Poll Question 216 – Has Source modding peaked?

20th March 2011

Has Source modding peaked?

I hate it when two poll questions appear on the site without other posts in between.

A lull in releases is always frustrating but recently things have been pretty bad.

I know I have one or two maps still to post and hundreds to update, but let’s be honest we want “new”, “big” and “beautiful” and those are few and far between.

There’s little doubt that when Portal 2 and Ep3 eventually come out lots of mappers will start projects (90% of which won’t be finished) and we will get some great mods and maps but this recent lack of releases has got me, and probably you, wondering about the future of source modding.

Indie games and other engines may have stolen a lot of potential modders from the Source community and it may never fully recover, even if Ep3 is the “dogs bollocks”, as we say in the UK.

What do you think?

The Poll


  1. I don’t think it’s peaked. Valve has committed to making the SDK less painful to use. And source is relatively stable, other modding platforms come and go, but Source seems to have a lot of staying power.

    Valve is a really influential (I’d argue that it’s the most influential) developer still working on PC games, and they’re clearly committed to this engine so I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon.

    I’m personally really optimistic about this engine, and I think our best days are still ahead of us.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree with this.

      In addition, I gotta say that we can only blame Valve for having kept the engine so far out of date. However, we can also sit with the comfort that there are multiple iterations of the SDK on the way, some of which are supposedly going to refresh the antiquated software and ease the pain of using the tools.

      Keep the faith!!

  2. George Campbell

    I voted maybe, mostly because im unsure, but also because there may still be more mapping after ep3, with a secondary peak. Also, when valve -makes the sdk better- there may be a burst of maps as people may feel that finishing their maps will be easier and less frustrating, and others may just hear the news and make more maps! However I think we shall have to wait for a new engine (HL3??) until there is another massive boom.

    Oh and I saw the results, and they are all equal … lol.

    1. Jike

      I never understood where this new engine idea came from…

      Are people so misinformed?

      1. The fact that the supposed benefits of the Source engine was to have everybody using the same version, but the reality is wildly different and there are a few different “engines” (read versions) going around, that the next release of HL might be on a newer version still.

      2. Major Banter

        Portal 2 will be implementing significant leaps in the VRAD part of Valve’s lighting engine. I don’t doubt other bits and bobs will be included such as greater model support. We’re looking at what appears to be full dynamic lighting; something only a heavily modification of the source code of Source could achieve.

        It’s not a new engine, but it’s as close as you can get without a complete rewrite.

  3. s.anchev

    They aren’t many mod’s Source with the “standards” on PlanetPhillip, but there are some ambitious project’s really amazing, such as the recent Underhell, worth the playing.

    Many mod’s such as Cry of Fear, BMS, Opposing Force 2, and other Russian mod’s partial or total conversion are soon to be released.

    There are also a bunch of crappy mod’s not worth the download, too.

    But the fact is, it is now more the time for ambitious and over the top projects than some “simple” mapping.

    I’ve seen btw that Leon is going to make a “classic” mod again, Rooftop Retreat, we will have to wait for it.

  4. There are still a number of mods that are still waiting on release.

    City 17 Episode 1, Black Mesa and the last part of Mission Improbable come to mind at the top of my head. With those in prospect I’d say things aren’t that bad.

    1. I’m not saying that nothing else will ever be released, but with all due respect to those modders, if that’s all we have to look forward to (and I don’t believe that is the case) then things aren’t looking too good.

  5. DeGlenn

    It might be peaked when Black Mesa: Source is released, since this has been the biggest mod project for several years, that might just be the peak for quality though. The peak for quantity(and creativity?) has yet to come if u ask me, there’s more and more players still learning everyday how to map and mod. The tools might be a billion years outdated, but Hammer is great for those who would like to learn how a game works, map or mod. Mainly because there’s alot of tutorials and it isn’t model-based like most other engines.

  6. Kasperg

    These are uncertain times.
    I’m sure the HL2 Mac etc update (and following SDK problems) can be considered a big hit to the Source modding scene, one enough to bring it to its knees never to rise as tall as before.
    But that’s not the only issue.
    For several years, HL2 and Source were a reference in both gameplay and graphics. They still are, but so much has gone on in the world of games that the passage of time is evidently clear. Back in 2005, 2006 etc, you could feel while mapping for HL2 that you were really at the top, with the ability to make the best looking maps for one of the best looking games. The situation is different now. I can’t really explain exactly, but what worked in 2004 isn’t cutting edge or motivating for everyone anymore.
    In a couple of days, Crysis 2 will be out. I don’t know if it’s going to be a great game or not, but I have the feeling that after playing that game, I will eventually play Ep3 out of inertia but with very low expectations of being awed or surprised. I think Valve knows that and perhaps their plans have changed because of it. Portal 2 and Left4Dead seem to rely on gameplay concepts that offer more novelty. I think Valve might have lost a bit of faith on the Half-life formula as it is. And so has the modding the community, I think.

    We’ll still see maps and mods as was (or even is) the norm for HL1 for quite a few years, but I expect the number of big projects to decline steadily 🙁

    1. Hec

      In a couple of days, Crysis 2 will be out. I don’t know if it’s going to be a great game or not, but I have the feeling that after playing that game, I will eventually play Ep3 out of inertia but with very low expectations of being awed or surprised. I think Valve knows that and perhaps their plans have changed because of it.

      Good point, but How Valve can compite by now against Crysis2?, because at least we can see Crysis2 engeine and graphs are so “state of art” and so great quality, I may think HL2 is another piece in the big cake game industry is, but I think valve really must put efort on upgrade source engeine, like a source engeine with steroids, to be at the level of those EA FPS titles, so that’s gonna be rough for valve, and for if it’s HL2 franchise losses weight in the industry, the only responsible for that lack is going to be Valve itself, because theres so much time with no news at all for EP3, I knoow my claim for news wont help at all, but at least I have no hopes of any ep3 noice in these lets say next 3 months……..

      1. Kasperg

        My idea as of now is that they CAN’t compete against those titles without revamping the whole concept.
        Half-life 2 still has its market, no doubt about it, but I don’t think it’s the prow of the ship breaking the ice anymore.

        As I said above, this fact automatically means that us modders using the Source engine know that we are not exactly on the forefront of level design possibilities and because of it the level of motivation for creating amazing things decreases.
        The extra effort that means getting from “A” to “B” in Source level design is harder to undertake when you see other games and their editors can get to “C” or “D” almost automatically (see terrain, vegetation, map scale, vehicle use etc).

        1. Hec

          Yes I agree with your toughts, and I even think that with a better improove of the whole meaning of SOURCE, we’ll have a better community due to great modders, and satisfied players.
          Respect to the following state:

          I don’t think it’s the prow of the ship breaking the ice anymore.

          Well I also agree with you, it was breaking the ice back in 2003-2004 most likley on those days HL2 graphs were a boom, especially after those abstract basic 3D graphs of the mid nineties, even for those I think HL1 was ahead of almost all, but yep defently nowdays, valve has to put more efort in do things the best, easier for modding users, and also aspiring to be again that prow of the ship you say, let’s hope to see that arround next 5 years, if things gets better, and hope at least the end ep3 and plan for a future for HL, or maybe it’s substitute title..-

  7. I said maybe because I haven’t followed the modding community enough to know if we have reached a peak. I can say that while yes, we are in a lull, there are always good mods in development that are coming soon. In regards to what you said about Portal 2 and Ep3, yeah currently the Portal modding community is quite small, (as seen by the low amount of entries in the Blue Portals Mapping Competition), so Portal 2 will definitely revive that. I don’t think anyone is banking on Ep3 coming out soon however, so most modders and mappers are still working with the current source engine.

  8. Kyouryuu

    Yes, it has peaked. And it won’t come back either.

    Like it or not, two things conspire against it. One, the gamers have moved on to other games, leaving behind only the die-hard fans, and they are never a growing population. Two, platforms like Unity, XNA, and even Unreal Engine 3 – coupled with the rise of smartphones – have lowered the entry bar for anyone who wants to make their own game. Not mod, game. And maybe they can turn around and sell it in the App Store and make some money for their hundreds of hours of work. You can say “Yeah well, most of those projects end in failure,” which is absolutely true. The majority of mods fail too.

    I don’t really want to see Half-Life fade away, and I don’t want to be a doomsday naysayer here. But the simple fact of the matter is that without an infusion of new content to rally both gamers and the development community, it’s a downhill slope.

  9. tr0nic

    Source modding might be in relative danger but source mapping in general is not.

    There are still loads of maps and campaigns created for all the source games out there. And think about all the great mods Portal 2 will spawn!

  10. Major Banter

    It is difficult to answer this question. On one side, there’s the antique that is the current engine, the licensing issues and the over-accessibility of Hammer.

    On the other, there’s the upcoming massive updates to SDK and the Engine as a whole.

    I think this question cannot be answered right now. I’m not going to quote examples, or throw out ideas. Rather, make a simple point. With stuff like OGRE, UDK, Luna, SPARK, CryEngine, etc etc, level designers have more scope than ever to make fantastic and innovative games, maps, mods and so on. Source right now does not offer that ability. It offers a very intuitive piece of mapping software and bugger all else.

    What Portal 2 and the SDK update bring to the table will set the bar for future Source development. I believe it will either set it on the long path of eventual death, or bring SDK up to par with UDK. Seeing as Valve have devoted an entire cabal to SDK development rather than support, I can’t wait to see what they’ll bring.

    But for now, I think that’s it. We’re stuck in limbo; either move on to a new engine or wait and see. Source Modding is still alive right now, but what about the future?

    As for UDK, while it’s an amazing piece of software I’m yet to see an explosion of “stuff” on the level that HL2, CSS and TF2 have spawned.

    1. Herr_Alien


      Add to those, Chivalry, Primal Carnage and I guess a bunch of other games on Desura:


      And these are fully fledged games, not the hat explosion that took place in TF2 or the “mutations” (or is it mutators? :P) from L4D.

  11. Stanley

    Unless ep.3 can really bring something to the table on par with some of the “better looking” engines, I fear many people will turn away from the source engine.

  12. Herr_Alien

    I say yes. The fact that Valve didn’t release anything big for quite a while is the main factor. Valve didn’t give a proper reply to Unity or UDK. Alien Swarm was a cool gimmick, but it didn’t really tap into the potential of the modding community. With a Source engine that it is slowly aging and with competitors that have better visuals, development communities are finding themselves with no reason to remain on Source (see Team Chivalry).

    One thing that Valve can be blamed for is shifting focus from the games they made to the digital distribution platform they maintain.

    1. Hec

      The fact that Valve didn’t release anything big for quite a while is the main factor

      Yep soo agree buddy that’s what im talikng about

  13. Hec

    Well guys I voted maybe, because I feel that with source modding is happening the same that ocured with HL1 ENGINE modding era, I mean, we had lots of hl1 mod and then that reached a peak and drops so much and so fast, then HL2 arrived and we have another fantastic modding wave than by this point is like in this odd, lull period, but that could be also related to valve’s releases, I mean with HL2; ep0 ep1 and ep2 we have many mods related to those engeine evolution, but now as we just are in ep2, and there’s no glimpse of ep3 anywhere well here we have the stranding now days we’re in, so that’s kind a shame but I belive it depends on what valve deliver, and then modders start to do with that, so just pray and hope for the ep3 at last in 2012!!!!!

  14. Duke

    I spoke of my fears a while back, nothing really new happening (that we are being kept informed about at least) and even the mods have dried up now. An occaisional map perhaps, but no full on conversions that are like playing a whole new game, with new ideas, fresh weapons and characters. I’m not a modder, wouldn’t have the patience or time to learn, just a gamer that likes HL.
    It seems to me that there were SOO many more releases when all we had was HL 1 to play with. I understand that it must be much more complicated these days to produce stuff, but I really am losing momentum, which is a shame, as I’ve been with it since day one.
    I don’t know what HL ep3 will bring, or even if anybody is still working on it, for all I know the place is locked up with a for sale sign outside.
    Anyway, as I previously said, would that mean that PP would just become a mod database, or would it need to jump ship to survive ? I really don’t know.

  15. I voted no because if it did peak, it peaked long ago.
    I thought it peaked back at Get a Life (Released Apr 25, 2008) but turns out that Research and Development (Released Jul 14, 2009) was there to raise the bar.
    Human Error were good to (Released Feb 7, 2010) because they introduced us a little more to voice acting.

    So I believe the bar can’t be set.
    There is always improvements to be made.
    If I should set a bar it would be if one mod had:
    The puzzle elements of Research and Development.
    The Voice acting of Human Error.
    The general game-play of Get a Life.
    And the graphics from Blackmesa source and Dear esther combined.

    but event then there would be more to add. What about story? (sorry I have yet to play a mod with a “good” story, so I can’t give an example)

    If we take a look at multiplayer shooter mods, then the bar has been set long ago. (Counter-strike June Beta 1 19. 1999, well didn’t play it back then but lets just say that was the release date)

  16. vehk

    I am not entirely sure, but voted for yes. The reason is that despite new mods being often really impressive and all, I’ve noticed the ideas are starting to repeat themselves. Maybe there is only so much one can intuitively do with the environment or coming up with puzzles and challenges is too hard nowadays. Without mods such as R&D or Mission Improbable that introduce new mechanics and (some) —ville winners, the modding is threatened to become stale in the invention department.
    With permutations of the basic mechanics reaching such extremes as :
    -killing sniper with grenades thrown by a combine soldier (sniperville)
    -guiding a manhack through an arbitrary maze to cut a power cord (somewhere)
    -weighing down an elevator by trapping a crawling zombie torso there (R&D)
    I think there aren’t many possibilities left to surprise me (I can still think of some but only a few), until some new assets and mechanics become widespread. Great level design can still save the day, but overall I think it peaked.

  17. Anon_249475

    -guiding a manhack through an arbitrary maze to cut a power cord (somewhere)

    Think it’s Human Error

  18. SPY

    it’s clear that the Source modding community is slowly dying, and this is going on for a year or two now. the amount of good mods or even mappings are much smaller now as they where back then, and each new half year there are less mods to be released.
    but, it’s just logical, so I am surprised that people wonder why and if this is going on.
    i believe its now 7 years ago or so that HL2 was released, so it went on quit long in fact. like mentioned above, there are much better engines and games now out there, and those small eps don’t help either. I had high hoped for ep1 and 2, but they only gave 1+ hour of gameplay, (what a rip off!!!), and I don’t think ep3 will be any better ones it is released.

    like mentioned above do I still indeed work on my 5th HL2 ep2 sp-mod, it is not huge but will have 6 or 7 maps what will be enough for 4 to 5 hours of gameplay I assume.
    but, ones that one is released I too will move on to newer programs, I said this before and still did start this new mod. but this really will be my last Hl2 mod. and there is nothing wrong with moving on, games are only so long appealing and then it gets dull, especially with the high quality games that are released these days.

    i do think that PP should consider adding a new game to the site, maybe the new Duke Nukem will have a big modding community, or the new Crysis 2?

  19. We’ve yet to get to the point where modding on any engine feels like a fully polished game, so modding has not at all peaked. We just need to pool the greatest minds together to bring us something above and beyond.

  20. Vic

    I wouldn’t say “peaked”. If anything, I’d argue it isn’t going very well at the moment. A pretty terrible SDK, episodic releases and Valve’s neglectment of the Half-Life series haven’t helped.

    I hope EP3/HL3’s release will help matters, and reinvigorate the community.

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