Our Response to "Motivational Issues with Modding"

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Introduction


This thread serves as a response to Colou’s “Motivational Issues with Modding” thread.

We hope to explain our point of view and opinions on the various subjects he brought up with this response today.

Due to the various different subjects in that thread, this response is divided into the following sections:

  • Our Release Methodology
  • Our Professionalism
  • Competition in the Community
  • No Mod Launcher Betas
  • In Development Now
  • Plans for the Future

These will be posted as separate responses to this thread so feedback can be given independently on each one.

Our Release Methodology

To start, we’d like to address the air of secrecy that often surrounds the things we’re working on, explain where that comes from and explain why our release methodology is the way it is.

Throughout a good portion of our history, we have had a tendency to announce projects much sooner than is appropriate. While this often came from a place of excitement and wanting to show off our new and exciting ideas, it often meant we announced things before they were planned out very well (or at all).

A couple examples of this behaviour include player character announcements for future Donut Mod updates and concepts for our own original games. This is something we’ve been actively working on getting better at and is a good part of the reason why we’re not so quick to announce things we’re working on and why we prefer to wait until we feel it is an appropriate time to do so.

That said, this does not apply to everything we put out. Many of our releases simply come into existence and then get released within such a short time frame that we couldn’t really build up to their release even if we wanted to.

All that said, I’d like to explain the various types of projects we have to give a better understanding of how we operate. Projects include mods, tools and updates and they fit into into three categories: Short-term Projects, Long-term Projects and Active Projects.

Short-term Projects

Short-term projects generally come together quickly and then release shortly after. This category encompasses most of what we release. A couple of examples would be the recently released Font Creator and RCF Builder tools which went from not existing to released in the span of about two weeks.

With the exception of the initial release of Additional Script Functionality, many of the Mod Launcher’s features are the same way. We currently release major updates every 3 months or so and many of the features in these updates were not considered or developed prior to the major version they were added in (such as the new Lens Flare hack or the vehicle character functions of 1.19).

Long-term Projects

Long-term projects can get announced early on but not see a release for a significant amount of time. This includes things like Donut Mod 4 and the Model Builder. These projects are generally daunting and exceedingly complicated and time consuming to develop.

Considering there is a lot of overlap between the members of our team that create these projects, it’s extremely hard to keep them all moving forward together and generally one takes focus over the others. Right now, our focus is on Donut Mod 4; though, this project also serves as a test bench for the Model Builder as developing the map helps us to learn what features should be prioritized and polished in that project.

Active Projects

Active projects are ones that are developed alongside other projects. This includes things like the Documentation site and the Donut Team website. These projects don’t really interfere or take the spotlight away from the long-term projects and more just chug along beside them.

Our Professionalism

While tools may be usable without as much polish, we’re not really fans of this ideology in regards to releases.

When we are making something for public release, we believe it is in the best interest of everyone who uses our tools that they look nice and feel nice to use. We wouldn’t release a tool that looks like it was made 10 years ago because we don’t consider that acceptable.

Other modding scenes may have tool developers that place less care into usability but we consider it very important and have this in mind from the outset of all of our proper releases.

Competition in the Community

We understand how hard it can be to stay motivated on a large project for an extended period of time, we feel it a lot too. Everyone here just wants to make great things but it can still take a lot out of you to achieve your goals.

To add to that, there appears to be a somewhat prevalent fear of being overshadowed in the community. Now, we want to say that we think this is something mod creators should try to be less concerned about.

Our reasoning is simple: we think there’s more than enough room here for every mod to be appreciated and there are several reasons we believe this to be the case:
  • Infrequent mod releases.
  • Mods are short.
  • Creative potential.

Infrequent Mod Releases

While there are quite a few campaign mods being made within this community, they are not released every day or even every week. As stated above, these projects are hard work and take a lot of time to make properly so as a result, they are released fairly infrequently. This makes it easy for even a new community member to catch up on all of the community’s content releases.

Mods are Short

Hit & Run is a short game even when you complete all of its missions and get all of its collectibles. Couple this with the fact that most campaign mods released to date only span 1-2 levels and you come up with the simple fact that basically all mods released here, including ours, are short experiences.

This is not meant to downplay the experiences within any mods we or the community have made, since they can still be fantastic. It’s just that mods are generally short-lived regardless of the effort put in. Of course they can incorporate elements such as randomization and difficulty to allow them to last longer for players who choose to replay them; but, this can only go so far.

Creative Potential

Lastly, no two mods are exactly the same. There are many different directions that creators can choose to take their projects, like telling stories with characters that don’t usually get the spotlight or getting creative with the existing mechanics (like the tornado “cars” in SOS). Even if you gave two mod creators the same concept to work with, we imagine they would present fairly different results.

No Mod Launcher Betas

We had previously mentioned that we were discussing doing beta releases of the Mod Launcher. After several internal discussions, we have decided against doing so.

Our reason for this is quite simple: this entire mod scene centers around a single build of the Mod Launcher that is designed to be fully backwards compatible with the features of every version that came before it. Excluding one case that was unintentional, Lucas has never faltered on his self-described militant stance on backwards compatibility. We agree that this goal is a good thing for mod creators and players alike and fear that beta builds may interfere with it and complicate the modding scene without providing a substantial benefit to the project.

As is, our internal testing build is available to most of our staff members (including some but not yet all community managers and currently excluding our contributors) and we feel this group of people provides sufficient enough pre-release testing while limiting the amount of people we have to keep up-to-date on bleeding edge developments to a manageable amount.

As is the case with any software, issues can still make it past testing; but, when this happens we try our best to be on top of it and get it fixed promptly. Also, due to the modular nature of the Mod Launcher and its hacks, issues often only extend to new features that can be safely ignored until the issues are resolved.

In Development Now

Outside of our long-term projects, there’s not a lot in the pipeline right now.

Of course we’re working on finishing up Donut Mod 4 and plan to have the Model Builder out not long after. We expect both of these to be released by the end of January if things continue going well.

There will also most likely be a minor update for the Mod Launcher prior to Donut Mod’s release and another update to coincide with it (if necessary).

As always, these windows are estimates and may change if we feel we need more time to properly achieve the goals of the projects. While we want to seem more reliable with dates going forward, we still hold quality and the end user experience above all else with our releases.

Plans for the Future

We’d like to close with some of our plans for the future.

There’s a few projects in the planning phase or early development right now that don’t have any set release period:

  • Road Rage Returns 2.0
    • This update is planned to address many of the criticisms the mod has received as well as expanding its content further.
    • This is not necessarily the next update as we would like to make a smaller update within the near future to address issues with the current build.
  • Donut Mod: Levels 5-7
    • We have plans already for these updates and hope to have significantly shorter development cycles for them than Donut Mod 4 has had.
  • Website Features
    • Polls for Posts
    • Direct Messaging
    • Mod Storefront



For now, this is all we’d like to say on these subjects. Your feedback both by voting on these posts and your direct responses are incredibly important to us and we hope to have an open dialogue over this.

Thank you.
Overall I feel this response was pretty well done, but there are a few things I would like to address.

We had previously mentioned that we were discussing doing beta releases of the Mod Launcher. After several internal discussions, we have decided against doing so.

Our reason for this is quite simple: this entire mod scene centers around a single build of the Mod Launcher that is designed to be fully backwards compatible with the features of every version that came before it. Excluding one case that was unintentional, Lucas has never faltered on his self-described militant stance on backwards compatibility. We agree that this goal is a good thing for mod creators and players alike and fear that beta builds may interfere with it and complicate the modding scene without providing a substantial benefit to the project.

I know backwards compatibility is a big deal, but it's a beta build we're talking about. When you go looking for a beta build, you're not expecting it to be bug free. That's what the stable releases are for. If you want full compatibility that's bug free, you get a stable build. If you want some new features that aren't in the stable release, you get a beta build, which comes at the cost of polish and, well, stability.

That being said, in my opinion the Mod Launcher is the tool that would benefit the least from beta builds. You've kind of taken my point to be me asking for solely Mod Launcher betas, and given your reasoning for not doing that. Other tools would probably benefit much more, and suffer much less. Because if you've got a beta build of a tool to mod the game, it doesn't matter what your Mod Launcher version is. You can't make a P3D file non-backwards compatible. It's a 15 year old format, and that isn't going to change.

Say, for example, a new feature has been added to the P3D editor. However it has been found to be buggy and crash sometimes, and as a result isn't in the stable release yet. This new feature can be used for making mods just fine, and will still run on any version of the Mod Launcher without issues. So, by having a beta build, people can make use of this cool new feature without needing to wait for it to be fully fleshed out yet, which could potentially take months. This allows for much more mod making potential and is beneficial to the community as a whole.

Also think about the Map Builder. It's probably not going to see a stable release for some time, due to the bugs and lack of documentation, but a beta build doesn't need that. A beta build of the Map Builder wouldn't have to wait for fully working error handling, because for a beta build having issues like this is fine. It means we might finally be actually able to make custom maps and that's what the tool is all about. With a beta build, people can make use of the tool's capabilities and make fun and enjoyable mods with it, without needing to wait another year for it to finally be ready for a stable release.

While tools may be usable without as much polish, we’re not really fans of this ideology in regards to releases.

When we are making something for public release, we believe it is in the best interest of everyone who uses our tools that they look nice and feel nice to use. We wouldn’t release a tool that looks like it was made 10 years ago because we don’t consider that acceptable.

Other modding scenes may have tool developers that place less care into usability but we consider it very important and have this in mind from the outset of all of our proper releases.

As I said in the original post, "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." The whole section on 'professionalism' was aimed mainly at the beta builds idea, because I felt that too much time was being put into making it professional while an unprofessional beta build would be just fine to use. I think my wording on this part was rather awkward, when I said "you'd be just fine if you released an early version of a tool" I meant releasing that 'early build' as a beta build, not as a stable release. That was bad wording on my half, and I apologise for that.

However I do appreciate the response.

Not sure how to actually end this post, because ending it right there seems kinda awkward, but I don't really have much else to say so uh...
Merry Christmas?
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