Poll Question 101 – Why don’t you map or mod?

10th October 2008

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

I am ashamed to say that I promised myself that I would start learning to map this summer. I set aside some time and as the day got closer I found myself finding other things to do.

Eventually I had pout it far enough out of my mind that I could claim to have forgotten it. Those readers who have been visiting the site for a few years will know that I often claim I will start mapping soon, but never do. I have often written about how I believe that in general the resources for learning to map with Hammer are not as professional as other areas of the gaming community.

You have to realize that I am writing this as a going-grey gamer and view things very differently than a teenager who has a network of people who they can call upon and also who feels more comfortable using these types of applications. Whilst that may seem an excuse because there are plenty of great mappers who are older than me, everybody is different and I like to work with resources that have been meticulously planned and produced.

I’m pretty sure I bought Half-Life 2 Mods for Dummies a long time ago from Ebay and it’s stored in the basement with all my other gaming stuff. I better look for it tomorrow!

In the past when I have found errors in tutorials I get frustrated and stop.

Anyway, enough about me and my reasons. I am very interested to hear PP readers’ views on why they don’t map.

I’d also like to hear from mappers and how they got started etc.

Without wanting to seem rude, please don’t post links to mapping tutorials or resources. I know all the good sites already. However, if you are a very experienced and patient mapper and would like to work with me on a regular basis writing a planned series of tutorials then by all means contact me!

The Poll


  1. Hoyy

    My excuse is that I thought it wouldn’t be too easy to learn, in the Source engine. There are several aspects to make a map complete and that is quite difficult to put up with, so summing up everything we tend to lax and not do anything at all sitting in the front of the computer with a big task at hands. For the lazy like me, finding time to map is ok, the only thing is that some people tend to procrastinate things to do later, and I’m definitely one of these. Altough I do see future in upcoming games and mods for all the varied engines being released, I just feel it’s still too cold and technical for a casual or beginner to work into the developer kits, and it’s kind of frustrating also because there are not much incentive, at least in my area, where gaming is seen as a mere hobby and with not much speculations of a growing industry, as it has proved to be in the last few years.

  2. I lack the patience to do so. This, incidently, is what stops me from doing nearly everything else that’s creative.

  3. MASTER74

    Modding & mapping both take a lot of your time; I personally have to deal with university and a job, so the little spare time that is left is to be in family and maybe to play a good FPS (or re-play HL1).
    Now, I did make a few mods in the past, most of these mods were for Max Payne 🙂
    This is one of them:

  4. Kyouryuu

    The hardest part is the doing. When you force yourself to sit down and commit to a task, you’d be surprised at how quickly it becomes second nature. I’m finding that with the web comic I’m trying to launch before the end of the year.

    Most people either don’t commit or believe they can’t commit. It does takes a enormous amount of time to make a great single player map. Minerva took what, 2.5 years? If I consider that mine took half a year while being gainfully employed at the same time, that doesn’t seem unreasonable. On the other hand, there’s nothing more rewarding than getting it out there and knowing that people are enjoying it. That’s one reason why I switched from UT-style maps to single player. Not only do I prefer single player, but single player maps get PLAYED. When you build a deathmatch map, you’re just adding another onto a pile of a thousand maps no one will ever play. There’s a difference of philosophy. Multiplayer addicts create their own entertainment – the map is merely a vehicle for that. Single player fans want to be entertained by the map itself.

    I can’t explain the incentive to non-mappers. In some sense, I see building maps like other people see building SimCities or managing Sims or raising Pokemon, except I get to share my own creation with the world. Certainly you, Phillip, have seen the best and the worst that Half-Life 2 single player mapping has to offer. You know you can do better than most of the primitive drek if you put your mind to it!

    Having worked with many editors, though, I must take issue with the criticism that the Hammer Editor resources are not professional compared to other communities. Valve’s developer wiki is by far the most complete official compendium I’ve seen for any game’s editing tools. It makes the Epic wiki for Unreal Engine 3 look like a complete joke. The trick is that you need to cross-reference your tutorials with the wiki. Source is an evolving engine, though I’ve rarely seen tutorials with outdated information, things do change. There’s also Interlopers, which is a great place to ask questions.

  5. I suppose I just can’t make myself commit. There is time, it’s just not consistent. I ‘m studying Civil Engineering and my free time is sporadic.

    I first picked up hammer in the middle of the summer in high school and I didn’t have a job, so I was able to commit all of my time to learning. I had played around with the Warcraft 3 editor and several others from various games and discovered that I really enjoyed making maps. When I found hammer, I was addicted to it immediately. I started making maps, learning as I went over the course of a couple years. These later turned into the Forward Motion maps I released, which I managed to finish last semester between my studies.

    Basically, if you enjoy mapping you will find it very easy to make the time to do it. The hard part is getting started. There is a huge community that is available to help you with whatever problems you may have. Numerous tutorials allow you to learn just about anything. SDK Nuts is a good tutorial site.

    I believe the key to getting started is to make something that’s FUN FOR YOU TO PLAY, whatever that may be. That’s what Forward Motion started as, maps that I enjoyed playing (and still enjoy playing). It just so happens that other people liked them too. Be creative, try something new, don’t just make a box, stick a shotgun and some zombies in it, call it a map, and release it. Don’t be discouraged though, since your first map will be like this. Mine was a brick box with a crate and a light in it. Look for a tutorial on building your first map, there’s plenty to choose from. Once you have the basics down and understand how hammer works, you can expand on them and turn your map into something spacial, and enjoy it to!

    With any luck I’ll start mapping again come Christmas time. I’ve got some good ideas 😉

    1. Grey Acumen

      I don’t mod.


      Which puts me in an excellent position of being able to state exactly what the primary reason is for not getting into modding. This isn’t necessarily true for anyone else, but my case can be summed up by the fact that my aspirations far exceed my abilities.
      As sneakyspeckman (btw, loved the forward motion maps, it really deserves to be made into a full mod, not just a map pack) pointed out; you shouldn’t just make a room with some zombies and a shotgun. Well, my problem is that I have no interest in doing that AT ALL. I don’t want to waste my time making a map that serves no purpose except to learn the basics of mapping, but in reality that’s probably what I’m going to need to do in order to actually get the basics down that I will need to create the foundation for the ideas that I do want to implement.

      Actually, another factor is that most of my interest in creating a HL or HL2 mod comes from how much fun I have had playing other people’s mods and maps. I didn’t start seriously playing goldSource and Source games until I got HL1 for $1 for the 10th anniversary deal that steam ran last year, and then Orange Box for Christmas right after that. So it’s actually been less than a year since I started playing the Half Life series, yet I’ve completed over 50+ high quality goldsource or source games/mods/map packs. I’ll probably find myself more motivated to create a mod of my own when I have finally exhausted the list of available mods that are of high enough quality for me to enjoy. I think I’m getting close to that point now, but it’s an ever growing list.

  6. Greenhorn

    Back in the day of Quake/HL1, maps were much simpler to construct, and engine limitations kept maps down to a certain size. As game engine tech has improved, the amount of time necessary to produce a quality map has increased greatly. HL2 (Source) is an order of magnitude more capable, so maps are much larger and more detailed. There are more enhancements/details/effects available to mappers, all of which take time to implement skillfully. And certainly the expectations of players has increased. Mods like Minerva have set the bar very high.
    Certainly, anyone can produce a halfway decent map in short order, but fleshing it out into something to be proud of takes a real investment of time. To be honest, that is what has kept me from embarking into single player mapping.

  7. Mman

    Other: I do

    At least, I should be…

  8. cubedude89

    I poll question I can’t answer 🙁 I do map 😀 😛

    A planned series of tutorials for hammer sounds cool. Actually my newest assignment for college is to make a tutorial (for any game dev application) hehe, hmmm 🙂

  9. Kyouryuu

    “Back in the day of Quake/HL1, maps were much simpler to construct, and engine limitations kept maps down to a certain size. As game engine tech has improved, the amount of time necessary to produce a quality map has increased greatly”

    I think that’s very true and, in my opinion, Half-Life 2 represents the edge of what one person can really do. One thing that the Black Mesa Source team has surely encountered is that back in the days of HL1, adding another corridor or room was a trivial task. Games back then had a lot of secret rooms and even completely superfluous areas you didn’t have to visit. Today, the amount of detail expected practically demands that every room has a purpose.

    There are a couple ways to mitigate that, short of relying on HL2-or-earlier tech. One is to choose an art style that doesn’t require much detail. Gears of War is definitely NOT that style, but something like Team Fortress 2 would work well. The other option is to choose environments that are naturally simplistic. For example, the sprawling office tower in F.E.A.R. had a very basic, boxy composition. But it was an office and I didn’t find myself questioning it. In addition, offices are naturally repetitive, recycling the same cubicles, room shapes and props. So, creating superfluous corridors in F.E.A.R., which they did frequently, probably wasn’t much of a challenge.

  10. Kasperg

    It also comes down to the tools themselves. Making complicated terrain with vegetation in HL1 would be a real pain compared to HL2, right? Well making it in HL2 is also a torture comparing it to how it can be made in Crysis. The latter game has a system of “painting” both vegetation and terrain with different parameters as if you were using something like Photoshop, whice HL2 requires you to worry about displacement surfaces and placing the trees one by one most of the time.
    So while I’ll agree that mapping is getting more complicated to jump into compared to 10 years ago, some basic tasks are light years easier to do today.
    What is next? I imagine letting mappers create new characters similar to what you can do in The Sims etc. By changing some parameters, you could have an infinite cast of citizens for example. That’s what the future should bring us.

  11. Y0_o

    i did map (HL1) but I also found out that most guides have a few or more mistakes in it. so I kept trying and I made maps but their not good. I stopped creating maps because I can ‘t make maps like the guys who created the most maps on this site and because I didn’t understand a few things in worldcraft (my furniture was white for instance) and that is really annoying because why would I make a map if I can find better maps online. anyway thanks for the site phillip and anybody who want ‘s to make good maps good luck

  12. Sortie

    I do Map.

    I’ve been mapping since I was 12 years old (5-6 years ago), for the now totally outdated game Unreal. Back then I didn’t have any English skills and had no documentation, and a very very confusing and buggy editor. I had no idea what to do or how to do it. By spending three months trying to figure it out, I made a map that could be played. And now, you guys are complaining about the lack of documentation? …

    If you want to get started on modding, download Source SDK from the tools menu on Steam. Fire up the wiki and read a tutorial or two. Then keep trying until it works. Please just remember one thing: You learn by your mistakes. If you can’t figure out what you did wrong, try again, and when you do, you won’t make that mistake again. Just try and figure out the problems yourself, okay? There won’t always be people around to help you when your issues get more complicated.

  13. I would like to map however I am man enough to admit that I don’t have the skills 🙂 I have played lots of mods with very nice maps and I realize that it takes a lot of talent and creativity to create good map layouts and visuals and I just don’t have those.
    On the other hand I can code and debug – and I am also man enough to admit that I am really good at that 🙂 Plus I am also quite skilled at testing and I may have an idea or two about gameplay… So I could be part of a team – actually I would really enjoy it – but I cannot create mods by myself.

  14. Ade

    I would have to say Other. Namely, lack of creativity. I am afraid I don’t have many ideas and the few ones that I do have won’t be greater than what’s already been made and people would say/review: “Yet another hl map, nothing special about this one, but Consider it!” 8-|
    I’m a programmer, I take a problem and solve it, I don’t invent stuff. Still, I enjoy making things with my own hands, but that doesn’t mean I came up with the ideas behind them..

  15. Captain P

    I’ve created levels for almost a decade, perhaps even longer. I started with games like Starcraft, Red Alert, Tomb Raider, and eventually found Half-Life. That was when I really got into it and I’ve happily created FPS levels for 8+ years. I always wanted to create games so I was happy to finally have found a way to create something playable.

    The first few years were mostly experimenting. I like to learn new stuff. After a while, I wanted to get some maps done, but since I’m a perfectionist (sometimes that’s a bad habit) I never released many maps. I did create some fun ones that I’m pretty happy with though.

    Eventually, as I grew older, I had less time to create levels. I started to enjoy it less, too. Perhaps it was the idea that I “had to” map, that I had to finish something, I don’t know. Either way, at some point I started creating games and that’s what I’m doing right now, as a game-programmer. Nowadays I have other priorities anyway, although every now and then I still have some ideas for levels and sometimes I still do a little mapping.

    Looking back on it, it’s been a fun and educative time. If you like to create things, it’s certainly recommendable to spent some time learning the tools. 🙂

  16. Muzzow

    Well, I’m a beginner with XSI and want to create custom ragdolls for Half-Life. Unfortunately, the Mod Tools comes without any useable tutorials – for the more advanced stuff, merging different body parts from several ragdolls into one, for example – and I’m struggling a lot to get my first “real” project done. I’ve re-textured an existing model, though. But XSI is a pain and I quit learning maybe 4 weeks ago. I’m coming back to it – but it’s quite frustrating. I’ve never done any modding before. I tried with the Unreal Editor back in “97 and horribly failed. I want to be independent from stuff made by other people, so I want to learn to map, using faceposer and hammer, too, finally creating custom animations and, mostly, my own Machinima. It’ll be a long time ’till I reach the goal, I know, but I don’t press myself into it. Even learning should be fun. 🙂

  17. In fact I have two or three ideas to start a mod but I don’t really have time, however I’m a player and I don’t know anything about modding, I would like find a good tutorial.

  18. I’d love to…I could do some voice acting, done that but not with this kind of thing.. But me make a map or a mod?..It would be a disaster..lol I think I’ll leave that to the Lords of the art.

  19. Half-Life 2 Mods for Dummies?!..lol I’d need a Half-Life 2 Mods for tards..lol

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