Friday, February 25, 2011

What Have You Ever Risked?

Dear Esther, a well-recieved Half-Life 2 mod got so well recieved, Valve (the makers of Half-Life 2) included, that the modder and Valve came up with a deal to add to the mod, include better music and then sell that for money. Unsurprisingly, the mod community feels betrayed, because they're a bunch of insecure kids who don't understand the concept of making something, thinking its awesome and then a certifiably awesome company says "hey, we want to sell this with you" and going through with it. As Dave Eggers once put it: No is for wimps.

But beyond that, the community is spouting the insane theory that the plan was always to make a game for sale, that Dear Esther going in the mod community was just a way for him to seed it for its eventual release with the free release of the full game. Which, I guess, if you take two Ambien and mix it with a couple shots of tequila and a handful of horse tranquilizers, makes sense.

(Wait: It doesn't.)

It presumes that the guy knew, when he started the project, that he would have a venue to sell it in and something worth selling. Which is ridiculous. But even then: What if that was the plan? That all the time spent on ModDB in 2008 and 2009 was just an investment in a later return on a 2011 release for this project?

Then it still means the mod community wins. What I mean is that the mod community has the kind of talent within itself, to release games that Valve Software (nobody's idea of a bad game company) thinks is worth cleaning up and charging money for, which means that more people should be paying attention to the mod community, because that's where the new shit is and will always be.

What remains, whether the mod community likes it or not, is that there will be a game that one of the best videogame companies ever believes is worth paying for that has its origins, its growth and its full bloom in the mod scene. More to the point, it's still available today, for free and will likely remain so for the rest of its existence. If that's not a victory for even the most anti-commercial people in the mod scene, I'm not sure that they like winning.

One of my favorite Bane b-sides, You Wrote This Song For Me. Relevant lyrics: "This has nothing repeat nothing, to do with your ignorant arrogant ass. Or some preset image of some preset scene..."

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