Poll Question 090 – Is the lack of new mods due to episodic content?

5th July 2008

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

The amount of new maps and mods has taken a dip recently, although there seems to be a few good ones on the horizon, that didn’t stop me from wondering…

Is the lack of new mods due to episodic content?

Introduction

I’ve been a vocal opponent of Episodic release for Half-Life 2, especially for mods, right from the beginning. I’ve published a few rants before and I want to publish another one.

I know that it’s probably a waste because Valve have already said that they are reconsidering the concept with regard to HL4, (Remember Episode One, Two and Three are consider Half-Life 3 by Valve) but I still need to write it.

I’ve decided to summarize my points again and add the latest issue at the end. If you’ve read my previous article (Episodic Content Rant) and want to jump to the latest issue click here.

Definition

Perhaps my problem lies in how I define an Episode. Maybe you define it differently but here is mine:

An episode is a short, self-contained release, that allows the viewer/player the opportunity to watch/play the episode without having to have prior knowledge of any previous work. The episode will probably also contain a deeper, longer running storyline.

Now that may seem overly defined but to me it’s very important. Otherwise what you release are Parts.

Episodes or Parts

What’s the difference? Well, I say a lot. A part requires the previous releases to have been seen/played to get the most from it, not always but generally. Can you imagine watching The Matrix Trilogy or Lord of the Rings out of order? I can’t. They are not episodes but parts.

Let’s use TV for some other examples. One of the few TV shows I regularly watch is Scrubs. I can miss an episode and watch the next one and still enjoy the show, it’s better if I have seen the previous one but not essential. There’s a longer running story that is referred to but again not knowing the details doesn’t spoil the show.

However, another TV show I watch is Stargate Atlantis and whilst this is also released in episodes I feel that the long term story has greater emphasis than in Scrubs. I never watch an episode out of chronological order.

Clearly episodes can have different forms but they still stand as individuals.

Episodes have been compared to magazines and full-length games to novels. I like the comparison because it gives me the feeling I can dip in and out of the episodes without becoming too immersed. Perfect for when I have an hour or two to kill. However, if I want something I can really get my teeth into then it has to be a book.

Regarding the definition of the term perhaps George Carlin explains it better (Warning, strong language in that video!)

A Look At Mods

One of my biggest problems with episodic releases is that mod teams suddenly decided that this was fantastic and perfect for making mods. Many quickly decided that their mod was perfect for episodes and changed their release schedule.

I have a number of issues with this. Firstly, to my knowledge no SP mod has been released in real episodes yet. Don’t even think of mentioning Minerva, which I’ll discuss in a moment. Some are close to releasing the second episode but most of the advertised episodes seemed to have disappeared. So the widely heralded benefit of being able to make smaller releases just hasn’t happened.

Most mods don’t have enough professionalism to hold groups together for long periods of time. The team members just can’t do it. Some of the best mods released recently have been one or two man affairs. (Union , Offshore, Forward Motion etc). Sure there are some mods teams that release great work, but that’s not related to the episodic release model at all. They would release great work whether or not they followed that idea.

Now, the next issue I have is with the storyline. Suddenly splitting your story into parts doesn’t make it an episode. An episode needs to be carefully written and each should really form a whole not just neatly cut sections. Now, most mods rarely tell a good story anyway so splitting the story into pieces doesn’t help at all. Mod teams still need to understand that writing a mod story is a specialist field and requires specialists. The problem is that everybody has an idea but not everybody can map or model. Therefore everybody thinks that can write a story. Another problem is that most SP Stories are not stories at all, just situations, but that’s a whole new article!

Minerva, is a fantastic piece of work in three PARTS. Yes, parts not episodes. I can’t play the parts individually without playing the others, well, technically I presume I can but who would want to? Another point is that each part isn’t a standalone work. The screen going black in an elevator doesn’t make it an episode. Now you may disagree and I am sure the Minerva fanboys won’t be happy. But I stand by my viewpoint. Whatever my opinion of the complete work, it shouldn’t be described as episodes.

Adam foster, the author of Minerva, has said, and I quote from memory here, “that any modder that doesn’t release in episodes is an idiot”. I believe that any modder that releases in episodes without first really understanding what they are doing is an idiot. Not all mods should be released as episodes (I’m not saying Foster said this) because not all work is suitable. Doing it just because other people are is just The Emperor’s New clothes for modding!

Some mods are better as short single releases. Just the same as some stories require 500 pages and other make great short stories.

One last point before I move onto my latest grievance, and that is What did mods do before episodes? They released PARTS of course. You only need to look at my list of Half-Life mods to see a number of releases in this format. What’s wrong with the previous method for mods? How in fact is it any different from releasing in parts the way mods used to? For normal mods NONE. For new games or total conversions with a whole range of new assets to create a lot.

Has the gaming community succumbed to falling for using words or phrases just to sound cool? (Actually I suppose we have been more guilty of it than most other industries or areas, with the exception of Management Speak)

Actually I would argue that the releases so far that have been called episodes have in fact been parts not real episodes.

You could also argue that if something continues from exactly the finishing point of the previous release it’s a part not an episodes, but perhaps that’s just my personal definition.

I can definitely see the possible benefits for new IP games but for established developers I think it brings negative aspects. Which brings me to now. Why have I written another article? Well, besides making me feel better, I feel that Valve has damaged the modding community by deciding to release HL3 as the three episodes.
Damage is perhaps too strong a word for it, maybe “deincentivevized” the modding community. They have removed, or at least not added, the incentive to make new mods with the new episodes.

Putting aside any financial implications and other issues of their episode releases, let’s look at the mod releases. You only need to view the list of Episode One and Episode Two mods to see that there really hasn’t been that much released. At least in comparison with Half-Life 2. I believe the reason is that there is not enough new content in each episode to convince mappers to make new mods. Whilst you could argue that the lack of releases are due to the time scale involved I believe that would be taking the easy way out. That could easily be countered by arguing that the familiarity with the editor should have compensated for the low number of releases.

Episode Two has more chance because it introduces something new, but Episode One hasn’t received much attention. Now, as much as I have faith in Valve releasing an absolutely stunning Episode Three, I am seriously worried that unless it offers a huge load of new content then modders won’t start making mods for it.

I worry that many have moved onto newer engines, Crysis being the main one. They have almost split the modding community and made it hard to choose which game to mod for. I guess that if they hadn’t released the episodes we would be closer to a full HL3 than we are to an Episode Three. Perhaps the timing would be exactly the same, who knows but I am convinced that if Episodes One, Two and Three would have been released as a full game then modders would be as excited about it as they were for Half-Life 2!

I truly believe, and it seems you do to, that Valve should have released HL3 as a full game and maybe sub-contracted some side stories as episodes, just like they did with Opposing Force and Blue Shift.

One last point is that not everybody who owns Half-Life 2 has bought HL2: Ep1 and Hl2: Ep2. Now, that was probably never going to happen but why would modders build mods for games that don’t have the same market/community penetration as HL2?
What motivation is there to move onto the new game? Just a few new assets, is that really enough? I don’t think so.

Is There A Need To Worry?

Perhaps you think I am worrying for nothing and you are probably right, but in the short term things have gotten a little quite on the modding front and since Episode Three probably won’t be released until late 2009, things could get worse. We are due a few long-term projects but not much specifically released for Episode 2.

The Poll

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18 Comments

  1. Sortie

    Interesting article, it certainly puts some perspective onto Adam’s Episodic Approach. I actually think the problem is not the method, it’s the people. I know from my own experience that many mappers switch from project to project, each time scraping work on older maps. Before the Episodic approach got famous, many mapper would’ve to release the map as a single map, or as a whole map. With this method the mapper can now release the map as the first map in a series.
    The problems arise after the first release, the mapper gets bored with his product and seeks another project. The mappers lack the abillity to work dedicated on their projects. Without such a dedication it is impossible to release a mod in the first place.

    However, for modders that are truly dedicated such as Adam, the episodic approach is brilliant. The mapper is able to work dedicated on one piece of work and release it and then move onto the next. It speeds the development up because the mapper is no longer able to switch between working on maps, but rather forcing the mapper to be more dedicated.
    This method should not be used by people who is not dedicated on a certain project, they should instead fall-back upon releasing single maps instead of full-blown mods, as everyone dream of.

    I agree, the definition of the Episodes is wrong, the episode term is incorrectly used and that’s Valve’s fault. I fully understand why Valve called it Episode One, not Part One, because that’ll just confuse the customers. The problem is that the modding community learned the word; it sounds cooler than just Part 1. Because so many people use the word Episode while meaning Part, it’ll change the definition of Episode in the context of modding, thus making it fully acceptable to call fragmented mods for Episodes.

    I personally, do not use the traditional single-release schedule that used to be common, where mods were released when fully done and the development was done in secretcy, nor do I use the Episodic Approach, because as Philip said, it do not work for all projects. I use another misnamed method: Demos (should have been called Betas or something clever).

    Demos is my method of development. I use a fixed deadline set every third month, where I release all the gameplay that has been made so far. Think of this as semiopen playtesting. Why is this great for singleplayer mods longer than a few maps? Playtesting! Traditional mods betatest their mods very late in development. By releasing maps before they’re even close to the final version, it is possible to test gameplay and get feedback before the mod is finished, using that feedback the mod is much better at the next release.

    As for the development, releasing a beta is a huge benchmark in development. As of my demo released a few days ago, I added two new maps in beta stage, but with fully playable gameplay, and so I’ve been adding 1-2 maps for each of my few lastest demos. So the method is clearly working.

    The method has downsides too. The main problem is that players to get play your game before it’s finished. They may dislike it and decide to not play the final product when it’s done. However, players are going to play your mod sooner or later, so let’s make it sooner and then make it even better when we reach later, instead of just wait until later. I don’t believe in development in secretcy, so I publically make my mod available upon each release. I find smaller communities where the concentration of modding-related person is high, and then release the download link there. I however, do not promote my mod on ModDB and claiming that Rank 5 of 7000 means my mod is freaking awesome. No, that is not required. Only commercial games need to be promoted before release, in order to ensure sales. And if I did, I’ll have to spend amounts of my time on PR such as moderating my forum, banning the vast amount of idiots.
    Therefore development unknown to the general public is bad, however using this method, development known to the smaller modding communities are used much better.

    From my experience just a bunch of testers can provide very valuable feedback. I got somewhat 10-20 useful bunches of feedback upon each demo, and that’s more critisim than I can fix in just three months! Yet I keep improving smaller parts and adding new, as I watch my project grow towards the full-scale SP mod I’m dreaming of.

    Therefore I find the demo-method I’ve developed much more useful than the Episodic approach, in terms of improving the mod faster and getting instant feedback, while still being able to use the good part of the Episodic approach, being able to work focused on smaller parts of a much larger project.

    To return to the subject. Is the lack of new mods due to episodic content? As I previously stated, the problem is the community is unable to handle the method due to their own missing dedication. Because of this method, all those mods that previously was bound to die, will get around to the first release and then die. This makes it seem like the method is failing. But the method is not the problem, it’s the mappers. They are too undedicated to fully use the method.

    What we need is a reeducation of the mapping community, people has to learn that they should work on a map till it’s done and then release it, learning from it’s release, instead of just scrapping the project and moving on, as I’ve done with so many.

    I voted No to the poll, even though it may be related to the so-called lack of mods (Which I’m yet to actually feel, there are being released just as many quality mods as there was a few years ago). I just don’t see the method as the problem, the modders whom use it, is the problem.

  2. As I previously stated, the problem is the community is unable to handle the method due to their own missing dedication. Because of this method, all those mods that previously was bound to die, will get around to the first release and then die. This makes it seem like the method is failing. But the method is not the problem, it’s the mappers. They are too undedicated to fully use the method.

    I agree with much you say but I feel you have missed my reasoning.

    What I was trying to say was that the lack of mods is due to the fact that unlike a full release the Episodes released by Valve haven’t contained enough new and interesting content to encourage mappers to create new maps, not that fact it’s simply episodic.

  3. Speckman

    I can say that episodic content might discourage mappers. When I saw the first trailer to episode 2 I thought that If I ever made a full production mod, I would want to wait so I could utilize all the new content released in it. For a mod team pulling together for a large project, the constant updates would make things difficult. They would want to use the newest content, since it might take years to produce, they might have to switch engines once or twice and go back to rework some of their finished maps. Obviously all this extra work would be discouraging. So I think Phillip has a point. Though I think that the episodes HAVE released enough new content to make people want to switch engines (but not enough to make it worth it) and that is whats discouraging, since what they make will quickly become outdated. If Valve released Half Life 3 there would certainly be a larger mod release rate, since people would feel more secure in making a mod for it.

    If theres a problem, just mod Half life 2 and save yourself the trouble. 😉

  4. Sortie

    Hehe, I clevery avoided that subject to get my own message out. You mean “Lack of Mods for all Source Games”, or just “Lack of Mods for Newer Source Games”? I think you must mean the latter? Anyways when deciding which game to mod, the first question is “What am I going to do?”, “What kind of content and features do I need?”.

    Episode One introduced many useful elements such as HDR and many useful textures and models for its maps, and so did Episode Two. A project as mine requires these features that these games offers. But does all projects? The answer is no, most mods can just rely on HL2 content and the content they offer themselves. But the technology is a problem, mappers that only need HL2 content can be forced to use Ep2 just to get HDR and particles. That’s why Valve introduced the Source SDK Base! Everyone who owns just one Source game is entitled both the Ep1 SDK Base and the Ep2 SDK Base, that means that if modders give up the new content, many more players can play their own.
    That is why there is few episodic mods, most mods doesn’t need the episodic content but only need some basic HL2 content, and this is actually a good thing: More players can play their mods!

    The few mods that does need Ep1 or Ep2 content is based upon these games instead of the SDK Base. As I pointed out there is few mods that require this content, and so the SDK Base is a great solution.

    In conclusion, the lack of mods for Ep1 and Ep2 is not because they offer too little content, but because it’s much smarter for the average modder to use other implemations of the Source Engine. If Valve made more valurable content to the modders, the mods is more likely to be based on the games containing this content, in such a case less people will be able to play their mods. It’s a tradeoff between content and the amount of players able to play the mod.

    Therefore, I still agree with my vote No, but it is certainly indirectly connected as I pointed out previously.

  5. MrTwoVideoCards

    One of the biggest reasons too is the expectations that some of the community have. Some people expect mods to be as great as commercial games, and up the experience every time. Just as sortie even said, it’s really the people. Aside that EP2 and EP1 really just came out, it took a couple of years for Half Life 2 to be out and have a good mod pop up. In the time ahead, were likely to see a couple of EP1 mod’s, but maybe not any EP2. So far It kinda looks like I’m really the only one that’s going for making an EP2 mod. Content is wider now, So I can’t understand how’d that be an issue too just like sortie stated as well.

  6. Pace

    To me there are 2 separate issues that seem to have been conflated, an episodic approach to commercial games (and how that relates to mods), and an “episodic” (“parts”) approach to making mods. I use quotes because I think it’s a somewhat different idea. You may well have a point that Valve’s approach to episodic gaming isn’t encouraging new mods, since each episode is only marginally better than the previous. I’m not sure I necessarily agree, but it’s at least an interesting point.

    The other issue seems rather different to me, that of making mods. (shall we say segmented approach perhaps? I’m trying to avoid semantics here.) First off, I suspect you’re misquoting Adam Foster, and if not you’re definitely taking what he said out of context. What he’s said numerous times is that a lot of promising mods fail because they’re too ambitious, and that many modders would be better off breaking things up into more manageable “parts’, and actually release them. Of course most of the mods that I see here on PlanetPhillip do tend to be small, and of reasonable ambition, so I don’t think he was addressing them anyway. I don’t really see the point in arguing the semantics of part vs. episode, but clearly what Adam meant was that Minerva:Metastasis is an example of “episodic” release (the 3 released “parts’, if you will.) If your definition of “episodic” differs, fine, but that’s at least not what Adam meant. (Near as I can tell.) (There’s also the fairly obvious fact that he has actually released a successful mod, and those of us who haven’t should be careful in questioning his advice on how to make a successful mod.)

    most of the advertised Minerva episodes seemed to have disappeared

    Goodness, it’s only been about 9 months since one major release. Not to mention on his blog he’s had many updates of reference material, as well as preliminary screenshots, and he also recently put up a home page for the next “episode’.

    (hmm, I seem to be doing a lot of defending of Mr. Foster here, but I’d like to point out that branding people “fanboys” as a method of preemptively discounting anything they may say is a rather nasty trick.)

    on another tangent:

    Mod teams still need to understand that writing a mod story is a specialist field and requires specialists

    My goodness, specialists? We’re all amateurs here aren’t we? Do you need to be a specialist to make a mod in the first place? If anyone wants to try and make a mod, bless their hearts, if they want to try to tell a story, all the better.

  7. Kasperg

    Is the lack of new mods due to episodic content?

    Episodic content doesn’t alter the default content at all, so they are not related in my opinion. In other words, I don’t think that we would have more mods around if the HL2 episodes didn’t exist. I can see that It might delay some mods that decided to include the new content, but it shouldn’t affect other cases.
    The real reason why there might be less mod releases is because reaching a quality standard for the Source engine requires an exponentially higher effort from map makers, material makers, modelers etc.
    In the summer of 2006, I made a HLDM map in about 10 days. It took me 2 months to create the Source remake of that map, even though I imported all the existing geometry!
    This slow pace of design makes it easier for modders to lose their will faster and give up.

  8. I voted yes.

    I prefer to play something that is complete and finished. Whilst I understand that releasing a mod section by section is probably more convenient for the modding teams, I prefer to get the whole story in one go.

    The keyword in the last paragraph is ‘story’. I prefer anything I play to have a storyline, and not one that is broken up into different sections. The classic example of this is the official EP1 & EP2 releases, and of course, the upcoming release. I would rather have waited until they could release one large episode to finish the story off.

    Why I yhink it is killing mapping/modding, is that the groups, while have all the motivation, and drive at the beginning of their projects, they rarely see it through to completeion. So we could have great fun playing episode 1 out of four proposed episode, and suddenly find that the team has given up on the project!

    I’m most definitely not a big fan of episodic releases.

    Here’s another example I can think of: Painkiller Total Overdose. I’m not sure that anyone is familiarwith the game, but I liked it, and was pleased when the expansion was released. now this indeed started as a fan-made mod, but instead, they completed the project, and as a result, it ended up being a commercial release. Now some might argue that a commercial mod, doesn’t apply here, but I think that a good mod, complete and in its entirety, deserves the recognition, and believe me, it was well worth the small amount I paid for it.

    I didn’t get this level of satisfaction from EP1 & 2 I’m sad to say, and haven’t from many of the episodic mods I’ve come across.

    My message to modders: Finish the project! Don’t release it in tiny episodes. As Painkiller Overdose proved, it might even prove to be finanically rewarding, and at the same time, giving us gamers a rewarding and enjoyable extension to some of our favourite games. I’m sure many more gamers would pay to extend our favourite games with a quality finished extension! Perhaps extensions and mods/maps don’t belong together, but I’m in the opinion that they serve the same purpose – keeping us interested, and keeping us playing the same games that we love!

    Don’t give us samples of what you wish you could achieve – try that little bit harder and give us the finished product.

  9. In conclusion, the lack of mods for Ep1 and Ep2 is not because they offer too little content, but because it’s much smarter for the average modder to use other implemations of the Source Engine.

    Yes, that could be true. I don’t have the numbers but I have little doubt that more players have Hl2 than Ep1 or Ep2.

    Especially since buying Ep1 or Ep2 was so cost ineffcient. The Orange Box made it seem almost stupid to buy them individually, meaning most people had a spare HL2 to give away.

    Aside that EP2 and EP1 really just came out, it took a couple of years for Half Life 2 to be out and have a good mod pop up.

    Well, I wouldn’t say that Ep1 just came out. Also I think that it’s not as relevent as you make out. Hl2 modding was, I am told, significantly differently from HL1, whereas modding for the episodes is almost the same. That’s why I don’t think the time frame is that important.

    So far It kinda looks like I’m really the only one that’s going for making an EP2 mod.

    There have been a few Ep2 mods released.

    To me there are 2 separate issues that seem to have been conflated, an episodic approach to commercial games (and how that relates to mods), and an “episodic” (“parts”) approach to making mods. I use quotes because I think it’s a somewhat different idea.

    Agreed, but I need a poll question and the article was already written, so I just cheated and used it!

    Pace Said:

    most of the advertised Minerva episodes seemed to have disappeared

    Goodness, it’s only been about 9 months since one major release.

    Actually, that’s a complete error on my part. The word and link Minerva should not have been there. I really can’t explain why it’s there and I apologize. It should just read advertised episodes. I have corrected it now.

    clearly what Adam meant was that Minerva:Metastasis is an example of ” episodic” release

    I’m not going to argue the point s about Adam’s quote becasue I don’t believe we will get anywhere. My view is clearly different from yours.

    My goodness, specialists? We’re all amateurs here aren’t we? Do you need to be a specialist to make a mod in the first place?

    Yes, definitely. You only need to look at most big mods to see that each area of developement is handled by a specialist. Of course there are people that have multiple talenst, but most do one thing. I think it’s a natural progression within the gaming industry. Even full retail games have gone through this progression.

    ANother point is why can’t there be amatuer specialist? You make it sound like a dirty word. Being focused and professional, doesn’t mean you have to do things full time.

    Episodic content doesn’t alter the default content at all, so they are not related in my opinion.

    No, but Epsiodic rleeases limit the amount of new content that can be used by modders. Unless Valve released a bunch of new content not included in the episode, then what you have to use is reduced compared to a full game.

    The real reason why there might be less mod releases is because reaching a quality standard for the Source engine requires an exponentially higher effort from map makers, material makers, modelers etc.

    I agree and understand, but we still have plenty of Hl2 mods and that suffers from the same issues as your example shows.

    So we could have great fun playing episode 1 out of four proposed episode, and suddenly find that the team has given up on the project!

    You could be right but can you give me some examples?

    Finish the project!

    I agree

    don’t release it in tiny episodes.

    I disagree. I’m not against episodic release for mods, becasue they are plenty of good reasons for doing it and I accept those. Not least being it has more chance of being finished that way than a larger mod. The point I am trying to make is that it should be carefully planned.
    I would rather play the first episode of a planned four, than nothing. The whole process may teach the modders something and the next release will be better.

    However, if I have a choice of large mod or smaller ill-concieved episodes (Even games!) I choose the large mod or full game.

    Here’s a question to all the voters:
    What do you think is the reason for the lack of mods for Ep1 and Ep2?
    Time? MAybe, but since we have had other high-qulaity releases, I don’t see that as a major issue?
    Numbers? The fact that not as many people have the episodes as Hl2? Is that even true?
    Boredom with the content?

    I think for modders to really get modding they needed something significantly different from HL2 and they just didn’t get that.

  10. Sortie

    Somehow I think the Orange Box fixed many of the problems with not everybody having Episode One bought. They include the older games HL2 and Ep1 for free (yes) in the Orange Box and then giving three great games: Portal, Ep2 and TF2. My experience is that most people who is only slightly interested in one of the games end up buying the whole package, thus leaving them with all the modern Half-Life 2 games purchased and available. While there certainly is many more users with only HL2 installed, these are not the active Steam games are use Steam every day and actively keep themselves updated with the mod news portals. These users who do that, is the hardcore Steam gamers are these are likely to buy the new games, esspecially a pack like the Orange Box.

    My point is that technology must evolve, like computers get outdated, so do games, as the customers buy newer computers, they also buy new games. As a developer I like to use the new technology, and we should, while ensuring we won’t lose too many players. That’s why the Source SDK base is so great, even though we have to give up a little content. If we need that content we should mod that game. Gamers must keep their computers updated, because that’s what the game industry requires. What do we require? We require that the gamers keep their games collection updated, so they have the proper base game to play our mods. If they don’t have the proper game, our mods are great reasons to buy these games, you get a full game and lots of free sidegames!

    In conclusion, our fanbase is likely to buy the new games, while the ones that use Steam rarely are, but also isn’t likely to play our mods in the first place. While we should attempt to target as many players as possible when deciding the base-game requirement for our mods, a project that needs certain content, should not give it up just to ensure more people can play their mod. What’s the point of buying new games if the mods will be based upon Half-Life 2 for the next decade and not upon the new games? It’s the gamer’s job to keep his computer and game collection updated, not ours, but we should choose the base game on the question “What do we need?” instead of “How many will be able to play this?”.

  11. MrTwoVideoCards

    There have been a few Ep2 mods released.

    Sorry that came out wrong, what I meant was an actual mod based in the EP2 world, with the scenery and such. I haven’t really seen a mod stray that way yet.

  12. fragmaster

    On the subject of Episodes I do enjoy as you Stated Phillip Stargate Atlantis ive owned all 3 seasons on dvd Uncut versions & number 4 is on its way Tuesday. Same with the TV Show LOST if you havent seen it from the Begining yup lol you are lost.
    Maybe its information overloaded the Community has so many Valve Tools to use As well as Creative Imagination that the Episodes bring to the table each number 1 through 3.
    Tho its not a lack of that worries me I think each new Episodes brings a New Open-Minded-Prospective with fresh content If I wanted to start a map or a mod id start with the Latest game out-the-box & installled.
    I think you next Blog should be considered in this suggestion as What Will The Future Hold For FPS
    1st Person Shooters -Make Your Own Game!

  13. Pace

    This makes me wonder, how many HL2/episodes mods have actually been released from big mod teams? Apologies if that’s a dumb question, but all the mods that I can think of that I liked were done by either one person, or sometimes 2 or 3. I have no problem coming up with mods from big teams that were canceled, or have been in development for many years with no end in sight, but actual released mods?

    I’m not against episodic release for mods, becasue they are plenty of good reasons for doing it and I accept those. Not least being it has more chance of being finished that way than a larger mod.

    Oh, well alright then. I just didn’t get that from the original article.

    ANother point is why can’t there be amatuer specialist? You make it sound like a dirty word. Being focused and professional, doesn’t mean you have to do things full time.

    Well, I see better what you mean now, that in a large team you can have a guy who specializes in storytelling. Sure that’s fine, I just meant that I don’t see why in small mods (that is, most of them) it isn’t perfectly fine for one guy to do everything, including the story. This of course relates to my above question, as that’s been the case for all of my favorite mods. Maybe what I’m getting at here is that there’s inherent problems with large mod teams with lots of specialized tasks. It’s a structure that works for professional studios, but seems to be tougher for a mod team to pull off. (Judging by recent success rate of large teams.) As lots of people have pointed out here and elsewhere, trying to emulate professional games isn’t necessarily a good idea for mods.

    Also, I don’t expect professional polish from mods, that’s what we’ve got professionally made games for. I do enjoy playing mods though because you get new and interesting ideas, other people’s vision and takes on a game, and also crazy ideas that wouldn’t survive a commercial release. People trying to be too professional I think takes something away from that.

  14. Hoyy

    I really don’t like it either, thanks to paying up, having the “episode” right into hands, and then again, just see a little bit of nothing. I didn’t like EP2 for instance, and I wouldn’t recommend buying it for the price it actually costs individually.
    Anyway, the definition in the dictionary for episode, is a narrative extended, so the concept Valve created actually is right, it’s an episode, a chapter or a part, they’re all synonimous. I see that you actually would appreciate more effort, but making a game take’s time and this time taken, well, why not name a game such as our actual discussion here as EP1, EP2 or EP3? BUT, calm down. I agree with you. A episode is actually a VERY different part from one another. What Valve did was actually too bland and it didn’t work out well. because they were too short, but with them atleast came together with the “dog ammenser” (damn I can’t speak english for shit), it atleast calmed down people and they “liked” the HDR, or Portal and TF2 that came together with EP2, if they had time to buy the O. box.
    Well then, altough I didn’t understand correctly parts of the speech, I’m still asking myself what’s the influence that the episodic release schedule could have ontop of most of the mods. Maybe the big-momma is actually Valve? Are their episodes influenting the whole mass of modders and devs? DAMN, yes. Actually yes, but, let’s not forget that people who works with the regular Source SDK mods for the HL2 engine whilst all of those that works in the Orange Box SDK, well you have the idea (they work for the O. box engine, the Source “reloaded”, hehe).
    So, no, the episodic content is not influencing anything in releasing mods, just those damn updates occuring in Valve that makes things became a pain in the… place. Modders know that, but I’m not one of them, and, those working projects, such as Black Mesa Source are still in the table, and they will be released for the “first” Source engine pre-HL2 EP2.

  15. the concept Valve created actually is right, it’s an episode

    I’ve never questioned Valve’s use of the word, only mods’.

  16. Kasperg

    There are many reasons to release a mod in parts or episodes, for example the need for feedback which is just not that easy with a retail game.
    I think that releasing a part of a mod (as long as it doesn’t end abruptly) is a good way to keep players (who are eager to play) and designers (who are eager to see others play their work) happy at the same time.
    Another benefit is the easier schedule. If a mod team decides to release a part every six months, they might actually organize themselves better than if they say “This will be ready in two years”. Many projects fail because their intended release date is lost in the cloudy future and nothing will happen if they actually quit the whole thing.
    As a player, I do prefer to have some sort of story that has a clear structure, but I don’t mind playing parts that lead nowhere until you play the rest (such as the Minerva chapters) because they’re still enjoyable from a pure gameplay perspective with no story.
    And of course, I prefer to play the first episode of a mod which might be left unfinished than watching screenshots and weapon model renders for year after year which eventually lead to nothing.

  17. vecima

    I voted “No”.

    Now, I haven’t read every post here, but the article only really seems to be taking into account released mods, and seems to be insinuating that development started and finished for the same game or episode.

    Each of valves updates (not even just the major episode releases) causes modders untold hours of setback as they sort out new problems and try to comprehend why things are suddenly “broken”. In my opinion your “familiarity with the editor” argument doesn’t hold up in this case. Updates to the tools and engine have been more frequent in the EP1 – EP2 timespan than they were in the HL2 days, meaning more time spent troubleshooting. Additionally code is continually revised or re-written by Valve, leading again to time consuming tasks for modders who go far enough to use code. Just before and after the EP2 release, there was an update that made it impossible for many modders to compile models. So, you can see that even if a mapper can continue to work, that doesn’t necessarily mean a mod’s progress will be full steam.

    I’m personally working on a mod that started before EP1 came out. That is, we started developing a mod for HL2. We updated the mod when the EP1 engine became available, and we updated it again to use the EP2 engine, though our mod will still only require HL2. Now, this is a case of Valve’s episodes causing delays to our mod while we update the versions and sort out new problems, and since we didn’t finish development of our first “part” before EP2 came out, we would count as one “less” EP1 mod, and one “more” for EP2. My point here is that we aren’t “making a mod for EP1” or “making a mod for EP2”, though our mod will contain some of the features of those 2 episodes, such as HDR, dynamic and self shadows, and the new particle system. Instead we are making a Source mod, on the latest tech, with setbacks due to the difficulty involved in transferring to those new technologies. Our mod is delayed by it, yes, but it’s also going to make for a much better experience because of it.

    As for why we are chosing to release in “parts” is because we are currently a 2 man team. My job is mapper, modeller, programmer, choreographer, texture artist, and general functional expert (setting up everything and tweaking the mod scripts can be it’s own job, depending on what you want to do). our first “part” is going to be short, but hopefully will attract people to take some of that work off my back. this is partly due to an anomoly in the source community, where for some reason we can’t seem to find people, but in every forum i’ve ever been to, people flock to these mods that are started by some first day modder typing something up like: “u play az Grodon FEERMAN who got beemd to teh future to fite in spaes” or, the obligatory “ok ppl, we r going to remaek blu shft but with new gunz and new lvlz, my job is teem leedr, so we need mappurz, codorz, and one wepun modler”. I mean, what is it about these horribly doomed projects that people flock to? but I digress.

    I don’t think episodic content is causing there to be fewer mods released. I think instead that modding is being refined, and the unreleased mods that are worth playing (the ones that people put time into) are still being worked on.

    Also, it may be useful here to distinguish between “mod” and “map pack” as they really are different endeavors, in terms of scope. But that’s a whole other article.

  18. I think it’s just harder to work with Source than Goldsource was, so it feels like there are less mods overall.

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