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Why Do We Bother? -


Enrique Colinet (Baxayaun) at SDK Project makes games in Source using only the Hammer level editor and configuration file changes, without any actual game programming. It's impressive, but I think it's a waste of his talent.

He's not solving any game design problems or posing any design questions. He's just recreating some (relatively simple) games without the use of programming. Why bother making a Breakout clone in Source when one can play an arguably better Flash version on a website within a few seconds? Even when assuming that you absolutely must get your Breakout fix in the Source engine, it would be a relatively simple matter for a programmer to code it directly into the game. Why bother imposing these artificial production constraints on yourself? To earn "street cred?"

It reminds me of people creating a first person shooter mod in Warcraft 3, or Blizzard creating a Tetris map in Starcraft. Yes, it is technically impressive that you're cramming something into an engine that wasn't designed for it; but for whom is it impressive?... Perhaps some game developers, modders, and a small group of players - that's it. The end result is still clunky, boring, and unattractive to play.

So, yes - technically speaking, Baxayaun's projects are impressive. I can barely conceive of the entity logic that goes into these things, and they're all quite polished. Yet my concern remains - why bother? I think he should consider creating something that (a) actually leverages the first person shooter element of Source, (b) introduces a novel gameplay element, (c) isn't a re-hash of a 20 year old game.

Then again, who am I to question his reasons for modding? I'm not being forced to play his stuff. And to be fair, some of his stuff is pretty cool, like the drummer simulator pictured above. Plus, we're all hobbyists. We can do whatever we want, for any reason we want. People always ask me: if you're not getting paid and you're not really pursuing a career in the game industry, then why build levels - why bother?

When someone asks me that, my first instinct is to tell them to go play in a food processor, because my motivation is none of their business. I enjoy level design - it's fun - and there's nothing more to it. In fact, I imagine that if you ask most designers (or yourself, if you happen to be one) then you'll find that many levels never get finished; but it was the therapeutic act of building the level that made it worthwhile, even though no one else played it. In that sense, I respect Baxayaun and any other designer who's willing to build something and put it out there.

So the next time you feel the need to criticize an amateur's hard work on the online gaming forum / chatroom of your choice, take a step back and reflect on the last time you built something out of nothing for no particular reason - art for art's sake. Yeah, think about that for a bit, why don't you? Then you should go play in a food processor.

Article Comments (now closed)

Sortie's gravatar

1. Mapping Fix: It's damn addicting.

Posted by Sortie at 12:49PM, Wednesday January 9 2008

I still ask myself why we, the modders, still recreate the same old FPS game over and over again. Black Mesa (Source) for instance, it's done before yet the developers spend all their time making it and whilst they do it the public praises them for doing it.
Most mods, esspecially SP mods!, just recreate a half-life shooter and some goes beyond and makes something more original. Paranoia for instance. But that's just a mix of Counter-Strike and a zombie apocalypse.

This is why SDK-Project is original. He create things the source engine never was meant to do in a way the developers never imagine.
And in the final products the amounts of cheats available increased extremy because of the available ent_fire. One cheat which kills the life system in BlockStorm and you got infinite lives. A quick change to host_timescale and the level will complete automaticly in 30 seconds.

He even got a job in the industry! You'd know that if you stick around his site from time to time, I do that. Therefore don't talk about him wasting his talent, he's doing that at his job. :D

Sortie's gravatar

2. Portal + Peggle = Poggle

Posted by Sortie at 1:04PM, Wednesday January 9 2008

Took a quick visit at SDKProject.com and found this very amazing portal map. Well, it's not that good as the trailer hinted, but got 5 minutes? Download and try this!

Portal + Peggle = Poggle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Druax9zZ5G0

This is why modding is that awesome!

Campaignjunkie's gravatar

3. Well, actually -

Posted by Campaignjunkie at 1:20AM, Thursday January 10 2008

Err, one of my points was that the gameplay he's creating ISN'T particularly novel or original, he's just shoehorning the mechanisms into an engine that wasn't designed for it. Yeah, it's impressive to modders - but to the player, it's still the same Marble Madness or the same Breakout or the same Drumming / Rhythm game. The fact that the gameplay WASN'T different, that's what made me wonder, "why bother?"

Sortie's gravatar

4. We aint no better

Posted by Sortie at 1:02PM, Thursday January 10 2008

I agree, he is recreating the old games once again. But on the other hand, the industry just keeps creating the same old FPS game with a new story, fancy new graphics and a new weapon. Sadly, most mods do the same: Recreating the same game on the game it is based upon, just modified.

But hey, that's easier than making our own damn engine and creating new models, textures, programming, maps, features, gameplay etc.

How original your game are going to be depends on the effort you put into designing and developing it.


In the end it is all about the fun factor again: The modder had 10x more fun creating his worlds than the player of it had playing it.

Crispy's gravatar

5. The answer to "Why bother?"

Posted by Crispy at 1:21PM, Saturday January 12 2008

...is because he enjoys it.

Why read a book if you don't tell anyone else about the book? Is the book any better or worse if nobody knows you have read it, if it's your little secret.

He mods the engine because he enjoys doing it, it's a hobby that takes his free time and turns it into something constructive. Maybe he finds it a more healthy diversion that watching the umpteenth reality clone on channel X or playing the same level in Counter-Strike for the billionth time.

This is partly what separates game development from 'modding'. A lot of the enjoyment of modding, especially when doing small-scale, personal projects is the 'doing' and not the reception when it's done. Game development of a commercial nature is ofset by things like 'earning a living', so even if perhaps you are slightly tired of designing/programming/creating the next unexciting instalment in a line of clone games, the fact you're getting paid, or that despite its uninventiveness it will still sell well -to some- will make this experience more worthwhile.

Different strokes.

Trurl's gravatar

6. Talking dog

Posted by Trurl at 10:03PM, Monday January 14 2008

It's more that it would be far easier to use C++ and code the things directly - he's definitely very talented, and certainly having fun, but there would be far ... simpler ways of doing what he's doing.

It's like building a Turing Machine in Life - yes, you've built a simulated universal computer, but there are considerably less painful ways of performing calculations...

http://rendell-attic.org/gol/tm.htm

It's great to give yourself limitations when creating something (the M-word mod thrives on 'em), but knowing when you're going too far is also a bonus. But I do wonder if his monstrously complicated entity arrangements could help create some intriguing new gameplay types in no-new-code-allowed environments like Portal or TF2. Poggle is only a start.

(Alternative point: is the versatility of Source preventing many mods from ever releasing anything? Compare the billions of Doom maps released with the comparatively few Half-Life 2 mods released. The latter may be of much higher average quality, but did the inherent limitations of the former mean you were far more likely to complete something? Discuss!)

Campaignjunkie's gravatar

7. "because he enjoys it" + the paralyzing versatility of Source

Posted by Campaignjunkie at 11:53PM, Monday January 14 2008

"Because he wants to mod," yes, that's what it comes down to... But it's a dangerous conclusion. It's tempting to use excuses like that to shield work from criticism - "you don't have to play it" or "he's doing it for free, leave him alone" - but the fact remains, in my eyes, that he should be making more interesting stuff, gameplay-wise.

On the other hand... Yeah, I'd say the relative versatility of Source is creatively crippling at times, especially with single-player stuff: There's always pressure to leverage an interesting physics puzzle, or script some innovative NPC behavior. Whereas in previous generations of mods, there was a lower bar to vault over, and it was easier to author custom assets like models / textures and such.

Baxayaun's gravatar

8. ... just impressed.

Posted by Baxayaun at 1:22AM, Tuesday January 29 2008

I'm quite impressed, not just by the article, but for the politeness and the good criticism of the people posting here. First of all, thanks for understanding my intentions, and my reasons for recreating old videogames glories. I started with this stuff to know the limitations of Hammer Editor, but later it became a way to learn more about videogames design, job that I'm currently performing. I always wanted to make videogames, and this is what I'm doing... that's all.

Well, I just thought this article deserved an answer from me... so, thanks. You made my day!

DJPOO's gravatar

9. When you get tired of shooting things...

Posted by DJPOO at 10:53AM, Thursday February 7 2008

I remember the Breakout clone, it was pretty fun until I got bored of it. Though I deleted the drum simulator after one play because it messed up my Hl2EP2 key settings -__-. Then again I suck at playing drums simulated or not. It's nice to see people other then just Valve doing new things with Source.

Klapaucjusz's gravatar

10. Impressions

Posted by Klapaucjusz at 12:19PM, Thursday February 7 2008

Baxayaun, we're glad you found us and our little experiment.

JustinA's gravatar

11. Pushing the limits...

Posted by JustinA at 8:00PM, Monday February 18 2008

Theoretically these types of projects are useful for demonstrating the flexibility of the engine. By selecting a challenge with unusual but known parameters that must be fulfilled (like modeling a classic arcade game without reprogramming the engine), you force yourself to think outside of the box. What you discover while you're out there might be useful and applicable to other development problems.

Or, then again, it might not. That's the risk you take when you get all experimental. :)

And it doesn't even necessarily need to be the original designer who benefits from that out of the box experimentation (assuming they're open with their discoveries, which seems to be the case here).

Justin Alexander
http://www.thealexandrian.net

Baxayaun's gravatar

12. ^^

Posted by Baxayaun at 2:41PM, Thursday February 28 2008

Sorry about the binds, DJPOO... that's something I really want to avoid in the next releases.

I continue pushing hard Source engine and letting know the people what Hammer Editor can do. ;)

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