Ivan’s Secrets Going Retail?!

14th January 2012

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

I have a World Exclusive for you.

Ivan’s Secrets is jumping ship from Source and moving to Cry Engine. In addition, they may even go retail!

When Jamie told me I was angry but now I am resigned to the idea.

Why I was angry

Why is a mod successful? Well, there are lots of reasons but the main one is the quality of the work. Quality is difficult to define because it’s not always about beautiful looking levels, it’s a combination of things.

Now, this mod, like many before it, has had great support from the community. That support has no doubt had a small but noticeable effect on the motivation of the modders.

Without the support of the modding community I bet that most mods would just give up. Showing great work and getting encouragement is a circle. As much as I pretend I don’t mind how many readers I have, if nobody read and used my site I would probably stop.

Imagine a mod simialr to Ivan’s Secrets in quality but for some reason nobody watched, commented or visited the ModDB page. How long do you think the modders would continue? In most cases not long.

Obviously you need quality to work first and some mods get released with very little encouragement because they don’t announce themselves. But I still can’t help but feel cheated.

I am not suggesting that the developers of Ivan’s Secrets planned things this way. I know they didn’t, but that still doesn’t stop me feeling this way.

This is where I feel there was a misunderstanding when Podcast 17 interviewed Dan and Robert from Dear Esther. People made the same comment about feeling cheated and Robert believed that that people were suggesting Dan and Robert had planned it that way. They didn’t, at least most didn’t. I have no doubt they didn’t. But again, I still feel cheated.

Why? Because people have supported a mod that they believed was going to be free and suddenly they have to pay for it. Customer perception is very important. Break trust with your customer base and it’s hard to get back.

In my humble opinion, mods should be stepping stones in retail markets. They should be there to show what you can do and then when you have the support, make and announce a new retail indie game. I bet the players would wholeheartedly support you.

In fact, I think EVERY watcher on ModDB for a mod that goes retail should be given the game for free. They have been there for you, be there for them.

Why I am resigned to it

I don’t blame any mod that goes retail. Not matter how many hours you have spent making your mod I have spent more running my website. I’ve done it for 8 years now and spend hundreds and hundreds of hours per year on it. If I could make money from it I would. Not because I want to get rich from it, but because I would love to do it for a living.

But I know I can’t. Nobody would pay to use the site. Its focus is too small to get serious income from advertising revenue, so I am stuck doing it for a hobby. A very time consuming hobby. But I love it and I hope that’s why modders make mods.

Mods are different. People spend billions of Dollars per year buying games. Making that jump from “free” to “retail” is not as hard as it used to be.

I fully understand Jamie for wanting to get a return on his work. Just ask Garry from Garry’s Mod how it can change your life.

It’s a beautiful looking mod with some interesting features. Why shouldn’t they benefit from all their hard work?

I wish them and any mod that goes the indie route success – a lot of success. Overall it’s good for our community and industry.


  1. SEKCobra

    I fi.d this as well as leaving source very sad.

  2. I was expecting this to happen , it was just too good to be free.

  3. peterPan

    I feel in a similar way like you Phillip, but the worst thing about it is that they’re changing the engine. I love mods, but only source mods, so I’m just tracking them on mddb. I feel a little bit cheated when mods become commercial, but it breaks my heart after announcing a engine change. And they’re doing it in 90%.

    Do you know what’s weird at all? The devs switched the game from half-life to alien swarn so that it will be available for everyone. This doesn’t fit to the next step, does it?

    1. Jamie

      My thoughts: Essentially it came down to two things.

      First of all, the Source Engine is incompatible with this type of game we’re creating (Open-world RPG). The maximum map size is around 700m and BSP just does not work with destructible environments. Although we tried to make it as good as possible (the dynamic lighting video) unfortunately we couldn’t get past some of the hard-coded engine limitations.

      Secondly the origin of the mod. Essentially it was (for me at least) a stepping stone to get into game development. A great portfolio piece – if you will. This was a years ago before UDK/Unity/CryEngine started appearing so it was the only real option to make a career in Game Development unless you wanted to go to university / make a retro game so art production isn’t too extreme of a cost.

      Now that the home developer can actually compete with retail titles it only makes sense to take a shot at it ourselves, changing direction. Spending all this free time on creating something, without reward is somewhat fruitless.

      Remember we’ve always been really involved with the community and you can expect the exact same thing as before. Also without the strings of a major publisher controlling us we have complete creative freedom! Hope people aren’t too angry.

  4. tabtoxin

    why’d you have to go public with this? god, why?

    1. I’m not sure I understand why you are asking. Jamie gave me permission to go public.

      1. he was talking to jamie.

  5. s.anchev

    OK Lol I won’t say too loud How much I HATE this kind of news, I’ve said it all for Dear Esther.

    “Greed is good”, Gecko style, eh!

    1. the developers of the mod owe you nothing, your sense of entitlement is hollow.

      1. s.anchev

        Oh my, don’t get me started, actually, they do.

        They owe “me”, “us”, their growing fame and glory about their project. And I know very well How much this mod is appreciated.
        What are the chances of a mod to go retail if it has not a strong following?
        Virtually nothing.
        So, like the last time with Dear Esther, it’s just basically the old story of the dog biting the hand of those who feed him.
        I mean, this sound like if a trusted politician, decides to become a life long tyrant, because he is “loved” and as a result, he feels he can do whatever he wants.

        Thanks to this news, I won’t be surprised when it will be announced on moddb and so won’t Take part in the giant mindless rant That will follow.

        But still, they owe “me”, “us”, the community, many things in their decision to go retail. It’s not about judging the quality or quantity (i.e. lenght) of the game. It’s just about ethics. Even in the modding world, we abide to the same rules as in the real world.
        And also, there is a reason if moddb and indiedb are two separate entities.

        Addendum : How many indie games have moved from being retail to being Free? Ha ha.

        1. tabtoxin

          you all gave it a bit of attention, granted, and we’re thankful for that and we aren’t going to deny it. but this project has been ongoing for quite a bit and we’ve worked on it a lot. be fair, we should deserve a little compensation for the work we’ve done.

          Addendum : How many indie games have moved from being retail to being Free? Ha ha.

          there aren’t a lot of indie games that have moved to being free, but worthy of mention if the Humble Indie Bundle, which is done primarily to progress charity efforts. but you could even pay one cent for the games in a Humble Indie Bundle and even have it directed so that the developers never get that single cent, so yeah.

  6. grabbie

    Congrats to the team for all their hard work.

    Will play regardless of the engine it is on but I wish Valve would do more to help indie/mod developers get access to a commercial license.

  7. I doubt this will be released at all, i’ve been a member of the team for awhile now, the mod was lacking in structure, most of the team were scrambling to make good assets, without clear guidelines, goals. before the mod went retail we had literally NO story planned out, no maps. no real gameplay at all, some good features, I mean, we had several versions that were scrapped, at one point jamie put loads of efforts into a co-op version of it, then scrapped it for little to no reason.

    it’s a bit of a shame really, I can only hope jlea finally puts some effort into guiding the mod, getting design down before actual execution.

    1. just to make this clear, i’m discussing the mod and not since it was on cryengine.

  8. s.anchev

    Hello, JLea, well I wish you the best for your first steps in the gaming industry. I think you’re someone skilled and the idea of using mods to enter the “retail world” has already worked before, sometimes with great results.
    However, I still think using your “free” “portfolio” as your first retail game won’t do you any good, especially with your fans and your public -_-

    But good luck anyways….

  9. ikar

    Well, all this and went on:
    1, this mod – another clone of “Stalker” is similar to other site of action (and here and there disaster area) – not surprising that they changed the engine.
    (although the arts of it made me rush of nostalgia for childhood, for example, a poster from the film “Through hardship to the stars” -http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CA%E8%F0_%C1%F3%EB%FB%F7%B8%E2
    Value – through difficulties to the high end.
    The phrase came to us from ancient Rome – Per aspera ad Astra (Latin). Its author, Lucius Seneca Annaeus (4 BC – 65 years., Roman philosopher, poet and statesman).

    By the way, there (in mod, now former) is probably a lot of allusions to the film by Tarkovsky “Stalker” (originally, “Stalker” will be filmed there, where they filmed “Through hardship to the stars”)
    2 Valve killed modding – probably after the release of “Fake EP3” – frightened, seeing the success BlackMesa, the fans make the game without them, and began to break the engine Steam.
    I think a couple of years it will be finished with modding, but I hope that before will see the third part of Mission Improbable and other mods, looking at that, the Valve staff nervously smoking in aside [crossing fingers, and pray on Magnar Jenssen’s foto 🙂 ]

    RIP, another potentially the best of the best modification
    hello, new STALKER-style game
    I hope it will break through the thorns to the stars
    and Good luck, to Authors

    but in general, the whole territory of the former Soviet Union is full of places and objects – modders go for it! -http://urban3p.ru/ -http://www.g0l.ru/blog/htmls/zabrosh/index.htm (only for example – phillip, you can remove it, and oter links)
    you just have to make a request “заброшенные (военные) объекты” (abandoned (military) facilities) and you’ll get tons of material and ideas for maps and large modifications

    1. tabtoxin

      i can’t understand any of this, i’m sorry

  10. Jo

    Cancelling the mod, changing the name, then announcing it as a completely new game somewhere else can make them deserve it a little as long as they don’t use Moddb to announce it. You know what I mean, they just should’t use the support they gained by being a mod. But I guess actually they will announce the news from the mod page itself and ask people to support them.

    On the other hand it’s completely understandable that people want to earn money from their years of hard works. It’s only normal. Pity nobody cares about ethics anymore. Someone says ethics and someone else calls him/her a hipster.

    What would I do if I were in that position? The same day Valve offers me to become a full game, I’d announce it on moddb and let people know that I’m considering it. If I accept it (which would probably be the case) I’d just tell people that mod is cancelled and stop using it completely, then I’d change the name of the game and start with a completely different approach to promotions. And most importantly of course, I’d actually try to be worth the price of my game in the first place. You can’t compare a mod to a retail game. Every single bug, every little mistake you make, every bad thing about your game, everything that your game lacks will be rubbed to your face. Because people pay for that. That’s how things work. Coming from a mod background seems to make people forget how serious this is.

    Gary’s Mod and Natural Selection are great examples. Both were released before they became commercial. After going retail they just improved everything. Garry’s Mod deserves to be called a mod, because Garry supports it even today like a modder. Natural Selection 2 is going great, they are being supported by modding community by Alpha Funding. They deserve it too. Talented people acting decent brings goodness.

    That’s it.

  11. s.anchev

    On a parallel addendum – Raindrop, That ambitious mod… is dead.

  12. Pingback: We’re almost live. | | Cruxic GamesCruxic Games

  13. dufake

    I heard a similar story. Raindrop.

    They switched the engine too.

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