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Life Lessons for the Next Generation of Source 2 Mod Makers

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I'm sure we've all seen the Alyx trailer, and it made our minds go wild with its potential. I have been thinking a lot about how I want to approach mod making differently for Source 2, and I wanted to ask this community what they thought their most valuable lessons have been since their advent into modding, regardless of where they started, Quake, Goldsrc, Source, ect. 

The reason I'm making this thread is because I have found myself to be really scatter brained over the past 10+ years, I feel like I hit a wall and stopped and then just sat around waiting for Source 2 for years longer than I thought I would. I don't want people to make the same mistakes as me and to be all over the map with no focus. If I would have known in 2006 that I had over a decade to build something cohesive in Source, I think I would have understood Mr. Newell better when he said, "Things take time." I personally wish I was better at planning and collaborating with other people, and seeing things through to the end. I wish I could look back on my portfolio and be proud, but it is simply too eclectic and unfinished for me to be happy with myself.

There are a lot of questions I think that are tough to answer. Should you collaborate, and to what extent? What sort of time scale should you set for your project? Should you become a jack of all trades, or focus your attention on a particular skill? How do you know if you're ready to lead a team of people? 

I would like to hear about how people plan to improve themselves over the next 10 years in their mod making pass time. Me personally, I think the bulk of my time will be inside Google Docs, planning planning planning. 

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Oh God, everything that went wrong with HL2 modding. I’ll meditate on this one, think there’s plenty to say about it but it’s been so long and I made so many of the errors myself that it’s hard to put into words

Definitely worth learning from 

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First thing that came to mind: don't target multiplayer. This didn't really work out for any of the Source mods. Maybe Insurgency excluded. 99.9% of HL2 multiplayer mods that were traditional total conversions failed to sustain a playerbase

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Find an artstyle/technique/setting that allow to work quickly and pop maps a week. You will probably not nail photorealistic, or even stuff similar to overwatch. Aim lower.

Get (preferably new) players at EVERY stage of development to make sure your thing is playable and fun. That includes your mom. Playtester list should be longer than a war memorial.

Prioritize making actual playable "final" content over prototypes. There is no such thing as a placeholder. If working as a team, never rely on other people work before you can do yours, make shitty "placeholder" if necessary. This is easily the biggest source of conflicts and will kill most mods.

If you don't have over 10 years of experience then you're not in a position to plan effectively. Just do the thing.

Also make sure you're not remaking something else please.

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The only thing I really have to say about this particular question, is that in the end when talking about modding and creating content, the process in the end remains the very same no matter what engine you're taking. Yes, in UE4 or the CryEngine or Frostbite engine you can do much more crazy stuff, but almost all of it happens at the shader level in those engines. When you have or are making models or content for a project, in the end it's all portable in one way or another. Especially if you go the parametric way of creating stuff, you can just use everything you make for every engine. Therefore, I've decided early-on to use Wallworm specifically for all my creative assets for Source. This keeps all the stuff I do in 3DS Max instead, and from there on out everything can also go to other engines and so on.

That way, if I wanted to switch engines, there's no problem. Regardless, even with the release of Source 2 I still am a big believer that Source (1) won't go away anytime soon. Surely the new Hammer will be incredibly advanced (it just has to be), but all it will really offer are simply many more tools to move things, or adapt them on the fly to your needs for a specific game for which the engine is built in the first place. In the end creating content for it (for Source 2-based games) will end up being the very same as it always has been years ago. This is especially evident from the trailer of Half-Life: Alyx as you can see that pretty much everything is still the same in terms of geometry and triangle count, so to speak. Only things at the shader -and animation-level have really changed, but those things only change(d) because new technology is available to modify materials in-game, that's really just it.

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If you want to build something, do it yourself.

Don't get me wrong! Teams are great. Teams are better than individuals... but the problem with Source modding is that people team hopped to the most exciting new projects they could find (this was me) and would leave when the mod looked dead from inactivity. Or life would get in the way. Or people would get hired for professional work.

One way or another, if you want to build something, do it, don’t expect to spread the workload effectively because this generally didn’t work well from what I saw

This should also help you scope better. If you have a team of 26 people, all the sudden you’re overestimating what you can achieve 

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Find a promising project that looks like crap, pretty it up and profit? ching ching bling bling

Edited by Radu

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On 11/25/2019 at 7:57 AM, Radu said:

Be realistic with what you can achieve and finish what you start. Less talking and more doing.

THIS

And once you've done something, get it infront of people and LISTEN to their feedback. Don't deflect or shrug it off. Then improve the thing or, if you're sick of it, take the feedback with you to the next thing. Repeat.

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I feel others have said what I have to say but I want to chime in anyway :v Start small, be realistic, don't go in expecting the world. When I was 17/18 I'd always dream big and go into making a map with the intention of it being the greatest thing created since the statue of David's ballsack or something. The further in I got with my projects the more I realised I sucked and got super frustrated at what I was making because I was just biting off more than I could chew. My vision outmatched my abilities and I refused to accept that. So if I could go back and give my aspiring idiot ass some tips, downsize and get rid of that ego and just release it. Small maps or whatever, and level up as you go.

A good example of my younger thinking was Half-life Nightwatch was all the rage back then in the HL1 modding community, It was the Duke Nukem Forever of mods and everytime they released screenshots I got really disheartened with my own work and just binned it and started over. I was always comparing myself to people with far more experience and ability at the time. What I should of done is ignored all that and focus on my own creations and work on my skills rather than looking at what the best at the time were doing. I even remember applying to Nightwatch at one point as an LD, I sent in shit tonnes of my work hoping they'd take me on but they ultimately rejected me citing I wasn't quite up to the standards they required. That really stung as I thought I had the abilities to match their amazing work, but alas no. That was the spark that ignited me to really drive myself and improve my skills as an LD. 

So yeah, moral of story, finish what you start. Don't be afraid of negative feedback. Don't get distracted by what others are producing. Don't bite off more than you can chew and be realistic with yourself. :) 

Edited by dux

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