Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lux Lament

They're a fickle lot over at SillySoft. Lux has been around for years, but the lack of maps was always the problem. In such circumstance, you'd think SillySoft would welcome any and all efforts to expand the mapbase, but instead, all maps submitted are first sent to MapLAB users to test-play (which isn't such a bad idea at all, it keeps out the absolute garbage and stops porn-based maps etc). After they've contacted you with suggestions, if they think its good enough, it gets added to the database of maps which the Lux Plugin Manager accesses. My map from yesterday scored a 4.1 out of 5, and elicited the comments "blast to play and looks very nice!" and "Quite a success for your first map… Very nice… I think it will be warmly recieved." Great, makes me feel it was well worth the effort.

Except that after one day and only 5 votes, its been rated down to 2.4 - and that means that, after only one day, no-one can see it on the website or Plugin Manager since they only show maps of rating 3 or higher. That didn't impress me very much, it made me wonder how many other excellent maps have been created by users only to be thrown into the deepest darkest dungeon of SillySoft never to appear again. A total of 5 people have rated my map, and because 1 of them didn't like it, it will forever be lost to the rest of the Lux community. Those few people have decided on behalf of the many.

Lux's main problem was always its lack of maps and this is no way to fix it. The program has an ideal marketing strategy in that the Plugin Manager only downloads maps if you paid for the program, so SillySoft should half the price (and thereby get 10 times the sales - sound business sense) and make every map available to users. Better yet, install a popup that says 'Show me only maps rated (x) or higher'. Then every user would have access to all maps of a quality threshold they wanted, whether a select few individuals at the MapLAB thought they were good enough or not. And because they could still access all the maps, some of those less-than-3 maps might get more ratings and come back above 3 again, whereas the way the current system works they're gone for good.

Since designing 'Circuit Showdown', I've done 4 new maps, but I can only submit one a week ('to keep quality up' says SillySoft's submit page). I think they're all excellent, but already, one week into owning Lux, I wonder if I will bother making any more. I enjoy making them, and I'm a good graphic designer, but I'm just not going to bother if 1 or 2 individuals can take my efforts away from everyone else. My second map, 'Space Invaders', is ready to upload. It would have been easy to rip some graphics off the web for it, but for copyright reasons I created all the graphics from scratch. It took quite some time, but perhaps all that effort will be wasted. I'll submit it when SillySoft's system decides to let me, and we'll see how long it survives. This is no way to build a thriving user community.


MB said...

Hi Rick,

Mark Bauer here, the main member of the sillysoft mapLAB and an avid map builder for Lux. Since I was made a member of the mapLAB about a year ago, I have played, tested, and responded to every single map in the Lux community, which amounts to hundreds. Currently there are over 2oo maps available, probably pushing 300 now. When I uploaded my first map, there was probably about 20 or less. So, one could say, that I have seen it all and played it. In the days where there were so few maps, due to so few map makers, many craved new maps and applauded those who made them. As more and more map makers came and more and more maps began to flood the plugin manager, it became more than Dustin (creator of Lux) could handle. So the mapLAB was instituted so that Dustin alone was not the only one to test these maps to make sure they were working and ready for the plugin manager. The mapLAB is not made up of Sillysoft employees, we are not payed anything. It's made up of luxers who volunteer, and let me assure you it is not an easy task. The main reason for the mapLAB is not to turn down maps, they are not gate keepers. The main reason is to test maps for bugs, and offer friendly suggestions that do not have to be taken, in fact many don't. In the hundreds of maps that I have seen, I have only ever turned down one for not being up to quality. The other maps that get refused are only ones that are "world based" or classic style maps, due to their being an overwhelming number of those already. So it is a misconception that alot of maps are refused. We do welcome any and all maps and always have. I don't think the lack of maps was always Lux's "main problem." Lux did not have many maps because there weren't many map makers. Sillysoft didn't make ANY of the maps that are in the plugin manager, not one of them, not even classic. ALL of the maps are and were made by people like you, and they always will be. And that is Lux's main strength.

The 1 map per week rule was instituted, yes "to keep quality up." A few map builders were churning out maps chock full of bugs and other problems. Ignoring the people saying "hey your maps has problems in it," these map makers would submit a 2nd and 3rd and 4th map, all with similar problems. So instead of taking the time to make sure their first map was complete, these map makers were already moving onto their 2nd map. Now I'm not talking about problems with their maps that were matters of opinion, I'm talking about problems that made it unable to load properly, countries missing connections, army locators all over the place, countries inside other countries making both of them very hard to click on, countries that were the size of a pinhead. Basically problems that made the maps unplayable. This rule usually does not affect most map makers, because most map makers actually test their maps and take the time to perfect them as best they can. I'm not saying you don't test your maps because I know you do. I'm saying the situation where you have more then 1 map at one time to submit, is an anomally.

Anyone can see all the maps available. What you can do is type in the chat area /set showAllMaps (make sure it's written the exact same way as that) and then you restart lux. This will show all the maps and make them all availbale for download. The decision to "hide" lower rated maps was to try and clean up the Plugin manager. Due to their being sooooo many maps people started complaining that it was hard to find what they were looking for. This was a band aid, that I agree may not be the best solution, many don't know how to unhide them and it's unfair to new maps. I like your idea of a pop up that asks the user what they would like to see. Changes in the Lux community often come about because players demand them from Dustin, he can't read your mind. Why don't you post that idea in the forums, I think many would agree and support you, myself included.

When I read this, what I hear is "why is my map rated so poorly?" It's a good question, that many others before you have asked. It's a question to which there is no answer. It's like asking why certain movies bomb and others are big successes, know one really knows. There's no magic formula. What I say to people who ask me that question is this: The rating system is nothing, it means nothing. Make maps that you enjoy and want to play, because the point the of Lux and the point of map making, is not to be on the top of a heap, it's to have fun.


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