Lofty Goals… “make my mod plez”

I see it at least once a week; some person with 7 posts to their profile, no mods of their own and not even an avatar posts on the Nexus some vaguely laid out concept and request people to “join their team” to make a massive mod. I always shake my head when I see these posts, and I saw yet another one today (hence this article).

generally they go something like this:

Hi there, I am looking for a number of talented people to join my team and help me to create my mod called [insert poorly thought out title here]. I will be the main writer and overseeing the project to make sure everyone stays on schedule.

I need model creators, quest makers, voice actors, script writers, world space designers, dungeon designers and more. Most of the writing will be done by me, so I have that covered.

And yes, that is in fact all they usually have to say on the matter. No “this is what my mod is about” none of “Here are the skills I have and will bring to the group” no “I have been making mods of various types for X years” nada, nothing.

So I ask you, why the hell would I want to get involved in a project headed by someone who has no qualifications, no experience and can’t even pitch their project adequately enough for me to even tell what that project even is to begin with?

I tend to reply to these posts, as do a couple of other qualified mod authors in an effort to enlighten them to the realities of mod making. So, here for you is my personal checklist, guidelines, and/or philosophy about collaborative project coordination. I hope you enjoy and find it enlightening.

  • Presence: You need to be active in the community that you are propositioning for help on. If you haven’t posted, even if it’s just on your own mod page, on a regular basis, people have no clue who the hell you are and your credibility goes right out the window.
  • Portfolio: If you have no work to show for yourself, what business do you have asking other potential contributors to prove their work to you? I see this all the time. These people have no mods of their own, yet they want to see other people’s proof that they know what they are doing. Again, right out the window.
  • Skill sets: Being a good project coordinator should NOT be your chief credential. Yes it is very vital that you have good communication skills and can juggle multiple tasks at one time and can motivate folks in a constructive way to continue getting the job done, but you also need to be able to pick up the slack when things go south. When someone can’t finish doing the UV maps for the model they just built, you need to do it yourself or pass it on to someone who can. If someone doesn’t have time to debug the script they just wrote but has some hiccups still, you need to be able to look over it and find the problem yourself. Etc, etc. Bottom line; you need to be a jack of all trades and be able to show folks that you know what you are doing.
  • Presentation: Don’t post “I am making an epic mod and need help” and expect people to flock to you. You need a well thought out and well developed concept of what your mod is and what you need from others in order to accomplish it. Give a summary of your mod’s story and purpose and an outline of where you see it going. Pitch what makes it great and unique.
  • Buy in: Ideas are not in short supply. Every mod author I know has at least 3 or 4 major ideas rolling around or in various stages of development and another 6 or more ideas rattling around on the back burner that may or may not ever come to fruition. They do not need your idea. To  get someone on a project to make YOUR idea, they really need to buy into the idea, and part of that comes down to your ability to prove yourself ahead of time. Make other mods, show you are involved in the community, show that you aren’t a total dick in your tone, show that you know what you are doing, share what you make and network with other folks to involve what they make.
  • Networking: Cold selling a random person via PM or broad spectrum smattering an entire community for help just will not yield many results. Instead you need to find individuals to work with on other projects. Are you good at quest design but suck at model building? find that cool weapon mod that doesn’t have any quests and offer to make a quest for them in exchange for them letting you use some of their assets in another project, or having them make something for you in return. Ask mod authors if you can utilize their assets in your mod (with credit of course). Most mod authors are happy to share their work with someone who is sincere. Build a community around your projects; show that you are a good person and generally professional even if you have a pissing match with the rare bozo on your message board once in awhile. Show folks that you make mistakes and can admit it, show people that you value their support and you will have a thriving fan base. This base is a great way to start networking and find other modders. Other modders do play your mods and lurk on your message board even if they don’t post, and if you can show you know your stuff and are a decent guy or gal, they may step up and offer to help when you make it known that you are looking for help.
  • Positive coordination: Ok so you came this far and now have the skills, a few mods, the presence of community, the fan base, AND a network of fellow authors, voice actors, composers, video editors, and more? Well don’t alienate them by being an overbearing dick. Remember this NUMBER ONE golden rule: Modding is something done for fun in your spare time. You cannot push people to meet deadlines, you cannot force people to work faster. All you can do is be patient and wait. The best thing you can do is to remain positive. Be encouraging of their work, forgiving of their lateness, and always ask them “What can I do to help?”. A good guideline to have for your entire team is a realistic perception of limitations. By that I mean, make everyone agree at the start, right away, that if anyone ever hits a wall or can’t complete something in a reasonable amount of expected time (eg, they say they will have it done in 2 weeks but it’s been 4; now it’s time to talk about it), have everyone agree to admit defeat when it’s clear things will not happen in a reasonable margin of time from the deadline expected. offer to take things off their hands, reassign them or take them over yourself to lighten their load. If it’s not a critical element, tell them no worries. keep things light and keep encouraging them to take care of what they need to in life and help with the project when they are able.

I think I model these elements pretty well most of the time, but it is hard and challenging to remain positive when setbacks or challenges occur, or things beyond my control hinder progress. That’s life though I suppose.

So if you are looking to build something big and impressive, and you have no mods, no posts, no skills and no avatar, then think again and start from the beginning. Maybe in 2-3 years you’ll be ready to start that big epic project like I am.

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