I haven't done a mailbag for a long time, but this is a common enough question that I thought I'd explain my thinking here.
This particular email was fair and level headed and I'm hoping that my posting it as a blog I can redirect future generations here.
I played Garry's Mod for a couple thousand hours and yadda yadda you've heard all that before. Big fan. Just learned about s&box and I'm very excited. We've had a pretty severe lack of games that do the whole "moddable sandbox with hostable custom gamemodes" thing of late - at least, ones that aren't insufferable free kiddie cesspools. Please charge money for s&box.
I gotta say though. The current default character model is so amazingly viscerally unappealing that I legitimately think it's gonna fuck up the game's marketing appeal. The goofy wacky silly sausage people sit on the extreme end of juvenile cartoon humor aesthetic and almost instantly turned me off of the game. Every one of my friends I went and showed it to after agreed. It'd be kind of a problem if the game is less popular due strictly to a much worse surface aesthetic (see: Nidhogg 2) when the game is so focused on creator involvement and UGC.
"Just change the model if you don't like it!" says everyone on the forums to similar complaints. Guess what? Can't change the splash screens and marketing material. God save me if I have to look at this wacky sausage man every time I boot up the game. "It really grows on you!" say other people on the forums. That means absolutely nothing to marketing appeal.
Give it some thought.
All the bestTom
The default player models in Garry's Mod were from Half-Life 2. They aren't generic humanoids. They were designed and iterated on and refined by legit artists for years. They come with character built in.. not only in their design but by the experiences we've had with them. They're mostly downtrodden - so we like them. They're good at doing something - so we like them. We can predict a lot of aspects of their characters because we know their personality. That's a lot of shorthand built in.
As an example of this, GMan with a traffic cone on his head with his eyes crossed is funny to us - because we know his personality. We know he's a serious guy who wouldn't want to be laughed at.
Generic humanoids don't come with any of those benefits. In fact, whenever I see generic humanoids in a game I get annoyed. I don't want to play a game filled with trendy hipster 20 somethings. It's annoying. Everyone so cool, perfect figures, stylish hair.
There's a few shortcuts to likability. Let's do some analysis of common likable characters.
|Homer Simpson||Fat, Bald, Stupid|
|No Redeeming Quality|
|Marty McFly||Short, Moral, Weak|
|George Costanza||Fat, Bald, Glasses, Loser|
|Michael Scott||Idiot, Good at job|
|Max Payne||Dead Family|
|Jason Bourne||Exploited, Amnesia, Good at job|
In s&box we don't have any characters yet. They don't talk, they don't have jobs, they can't be good at things. So right now we have to throw everything away except their appearance. So our strategy is to try to be less Fortnite and more Bullseye:
I'd much rather hang around with these guys than the characters in the previous section. Real looking mother fuckers. Every one of them is a character.
I tend to think that a lot of people have the general feeling that real looking people are nicer than good looking people. That's why it's always such a surprise when someone good looking isn't a complete arshole, suprising enough to tell people that they aren't an arshole. Because the assumption is that good looking people are arsholes.
This has a big influence on the media I consume. I can't stand shows like Love Island that seem to revolve around young beautiful people. Can't stand to watch all the good looking young youtubers running around loving life. But yeah I'll watch a fat guy with a mullet mow his grass for 40 minutes. Yeah I'll watch a young Gordon Freeman build a pretend space station on his own for an hour. Yeah I'll watch a chubby bald guy retrobrite old computers over and over for hours on end.
Back when Counter-Strike was released there was a healthy mod scene, which spawned actual websites that used to post news about them. Every mod had an AK47. So there were dozens of games making the same AK47 model.
I feel like a lot of the games that get made now are doing the same thing. Especially in the Sandbox/UGC area we're in. The same player models over and over again.
But why sausage people? Why not make ugly humans? To be honest, I don't see a lot of difference. They're not strictly humans, but they're not strictly not humans.
More important to me is that they're not pretty, or trendy. I haven't seen the exact same models in 4 different games this year.
I've heard a quite a few people mention that the models are like something out of a children's show. I can accept that and while first impressions are important, I don't totally see it as a negative. I kind of enjoy when things look one way and turn out to be another.
The world I envision them living in isn't a kids cartoon. There was an old cartoony show in the 90s, it was shown late at night so my dad used to set the video to record it so he could watch it on Sunday morning. It was called Crapston Villas. This is the kind of world I imagine these guys live in. Grimey and real.
All that said, it's totally not our intention to make everything look like a sanitized kids show. I have been pushing the guys to increase the dirt and grime, to make everything look dated and worn. I don't know how easy it is for an artist to make things look like shit.
It's probably important to point out that we haven't started marketing the game. We haven't even started finishing the game yet. So any screenshots of the citizens you've seen and thought "omg baby game", those are development shots. Making assumptions based on those would be like looking at a greybox of a map and worrying that there aren't any textures.
It's also worth noting that our games haven't historically sold well because they look amazing. They sell well because we have a plan and are in it for the long haul, changing the plan as things come up. If s&box fails or succeeds - that won't be because of the citizen models. Games that rely primarily on being visually appealing don't stay popular for 20 years.
Your general sentiment is correct though. There is a shopping list of things we need to do to sell the citizens to the players. Some of those things have already started and some are pending.
Another thing is that the citizens are the thing the most screenshots exist of because they're the most interesting thing to take screenshots of right now. We haven't been posting screenshots and videos of the content created for s&box - which is the bread and butter of what we're doing. That's why people buy GMod, and I expect that's why people will buy s&box.