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An interesting read (and a cautionary tale)


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#1 V-Man339

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Posted 01 March 2017 - 03:49 AM

https://meaningness....mops-sociopaths

I leave this here in the hope that The Dark Mod will not be effected by popularity at some point in the future.


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#2 Melan

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Posted 01 March 2017 - 05:24 AM

I don't think I agree about this piece being applicable. The broadly understood Thief level design community isn't exactly taking off as an exploitable sensation; it is a shrinking community. At this stage, it has produced a lot of content, including high-effort, high-skill projects like TDM, the full Thief campaigns, the codebase fixes and various enhancements. It is an ecosystem of creators and fans (people who just enjoy playing the results and being part of the community). It is sufficiently densely networked that anyone who is part of the community can benefit from it: you have access to a steady stream of new missions, and if you want to create something, there is a supportive and knowledgeable community to walk through through the creation process and to appreciate your work.

 

However, it is a mature system that has been shrinking for some years - there are occasional upticks, but the influx of new people hasn't been great. There are fewer highly polished missions instead of several newbie efforts. The "What are you working on right now" threads on TTLG and these forums are both moving more slowly than they used to. Now at this stage, things are still good. It is a late golden age. But if we continue losing people, we will enter a territory where fans will no longer have access to a steady flow of content - they only need to check a few times each year. With less buzz, some creators give up or refocus on different hobbies. With less creators, it is harder to enter the community (while entry barriers become higher as newbies are afraid of presenting their early work in a world of sophisticated missions by experienced authors) and the networks start to disintegrate.

 

Eventually, message boards grow empty, databases stop being regularly maintained, and Internet decay slowly eats away what remains. At first, someone fixes things when something goes wrong, but eventually, they cease to care. At this point, the network has little value for either consumption or creation: "nobody" creates because there are "no fans", and "nobody" is a fan because "nothing" is being created. You can see this on the example of formerly vibrant design communities which are no longer active, and haven't been revived in a meaningful sense (as Quake and Doom have been).

 

The more realistic threat is not dilution via excessive popularity but its opposite - slow drying up and eventual disappearance.


Come the time of peril, did the ground gape, and did the dead rest unquiet 'gainst us. Our bands of iron and hammers of stone prevailed not, and some did doubt the Builder's plan. But the seals held strong, and the few did triumph, and the doubters were lain into the foundations of the new sanctum. -- Collected letters of the Smith-in-Exile, Civitas Approved

#3 Sotha

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Posted 01 March 2017 - 06:18 AM

Thanks for sharing.

That really was an interesting read and formalizes some of my experiences I've had with New Things in the past. It was fun to even recognize that I was a 'mop' in that New Thing back in the past and a 'geek / fanatic' in that other. Even recognized some 'sociopaths' from the past.

As for the end, well, I think it is natural that all things come to an end eventually and delaying the end is the only thing we can really try to do.

And when the end comes, it is not too bad either if the Ending Thing brough joy while it was still active. That joy and experience will increase in value, because memories have the habit of getting gilded. Perhaps 20 years from now TDM is long gone and we have a bunch of us old farts hanging around here remembering in how exciting circumstances TDM got Greenlit, or how frickin' unfair that teleporting flaming revenant in Transaction was (what was I thinking!) ;) :D
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#4 Judith

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Posted 01 March 2017 - 07:28 AM

This seems to be more about fields like music and music industry, I think. When it comes to games, editing and mappers, I think what Melan says is more accurate. It also confirms what Hourences wrote in 2008 in his book about level design:

 

Spoiler

 

^This has already happened.

 

 

 


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#5 jaredmitchell

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Posted 01 March 2017 - 06:49 PM

Damn, Judith, that's a hell of a quote.

 

Oddly enough, though, it seems like developers releasing mod tools seems to be much more of a rarity these days. This could be a function of the aforementioned complexity increase of level design (as well as, presumably, the increased complexity of certain developers' engines and editors), but I think is more a result of prevalence of engines like Unity and Unreal. This is probably both due to more developers using them, since proprietary engines are difficult and costly to make, as well as more hobbyists using them, since they provide way more freedom and are often more user-friendly.

 

I've started to notice, though, that the lack of more recent mod tools is also going to be an issue for aspiring devs. I wanted to focus specifically on level design in college, but a lot of the more prevalent level editors (Hammer, Radiant) are starting to age and be seen as less relevant. When I told my friends that I wanted to make a level for a particular game, they would ask me why I didn't just make something in Unity or Unreal. This is despite needing to define the systems of a game first before I could build levels for it, or choosing from a scant offering of mod-compatible games built on those engines.

I think the new DOOM's Snapmap is a pretty good compromise here: create an in-game level editor that automates a lot of the more complex aspects of level design. Unfortunately it feels too restrictive to me, but it's a good starting point, I think.


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#6 V-Man339

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Posted 01 March 2017 - 07:36 PM

I don't think I agree about this piece being applicable. The broadly understood Thief level design community isn't exactly taking off as an exploitable sensation; it is a shrinking community. At this stage, it has produced a lot of content, including high-effort, high-skill projects like TDM, the full Thief campaigns, the codebase fixes and various enhancements. It is an ecosystem of creators and fans (people who just enjoy playing the results and being part of the community). It is sufficiently densely networked that anyone who is part of the community can benefit from it: you have access to a steady stream of new missions, and if you want to create something, there is a supportive and knowledgeable community to walk through through the creation process and to appreciate your work.

 

However, it is a mature system that has been shrinking for some years - there are occasional upticks, but the influx of new people hasn't been great. There are fewer highly polished missions instead of several newbie efforts. The "What are you working on right now" threads on TTLG and these forums are both moving more slowly than they used to. Now at this stage, things are still good. It is a late golden age. But if we continue losing people, we will enter a territory where fans will no longer have access to a steady flow of content - they only need to check a few times each year. With less buzz, some creators give up or refocus on different hobbies. With less creators, it is harder to enter the community (while entry barriers become higher as newbies are afraid of presenting their early work in a world of sophisticated missions by experienced authors) and the networks start to disintegrate.

 

Eventually, message boards grow empty, databases stop being regularly maintained, and Internet decay slowly eats away what remains. At first, someone fixes things when something goes wrong, but eventually, they cease to care. At this point, the network has little value for either consumption or creation: "nobody" creates because there are "no fans", and "nobody" is a fan because "nothing" is being created. You can see this on the example of formerly vibrant design communities which are no longer active, and haven't been revived in a meaningful sense (as Quake and Doom have been).

 

The more realistic threat is not dilution via excessive popularity but its opposite - slow drying up and eventual disappearance.

Melan, it is precisely because of the good job gate keepers such as yourself do of carefully walking people into the fandom that I'm not scared about an immediate "mopping".

 

Frankly, my major fear? For risk of going off topic, but my major fear that utterly terrifies me is the push by Valve to make mods sold commodities on Steam.


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#7 Judith

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 04:41 AM

When I told my friends that I wanted to make a level for a particular game, they would ask me why I didn't just make something in Unity or Unreal. This is despite needing to define the systems of a game first before I could build levels for it, or choosing from a scant offering of mod-compatible games built on those engines.

 

Yeah, their question doesn't make sense, does it. Unless you're a one-man-army game developer with a game to create. Engines like Unreal and Unity are more suited towards environment designers, not level designers per se. You can use UE4 to showcase your texturing and modelling skills, but I always find it kind of sad. All you can do with it is to make a flyby movie and put it on YT, which will compress the hell of details you put in your work anyway. You can let somebody run around your scene, but what's the point without gameplay?



#8 Melan

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 05:17 AM

Browsing the Mapcore community boards, a major online hub for level designers, there seems to be a lot of game-independent portfolio-building out there - at least that's the impression I got. After that, lots of TF2, lots of Hammer work, some Unreal and some modern military FPS stuff I am not familiar with. What makes that board curious is that single player is almost completely underrepresented, and Thief / TDM seem to be completely missing (skacky used to be a member, but hasn't been active for years). There is practically no cross-pollination between them and the TTLG-centred design community.

 

Judith: I remember that Hourences quote. It was already written from hindsight, since the mid-2000s were the time level design tasks massively grew in complexity. Hourences himself started in the UT design community, and was part of the Operation: Na Pali team. ONP had over 40 large to massive SP levels (the original Unreal had 38). This would be inconceivable in modern commercial projects, let alone fanmade mods. Now it is eight years later, and the same trends have mostly continued. (I say mostly because Minecraft building is apparently a huge thing.)


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Come the time of peril, did the ground gape, and did the dead rest unquiet 'gainst us. Our bands of iron and hammers of stone prevailed not, and some did doubt the Builder's plan. But the seals held strong, and the few did triumph, and the doubters were lain into the foundations of the new sanctum. -- Collected letters of the Smith-in-Exile, Civitas Approved

#9 Judith

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 06:00 AM

That tread on Mapcore, this is basically what I think standard mapper should, or even has to be, these days: level and environment designer. Most screens are either environments or fully custom maps for UE4, CS-GO etc. This was quite common during my UT3/GoW days too, and it kind of goes without saying on sites like Polycount, which attract hobbyists and pros alike. This is also what I do for my first small mission, because my skills are more of env designer than level designer.

 

I think there's no synergy between those communities and TTLG-related community because:

A ) DromEd is super ancient right now, by any standard, and anyone having background in anything like Unreal Engine 2 and newer will consider DromEd a waste of time;

B ) And this is mostly my personal observation: Thief-related community is very reluctant, I'd say almost hostile, to the idea that modelling and texturing skills should be a natural extension of mapper's abilities. People like using stock assets or stuff made by others, maybe to focus on level design itself, or to reduce time needed to release a mission. This way there's no common ground with people who can create almost everything from scratch.


Edited by Judith, 02 March 2017 - 06:00 AM.


#10 Moonbo

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 10:13 AM

I will say though that I had similar thoughts to Hourences in the mid 2000's about the gradual death of modding, but while the gap between the hobbyist mapper and the AAA mapper (mapper teams really) has grown ever wider, the modding scene seems to be doing fine. There's still enough games being made with hobbyist accessible tools (such as the Bethesda and Source families of games) and to the extent that AAA quality games can't be made by non-professionals any more you have a whole layer mid-range games which still can be. And that's not even mentioning the rise of middleware game development tools like Unity and GameMaker that allow the hobbyist not just to modify games made by others but to make games all on their own.

 

So yeah, I think the death of the hobbyist creator (whether as a modder or as an indie game dev) isn't coming to pass anytime soon :).


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#11 Judith

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 10:34 AM

Agreed, but that was more about the death of level designer (i.e. someone who needs a game system(s) and assets to create something). Indie and "AA" game world is more thriving than ever.



#12 stumpy

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 11:43 AM

game publishers prefer you to buy there dlc's than make your own content. especially if sony and microsoft are making any profit from said dlc's. Thief 4 makers said there would be no editor as it takes professionals to make the game and general mod makers in their eyes aren't professionals. But they made a pigs ear out of thief 4.


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#13 skacky

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 03:32 PM

The level design discussion is interesting. This is something I noticed as far back as around 2009, so I wasn't too far off from Hourences' observation.

 

I've worked with many editors and engines and I grew incredibly dissatisfied with newer tools because they required me to specialize in other fields, especially modelling which is something I honestly don't care about in the slightest. I can model stuff in Maya easily, but I'd rather work on scenes or layouts and I'm a terrible texture artist anyway. I also don't like putting meshes around much, it feels incredibly restrictive compared to the almost freeform BSP editors of old, where building feels a lot more organic to me. Putting meshes around is also really irksome where their dimensions are bonkers and you have no way to resize/reshape them in editor (I'm looking at you Hammer).

 

It's why I always preferred Lego to Playmobil when I was a kid, one of them gives you a basic toolset to go nuts with while the other gives you some preset stuff that feels very limited after a while. Scenes done with meshes instead of BSP also tend to look copy-pasted a lot and often feel artificial to me somehow.

 

Melan: I still browse Mapcore from time to time. Last thing I posted there were screenshots of my Persian Quake level. That was around 2015 iirc. Time flies. :P


Edited by skacky, 02 March 2017 - 03:34 PM.

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#14 Judith

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 06:03 AM

It's still about lego, but it's harder, because you have to model them yourself. And then you have to make them look organic and unique, with additional meshes, clever lightning etc. You need years of experience to do this really well, so no wonder it feels like a chore (but it's really rewarding in the end).

 

Also, there's this one obvious but huge difference in making singleplayer and multiplayer maps. The latter gives you more time for improving your modeling and other skills, because you don't have to worry about the plot, any storytelling you do is background and environmental, you basically don't need scripting, readables, voiceovers, cutscenes etc. Good level flow, nice but unobtrusive graphic and sound design, and there you go.


Edited by Judith, 03 March 2017 - 06:04 AM.


#15 jaredmitchell

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 01:39 PM

In AAA studios now, a growing trend in the workflow is to give the entire level to an environment artist to decorate; the bulk of the level will be made up of one giant static mesh, with scattered objects around to decorate with. While this is great to allow the artist to create something that looks believable, it allows for less tweaking by the level designer (i.e. if some cover or something similar needs to be moved a few units).

 

I had a professor in college who worked at id, and apparently the workflow there was to create a blockout in 3DSMax with the appropriate dimensions for everything, and then just give it to an artist. I did a design test with a company that asked me to do the same.


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#16 HMart

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 02:25 PM

This seems to be more about fields like music and music industry...

 

No games also fall into the subculture definition and can suffer what that blog article says.

 

Perfect example:

 

http://xonotic.org/p...ome-to-xonotic/


Edited by HMart, 03 March 2017 - 02:25 PM.





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