A clarification of the use of Recommendation Images

22nd August 2012

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

Just wanted to take a moment to clarify the use of Recommendation Images.

I believe some users haven’t read the guide to using them and maybe don’t fully understand the reasoning behind them.

Let me start by explaining why I created such a unique system.

I don’t believe in simple rating systems. I don’t think you can “score” creative work. Scores are for factual situations like sports or scientific results.

In addition, I don’t take into account any rating system that allows anonymous rating. How can you trust such a system. The creator and his or her friends comes along and gets as many people as possible to give it a “thumbs up” or 5 stars. It’s pointless to my mind.

What people actually want to know is whether it’s worth their time to download and play something.

That is actually completely different from whether you enjoyed it or not!

And this is the crux of the misunderstanding.

There are many mods that I personally didn’t enjoy that much, but I still gave it a “PLAY IT!” recommendation. Why? Because within that particular mod I recognize that it was well made or had some redeeming aspect. I still felt that most people should play it. That was my recommendation.

I might have hated the damn thing , but that’s what the review text is for.

When you write a review, this is the way to detail your personal thoughts, impressions, likes, dislikes etc.

Here is an example: Nightmare House 2. Did I enjoy this mod? No, not really. Would I recommend you play it? Yes, especially if you like horror mods, but still “yes” even if you don’t.

Why? Because it’s a great mod, that I didn’t enjoy.

Getting stuck at the beginning or the mod having no puzzles is NOT the reason to give something an “AVOID IT!”.

That’s what I need the readers to understand.

The colour coded recommendation images are a general guide to the readers’ feelings but not a visual representation of whether they liked a map or mod or not.

Now, let me try to dispel one more misconception.

You CAN use a Recommendation Image even if you haven’t reached the end of a mod. But, you must have finished playing, meaning you won’t play any more and you MUST have given the mod a chance. You can’t stop after ten minutes of a stealth mod and say “AVOID IT!” because you hate mod. Say “MAYBE” and explain your point of view.

Getting stuck early in a mod, is a common reason for wanting to give it an “AVOID IT!” or “THINK TWICE” recommendation, but often it’s the players’ fault not the mapper. Not always, but often.

A few times I’ve got stuck and had to ask for help and whilst I make a note of that for later reference it shouldn’t be the basis of your choice of recommendation Image.

In summary, please try to separate your personal view from your recommendation. If you truly believe that readers should avoid a mod, then by all means add that image, but ask yourself if you are being objective.

Use the text to talk about what you thought of the mod.


  1. Thanks Phillip for this clarification. On occasion in the comments and ratings of mods I have noticed the points you mention. I think this will help standardize the players reviews and help others decide if they want to play a mod without having to skim read all the comments (some mods get a lot of comments).

    I always try to rate and comment on a mod. When a new exciting mod comes out, I download it and if it takes me 3 months to get around to finish it I dig deep and find it and comments.
    One day I will finish minatosis? the Greek mod with Athena, and will rate and comment on it. I would say its a pay it and comment its a heavy combat mod, but as you mention I will wait till I finish.

  2. Ade

    Well in the past you mentioned it’s not fair to add a recommendation image to a mod we didn’t finish and I fully agree, and played by that rule to this day. What say you?

    1. I think I said “Finished playing”, which is not the same as “finished the mod”. If I did say that, then I “misspoke”.

  3. I think something I said about “Dangerous World” last night must of prompted you to write this Phillip! Of course I did not leave a recomendation for DW precisly because I couldnt escape the house in the beggining, but asked (sarcastacly) “can I give this an “Avoid it”? It was because the mod maker didnt give the player a clear way out right from the beggining which I think is a major flaw, along with the head bobbing issue, plus it took forever to start because of the credit and intro screens. But even I knew that I couldnt rate the game…but man I wanted to!

    But I agree…a mod shouldnt be rated without a full play no matter what. I’ll leave impressions with no rating in those cases.

    1. JG

      I seem to recall the demo for Dangerous World having the same problem. The solution was far too obscure for me, which is probably why I haven’t played the full release. I’ve heard it’s a great mod – it certainly looks fantastic – but the demo left me with a poor impression.

      There is always a question of how long must someone be stuck before they throw in the towel and say “Avoid It.” The way I see it, you only get one chance to make a first impression on the player, and if it is a negative experience, you will have a very difficult time recovering from it.

      1. Yeah my thoughts exactly.

        But mods we can play through we will rate. The question then becomes, “what do you detract for?” I recently made the decision not to detract for bugs (unless the bugs make it nearly unplayable), and not to detract for poor optimization in outdoor sections as long as it is reasonably playable. Bugs and optimizing are more mechanical difficulties, rather than creative difficulties.

        I do detract for gameplay/creation difficulties like poor mapping, or no ambience, or bad construction….poor battle sequences, stuff like that. I think we all grade on that stuff.

        I used to give scores like 98/100, but Phillips system I think is a bit better. I dont have to be so precise. Back in the day when I gave a mod a 91/000, I had to explain why it was a 91, and not a 90 or a 92. Now with basically six stars, one grade can cover a lot of scores nicley, and one mod being a tiny fraction better than another isnt important. If they are both worth keeping, they both get a PIN (or more). Now I dont have to anguish about why I graded this great mod better than that great mod! They both got a PF!

  4. Whilst I understand why you are clarifying the rating system, and the reviewer should not penalise the mod because of which type of mod it is,at the end of the day if I have not enjoyed the mod then how can I recommend it to anyone else?

    If I get stuck, then it is likely others will too. If bugs get in the way of playing the game, then that should be reflected in the score, just as poor mapping or npc placement would. Most people will not read all the reviews in detail and the rating system should give a good overview of the experience of playing the mod.

    1. Well if bugs kill the game to the point that it is nearly unplayable, then I agree, that is sloppy and the game should not be recomended. But bugs that do not subtract (much) from the overall playing experience of an otherwise fantastic mod, should not detract from the score (my opinion of course). I guess it all depends to the “degree” that the bugs effect the gameplay.

      Same with optimization. Mission Improbable is a fine example of poor optimization in outdoor sections. However, the optimization wasnt too bad (in my opinion) and was still very playable. At any rate, in that mod we were not outdoors that much anyway…so I wouldnt detract for that.

      Should a player not detract for bugs or poor optimization? Well I’m not saying that at all. It is up to each particular reviewer how he or she scores a game.

      1. There was a time when reviewers could use a blue image that was called “Too Buggy”. The problem was that I avoid putting maps and mods that are in that condition, so it wasn’t needed that much.

    2. at the end of the day if I have not enjoyed the mod then how can I recommend it to anyone else?

      I can only refer you to my previous example. One of seeing that something has value but not liking it. In those kinds of case it seems to me that the “MAYBE” recommendation image is the best option.

  5. Just an observation that might pertain to this disscussion…

    I was playing Rebel Story tonight (one of my favorites), and the trainyard section looks exciting because it looks open…but really it isnt. Looks can be decieving. There are force fields everywhere and fences too, so it is much more linear than it actually looks.

    Being one to not let linearity keep me from exploring, I always look for what I call “routing exploits”. That is to say, going places I shouldnt, to find new places to battle from, or shortcuts to get to ammo or to advance. To do this, a favorite trick I like to use is to stack stuff, to climb up and get over fences and force-fields. This can be very fruitful. It can also be very dangerous.

    Some authors dont check carefully the areas that are just for looks, but are not meant to go to. I got on top a train and over a forcefield and dropped into a part of the trainyard I couldnt get out of. In fact, there are many sections in that trainyard I got in to, but couldnt escape. I hate having to use sv_gravity 50 to escape places.

    Question: I wonder if I should of detracted from the score because the author didnt check carefully those areas that can entrap a curious explorer?

    Might be interesting to have a thread asking “what do you detract score for?” or something. Apoligies if that thread already exists.

    PS: Hope your enjoying your vacation Phillip! 🙂

    1. Ade

      Unless it’s gamebreaking, no reason to detract for that. As in, unless something specifically caught your eye behind a fence and/or the author somehow indicated by accident you should go there, then you had no real reason to be there in the first place.
      Here’s a don’t example for mappers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4iB2c6YIfk&t=11m16s see how that place was lit and looked important to the player? and if the barrels wouldn’t have been there, he would have had no way out of there without cheats.
      And atm this is debatable.. different authors have different opinions and ways to enclose their maps with fences or invisible walls.
      Don’t get me wrong, I do the same as you do when I test mods but even if it’s not a betatest, I still have the chance to tell the author there’s room for improvement in my pp review.

      1. True, I agree that a blantent invite to a place you shouldnt be that nearly entraps a curious player is a no-no, like the example above. However, I think that allowing a player to go to a place they are CLEARLY not supposed to be without checking it for an escape, is also a no-no!

        Authors must be aware that the very nature of many FPS gamers, compells them to explore. First person shooters are all about immersion and exploration. This is especially true since FPS games are also well known for containing “secret places”, which are places that are sometimes hard to get to. My opinion is that authors should take care to test all routes possible, even the one’s which are not supposed to be taken, but can be had without cheats.

        At this point I’m not deducting points for unchecked maps like the Rebel Story trainyard, although not checking that area for un-escapable areas strikes me as lazy on the the authors part (he could of simply placed some barrels in there so I can get out).

    2. Ade

      my comment is still awaiting moderation ;(

  6. Obviously this is an old thread but one thing I would have to say is that the Personal Favourite rating suggests very much the opinion of the player with regard to their own personal experience and not necessarily a recommendation for others. All the other ratings suggest advice for would-be players (Play It Later, Play It Now etc.) but a Personal Favourite is, erm, personal.

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