Poll Question 331- Can you tell the quality of a mod from a screenshot of its final release?

3rd December 2015

As I was preparing an image for the RTSL Tumblr account, I realized that for so many mods, just a screenshot is enough to see how good the mod is or was.

Now, this could be because I associate the screenshot from a particular mod I have played and I wondered whether just from looking at a screenshot if it was possible to judge the quality.

My thinking goes like this…If a modder spends time making the mod look great, then the chances are the gameplay is good too. Yes, I know that’s a stretch, but attention to detail is not always skill specific. There are definitely some mods that are fun to play but don’t look very good and vice versa, but not very often.

What do you think?

Time to vote


  1. In my case: er, nope. To be perfectly honest, 99% of mods all look the same to me based on screenshots alone. Then again, the 1% that stand out do immediately seem to be pretty great.

    Personally, I go more by the reviews. If a lot of people are saying it’s good, I’ll add it to the list of mods I have to play. The screenshots themselves do little for me since it’s all based on Half-Life 2 + Episodes content. There’s only so many ways you can stand out using the same tools we’ve seen since 2004, at least to me.

  2. People can sometimes forget that level design and environment art are two completely separate specialities which is why it can be painful to see some of the most fun maps go down without recognition because it did not satisfy the screenshot overlords of the workshop and other websites.

    But that is hardly the fault of the player, there are many maps being made for all of these games so players are going to look for the one’s that have visual quality first, and possibly try lesser looking ones at a later date.

  3. Gonna vote a big “noop” on this one, and post THE STANLEY PARABLE across the screen in blazing green letters… or just bold caps.

    I am guilty of avoiding Stanley purely based on the screenshots on ModDB, until I heard it was getting a commercial release with a full graphics overhaul. I played the crap out of the mod after that.

    I learned to be more open minded after that. The fact that I have now played a lot more HORRENDOUS mods is only partially related… ¬_¬

  4. Hi
    Screenshots can be deceiving …. how many steam games do you see with amazing screenshots of the game ( along with a great name ) only to find it has a “negative” review and costs just 99p
    however the screenshots for mods on this site are ( as a whole ) not too bad … you can tell a hl2 based mod/map straightaway and a half life mod cannot be mistaken for a hl2 mod
    but it does depend on the screenshot chosen which is most cases is the right one …..
    the most recent “antlions everywhere ” had a great screenshot and the game itself was outstanding !

  5. I think that in the retail sector, there does tend to be a correlation between quality graphics and a quality game (albeit, maybe not the most innovative one) more often than not. Good graphics are a sign of good production values, which tend to apply across the board to other disciplines. It makes no sense to commission such high quality art if there is no confidence in the rest of the game.

    I believe the same is generally true for mods as well. It is very rare for a mod with lousy visuals to be extraordinarily fun to play.

    But two points here. One is that graphics have diminishing returns. The claim that “all games look the same now” isn’t that far off. We come to expect certain things in the graphics, which has led to a consistency that makes it difficult for one game to standout from another unless it has a compelling visual style (i.e. Mirror’s Edge). Two is the rise of the Let’s Play. Being able to easily see games in motion, watch them play, makes a huge difference. A Let’s Play would validate The Stanley Parable in a way that screenshots alone couldn’t.

  6. Irespawnoften

    You can’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s a good place to start.

  7. Zekiran

    I voted ‘maybe’ because when there is a background of quality mapping to it, it will show – but that doesn’t mean a crappy mod overall can’t have a great looking location or good lighting effects as a still-frame.

    That said, I’ve learned to be willing to put aside first impressions for a lot of things I have seen in stills – animation and still game shots among them. Because for both an animated movie or show, as well as a game being played, seeing the final product is much more important than whether a specific design ‘works’ as a still-shot. There are a lot of horrible expressions on animated character faces, weirdly distorted shapes on bodies, visible overlapping and clipping on game characters, all of which are missed when they’re in motion in the final product.

    Even if a mod is crappy to play, I still appreciate good maps and good looking locations.

  8. Nope.

    I’ve learned from experience to never judge anything by looks.

    There’s always a lot of great stuff that may look not that great from a simple screenshot or a short video alone.

    Only playing and experiencing it is when we finally find out whether the experience was truly fun and engaging or if it was an absolute turd.

  9. Unknown

    For the majority of the time I feel that “No, you should not judge so fast!” Although I will say this towards some of the modders that have done or will do this in the future. I have seen dedicated fans waiting for an update on a mod and perhaps they have been waiting for 5 months for one update and sometimes they get a “terrible image” that “does not reflect the mod very well”.

    I think the problem is their are some mod developers that really “do not know how to market their mods very well”. I have seen various screenshots of a mod after an update and all your dedicated community gets is for example “a discolored textured tree”. That is giving a huge “Middle Finger to your audience and it does drive a lot of your devoted fans away.

    What I am saying is if you keep your fans waiting for a long time “you should have something good to back it up with” or your mod could face the consequences in the long-term.

  10. No,

    The visuals are definitely important. When selling the mod to its audience, but also during gameplay. It’s just not a pleasent experience playing something that looks ugly or make little sense.

    Often you can look at the final screenshots and get a sense of the overall quality. Invite you to play and stay.. but if the mod plays bad.. you won’t stay for long. So NO, you can’t tell the quality from the final screenshots. Art and Gameplay are different things.. as already mentioned in the comments.

    At least with Half-Life 2 mods, that are loyal to the core Half-Life 2 gameplay, you will know what you get… sort of.

    1. I fully understand what you are saying but don’t you think that somebody who has gone to all the effort to make the mod look great would have gone to the effort to make the gameplay good too?

  11. I voted maybe because I like to view mapping/level design like an artwork and the creator as the artist. Some artists can be amazing at making an outline for a drawing but terrible at colouring in their piece to make it stand out (or vice versa).
    So in the end I guess I link it to the phrase don’t judge a book by its cover :P.

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