Art Mods Discussion with Robert Yang

25th March 2012

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

Art mods, Alt Mods, or whatever you call them are changing the way we think about modding. With me today is Robert Yang, one of the leaders in this revolution.

Robert Yang and I discuss them and their impact.

This recording was originally made for Podcast 17, but due to some scheduling issues we decided to post it here.

Attention iTunes Users: All my podcasts are now available via the iTunes Store.

Listen to the interview



  1. Derbler

    Maybe one art mod every month or so wouldn’t hurt to play through, eh Phillip? I find them boring from time to time (was unable to even complete Water) but I agree with the whole “mod historian” argument.

    1. Arma

      Just wanted to point out Water wasn’t an art mod. It was a puzzle/exploration mod.

  2. Dysprogue

    I think the importance of alt mods is that they demonstrate the concept of games as an art form. That’s about it.

    I don’t think sites like PlanetPhillip are comparable to sites like ModDB. PlanetPhillip is essentially a blog while ModDB is an Archive site. ModDB has a responsibility because its service is to archive mods. Although having said that if Phillip is going to host crap mods that are poorly made then I find it hard to see why he wouldn’t host mods that are well made but not his cup of tea.

    Though free game engines has made it easier to make full games I think mods will always have appeal, it is a lot easier to use some one elses pre-made assets. Modding is the most free, legal and easy way of doing that.

    1. I think the importance of alt mods is that they demonstrate the concept of games as an art form. That’s about it.

      Well, hopefully they make us “think” about the subject matter too, but I take your point.

      I don’t think sites like PlanetPhillip are comparable to sites like ModDB. PlanetPhillip is essentially a blog while ModDB is an Archive site. ModDB has a responsibility because its service is to archive mods. Although having said that if Phillip is going to host crap mods that are poorly made then I find it hard to see why he wouldn’t host mods that are well made but not his cup of tea.

      I disagree. I think the difference between PP and ModDB is more about perception than reality.

      Of course we ARE different but I don’t see my site as “just a blog”. It only uses blog software because I’m not a coder and it’s as much of an archive site as ModDB.

      The problem is partly the name, which limits its ability to be taken seriously, and the fact that only one person runs it.

      I personally don’t feel ANY 3rd party website has ANY responsibility than the one it sets itself.

      I have said I would, and have started, adding ART mods because I accept the argument that the site may serve as some sort of historical archive at some point in the future.

      Now, I know you haven’t criticized my site but I wanted to explain my point of view. if I had started the site with a more generic name using another CMS then people/readers might not pigeon-hole my site.

  3. Urm, ahh, pause, ahh, err! I was expecting Robert Yang to be a little more articulate than he came across in the discussion!

    Since Monkey See, Monkey Do (PP, 5th April 2010), Robert is only just now starting to understand that Art/Alt mods are not everyone’s cup of (insert beverage of you choice) and that what goes on PP is the choosing of our esteemed host a one Mr Phillip Marlowe Esq. After listening to the discussion (yes I listened to all of it (at around 34mins there is a male voice in the background at Roberts end)) he seems not to have a single argument in favour of art/alt mods other than his personal view.

    That said I will defend the right of anyone to make a mod/map in any way and on any subject they please (as long as it is in legal and moral boundaries). However just as in the traditional art world there are some who exhibit garbage and it is only art because they say so, think Tracey Emin’s bed!

    My only worry is that by adding alt/art mods to PP is that others will start demanding, as Robert has, that their efforts be posted.

    So called alt/art mods such a Dear Esther and the Stanley Parable cannot be classified as a game, and a game is what I think most people want, nonetheless they could be called a diversion but nothing more. Even the dreadful (in my opinion) Half Quake series had objectives which could loosely qualify it as a game.

  4. WizardExt

    Mods are not dead and as long as developers release tools to go with their game, people will want to create stuff. Everyone is not money-minded, or interested in creating something completely stand-alone.

    Art mods are fine. Things that are free can try whatever they want. I decide if I want to play it and if I want to play it all through. But for me, Dear Esther, was not okay. I paid for something that in the end felt like a waste of money. Sure, it was amazing in atmosphere.. but I was bored to death early on, especially the moment I realized what it was all about. Could have been so much more in my eyes, with small additions. Just add something for the player to do. There is no need to release something as a game when it’s clearly not.

    So my point is; Art mods are fine, they are free. Art games, requiring money, is something I will be more careful with. They need to be categorized, so even though they are experiments, or art, they need to end up in some category so the audience know what to expect.

    For PlanetPhillip as a site, it will be interesting to see how it develops. I hope it stays true to the Half-Life universe or at least the Source engine, but I am just one voice.

    1. You are not one voice, I played a version of Dear Esther before it became commercial, even with impulse 101 it would still be boring. The Mods produced by SMU are often experimental, but at least they are student pieces and not the pretentious drivel that claim to be art.

  5. Herr_Alien

    First, Phillip, I like the idea of adding a bit of stereophonic effect, to give the illusion that the people talking are at two ends of the table. Maybe have a less of a separation, so that instead of me being in the middle of the table between you, with Robert talking to my right ear and you my left ear, it would feel instead like the two of you are at the two ends of the table and me in front of the table.

    Regarding the subject, I understand Robert. When you create stuff you do it because you have to express what you feel. Good artists will always choose how to do that in such a way that the public actually starts to feel in the exact manner the artist intended. In order to do that, they have to carefully choose the medium that will carry over the message, and to carefully structure the message on that medium. After the creation is done, you would then present it to the public; granted, selecting the public will maximize the chances of actually having them feel like the artist intended.

    Now, there are some issues with choosing the medium to be a game engine.

    1) Phillip is a bit tricky: he asks somewhere in the line “why the need for art mods now, when modding did ok without them for quite a while”. That’s a trick question. My answer to Phillip would be that you select the medium that carries the message according to what you’re skilled at. If you’re good at painting, then you choose the canvas and start painting. If you’re familiar with sculpting then you start doing that.
    Robert likes Hammer, so he chose Source as medium. That’s a perfectly fine decision, and it doesn’t have to involve the community. Well, ok, maybe it involves it a bit, since I imagine he asked for advice now and then.

    2) There are other people that use that medium to their first intended purpose. People who build houses out of wood will see beams and poles when looking at wood, where as a sculptor will see the artwork that can be done with the same piece of wood.
    Same goes for game engines: most people want/expect games out of them, me and Phillip included.

    And this leads to the next point, of selecting the audience, pros and cons.
    Art will be enjoyed by people who like art. There is no guarantee that a gamer likes art (although I think a good deal of us do like art, we just don’t realize it). When selecting a game engine, you have to realize that most people that will run the piece of art will expect a game out of it.
    At this point, as an artist, you face a choice:
    – look up a site that is oriented for ART mods (big accent on art). Those sites get visited by people who look for ART not games! So there’s a good chance that people will resonate with the message passed, but you limit yourself to a smaller audience.
    – sneak the art in! 🙂 And I would definitely go for this approach. Have smaller doses of the message sprinkled between combat or other elements more game oriented. Have the player enjoy the art without knowing that he plays art! This is how games like insert-favourite-game-with-emotional-connections-to-it-here do it. The big advantage is that the piece of art gets exposure and (hopefully) positive feedback from a much broader audience

    Art using game engines will go on, I am 100% certain of it. We’re emotional beings, and as long as we can feel then all mediums are fair game for trying to pass along messages that carry a heavy emotional payload. This includes game engines. It’s just a matter of strategy, whether to sneak art in or go for dedicated art-galleries-type of sites, and I hope Robert will consider something in the line of the second approach (it looks like he already does this) and add more game elements in it; the medium he went for – game engine – lends itself to it, and the community around it (gamers, me included) loves meaningful games.

    I’ll end with another thing towards Phillip: you were definitely in a good mood. Instead of jumping to Robert’s throat you did a very good job at moderating the interview. Excellent job!

  6. Herr_Alien

    a bit incoherent in the before last phrase.
    What I was suggesting is that Robert should go for the strategy where he sneaks art and message in the game. I don’t enjoy art galleries, but I do love games so I’d rather have Robert make meaningful games than art stuff.

  7. Annencewabe

    реферат на тему погрузчики

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