Poll Question 343 – Do you think you would buy “themes” for games that changed the default experience?

21st April 2016

I know the last poll was only a few days ago but I want to get back to the Thursday schedule.

Please bear with me. I’ve got an idea and before anybody asks, “No, I don’t have any inside information”.

Imagine that half-Life 3 is released but it is also made available with, for an extra cost, themes.

The themes are “overlays” that include sound files (voice and music), textures and maybe some other assets.

The idea is that you buy the game and can play it as Valve imagined it. But you could also “change” it by buying different themes that give the game a different feel.

Think of it as being similar to HTML and CSS. The HTML is the content and the CSS is the look and feel.

The themes could be:

  • Children
  • Dark/Horror
  • Steampunk
  • Organic

I have no illusions that this would be incredibly difficult to create and there would be many other ways of generating income from the game that would be far easier to create.

This poll question is more about the general idea of “themes” than it is for wanting this in HL3, I just thought it might be better to give a real example.

In addition to being able to buy them from Valve, the community could be allowed to create their own themes which would then be sold on the HL3 workshop.

It has already happened really with FakeFactory’s Cinematic Mod but this time the game would be designed with this in mind.

So, back to the basic question/idea. Do you think you would buy “themes” for games that allowed new experiences?

Do you have any ideas for new themes? Has this been done within the game industry already?

I have had a report that some of the previous polls have not been visible for users. I am trying a plugin this time. If you can’t see the poll below, please contact me – thanks.

Time to vote

Do you think you would buy "themes" for games that changed the default experience

  • No (60%, 58 Votes)
  • Maybe (30%, 29 Votes)
  • Yes (10%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 97

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  1. Wesp5

    Well, to me this would just sound like another approach to paid mods as normally these things are called texture mods with other games. Isn’t Valve already earning enough by selling hats which is basically the same only on a smaller scale?

    1. Like black mesa but in ultra HD?

  2. Nothing I would pay for, no. I usually find these kinds of things to be really tacky and would rather their development time be used to make the core game better.

  3. I agree with the previous comments and think the Dev team should be putting there time and effort into making a great core game. I don’t usually buy these addons/themes in any games and i would dislike it if it happened in Half life 3. With that being said, Valve are good and making gamers part with their money so they will find a way!

  4. Zekiran

    No, certainly not for a game with a specific story already being told.

    For ones which have yet to be released, IPs that aren’t tested or aren’t well-established, perhaps – but that falls deeply DEEPLY into the trap of microtransaction-based false-games.

    If I pay for a game, I expect that game to be finished when I get it. If the ‘default’ is by some miracle so flexible that it can be visually, texturally, audibly, or contextually altered by some download, you don’t have a game with a story – you have a sandbox.

    We’ve got that: Garry’s Mod. The GECK. Unreal Engine. Adventure Maker…

    If I want a game that relies upon me buying installable bits, I might as well be using Poser or XNA.

  5. Heinz

    I would’nt buy anything than a new game (if it is good in my opinion) from Valve.
    They make so much money with their community market, so I think they won’t need to sell themes or anything like that.
    I am a person, who waits for HL³ too, but it should take the time it does, because I want a supherb game like HL² again.
    But I don’t believe that this will never ever happen.
    I think and feel that the magic of Valve and Steam is gone since the Portal series was released.

  6. I wouldn’t put it past them (Valve) to pull such business practices, after all, most of their recent games have been filled to the brim with microtransactions (CS:GO, TF2, Dota 2 etc.). I frankly have very low expectations for Half-Life 3. Although then again, its hard to expect anything Half-Life related from Valve, given their reluctance to fix current issues with the HL2 + EP1 + EP2 Source engine and especially even to talk about the future of the franchise.

    I only wish that the Valve Corporation could be split up into several smaller companies. Like a company for the Half-Life/Portal franchise, a company for TF2/L4D/CS:GO/Dota 2 and a company for Steam and Valve hardware products. I think that way you could maximize innovation without having everything cramped under one corporate entity.

  7. Mega Sean 45

    I bought the full game itself. Why would I want to pay extra for a bunch of stupid themes? This is why I don’t buy any extra hats or guns on TF2, cause why bother? That’s a waste of money.

  8. Like you mentioned, that’s essentially what the Cinematic Mod is, as well as thousands of other reskins and model swaps freely available. Plus, it sounds an awful lot like cosmetic DLC to me, and if I don’t care for paid horse armor, I certainly wouldn’t care if they put pink bows on headcrabs.

    … okay, I certainly would buy DLC that put pink bows on headcrabs, but you know what I mean.

    1. There is an element of “how much do I like the developer” here. When I think back to the instances where I have bought cosmetic DLC, it’s usually because I enjoyed the game so much that I felt I had already gotten my money’s worth, and because the developers had given away a fair bit of stuff for free to the community when they had no obligation to, so it’s kind of a “tip” for their continued support.

  9. Nope. A game needs to be built with one specific artistic theme in mind. It changes the gameplay and even the story.

  10. No, I definitely won’t. Not only is it highly unlikely that Valve would do such a thing, but it just doesn’t make sense either. It just sounds stupid.

  11. Nah. Not in the case of the Half-life series. Its story-driven and for me it wouldn’t make sense to pay an additional amount of money to turn HL3 into – for example – a horror-themed version and turn the regular Combine forces into Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees-esque creatures. I mean, it would be awesome as a seperate mod but wouldn’t fit well in the ‘main’ story.

  12. Hec

    if they propose some new custom weapons maybe? But those stupid themes listed hell no!

  13. Your header image shows a scene from Fakefactory’s Cinematic mod which is free, up to the point where you need a upspec’d PC! But it is free! (For me CM5 onward is a new PC!)
    I like your point about modder’s being able to create such work and then earn a crust from it via Valve.
    I bought the first and second episodes from Valve, which is in a similar theme to this idea.
    Would I pay to have HL set in a winter theme, or have the combine as Smurfs. No! Since this stuff is free around the net anyway.
    If Valve wants to earn more money from HL make episodes 3, 4, 5 etc. Those I would willingly pay for.
    Indie games already do this, but it’s fair for smaller game designers.

  14. I think the major problem with that idea is it distracts from the game having a clear art direction. Some people say games are a case of “do don’t show” as opposed to film’s method of “show don’t tell”. However I think visuals are still an especially important part of a game’s art design, which in tern is a major factor in the overall experience of a game. This is especially the case in a game like Half-life 2, where much of the narrative is told in background detail and visual cues, rather than through the character driven narrative. For this reason I’ve never been a fan of a lot of fan made “hd” updates of games which overhaul the visuals.
    Compare the intro base half life 2 to the cinematic mod. In the base game a sense of “horror in the daylight” is created in city 17 which is heavily stylized, yet creates a vivid believably. While the city is worn down through ceaseless occupation and the 7 hour war, buildings still contain a great amount of co lour as they would in real life. wall paper peels at the edges and is battered by abuse and marked with soot or dust, yet still clearly wallpaper. This method both shows a great care in detail to what is believable, but reinforces the player with a sense of recognizably. Even if the player has never been to a Baltic coast city in their life, they know wallpaper and are reinforced with a sense city 17 was and is, a lived in place not so unrecognizable from the modern day. City 17 in the base game is a shining example of what can be done with a clear and focused art design.
    On the other hand… The cinematic mod takes a completely different direction, which though it may have an appeal to some players tastes, abandons the ideals of an artistic focus in favor of raw details. City 17 is certainly battered, but not in exactly believable ways. Soot, dust, tears and any form of abuse is not present in places believable by the art design, but wherever it makes the higher resolution textures stand out. City 17 is no longer as artistically focused because of this. The city looks cool in some sense, but does not hold up to much scrutiny otherwise, it’s a show of technical ability, not artistic talent.
    In this way, alternative styles make for nice mods, but as “alternative skins” to a base game, would only serve to detract from the game. As much as a player who REALLY likes the color red may prefer if say, a game had a 100% crimson red wall paper version, it takes away the majority of the game developers control over the art, and as such removes a great deal of potential.
    The art style of Half Life 2 has done a great job in setting itself apart visually. Even though the game was made in 2004 it can still be visually striking at time even when it can be occasionally technically underwhelming. This is largely due to the heavy focus on art design which went beyond the games technical advancements of the time and has set it apart from more hardware intensive games. Alternate versions only undermine that if produced at the same time, and if produced afterwards raise the question of why. Why have the art team overdo assets if level and game design remain? The end result would be a ton of designers working to create a version of the game that looks cool but lacks the total sense of focus of a games’s base focus.

    That said, modding saves the day, if someone really wants a crimson red city 17 mod, it’s doable, and that’s whats great about half life 2’s mod-ability.

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