Modding is hard work.
As much as people like to tell others how easy SHAR modding is, there's a lot of effort that goes in to making a good mod. After releasing Storm Over Springfield my standards for making mods have been set much higher from when I started. Every mission needs to be just as good as the last, if a mission is boring or uninteresting in places, I'll do whatever I can to fix it. Each mission has to be fun and enjoyable in its own right, and you need to understand what's going on if you haven't seen or played the previous missions. If you look at my older mods they're generally not as polished, not as 'fun' and I'm not as proud of them as I was at the time. A mission can take up to a month until I become happy with it, and motivation has always been a problem. Not just for me either, I know many others who also have issues with motivation and often can't bring themselves to continue a project, even if it is near completion.
And a good portion of these motivation issues stem from the future.
The future is a scary place. The future of SHAR modding is like that too. There's always an air of 'secrecy' about nearly everything Donut Team does, nobody really knows anything about their new upcoming tools, and I guarantee that when they release they won't be what we were all thinking they were. I, as a modder, get really discouraged because I have no idea what to expect or how to make plans on utilising things, etc. It's a really scary thought; your unreleased mod might be impressive at the moment, but tomorrow a new tool could have released that makes it 'the norm' And all your efforts go to waste because something you spent days working on can now be done in mere minutes.
I'm going to let you into a secret here, Storm Over Springfield wasn't going to have a demo. I know, surprising, but just looking at the demo now you can see how rushed it is. Why the hurry? Custom interiors were the mod's main 'gimmick' and my main worry was that suddenly, out of nowhere (like the majority of Donut Team tools) the map builder would be released and custom interiors wouldn't be special anymore. Keep in mind, the custom interiors took almost half a year to get working reliably. Even a complete beginner could create their own interior in significantly less time than that using a specialised tool, and it would make all the effort that went into the mod seem pointless.
Another issue, Donut Mod. DM4 was originally scheduled for June, as you're no doubt aware, and that's also a major problem for smaller mod creators. Donut Team effectively hold the mod-making monopoly, and there is absolutely no way that a small mod like mine could ever compete. So as a result, I needed to get my mod out before it would be inevitably be overshadowed by a massive mod like Donut Mod. I was so scared that I would release SOS, get some positive praise, and then a week later DM4 comes out and suddenly nobody cares about my mods anymore. I'm not the only person who thinks this. Other modders I've spoken too, and even a Donut Team community manager are of a similar mindset. Like them I didn't want to speak out publicly about it in fear that I would look like a jerk, or ungrateful, but it looks like there's no real choice now.
Custom maps are also a big concern. At this rate, it's looking like DM4 is going to be released before the map builder is, and that makes competing with DM4 physically impossible. If we're looking back at the 'gimmick' idea, Custom Maps are effectively DM4, RRR and many other Donut Team mods' main gimmick. Which is very discouraging as there is no way that anybody else could do the same. If I had the map builder, I would work for months creating cool map mods, as there's nothing I'd rather do more, and I might hold a chance of competing just slightly with DM4. But at the moment map mods are limited entirely to boring, basic maps with no real complexity, traffic, missions, or any real 'interest' in them. I spent weeks working on Toad's Turnpike, and still it only really holds your interest for an hour at most. I don't like that. If I could, I'd port a large map and then make a whole full level mod about it. It'd be great and that's the kind of mod I want to do. But it's looking like I won't be able to do it for the foreseeable future, probably not until mid-2019 at this rate.
That brings me back to another point, why? Why does everything Donut Team does have to be so secret? Why can we never get a straight answer on anything? Why are we only now getting beta builds of tools, and why do they have to be so private? If I had the skill to do make the kind of tools Lucas does, I'd be releasing beta builds of them every week or so. But a beta build doesn't need to be open source. Nor does it need to be documented well. It's a beta build, just stick a giant 'WORK IN PROGRESS' label on it. I'd still use it. Plenty others would too. Part of this was ripped directly from a Discord conversation, and I just want to show how easy it would be to make a public beta of a tool. You don't even need to polish it. Honestly, just taking the current development build, adding code that displays a 'This is a work in progress tool. Use at your own risk' message when you start it up would be enough.
That fits quite nicely into my last point. I really don't see why everything Donut Team does has to be so professional. I think something like this has been said before, but I just don't get how every little thing has to look like it was made by a professional software company. You're not a professional software making company, you're a small group of indie devs who mod a 2003 video game. There are many very successful programs that are used by millions every day, and they look like they were made 10 years ago. It's not the presentation people want, it's the content. I'd still use the mod launcher even if it looked like it was made the same year this game came out, as long as it launched my mods just fine. I wouldn't care about extra features the P3D editor has, like antialiasing on models, and previewing shaders on a nice looking sphere mesh, as long as I could mod the game with it. I've seen plenty of modding tools made for other games that don't come close to the level of professionalism that the SHAR modding tools have, because they don't need to. I remember trying out modding tools for Sonic Adventure DX and they look unprofessional as hell, but I can still make mods with them. I'm not saying 'don't make your tools professional' I'm just saying that you'd be just fine if you released an early version of a tool which looked like crap and didn't have proper error handling.
Anyway, this post is getting 5 times longer that I was expecting, so I think I'll stop it here. Hope to see some more cool stuff in the future.
...providing there's more info on them 😛
There's a lot to unpack in this message and we'll be discussing it internally to hopefully make more progress on making our community more happy. As we continue to say, things can't change over night and it relies on a lot of discussion from the team.
I think we'll make a post later this week detailing our plans and intentions. I'd like to release an updated roadmap and have an open discussion with our community on what we can do to be better, but I don't know when this will happen.
So for now, I appreciate your level-headed message and we'll reply to you and the rest of the community soon.
I agree, sometimes everything is a bit to secret. As much as I like professional staff, this is a website for a Simpsons game that came out 15 years ago. Maybe if they loosen up a bit things might become easier, In terms of DM4 the community has been anticipating it for so long now it's kinda getting old and people want it to come out so we can progress other new and exciting things.
Just my opinion really, however I think new mods will always be welcome. Or though people may have to start thinking of more creative mods and not just the normal map with somewhat 'typical' missions!
Transparency update: Loren and I began drafting a community letter tonight. There's still much more to add to it and we'd like to discuss it with Kenny and Lucas before publishing it, so we're still working on it.
However we're trying to adequately respond and address these concerns.
Another update because it's been a few days: Past few nights we haven't talked as a team because of illnesses going around. We'll be discussing it more either tonight or tomorrow, and plan on releasing this stuff soon.
Really want to stress that we want to make sure we perfect our statement and rational behind some things so that things are shared adequately and is understood by our community. We acknowledge we've never been the fastest to respond, however there's a lot going on behind the scenes.
Some people may not agree with what we have to say and that's alright, we'd just like to keep an open dialogue as to where we're heading and how we plan to keep everyone in the loop. This involves reducing our "secrecy" which I'll explain more in this upcoming statement. We'll also discuss betas and how we would want to handle them and our fears of doing them.
We'll also be releasing a road map or a guide of what to expect in the last few months of 2018 to ensure players and modders are able to get some great stuff out the door.
Thank you for your time, we look forward to releasing our full statement in the next few days! I apologise it's taken us this long to say something, we're working on it though!