Poll Question 213 – Do you prefer smaller, polished mods or larger, less polished mods?

26th February 2011

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

I was thinking why Imprudent Trek Above the Streets, won my recent RooftopVille mapping competition. Not only did I select it as the winner, most readers did too. There were some very good other entries but this one seemed more focused and polished.

That just might be an impression and there were a few errors with the design, but overall it seemed to have a lot of care taken over it.

The whole thing got me wondering whether amateur mod makers should make something smaller and more polished than think big. Now, I am sure there are some readers who will think that this is a subtle attack on Leon and that’s not the case. His entry was very polished and wasn’t too big either.

I really am just thinking generally.

Of course what is small to some is too small for others, so it really depends on the mapper or team. The subject is aprt of a larger article I plan on how mappers and mod teams often try to create something too big. The recent “Hit” here on PP was Sebastian and that’s definitely not a big mod.

It has a clear beginning, middle and end and I honestly believe that’s important. With larger mods, those distinctions can be harder to maintain and manage. The player can feel lost in a never-ending flow of areas with clear readon for being there.

Anyway, I’m rambling.

Assuming that I am not talking about huge and terrible mods or mods that only have 15 minutes of game, which do you prefer: Smaller, polished mods or larger, less polished mods?

The Poll


  1. SPY

    i for one am really glad you do make this pole Phillip, because this question is always on my mind. as some of you know do I personaly like to make HUGE mods with a mapcount of 15 or higher, and then I mean also huge maps. still, they need to be polished. I am not surpriced that most votes till now (78% or so) are voting for small polished mods. and I prefer them too above loads of empty, blocky, silly maps. but what when you can choose between a small very high polished mod, and a large normal (read; enough) polished mod, then I think most people would choose the last one.

    that said, problem with small very polished mods is that they are so…. short. you can always read it in the comments; “i loved this mod, but, it was so short.”

    and I never have read a comment about, “this mod was great, but way to long…”
    or no, I do seem to remember that one of the guys of podcast 17 complained ones about Strider Mountain, that it was so long…
    o well, seems you never can win, lol.


    1. You make a good point Leon, that it’s very unusual for players to complain something is too long. maybe because there are so few really long mods. Youa re right, you can never win, that’s why I say people should build the best mod they can and do it how they want.

  2. Ben L.

    To take this to an extreme, would you prefer a large pile of rocks, or one geode? I’d go with the geode. A mod is only as good as its first impression. If I can tell it’s not polished, I won’t bother playing the rest.

  3. A I

    I voted “I don’t mind” Why? Well I believe in giving all map/mod makers a chance at what they do, whether it is large/small, polished/unpolished!! I archive all the maps/mods I DL and might have more than PP has, maybe! 😉

  4. Kasperg

    The question is interesting, but at the same time it might be partially irrelevant. If we were talking about an in depth market study, I’m sure a game company would like to know their players preferences and design accordingly.
    I’m not sure that’s the case when it comes to mods, in which only a portion can be considered semi-professional.

    Let’s say a result of the polls says 95% of players prefer the shorter mods. I wouldn’t bet my money on thinking this will make someone who wants to make a long mod take a step back and decide to go for what is considered the trend on desired mods.

    Then again, that might depend on where the idea to make to mod comes from:
    If the focus is making “‘a lot of maps'” because the mapper thinks he has enough ideas for them and call pull it off, that’s what he’ll do.
    If he wants to make “‘a long mod”, that’s what he’ll do.
    If he wants to “‘gain the favor of the crowd”, he might go for something smaller.
    If he wants to make a “‘short mod”, that’s what he’ll do.

    It’s not a matter of what amateur mod makers should make, but rather of what they want to make. Skill and dedication will decide what actually happens next.

    As for personal preference, I think I could sum up my opinion in a single sentence:
    I’d much rather play a polished 4 map mod from the same author than two different mods with 2 maps apiece.

  5. I voted “I don’t mind” because while I will likely enjoy a highly polished mod “more” in the long term, I really enjoy just seeing what people are capable of doing. Some of the bigger, but less professional maps and mods have been just as fun to wander around in as the others, plus it also gives those modders a chance to get feedback about what they need to concentrate on and what they’ve already got going for them.

  6. NoFace

    Smaller and polished. Smaller is actually better (unless it is really quick) for me than longer because in longer mods I get bored because its usually the same repetitive thing (run and gun or puzzle after puzzle) rather than a short and sweet mixture. For instance (this is just my personality) I played Minerva and then stopped then a month later continued and then stopped and same with Research and Development. I just get bored. Whereas with short maps they usually have concentrated effort put into them so they are brilliant, for example: Mission Improbable (the lighthouse one) was short yet really fun.

  7. Bertram

    It really depends. It seems shorter mods tend to be more focused and polished.

    i remember playing Get a Life. Throughout the mod the level of detail, mapping, and general quality remained pretty high. However it suffered from a serious lack of coherency and purpose.
    I think this is a problem with longer mods in particular. The longer you play the more noticeable these defecincies make themselves apparent. Small mods can get away with this because you play through with one clear objective and bam you’re done.

    If longer mods were connected and bookended by choreographed scenes and npc interaction or some form of anchoring plot explanation they benefit tremendously.
    Of course, writing, scripting, animating, and voicing these bookends requires a large amount of work in addition.

    So you end up with not only doing all the work it takes to map large areas but plotting, pacing, and logically connecting them: a new challenge unto itself. The longer map packs are the more challenging it is to provide a consistent level of fun and believability.

  8. Hec

    Smaller and polished are great ones altough I allways will want more as a gamer, but I think larger and polish ones are almost impossible mods, because they are so long that quallity pass to a second plan, so yep it’s a joy to play smaller but really polished ones!

  9. Armageddon

    There is such a thing as large polished mods you know…

    1. Hec

      Yep maybe dangerous world, or some other I can’t remember, but I mean u can’t have all the gamers pleased that’s a fact I think.

  10. bumtown

    I think Research and Development really managed to pull off both.

    1. I agree, but it’s very unusual to see that, as I am sure you will agree.

  11. Playing a smaller mod, well polished or not is simply less boring to the general player as a whole. Stated simply; there is less chance of repetition!
    I loved “Strider Mountain”, but some reviews complained of endless combat encounters being too repetitive. To be honest they were, but is that not true of all games? Anyway I didn’t notice this when I played, so I reason this is where the modder’s narrative skills come to the fore.

    A brilliant short mod leaves you gasping for more.
    A bad short mod is just a waste of a few minutes of your time.
    I like a longer mod with varied elements in it. Some I may like and some I may hate. But it has a better chance of pleasing all gamer types, at least some of the time!
    As to polish, how shiny do you want a mod?
    So professionally buffed that you have to pay for it? Or; possibly wait until the sun swells to a red giant before the second coming of a certain mod! [But it is an epic].
    Or maybe the mod is polished just enough so that it runs smoothly, has a simple story flow and the voice acting doesn’t creak too much.

    So; small equals less chance of repetitive boredom and a quicker build time. Wait time for me, the player.

    Big equals more chance of variety in game play but a longer gestation and the risk of repetitive fatigue to the player. So it needs to be real shiny!

    A big salute to the modders of the world for turning a gaming masterpiece into something beyond!
    And the reward for all the effort involved could be a gamer like me moaning about being stuck in a gap, not finding the key, getting lost or saying the ending was crap!
    How do you put up with that?

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