Don’t we have anything original to say?

16th February 2010

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

God, I hope I am wrong but have you noticed how nearly all Valve-focused websites just seem to be regurgitating news?

It’s certainly not my intention to upset other webmasters but when I look around that’s all I seem to see.

You just need to visit a site on Friday to see a rehash of Steam news, with the latest offers. Not only that but just reposts of the latest update from various mods. I am not blaming Valve, as I said before they are masters of promotion. Who else gets their customers to publicise their news for them so well?

Where are the original articles take make us think and consider this fine thing we love called gaming?

Admittedly, I don’t visit the bigger sites, just the fan-based ones, and I certainly haven’t been involved in gaming as along as many readers but don’t you think that the role of professional site and fansite have reversed. In the earlier days smaller sites had the most interesting content and the larger sites the more mainstream stuff.

Now, I am as guilty as other site because 90% of my content is maps and mods that other people have made, but a quick look through my articles shows I have written my fair share of stuff.

I’ve touched on this with BlueWolf72 who has much more experience in this than I do and he feels that not enough readers are interested, and really all they want is news about mods and plenty of images.

If that’s true it’s a little depressing.

I know that writing these kinds of articles takes a lot longer than simply posting images or quick interviews and I have a list of topics I have been meaning to write about for a while and I know others have too, perhaps we just need a little motivation or belief they will be read and discussed.

So, are original articles not wanted by fansite readers?

What kind of articles would you like to see? I’m not talking about PP specifically, but all the HL sites.

Let the flaming begin….

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37 Comments

  1. i agree with Phillip that the lack on intelligent postings on the interwebs is disappointing. Long live Planet Phillip, who shall forever fill the void.

      1. I can’t help but chuckle at every post in this thread that only ends up saying “I agree” whether it’s on purpose or not, the irony is still amusing.

  2. Forming your own opinion and putting it up in public view encourages others to do the same. When it comes right down to it, the people who are most interested in shouting out their opinions are usually the ones who haven’t put nearly as much thought into those opinions as they should have.

    It’s hard to balance the point of allowing people to put out their opinions, and not having good opinions buried under piles of crap. I think a lot of the smaller sites don’t have the time to spare keeping the crap out, and the bigger sites don’t even bother trying.

    That’s a lot of why I like PlanetPhillip as a website right now. People here are always looking for fresh takes on how the source engine can be used. In it’s own way, each mod that is posted on this site and reviewed is kind of like an ever continuing exploration into what actually makes a game enjoyable to play.

    1. I’m not talking about comments on site but actual original articles that encourage, or warrant, thoughtful discussion.

      1. That’s the point I was making though; that the return investment of “thoughtful discussion” often doesn’t even hit the break even point for the energy required to keep those thoughtful pieces from getting buried under incredibly stupid crap, and so for many people the only thing that taking the time to create original articles does is create more work for that person.

        1. So, what you are saying is that the “break even point” is the number of comments? This is an interesting idea, because unlike print media which sells copies, how else do you quantify a return? Perhaps it is simply the number of visit to the post?

          At the time of writing this reply, this post has received:
          241 pageviews, 216 Unique Views, readers spent an average of 3 minutes & 29 seconds on the page and 14 comments.

          Was this worth the time I spent considering and writing it? Probably, but it was more of a mini-rant than an attempt at original thought.

          I probably have to agree with you though, that I judge the success of an article on the number of comments it receives, rather than the number of unique views.

          And, as you mention, those comments then create more work for the author, although that should be all part of the reward for writing it; the discussion that ensues.

          1. Not exactly. When I say break even point, I’m not referring to any analytical numerical point that can be specifically pointed to, but a point felt emotionally by the person running things.

            Also, it is not a “number of comments” but rather a ratio between the number of constructed and well thought out opinions and the number of useless comments that are little more than spam, trolling, or flamebait.

            For instance, take this thread. You have a number of people who have responded with at least a full paragraph if not multiple paragraphs on their thoughts. If you had the same number of comments, but instead of them being well thought out, they only consisted of “yeah, you’re right” and absolutely nothing else, don’t you think you might feel like you had wasted your time, even if just a bit?

            The point that I’m making is that I think many other people in charge of these other websites have already hit this point where they feel like any original article only produces more spam and trolling than actual constructive comments, and that making the effort to create a thought provoking article simply isn’t worth the effort.

      2. A wiser man than I on this topic, recently expressed to me his frustrated resignation at how truly few people cared enough to engage in an intellectual topic on many sites, much less submit one for discussion. I found that hard to agree with and saw the statement as a bit cynical.

        Personally, I love to try to initiate a discussion based on something that I find of particular interest( and preferably thought provoking ) , even if it means playing the ” Devils Advocate ” simply because no one else will step up and state the obvious.

        Unfortunately, I have since then grown to accept that he was quite correct and it truly saddens me. The new accepted rule of thumb in a great number of areas on the web seems to be that if a post consists of more than 12-14 lines, it’s more likely to be skipped over than read. When it is read, the odds of a comment on the piece are even less.

        I don’t believe it’s so much that we having nothing new of substance to say as much as it is the personal difficulty validating the effort to do so knowing that so few people have the interest enough to even look. This is a mindset to be fought against at all costs.

      3. A wiser man than I on this topic, recently expressed to me his frustrated resignation at how truly few people cared enough to engage in an intellectual topic on many sites, much less submit one for discussion. I found that hard to agree with and saw the statement as a bit cynical.

        Personally, I love to try to initiate a discussion based on something that I find of particular interest( and preferably thought provoking ) , even if it means playing the ” Devils Advocate ” simply because no one else will step up and state the obvious.

        Unfortunately, I have since then grown to accept that he was quite correct and it truly saddens me. The new accepted rule of thumb in a great number of areas on the web seems to be that if a post consists of more than 12-14 lines, it’s more likely to be skipped over than read. When it is read, the odds of a comment on the piece are even less.

        I don’t believe it’s so much that we having nothing new of substance to say as much as it is the personal difficulty validating the effort to do so knowing that so few people have the interest enough to even look. This is a mindset to be avoided at all costs.

  3. Radiator Blog is a perfect example of a site that bucks the trend, although it’s different because it is the blog of a designer rather than a website.

    This article is fantastic and I would really like to see more like this, in fact, I dream of being able to write something as good.

    1. The ‘this article” link is not linked.

  4. Flaming does not befit a PP member or commenting visitor IMO.
    Besides I suspect Phillip would jump on a flamer pretty quickly.

    “I’ve touched on this with BlueWolf72 who has much more experience in this than I do and he feels that not enough readers are interested, and really all they want is news about mods and plenty of images”.
    There aren’t enough readers in the first place let alone interested ones. Readers who are interested are becoming a rare breed – many of them gathered here thank goodness.

    The number of times we read comments, here and but especially elsewhere, where the commenter quite plainly has not read the post properly, be it a thread or poll or mod or discussion and taken the time to understand is distressing and any resulting comment, irritating.

    What was the question? Oh yes “So, are original articles not wanted by fansite readers?”
    My answer: Yes they are wanted by those genuinely interested but stress original, informative and entertaining. Available, sometimes, elsewhere – always available at PP.
    While I’m at it, the forum contains many treasures – well, a few anyway.

    “but have you noticed how nearly all Valve-focused websites just seem to be regurgitating news?”.
    Yes and it’s very boring. You have to wade through reams and reams of boredom in the hope of finding something even remotely interesting. Very occasionally, you get a pleasant surprise.

    1. There aren’t enough readers in the first place let alone interested ones. Readers who are interested are becoming a rare breed — many of them gathered here thank goodness.

      Is that really true? I hope not, although I suspect you are right.

  5. Kyouryuu

    People don’t read anymore. I blame Twitter and the “blogification” of the Internet myself, but generally, in their insatiable lust for more information, the average Internet user has developed little appreciation for its quality. People want to become instant experts with minimal work, and this is a big problem because there’s a big difference between regurgitating Tweets and actually understanding the subject.

    The other day, I was watching CNN and I was aghast to see that the news ticker had been taken over by a live Twitter feed. I know that real journalism has been dead for years, but man, did they have to sink that low? Now any random idiot with a Twitter account gets to dictate the news? Are you bloody kidding me?

    1. Perhaps it is simply a case of the Internet is not the best place to publish these types of articles. We have to change the way we present things on websites comapared to printed media, so perhaps the actual content is important too.

      Perhaps the simply “wall of text” being unreadable, long articles are much easier to read when printed than on-screen. At least, I believe that. I know that when I see a really long article I wish I had access to a printer, so I could print it and read it later.

      That’s one of the reasons I split things into parts, so it’s easy for readers to dip in and out when they want to.

  6. I would say that this follows the greater trend of people not really caring about how the world works. A lot of people I have seen don’t want to know why or how something works, just that it works and when they what it to.

    May of the fan-sites cater for the majority that want something quick to continue the gaming experience, generally through a new game or mod. This is what the majority find “interesting’. Unfortunately there aren’t enough people who are interested in the why and how to warrant more content that compels us to think.

    I enjoy seeing how and why things are done and I would love to see more articles that analyse and deconstruct the gaming world.

    1. Unfortunately there aren’t enough people who are interested in the why and how to warrant more content that compels us to think.

      Or is it that they simply visit other sites or use printed media for that type of content?

  7. Vaughn

    Posting general gaming or gaming industry (in this case, Valve specific) news is really about one thing: Traffic.

    Posting original, personal article-driven content is really about one different thing: Unique/Focused Traffic.

    The top example type traffic wins in numbers. Normally sites try to meet somewhere in the middle for best results; however, some do not.

    1. I am not sure I agree with you. Whilst traffic is very important, I think it’s just too easy to post the latest news that gets more or less the same number of hits as something that took quite a few hours to produce.

      I honestly believe it’s lack of originality or laziness. Creating those types of articles is hard work and “real” journalists work for the big sites.

      I would have thought that since blogging became so popular we would see more interesting stuff but if it has appeared I’ve missed it.

      Perhaps it’s time to produce a list of the most interesting non-copmmercial game industry blogs.

  8. Joe

    Well new ideas normally come paired with episode 3 suggestions. Perhaps you could reply to that xxxxxx email that’s been floating around for a while 😉 Its been in my map archives for a while, Untouched. Your real themes thing was very original so you have “originality” credit there. But are we are we getting a bit tedious here? perhaps Phillip should have a go at making single player map himself 😛 I would play that regardless of quality 😀 if not… When is the next mapping contest?

    1. Well new ideas normally come paired with episode 3 suggestions

      I am talking about a wide range of articles, not just Ep3. See the list below from Robert Yang for some good suggestions.

      Perhaps you could reply to that xxxxxx email that’s been floating around for a while Its been in my map archives for a while, Untouched.

      Still making my features list. I should have warned you that replies can be pretty slow from me sometimes. I promise to reply soon. Don’t worry, this has been on the shelve for a few years and it’s gonna rock when it’s released, so let’s get it right.

      Your real themes thing was very original so you have ” originality” credit there

      Actually, I disagree completely. My real themes is just another example of reposting images that are already available on the Net. Sure, a lot of mapper or readers may not have seen them but it’s no different from reposting the Steam news.

      perhaps Phillip should have a go at making single player map himself I would play that regardless of quality if not

      One day, I hope.

      When is the next mapping contest?

      I plan to announce it next month.

      1. You’re selling yourself short, Phillip. While those images may have been on the net for years, and you may not even be the first person to think “hey, those could inspire some pretty cool source mapping”, but as near as I can tell you’re the first person to actually SAY “HEY, SOMEONE SHOULD BASE THE MAPS IN THEIR MODS OFF OF THESE PLACES!”

  9. jgoodroad

    I enjoy a good article, I found this to be worth my time. and I am just as much as a fan of the reviews, polls, and the occasional interview.

    what’s not to like?

  10. Robert Yang

    Ehh, you can’t really blame the sites — I assume you mean places like HL2.net and PHL — when there’s nothing really obvious going on.

    I mean, sure, they could do actual research for interesting pieces, e.g. stats that show which props are the most often used on dm_overwatch, the number of pigeons in all of HL2, an overview map of all HL2 BSPs put together, what the HL2 voice actors are doing these days, an analysis of how Stephen King’s “The Mist” influenced HL1, a survey of all interesting Source machinima and Gmod comics, the latest interesting Gmod mini-mod game types, etc.

    … but they don’t. Because they’re phoning it in, and to a certain extent, no one really cares.

    Except us, of course. 🙂

    1. Because they’re phoning it in, and to a certain extent, no one really cares.Except us, of course.

      That’s sad. Will the world become a version of Twitter (which I use for site updates) where we only have 140 characters to say something?

      Anyway, I look forward to reading the articles you mention.

  11. beaner3114

    I feel exactly the same way Phillip you are not alone, I was just discussing this with my friend the other day and we weren’t talking about just video gaming. We have seen a serious decline in the amount of intelligent and/or interesting articles regarding both video gaming and what we both enjoy, tabletop gaming. I will jump with joy the day these articles make a comeback.

  12. Berrie

    It really isn’t that simple, though. Most fan-sites leave their front-pages for simple news.
    Forums are usually the place for more original or interesting discussions and especially when the forums are more active than the front-page.

    Not too mention that original and interesting articles are indeed hard work. And not everyone has it in them to make these kinds of articles, nor do fan-sites normally have the dedicated backing of such writers to post such articles.
    And then there is the matter that such things need to be proofed before hand by those in charge of the site. One can’t just let everyone post their thoughts on whatever on the site’s front-page, the face of the site. Especially since not everyone can create original and thoughtful articles.
    Lastly these kind of things often come across as more blog-like rants. Many sites don’t have the precedent for these type of things and see it more as something appropriate for blogs or professional gaming sites.

    At least that’s what I think.

    1. Riven

      Berrie, I completely agree; you nailed it afaik. Front page posts really are for simple news and perhaps site-specific events. These interesting articles you speak of Phillip really are limited in presence to the blogosphere and paid writers for news sites. Most interesting conversations usually are developed spontaneously in forums, and I think sometimes, it’s a little embarrassing to make front page news posts linking to impetuous discussions from a forum, even if they are interesting.

      Blogs can do this because that’s what is expected of a blog, and I see PP as a glorified blog site (no offense) with community features and a database, therefore you are allowed to start interesting articles on topics you’ve given thought to and spark discussion. On snarkpit.net, we have user journals where members can “blog” about whatever they want and it will automatically appear on the front page (clicking a little button at the top will switch news to journal entries). Any admin censoring can only take place after the fact. But these journals have no threads attached to them; users can’t reply to them. My point being, there are insightful articles going on all the time across the “valveosphere” of community sites, but you won’t see them highlighted on the front page. A passer-through of one site is a regular of another, and everyone finds their niches and comfort zones over the sites they frequent. You’ll reply to something you’re interested in, and a lot of those topics will forever be limited to the forums.

      I’m not a fan of Twitter, namely, I don’t use it and I don’t read anyone’s ‘tweets’. I like my news posts fleshed out; if I see a “continue reading” link below an interesting headliner, I’ll click that first before reading the paraphrase or intro paragraph below the headline. Honestly, I don’t see Twitter lasting that long as a popular medium. IMO, Twitter is just another outlet for users to get quick info like news posts in an RSS feed. The world won’t become a version of Twitter, because Twitter has no subsistence; It’s an organization of links and headlines (in regard to news sites).

      That’s how I see it anyway…

  13. Hey Phillip,

    I noticed this on the german site I always visit for news. They do that a lot, but every now and then make pretty neat stuff, like articles about level design and valve history and they test multiplayer mods.

    They had this pretty cool article a few months back about level designers that I’d love to translate for you. They have given me the permission to do so, as long as the source is given.

    What do you think. When you connect to Steam, I can tell you more about it!

  14. BlueWolf72

    Use to write articles while on moddb and while I got hits no one wanted to read my long rants. Everyone wants the epic articles and since most of the topics are already discussed thats why you dont see them on hl2.net. Heck even the nice interviews of mod teams dont get the traffic they use to. Sites like this with one person posting AWESOME stuff and fun things to read and download and be inter active will always trump a blog site thats boring.

  15. Ryan

    I also used to feature content for ModDB and while I think a site like that needs to maintain some sort of official editorial voice, the comments would usually prove that most would skim through the articles at best and take in whatever media that was present.

    Like others have already stated, most sites are just happy phoning it in. I enjoy putting together the behind-the-scenes content even though it requires a ton more work and investigation.

    I also think part of the magic is making it look pretty so you can bring in more people who wouldn’t normally read anything more than a couple paragraphs. Anything to help break up the text and disguise it from looking like an average blog post might help prevent potential readers” eyes glazing over.

    1. I also think part of the magic is making it look pretty so you can bring in more people who wouldn’t normally read anything more than a couple paragraphs. Anything to help break up the text and disguise it from looking like an average blog post might help prevent potential readers” eyes glazing over.

      Yes, I agree. Presentation is very important, but one point to consider is that different target audiences require different presentation styles, at that’s almost impossible for websites.

      In many ways the presentation style of a magazine is fixed because you know hat type of people buy it, but with a website and the fact it’s free you have less “control” over your visitors.

      It’s interesting how you site, good luck with it, BTW, and Usercreated.org go with large images as article headers. It’s almost as if only an image will attract readers. Please don’t misunderstand me, that’s not a criticism because I like it and even have something on each of my posts, but it’s just the basic concept of content is not enough to hook readers, we need that shiny thing too.

      I often wonder what would happen if a site like yours created PDF articles and linked to them. The post itself would content the abstract and the obligatory image and a link to the PDF, which could be opened in a browser or just printed. Readers could still comment like they do now but you, the author, would have more control over how the article looked in print. Would having a magazine quality layout version available make more readers read it properly than skim it?

      1. Ryan

        It’s interesting you bring that up because I was considering collating everything into PDFs in the future. I think I’ve gone with the magazine-style layout and set displaced the comments to separate forums (like Escapist also does) to bring the focus directly on the content. ModDB comments would frustrate me sometimes as they would derail the focus of the intended discussion so I wanted to avoid any of that.

        However, in regards to ‘that big shiny thing” that we need to have to attract readers, its all about catering to your audience. Gamers tend to be more visually-oriented so I tend to make sure they’re sated with both images and video if possible.

        1. There used to be WordPress plugins that converted all post and comments into PDF files, but that’s just a direct conversion of your page.

          I run my site with an iron fist regards comments and remove off topic comments very quickly, but I like how you have the comments in BBPress. I tried that for a while but felt to limited.

          To some this may even seem off topic but encouraging interesting comments via how you present and run the site is as much a part of new content and the actual research and writing itself. As has been mentioned if nobody commented on a well-research and beautifully written piece I doubt an author would keep writing them.

          I fully understand your reasons for adding the image, the point I was making is that presentation of gaming sites over the last year has changed. In fact, if I were more interested in the general gaming community (and had more time!) I might write an article about it. It would tie in with the idea of how modding has changed over the years, from the mods themselves, to the types of reviews writing to the websites following them. Could be a really interesting series.

          Actually, If I were starting again, I would probably just make a video blog site. I am sure that would get more coverage than type for a lot of topics. Especially if it was made for Mobile content. Perfect for watch on the subway etc.

  16. Anon_223584

    I am 60 plus. I resent your attitude. My brother’s name is Phillip and our last name is Flamer. If you get your jolleys of making fun of people then more power to you.

    Cynthia Inez Flamer

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