Has it become too easy?

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

Has is become too easy?

That’s a question that seems silly. Nothing can be “too” easy, right?

Well, I disagree. By being too easy, we open the flood gates to work that doesn’t deserve our attention.

In this article I am going to talk about two aspects of mod making; creation and promotion.

Creation

I’ve seen it time and time again. Some modder announces a new mod that will eclipse all other mods. It will have a better story, better gameplay and the most amazing experiences. Your first thought might be that this should be covered by Promotion, not Creation, but that’s why the problems start.

It’s just too easy to think that you can create something amazing, because sitting at your PC and writing stuff like the above is a million miles away from actually making it. And who makes these sorts of claims? Nearly always it’s the modders who have never released anything.

Until you actually start to make something and begin to realise the amount of work involved, it’s easy to live in cloud cuckoo land.

I honestly believe making a great mod is little different to renovating an antique car. Yes, the car actually exists, but the amount of work is huge. How many renovators would consider such a project without having done smaller renovation work before, let alone announcing it to the world.

Another example I like to use is writing an 800 page novel. I could write an 800 page novel fairly quickly but I have NO doubt it would be terrible. Why? Because no matter that I have written hundreds of thousands of words for this website alone, it’s not the same as creating a paced long story.

If I wanted to do that, I would start with short stories and improve my craft. Even if I didn’t release those stories, I would probably show them to a few trusted people. The idea? Start small, get better and then get bigger.

So, what we have so far is that too many of the projects are too big or completely unrealistic. And this is where planning comes in. Making a big mod with a team is very different from making something yourself. There are so many aspects to consider; time management, people management, asset management etc.

Have many modders have really considered those aspects carefully BEFORE they started their mod? Some, but not enough.

And this is my point. Digital creation is somehow seen as being easy compared to real-world activities. Perhaps it’s the type and age of the people getting involved. Perhaps the virtual nature of the activity makes it harder to see appreciate how much work goes into creating a mod. In fact, the fact that it’s has almost no cost associated with it probably has something to do with it.

All I know is that every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks they can make a great mod.

Promotion

I love ModDB, I mean, who doesn’t? What it has done for the modding community is amazing. And Desura? WOW, what an achievement – fantastic. But, and yes there is a but, they might have made it too easy for modders to promote their work. Suddenly, everybody is posting stuff on the site and we, the community, have been “mod-overloaded”. We actually need a filter now to remove the shit from the worthy.

In my recent Around the Community 014 I mini-ranted about alpha work being shown and released. Aazell, on his blog, responded by listing reasons for and against releasing alpha work. I agree with all those reasons, but the problem I want to highlight here is that there is a difference between getting feedback from trusted associates and releasing stuff publicly.

That’s one of the reasons I started The Beta Testers Collective. Not everybody can provide good feedback and with all due respect to Scott, Dave and the team, ModDB often has such inane comments that it saddens me to read.

Getting feedback from trusted people is very important, but do writers release paragraphs to editors? No, they wait until they have some worth providing feedback on. Do writers tell the world they are going to write the next Harry Potter series? No, they sit down and write.

If modders have to get a pat on the back for every little piece of work they do, then they are probably in the wrong creative endeavour. No matter how great your work is, somebody in the gaming community will complain about it.

There’s a phrase in English, which is “having thick skin”. It normally means being able to tolerate criticism and rejection. However, it should also be used to reject the subservient type of comments too. Telling somebody they are doing a “great job – keep up the good work”, is as harmful or useless as saying “that’s shit – stop working now”. Comments from people you have no idea of their standards or values are not always worth listening to.

For me it’s no different than going to any playground in the western world and watching children with their parents. “Mummy, mummy. Look at me!” Then and only then, will they slide, swing or jump. Those modders on ModDB are the same. If they don’t have people looking at them, they don’t produce anything.

Not having to show every little piece of work comes from confidence and experience. That comes from making lots of small pieces of work and building up.

I am not suggesting that everybody on ModDB is like that, far from it, but enough are to make browsing the site a little less enjoyable.

I can guarantee that if a new modder starts a huge project, the work he does at the beginning will be inferior to the latter work, meaning either doing the first part again or scrapping it altogether.

Of course, all modders will improve over the course of long projects and learn something new, but that’s why small work at the beginning is better, so that those improvements can be incorporated into the new pieces.

How do we solve this?

Hell, I don’t know, but I have some ideas.

Firstly, let’s hack into ModDB and take them offline for six months. Of course, I’m joking but I would love to see what happens to modders if they can’t easily show their work. I bet that the committed, dedicated, and mature modders would carry on regardless, while the whinny, little attention seekers would either stop work or double their YouTube output.

So, seriously, what can we do. Well firstly, we can try and explain to these modders that what they are doing is not helpful, either to themselves or the community. But to be honest, I have little faith that common sense will make any difference in these cases. They do it because of the type of people they are. A few choice wise words won’t change characters overnight.

What we actually need is a “Quality Filter” on places like ModDB (I originally called this the “Shit Filter”, because, let’s be honest, a lot of it is shit!). Some way for respected users to judge the updates posted. If enough of these users “pass” something, then it gets on the frontpage. If not, it gets stuck on each mod’s page. I’m not suggesting anything be deleted or removed (if modders are stupid enough to waste their time on making worthless movies instead of making better mods, that’s their problem), just don’t give every update the same prominence.

I post a lot of terrible mods on PP and they also make the frontpage, so I am guilty of what I am complaining about, but I do have a way for users to filter the quality releases and I truly believe that we need that filter or guideline for so much of the content released (I am being very generous with the word “content”).

Just to continue the theme of things being too easy for a moment longer. It’s not just gaming where we see it but almost everywhere. You can record a video of your cat smiling on your mobile phone and within minutes have uploaded it to your YouTube account, tweeted about it and linked to it on your Facebook page. Yes, that’s fantastic for so many things and I would hate to lose that option, but seriosuly, there is so much crap being uploaded we are back to the filter issue.

It’s something that society is having to deal with and individuals will have their own mechanism for doing it, but it’s too easy to just blanket avoid things and miss out on the worthwhile stuff.

And before anybody mentions DIGG, yes, that is useful but what the majority want is not always the best filter. And so I’ll introduce an idea I have been trying to work on for PP, and that’s one of “Selected Respected Users”. Imagine you could see a list of “Respected Users” on ModDB, check the sorts of things they have “passed” and then either include or exclude them from your personal filter. That way you would have some control over what you get to see, but still benefit from group opinion.

It’s like deciding which reviewers get included in the PP ratings. If you could exclude certain people who you don’t see eye-to-eye with then the rating you see would be closer to what you are likely to be interested in. I am trying to get this included in the site.

I want to see more people make great mods, my hobby depends on it and yes, I have been harsh, but I also believe everything I have written. We are not going to get rid of all the terrible updates released but we must do our best to make the output from the community as good as possible.

Allow me to finish by saying that I have nothing against ModDB, but used them as the prime example because how they work makes it very easy for users to add content, but there are plenty of other sites that regurgitate it too. The difference is in those cases it’s the editors that need to be the filter as they choose what gets put on their site.

Long Live ModDB! Long Live Quality Work! Long Live the Gaming Community!

Did anybody get the visual reference?

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13 Comments

  1. Hec

    Wow, at last someone who tells the truth about many issues in the modding community.

    It’s really true that there are actually tons of shit in the “To be Launched” suitcase but what is worse is that those so-called modders aren’t quite serious, I mean here in my country Mexico, we have the phrase “dog that barks too much,it won’t bite you!!!” and that’s exactly what happens with many of this guys they can write a bible on their plans and stuff but they really deppend in a pathologic way of the readers which commonly say “oh that looks great” and that, so come on, I mean did A.Einstein had it’s blog where he say every week or month, how he was advancing in his relativity theory?????, NO!!!, he was working on it and untill he and many collegues could say it was ready then it changed the world of physics, maybe is a vain example but is similar in the modding scene, modders who are “doers” just do their stuff without many pretentious ambitions, maybe that’s why love for modding in HL is so important, because you love to modding not to be inconditionally loved by the “fans”.

    In this Phillip’s blog entry, I could easyly notice about the perfect description of a IDEALISTIC world in a modder’s head versus a REALISTIC world in a modder’s WORK, notice here the difference betwen HEAD or mind and WORK, that last word means to do the things and in least words work your ass on!!!, not just stay in the mere “yakety-yak”.

    In a personal view I tend not to be so harsh with new modders and the “Missile Strike Inminent” mod released here in PP recently is a good example of that, and that doesn’t mean I am an indulgent reviewer, as I say I also have my limits and patience but I think if a rockie modder do at least something coherent and actually release it then that’s a good point on it that requiere to be stressed out, sometimes humility is important in both gamer-reviewer, and modder. Then I agree that the propper people in the feedback is really crussial to lead the mod to a dignified release.

  2. AI

    Phillip, a quote above above “having think skin” should be “having thick skin” of which I have had for many years!! 😉 I must say good article!

  3. Kasperg

    I think rewarding some maps (if we can call them that) with a top position in the PP front page is the most immediate way of granting someone undeserved promotion.
    I’m not sure how, but there might be a way to display items in the front page taking into account their relevance and quality, besides the rating bar system already in place.
    I know it’s difficult and this site is already well organized into sections, but there’s something wrong (for me at least) about having to scroll down to see the latest release with 20 “Play it Now!” reviews because a couple of “Avoid it/Maybe” maps rated by three people have pushed it down in my screen. Again, this is all my opinion.

    On a more general note, I think it’s interesting to see where people’s motivations stem from. We’ve all seen mods promoting themselves with a “great” story, a couple of map screenshots and a dozen weapon renders. In these cases, we have to understand that the part of the process these people enjoy doing is actually the “promotion” part, the “create a team” part, the “make a new moddb entry” part. Sometimes they don’t like mapping and are looking for other people to do the work.
    Is this something we can fight against? I don’t really think so, although moddb is much more strict now when it comes to creating new projects than for example eight years ago.

    Because everyone’s main goal in this hobby (or at least I hope so) is actually enjoying the process (whether it’s mapping, modeling, making trailers etc), we can’t really expect a change of tendency. The same no-one should expect me as a mapper to cut down on creating custom materials for my own maps. It’s a huge part of what I enjoy doing and that’s really what will keep me glued to my chair while modding, not what others consider should be my priority 🙂

    1. Derbler

      “I know it’s difficult and this site is already well organized into sections, but there’s something wrong (for me at least) about having to scroll down to see the latest release with 20 “Play it Now!” reviews because a couple of “Avoid it/Maybe” maps rated by three people have pushed it down in my screen.”

      Seconded.

      1. Hec

        Sometimes they don’t like mapping and are looking for other people to do the work.

        So what do you think about that???, They are RIPPING US OFF!!, if they dont like maping nor even modding what the hell are doing???? I mean that’s what I call irresponsible developers they give you 100% crap all the time!!!

      2. I didn’t really want this article to turn into how PP sucks, but I understand your frustration guys. The site displays chronologically and that will always be a problem. Perhaps I post too many editorials for some readers” liking, or maybe I post too many older maps. Whatever I do, somebody won’t be happy.

        However, there is a partial solution and that is the customised Readers” Recommendations. It’s detailed in the guide, but I doubt 5% of readers have taken the time to explore. Allow me to briefly explain here.

        The Readers” and Phillip’s Recommendation pages accept various criteria. The examples below are for Readers” Recommendations, but they work in my recommendation page too.

        g — specifies the game using the category slug, e.g. /browse/readers-recommendations/?g=hl2-ep2 displays the readers” recommendations for Half-Life 2: Ep 2 mods and maps. If this parameter is not defined, all maps and mods are included.
        y — specifies the year of the posts, e.g. /browse/readers-recommendations/?y=2008 displays Readers” recommendations for mods and maps posted in 2008. If this parameter is not defined, all years are included
        t — threshold — this parameter has controls the minimum number of recommendations, e.g. /browse/readers-recommendations/?g=hl2&t=2 displays the highest rated Half-Life 2 mods and maps that have received at least 2 recommendations.
        rating_limit=x – specifies the minimum average rating, e.g. /browse/readers-recommendations/?y=2011&rating_limit=4.0 shows maps and mods for any game posted in 2011 with a minimum average rating of 4.0. You can change the 4.0 to any number between 0.0 and 5.0
        sort_key=date&sort_order=desc – the display order, e.g. /browse/readers-recommendations/?y=2011&sort_key=date&sort_order=desc shows maps and mods for any game posted in 2011, displayed in date order, with the newest at the top. “date” can be changed to “recs” which would order the list with the highest rated maps and mods at the top.

        PHEW! That’s quite powerful.

        Now, as you may have noticed, it is possible to mix and match the parameters, using the “&” symbol, to suit your needs. Based on both your comments I would suggest this:
        /browse/readers-recommendations/?y=2011&rating_limit=4.0&sort_key=date&sort_order=desc.

        This will display maps and mods posted in 2011, with a minimum of 4.0 average rating, displayed in date order with newest at the top. You can change the “4.0” to “3” or even “5” if you prefer.

        Now, ideally, you would be able to see this as an RSS feed, but it’s on the list of code to write.

        In addition, I also want to have a proper user interface, for users to create filters, with mouse clicks instead of manually changing the parameters. They would also be able to save various filters and access them easily. The most common filters would be made available for all users.

        I hope you take time to read the above carefully, as the system is very flexible and useful.

        1. Hec

          I didn’t really want this article to turn into how PP sucks

          Not at all Phillip!, PP will never suck I mean PP, is pure quality and milles, years away from the tons of trash Mod DB carrys on!!, I understand Mod DB is biger and also is an important site for modding scene, but PP is unique and special for me I think ur page have the right filters enough to know which mod is good, excellent or just mere crap!!

          1. Don’t worry. I know parts of PP suck and will always try to improve the site.

  4. Aazell

    Ranty McRantiker from Rantsville!

    That was quite a rant…

    Looking at Mod DB today we see roughly 1450 HL2 mods unreleased. Roughly 340 HL2 mods released.

    I’m assuming they’ve had a clear out over the years so I’m sure there were lots more but right now thats roughly a quarter of all mods actually make it to a released state.

    Thems aint good odds.

    So, yes, Phil’s right, there are a shed load more good intentions and high ideals out there than actual work being done.

    I do think people sorely underestimate the work needed to create something new for people to play. It takes, passion, drive a a very understanding partner.

    I think there should space for all mappers on the web. Those who dabble with the editor and want to share they’re latest deathmatch killbox effort… and those who spend months and months building georgous looking and well designed mods.

    The question is, what space is the right one.

    I dont know of a site where you can post your crap mapping efforts. I’m seriously thinking of creating one though.

    Godawfulmaps.com or something… (thats not a real link by the way)

    A place where you can post your 10 minute efforts in hammer. Share the .bsp, or .vmf files so that others can build on your efforts or expand your ideas.

    No shame that its fullbright, no mockery of how lousy your texture alignment is.
    No reviews… because we already know it’ll be rubbish.
    All maps welcome…

  5. Aazell

    Oh and Admiral Ackbar reference is cos he was always shooting his mouth off about his brilliant plan to blow up the second death star but it turned out that he was full of sh*t and it was a trap all along.

    What a massive loser!

  6. agent00kevin

    Good article. All too many times I see comments saying a Mod is great or the ol “keep up the good work” statement. Ill see a Mod thats just a rehash of L4D or another mediocre HL2 ‘rebel vs combine” Mod and see people just fawning all over it. It really confuses me sometimes.

    Theres one particular Mod that its moderate popularity can only be attributed to constant twice-a-week updates and the Modders friendship with a couple Modding sites” admins. The mapping is mediocre at best, all of the models and props are taken from other Mods and the story is the same tired tale of fighting the combine. The Modder is even very bad with PR; and gets very defensive and angry when someone tells it like they see it.

    Ive even seen a few where it was rather obvious the multiple Moddb profiles were created by the same Modder, who proceeded to post in his own comments that their work was the best thing theyd ever seen on Moddb. Obviously the Mod was crap and as far as I know, disappered into the depths of unreleased Mods.

    I could totally agree with a rating system, or a way to filter Mods by the number of trackers. If you were able to click a button and reorder how the Mods show up based on the number of trackers, that would keep the worthy projects on the first few pages while knocking that pesky shit Mod that the creator updates every 2 days far out of sight.

    I am guilty of posting screens when I first build a new area in Hammer sometimes, but I have a reason for it. I want to reassure my trackers that after weeks of nothing, I am still making progress. I limit my updates to once per week and generally dont post anything for 2-4 weeks at a time. Since I do everything myself, from mapping to modelling to textures to sound and coding, weeks may go by where Ive only worked on models and textures or sound, with very little mapping progess made. When I do finally get some new areas done, I show them for that reassurance.

    Take Titan XCIX. The creator didnt update his Moddb page twice a week, spamming the front page with his Mod. There were very little updates compared to most Mods, and when it was released a very nice polished product was what came out. He generated large numbers of trackers with quality, not quantity. Too many Modders think that generating support in the form of trackers is dependant on keeping their Mod on the first page or two.

  7. OG Loc

    IT’s A TRAP!

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