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    PlanetQuake | Features | Articles | The Gauntlet: Mod Wars

The Gauntlet
Lee'Mon and Spyke exchange a few well-placed rounds on the subject of mods.
  — by Lee'Mon and Spyke

Welcome to the "The Gauntlet"! They say that there are two sides to every argument, and the debates within the Quake community are no exception. That's why we created "The Gauntlet".

Our top two PlanetQuake staff writers, Spyke and Lee'Mon, often find themselves on opposite sides of an argument. We could have them each post their own editorial, but PQ readers have let us know what they really want: bloody combat!

So, we squared the two off in a custom arena, and let them use whatever facts, opinions, arguments, and insults necessary to make their point. Then we let you, the readers, decide the outcome! So watch and read as these two enter the battle royal, and vote on which side you agree with!

This week's episode: Lee'Mon, back from his HPB vacation, continues work on Blast Arena, the port of his Quake 2 mod. Spyke, having returned from his own hiatus, continues to scour the net for an inventive Q3A mod that's NOT a port. Which will make the best Quake III Arena mods: Ports of classic mods, or all-original creations? Spyke argues that originality is the only way to go, while Lee'Mon hides behind the comfort of mod porting.

Lee'Mon: Well, it's good to be back at the Gauntlet, and with an opponent that's not threatening to replace my Q3A folder with pr0n. I won't mention who won the zero-ping rematch after our HPB vs LPB fiasco. However, I'm letting Spyke pick his favorite side of this week's Gauntlet. Whether I'm doing so out of respect or pity is up to you.

Spyke: R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Lee'Mon must bow down to me...

Let's get this going, port boy. Time is money! Old mods are not!

Lee'Mon: I've got two words for that: Team Fortress. But I digress. Before you force me to throw out my notes and resort to name-calling, at least let me use my opening speech.

I really could have taken either side of this issue. After my Quake 2 mod, Blast Chamber, my team prepared for something totally new: a new, original TC, that would turn Q3A into a tournament fighter. But something happened along the way. We established a small fan base with Blast Chamber, one that clamored for a Quake 3 version. So, to appease the masses, we expanded our ranks, heaped some responsibilities on my Number One (as Picard would put it), and began to work on Blast Arena, in addition to our first project.

Now, the whole tournament fighting thing is a pretty far-out idea, and we got some great response, but we've gotten just as much feedback from Blast Chamber, which is just a real simple Quake 2 mod that happened to be fun. Quake 3 is finally the Quake engine that lets you visually do almost anything you want, and the masses are clamoring for mod makers to port their favorite mods to take advantage of that spoogerific graphical gameplay goodness.

Now that I've finished turning this into PlanetP1mpMyself, I'm sure my counterpart has some witty retorts to make...

Spyke: Watch out, here come the witty retorts a-plenty. I, however, could not have taken either side of this issue. In my view, ingenuity breeds innovation. Thus, ports of old mods are something that people who couldn't come up with a decent idea of their own do to advance an old, tired game that they just happen to care for. They're annoying, and rehash the same old gameplay over and over.

The Ford Model T was a good car for its time. People liked it. But did Ford just keep making small little variations to the same car year after year? Hell no. If any industry did that, they'd be laughed out of business. But not in the gaming community. I swear, it's like people fear change in this community sometimes. Every time a new FPS game is announced, I hear how someone, somewhere is porting either Team Fortress or CTF to it.

Lee'Mon: Ingenuity breeds innovation? Practice makes perfect. If no one ported Team Fortress to another engine, then we'd all be unable to play it without keeping Quake 1 on our drives. On top of that, we'd have to deal with the prolific hacked client cheaters out there, that have destroyed what little original TF community remains.

Face it, ports are immensely popular. Weapons Factory, undoubtably the best TF port for Q2 and perhaps the best upcoming port for Q3, is still in the top 10 Quake 2 mods. Team Fortress Classic is the #2 Half-Life mod, more popular than even deathmatch. A certain Fortress port (who's moniker I won't mention for the sake of Spyke's sanity) became the #1 user-created mod for Q3A a mere twelve hours after its release. The commercial Team Fortress 2 is one of the most highly anticipated games of 2000. People with different favorite FPS games like many the same mods, and would love to see the best features of their game combined with the best features of their favorite mod. It's a win-win situation.

Spyke: I wrote an essay recently for my English class discussing how the majority of people essentially make the decisions. This is exactly the case when it comes to FPS modifications. Good mods get made. I must state, even though I hate the fact that these mods are being ported, they're good mods. But the problem is essentially addiction. I know all about addiction to games. I played Quake 2 for, like, 4 hours a day when I got it. I would rush home from school just to play. That's what's happened to these people. They've become addicted to these mods, and while they're good mods, they're not that good. People's view of these mods become skewed, and they start believing that, Team Fortress, for example, is the best thing since texture mapping. Thus, they want to port the mod to every FPS they see. We are dealing with an addiction here, folks, and it ain't pretty.

Lee'Mon: Ouch. After listening to dozens of crazed Generations fans clamor on for nigh on a year, that argument truly hits home. Thankfully, it's a moot argument. So, let's ignore Quake-mod addicts and focus on the matter at hand.

First off, what my counterpart considers to be the most annoying ports are usually a general concept, that just happened to take the name of its most famous mod. In the FPS world, class-based teamplay mods are called Team Fortress mods, just like tissues are called Kleenex and gelatin is called Jello. Now, just because there's a variety of modifyable FPS games doesn't mean most FPS fans play several of them. In fact, most play one or two. They like certain things about that game, but they'd also like to be able to apply some new features, like teamplay with classes. Thus, they want a TF port, much like you'd want some form of gelatin if Jello was unavailable in your town.

Spyke: The point I'm going to try to make here is that if you really want Jello, you'll make the effort to go out and get Jello. If people want Team Fortress so bad, because it's so great, then people will play the original version of it. A lot of mods are becoming bad examples I guess, as they're all becoming commercial or have become commercial.

I think what's happening is that people are trying to reinvent the wheel. They like Team Fortress and CTF, but think they could do better, and for a different game. Reinventing the wheel is simply stupid. You cannot get anywhere by redoing what other people have already done.

Let's say you're trying to get a job developing games. Developers will sit up and take notice if you've done something innovative, that really stands out from the generic mods that are out there. If you show them that you've done a simple variation on a tired concept like CTF or Team Fortress, they won't really care; they've seen it all before.

Lee'Mon: Well, ignoring those mods that are just capitalizing on another mod's success, most actual ports are either redone by the same team, or completed by another team with the originator's support. In this way, they're essentially sequels. Granted, many sequels never attain the success of the original, but plenty are respectable in their own right. "The Godfather Part II" didn't suck. "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" didn't suck. Some ports add new features to the concept; however, they don't even have to. Unlike movie sequels, ports are typically aimed at a new audience, one that plays the new engine enough to play mods on it. Thus, ports expand on the fan base of the mod and make it even more popular.

Now, I've spent more than enough time defending my stance; it's time a few mudballs got slung your way. What about original mods? Mind you, there's a marked difference between "original" and "innovative." For every Aqualung or Fists Of Fury out there, there's at least a dozen original mods that just plain sucked. The biggest problem with original mods is that you don't know what you're getting. How does the average mod player (read: not as pathetically informed as you and I are) not waste their time?

Spyke: You're right in saying that many original mods fail. But that's one of the facts of life. If you take risks, you will, more often than not, fail; the good mods will speak for themselves, stand up. As I believe I've said before, innovation does not go unnoticed. There are some original mods out there that didn't hit it really big that I still hold dear to my heart because they were new and special. Catch The Chicken for example; it didn't make a big splash, it doesn't have a huge following many months after its release, but still it must be recognized for its innovation.

Most of my problem with ported mods doesn't really lie in the fact that they're not innovative, however; my problem lies in the hype. I haven't played it as of this writing, admittedly, but I'm pretty sick of hearing about how Q3Fortress is the greatest thing since the pixel. People are spooging over it to me daily. I'm feeling pressure from at least four different people to play it, to be assimilated into those that believe the hype. And I won't.

However, I guess I have a problem by association. I have nothing against Q3Fortress; I haven't even played it. In many cases, I have nothing game-wise against ported mods. It's the hype.

Lee'Mon: Ah, but hype plagues ALL the best mods, original and unoriginal. I've heard enough about Counter-Strike to make my ears bleed. The HL mod is fine, but if you don't like realism mods, it's not your bag. Also, the balance got changed in the early versions, which upset quite a few of the original followers, but brought in new players (some of whom immediately left, like me, because of said issues.) And I'm sorry, but no mod, particularly one that specialized, deserves 2/3 of ALL Half-Life servers.

My point is not necessarily that CS sucks; it's that hype plagues all mods. However, same as original mods, the ports that get hyped are the ones people are most looking forward to. Q3F is popular because it's damn close to the original TF, but with Q3A's graphics and net play. WFA does change things from TF, but because the original WF did the same and garnered great applause for improving the model.

Which brings me to my next analogy. I got to sit down and check out an early version of Weapons Factory Arena. In addition to all the classic gameplay, the WFA team is adding some new features, like the Assassin's ability to cloak. Their reasoning is simple. WFA is much like a sequel to WF. (Yes, movie sequels typically suck, but since movies aren't games, that part of the analogy doesn't necessarily apply.) It gives them a chance to do everything right that was right before, add some great new features the new engine allows that benefits gameplay (try a cloaking effect for the Q1 engine sometime), and help out their fanbase that is torn between the new Quake engine and their favorite mod for the old Quake engine.

Face it: There are certain gameplay concepts that have worked exceptionally well as mods, and mod teams do well to help their fans by providing their favorite mod for their favorite engine. It's not addiction, and it's not hype. It's the same dedication, commitment to the fans, and desire to have fun that allows mods to get done in the first place.

Spyke: True. I suppose any mod that can single-handedly convince people to buy the game, or play it more often, is a blessing. This is also a definite personal thing. Many people may have had a bad experience with a certain mod earlier on in life. But enough of me trying to be funny.

If a ported mod hits it big (a la Q3Fortress), it's somewhat expected; previous versions of Team Fortress did extremely well. It's definitely satisfying for the Q3F team; there's no doubt about that at all. But I guess what I'm trying to get at is that if a team has an original idea, and it gets off the ground, and hits it big, then I would be inclined to give them more respect, more "props", as it were. They may not have catered to the community as much as ported mods have, trying to get weapon balance and physics right for everyone. They took the risks, and used their own ideas.

Lee'Mon: Without a doubt, I agree with you there. And I'd also like to take a moment to lash out against "unofficial" ports, specifically the ones that don't have the originator's blessing, or even attempt to compete with the original team's porting efforts. I've heard there are a few coders attempting to port QPong to Q3A, despite the fact that RxN is considering their own port. Worse yet, these buffons are threatening RxN: either let me on your team, or I release my project to compete with your own, and release it first. I have an order of one Boot To The Head for anyone that tries to get into a team that backhandedly.

I'm not saying I want to see a million TF ports; hell, I consider two to be competition enough. (I know there's others, such as Team Assault, but I'll stick with the one that's out and the one I'm eventually waiting for.) Too much competition, and teams start cutting corners, things get sloppy, and mods get released in an early alpha state just to keep the hype flowing. That's not good for anyone concerned.

All I'm saying is that when it comes down to consuming your precious gametime, what are you gonna choose? A port of a mod you enjoyed once before from a team your respect, or a completely new mod from a new group, that attempts something you've never seen and don't know if you like?

Spyke: Well, seeing as I don't regularily play mods (I'm a DM kinda guy), that's a good question. It just comes down to what intrigues me. If I see something that looks cool, I download it. Fortunately, I'm on the kind of connection where I can download something fairly quick, and connect reasonably to most servers running the mod. But that's me.

I do see where popularity comes into it for users with less bandwidth; they know that while a popular mod may be large in size, there will most likely be local servers for it, meaning a less laggy connection for them. Thus they're willing to go along with what's popular.

But what I'm arguing about isn't choice. It's integrity. It's knowing that you've done something with your own ideas and being proud of it. It's like writing a hit song, or covering someone else's hit song. Which would you rather do?

Lee'Mon: I don't know, but my favorite artists are Weird Al and Puff Daddy...

Spyke: Well if that's so, then you've got a lot more of a problem on your hands than simply liking ported mods. :)

Lee'Mon: Don't make me pull out my Q3F Engineer's Wrench and get industrial on your ass...

Spyke is kept awake by nightmares of Team Fortress being ported to Kingpin.

Lee'Mon has declared that he will not rest until Capture The Flag is ported to Tetris.

What's Your Opinion?

Where do you stand on mods vs. ports?

Port the mods! These games must live on!
$&*% ports! Even CrotchShot is better than another damn Fortress conversion!






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