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[WIP] Sigil: a shared directory of mods for Infinity Engine games


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Surely beauty is in the eye of the mod player (sometimes resulting in a posted install order)? How many of these littler known mods were never listed anywhere beyond their original download page, especially if they were never updated to EE?.. I expect there will be a few surprises if the list ever gets to dead communities.

No, beauty is in the thing itself, and players who can perceive it (originality, harmony, variety, thoroughness and so on) get to enjoy it. There are many who can't tell the difference, but it's their problem, not the critic's, from whose discerning opinion they would be able to benefit. That's how learning works, not by running about with our pants around the ankles imagining we are so great. I don't want to fall into that rut myself, but it's very possible when there is no healthy environment in which the dross would be set aside and authors of good projects would be highlighted so they could know each other and inspire each other to grow. If reviews became the centerpiece of this kind of directory, then it would really improve the scene. But if they are just listed together, or even in subject categories, that would only be modestly useful. So the mod of someone who made a small, excellent, forgotten adventure would be itemized next to - let's just take something of mine - replacement sounds for the interface. They would look equal. Is that fair? I worked on the sounds, but the adventure deserves the spotlight.

The fact is that this scene is dull as the Gray Waste, and that's because the guy who toiled and moiled over the adventure had to share the dorm with my tweaks and a thousand other tweaks. The mod got buried under their meaningless little updates to versions 4.4 and thereabouts - the forum system of bumping is hype and gossip-driven - and he got 25 downloads for his pain and no review from anyone. And he quit. But the 4.4s - oh, they are here and never going away.

Edited by temnix
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The topic title makes this out as Work in progress, but it is a Proposal; the OPer brought no actual work to the table.

Good to have an overview about actual work being done, though, even if the technical details apparently went over some heads. Since there are solid plans underway to avoid the One List to Rule Them All -- the proverbial Single Point of Failure to be avoided in any sound business venture, certainly here as well -- what seems to be needed, then, is a common way to pull information from the database. There would not be one list, with all the issues of keeping that list updated, but several lists; there could be one portal at each site, with the top mods in common and possibly some differences towards the tail. These differences would not be a problem, any more than it is a problem that people are getting slightly different Google hits from what actually is big data. On the contrary, it may be beneficial to have slightly different views on the same data (see Temnix' post). And the system underway would mean single-sourcing, and putting the responsibility of providing accurate source data where it belongs, with the modder. This is all great.

Of course, what is missing is adding the data to all the old mods out there; but this is actively being worked on, from what I can tell. Maybe not as fast as some people would like, but I see old mods getting an update with info like this every other week.

As for the current proposal, it adds nothing new, neither in ideas nor in actual work. But no harm in "intercommunication", depending on who's doing it, I guess?

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9 hours ago, temnix said:

a small, excellent, forgotten adventure 

This is theoretically possible but I doubt it happens in practice. It is extremely difficult to produce new quest content for IE games, at least if you want reasonable production values - it requires mastery of a wide range of skills (AI scripting, artwork, area design, dialog design, actual ability to plot and write) and most individuals only have a subset. So there aren't many high-quality adventures and those that exist are well known.

(Prove me wrong by linking to a 'small, excellent, forgotten adventure'!)

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On 9/21/2021 at 9:02 PM, Graion Dilach said:

There is a very reason why I haven't said anything to this topic.

I don't believe in all-talk-no-bite solutions. I am participating in the EET Compatibility List maintenance already because I know that is time not wasted. I don't believe the same scenario applies here.

Is that a confirmation of collaboration only if the list is on GitHub and you get invited to it (rather than having to host) or no collaboration in whatever case? Since this is a mod list for a video game, whether time is better spent on other things is a fair question to ponder.

 

On 9/21/2021 at 9:20 PM, lynx said:

I would suggest github and storing the data in a machine readable format. Then you can have a simple github pages jekyll site for presenting it nicely and a form for human friendly entry of missing mods.

Definitely exclude ephemeral things like the mentioned "last year of update".

With the main goal being the ease of addition and maintenance by anyone, I'm not sure getting overly technical from the outset is the right move (also because I have no clue how Jekyll works, and it's looking like I'm hosting). Going by Awesome lists' example, an .md file with simple headers for an automatic TOC seems to be a good starting point. As long as each link is formatted in the same way, there is always an option to turn it into .csv or whatever else at a later point.

As for last year of update, it is (hopefully) the most volatile part (even after truncating it to years from Cahir's day-month-year), but also the only quick way to get a vague idea of how compatible the mod is with the current EE patch (not an issue for originals). Seems a shame to not make use of the hopefully constantly updated nature to provide this info at a glance. Oh well, something to keep in mind for later if there are ever more contributors than mods to add.

17 hours ago, temnix said:

So the mod of someone who made a small, excellent, forgotten adventure would be itemized next to - let's just take something of mine - replacement sounds for the interface. They would look equal. Is that fair?

You'll note that the current categories separate "Quests" from "Tweaks". I'm afraid that the relative quality of mods within those categories is out of scope of a factual list. Of course, if any of the mod critics (where might those be found, incidentally?) would wish to re-rank the mods, they are quite welcome to use it as a baseline.

 

12 hours ago, Guest Ghast said:

One List to Rule Them All -- the proverbial Single Point of Failure to be avoided in any sound business venture, certainly here as well

Just to reiterate: the only possible point of failure is if every current collaborator of every existing fork of this open-source CC0 list hosted on a cloud platform decides to go on a rampage to wipe it from existence and somehow succeeds against GitHub (likely) and everyone who ever contributed to the list.

 

Anyway, banged up the repo, see my signature. Last call for someone to make a case for a platform other than GitHub, first call for someone to assign themselves some letters (I'll get going on mine in the next few days). OP stays as is for now until final call on platforms (let's make it end of week), but the most current information is in the repo (just a few category name changes, added Tools).

Edited by UMNiK
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13 hours ago, DavidW said:

This is theoretically possible but I doubt it happens in practice. It is extremely difficult to produce new quest content for IE games, at least if you want reasonable production values - it requires mastery of a wide range of skills (AI scripting, artwork, area design, dialog design, actual ability to plot and write) and most individuals only have a subset. So there aren't many high-quality adventures and those that exist are well known.

(Prove me wrong by linking to a 'small, excellent, forgotten adventure'!)

I have thought of making one myself, and I made elements that work as role-playing hooks. They are not adventures as such, but if you can play dice with monsters for their treasure against some of your items, and if you can cheat and the monster can cheat and sometimes even be a sorry loser, isn't that something of a mini-adventure? And recently I made a set of binoculars that will let the player peek at NPC's possessions and get basic information - but on purpose sometimes incomplete. The other ability of those goggles, for bards only, will be to copy the appearance of a creature and enjoy a short sanctuary from the confusion. I've also made rope with which characters can climb to inaccessible places, swing and pull each other up. That's a different principle at work - to let people go on their own adventures. Yes, all this requires diverse skills to look and sound good, by golly, and so would a real quest, but that's a clue for modders to band together and pool their skills. I don't get it why they don't. I could play a writer's part, for instance, only, to be honest, it's not interesting to work on something expected to resemble a fanfic in the end. But the windshield against which most good ideas smash is the feeling of "who will care?" And the reason for that is that other people on these boards don't believe in themselves and don't set out to create adventures. They haven't been shown anything better than another modification of the power of weapons or, at most, smart combat scripting like your stuff, so they follow the template and make tweaks of their own, and then they don't know to encourage those who would make adventures, and they don't get made.

And the way out? I'll tell that to the original poster: if you want a critic, become one yourself! Try something new. That would be a more advantageous contribution than a list of everything ever made. All these objections that you are receiving about the choice of host and so on stem, in reality, from people's indifference. They don't bash, but they nitpick because you aren't inspiring them. Grouping, standardizing in many forms has already been done and is being done, including on these boards. And really, creating for a videogame is questionable enough, but bookkeeping for a videogame? Well... So why not stand in a different place? It doesn't look like you intend on any creative projects, and if you like to analyze and summarize, you could do worse than take up reviews. The critic is like the artist's favorite uncle. And it doesn't take much. Format, who cares. You just play some mods and write about them at Beamdog's or here. Talented people get noticed, priorities tilt, tweak-makers fade to monochrome, coders turn their attention away from Weidu sophistry to fantasy theater.

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6 hours ago, temnix said:

I made elements that work as role-playing hooks. ...  you can play dice with monsters for their treasure ... recently I made a set of binoculars that will let the player peek at NPC's possessions and get basic information ... I've also made rope with which characters can climb to inaccessible places ...

These sound like new game mechanics to me, and frankly, not fundamentally different from having a spell do similar things. In order for these things to comprise an excellent adventure, someone would need to weave them into a good story and make use of them as mechanics, along with all the other things that DavidW mentioned (artwork and so on).

6 hours ago, temnix said:

They haven't been shown anything better than another modification of the power of weapons or, at most, smart combat scripting like your stuff

They have been shown mods offering tactical challenges; NPC mods more focused on role-playing; quests & encounters mods that like to put new stuff in hidden places and so cater more to exploration and discovery; mods that open new vistas in the game by removing or tweaking some long-standing restriction in the game; mods that open up new combinations and offer new mechanics; ...

Maybe your offers are not in high demand among players simply because adding a new mechanic in itself is not what they are looking for? If so, belittling players and implying that they're mindless cattle may not be your best way forward?

Maybe you should be targeting other modders instead, and packaging your offers accordingly (e.g. as modules in a format that would be reusable by them)? Provided that you'd be fine with other modders using your stuff as ingredients in their stories (fanfic level or not), of course.

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1 hour ago, Guest Ghast said:

These sound like new game mechanics to me, and frankly, not fundamentally different from having a spell do similar things. In order for these things to comprise an excellent adventure, someone would need to weave them into a good story and make use of them as mechanics, along with all the other things that DavidW mentioned (artwork and so on).

They have been shown mods offering tactical challenges; NPC mods more focused on role-playing; quests & encounters mods that like to put new stuff in hidden places and so cater more to exploration and discovery; mods that open new vistas in the game by removing or tweaking some long-standing restriction in the game; mods that open up new combinations and offer new mechanics; ...

Maybe your offers are not in high demand among players simply because adding a new mechanic in itself is not what they are looking for? If so, belittling players and implying that they're mindless cattle may not be your best way forward?

Maybe you should be targeting other modders instead, and packaging your offers accordingly (e.g. as modules in a format that would be reusable by them)? Provided that you'd be fine with other modders using your stuff as ingredients in their stories (fanfic level or not), of course.

All of this is a lie.

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16 hours ago, temnix said:

Grouping, standardizing in many forms has already been done and is being done, including on these boards.

That's rather the point of this list: to finally be done once and for all on every board, with only new additions matching new mods rather than retreading the same ground every few years, all done by different people on different forums for as long as they can handle and no longer, with the lists getting buried or outdated before they may be completed and with no easy way to pick up where the original posters left off. These previous efforts required either technical expertise or a lot of time commitment from a single person (or combinations thereof), while this one doesn't require either - anyone who can install a mod using WeiDU can certainly paste in a markdown link to it into a single place. At least, anyone who wants that mod to be findable by someone else not using the exact same download link in the same place.

 

@Cahir, any clarification on the dropbox/mediafire links? Are these the only ones that exist for some mods, or is it worth looking into where they might have been originally?

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On 9/22/2021 at 10:25 PM, UMNiK said:

Just to reiterate: the only possible point of failure is if every current collaborator of every existing fork of this open-source CC0 list hosted on a cloud platform decides to go on a rampage to wipe it from existence and somehow succeeds against GitHub (likely) and everyone who ever contributed to the list.

Don't flatter yourself too much though. You are basing your repo on Cahir's list--which deserves better than to be called "buried"-- and anyone could cut straight to your sources and update them if need be. I find it ironic that you reply to my Single Point of Failure comment with a dreamed-up scenario with thousands of forks of "your" work -- and in your next post, you say that anyone can paste a markdown link "into a single place"... Dazzling logic.

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35 minutes ago, UMNiK said:

@Cahir, any clarification on the dropbox/mediafire links? Are these the only ones that exist for some mods, or is it worth looking into where they might have been originally?

As far as I know, those are the only download source of those mods. I do my research. When there are more that one source, I try to provide them all. 

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12 hours ago, Guest Ghast said:

thousands of forks of "your" work -- and in your next post, you say that anyone can paste a markdown link "into a single place"... Dazzling logic.

I'm afraid the logic is a bit less dazzling than you give me credit for - every contribution automatically creates a pull request, and the contributor has the option to keep their fork of the list they create when editing it even after it is merged. Needless to say, the more actual collaborators are working on any single version of the list, the better it will be, as discussed (in no small part due to checking the biases or errors of any one person). You also still seem to misunderstand the goal of the endeavor - certainly, there are plenty past and future lists in each community, the goal is to create a single always up-to-date and factual one maintained collectively to aid the creation of any other specialised ones by any individual (as I know you read, I only ever referred to Cahir's list as "excellent", and any "buried" lists are by definition not being linked to or used as we speak). How realistic this is is entirely up to the current state and desire of the community - all I can do is lay the groundwork and eliminate any possible obstacles. 

12 hours ago, Cahir said:

As far as I know, those are the only download source of those mods. I do my research. When there are more that one source, I try to provide them all. 

Thanks, just doing the due diligence to minimise any future edits. "Alweth's Easy Portrait Grabber Tool" had some dead and outdated links, I fixed em if you want to port them back into your list.

 

Welp, done with my two letters. As a reminder, tomorrow is the last day for platform choice. Sent you a collab invite to the current repo, @Jazira. Everyone is welcome to peruse and comment on the added Read Me and template and request invites or start contributing. As a bit of a tip for formatting mods to the template, don't try to brute force your way with regex, probably better off writing a quick scraper/mapper. Or hey, maybe your regex skills are greater than mine. Of course, doing it manually is also a fine choice - there aren't really any time limits on this. Having BWS open alongside didn't provide as much help as I'd hoped, but probably still a good idea. 

Any advice on pitching this thing to other places is welcome. As a recap, here are some possible approaches tried: compare to other games' modding communities and toolscompare to other crowdsourced documentation effortscompare to not doing anything while waiting for someone to do everything. I am loathe to use the safety in numbers of a collaborative list as an argument, much less name some people by name for fear of it seeming like blackmail or salting some fresh wounds. Of course, there is no particular reason for me personally to pitch it - this is by anyone, for everyone type of affair, so anyone who thinks they are more in tune with the current discourse are welcome to share it where and how they wish. Still waiting to hear back from @CamDawg how the actual new player response was to his guide -  this type of list would most immediately and obviously be useful to someone who doesn't have their previous install logs/bookmarks to fall back on (and doesn't necessarily know what every mod does by its name).

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Feedback:

  • On GOG, it was one user lamenting Linux installs, and another user bizarrely pushing back on WeiDU itself.
  • Steam and BD postings were received positively, but no comments.
  • Reddit got a lot of upvotes and generated the most comments but most were essentially 'thanks' and a small discussion of EEMS. (Though if a macOS player could help out this guy, I'd appreciate it.)
  • Outside of here, no one has mentioned that finding mods is an issue.

I miss the PPG Modlist and (behind the scenes)have been exploring possibilities of reviving such a tool over the past few months. While I am fully behind the idea, Github is a bad platform for it. A different community project was forked and updated with unauthorized mods, and I'd rather not repeat the experience.

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15 hours ago, UMNiK said:

Thanks, just doing the due diligence to minimise any future edits. "Alweth's Easy Portrait Grabber Tool" had some dead and outdated links, I fixed em if you want to port them back into your list.

Thanks. Haven't really update this tool since I put it on the list a couple of years ago. I have updated download links in both BGEE and BG2EE.

Edited by Cahir
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