Poll Question 111 – 5 short mods or one long one?

15th February 2009

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

Assume the 1 long mod has 15 levels and the 5 mods have 3 levels each. Also assume that the gameplay time and quality of the levels are the same, which would you prefer?

Personally I would prefer the 5 short mods because I don’t like to play levels from one designer or team for too long. I like the variety that comes from different ways of thinking.

The Poll


  1. Sortie

    I’d go for the longer one. I love long excellent mods.

    Problems with the small mods are that they take time to install, and it’s often hard to get the effort to play a mod, let alone doing it five times in a long. For instance, statistics show that only 63% of the people who’ve installed my mod, has even launched it. Thus, getting people playing one long mod is easier than getting them playing 5 small mods.

    Although getting people playing for long time enough to finish the product is very hard as well, the same statistics shows that only 55% of those who launched it have completed my 11 maps. But looking at Valve’s own stats, I get the exact same number of completions as Episode Two. Turns out a large amount of people don’t complete mods.

    On the overall, I prefer quality. If all the mods in this thought-experiment have the same quality, then it’d go for the longest. Mind variety is part of quality, more maps of the same type are not quality.

  2. civanT

    5 short ones please! Make them short but make them right! Long mods are obliged to be bad. On the other hand short ones could be good if the maker is picky.

  3. R26

    I prefer having one long mod over five short mods.

    Since singelplayer mods are all about the story and how it develops and how the artist tells the story. I believe it is impossible to tell a any story in only three maps. Besides, long mods usually have a deeper story line then shorter mods.

    I dislike downloading a mod and complete it in less then 30 minutes.

  4. Sortie


    Ever played the first three maps of MINERVA: Metastasis? That’s what I call Story-Driven.

  5. Mel

    Do not like short mods for a range of reasons, although you can have a good short mod, there are just too many short mods that either should not have been released, including uncompleted work, first work, part one of something that’s never finished, not to mention pointless rubbish that’s not worth the download.

    Equally you can have poor long mods, but these normally are uninspiring mods as opposed to rubbish.


  6. Kasperg

    I can’t really answer this question with 100% certainty, because what I like about games and mods is not really their length. Some 5 short mods each having a complete story arc and themes that interest me is something I’d pick any day over a long mod which (even with good quality) doesn’t catch my attention or has some gameplay mechanics I don’t like (“Get a Life” for example).
    The premise of them having the same quality is just something that’s not enough to define them. I’d pick the mod taking place in a deep-sea research facility over the mod taking place in the generic industrial warehouse, regardless of how perfect the warehouse is (even if it’s better than the research facility).

    As for playing too longs maps from the same designers, I think that’s what we do everytime we play a retail game. Nothing wrong with that. You can be roaming the streets of City 17, driving a buggy through some foggy beaches, fighting zombies in a Ravenholm graveyard or shooting your way through a Citadel all in the same game done by the same people.
    Unless of course, we’re talking about experimental mods, which seldom are the flagship of quality work.

    Conclusion: If both the long and short mods had the same quality AND the same interesting story, theme and gameplay elements, I’d pick the long mod, as the story arc and satisfaction at the end are usually greater. My task this year is to prove this is true 😉

  7. Kyouryuu

    All else equal, the question comes down to one of immersion rather than which designer did what. With episodic content, I feel the ability to tell an epic story and truly be immersed in it is stymied by arbitrary cliffhangers that forcefully yank the player out of the action. Plus, the track record on episodic content is terrible. Most mods rarely get past the first episode, making all of the teasing and plot set-up a complete waste of time. In this hypothetical question, it is presumed that all five episodes already exist, but that rarely occurs in practice.

    The only exception to this rule, I feel, is where each part is a self-contained episode with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Your typical sitcom arrangement where everything effectively resets between parts. Then, I think having multiple episodes makes sense.

    But, in the traditional mod, you have multiple episodes that contribute and continue the same story, so this exception is seldom valid.

  8. Anonymous

    Normally, I probably wouldn’t care between the two, but with my schedule, I only get a little time between anything to actually play a game.

    When it comes to the decision between a long or a short mod, I’d tend towards the shorter one simply because I’ll have the time to finish it in one sitting. It’s really difficult to pick up a storyline or even a mission if there’s a week long gap right split in the middle of it. It’s even more difficult to push myself from a save point onward if I’m completely lost when I get there.

  9. SPY-maps

    even when I already thought (and hoped) that people would like large mods more as short ones I am still very pleased to actualy read here that this is indeed the case.
    personaly I also go for the long mods, I too don’t like to download and install something that gives me less then 1 hour of playfun. at the other hand, to often we see large mods from which the first few maps are good, and the last few ones are simply quicly maked. the further you get the quicker the maps are made, (large rooms with loads of odd placed models, probebly even many the same. some enemies, and again, a new map is born, they think).
    therefore I am glad you added the text in your opening Phillip, that we speak here of well designed maps and mods.
    i am really amazed by the numbers Sortie gives in the opening comment here above!!!!
    that only 63% of people who download and install a mod actualy also do start to play it, and, that only 55% actualy end these mods. although, now that I think of it, its quit logical that only 55% ends them, mainly because some are just to bad to play on. I myself also do stop playing after some maps when I don’t like a mod. but, that only 63% does actualy play one that they installed, that still does amaze me, why then install it I would like to ask them. is it that you thought it would be any good, but before you actualy started toplay it you heart/saw somewere that it wasn’t as good as you hoped. or is it that people have to many other good games and mods laying around that also still needs to be played, that this is the reason that they have time to start playing the installed one.
    and that episdode should have the same number of people finishing it, that means a lot. to me it seems to say that more people like I did thought playing ep2 half way through that it was HL2 and ep1 all over again. I t took me to some effort to actualy play it, it was more of the same. for a mod this doesn’t mind, there free. but a game that tyou have to buy, can’t be more of the same. but, this is a whole nother discussion, if Valve should go on with release eps, or stop with that, and start making HL3. believe PP even held a poll on this.

    so, for me please long mods, but, well made, no rush work, (doesn’t matter how they look, as long as amount of the maps is huge).
    i go for quality AND quantity! together, but in that order!

    (mapper Strider Mountain/Coastline to Atmosphere)

  10. Sortie


    Please note these numbers only apply for my mod and that only 59 people has installed it, and that their firewall may prevent HL2.exe from telling my website that my mod has been launched, so the number may be lower. (Although I have never heard of such a case yet).

    I’m not better; I got a pile of 20 mods build up that I need to play. Basically, I see a cool mod here on PlanetPhillip – or somewhere else – and download it, hoping to play it soon. But because of my personal life, school, and the time I dedicate to development, I just never get around to play them. Note, they’re still unplayed, but not forgotten!

    Mind, this discussion isn’t about why we don’t play mods, so I won’t go any more into details, though a poll about how many unplayed mods we have, would be rather interesting.

    Still, if the 6 mods are of equal quality, I’d go for the longest one, as it appears most people do right now. But if the mods aren’t equally good, I would prefer the better one. Again, I define the best mod as the mod I enjoyed playing most, the one that’s most fun. A common pitfall is that many people release their maps, believing they’re fun, but minor things might destroy the experience, be it a fatal bug/crash or bad design, or even things like poor knowledge of the engine. A mod should attempt to be the best it can be. All these problems can be easily avoided if the mod is playtested – a lot – even in it’s earliest stages and the developer knows how to improve the mod from the feedback, instead of taking it personal. Thus, if the 6 mods in this thought-experiment aren’t of an equal quality, I’d go for the one that is playtested most.

    Of course you might have to take the theme of the mod into consideration, but let’s just asume the theme/location of all the mods in this thought-experiment is equally appealing to you.

  11. Kasperg

    let’s just asume the theme/location of all the mods in this thought-experiment is equally appealing to you.

    That makes it easier for me to decide then.
    Same amount of playing time, right?
    Same amount of maps in total, right?
    Same quality, right?
    Same appealing themes, right?
    The only thing that changes is having to download three different files, install 3 different mods, run each one and set up my own keyboard and gfx config for them, and getting into situation once the mod starts (knowing who my character is, where I’m going etc).

    That makes me choose the single mod without much of a doubt!

  12. Edwin "Oscuro" Herdman

    Good long mods are rare. 15 levels is not actually all that long (HL1 multiplayer alone is over half that size at least) if you’re counting each level segment as one level. The five three-level mods are going to be over very quickly, and it’s hard to drum up lots of enthusiasm for something that’s over quickly.

    Of course you could get more diversity from each of those mods, and if each short mod was a “chapter” of a great series, with maybe new weapons and textures in each, that’d probably be the best possibility. But five unconnected mods does not make me care much.

  13. civanT

    (This comment is all about single player mods, I don’t play multiplayer.)
    As I see, people wants long mods. That’s something to think about.
    First of all, I didn’t have fun with any mod ever, except UT3 mods; The Ball, Prometheus, and Half Life 2 mods; Dreamball, Eclipse. People trying to make mods, but most of these mods are simply bad, rest of them are simply nothing new. As you can guess, no mod is as capable as Half Life 2 itself or its Episodes, so similar ones are all waste of time. I said I want short mods, because eveybody thinks what they do is not “Valve good”, but good. Let me tell you: No, they are not! Modding is not simply making lots of bonus stages for the games. I’m saying this because all mods are simply like bonus maps for original game, except they are not designed good, they don’t look as pretty, and they don’t add anything to the fun.
    You may think I’m too harsh and say this is not all true. Maybe you are right, but this is not enough. Nobody is trying to achieve something in their games. For gods sake, modders at least should listen to “Commentaries” of Valve team, about Half Life 2, after beating the game. They tell so many important things there. But how many modders are trying to make something comparable to what they did?
    Let me summarize all mods to you:
    “Zombie Invasion” : Kill all the zombies that are spawned randomly.
    “Combine Invasion”: Kill al the combine soldiers that are spawned randomly (sometimes behind the corners).
    “Crab Invasion”: Kill all crabs that are spawned in ventilation system and randomly.
    “Just Invasion” (those are long mods): Kill all zombies, combine soldiers and headcrabs.

    Is this all imagination that come out from a community of millons of people? That’s just shameful.
    There are lots of dead mods around, there are lots bad mods around, but there are only a couple of good mods. And I even do not like those good mods, because they are not fun in my opinion.
    Yesterday Phillip shared a mod named Eye of the Storm Episode 1. I have to tell, that was quite good. Actually it is the first HL2 mod that I didn’t think that is not finished yet. It was quiet polished and, was the closest experience to HL2 itself. But still I don’t think I will playing it to the end. Because I don’t think it is fun. I already played the ultimate HL2 mod: Half Life 2 itself! And hundreds of bad ones. I don’t want similar mods anymore. I want new mods, fresh ideas, new lightings, new weapons (maybe no weapons!), but most importantly: NEW STORIES.
    I won’t be telling you that I would do better if I wanted, though I’m sure I can do a “Zombie Invasion” mod with a nice map and a nice gameplay in two days, but where is the fun in that? I’m sick and tired of zombie mods. Actually I’m making my own mod right now and I started to make it last year and I’m very passionate about it, but still I don’t think it will be finished anytime soon. Maybe it won’t even finish. Because, it is very very very difficult to make a good map, and add good gameplay. I hope I (or somone else) will be able to make it real and finish it. That way maybe I can be able to make a point, so that my all objections to other mods won’t be in vain.

    And finally connection to the topic, I guess you know why I don’t want long mods. If someone is making a good and long mod, I’m sure it’ll take quite some time.

  14. Kasperg

    I’m saying this because all mods are simply like bonus maps for original game, except they are not designed good, they don’t look as pretty, and they don’t add anything to the fun.

    @civanT: The amount of downloads and ratings these mods (both the good ones and the not so good) have, clearly puts you in a minority in your way of thinking. If you can’t admit Minerva and others look as good or better than HL2:Ep1 itself then you’re really not being honest. The community has produced quite a few map packs and mods that make some original HL2 maps look rather mediocre.

    Nobody is trying to achieve something in their games.

    Once again, community feedback on a lot of mods proves you’re wrong. We map map makers or modders are trying to achieve something that we’ve worked on hard for quite some time and that other people (who mostly share our gaming tastes and because they download maps for the games we make them for) will enjoy for free and do enjoy very often it seems.

    I think the whole “imagination” thing in mods is a rather hollow concept, and I’ll explain why I think so. For example, PlanetPhillip hosts mainly maps for the Half-life series. Half-life is a game franchise known for its good design, be it level design, enemy design, the themes that it touches, the combination of puzzles, combat etc. Why someone looking for the next “super imaginative ultra cool new gameplay mechanic a theme” would decide to do so in a site dedicated to maps of the Half-life series is something that intrigues me, considering the amount of free indie games around the web which are more “original” and “imaginative” than most Half-life mods.
    What I’m saying is that usually, the choice of an amateur level designer choosing a game to map for has something to do with that actual game, with its characters, locations, props and other readily available resources. While some total conversions show otherwise, the huge majority of Half-life maps and mods stick within the game’s main themes. It saves time creating custom content, and it guarantees that people looking for more “Half-life” will get exactly that from these free mods!

    Mappers and modders are not there to experiment or bring something new to the table to those who had enough of the game in question. They just enjoy level design and might do it in the traditional way or actually experimenting a bit. But it’s their choice, not yours. I’ve just read too many times how people are so “dissapointed” with the “lack of imagination” from modders, as if we amateur level designers owed them anything at all. If you don’t like HL1 and HL2 maps set in the game’s usual themes, then don’t play them. The thousands of people who do enjoy playing them and the hundreds who enjoy making them won’t care less.

    Sorry about the rant, but I’ve had this one inside me for quite some time (and civanT, don’t take it personally).

  15. Edwin "Oscuro" Herdman

    I agree with Kasperg’s comment above that “the choice of an amateur level designer […] has something to do with that actual game,” but I think it’s worth stressing further that Half-Life succeeded mainly because it was both a good game originally and put access to a very powerful level editor into literally millions of hands. I think these factors, plus the fact that the art assets (music + textures) are pretty good, has more to do with it than the fact that HL has a good storyline. The flexibility of the readymade scripting and effects blows away Quake II, and QIII’s just a multiplayer game, and nothing else out at the time (or for a while after) really competes.

    That said, I believe that the most successful HL mods remain the ones that use a large amount of custom (or at least customized) content, like Poke 646, They Hunger, Afraid of Monsters, Paranoia even.

    I think that lots of people would really like to do some kind of FPS or even third-person shooter / action gameplay very different from what HL offers, or even to create different circumstances, and don’t only because it’s not easily possible with the system.

    For instance: Before OpFor it was pretty hard to do friendly soldiers convincingly, for instance; lots is hardcoded into the game and that will naturally remain beyond the ability of the novice mapper. It didn’t really need to be that way; it should have been possible via some scripting language to make it relatively easy to make any enemy a friend or enemy.

    The potential is there; Barney can go from a friend to an enemy and he could theoretically go the reverse (enemy to friend), but it just doesn’t happen because of this limitation for the sake of streamlining the game (Valve had no reason to waste time creating such an ability since their scenario never required it; even to the present time there’s no instance of a friendly NPC damaging you with their weapon except perhaps Grigori, can’t remember).

    It’s something of a moot point now, but I would still say it is an error to underestimate the impulse towards originality that many mappers and players are driven by. If this were 1998, a tool that would let people easily mix up the temperaments of the various actors would be wildly successful.

  16. civanT

    That was a good answer to my rant (actually I was the one, not you), but I’m going to tell you why I don’t agree with you. You said community likes the original game and tries to make similar mods. I don’t totally agree with you there. My reply about this topic is exactly what Edwin “Oscuro” Herdman said. They are doing it, “cause that is the easy and maybe only way for them. If Hammer editor was much more flexible, mods would be much more different. Also I agree with you, Minerva looks good, I like the design of those maps they are really good, but still, they can’t give me enough Half-Life-ish experience. Also they are Ep1 or Ep2 mods, of course they’ll look more prettier than original HL2.

    On the other hand, I am too hard please when it comes to action games. Actually Half Life is one of the few games that I like as an action game. I hate Gears of War, Call of Duty, Medal of Honor and so on. As you can understand I represent here a handful people who actually likes the atmosphere, story and mood in a game. Maybe you’ve guessed it: I’m a hardcore Silent Hill fan. As a man who had his perfect gaming expreince in Silent Hill 2, I know I’m not very easy to please with a Half Life mod. That’s only natural. If you ask me Gordon shouldn’t use that much weapon 🙂 Game should be totally weapon free. That would be awesome. You should be so happy that they are not asking me 😀

    “What I’m saying is that usually, the choice of an amateur level designer choosing a game to map for has something to do with that actual game, with its characters, locations, props and other readily available resources. While some total conversions show otherwise, the huge majority of Half-life maps and mods stick within the game’s main themes. It saves time creating custom content, and it guarantees that people looking for more “Half-life” will get exactly that from these free mods!”

    Now I don’t agree with you there too. They are not simply making Half Life 2 mods because it is the game they like, no. They are making them because it’s easiest way to make a game! Half life 2 has the most complete and useful and easy map editor on stage. They are making those mods because it’s easy (At least they think it is easy. Making a box as a house is not mapping. But this is a different topic.). And this is why I’m not very happy. Community is not changing the Half Life. They are simply expending it (to the bad actually).

    Maybe you shouldn’t be arguing with me, because I’m not person who will satisfied with a Half-Life 2 expreience in a mod. This will help you to understand me I guess; I’m waiting for an Silent Hill experience in Half Life mods, and making a Silent Hill clone.

    Now I made my point clear …

    To the topic: They should be thinking more and mapping less 😉 Imagination people that’s all I ask for.

  17. Kasperg

    They are not simply making Half Life 2 mods because it is the game they like, no. They are making them because it’s easiest way to make a game!

    While I was a member of the TWHL mapping community (for more than 3 years), that wasn’t really the feeling I got. And of course my personal experience is exactly how I’ve described. Do you know how many custom maps and mods for Max Payne, Call of Duty, Far Cry, Unreal Tournament etc I have downloaded? None. Never. And not because there aren’t as many as for Half-life (which is obvious), but because I’ve actually never bothered to even search for them. I’m just not interested.
    Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead and other mods and games use the same editor as Half-life. I’ve made one map for CS:S and 5 or 6 for HL2DM and never even bothered to map for any other mods. Why have I mapped for HL2 instead of Day of Defeat, Team Fortress 2 or Portal to name examples? Because the elements of those games are not flexible enough for me to create the things I want. Half-life 1 and 2 just offer a wider scope of themes (and hence, potential stories and situations) to use that the rest of those games can’t really compare to since they are too specialized.

    Community is not changing the Half Life. They are simply expending it (to the bad actually).

    Why would the community change Half-life and not any other game? Maybe because changing a whole game (total conversions) is not an easy task for ANY game at all? Do you think it’s just lack of imagination, or rather lack of time to make such effort?

    (I know this is becoming a bit off-topic, but I’m sure many readers find this debate interesting).

  18. civanT

    I know we are going a little off topic here, but well, it’s about modding.

    Like I said, it’s fairly easy to mod Half Life 2 and this is the main reason why everyone is trying to mod it. They are not modding TF2 and CS because they are multiplayer (actually I’m not sure about it, but I don’t care either way, “cause I don’t care about multiplayer games) and they are not modding Portal, because it’s concept is not wide enough (textures, sounds, props etc.). FarCry needs some coding, and Unreal Tournament is again a multiplayer game. So obviously none of them is good enough. There is Half Life 2 right? Why to bother others?

    As I notice now I used the word “expending”, though I originally intended to use “expanding”. Sorry about that. That’s a difference, I have to admit.

    About total conversions, of course I don’t expect total conversions. What I mean by changing the game is changing the story, changing the gameplay, changing the feel. It’s not painfully hard. That doesn’t even need coding you know. Just changing the variables, let me show you:

    cl_drawhud “0”
    cl_forwardspeed “150”
    cl_backspeed “130”
    cl_sidespeed “130”
    r_flashlightfov “85”
    r_flashlightlinear “1500”
    r_flashlightquadratic “0”
    fov “100”

    and ta-dah! You have something new. That’s what I’m talking about. Add some color_correction to the map and you can’t believe what you did. This is a good start if you ask me. Imagination is not just a word. Create something with what you have, for example, do not make maps and line them up for entire game, make a big city and let player to return to old maps, like Postal did. Just an idea that came to my mind now. For example don’t make lots of similar maps, make a twisted map, or just make a room. One little tiny room, but with a shit load of props, with amazingly big textures. Isn’t that possible? Anyone tried? I tried. It is awesome man. You should try. Polish your map, polish it, polish it, polish it, until even you can’t recognize it anymore, like Valve did. You see what I’m trying? Trying to make something different. But not for just being different, to make it fun in a new way.

    Finally, I’m not saying this is easy. Oh no, it is difficult, and it can even make you cry, but this is how I want it to be. No pain, no gain.

  19. Ed "Oscuro" Herdman

    While I was a member of the TWHL mapping community (for more than 3 years), that wasn’t really the feeling I got.

    Being a part of a group tends to put you into a different mindset than people by large. For instance, how much do you think the average person on the street cares about copy protection? You’d think we were about to have a revolution because of it if you only read the “net. So it’s not the greatest surprise to me that TWHL (which even has HL in the name), which I’m assuming was well-known as a HL mapping resource at the time, would not be filled with people who were interested in other games. In fact probably a number of people on there are with HL because their rigs don’t play other games very well. (I think I may have visited TWHL years and years ago, and just found it again the other day because I was thinking about doing some mapping).

    People do want variety; HL’s premise is pretty good but there are lots of areas in which people want to move forward. Some people would rather have a WWII theme, some would rather have a CoD style health meter or Halo style shields, and some would rather have better lighting and turrets you can walk away from (like in the excellent Russian mod release Paranoia).

    But for years people have only spoken of DOOM and then Half-Life as examples of games that are easy to mod. As was mentioned before, it’s not just that these are good games, but it’s also that what’s there originally makes for a pretty good shootin” experience out of the box without the need to draw up all sorts of new stuff. DOOM had good weapon balance and a jukebox of the day’s popular tunes, and HL has much the same plus some pretty powerful storytelling tools (and the camera pan is nice and fluid, unlike Quake’s).

    It’s not just modders but what the people want, though, and people generally would like more variety, but either the tools aren’t very good or the community hasn’t rallied around stuff. Far Cry 2 got a lot of hype over its mapping tool but it seems that it’s only for multiplayer (at least on the 360). Just as importantly, it seems that there isn’t such a wide range of assets to play with, partly because on a next-gen game you have to make something look very good for it to be “acceptable,” and they aren’t letting people play directly with primitives to build up stuff anymore. Part of HL’s success is really that it’s so easy to make whatever kind of television or boat launch or whatever you’d like to, and it’ll fit in more or less with the rest of the HL world without you needing to do it as a full-time job.

  20. It depends on what type of variety I’m getting out of the 5 shorter mods. If they’re all unique and explore different ideas and concepts then I’m all for taking the 5 shorter ones, but if they’re all pretty much rehashes of the same scenario, no matter how high quality they are, I’d rather have the longer mod, simply because there are so few long source mods out there.

  21. Sorry to bump up this old poll but Phillip asked us on the forum for any ideas for polls and discussion points. I was just having a look see at the old ones and came across this one.
    I have not voted on such an old poll obviously but given the choice I would have voted for 1 long mod.
    I love long mods because, by and large, they are more replayble than short mods. It’s easier to remember your winning combat tactics in a short mod. In my experience, the longer mods give more room for exploration and different tactics on replay.
    But, I still like short mods as well. Rather a short mod than no mod or a short mod over extended into a long mod – witness Unexpected Conclusion and a few others.
    What actually counts are the artistic talents, technical expertise and imagination of the developer combined with quality of game play and combat placing and pacing.
    I’m happy with what the developer wants to make and publish. Some like to make short mods best, a few others prefer long mods.
    I’m grateful for either (but prefer long ones).

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