Poll Question 338 – Has the release of Prospekt been good for the HL SP modding community?

Oh My Headcrab. I can’t tell you how much I wanted this to be an amazing release. I had spoken to Richard a day or two after I head about the “mod” and he told me it was actually going to be released as a full fledged game. I was so excited. Yes, the screenshots didn’t have me drooling and the voice acting whilst it was very good, was terrible as a replacement for a vortigaunt.

The thought of somebody making a game and releasing it could ignite the community to new heights.

Sure, there would be challenges ahead, especially financial, but if they have been overcome once, then they could be again.

I kept wondering whether the success of the mod would be was it a great game or did it sell well?

Well it seems that he sold enough to consider it a financial success but the lukewarm critical response is probably difficult for him to swallow.

As has been said plenty of times, the mod really had no story, nothing new that mattered and repetitive gameplay. It’s hard to believe that Richard played very few mods before trying to make Prospekt. From a purely business viewpoint you should check out the competition.

And that brings me to the next point, even though his was a paid game, whether he accepted it or not, he was competing with other SP mods.

Which brings us to THIS poll question: Has the release of Prospekt been good for the HL SP modding community?

I worry that modders will be discouraged from building better mods due to this. I fear that they will see that an average game can make a modder money and get disheartened that their mod, which maybe be so much better, will not bring them in a penny.

But they won’t necessarily try to release their mod as a game as the challenges are, at least at this point, unknown.

Or am I wrong?

Will modders use Prospekt as motivation to make better mods?

What do you think?

Your Chance to Vote

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  1. really hard to tell.

    On one hand I think it could encourage people in a way, they could think: “if this guy can make money with this bad mod, I can easily do better than him”

    On the other hand this release just might have pissed off the community more, and the community was already hostile towards paid mods anyway. That might discourage modders from going through all the stress to make a paid Steam release.

    However personally I think people should just try making mods and sell them. If the mod has lots of custom self-made assets and a story, then I think people will accept it. Prospekt was just a string of bad maps.

    If there was a paid mod which was like Transmissions Element 120, only longer like a small campaign, I would GLADLY pay 10€. I gladly paid 20€ for Black Mesa.

  2. Mega Sean 45

    It’s a good mod, don’t get me wrong. I liked some of the elements this guy put in here. But it just wasn’t good enough to be a paid mod. It just seemed like an average mod with nothing that special. If a mod deserves to get payment, it should be longer, have new environments (even though this one did have new environments), have an actual story so the player isn’t just running around into random areas fighting NPCs for no apparent reason, and not have the mod be 70% of fighting the same enemies over and over again.

    I’m sure this dude worked really hard to make this, and I very much appreciate this mod. It was a nice experience. I just don’t think it was actually worth anything. It’s not as impressive as Black Mesa. Now THAT I’d pay to play (or you know, once it’s actually finished). 😀

  3. OJJ

    I think it’s too early to judge, I think most people have forgotten about it already until the next “paid mod” happens and I don’t think it has had any lasting effects or if it has then they haven’t cropped up yet.

  4. I don’t think it really matters in the long run. Everything has its fifteen minutes of fame. Prospekt will leave no lasting influence because while it wasn’t abysmal, it wasn’t good either. Mediocrity is forgotten.

    It’s hard to say what we can learn from Prospekt. In the eyes of gamers, once your fifteen minutes of fame are over, that’s it. They are off to the next thing. So, financially, moving a little over 9,000 copies (according to SteamDB/Steamspy) might be enough to break-even if you only consider the licensing costs and not the two years of your time that went into it. I don’t see many HL2 mods going this route because Prospekt has shown that the numbers only barely pencil out. It’s still a financial risk. Its viability is unproven.

    On one hand, you could look at that and say, “Yeah, but just imagine if the mod was actually good!” On the other hand, remember that Prospekt only received attention because of its false pretenses. It trumped up its “official” connection with Valve. It boldly claimed that it was a sequel to Opposing Force. And the author had that little publicity stunt with the suitcase. Game journalists cling to narratives like this. They place far less emphasis on the quality of the work, because they fundamentally do not understand what goes into it, and more about an easy-to-parrot narrative. They also tend to believe that something with a price tag is intrinsically better than something without.

    Most of us, for better or worse, are classier than that. So, we lose out. We won’t have the BBC writing articles about us because we aren’t making bombastic claims and tailor-made headlines. It sucks. But that’s how it is.

    1. Do those 9,000 sales exclude refunds?

      1. I don’t honestly know. I figured that’s what the +/- was for. After two weeks, those sales are locked in. Prospekt hasn’t been out for much longer than that, so I figure that’s why there’s a huge margin of error there.

        Most people won’t refund games anyway.

  5. It was good for starting the debate, if nothing else. Even if Prospekt wasn’t particularly good (which seems to be the consensus), perhaps someone will be inspired by it to make a really great mod. The platform is getting old and it seems like the number of mods being released is declining.

    I think the dialogue from the “RunThinkShoot” map in the first RTSL contest said it best.

    “Look at you. Playing little maps for a 10 year old game.” That cracked me up when I saw that.

    1. The natural obstacle to paid HL2 mods is Havok. You have to put $25,000 of your own skin in the game before you can do anything else. And that’s per platform too. So, if you want to do a Linux or a Mac port, multiply that number.

      It’s not like the Skyrim debacle where anyone could do it on a whim. Bethesda and Valve’s collective cut may have been exorbitant, but you weren’t out anything for trying.

      1. well Source 2 will fix that problem at least

  6. Zekiran

    I think it’s definitely separated the good modders from the greedy ones. I think while it may do good for people actively attempting to make mods (mainly, I hope, to show how it CAN be done) it isn’t at all beneficial to the way other people look AT mods.

    Many people still don’t have any idea that there are sites like this one out there, that there has been a huge, rich mod community outside of the Workshop all along. I don’t know HOW that happens, but it’s PAINFULLY clear that’s the case by the comments and ignorance on the threads over in steam.

    Balancing the ideas behind ‘everyone can try’ and ‘you can also buy your way onto the steam store’ … I don’t know. I don’t think it’s been a good idea *at all* to allow paid mods, period, but that’s been discussed to death already.

    I think it’s just… sending the wrong impression, sparking the wrong idea in a way. If Valve had opened up the Workshop for HL2 and the episodes (hell, for HL1 too) and made their distribution easier to begin with, instead of leaping straight into “Black Mesa Workshop” level of availability… It might be different. But it’s still a sour taste for me, to look at guys who literally have no connection to the *community* that is HL2 modding, jump out and say “this is what it’s like guys! buy it!!”

    It feels cheap.

    If that guy bothered to play or attempt maps to load here or moddb, that’d be one thing. But it’s sent the wrong message to people who might not even know of RTSL and Moddb or wherever else, because believe it or not there are still people who are *actually new* to the HL game scene, even today. It’s disappointing to see that their examples are so poor.

    I do promise though, that if one of “our guys” gets a mod or game onto Steam, I’ll look up their work and think seriously about buying it to support them in the official capacity. But I’m never going to just drop money on a product that has zero connection to the mod community I know and love. I only wish that message could be sent TO the guys looking at how they can make money from a couple hours of ‘work’ on a half-assed map.

    Make good maps. Community is more important than money. I just wish that was the message it was sending.

  7. Yes and No

    Pros : It showed us that we can get mods featured on steam even without the BEST quality maps . About publishing , they are some of the first to do it , so can learn from their mistakes and improve if we want to release a mod of our own on steam.

    Cons : It left a bad taste in my and many others mouths seeing this on steam for such a HIGH price and POOR level design which will make other HL2 releases be brushed away by the reason that “I bet it’s as bad as the last one”

    Anyone agree ?

  8. If you haven’t seen Rich’s announcement as of Thursday, he mentions that he will be implementing changes as a result of feedback. It’s good to see that he is handling the very negative response, which has come in an incredibly nasty and hostile way. I respect him for remaining collected through this.

    With that said, as for the effect on the community, I worry that this wave of negativity directed at this game, even before it was released, will create an idea that standalone, community-made, Half-Life games will be taken in the same way. Because of this, I think it will be interesting to see if “The Lost Squad” will be received in the same way.

    1. The Lost Squad isn’t trying to promote itself as something it’s not. That’s a big difference.

      What it really comes down to, as Phillip points out, is that Prospekt’s author did not seem to have any understanding of the HL2 modding community. He did not participate in it and had never released anything publicly before this.

      This was by choice. Help was always here. But he chose not to expose his work to scrutiny until it was much too late.

      1. Wesp5

        I didn’t know about “The Lost Squad” before, but it seems to me it’s using the same kind of hyping technique, e.g. showing itself off as the follow up to Blue Shift like Prospekt was to supposed to be the follow up to Opposing Force, by using a known player character…

        1. You are right, I had missed that. But either way, Lost Squad isn’t charging money. The devs even joked about Prospekt’s “Why does Prospekt cost money” thread. The devs all have day jobs. They work on Lost Squad in their free time.

          1. Wesp5

            It’s great to hear that it will be free, but the Steam appearance looks very professional so I didn’t suspect that…

  9. aaron

    I can’t be made at the dev or aka mod maker for taking a opportunity to put his project on Steam for profit. Steam allows it. If one of my good pals Niel Menke was alive all his projects would be selling like hot cakes http://www.blackwidowgames.com/

  10. well I can say one thing. Some people say Valve won’t make Half-Life 3, because it’s not multiplayer or they don’t know how to make micro transactions with it.
    What I would really LOVE would be if they made a normal Half-Life 3, a singleplayer campaign, maybe a coop campaign too, but then in the workshop there will be custom maps and mods, and you can decide if you want to sell them or not, maybe only allow paid maps, not weapon skins or something like that.
    Paid mods just failed because they tried it in the wrong enviroment. Without a third party publisher and a new, fresh game, they could also make the share the modders get more fair.
    Then these “paid mods” would also have their own enviroment and wouldn’t be presented as full games on the steam front page. And also one problem with Prospekt was that it cost 10€ which is completely out of balance. It should be 5€ at max.

    1. Agreed — the cost is certainly part of the overall issues with this mod. I’ve paid $2-$3 for some Portal 2 mods in the past year that were great! But I wouldn’t pay $10 for them. So for this guy to charge $10 out of the gate, without any experience, for a mediocre mod — it just seems out of whack. Unfortunately, Valve doesn’t care, as long as you pay the fees, so anything and everything are free game to be listed on Steam.

    2. Mr.Walrus

      Hmm, it would be interesting if the Black Mesa team produced their own Half-Life 3. No idea if they’d be good at coming up with totally new material/storyline, but they nailed the Half Life/Valve-quality mapping.

  11. No idea.

    This can be the sign that people can try to make better mods and sell them.

    I’m also afraid if this would mean that kids/idiots/trolls will try out the same stuff and make the modding community to be filled with paid “crap” mods when it does get popular.

    I mean, we have already seen with Greenlight what people can already do with that kind of power.

  12. I think that it doesn’t matter… as for example with another paid mod with mixed reviews “Aperture TAG” also made me think that.. but then a bit time later for free.. we got P2 stories:Mel that was 10x times better.
    I guess the Prospekt guy just tried to carry way more that he could doing all by himself.

  13. Wesp5

    I’ve finally seen more of Prospekt and while I dislike paid mods for all the reasons already stated, I noticed something else: In my opinion Prospekt has some nice level design and good set pieces, but it stretches them out and repeats them all over, probably because if you want to sell something you need to deliver a maximum of content. It would have been much better if all the endless corridors would have been cut, but then the mod would’ve been too short to sell to anybody! So we might not only see more bad mods, also possibly good mods blowing themselves up until they are bad or mediocre!

    This might be a typical trend with indie games too. I recently saw “Layers of fear”, a horror game that reminded me of the great Ocean House hotel map in VTM: Bloodlines. But while the later was one map in over 100 of the game, “Layers of fear” tried to stretch out the same few effects and scares to create a whole game on it’s own which doesn’t work. As with Prospekt, things started repeating themselves until they got boring!

    1. Consider, though, that Prospekt’s level design is a linear trudge forward the whole way through. You never see areas teased before you get to them. You never return to areas. And the one instance of backtracking in the whole mod comes about because you literally have nowhere else to go, not because anything tells you to go back.

      It has 13 levels. They ain’t small levels. And yet, the whole thing is only a couple hours long even with all the elevator rides and combat padding. Better mods can accumulate that time with half the levels, simply because they are designed better and guide the player through the space in a more efficient way.

  14. While it is very possible that this could trigger a “well if he can do it, so can I” response, I believe experienced modders would KNOW that they need to bring something a little more engaging to the table. As such, Prospekt will have NO impact on SP modding overall, and will likely be forgotten in a few years.

    I’ve not purchased Prospekt simply because it looks mediocre. There are hundreds of mods that simply reuse Valve’s content and expand the universe around it. They vary massively in terms of quality, but that’s fine. Everybody has to start somewhere. However, actually charging people to pay for what is essentially an extended version of HL2’s Nova Prospekt chapter is just… I cannot get my head around it. Nova Prospekt was one of my least favourite chapters of HL2. Granted the mod goes a little further afield into combine territory, but that’s not exactly mind blowing either…

    I don’t think this will have ANY effect on the modding community. Some people will think that they can sell their project, and that is fine, but take a look at the best example of a mod going commercial. Black Mesa was a massive release, watched by hundreds of thousands of Half-Life fans. It was original released, and is STILL available for FREE.

    However, when they saw the potential to take it to the next level, some people saw it as a betrayal. Personally, I applaud it. Granted, the single player campaign is yet to be wrapped up, but they included improvements throughout the existing maps, added multiplayer and allowed for the community to make their own maps and add them to the workshop, expanding the playtime to no end.

    In my eyes, that’s the mod to beat if you want to sell yours… and I don’t see it happening for some time.

    1. blackdog

      I don’t think there’s anything bad in reusing the original assets from HL2+Episodes to make a paid add-on. For me the line is quality: the maps need to be up to Valve’s standards and most of all, need to be well integrated in the original story line.

      Something like this mod horrifies me in the sense that one could argue this is now canon in the story line.

      There’s nothing bad in revisiting areas of HL2, fill in some gaps like Opposing Force and Blue Shift did, but I would pay only if it was “Valve quality”, possibly with the official voice actors, and story should be canon.

      1. If you’re ever faced with someone who insists that it is, ask them what the story is. They can’t answer because there really isn’t a story at all.

        Like, I’ve joked that the story is about “G-Man has the hots for Shephard,” but I’m actually not joking. That subject is brought up more than once by Shephard’s homophobic comrades. More dialog is spent on that than what the Combine space station does or how the player’s actions are helping Freeman or the rebels. So, if that’s my takeaway, that’s my takeaway. 😉

  15. blackdog

    Haven’t played it; from what I’ve seen in reviews, I really can’t understand how Valve allowed something like this to be paid content.

    The fact that they are open to such things, is positive because other people might have a chance. (Unless the backlash will cause whoever approved this to do the opposite next time.)

    What would be cool, would be Valve pulling some weight and get the original voice actors to contribute (of course the expansion needs to be uber good).

  16. Unknown

    There are pros and cons to this situation. Most modding communities even dedicated ones are often ignored since companies can’t profit off a “free product”, but by charging money for a product and having it on the Steam Store may garner more job opportunities in the future that unfortunately websites like Moddb haven’t helped developers attain jobs even good mods.

    That is the “million dollars question”, but I think in “this day and age” it won’t garner “better mods” I mean let’s not avoid these facts. Free mods may slowly die out due to greed and that is something I feel big communities like Moddb and Nexusmods should be afraid of. If this trend follows these websites will become “irrelevant” and may “die off”.

    I am sorry to be the “barer of bad news”, but this could happen. If someone could take advantage of a situation in order to line their pockets to secure their new-found lifestyle that becomes a developer’s priority maintaining it.

    Another thing to consider is “Will developers strive to make better mods?” or and this isn’t far fetched “Will they create half-based products since they know someone somewhere will pay for their product”?

    Look at all the terrible games sold on Steam and they have no trouble marketing it as long as the game makes a couple dollars. How many awful games have sold for $10.00 dollars that were half developed or lacked any sort of structure.

    I feel what angered me the most and really let’s really look at what happened here. Remember when Steam said they would “Cancel Steam paid mods?” If this is considered a mod wouldn’t this be considered a “Steam paid mod?” Are we not putting in motion exactly what we have been trying to prevent all this time?

    Has Valve showed us that with enough money they could be bought off and as long as they can make a profit that will claim “This isn’t a Steam paid mod”. Even though really it is just an “over polished modification” and a lot of people seem to feel that way. As long as you enhance everything to loom “sparkly and pretty no one will question it and label it as a master-piece”.

    I am not calling this a game just because a change in graphics. It’s not even a total conversion really, so how could you possibly even call Prospekt a game? Marketing a mod as a game doesn’t make it a game and that is becoming an issue. That’s like me taking the mod Minerva and just because I label it as a game I could put a price tag on it; even though it uses all models and assets from the original SDK.

    1. Wesp5

      That’s exactly the problem: Valve is willing to sell anything on Steam because they get their percentage! Regardless of whether these are mods or bad games or mods called games or even games sold in a condition that they won’t run as sold. Valve right now is all about greed! Why make HL3 when they can get free money from other peoples work? Good or bad, they only care for the money…

  17. I’d like to complicate the discussion a bit, if I may. Perhaps this is even worth a whole new thread, but I’ll leave that decision to the Powers That Be.

    I just found out that A Place in the West, a fan-made, hand-drawn comic set in the Half-Life universe, is now on Steam Greenlight. Further muddying the waters is the fact that, by default, Greenlight isn’t built for such a thing, so they had to label the comic as “Game”, which might even lead to some confusion and potentially invalidate the votes. Mind you, the question of pricing is still a little vague – they’d like to get at least a small fee to pay for the costs of making the comics, but they’re not sure they’ll get that far given that it’s a Valve IP, a question that’s been lurking for mods as well.

    Given that we now even have comics vying for a position on Steam, do you think we should start seeing more mods there as well, since the platform was originally meant for gaming? Also, the guys making the comic are definitely putting in a lot of time and effort into creating it – if it happens to be free, does that affect your notion of pricing for mods?

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