Discussion Topic 001

Welcome to a new category. I’ve been pondering this one for a while and decided to try it. The idea is to start a topic and just let the discussion flow. Unlike the Poll Questions which require a few choices for readers to select, these topics will be more open ended and might contain multiple related-questions.

Just like the Poll Questions, I am very happy for readers to suggest their own topics – just email me.

So, here we go.

How many people who buy the Half-Life games actually play mods?

Since this would be a guess, that’s why I haven’t made it a PQ.

I’d like to think it was pretty high, but there must be quite a few people out there that don’t know about mods.

How do you think they could be told?

The idea of a “huge” potential market is very interesting to me. A bit like I wonder how many Harry Potter (and Star wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who etc etc) fans know that there is SO much community made stuff.

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  1. Zekiran

    Actually as far as I can see, very, very few purchasers acknowledge mods for this game. While the whole of the PC versus Console discussion often centers on ‘but you can mod on PC’ – the games people usually think of as mod-worthy are Skyrim and other such things, and they’re talking about ‘visual/control schema’ modding, not ‘building a level’ mod for the most part.

    Obviously the Portal 2 workshop has quite a few contributors, and HL’s modding community has always been ‘solid’. But … Half Life has sold *how many millions* of copies, and there are *how many modders/mods*? Just by the numbers alone I’d say that too few players of the vanilla game even realize that this was a ‘thing’.

    That’s why I’m always excited to see new people join in here and suggest they’re going to try their hand at it.

    At the same time I think that the HL modding community, while small, has rarely felt like it’s an “elitist” community. As a player but not a modder, I’ve never really felt like an outsider except maybe when the discussion gets very technical about things I just simply have no real expertise at.

    Then there’s the complication that Hammer is… hard. From what I’ve read and seen evidenced by other engine modders, Hammer is ridiculously difficult to master, where as other games with mod tools *seem* to have a little better grip on inviting newbs to their tool set.

    I’ve tried repeatedly to understand how to use Hammer (before it got broken a couple years ago, anyway) and the most I could come up with was a very, very simple map that even lacked spawn points, because I didn’t know you had to do that… (it’s a giant chess table in a park, by the way, though I don’t know whether it even works any more given the engine changes.) It had to be completed and compiled by someone with more knowledge than me.

    The presence of the PETI tool set though, was pretty encouraging. I’ve made a couple reasonably simple Portal 2 maps in it, yes they’re up in my workshop. Nothing to crow about, honestly, but at least I tried.

    I kind of more wonder, how many people *start out* trying to do something in Hammer, and basically do what I’ve done, throw their hands up and say ‘pfff too hard’ and try something else instead. In that regard I really hope that the Source 2 tool kit is MUCH more user friendly – and by that I mean more user friendly than SFM because even that is a monster. Provided they manage a ‘peti-like’ tool set for source 2, I’d be willing to try again – and I would certainly hope that when HL3 is released we get a LOT of newcomers who may try older editions too.

  2. Honestly, from experience, I think mods, at least for the Half-Life series, are only played by a very small minority, the exception being the full-conversion mods that basically only share the engine and little else with the Half-Life games, like Black Mesa, Insurgency (the mod version, naturally), Stanley Parable and the original Counter-Strike.

    I suppose the distinguishing factor there is that the Half-Life games are pretty long experiences already that justify their price tag by themselves – in fact, you might argue some are even too long -, so players have enough of them to warrant downloading any fan-made extensions of the same core gameplay and visuals. Most people don’t even finish games nowadays, so why even bother with installing (what seems to be, to them) more of the same?

    It also doesn’t help that most mods are left in their own communities – with RTSL obviously being such an example -, so they don’t get that much mainstram exposure. The ones that do, like MINERVA back in the day, end up being hugely popular, but unless your mod is so unique and distinct (or made in the early days post-release, when everything is new), you’ll have a hard time being mentioned anywhere in news blogs/sites, leaving your mod known only to the conoisseurs.

    Plus, unless they’re really hardcore (and hardcore is a minority, whether you believe it or not), most gamers don’t even bother with learning how to install mods, or even aren’t aware of their general existence. I have no numbers at all, but if I had to take a guess, I’d say out of all owners of Half-Life 2, including people who only played half an hour or so out of cuirosity before quitting, it can’t be more than 5% or 6% that actually play the type of mods you see in RTSL. That may sound extremely small, but considering the games have sold quite a few million copies, I think it’s a very generous estimate.

    1. Zekiran

      I think that seeing the download numbers here and extrapolating the number of people who comment versus just download, is kind of also the percentage that might ‘buy the game / play mods’. A very slim portion, in other words.

      In most forums I’ve been on for games, the number of people who actively participate in the making, modding, commenting, or critique is often less than 10%, usually around 5% if you’re in a more niche market. And that’s being very, very generous.

      The converse of that of course is that the squeaky wheel gets checked: some folks complain “but those people are just a tiny minority of what WE (the broad population) wants!! stop listening to THEM!”

      If companies had more feedback, from even 10% more than they get of the people who eventually buy their games, the games they make, their schedules, their updates, and future projects would all be affected strongly. Silent majority are still silent, so… imo they can stuff it – I’m voting with my voice, presence, AND dollars. 🙂

      Part of my participation here is that I *am* a writer, and I do enjoy looking at what others have come up with, but I’m *not* a mod-maker – I would love to continue seeing who can do what, I’d love to see some of my stories come to life eventually. Participation at the ‘grass roots’ level like this, I think, is essential to that angle. I’ve seen too many people register on the Steam forums 2 days before, with literally 0 posts, and list of some incredibly huge project they “have been meaning to get around to making but I have no talent and no money so please everyone else do the hard work” – never heard of ya, pal, don’t think you have the slightest idea what you’re actually getting into, maybe try something small first, and maybe, maybe, try participating more so people don’t just snicker behind your back and ignore you.

      1. Don’t get me started on the wannabe modders. As someone who also has basically zero skill in mod-making (unless you count basic reskinning experience and ‘hexxing’ skills, which you shouldn’t), I have the utmost respect for people who are skilled enough to even just make a mediocre map or two, but no love lost for the idiots who want to ‘lead a team’ although all they have is a bunch of ideas and no other contributing skills whatsoever. Which, sadly, there are a bunch of.

        Mind you, I’ve chatted casually about what I’d like to see in, say, a Hercule Cubbage mod, or put lots of thought into crazy ideas of my own (Half-Life ‘Mario & Luigi-esque’ comedy RPG!). I’ve even considered writing about those ideas on Metrocop as a blog post. But I’ve never been enough of an asshole to dare go “okay, you guys make these ideas while I sit here and complain”.

        Apologies, that was a bit of a tangent, but I had to get it off my chest. If everyone who ambitions making a mod would play mods, the audience would increase 1,000%.

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