Yeah, this is a common rant - I'm ranting on it again. Not just strictly on beta vs alpha vs production, but what people actually put out when they say "this mod is released!" - because frequently, it's really not. And at this point I don't really care if it's got "alpha" or "beta" or "gamma" next to it - unless you specifically state that you are only sending your work out for playtesting purposes - I'm considering it playworthy code. The mod community has pretty much killed all such terms as anything informational.
In no particular order, here are my big pet peeves when I finally try to play someone's release:
- No umod version. I like umods. Not everyone likes them. A lot of people do. I don't really want to care about trying to decipher your zipped folder structure. I like pressing three buttons and being done with it.
- Evil umod version. I don't want any of your mod's installation to be present when I play normal UT other than selecting gametypes and options like I normally would.
- No zipped version. Yeah. You should do both. What? It's a pain? Tough.
- Evil zipped version. Once I extract the zip, I should be done. Yes, it's a bit more work to setup a folder structure that will easily extract to say, the UT2003 directory. Guess what? Tough. It's a bit more work for you upfront rather than more work everytime someone downloads your files.
- Unrelated files. If it doesn't have anything to do with your work, installing your work and playing your work, then it doesn't belong in the archive. You might think that UberTool2003 works great with your mod and want everyone to have it. Fab. Except for this thing called version control. Unless you plan on updating all the possible archives that hold your version, UberTool2003's version will be static. That means if I had a new UberTool2003 on my drive when I installed your mod, I just unwittingly reverted or broke my version. Thanks. Don't do that.
- Lack of related files. I can't count the number of times I've downloaded something, installed it, and have absolutely no clue as to what's going on. Maybe something needs to be bound, or maybe I need to update an ini - but I won't know if you won't tell me. Make sure all the information someone needs to play your work is included when they download it. If I don't RTFM, that's my fault. If you don't ITFM, that's yours.
- Known bug. This is a pretty minor pet peeve, and I'm pretty certain I've been guilty of it - but known bugs should be included in the above, particularly if they are serious (like ... bots don't work at all...)
- Whoops! Here's the new version!! Whoops! You should have playtested it! Yes I know this is in part because the number of people really willing to help test things can be generally counted on one paw. I know some things are just unforseen. Stuff happens. Here's what else - if I just downloaded 50MB of data only to see that it's been replaced two days later by another 50MB of "fixed" data - I'm not only unlikely to download the new version, I'm unlikely to ever trust downloading that data again. And finally, to be completely recursive...
- It's just a beta. As stated. If you wanted me to test your work, you should have asked.
Half of these could be fixed just by using Umod Wizard, the other half are just courtesy.
I think it's seriously time for mods to get back to their roots - and by that I mean the root of the word "mod". Lately I've seen more up and coming modsters and even a few trade rags start referring mods as "MODS" as if they've suddenly become too large for lowercasing.
Look, mods are "modifications" that's where the word comes from - it's where it's always come from. Lately people, and the Unreal community especially, have grown to think that mods aren't really a hobby or a past-time, aren't really fun additions that they get for free and should take with a grain of salt, and aren't really modifications. Many people seem to expect that all mods are going to be Counter-Strike or Tactical Ops.
Let's get this straight. Counter-Strike took years of development. It's current form has been modified by teams of professionals. In it's initial form, it was messy. it was hacky. It had exactly one model for all the players and two skins. It had maybe a fifth of the weapons it does today. Defusion hadn't even been thought of yet and half the time the scientist seem to hate you for rescuing them.
People liked it because it was sufficiently different from what they had been playing. The community started poking at it, playing it, forming opinons about it, offering suggestions, etc. CS's desire to "stay in beta" was a reflection of this ongoing discussion about the game itself.
However, if a mod in CS's initial state were released this weekend, I'm guessing most current players would download it, play it for a few hours, find some things they don't like about it, complain, and stop playing it within a week. I'm guessing this because it seems to have happened several times after Phase 1 of the MSUC.
Now we have people offering promotion services for mod teams, mod teams contacting lawyers - and NOT because they got a cease and desist letter, mods worrying about trade secrets, etc. etc. There's virtually no beta testing or playtesting undercurrent among Unreal players - they pretty much expect a beta to be a complete version (partially because many mod teams "release" their beta versions). Where does all of this seem to be leading us? Mod teams trying to be more like professional dev teams isn't precisely a bad thing - except...
Mods were once part of the cutting edge of game development. CTF, Bombing Run, Inventory control, money based systems, class based systems - all of these have footholds in mod developments. With mod teams worrying about how "commercially" viable their "product" is to a player base that is starting to expect "professional" content - it seems to be dying away. And it's turning into a lose-lose situation. Mod teams will have to expend more time and money to make better content while players are going to less content and less innovation.
So what can be done about it? We have to get back to the grass roots of it all - a shared community when it comes to developing, testing, playing, forming opinions. Public interest in mods has to go beyond just expecting CS2. Mod interest has to go beyond trying to make CS2.
People keep asking me why spelling mod in all caps bothers me so. Here's why:
- It's not an acronym for anything, unles you are building a new Ministry of Defense. If so, good luck but stop yapping and get to work.
- It's ANNOYING to read WORDS that are CAPITALIZED for no good REASON.
- And no, you don't put in caps because it's short for modification. Unless you cap FRANK when you call him on the PHONE, eh?
- It's not, despite what you make think, l33t. Even if it was, l33t got annoying about 2 years ago.
- It makes the person typing it look juvenile and instantly makes me uncaring about anything they have to say after. I prefer to not care about something for better reasons, but I've decided that this one will do as well.
- Finally, it makes mods in general look juvenile and silly. I have a hard enough time convincing people that this hobby isn't just for 15 year olds without this nonsense. If you can't bring attention to your project without using caps lock, then just don't bother the rest of us with it. The only game in the history of gaming to get a reprieve from this is DOOM, so if you don't work for id - just let it go.
El Muerte TDS: Gamers always suck, it's never good enough no matter what you do. Specially with sequels, they want exactly the same as the original, but with better graphics, better this, better that, diffirent this and diffirent that. Result: a sequel that is not completely the same and the original.
It would be nice to see mod projects follow the same development plan as most open source projects. But ofcourse you would need a nice infrastructure for that. Any people in here that have a lot of spare money and want to host a source forge like system specially for Unreal engine based mods ?
Dante: What's wrong with getting hosted by sourceforge itself ?
El Muerte TDS: nothing, but the question is, will they host game mods, also it would be nice to have a compile farm for weekly? builds.
RegularX: SourceForge would be nice. My big beef though is the "sit and wait" philosophy. Mods should be evolutionary things, but that's almost impossible with "customers" waiting for the big "release". So instead of stepped, but very playable, releases, we get rushed releases with any features as they can pack into an email. Everyone wants to be CS2 out of the gate, completely skipping the discussion side of things that used to be commonplace.
My only other suggestion is that maybe developers start trying to make a habit of testing each other's work and giving feedback. But everyone is taking such a blackbox approach (can you get more blackbox than a NDA?), it's not forthcoming.
Tarquin: Rant 1 is great! Please could you consider working with Mychaeel & combine both your rants on mod releases into a "main" page.
RegularX: Mych and I have very similar rants, but since I don't really know what #3 will entail - not sure about combining them. If we did though, we should probably title it "dont get us started". I'll a specific link though.
Tarquin: Mych has made similar points about use of the terms "alpha" and "beta" and things people should look out for when releasing a mod. How about making a page called Releasing a Mod to put all this on?
RegularX: We have a section Thoughts on mod making on the Making Mods page, that already has a link to Mych's thoughts. Maybe add it there?