This is one of the most frequently asked questions on the web board.
There are four kinds of plugins, and players look for different things from the different kinds. They are also more or less willing to download big plugins based on what kind.
The four kinds:
Total Conversions and Major Scenarios
Utilities and Enhancers
These introduce new missions, outfits or ships, or a campaign to the standard EV or EVO game.
File size depends on how much your plugin is offering, but most are under a megabyte. Some of the grand add-on plugins, such as Clavius and Beyond, Eye of Orion, Angels of Vengeance (for EV) and F-25 (for EVO) are several megabytes, and resemble Total Conversions except that they are nominally based in the original universes.
The three things players seem to be looking for most with these are:
a) Compatibility - does it work with my other favourite add-ons (less important for big plugs)
Quality - does it work flawlessly, consistently and maintain high standards (most important for big plugs)
c) Originality - is it sufficiently different from the thousands of 'my plugin adds two new ships, a new weapon and one new mission ' plugins out there to interest me?
People always look for nice graphics, interesting sounds and well written and conceived missions, and the larger your file size, the higher their expectations. Arguably the most successful EVO add-on was Beyond the Crescent, while TOPS Mods deserves an honourable mention for both EV and EVO as the highest number of improvements for the lowest download time.
- Total Conversions (TCs) and Major Scenarios
About half of all the people who post on the EV-Developers board announcing that they will create a plug-in say that they wish to make a Total Conversion. So far, there are very few total conversions for EV or EVO, and most of them are based on pre-existing TV series or films (Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, etc).
TCs tend to be between 6 and 20 MB - which is a lot of downloading time, so you have to make sure that every byte is a golden byte.
A Total Conversion replaces every aspect of the original game - all the graphics, all the missions, all the worlds, all the governments, all the ships, outfits, weapons, as well as the main splash screen and probably the introduction music. This explains why so few of the TCs begun are ever completed.
Major Scenarios, such as Angels of Vengeance, Eye of Orion, Pale, Clavius and Beyond, EV Game Expander (all EV) and F-25 (EVO) drastically increase the size of the game and bring in a new scenario with a set of missions as extensive as the original game missions. There are a number of very successful Major Scenarios available, and if you are considering making one you should at least play through several of the best. The benefit of a Major Scenario as against a Total Conversion is that you only need to change as much as you want. Frozen Heart, arguably the most successful Total Conversion, began as an add-on, progressed to being a major scenario, and became a Total Conversion shortly before its launch.
What do people look for in Major Scenarios and Total Conversions?
a) a new splash screen, to tell them that something new is happening
a lot of very detailed ships, all rendered in the same style
c) a lot of new planets to explore, preferably with new graphics and some new governments
d) new weapons and outfits (not just variations on existing ones)
e) a compelling set of missions, with a high degree of human interest
f) climax. In the better major plugins, the most powerful enemies, ships and outfits, and the most challenging missions are reserved for the final stages of the plugin
g) new twists on the game engine. Players want to be surprised by something they've never encountered before
h) balance. Missions should be achievable but not too easy, the ships should balance each other out, there should be no easy rides
i) consistent quality. Bad spelling and bugs are the most frequently cited reasons why people give up playing major plugins
j) an overriding 'big idea'. Players need to know why they are playing the plug-in, and understand that they are making progress in achieving their goals. This is especially important with a TC, which should never give the impression that the author made it because he wanted to make a TC, or because he wanted a game of his favourite sci-fi series.
k) variation and excitement. Plugins on the lines of 'go to system x and kill 100 enemy ships' are frequently criticised for monotony. On the other hand, some players feel that 'thinking men's plugins' don't have enough battles. You decide on the balance, but make sure it works for you.
- Utilities and Enhancers
There are a large number of plugins which make the EV or EVO experience more enjoyable. Some provide upgraded graphics for all ships, others improve the look and feel of the buttons, spash screens and radar. EVO Map Embigulator digs deeper into ResEdit to give a map size more suited to modern monitors. One plug in claimed to make all the sound stereo, although it failed to work on some systems. Another utility allows you to edit pilot files. Whether this is a utility or a cheat depends on how you use it.
People are looking for three things with these:
- Does it work?
- Does it do something I want better than what I already have?
- Is it compatible with the other things I like.
Compatibility is the most important, because all you are offering is an enhancement.
File size varies from a few k up to several megabytes, when all the graphics are being replaced. You might want to give some examples of how they will look on your website if you are asking people to download a plugin that only replaces graphics.
For those who find the EV/O playing experience too, erm, challenging, many authors have created cheats which enhance some aspect of the game to make it easier for the player.
Cheats should never be bigger than a few k, should always work absolutely flawlessly (else why bother?) and, ideally, should get the player over something which is tedious while keeping as much of the excitement in as possible.
There's a question often asked about whether cheats should be allowed at all. Another question is often asked about add-ons that introduce powerful ships at low cost, which are little different from cheats that make everything free.
Do not expect to become well respected or popular from writing cheats - and it is always worth checking that nobody else has produced exactly the same cheat (chances are they have).