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    PQ | Features | Mailbag | May 19, 2000
   

PQ Mailbag

A Very Sad Day

You know how I sometimes lament over a lack of feedback? This week is my worst nightmare. That's right, for the first time in over 7 months, the PQ Mailbag will not be 3 pages. It'll be 2 pages. I'm so sorry. Hopefully we'll get a ton of feedback next week so perhaps we could bring you a 4 page Mailbag. It all hinges on that evil bastard fate. Damn you fate!

Running With The Gauntlet

Surprisingly, the most feedback we got this week was on yesterday's Gauntlet, which focused on whether game developers should offer monetary compensation to mod developers. This is definitely a controversial issue, so check out some of the feedback we got!

From: SyKo
Subject: On the gaming industry and its corruption

I have to agree with you on the pimp and whore theory. Also I think the way Leemon put that basebal kid with the glove thing was just a desperate attempt to justify his statement you did a fine job bringing that one down. I dont like what valve is doing either...to me i could compare it to globalization in the industry bringing down the good ol businesses with good service and real work ethic taking the zang out of something like an art, mod making. Of course who is to say it is wrong or right that hand outs for mods should be stopped or anything. But it is like the US government today handing out welfare to anyone who asks and teachers not having to pay an income tax, its just little kiddy whores living off the system. Its all about the money folks it really is, Valve wants to earn some more cash by encouraging mod making so they give the developers money. It isnt right. It just isnt right. That is what really gets my goat. The dedication, time, and basically the essence of one's life put into making something from scratch is something not even a trillion dollars could make up for. If Valve offered me one thousand dollars in support of a mod i was doing i wouldnt take the cash because that would ruin the feeling and sense of personal reward one might get from accomplishing and finishing a mod or anything. It just totally demoralizes someone. I cant contain myself anymore i think im gonna go chill out for a while. Screw globalization!

Hellchick: My main problem with what Valve and others are doing is that it can easily become unfair. How do you decide which mod teams will be compensated? What are you going to tell one team that doesn't quite make the cut? I think once a mod team receives financial compensation for what they're doing, they're no longer amateurs, so their mods fall into a different category from that point on. Is that bad thing? Not necessarily. I think it's good for developers to encourage promising mod creators by helping to provide them with the right tools - software, hardware, that sort of thing. But it has to be done fairly, and outright paying mod authors is a concept I'm not entirely comfortable with, though it has both good and bad points.

From: Schmidt
Subject: gauntlet

Interesting article. To be honest, I had never really thought that this whole paying mod teams thing was big issue and I think that Spyke is blowing this out of proportion. I mean, so far Valve is only paying the CS team right? and they have good reason to do it. The CS team has produced an impressive tactical multiplayer game, which is many times more fun than the commercial games like rogue spear. They've single handedly made Half-Life the most popular game on the Internet (well ok, TFC helped with that, but even without TFC, Half-Life would still be number one, check the stats). Valve decided that the game was good enough to be put into a future HL patch, and so they're going to compensate the team for putting it into the patch. (I may have some details wrong, but that's my understanding).

What I do think was somewhat wrong, was when Valve commissioned Barking Dog Studios to make beta 5. This is apparently what gave CS its "proffessional look". This is giving one mod an edge over the other mods which I think is wrong.

Certainly, I hope that this does not become commonplace. I certainly hope that compensating mods like that is the exception and not the rule. If game companies started paying mod teams all over the place, then things would suck pretty badly. But I don't think that mods like Counter-Strike are very commonplace.

I have not really seen any evidence of Valve publicly whoring the mod to the community. The whoring is being done by 3rd party web publications which have fallen in love with it, and are amazed by its popularity. But I don't think that whoring is wrong in any way, and I wish that id would start pimping some of the great Q3 mods that aren't gettin enough exposure. I first fell in love with Q2 for its mods. I almost never played base deathmatch. It was great fun for me to download new goals, new worlds and new types of gameplay. When Q3 was announced, my first thought was that the mod scene would be even greater. No longer would I download a mod, only to find that it had no servers and/or players! My thought was that each mod I downloaded would at least have a small community of players playing it. But, all it takes is one look at the servers being run for Q3 to see that this is not the case.

Here's my point: id should find some sort of way to pimp quality mods that are having trouble. Remember, most people who bought Quake 3 might not visit PlanetQuake, or even know what a mod is. Many ctf players may not have heard of Alliance CTF, but there's no denying that its a lot more creative and interesting than the CTF that came out of the box. Other mods that I don't think are getting enough exposure are Classic Quake Arena, and the POW mod (yes, they totally ripped off the Q2 jailbreak mod, but from what i've heard, its of a much better quality than the current beta of Q3 jailbreak).

One idea would be for id to start a "mod (or mods) of the month" feature on Quake3world.com, because thats the official fansite, and most people don't have time to try a new mod every week. Thats just one idea, and I'm sure other people can come up with better ones, but something like that might really help the Q3A mods to get the recognition they deserve.

Please excuse the length and grammar of this letter

-BigBad

Hellchick: What?! Quake3world.com?! I don't care if it's the "official" website...we had Graeme Devine and Robert Duffy in the offices last week, and they were asking for a job. Well, okay, maybe Graeme wasn't serious, but still. My points are that, one, we get a lot of love from id at PlanetQuake, and two, id has started quietly encouraging mod teams through lots of communication with them. It'll be interesting to see what kind of effect this has on the mod community.

From: sven
Subject: Gauntlet cmments

Thanks for the excellent "editorial" on the financial support of mods.

Having only recently gotten into Quake, and with my personal interest in the mods (mapping/modeling/skinning), I've been wondering about the lack of such support. As a product designer, I work in the space between marketing and engineering, so the first thing I naturally wondered was,"As easy as it is to do, where's the in-game ads?" Aside from Sonic Mayhem, I've not seen any. Even the subliminal type of advertising Hollywood does.

However, more to the point of your article. While I think both of you have valid arguments, the point is moot. I suspect such support will increase - for one simple reason: a shortage of and need a need to develop talent. We've yet to see internet gaming take off, and already game companies (as well as Hollywood) are scrambling to find talent.

From my experience, it looks like the same thing happening in product design. Product life cycles keep getting shorter, development has to happen quicker; but there are too few designers either willing or able to learn Alias or Pro/Engineer or any other 3D/2D tool necessary to fuel this fire.

I suspect Valve and the rest are concerned about this shortage when examining their future workforce requirements. While most people aren't aware of it, companies like GM and Chrysler and Hasbro and Mattel get involved in the development of design talent in much the same way colleges and the pros follow high school athletes. Some very talented designers don't pay for their college degrees. Instead, they're identified and given scholarships and summer jobs. These same companies make huge donations to art/design schools, who then allow the student to do as they please - so long as they make the donating company happy (who do you think REALLY pays for the glass-blowing furnaces and stone-cutting tools and all the rest? Not too many artists are successful enough to give money back to their school to support those programs.). I suspect the same is true in many other disciplines: math, computer science, etc.

As for the world getting shitty mods pushed down their throat - well, join the crowd. How much shit music, shit TV, and plain old shit of every variety is out there? And the U.S market is full of it. Why should gaming be any different? I don't like it, but how can I expect any different? I suspect the masses won't know it's shit, and the rest - the "underground" - will. This same situation exists in the music community today.

Lastly, the Canadian/U.S. economic comparison lost me, Spyke. Just didn't make sense to me. Valve IS doing things in a capitalist/"American" way. They're putting money into something with the expectation of a return. Nothing is done for free. I just think their "return" isn't that obvious. Maintaining a "hands-off" approach (like id?) is more akin to the Indian government's handling of their infrastructure. Additionally, just because the U.S. government doesn't openly support businesses, doesn't mean it isn't happening. The obvious one is DARPA. Another one is the U.S. farming community. Or how about those worthless military projects that get approved because some senior senator wants to keep his constituents (and by default, himself) employed? That's government support, too. And when they keep there hands off, like the electronics industry; there's a chance that industry will fail. And fail to the point it won't/can't return. Allow every worthless military program to die, maybe the U.S. puts skilled workers out on the street. Those workers develop other skills to stay alive and lose the old ones. That's no way to plan for the needs of a country's future defense.

The only thing I can imagine might be different, is that gaming may go the way of online music. Meaning that someday, hopefully soon, musicians/bands will deal directly with their audience and get paid directly from their audience. No record company. No label. Wouldn't it be cool if mod developers could develop THAT kind of relationship?

Sorry for the long spiel.

Thanks for listening.
Sven


Hellchick: I swear to God, if I see an in-game ad in Quake III Arena, or any video game like it, I'll lose all semblance of sanity and take to throwing small mammals at passersby. I see enough ads in my day to day life, I DON'T need them in my video game. Now, of course there are exceptions - anyone ever play Crazy Taxi? That's one hell of a marketing campaign right there. But you don't notice because not only is the game fun to play, BUT the ads actually have a place because the game is designed to take place in a real setting. I can forgive an ad in a game IF the setting calls for one. Otherwise, fear my wrath, you marketing fruits!

Spyke: Wow, three great letters. I don't really like to continue Gauntlet arguments here in the Mailbag, so I won't. But this grant thing that Valve is doing will prove to shape the face of our community, be it in a positive or a negative way. As the hardcore scene becomes more mainstream, which it has been doing over the past few years, we'll be seeing definite changes in games, resulting in them becoming more accessible, needing more polish, and looking more professional. Yes, games will become an accepted medium. It's kind of scary; what I'm typing right here could have a profound impact in the future. It makes me want to say "spork" a whole lot more.

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