released is too early to tell, but contrary to the past, with Part One out soon and the rest of the mod divided in sections, it is easier to keep the flow going now that there is a solid base to work off and smaller parts make the whole scope less overwhelming," Bongaarts explained.
When it releases, the mod should be compatible with the vanilla and Steam versions of Mafia: City of Lost Heaven, and is planned to also work with the GOG version. If you want to keep an eye on the mod's progress, you can check out the Mod DB page over here, or join the community Discord.