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Report article RSS Feed Surviving Next-Gen Modding

Next-gen games are coming. As gamers, they mean glorious high-definition graphics. But as modders, they mean enormous increases to workload and time. In this feature ModDB explores how these problems can be avoided while keeping the bar firmly raised.

Posted by Varsity on Dec 1st, 2005
Article

NeoTokyo

Half-Life 2's game source code, from which all mods are made, is approximately ten thousand lines longer than Half-Life 1's. Its textures are four times as large, its models have thousands more polygons and its scripting is several times more complex. Looking at the finished product it becomes very clear that these increases are worthwhile, but what does it take to get to that finished product? You would have to be actively ignoring the news not to have not heard the concerns developers have been voicing over the extra work, pressure and funds next generation game development needs: where does all that leave us?

While mod teams don't usually have budgets to worry about, a rag-tag team of modders working in their spare time will be and are hit far harder by the increasing demands of content creation (modelling, texturing, mapping, even sound to some extent) than any professional developer. But fear not! There are solutions, and we will be covering three of them in this article. One focused on mod management, one on gameplay design, and one on content creation.

Armed with these, you should have everything you need to survive the next generation. But the ideas are just that – ideas. They won't suit everybody, so don't be afraid to come up with your own!

Management: Iterative Releases

When I read ModHQ's interview with Erik Johnson, one answer stuck in my mind and has remained there ever since:

"I think the real mistakes are happening on the individual MOD teams themselves. They are becoming far too hesitant and conservative in their approach to how they design, develop, and release their games. If you go back and look at the first versions of Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, or Day of Defeat, you'll see rough games that focus around a single game play idea. The first version of Team Fortress for Quake only had 5 classes, and wasn't even a team game. In the first version of Counter-Strike, it was virtually impossible to tell the CTs and the Ts apart. The goal of all MOD teams should be to go out and learn from the community as to whether or not your game idea is a good one or not, and plan on releasing as often as possible. Right now it appears that too many MOD teams believe they have to build the next huge hit with their first release, which is a plan that is pretty likely to fail. [Successful mod teams] shipped as fast as they could and then continued to ship and ship and ship. [They] measure their success after each release and use what they learned to form the ideas for the next one."

Feature Image Feature Image
Popular mods are often the ones that released fast and often.

"Sometimes," Erik continues, "it feels like the MOD community is becoming more and more like the 'professional' game community...MOD teams that are approaching building games from that perspective are throwing all of the advantages they have out the window, and are just competing with every other game developer in the world". And do you know what? He's right. Mod teams are throwing their advantages out of the window with this megalithic approach. Not perhaps all of them as Erik suggests, but certainly many of the important ones that can make or break a project.

Take a look at the major mods for your favourite game. How many of them released early builds with only the key gameplay elements that they then consistently built on? Are those mods more popular than the ones that waited for a complete release? Garry's Mod began as nothing but a buggy and confusing ragdoll poser, but is now immensely popular, feature-packed, easy to use and an established part of Valve community culture. Version 9 (the mod's twenty-second release) saw a first-day peak of well over 1500 simultaneous players and now chugs along at 500 or more each night; yet release of the highly anticipated Dystopia demo saw 1300 players, and the demo can today muster 160; an impressive but considerably smaller number.

Are these figures a reflection of Garry's Mod's quality? No, at least not directly: Dystopia is very well-produced and a lot of fun, as is Garry's Mod. It is a reflection of making nine releases when another mod has made only one.

Nine releases is nine times to act on feedback, nine times to make the news, nine times tempt new players with an installer, nine times to fix your mistakes and nine times to add major new features. But above all else, your mod is in the public domain nine times sooner.

Design: Rapid Prototyping

Think back to the very beginning of your mod's development. If you haven't ever made a mod, try to look wistful.

How long did it take you to get a working build with your gameplay mechanics in place? A week? A month? Have you still not got them all running? 'Rapid Prototyping' is the process of laying down the fundamentals of your gameplay design in a few hours, perhaps even minutes, ready for people to try out. The most basic gameplay elements are banged out with no attention to presentation, feedback is taken, another prototype is made, and the cycle repeats until you have all the elements in place and are happy with them.

Perhaps the easiest way to understand Rapid Prototyping is with an example. Earlier this year game design site Lost Garden featured an essay where the site's writer, Danc, relates his experiences while prototyping The Secret Life of Aliens. Give it a read, or at least scan the piece's structure. Each prototype is made as quickly as possible, then it is playtested and the responses noted down. The bad changes are improved or removed, and the good changes are built on. Danc stopped after the fifth iteration for brevity, but you will likely go on for far longer.

It's all very well for Danc and his friend coding away with their industry-grade studio tools, but modders don't have access to that sort of software, and compiling a modern mod project takes several hours. Add in the time it takes to make useful changes to something tens of thousands of lines long and it's not exactly what you might call rapid. There are solutions, and the best for mod teams right now is Garry's Mod, which since version 9 includes LUA scripting (modders for other engines are out of luck at the moment, I'm afraid). LUA has a similar structure to full programming languages like C++, but doesn't need to be compiled and, in Garry's implementation at least, can be applied and re-applied to a running internet server without so much as a restart.

In a perfect world the core gameplay elements would be laid down in order of importance, one per revision, but the prototype must also be efficient. Adding features that rely on anything but the simplest of content is asking for trouble and at the very least a waste of time. Build them into prototypes by all means, but don't try it with the rapid ones! To demonstrate these guidelines, let's do a quick prototype plan for Dystopia. Dystopia's core features, excluding those shared by all shooters, are:

  • Class-based gameplay
  • Alternate 'cyberspace' gameworld
  • Interaction between players in the physical world and cyberspace
  • Selectable implants that enhance or add abilities
  • Objective-based gameplay

And the order in which I would implement them is:

  1. Selectable implants
  2. Classes
  3. Objectives

Selectable implants are a key feature and should be implemented first: if they aren't fun, there is little point in carrying on! Ideally each of the planned implants should be added, but this is not possible if we are aiming to be rapid. Adding a UI to choose whether to have simple stat tweaks (faster, stronger, more accurate, etc.) is a simple task that captures the principle behind the feature, exactly what Rapid Prototyping is about.

Next up are classes and objectives, established shooter features that are more likely to go well. Classes come before objectives because they tie in with implants.

Notice how the other two features, interaction between players in the physical world (or meatspace as it is known) and cyberspace and cyberspace itself, have been left out. Both features are heavily dependent on the map and can't realistically be implemented without a large amount of effort and content creation – and thus time. The Rapid Prototyping system has its limitations and it is important to recognise them.

Update: You might also find this Gamasutra article interesting.

Content: Stylised Visuals

So you've got the first iterative release of your Rapidly Prototyped design out, and the people who have taken the plunge like it. Now you've got to build the content to go around the gameplay and make your mod ready for the prime-time. This is where the next generation really hits modders. How can we create new content that sits alongside any existing resources we use, or in the case of TCs create content that lives up to the original? You could re-use as much existing content as possible, or settle for outdated-looking visuals. Both are perfectly reasonable, but wouldn't make for an interesting article. I'm going to introduce a third option that modders, of all people, use surprisingly rarely: non-photorealism.

BuzzyBots Hollow Moon

Taking a brief tour of ModDB's image gallery, I clicked on about fifteen random pages and of the screens with new content, a total of one that wasn't trying to look realistic. You can form your own judgement here, but I'm sure you will come to the same conclusion I have. Even with one image, Rbotz stands out a mile. It shows how you don't need the most spectacular models or detailed textures to make something memorable and fun to look at, but it also demonstrates how the approach can go wrong. The guns held by the models are based on real-world weapons and look blocky and ridiculous: if you are going for a visual style, whatever it is, make sure you go all the way!

There are other pitfalls. The gaming masses typically respond poorly to non-photorealism, particularly the more abstract forms. That might not bother you, but then again you might be making a mass-appeal game and can't afford to have that sort of reaction. Without the restraint and focus realism usually provides you may also find you/your team are producing fluff - and if you avoid all those, you could have chosen a design that, bluntly, isn't any good.

But the payoff when it goes right is spectacular, and what's more efficient. Your mod immediately stands out from the crowd, and you can afford to make much, much more content than any attempt at realism would allow; making your own visual style isn't easy, but it is hard in ways that aren't quite so time consuming.

Of course, you might have the manpower and time to make realistic content for next-gen games. And good for you! But the rest of us aren't quite ready to set targets that high, perhaps today and probably tomorrow, and abandoning photorealism is solution that has seen little exploration.

Conclusion

With the increased complexity of next generation games, and to some extent today's, adapting the way we work is vital if modding is to remain an accessible hobby. Whether or not you agree with the ideas in this feature, one thing is certain: there must be change. The way in which we mod is the demise of many a team as it is, and this will only get worse as time goes on. While there is no denying the value of 'professional' mods, nor the effort and dedication that goes into them, it is the less ambitious projects that keep modding alive. Lose them, and the system will soon close in.

Post comment Comments  (0 - 50 of 54)
feanix
feanix Dec 4 2005, 6:11pm says:

Sure Garry's Mod has a raft of great features. However, you aren't guarenteed a good game. In fact, as far as I can tell, if you play online on a public server you are almost guarenteed a bad game. I tried the lastest version a few weeks ago (well, it was that latest then) and found another guy who was really good, and he was teaching me amazing stuff. It was awesome. Until some smacktard logged in, whipped out his remover, destoryed all our hard work and then dropped about eight huge chimneys, which probably crashed the server. I don't know, because I was already logging out by that point. I guess he had fun, and laughed his arse of, but I didnt have fun. Neither did the other guy. It seems to be able to have fun, you have carefully select who gets into the game.

Now, Dystopia is a different story. It's much more difficult to have fun by being an ******* in that mod. It seems that most people who just want to destroy something that someone else made for a cheap thrill can't actually even understand Dystopia. So we generally have quality games all round.

Even when I was making some test maps that were little more than empty, concrete rooms we still had fun, because the gamplay makes up for even a crappy map like that.

+1 vote     reply to comment
UncleP4ul
UncleP4ul Dec 4 2005, 6:11pm says:
Quote:Half-Life 2's game source code, from which all mods are made

Perhaps this line of the article should be rewritten.

And I dont agree that Mod teams have it harder that professional development studios. Lets face it, no mod team has a publisher demanding "prettier, bigger, faster, better". Mod teams have the flexibility to make games that look awful without having to worry about what someone else wants.

+1 vote     reply to comment
dys-Fuzzy
dys-Fuzzy Dec 5 2005, 12:20am says:

Dystopia had over 2500 online players for the first couple of days after the demo's release. We still regularly see over 160 online players.

I've voiced my opinion about Erik's comments a fair few times, but I'll go over it again.

The bar has well and truely been raised in the modding scene. No longer can a mod come out with the kind of alpha state release which CS initially came out with. It would get torn to shreds by the comments all around the web. Yes, based on the strenth of good game play the mod would eventually get the kind of coverage it deserves, but along the way there would be endless amounts of "the models are crap", "the levels look like arse" style comments.

With Dystopia we chose to do closed beta development, picking a good cross section of gamers to help us test out our work in progress. We focused on getting our first release up to a very high level of polish. We wanted to show first time players what our aim was for the entire project.

We decided to call our first release a demo, as we only had a single level ready up to the high standard of quality which we were shooting for. I believe the drop off in our player numbers revolves around this lack of levels. We expected this to happen, hence calling it a demo. We never expected it to hold people's attention for a long period of time, but simply give people a taste of what we were shooting for.

Based on the huge amount of positive feedback we recieved we know we're on the right track.

+1 vote     reply to comment
dys-Fuzzy
dys-Fuzzy Dec 5 2005, 12:21am says:

Oh yeah, I'm a massive stats freak and have tracked Dystopia's player numbers since about a week after release: you can see them here

+1 vote     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Dec 5 2005, 4:59pm says:

I'll try to work on it a little more, then, but at least everyone is happy for now. Sorry for the hassle.

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1337-n00b
1337-n00b Dec 4 2005, 4:48pm says:

Good article, and the comments all make valid points as well. The biggest problem I think the Mod community faces though is that, in short, modders are less interested in making a mod then they are in the "idea" of making one. Modders seem more excited about launching some flashy PHP driven website with flash banners and getting attention. Look at Gary's Mod, arguably one of the most popular mods around. Is it anything like a big-time proffessional game? No. Even the website is pretty simple, and last I checked it isn't even at a .com domain. I guess what I'm getting at is that modders should focus less on the glory of running a mod and more on making something fun. That's just my two cents though.

+1 vote     reply to comment
dys-Fuzzy
dys-Fuzzy Dec 5 2005, 12:23am says:

While I'm spamming the comments, I may as well also point out that Dystopia has had 3 updates...

Perhaps a little more fact checking? :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
Arketype
Arketype Dec 6 2005, 2:04am says:

I think it's a shame that this article has been misinterpreted and is now being cut down for making points it was never intended to make.

Varsity, I think the article is exploring important territory, and I can certainly see where you are coming from. Your points about rapid prototyping and gameplay development are relevant, and the wake-up call is definitely there for the mods that would benefit more from that strategy - the 'pie in the sky' visions that will never see a release.

Teddy, you've taken this article the wrong way completely. I love Dystopia as much as anyone, and have played heaps of the demo release. I admire its content and gameplay as professional quality work by modders. As Varsity has acknowledged, his article was never intended as a slur on Dystopia's well-deserved reputation. The key mistake that many of you have made is in not accepting that the example used in the article is just that: an analogy. Varsity has written about 'rapid prototyping' to explain his point that modders have the freedom to release early and often. The fact that the example is flawed is no reason to discard everything the article says.

As for 'we obviously have conflicting viewpoints about how to make a mod', that's just it: obviously not every mod will benefit from the strategy discussed in the article. It is not being suggested as the 'only' or 'best' way to make a mod. But for those simple, comparitively easy-to-make mods, more releases with more feedback from the community can be a huge benefit.

One flaw in the article that is yet to be discussed in-depth is the role of beta-testing. Good testing can effectively remove the need for public releases of mods in development. By setting up a core group of testers, mods, be they ambitious or fairly minor, can bypass the need for releases and still get valuable feedback. So with regard to constant releases, 'rapid prototyping' starts to look like a less streamlined approach.

It's difficult for modders these days. I think there is a solid section of the community that would like to see a resurgence of the sorts of mods that aren't professional quality. All this talk of 'survival of the fittest' is fine, but it's worth remembering that modding, as a unique hobby, gets a pretty bad deal.

As a closing note: please, leave the flaws/misinformation aside, and focus on the sort of talk that helps the mod community - discussion of the intended points of the article.

+1 vote     reply to comment
methy
methy Dec 4 2005, 2:57am says:

True in some respects and a valid article. However, the article is by no means comprihensive. The main issue facing modders of next-gen engines is the quality of content creation. That is correct, but rather than saturating the community with cell-shaded and stylized visuals, it is necessary to explore other options.

These options are few, but they are valid nonetheless. One of the options is to create assets that are of a professional quality. Mods like Insurgancy, Dystopia, NeoTokyo and others do this very well, and indeed several modders have done content creation on a professional level in the past.

Another option is algorithmic creation, or procedural ceration. This is almost essential for highly detailed and repetitive objects that require a certain amound of variation to immerse the player. Objects like foliage. There are currently a lot of third party applications to create real-time foliage suitable for next-generation engines. However, these cost money, and that is a commodity that many mod teams aer short of.

Instead of comprimising design and releasing small and watered down builds, I think it is necessary to strongly interact with the community, through constant media released (because as we all know, people love to judge a mod by its media), explore and even create other options for content creation. If soemone (yes, good old someone again), were to create a middleware application to create interactive foliage that was visually on par with gamers like FarCry, and released it under the LGPL to allow mod teams to modify it to suit any given engine, there would be huge support, and one problem would be solved.

Textures can also be created algorithmically, as can models and especially levels. With the power of procedural design increasing exponentially in the last few years, we can have immense worlds created completely procedurally. This sort of inventiveness is a necessity if modding is to succeed with colour and depth in the the next generation of graphic technology.

A well written and timely article, but one which leaves many problems, and indeed solutions out.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Dec 4 2005, 3:12am says:

I agree entirely. There are countless solutions, but a single piece (be it the article or your post) can only focus on so many without becoming overly long. The important thing is that people start to think about and discuss the problem.

+1 vote     reply to comment
methy
methy Dec 4 2005, 3:16am says:

I agree entirely too, and I applaud you on posting this article, prhaps you could make it a series and explore more options in other articles. However, your prototyping and release theory is making me rethink my PR techniques for my own game.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Crispy
Crispy Dec 4 2005, 10:02am says:
Quote:Is this a reflection of Dystopia's quality? No, not at all. Dystopia is a very well-produced game, and a lot of fun. It is a reflection of making only one release when another mod has made nine.

This example fails to recognise that other, potentially very much more important factors come into play. You have to realise that Garry's Mod can be 'played' offline (no need for a good connection). Following on from this, it also caters for a much more universal audience. It requires no real skill to use whereas Dystopia has a steep learning curve. Garry's Mod is single player, therefore there is no comparison to be made, uncompetitive and competitive gamers are equally drawn to its features. The sheer amount of different things to try out is phenominal and therefore has wider appeal, and as mentioned it does not require a high-spec system or high-speed internet access. To top it off Dystopia is themed, both in gameplay-style (FPS objective-based team shooter) and setting (cyberpunk genre). Garry's Mod is open to interpretation and manipulation, and I think this has a lot more to do with its appeal than simply how many releases it's had.

Your (Erik's) point about releasing more often is very valid, but I think the example was a bad comparison.

+1 vote     reply to comment
ExecutorTassadar
ExecutorTassadar Dec 4 2005, 10:14am says:

Finally someone here brought up the point about having more releases. It just bugs me how many people just lose interest in great mods, because it's taking them years (!!) to even give the public a beta or something. And most mods don't even make it to that point, because of members leaving/losing interest/being too occupied in real life and whatnot.
I just hope that mod teams will read this and maybe re-think their release strategies instead of being stubborn and continueing this way.
-nf1n1ty

+1 vote     reply to comment
methy
methy Dec 4 2005, 6:30pm says:

I think another reason why Garrysmod gets a lot more players is because people can start servers, password protect them and only allow friends into the game. I don't mean to say this is bad, but it is impossible to do with Dystopia, as you need at least sixteen player to play a proper game. But this isn't the real issue, the article (and the point made still stands to reason).

I don't agree with Uncle Paul.

Quote:And I dont agree that Mod teams have it harder that professional development studios. Lets face it, no mod team has a publisher demanding "prettier, bigger, faster, better". Mod teams have the flexibility to make games that look awful without having to worry about what someone else wants.

Whilst this may be true, it is certanly not a valid reason for mod team not to have it harder than professional developers. For example, professional developers are payed to make the game while getting told to be bigger, better, prettier and faster by their publishers. On the othersideof the coin, mod teams are developing high quality content for free in their spare time, while being told to be prettier, bigger, faster and better by their fans. If for some reason they do not heed to this prettier, bigger, et cetera, then some genius posts on their mod profile, claiming that the mod is dead.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Dec 4 2005, 10:57am says:

I know what you are saying, Crispy. But I think that the points you make work in favour of Dystopia, if we are trying to predict what would happen had Garry's Mod made only one release (which we are). The strong themes and (semi-)hardcore target audience for Dystopia would make the mod initially more popular, if both it and GM made their first release at the same time. Garry's Mod's typically more casual players would have a harder time finding it had the word-of-mouth from existing players not spread as far. They aren't plugged into the community and news sites as much as Dystopia's.

It's still a bad example because as you say they are so different, but it is probably the best example there is right now so I'm going to stick by it. :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
Argyll
Argyll Dec 4 2005, 12:58pm says:

In the early days of Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat, the few developers of those mods were relative noobs when it came to artwork. Six years later, those in the modding community have been able to produce work that rivals that seen in many professional games. Thus, the community expects that kind of professional quality from the mod... overseeing the fact that they are still JUST a mod.

I agree with Erik's thoughts/advice on releasing fast and continuously. However, that all depends on the scope of the mod. A simple mod, that just modifies a little bit of code and doesn't really add much artwork can do that (and should do that) very easily. On the other hand, a mod that is more of a (TC) 'total conversion,' one that is completely different from the theme of the original game, will take longer.

I see two main reasons for TCs to take longer. First, it's because in many cases, they are creating a whole new game from basically just the engine. It is much more complex, and requires much more time to get first the code working, and then ensuring that the gameplay is solid. Secondly, if the theme of the TC is much different from that of the original game, all new artwork will have to be created so that it matches the new theme (i.e. going from City 17 to Iraq).

Some cases of this can be seen with a few mods for Half-Life 2. Plan of Attack came almost out of nowhere and released. They had a tightly knit staff who knew each other in real life and were able to easily collaborate and create PoA. They used a lot of content from HL2 and CS:S, which is good (smart) because much of it suited their theme. They are also now on Beta 4... but there are only (at time of writing) 14 dedicated servers and 18 players (according to Steam).

On the other hand, Dystopia had a much more distant theme from City 17. They did use HL2 content, but much of it blended well into an original and creative setting. The overall quality of Dystopia looks better, but its gameplay I think takes on a more cult following. I'm personally not really into the whole cyberpunk (what the hell is it anyways?) theme and didn't really catch on to Dystopia. However, 109 people are playing it right now, which is a decent number.

With the announcement of Half-Life 2 and the Source engine's potential, every gamer out there and their cat wanted to start a mod for it. There was talk of nude Alyx mods all the way up to MMORPGs. Look at what is left. Gamers/modders generally start out thinking very liberally at first when designing a mod. That is good, but they still must think a little more realistically. You are only limited by your imagination..... and the engine. Many mods (including INS) promise vehicles. But as you start into developing, you begin to see that they might not be so practical for a multiplayer game. That shouldn't mean to can the idea, but to take another approach. After the initial ideas phase and when development starts, designers must get more conservative. You're going to have to cut or put features on hold for your first release. You can't do it all for the first one, but there always is later on. Narrow down your ideas to what you know is possible. Establish a base of gameplay and balance... then work out from there. That's the advantage of having a mod: you can always release and always release changes. Get that base down and you're set. Just keep the momentum going.

Sorry this comment could have turned into an article itself, but I just wanted to get a couple of messages out.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Crispy
Crispy Dec 4 2005, 2:18pm says:

I've commented before on Erik Johnson's comments as being too much of a blanket statement, but not here.

I think there is a lot of merit in Erik's words, but I do think there are certain Mods that need a certain level of continuity which can only be achieved through releasing a game in larger releases, less often. These game types are few and far between, but do include certain singleplayer Mods such as the adventure and RPG-style Mod. However, I do think a lot of the modding world is warming to the idea of episodic releases, which is great news for gamers who want to play singleplayer Mods, or who can't play multiplayer because of their connection.

I think Erik's statement should be changed slightly to describe the general development process and not just the Beta releases. If it was drilled into modders' heads to perform concentrated tests on particular features more often during the development process there'd be more teams producing the makngs of the structure of their Mod, the sort of groundwork that can be easily built upon as new assets are created. The second people see things are working it creates a huge boost to the team and aids in their cohesion and focus. I think more emphasis should be put on teaching modders to work together in an organised fashion and encouraging project leads to plan their development schedule better, concentrating on setting team goals at smaller but more significant stages of development.

As Varsity hinted to in the article, high-technology is not the problem in itself, it's the way it problematises the development process in terms of its organisation and management. Each member taken as an individual will not have serious problems with focussing on what they do well, this is simply a matter of time and training (albeit the fact that this concept of 'training' is ever-approaching one of 'study'). However, the organisation is incredibly more difficult as all of these parts work in separation. It is not possible to implement a studio-style development model where there is constant interaction between team members and their uniting leader. Valve have taken this step one stage further with their patented 'cabal' process, where small teams of 3-5 members of mixed disciplines are asked to all work together on one area of development.

To paraphrase an article that appeared in Game Developer

Quote:Concepts developed into ‘styleguides’ –“maps devoid of gameplay that would serve as a template for designing final production maps”. “The styleguides both influenced and were influenced by gameplay prototypes that were developed simultaneously (e.g. Physics/asset tests).

While this level of procedural interaction may not be possible via the internet, the principles are sound enough to encourage similarly effective working practises in modding teams. I believe that the organisation factor is what hits Mods the hardest. With decent management, Mods can stick around long enough to produce a low-quality (assets), high-impact (gameplay) product. If there's good enough organisation the game assets can be re-vamped, code cleaned up and expanded and the game experience refined. The problem is the tutorials we see for management don't come close to the exhaustive range of sub-topics and immense level of detail that we see for mapping, modelling and the like.

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DeadlyContagion
DeadlyContagion Dec 4 2005, 2:21pm says:

This article is great and all, but the first two points only truly lend to multiplayer games. It really ruins the experience in a singleplayer game when you're playing a prototype unfinished version, there is a solution though, and it has been explored by mods such as Combine Destiny, where they give the public a short SP demo, showcasing the new stuff in the mod. Besides having procedural releases in SP turns into, whoo! a new weapon appears out of nowhere!! Or crap I'm past that part with the shiny new enemies. All except the third are applicable to SP.

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Varsity
Varsity Dec 4 2005, 2:36pm says:

If you're working on a Source mod I highly recommend reading the GDM article Crispy is talking about. You can buy the mag's digital edition for $3.95 here. It's worth the money even if the cabal article is all you read! :)

It's worth mentioning here that there is also a presentation, Valve again, that was shown at the DIEC conference a few days ago to promote modding. It echoes many of the things I say in this article, but is a more general guilde as well. Download it here.

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Varsity
Varsity Dec 4 2005, 2:38pm says:

That's something I hadn't considered, thanks!

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dys-Fuzzy
dys-Fuzzy Dec 5 2005, 12:38am says:

Perhaps I should have read the whole article before responding and covered all points in one post... I guess it just shows how much some of this fired me up....

The big point is that we felt that Dystopia wasn't able to be built and shown to the public interatively. The article author has kindly broken our game down into 3 nice little sections:

1. Selectable implants
2. Classes
3. Objectives

But then of course there's also:

4. Weapons
5. Cyberspace (including: unique custom movement physics system, unique program deployment system)
6. Completely new and original camera system (which can handle displaying output from multiple cameras, something not possible in vanilla HL2).

We feel that any version which didn't include all of these things simply would not give players a complete idea of what our aim for Dystopia was.

It's not that I don't completely agree with the author's points about an interative development process, infact that has been the core of the many presentations I've done around the place (MS Tech.Ed, Asian Game Developers Summit, etc). However, I also feel that dev teams have to seriously consider exactly what they want out of a public release. A well run closed beta will net you a far better quality of feedback, with a far better signal to noise ratio. Of course, you need to be able to insure that you've got enough active, helpful testers to help you out...

I think the biggest point I want to make is simply: as engines become more complex, all but the simplest mods are going to take longer to develop than the mods of the past. Modders, who by definition are donating their time and effort to a project, need to be more tenacious and more determined than they have in the past.

+1 vote     reply to comment
feanix
feanix Dec 5 2005, 4:54am says:

Thats a good point about games being more complex. I beleive this is reflected in the mapping process. It takes ages to map for dystopia because there are some many little things to consider. They game play is hugely complex, so it takes hour of work to niggle out all the little creases. I think this is probably an indication of the rest of the mod: Higher complexity = more interesting mod that takes longer to develope.

+1 vote     reply to comment
methy
methy Dec 5 2005, 5:14am says:

Fuzzy, I am in the same situation with my game, and I believe that the success of Garrysmod can be brought down to other factors. However, it is notable that the article was not written to sumerize the gameplay of Dystopia, which I think we can agree we all love, but rather to reflect some of the issues facing next-generation modders. I am personally of the view that the author could have choson a better example, such as Hidden Source, which could have had a quick prototype that included the hidden texture on a regular model, hidden speed and pounce and knife attacks using the CSS knife and grenade models.

However, this method isn't always desirabele, because of a little something called the first impression. My first impresion of Dystopia was that of a well-presented mod that had interesting gameplay that reminded me of Deus Ex multiplayer with teams. I liked the style and gameplay and it indeed felt like a finished product. With garrysmod, my first impression was that of a buggy phygun mod that was worse than Jbmod. It took 8 more releases to get me to play it again.

Personally, I would release a small demo that shows the gameplay, but with limited content. If Dystopia had spammed releases every step of the way, you would have most certanly missed out on the current possibility of a commercial release over Steam. Anyway, I think I have said what I mean, and while the article makes some valid arguments, I don't think Dystopia was a good example, and I don't think that the argument in question is always applicable.

+1 vote     reply to comment
twincannon
twincannon Dec 5 2005, 5:58am says:

I didn't see who wrote this, and I'm not going to look.

But I will say this is a terrible article, and dissapointing to read here at ModDB.

Let me start from the beginning, because I'm having trouble making a good reply to this extremely contradictory article.

You start off by explaining how much more complex half-life 2 is, when in reality you must not even understand the numbers you're posting, because half-life 2 ISN'T that much more complex. Indeed, most modders don't even consider it a "next generation" game, as you do. It's struggling to be current generation, and doesn't hold much of a candle to the doom 3 engine and will certainly not even be a factor once Unreal 3, cryengine 2 and others make the field.

The primary factor in most mod teams choosing HL2 is the community, plain and simple. More people playing HL2 based mods is more players that will try out your mod. It has just about nothing to do with the technology, I'm sure.

On the next page is a quote from Erik Johnson which I believe to be entirely untrue, valve employee or not. He, and you, basically say that Mod teams are becoming too much like professional game designers and need to do quicker, and more shoddy releases. I can't tell you how untrue this is. I can't tell you how many great games I've seen die in the new age of gaming because as gamers have more games to play, they will shrug off a game in the first FIVE MINUTES of playing it and never look at it again. What, are you going to tell me that patches will save it? They won't, because "new mod released" news is entirely different from "mod patch released".

Here's where you really start to bother me, going into Garry's mod versus what I believe to be the most well done mod for HL2 yet, Dystopia. You talk about how Garry's started out bad and built upon what was there. Firstly, I'l have to mention that Garry's Mod isn't even a "real mod". At least it shouldn't be even considered with the ranks of a total conversion. It's an insult to even place it there, honestly. Garry's Mod is, more or less, a menu for console commands - things that already exist in HL2. It's a gateway to the Havok physics engine that HL2 uses, which is indeed a fun thing. So, in my opinion, it's safe to say that most Garry's Mod players are basically playing with HL2 content, with nothing much more than a protocol/menu to guide them. And you dare to compare this with a total conversion that actually seeks to create a new type of gameplay - not slap a user interface on something that was already there?

The article also goes into the number of releases, which is a non-factor on many fields. Dystopia is new, so of course it will have less releases. It was also beta tested extensively so it doesn't need as much patching. On top of this, you mention that no patches with no notable gameplay changes is a bad thing?! Gameplay stability is a key factor in mods, and more importantly, a games survival. You remember when Valve patched the riot shield into CS? You don't mess with good gameplay, and changing gameplay is not needed to a mod's success.

I'd love to see you make and release a very shoddy mod, and then patch it every month. Not only with the main news sites probably not even care or make note of the patch releases, you wouldn't have any fans due to the main release - the one that matters, in this day and age, not like it was in the old days when people were forgiving and there weren't infinite games to play - being terrible.

I, as a mapper, also love how you dismiss anything map-based as not under the mod's control, or not one of the mod's priority. Good work, again - I'd love to see you lead a mod team.

I apologize if this post is out of order and ranty, but the same can be said of the original article. It seriously dissapoints me on many levels to read this on a site I considered respectable. And not just because I'm a Dystopia fanboy (I fully admit, I am), but on many other levels also. This article might've been true years and years ago when players had no other mods to turn to, but now that players have many choices, mod teams no choice but to make a professional mod, or die. And, I'll mention it again out of importance, Garry's Mod isn't really a mod. It's just a gameplay protocol applied over Half-Life 2. A menu put on top of elements that were already there.

If that is better and more important than a total conversion with greatly balanced and clan-worthy gameplay "out of the box" to you, then I fear for this site and any mod team you may have control of.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Uranium-235
Uranium-235 Dec 5 2005, 6:20am says:

All this talk about 'Bigger', 'Better', 'Faster' is only, well, one part of the picture.

Half of a mod is the mod itself, the other half is the front-end for that mod. Where are people getting their information? Where are they getting this mod? Generally, one's first impulse is the following - Hear about mod - Play mod - Talk about mod. It's the last point that seems critical here.

For lack of exaggeration, the Dystopia community has been one of the most outstanding ones I've ever seen. The development team is active. They respond and talk to people. They don't avoid questions and issues. They didn't just build a 'Suggestions' forum so they could ignore it like every other mod does. They've even all written out '.plans' which describes their future goals, what they're working on, and where they're taking the game, all broken down piece-by-piece.

On the other hand, look at Garry's mod community. It's.. horrible. I don't even know if you can describe that conflaguration of idiocy a community. Every day they practically ban 2,000 people, and I'm pretty sure the moderators there just ban people for the hell of reaching some mythical quota. Garry himself is one unstable dude who acts like he ran out of his meds a few months ago. The ONLY thing Garry's mod has going for it is the mod itself, and given the nature of the mod, it's not a mystery why he can afford to be a total nutsack on his community.

Take a look at one of the most ambitious and one of the more popular HL1 mods - Natural Selection. That game had everything I'd dreamed for in a game. It was near-perfection. But the game literally fell to ****. I can't imagine the poor souls who still play it. NS practically caught leprosy from Flayra, the head developer. By the time he had wrapped his hands around it a couple of times more, it was a sad, twisted, deformed game that was barely recognizable as that which brought us so much joy in the past. The problem was the developers. The community all OVER that game was terrible. Clanners alienated (no pun) new players. Community Managers alienated non-clanners. Developers alienated the Community Managers. The end result were four groups, all of which wanted the game in a different way, and at the end of the chain was one guy who was the only one CAPABLE of changing it, and he didn't have a god-damn clue what he was doing. The jokes we made about NS about Flayra throwing darts to decide on balance changes would've been funny if it weren't so god damn TRUE.

That is one of the reasons I truely fell in love with Dystopia, and plan on remaining loyal to it for some time. A mod where the team is close-knit and open to their players is going to be better then a mod where the developers are hostile and lash out at players.

A mod that is taken in the direction that the players WANT is going to be more successful then a mod where somebody is asleep at the wheel. To get back into the 'Bad Comparison', consider that most of the 'updates' for Garry's Mod change very little. Seriously, how do you screw up that game? You could make a gun shoot giant vaginas and it wouldn't be out of place or stupid. Of course your updates are going to be more common and 'better' then the updates for a REAL game. The developers for Dystopia have to worry about balance first and foremost. Garry's Mod updates are little more then new toys thrown in, and, as I recall, half of the content in the latest update wasn't even made by Garry.

I'm starting to ramble so I'll wind things up.

Basically, the prettiest, most ambitious and revolutionary mod for a game can never be the 'best' if the people who run it have no idea what they're doing or to whom they're communicating. Alternatively, a so-so mod with just a few things going for it, if run by people who know how to properly run a community, could explode into something huge.

And when it comes to a decision of either playing a decent game with a handful of mature individuals who can communicate with eachother in a likable fashion, or playing a great game where half a million sugar-buzzed 13 year olds make up 70% of the community...

Well, there's a reason I don't play Counter-Strike.

+1 vote     reply to comment
dys-Teddy
dys-Teddy Dec 5 2005, 6:24am says:

:thumbdown:

i think you got no idea what you're talking about Varsity, what with all your modding experience. dystopia got well over 150,000 downloads (that we know of) and far exceeded our expetations for the demo, i guess only time will tell if the same can be said of the full version.. but we still stand by our development statergy.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Uranium-235
Uranium-235 Dec 5 2005, 6:26am says:

Doh, I was going to make this note in there, but now realize I can't edit it in, so here goes.

When I said 'The nature of his mod...' I mean what was described earlier.

Dystopia, Natural-Selection, all those games are impossible to create without people to play them. Garry's Mod is, frankly, impossible to **** up. Dystopia could be ****** up by something as simple as reducing the rocket launcher reload to 5 seconds. Garry doesn't need his community to create his game. He could create a gun that shoots giant animated vaginas and it wouldn't ruin it, because that game is IMPOSSIBLE to ruin. Hell, as I understand it, more then half the content in his newest version wasn't even MADE by him. He made it possible to script it. People made stuff. He put it in. Tadah, new version. Since Garry has no use whatsoever for his players, he therefore allows his community to stagnate and become a laughingstock.

On the other hand, as far as Dystopia is concerned, the players are the most valuable part of the game. If 95% of your community likes the gameplay to require a bit more thought, then dammit chances are you're going to see more tactical maps or implants come in at some point. You simply can't make a game like Dystopia without people to play it. And people don't play a game like Dystopia if it's imbalanced because nobody would playtest it.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Dec 5 2005, 11:23am says:

[quote=dys-Fuzzy]While I'm spamming the comments, I may as well also point out that Dystopia has had 3 updates... [/quote]On that scale, Garry's Mod has had twenty-two. ;) I'm only counting major releases.

But then of course there's also:

4. Weapons
5. Cyberspace (including: unique custom movement physics system, unique program deployment system)
6. Completely new and original camera system (which can handle displaying output from multiple cameras, something not possible in vanilla HL2). [/quote]I made the list based on the core 'selling-point' gameplay features. Dystopia's weapons are certainly fun, but I, personally, don't think they are special enough to be listed as a key feature. I would be suprised if anyone joined the game based on the weaponset...except perhaps the katanas. ;)

Cyberspace is something I overlooked though, and I'll add it now as another thing I wouldn't add to the prototype.

Finally, the camera system isn't really a gameplay feature of its own, at least not from what I've seen. If anything it's a part of the cyber/meatspace interaction that's already listed.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Dec 5 2005, 11:42am says:

Sorry for the quotes just then.

Having read page two, I think people are interpreting the article as an attack on Dystopia and the way it is made. It isn't at all. I'm not saying "this is the new way, use it, the old way is bad, and so are all the mods that use it". The old way works fine, as Dystopia, NeoTokyo and the rest show, but what I'm trying to say is that it doesn't suit everybody nor every type of mod, especially when you take into account how much more complex things have got and are getting. These mods and these modders are the ones who need a different method or they will drop out and cease to be: not the teams that are large and well-managed enough to handle themselves as it is.

When I said that GM's popularity was down to having more releases, I mean that it would be less popular had it only made one - not that Dys would be more popular had it made nine. Perhaps that's something causing confusion?

+1 vote     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Dec 5 2005, 12:02pm says:

Hmm, looks like it probably was causing problems. Will reword.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Crispy
Crispy Dec 5 2005, 1:35pm says:
Quote:I, as a mapper, also love how you dismiss anything map-based as not under the mod's control, or not one of the mod's priority. Good work, again - I'd love to see you lead a mod team.

Varsity was making a good point about maps being last priority. Maps should only undergo detailed work with an understanding of how the features in a game are going to effect them. I, as a mapper, think this is incredibly pertinent information. You cannot hope to release a map that suits the gameplay if you haven't developed the features that dictate the gameplay. Mapping is subservient to the core features of a game, never the other way around. If you make a map designed for 32 player combat and it turns out your Mod's features will produce an unacceptable system load on a server running more than 20, you have a problem. If, halfway through initial development a decision is made to allow players to use a certain weapon for 'rocket-jumping', you may suddenly find your map completely borked. The author of the article was making a point that core features should be tested first before putting mapping into production. If these features don't work or have unforecasted outcomes you won't have wasted time and resources on a write-off.

+1 vote     reply to comment
dys-termi
dys-termi Dec 5 2005, 1:57pm says:
Quote: Notice how the other two features, interaction between players in the physical world (or meatspace as it is known) and cyberspace and cyberspace itself, have been left out. Both features are heavily dependent on the map and can't realistically be implemented without a large amount of effort and content creation – and thus time. The rapid prototyping system has its limitations and it is important to recognise them.

This limitation is a prime reason that this article is flawed. Any game at all that is complex as far as player interaction with the world, will hit this world, Dystopias' Cyberspace development as well as its initial map (vaccine) development was done side-by-side with the rest of the initial rapid prototyping, and was basically used as a testbed for the new features as they were implemented. It was built and changed as the code changed. Cyberspace on its own was prototyped so many times we lost count, to get it feeling 'right' close and constant collaboration was required between Coder and Level dev to ensure a 'fit' between code and world.

Gameplay, Implant and weapons code also needs close attention from the mapper, take our leg boosters as an example for implants, if we dont know the maximum jump height, how do we know how high walls must be ? If we dont know if we are keeping ledge grabbing or not, how do we know that we dont need ladders. these 2 features alone change the way a game plays, we can funnel classes using just 2 gameplay dynamics, heavies cant ledge grab, so put a ledge in, and they are forced to go another way, put a higher ledge again in, and only lights with leg boosters can get there. these situations are endless.

Same situation occurs with weapons, accuracy, spread over distance, and many other factors all dictate hall distances, ceiling heights, the amount of cover that needs to be provided.

The whole world in which players play is dictated by the toys they get to play with inside that world, and the toys they require are also dictated by the world itself, so you have a back and forth communication that is required during the whole playing out of development.

0 votes     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Dec 5 2005, 2:19pm says:

How rapid is rapid? ;) I think of it as everyone getting on IRC and bashing out the basics over the course of a day, but it sounds like you are/were working on a longer timescale. You seem to be talking about tweaks which need days of playtesting to perfect, or visual themes which need careful and detailed consideration.

+1 vote     reply to comment
dys-Teddy
dys-Teddy Dec 5 2005, 3:24pm says:

Rapid as in as fast as humanly possible. Termi and I both quit our jobs to work on dystopia full time, so we could get it out more "rapidly". We did about a year of prototyping, then another year of building and fine tuning.

None of this was "bahed out over the course of a day", it takes a lot longer than that to make a game.

meh, what the hell would you know anyways?

0 votes     reply to comment
methy
methy Dec 5 2005, 3:24pm says:

While the article presents a flawed example, it doesn't pretend to present "the only" way to do modding on next generation engines. It doesn't say that Dystopia would have more popularity (or indeed make any comment on Dystopia's popularity (save to say that it is less popular than Garrysmod, which is true according to Steam stats)) if it had made nine major releases.

All the article presents is one way of modding and handling mod releases to gain a steady following. If it isn't his right (as some seem to claim), to say that this way is the best (and I don't see where he did), then it certanly isn't the right of the Dystopia development team to come on here saying their way is the best either.

Garrysmod was released like that because it could rapid prototype and people would still get an idea of what the mod was about. Like someone pointed out, the earlier releases use no custom content, just a few lines of code enabling new features. Over the past nine releases, that has grown to encompass a large community and a steady playerbase.

Dystopia, on the other hand is a professional quality multiplayer shooter that needed most (if not all) of its gameplay features to make an impact on the community. Releasing a demo, then a full game (still to be announced) was a great way of doing it for them, because even though they only have one map, they have an extensive playerbase and a mature community who will wait on the full release eagerly.

Is there a best way? I don't think so, I think the way that suits a mod is the way that that mod should take. I know that quick protoypes seem to have worked for Garrysmod, but I think that if Dystopia had done the same thing, it would have been a different story alltogether.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Dec 5 2005, 3:39pm says:

Cheers methulah, that's pretty much what I'm thinking right now. But to reply to Teddy, we are definitely at cross-purposes here. Rapid prototyping is not 'prototyping that is fast', it's a special thing that is quite separate from the standard process: it's only good to get the groundwork laid and ensure it works at a basic level. Please don't take the feature as some sort of criticism, it really isn't!

The Lost Garden article linked in the text gives a deeper (but less relevant) example than I did.

+1 vote     reply to comment
feanix
feanix Dec 5 2005, 3:51pm says:

I think what hurts more than anything is that our community works hard on this. We feel, as a community, this is our mod. Our baby. Of course, Team Dystopia made the mod, but I feel like everyone on the forums has contributed a little, even if it was indirect. We love this game, and we want other people to love it too. We're doing our best to spread it around, get people into it to make it flourish, whether its making custom skins, huds, community maps or even just telling out friends.

And then some highly respected website which EVERYONE reads comes along and makes an unfair comparison between Dystopia and Garry's Mod. You can't even begin to compare them, and by doing so, by saying "this mod was developed wrong" (even if thats simply what people perceive you are saying), you damage what our community could potentially become.

This is why we're so angry. At the very least, you could remove direct references to specific mods in the article.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Dec 5 2005, 4:09pm says:

There are benefits to using real-world examples that I'd rather not lose, and in case of Rapid Prototyping it wouldn't work without them at all. Shifting to other examples only transfers the problem to others, too. The solution I've used so far is to changed much of the contested text, as I admit that some of it did read like I was talking Dystopia down. Hopefully it should be a little more agreeable by now. Any feedback on the changes?

+1 vote     reply to comment
dys-Fuzzy
dys-Fuzzy Dec 5 2005, 4:20pm says:

What cracks me up the most about Erik's comment is the fact that we're STILL waiting for an update to the SDK codebase. We still don't have access to the changes which were made a prior to the release of DoD:S (27th of September). Sure, release often.... Perhaps try some of your own advice Mr Valve :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
dys-Teddy
dys-Teddy Dec 5 2005, 4:21pm says:

Still dosen't look any better to me.

Nevermind, you tried your best.

:-)

0 votes     reply to comment
dys-termi
dys-termi Dec 5 2005, 4:27pm says:

what ted was getting at in his post, is that our iterative prototyping technique wasnt just about getting new features in, tested, and tweaked on the fly (as rapid prototyping dictates) but it was also done at a speedy rate, in a sense... rapid rapid prototyping ;)

+1 vote     reply to comment
twincannon
twincannon Dec 5 2005, 5:52pm says:

The main thing this article doesn't need is names.

Compare a faster made mod to a more slowly created mod? Fine, that's your opinion - I'd still disagree, but it's still your opinion and I respect that.

But blatantly bringing up names in juxtaposition on MULTIPLE occasions, dude, you're just asking for it now. :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
The_Snee
The_Snee Dec 5 2005, 6:20pm says:

Perhaps i'm understanding this incorrectly, but the argument regarding releases itself appears flawed. As i understand it, if i was to release 50 different updates of a game that is nothing but hl2dm in a square room, each time adding a new object, then i would get more players than a fully converted, balanced, well made, work of art with all kinds of crap like vehicles and robots with eye lasers and shiny things like that. This just seems plain silly to me. Now, i understand that the times in between releases is for updates and feedback, but why not take media releases and deliberation to find out what the community wants and then implementing it all in one go, so long as it does not affect the gameplay too much. That way, you allow for more concentrated gameplay testing, without the hassle of trying to compile hundreds of updates.

+1 vote     reply to comment
dys-Teddy
dys-Teddy Dec 5 2005, 11:14pm says:

Who said everyone is happy?

:thumbdown: :thumbdown: :thumbdown:

I can handle that your article is full of misinformation and we obviously have conflicting viewpoints about how to make a mod (have you made one btw?), but the part that really irks me is the constant jabs at dystopia. We're damn proud we can "muster" as many players as we do. We're happy with how our development has gone (which you know seem to know next to nothing about i might add).

And what the **** is a "block-release"?

Bad article for my vote, it's a stain on the good name of moddb :thumbdown:

0 votes     reply to comment
Tasman
Tasman Dec 5 2005, 11:44pm says:

It is up to 0.14 and 0.15 is already being showen. What I am getting at is that mabey mods need to come to a ballance. On one side there is Garrys mod(wich personaly I dont like) on the other side is Dystopia(Wich being an aussie I dont get to play much or with many others but love), then in the middle is BG. I personaly find BG2 very enjoyable its not as pollished or "swish" as Dystopia is neither is it patched as much as Garrys mod but it has found somewhere in the middle. You can feel the game growing with each patch and feel the base of new gameplay. With CS again I started playing that back in the old days at about 0.2, I loved it then (dont now but thats not its fault) it was new yet farmiliar. Over many patches it finaly became 1.2(where i stopped playing). It was now that it came into fruishon(or before then but) with all the wepons(I understand there is now a Galil and FAMAS) and features like a radar and scaling cross-hair you could feel the game had realised what it wanted to. So I agree to an extent with the artical and think the Dystopia team are being far to critical Teddy most of all needs to chill out! Dytopia is great and stands firmly on its own two feet I dont think the writer intended offence by the artical. I belive he used the examples to illistrate the point that updates interest people and fans.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Crispy
Crispy Dec 6 2005, 5:40am says:

Some of the Dystopia team have bothered to be constructive with their criticism, others have just bandwagoned by making a mountain out of a molehill. All Varsity needs to do is clear up the inention behind the comparison and make sure everyone knows that this approach to Modding is not the standard or universal approach and it'll be fine. I think you guys need to calm down.

I doubt this article has really hurt the reputation fo your Mod. Remember, gamers still rate games by how they play, not how they were made. And the first few comments by Dys members have offered sufficient couter-attack. Don't you think your time is better served doing something constructive like getting a new release out rather than wasting time belabouring a point. That's the job of the Mode Leader and the PR guy, if you wanna prove that your Dev Team is well managed and has an effective approach to Modding then leave the PR to them.

+1 vote     reply to comment
TheBlackrose
TheBlackrose Dec 6 2005, 5:02pm says:

"Don't you think your time is better served doing something constructive like getting a new release out rather than wasting time belabouring a point. That's the job of the Mode Leader and the PR guy, if you wanna prove that your Dev Team is well managed and has an effective approach to Modding then leave the PR to them."

1.) You've had two of the mod leaders here (Fuzzy and Teddy), as well as the mapping team lead (termi) come here to debunk this. If Caliban showed his head, that would make all three of management here. Everyone else is disassociated from the Dystopia team (ie. TwinCannon, U235, me), but still plays it.

Also, I'd rather that their entire team is allowed to comment, not just the fabled "PR" guy. Each and every one of the Dystopia team usually has some form of insight or knowledge of Dystopia to impart, if not solely just to shoot the ****.

2.) Part of the new release's holdback was, and could still be due to Valve's HDR/DoD:S release back in September. Since that time, valve has yet to release an updated SDK. Why exactly did you think Dys was broken for a while after it's release until the Dys team had to find a work around a few things such as the broken GUIs?

In a mod's situation, it isn't just the team's work that contributes to the game, the original game has to contribute to the game as well, hence the name "mod." If valve releases something that completely screws mods over until they can accurately track down what was changed and modify those changes for a new release, whose fault is it?

+1 vote     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Dec 6 2005, 5:16pm says:

Take this to PMs if it's going to continue. It has veered way too far off the topic now.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Ging
Ging Dec 6 2005, 7:48pm says:

methulah - we did in fact release an early version using CSS models and HL2 textures, with just a single custom map... That was way back in March time though and has (thankfully) since sunk into obscurity - what he have done since however is fall into the trap of doing larger updates spread apart, something myself and the rest of the team are acting on getting swapped around, so we can push out more releases quicker...

Part of the problem for using the "rapid prototype" method is just finding the time - both our coders are doing a full time masters course that takes up a fair bit of time, we're also working on a seperate "professional" project now that the mod is in a "reasonable" state... We're finally settling down enough to get back to working on the mod as well as everything else.

Another problem with getting an early release out is that gamers these days instantly want a professional level product to come out of a mod team, which I suspect is a major reason why some teams wait for nearly a year (sometimes more) before releasing anything playable... Both approaches have pro's and con's, this article does a good job of showing that - though looking at the comments, the wording may not have been perfect!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Arketype
Arketype Dec 7 2005, 1:06am says:

"Another problem with getting an early release out is that gamers these days instantly want a professional level product to come out of a mod team, which I suspect is a major reason why some teams wait for nearly a year (sometimes more) before releasing anything playable..."

Whilst that may seem to be the case, mod teams do have the freedom to release things that aren't professional quality, as they don't have the same pressures as game companies. Thus it is a generalisation to state that all gamers need that sort of quality from mods. I agree that there is definitely a vicious cycle - as some mod teams raise the bar, more and more players expect the same high level of quality.

Still, for me this begs the question: is there a mentality that has developed in mod teams that says 'our mod is not worthwhile unless it is of professional quality'? That certainly places an enormous amount of pressure on mod teams, to the point some will be scared away, believing they will fail if their work is not of a professional standard.

The unfortunate consequence of these next-gen games seems to be to thin out the simple, unambitious end of mod making.

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