Modders’ Motivation Coming Full Circle?

31st August 2011

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

I think I am slowly coming to the conclusion that the reason for making mods has changed.
Perhaps this is obvious to you but I’ve never really thought about it before.

If you play enough of the 100SDoN maps and mods I have posted, you get a small insight into the minds of the modders “back in the day”.

Ideally, I would have posted them in the exact chronological order they were released, but I didn’t think of it when I started the event.

The reason I think that would have been good is it would have showed a change in the types of mods released.

Like it, or lump it!

Essentially I feel that at the beginning of modding, modders created what ever the hell they wanted. If they loved really hard/challenging levels, that’s what they created. If they loved abstract ideas, that’s what they released.

They built mods because it was new, fun and creative. They built levels without worrying about realism, physics or other mundane concepts. They built mods they wanted to play – if you didn’t like it they tough titties.

The pattern is clear and that’s one of personal taste.

More Professional?

Over time, things started to change and more modders wanted to create professional looking mods, with hours of gameplay and storylines. That was when teams were needed and another element was added to modding: team management.

Then came the release of Half-Life 2 and suddenly modding got a kick up the bum. It seemed impossible that one person could create a truly incredible mod. The tasks were too diverse and required too much specialization.

Modders seemed to try and make mods as portfolio pieces, just to get into proper jobs. I am not criticising that approach, just recording it.

Lurking in the background was Garry’s Mod. Garry’s mod did what no other mod had done, at least not in the same way. It went to a paid version and made Garry some serious money.

Sure, mods had gone retail before but not via Valve and Steam and not built by more or less one person.

Art Mods

Things ticked along like this for a while and then came “Art mods”.

“Art mods” are mods that broke the rules of modding, mods that didn’t have a proper ending, or even shooting. Mods that told stories without action. Suddenly, game engines were windows into other forms of “playing” and the community got a little excited. “Ohh, something new, that must be cool!”. And it is – if you do it right.

Until of course they realized that making these mods is harder than it first seemed. Why is that? I don’t know, maybe the creativity had been channelled in certain ways for so long that changes those channels was harder than we suspected.

I am not saying there wasn’t creativity in mod making before Art mods, but that creativity was limited in how we thought of games and mods.

Now some of these mods are gleaning a lot of attention and even turning into indie games.


Also in the background, the Smart phone revolution was beginning to take shape and “apps” became a normal word to hear in offices and bars around the globe.

And now the “in” word is “Indie”. Independent games. Games, made with “simple” engines. Games that make the creators money. Games that help show potential employers the skills they apparently need.

Of course, there’s no direct link between Indie games and Smart phones, you’ll find a lot of indie games going the smart phone route first and then on PC. Warm Gun is a prefect example of this. WG has as one of its main contributors a modder called CubeDude, who made models and levels for many years, before moving into the gaming industry)

Of course, developers still need level designers, modellers, coders, texture artists etc etc, but what better way to do that than build your own successful game and make a bit of cash at the same time?

Another example is Au Heppa, who is building Water too show he has creativity as well as technical ability to potential employers.

Which brings us back to the original point (phew!).

Is modding about to go back to its roots, where modders build for the love of it and where they create something they want to play?

For some, modding is just a step into “real” game development, but for others it is a needed side of the gaming industry that leads to innovation and creativity that would be impossible within the corporate gaming world.

There are few left out there “making from the heart” and for my money Muddasheep is easily amongst the best. He knows what he likes and keeps doing it. He has a solid following.

I get the feeling he would still make the stuff he makes whether he got 100 downloads or 100,000. Praise be to modders that know what they want, especially if it’s different from the stuff that is being released.

Just before I hand over to you for the comments, I want to add that I know it might sound a little hypocritical coming from me, seeing as I love all the Black Mesa HL levels and the Standard HL2/Ep2 stuff. But I love it NOT because it WAS popular a few years ago but because I could play those types of levels all the time.

If modders make that sort of stuff because that’s what they enjoy, then fantastic. If they make it because it’s a means to an end, then that’s a shame. It’s those kinds of modders who move on to the next thing that is popular.

Make what you love and love what you make, that’s what I say, anyway.


  1. Bramblepath

    Insightful, Phillip. I get your point of view, and by and large agree. But still, it’s also nice to just appreciate the creativity without tinting it with moral and philosophical issues about the meaning of a mod, or its reason for being created. As Thom Yorke said, it’s like being at the Tate Modern, looking around the Rothko gallery: all the kids see is lots of beautiful abstract art, but all the adults see is some poor guy who killed himself. Things like that affect your appreciation of art.

    Even so, it’s nice to have some variety in mods and we definitely still have that.

    1. I wouldn’t have characterized my observation as “tinting it with moral issues”. More a case of trying to understand the reasons for creation could lead to an appreciation of how that affects the final result.

      An individual’s appreciation of art or even gaming, certainly shouldn’t be influenced by others.

  2. 2muchvideogames

    This is becoming a bit of a problem in the player’s perspective. Remember back in 1998 when you can make your own starcraft map and put it online for everyone to try? Not anymore. Only the Best Maps can now be put online for everyone. The same thing is happening with Half life mods. Back in the day any random mod like the army at the office or 3rd505th can spread all over the internets from any mapper no matter the quality. Nowadays I make two single player Half Life missions and no one will ever hear about it. The demand for professionalism in mods have severely obstructed the diversity from the mods available for us. Everyday people like you and I can no longer expect the community to try our works anymore.

    What I liked about the older mods is that it could be about anything, of any quality with any style the author sees fit. Sure, the purple lighting in 3rd505th was freaking ugly and all but what other HL map had that kind of mapping style? The diversity of these mods, where you can never know what to expect, adds a really fun element when trying out an HL mod. This is why I have made it my duty to find and try every HL mod that I can get my hands on, because HL is most definitely the root of the modding trend in the first place.

    1. I’m not sure your point is directly related to the motivation of modders. That’s not to say I disagree with you. It’s definitely getting harder for mappers to get the attention of players, but don’t you think that’s just a consequence of improved quality?

      At the beginning, player wanted everything because it was new and we weren’t worried about quality, now some modders only play the biggest and best mods. other like me and a few PP readers, try and play everything within a defined criteria.

      Of course, in some ways we should be grateful for having our standards raised. WHy would we want to play all those shitty maps when there are almost as many good maps.

      BTW, don’t worry, I will add your maps here eventually!

    2. Everyday people like you and I can no longer expect the community to try our works anymore.

      That’s right. Even a great map can be unnoticed. It reminds me of Moth’s Playground map for Prey. It’s a great map, I gave feedback, beta tested it, fixed some bugs. No one else replied, and the author eventually stopped working on it. Recently I found another great deathmatch map, Overhead, which was released back in 2006, but it is still largely unnoticed.

      It’s too bad when this happens with something that really deserves more attention.

      1. agent00kevin

        I used to map for Far Cry 2 in its “glory days’. I saw so many great maps disappear into the depths of nothingness, completely ignored by the community. And why? Because no one gave them play time. Not everyone could host a server, and most of those who could made some really poor and uninspired maps, and ran those instead of picking quality work. It was a kind of selfish community for the mos part. There were some exceptions, and I was one of them. I ran one server with my maps, and one server that ran all community maps that I felt were pretty high quality. Eventually I expanded to three servers and ran a mix of my work and others, and no one got a map on just because they were my friend.

        We need more of THAT. Servers that give a chance to great MP maps and pushed them regularly – not just run them for a day and rotate them out. And if its SP missions that need pushed, then its up to the creator to get out there, visit forums, and advertise it. One website such as Moddb doesnt do it alone. Sites like this are great and really help pull the Modding community together, while helping hard working Modders get their work noticed.

  3. Zekiran

    I think one thing that evolved WITH modding in general over the last dozen years, is the feedback format and the ability to get diverse, immediate critique. Now, to be fair, I wasn’t around playing anything like this until late in 2008. But even since that time, I have seen how releases are plugged on the SPUF, here, moddb, and many other locations – and with artists on deviantart and the like, having more and more access to opinions from those of us who play their mods.

    It’s been refreshing to see what people did “before” I came around to the wonder that is Source Modding, it gives me a good idea of the whole history but also a glimpse into the fandom as well – since many of these mods in the 100DOS series have commentary from years ago.

    1. I think modders/mappers were able to get fast feedback even at the beginning of the community. Yes, the websites were different and so was the style, but instead of WordPress (which so many of us use) there were forums, that allowed the same response.

  4. Dias

    I’m surprised there was no mention of the mod “teams” that seem to consist of one person who tries to find others to make a mod for them often offering little more than some crummy concept art & a story premise.

    1. Kyo

      Don’t forget the weapon renders!

    2. I didn’t mention that specifically because I don’t feel it’s related to the point about motivation in the same way the other points are. Sure, it’s a problem, but I’ll be discussing that in another article.

  5. I think to some extent that all of these motivations have existed in some form or another in gaming, though naturally some have peaked at different times than others. I think that the most constant motivation is the love of games, and it can be found in any modder. I think I differ with your assessment of the two competing motivations:

    For some, modding is just a step into “real” game development, but for others it is a needed side of the gaming industry that leads to innovation and creativity that would be impossible within the corporate gaming world.

    If modders make that sort of stuff because that’s what they enjoy, then fantastic. If they make it because it’s a means to an end, then that’s a shame. it’s those kinds of modders who move on to the next thing that is popular.

    There are many people who dabble in modding for the sole purpose of doing something with their time, they create for themselves and their commitment lasts only as long as they stave off boredom. Much of their work garners 1 and 2 star ratings in places like this, because for them what incentive is there to get better? They have their fun with the editor and maps and move on. And that’s perfectly okay.

    For many who want to be game devs, innovation and creativity are often the draws, even if that aspiration more often than not runs up against the reality of much of the industry (crunch time, disrupted family life, sometimes toxic corporate atmospheres, etc). It’s a rare game dev indeed that goes into games without wanting to work on them, one that doesn’t have a love for the medium in some respect. The conditions aren’t ideal, but there’s a great deal of passionate people who pour themselves into their work and make some stellar games.

    A big part of why game devs pursue that job is because they love games. Modders who pursue game dev jobs also love games, but many love making games in addition. Modding can often be a means to an end because of that love, and it doesn’t cheapen their modding work in the slightest. Mods are games in their own right, and modders who love the craft (and are serious about it) will furnish their mods with a lot of tender loving care.

    Wanting to go indie or “pro” doesn’t darken one’s motives and make them mercenary, nor does staying a modder forever make one’s motives pure and artistic. The two categories are so blurry and indistinct that there may as well not be two at all. You’d find many people who have aspects of both. I myself am one modder who’s working toward portfolio material in the hopes of employment, but I also intend to make some great games along the way, ones that people will enjoy and find worth their time. I definitely value independent developers for their contributions to the industry, and game development is something I intend on doing whether or not I can make a career out of it. If I make a job of it, then modding’s still there for me when I want to share something that the traditional publishing structures would find too risky or not a fit for them.

    1. I don’t think the two motivations I mentioned have to be competing. Ideally, if you make something you love that can be sued as a portfolio piece then even better.

      Much of their work garners 1 and 2 star ratings in places like this, because for them what incentive is there to get better? They have their fun with the editor and maps and move on. And that’s perfectly okay.

      I more or less agree. But why can’t people who don’t want to work in the industry have motivation to improve their skills. You make it sound like the only reason to improve is if you want to get a job. WHen I eventually start mapping, I want my maps to be the best I can make, even though I will never work in the industry.

      Modding can often be a means to an end because of that love, and it doesn’t cheapen their modding work in the slightest.

      I wasn’t suggesting that wanting to be a professional designer cheapens anybody’s effort. I am saying that the type of work you produce for a portfolio piece may be very different from the work you produce purely for the love of making it. As players, we play what is produce, whatever the reasons, so we are stuck with that output.

      All my article was trying to do was observe how the motivation affects output.

      Wanting to go indie or “pro” doesn’t darken one’s motives and make them mercenary

      I never said they did. You seem to have the impression I am somehow judging modders that make portfolio pieces. I respect their reasons and their creativity.

      If I make a job of it, then modding’s still there for me when I want to share something that the traditional publishing structures would find too risky or not a fit for them.

      That’s a fine sentiment, but I think the reality is different. So few modders seem to continue on modding once they get a job in the industry. I know of one case where the person has been specifically told that they can not make mods in their spare time.

      I do know a few professionals who do it, my three judges in the GravityGunVille competition are perfect examples, but alas they are the exception.

      Just to be clear, my article is not about judging modders reasons but observing how motivation MAY change the type of mods produced and released.

      1. Ah, I don’t mean to rebut you specifically. I did start with two quotations from the article, but most of my points weren’t rebuttals aimed in its direction. The aim is to widen the scope of the discussion and it ceased to address specific points more or less after the quote (probably didn’t highlight that well enough, apologies).

        Nor was it my intention to suggest that everyone who doesn’t want to go “pro” have less motivation to make great maps, just that it’s common. Most only will have themselves to really judge and sign off on the work, so it takes a really “competitive” modder to keep raising the bar on their own work when there’s no professional stake in it.

        And it’s indeed true that many game devs simply don’t have the energy to tinker with mods after they put in their time at the office. For me, I have numerous ideas I want to try but no publisher would really think of supporting, so I think I’d have enough motivation to try my hand at it (whenever time and energy allowed).

  6. Hec

    Oh pretty excellent discussion coming here!!, I like the topic, and myself i’ve thinking on it quite a bit ago, I mean, my theory is that modding in HL universe and here i’m talikng about HL1 and HL2, if u want even Portal, is like being on a roller coaster, I mean u can divide that roller coaster in two parts, one at the beggining really low close to the ground, and the other really high at the peek, peeking in the sky, and then a really fast and dramatic downfall again to the ground, that forms a valley, then again that parabole climbs up, peeks and fall.

    Let me explain better, the first figure i’m thinking is an hyperbole, followed by a parabole, that again becomes an hyperbole they are conected each other, thats my diagram thinking about HL modding.

    At the beggining in HL we have many stuffs, done as Phillip have said, by the heart, then things started to get more complex and we have total crazy, really huge transformations that showed up that HL1 engine was really cool and eclectic, I mean for example, Counter Strike1 starded out as a total MP converssion based on the HL1 engine, then valve said “oh those guys are genious”, and they proposed buisness, and that’s the point where HL1 engine bacame diversified, and affected the whole communty, they said, oh i’d love to be like those guys whose developed CS, so suddenly we saw quality became a more serious issue to the modders they were starting to make their works stand out, some of them achieved that and many of them not. Altough I also conssider that love for just modding never has been lost all the way, I mean my favourite mod Heart of Evil, it seems to be done by some guy who really love to creates stuff and concepts, along with the talent to do it of course, but HoE never became a retail market stuff (i conssider it could have become a biger comercial project even with more sequels) and also I could say that mod in particular was launched at the peaking time of HL1 modding.

    Then the revolution in modding was HL2 but the courious thing is that it happened exactly the same that happened with HL1 modding, I mean the guys starded out with simple made by the heart maps and mods, and then Source engine revolution, was ready to open the field to diversity, mod ideas became materialized, and valve itself found that just having the classic stuff in source as HL2 , CS and Day of Defeat, was too limited for the possibilities of that great enhanced engine, adn we have Portal, and even L4D 1&2, that afected the modding community, because they knew quality in Source engine was well worthed, even with jobs, and that’s the example of Minerva mod, that thing make Adam Foster has now a job in valve itself!!!, then we reached a peak and that modding boom in HL2 suffer the same downfall as the HL1, but I conssider evry Episodic launch of HL2 helped the community to have like mini booms in HL2 mods, so let’s hope Ep3 and sure we’ll see another “cambric explotion” in modding for HL2.

    But despite those ups and downs in modding, we could see and note that the “just love for modding” factor is there, I mean look at Leon Brinkman’s mods, the guy himself has said that he really loves to modding, and u can see that in all his mods, he creates some really cool maps because he loves to do it!, I know that his style is eclectic and a little bit barroque, but he creates stuff because he has said modding is like an addiction, starts in source hammer edittor, as a white canvas, that then became a really pretty finished painting, that’s the way we got really cool stuff as Strider Mountain, in the momment of peaking modding for HL2 back there between 2007-2009.

    Regarding to art mods, I think is just guys being creative and a little bit tired of creating BM stuff and CMB stuff, for me art mods are just another way to say, “i want my own TOTAL converssion in source engine!”.

    Now what we have by know appart from the current little size releases, is a few big so much long waited projects, as Black Mesa Source, or Op Force2, even Wilson Chronicles and The Gate2, could be in the list in HL2, and in HL1 is the same really few big projects, as Cry Of Fear from AoM stuff, and Arrangement, look at the few differences: in HL2 that passion for the HL2 CMB-BM universe, is still alive (the only total appart converssion is TG2), and in HL1 we’re expecting absolute Total converssions!, but I still hope after that Ep3 release we see again more mods, I mean mods are like babies, u could have babies booms, and then babies downs, not to much of them being born, but no matter what happens they still being conceived and they get born sooner or latter.

    For the indie stuff, I really would love to see HL universe, indie games related to smart phones that could be really cool, but I don’t really know how many Valve-HL apps are available for that new mobile hardware it comes out every month in this technollogical world…

    1. Adam foster is mentioned all the time but there are plenty of people at Valve who started life as modders. It’s not unusual for people to go from modding to professionals. At the beginning there was no other way of doing it. now there are design schools, and degree course,so there is a little more choice for both the companies and people.

      I don’t think we will see any indie games related to Half-Life. Valve owns the Intellectual Property (I.P.) and it clearly states that people can’t make money from that IP without permission.

      1. Hec

        Oh you’re so right Phillip, in fact I think Newell big guy, formed Valve from many Quake developers, if I don’t get wrong?, maybe some from Unrreal, right?

        Also is interesting when u say:

        I don’t think we will see any indie games related to Half-Life. Valve owns the Intellectual Property (I.P.) and it clearly states that people can’t make money from that IP without permission.

        because i’d love to play something related to Hl or Portal in my cell Phone, i’d pay some bucks for them, so is a market opportunity. I remember I had a crappy game of hl for cellphone made by some independent guy, but it was soo crappy I don’t have it now, I don’t even know how I found it on the web, must be in google I think. There are some interesting videos of HL being run on apple stuff in youtube: ( /, so I think valve should take advantage of it, but who knows, maybe that’s not their priorityby now..

  7. I don’t really think that the core motivations of modders has changed all that much since the early days of modding. I think it’s really the development of the community around modding and gaming in general that has changed.

    I would say that modders are intensely passionate about gaming and their love for the medium has spilled over to a form of imitation. They want to recreate something that they enjoy and maybe share it so that others may enjoy it as well.

    I think what is happening now is that because there are so many quality mods and games out there in the world, we are seeing a decline in people sharing their creations. Modders are becoming more conscious of what they release because the community has developed and there are now certain unsaid expectations that modders seem to need to abide by. I can guarantee that there are plenty of anonymous modders out there that have created something but have deemed their creations unworthy of the Internet’s attention by the ever improving standards the modding community have set. (This, I believe, is good and bad but it’s probably more worthy of a separate discussion.)

    Sure there are more Indie developers and more portfolio pieces being created but I see that as a further extension of the love of gaming as well as an indication that gaming has become essentially mainstream entertainment. Modders are taking hobby and trying to make a livelihood of it one way or another but their motivation is still to create something that they enjoy and think others will too, just with higher stakes.

    I think the artsy/alt mods that we have seen of recent is a different extension of modders creating for their own enjoyment. However, they are taking their inspirations from far outside of gaming and trying to integrate that into their experience. Again, sharing seems to be inherit but it isn’t compulsory.

    What we see being released today seems like the motivations of the modders has changed but I don’t think the core motivations have changed. I believe the releases we see in the modding community are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to third party content creation and even in what we see there is obviously enjoyment in creating and sharing. I don’t think we would see very much if there wasn’t.

  8. Aazell

    One element I think that has really affected the modding community in a negative way is snobbery.

    Certain sites (*coughs* Interlopers *coughs*) seem to be filled with graphical quality obsessive mappers who spend hours discussing bloom lighting effects etc…
    I think all the attention on looks has detracted attention away from gameplay. It seems it’s more important for your map to look professional rather that provide an engaging, intuative and fun gameplay experience.

    In an ideal world of course we’d have both but let’s be realistic. Most amature mappers have no intentions to be hired into the gaming industry and no where near enough time to produce Valve quality maps. Their motivations are to bring their ideas to life and share them with others. The problem the mapping snobbery brings on certain sites is that it really dissuades new mappers from taking chances.

    There is nowhere on the web where you can post a dev map and get solid feedback without a million geeks complaining that it’s fullbright and looks ugly.

    This is why so many mappers fall into the trap of detailing early. They want to share their ideas but are terrified of the slating they’ll get on such sites so they detail as they build. As a result, the final maps they produce are of good quality looks wise but the gameplay sucks.

    When mapping for HL1 first kicked off, this snobbery didn’t exist so everyone could post anything they liked to the community.

    There is a flip side to this of course.

    The amount of god awful killbox maps for HL2:DM shows the other end of the scale and highlights a good reason for some form of quality rating on mapping sites.

    Personally I’d love to see a dev map site set up that allows users to post the VMF and BSP files for dev maps to share ideas with others and get feedback and advice on how to develop their ideas further.

    I’ve been thinking about setting this up when I get some time.

    1. Personally I’d love to see a dev map site set up that allows users to post the VMF and BSP files for dev maps to share ideas with others and get feedback and advice on how to develop their ideas further.

      Don’t you think my Beta Testers Collective had the same function? I like your idea but wonder how many would do it, as some might be scared their ideas would be stolen and getting the feedback you want or need is quite hard.

      1. Aazell

        Ya I know… that’s the challenge.. for testing I agree your Beta Testing Group is the best approach but I’m thinking more about sharing work.

        People regularly share prefabs and obviously if there’s some revolutionary new gameplay element you want to hold back as a surprise then I can understand people being reluctant to share.

        Can there be such a thing as stealing when it comes to modding?

        I mean, none of the content belongs to the modder anyway unless they’re custom models, textures and even then ownership is pretty flimsy as no money is changing hands etc…

        Consider that the only reason we have such a fantastic modding base is because Valve chose to share their content with the community. It’s a shame the community can’t take the same approach with their own work.

        Valve live by the approach that by staying ahead of the curve then sharing out the content the community can follow suit and provide more of a shelf life for the product. It works too!

        So from a modding perspective. If you share the VMF of an idea you implemented in your map, after it’s been released, you give others the chance to enhance and develop the idea further.

        I’d personally like to see a bit more of an open source community approach to mapping with hundreds of small .vmf test files being shared.

        I know I’m planning to post mine online.

    2. Fingering another modding community as a source of “the problem” is really petty. Interlopers has its strengths (graphics, error troubleshooting), and playing to them is not grounds for calling them snobs. Planetphillip has its own strengths, nor is it snobby for playing to them. Accusing one site or another of having a chilling effect on mapping is a serious charge, and your assertions don’t carry it. The post comes across as political or personally-motivated sniping.

      There is nowhere on the web where you can post a dev map and get solid feedback without a million geeks complaining that it’s fullbright and looks ugly.

      Demonstrably false. I make many fullbright dev maps to hammer out the gameplay before turning to the graphics, and I have few issues with feedback (even on Interlopers). Why is that? I’m candid about what I’m looking for. Others who speak up from the outset have similar success, and yes, again, even on Interlopers.

      9 times out of 10 a dev map is dropped as-is, without specifics as to what the mapper is looking for in regards to feedback. Modders aren’t mind-readers, they can’t and shouldn’t be expected to anticipate what the mapper wants if the mapper can’t even be bothered to outline it. And even if unsolicited advice slips into the mix, it may just draw your attention to something you didn’t realize before, or form a vital piece of the scene later on.

      In an ideal world, mappers would make their aims clear and not hold the expectation that everyone tread on eggshells with their critiques. If a map I make is ugly, I want people to level with me. I don’t want them to stroke my ego, wave the silver lining in my face and hide the clouds, only to have avoidable problems plague me later. Ever watch the stages of American Idol where the randoms audition? The people they sought feedback from weren’t exactly as honest as they needed to be.

      1. Aazell

        An interesting challenge.

        I guess by snobbish I mean its not a welcoming forum for beginners. There is a certain amount of “we had to learn the hard way and we expect you to”.

        The site is a fantastic resource but if you take a look at the Under Construction section its pretty clear what level of mapping competance is the expected norm.

        I feel that many beginner mapper come up with great ideas but the community never get to see them due to the culture described in my previous post.

        So where do the learners go to share experience or basic ideas?

        Experience isnt simply answering a question about the editor. Its all manner of elements that go towards putting together a great map for SP or MP. What works, what doesnt…

        There is no site that serves this audience.

        1. zonbie

          I had to learn mapping from scratch. Interlopers is where I learned everything about Source. After Interlopers, I cite the VDC itself (as we all should). After the VDC, I cite my dissection of the maps made by Valve and also by the community. I’ve seen a few snobbish people on Interlopers but there was rarely a comment that could totally drive away a prospective modder.

          Chances are you ran into one or two snobbish people who happen to be on Interlopers. But even if 10% of the people on a forum are snobbish and hold a holier-than-thou opinion due to their own past with modding, I am sure that the remaining 90% is composed of more thoughtful and compassionate critiques.

          Another point that I want to make is that people who are even semi-serious about modding will provide pushback to peopl who have claims such as “I learned it the hard way, it is now your turn to suffer.” Also, in cases where people actually did say something like this on Interlopers, there was some level of community backlash against the guy who said it…because like I said, it’s 10% vs 90%. Haters gonna hate.

          I will soon be diving into the world of modeling and guess where I’m gonna send most of my RFI’s? Interlopers, VDC, and I hope there’s a good stand-alone modeling forum out there.

        2. Interlopers certainly skews to the more advanced crowd, that’s a simply a result of the crowd that frequents the site (who themselves are often involved with more advanced projects). They can and often do offer basic advice and feedback when it’s asked of them, but if a map is dropped into their laps with no clarification, naturally they’re going to come at it with their most incisive and most thorough analysis.

          The Valve Developer Community and the Steam Powered forums are two good places for beginners to tip their toes into, especially the former. There are a wealth of tutorials on anything from the editor to mapping philosophy, and the same is also offered on the main pages of the Interlopers site. The Interlopers forums aren’t nearly as intimidating as you may think, there’s a good amount of novices who are learning and asking questions there. Places like Mapcore are probably the least suitable sites for beginners to start with, given that they’re almost all skilled or professionals, and there’s few tutorials or other resources to draw on (even then, one does see amateurs pop up now and again).

          What works and what doesn’t philosophically is precisely what any novice won’t find on any one website. There are so many different aims, goals, styles, disciplines, and methods to be found in making maps, mods, and games that even a dozen websites would be insufficient to explain them all. They can outline only, it’s something a novice has to experiment and play with to really get a grasp and understanding for. When I was learning how to use Hammer and all the tools the first time, I certainly did consult many websites. They told me much, but it was only when I got my hands on the tools and started using them that I got a sense for what they could do. And again, I read much about Valve’s philosophy for level design, but it was only when I started rummaging through their maps that I got a sense of how all the pieces and entities fit together to make such memorable spaces. And it’s only through making my own maps and running into all the errors and problems that I get a sense of how a great map weds visuals, flow, puzzles, and combat. I sought out and read outlines of these things all over the internet, but true understanding came by doing the thing regardless of my skill.

          In a sentence: The “hard way” is the best way to become competent, and to spare a new mapper his trials and tribulations would not make him great.

  9. I think we’ve slipped off-topic here guys.

    Why not post about WHY you started mapping, not where you learnt to.

    1. zonbie

      I don’t think it is too far off topic. There is a fine line connecting the reasons why a mapper started mapping, and the reasons why a mapper continued mapping, and the reasons why a mapper continues to map. Having the right motivations through each of those time periods is important, and having the right community to learn with and from is also important.

  10. I tinkered with the editor of Age of Empires I years and years ago for fun, usually just “killbox” levels or my own crude stabs at historical missions (was fascinated with Roman history at the time).

    The game that really made it “stick” was Age of Empires III. I was a fan of the gameplay, so I started creating some singleplayer maps that revolved around large “pitched battles”, typically with thousands of units in total. Released a few maps in 2005 and was developing others, and that’s more or less around when I realized that I really enjoyed the process. The initial idea, scribbling the world onto paper, building it, testing it, and releasing it for other people to play and seeing what they thought. That was more or less the key, that I enjoyed creating maps and not just playing the finished results.

    I’ve progressively become more interested in modding and game development since then, I read a lot about it, argue often and pick things out from games I play that I think are good and not-so-good, I’m just more or less immersed in it all. Picked up Hammer and the Source SDK a few years ago and I’ve been practicing ever since, and aside from an undercooked entry for HunterVille, I’m still working on my first “real” HL2 mod and my first real mod in general. All of my modding ventures across the various games so far have been loose maps, hoping to get this first mod venture good and ready for release at some point in 2012.

  11. zonbie

    I have always been interested in the idea of a “quest”. The idea of an average person (the player) taking on impossible odds or going to great physical and mental lengths to acheive. I mainly wanted people to feel challenged but not overburdened. Lately I have become consumed by the idea of telling an amazing story and providing a darker perspective of the Half-Life universe.

    I am in the same category as Botolf when it comes to programs of choice. I started out building “epic battle” or “stranded squad in forest maze” maps for Starcraft and AOE 1. Shortly after that, I was trying to understand the crude level design programs built in with Duke Nukem 3D and Lo Wang: Shadow Warrior. Later, I was putting together a platformer game using some of the earliest versions of Game Maker. Even now I get goose bumps thinking about how awesome I thought it would be to watch people playing and enjoying a map I made.

    When I discovered the Source SDK (after a long drought of not using any game design software), my ambitions exploded into action again. I am still diligently working on my own mods as well as contributing to the mods of others. I still have yet to release something, so Botolf is actually ahead of me. 🙂 I think I’m gonna go back and play HunterVille again, lol.

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