The Community Hub, The Workshop and The Dilemma

The community hub for each game on Steam is an absolutely brilliant concept. It gives users a single place to find and share stuff.

I have to admit that until Black Mesa was released, I never really used a hub before. Yes, I’d seen it for Ep2 etc, but I had no interest in using it. My interests don’t really include 99.99% of the content shared on the hub, that was until Black Mesa came along.

With the release of single player maps via the workshop, I have had to start to use it.

Which brings us onto the Workshop. The workshop is the part of the hub that allows people to share and use actual new content, as opposed to images, videos and other types of content. So far, most of the content seems to be DeathMatch maps and different coloured crowbars. That of course will change and there will be maps – some good, some bad, some finished and some in progress. And here lies the dilemma!

This Is The problem?

Unlike releasing a map on a regular website, the Workshop allows users to udpate their map (or any kind of release) and the users who have subscribed automagically get the latest files. It’s a very cool feature, although I would like an easy way of knowing what has been updated.

That, however, is not the big issue. It’s the change in mentally of the authors it creates. In the past, modders made something worth playing (or should have!) before releasing it. Especially for single player which is played less often than MP maps. Now it seems that mappers are making the barest bones map, adding it to the workshop, hoping people will play it and offer feedback. They will then improve the map and hope there same people will play it and new people will join in.

As a concept it sounds fine, but it’s not.

Not many people will play and replay the very basic maps, meaning that you’ll get limited feedback. If you need feedback from just a couple of simple areas, you’ll probably never release anything good and shouldn’t bother.

Yes, feedback is important but only when you have some substantial, otherwise there’s not enough to provide feedback on.

How It Affects RTSL

There are plenty of maps on GameBanana that I haven’t added because they are still in beta. If after a significant period of time the map is not updated, then I can add it knowing it’s unlikely to be finished.

The Workshops means that at least for a while, the maps added, besides Jason Gimba’s Excellent Bravado, will be very early betas.

They really aren’t worth playing.

What I need From You

I would like to hear your thoughts on what you would like me to do. I will be checking the Workshop everyday, and I could check the releases everyday too to see if they have been updated, but as the number of maps grow that will become harder.

If a map gets updated, I can post a comment and if you are subscribed to the RSS feed for the comments you will learn about it. However, I certainly won’t be replaying them to add new screenshots or a review.

It’s actually a serious issue for the site:
Do I add the maps as they are released or do I wait a few months to see how they develop?

I need to hear your views.

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  1. DaZ

    If it’s on the workshop then it is fair game to review and promote/demote. The workshop offers a feature to hide maps from the public and invite people to test it etc and there are plenty of other ways to get beta testers and feedback.

    It’s a lazy practice to upload something as obviously unfinished as some of the stuff I’ve seen on the BM workshop. The cynic in me thinks that people are doing this simply to benefit from the exposure of the fairly new title on steam.

    I guess it’s a judgement call at the end of the day. If it doesn’t seem finished then don’t add it to the site?

    1. If it doesn’t seem finished then don’t add it to the site?

      Yeah, but:
      A. I would imagine 95% would fit that criteria.
      B. I’ve played some great unfinished maps.
      C. How long do I wait until I decide it’s not going to be finished?

      1. Perhaps you could set a standard of quality for unfinished maps. The best functional example I can think of is, obviously, fullbright – if a map is fullbright and unfinished, leave it.

        On the other hand, any map that is finished should be added regardless.

        The decisional process would go something along the lines of:

        Is it unfinished? No – add; Yes – see below

        Is it fullbright? No – see below; Yes – Don’t add

        Is it just a square room with nothing inside of it? No – add; Yes – don’t add

  2. It is pretty difficult to answer since some authors are serious about it and won’t release anything until its 100% finished and some people make not-even-half-done maps just because they want to release something.

    Maybe if there are major changes to a release, it would be worth posting it again, like Mission Improbable, and entierly new mod after the improved visuals. If its just a few bug and glitch fixes, you could just update the existing post.

  3. 2muchvideogames

    how about a quality bar? I think theres a star rating system for workshop content. Only check out stuff that are above X stars? This will severely limit the amount of maps that are checked, though.

    1. Valve’s star rating system is a mess. I say this because I have 141/143 positive reviews, but only have 4 Stars. Unless we’re saying that 5 Stars literally demands perfection, this logic did not make sense to me.

      According to someone at Valve who was trying to field this question, they use an elaborate Bayesian system where, contrary to common sense, simply having a lot of upvotes won’t give you 5 Stars. You need to have quantity as well – i.e. a high number of total reviews. But what they base this on, your guess is as good as mine. Certainly by this point I have a total number of reviews comparable to anything else in Black Mesa’s workshop. And if this logic worked, then there’d be *some* 5 Star items, right? But no, they don’t exist. Everything tops out at 4 Stars. So, what is it? Total reviews relative to other items in the Black Mesa workshop? Or perhaps all workshops?

      What makes this system even more bizarre is that your Star rating is not added until you have a minimum of 25 votes, at which point you are magically granted 3 Stars, regardless of your upvote ratio. The fact that you need a minimum would seem to make this over-elaborate Bayesian system completely pointless. Plus, how is 3 Stars in any way a reflection of what was then 24 out of 25 upvotes?

      To put it bluntly, Valve is using some rather strange algorithms here which neither make sense to the layperson or the content maker.

  4. I think you should take a wait-and-see approach, as you do with GameBanana, unless the author says otherwise – either by writing you about it, or by making it apparent that the level isn’t a work-in-progress. I wouldn’t add new releases as they appear because most of these are just random noodlings in Hammer.

    It remains to be seen if the Workshop will take off. So far, most of what we see on the map side are crude ports of maps from other Source games for a largely dead Deathmatch component, not original content, least of all for singleplayer. I don’t get the sense that other HL2 mappers are making content for this. I have noticed quite a few new Source mappers though, so who knows?

    The Change Notes tab for each Workshop entry shows a record of version changes.

  5. After a month, a map/mod doesn’t usually get updated until a while later…

    I suggest to wait a month and monitor versions of the map/mod

  6. Zekiran

    I personally would avoid the BMworkshop entirely, but that’s my opinion. I won’t be able to play the things from it, not unless they’re available as SDK13 versions to manually load.

    My opinions on the Hubs is… I won’t go to them unless it’s Goat Simulator. Period. I can’t do the hubs. I’ve been a member of the Steam Powered User Forum for 8+ years and I feel that the hubs are doing the internet a terrible disservice. By being so badly patrolled and extremely rarely bearing any form of ‘civility’ to the discussions there, a lot of the old forum regulars are basically just sitting on our porch with shotguns yelling GET OFF OUR LAWN to them.

    Compared to the actual forum, the hubs are an atrocious cesspool – and I’ve been told that is giving cesspools a bad name 😉 But without the developer telling Valve they want a section in the forum, the Hubs are the only recourse.

    While I love the creativity that the modding tools allow people, I’m not a fan whatever of the entire “buy a mod to get the mods for the mod” bullcrap in this case.

    As far as mods here go – I’d *avoid* the Workshop except maybe for a couple links to ‘here are some things that have been rated highly’ once in a while. Not everyone will be able – or willing – to play them, and I fear that dedicating THIS site to those mods will just dilute the rest that are still being offered.

    If all the good modders decide to go to that tool set for their work, …. more power to em, but they’ll be doing it without some of us to enjoy their mods any more.

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