Gabe’s Little Elves: Four Top Modelers Talk About Steam Workshop

Aug 27, 2012 1 Comment by

Having been out for almost a year, the Steam Workshop has been nothing if not a runaway success, with over 250 items added to Team Fortress 2 alone. What’s even more impressive than the number of additions, though, is their nature. Every single addition has been a user-contributed, fan-crafted item, with little-to-no intervention from Valve. Super Combo spoke with four top contributors about how their experience with modeling and the Steam Workshop.

From Humble Beginnings Come Great Things

The first thing to learn is that the Steam Workshop is by no means exclusive. Sparkwire, creator of the Fast Learner and Primson Sniper (among many other things,) got into modelling only incidentally: “I’m actually an animator by nature and I just got into modeling as a byproduct of that.” Gerre, maker of the Killer Exclusive and Hillbilly Engineer, only got into modelling thanks to a program at his school. Neither of them work with modelling outside of the workshop, but they’re both working to be professional modelers.

More Than A Game

While they’re not alone in their ambitions, the second thing to find out is that some of the top modelers do it for all different kinds of reasons. GetGrenade, creator of the Gentleman’s Ushanka and Wicked Warlock set, shared his story of his claim to fame: “Well first was Team Fortress 2’s trading. When it first came out, I spent a lot of time trading stuff. Valve started to put a lot of community-made items in game, so I thought: I should try to make something myself! I lurked for tutorials and started to make things, and I also got a lot of inspiration from Facepunch’s TF2 Emporiums. At first, I really wanted to get my items in game and not even for all revenue, but just for self-made version, which signifies I made it. And now I’m like, self-made? Uh, ok. Another one in the pile. I also thought that when I would join any server with my self-made item on, everyone would be like “Oh my gosh, SELF-MADE!” But actually, people don’t really care about it, or don’t even notice it. So every time I play, I try to kill as many people as possible, so they all will see my stuff on kill cams.”

Gerre pointed out the monetary aspect: “Revenue from sales is really good motivation.” Sparkwire considers the Steam Workshop akin to a job, saying “It certainly pays very well. Well, you’d have to have a bunch of stuff ingame already. I have no idea how much Dota 2 pays, but TF2 pays pretty well.” However, GetGrenade expressed concern over the risk of it all: “Well, I guess it’s like some kind of freelance job. But there’s a problem: even if you create a good model, there’s a chance it can never make it in game. How you can call it a job if you’re not sure will you get paid or not? But if you’re lucky enough to get your items in game and your items are going to be really popular, so a lot of players will buy them, then it will be worth it.” In the deluge of submissions, it can be down to luck if your submission floats above the chaff, and even then, Valve must still approve it. Vlad the Implyer, creator of the Master Assassin set and the Vice of the West, expressed similar feelings. “I think [people who treat the workshop like a job] will be disappointed. I don’t really have any numbers to back this claim, but nevertheless, the competition is too high to have some serious revenue out of this (unless you create bunch of super-cool couriers!) But I guess it’s all fine if their works are good.”

All You Need Is Love

In reality, some of the best do it just for fun. “It’s a great chance to influence the game you love and create stuff you’d like to wear yourself. Dota heroes got much more potential over TF2 characters for expansion, so I’m trying to give heroes some new details with my items. I knew some people who do this for money and most of the guys who friend me and ask for advice on compiling and about revenue. I got some stuff ingame, but I’ve yet to see some revenue from that and I don’t really care. I wish for people to create items not for the purpose of profiting, but from love for the game,” Vlad said. “I never get bored while modelling, and you can see the result of your work immediately. Very satisfying. I started modelling for Dota 2 because I really dig the artstyle and effort the Dota 2 team put into shaping the visual representation of this game.”

It’s inspiring to see people willing to contribute to something so massive as the Steam Workshop not for profit, but out of passion. Motivations aside, the Steam Workshop has distinguished itself as being an incredible asset to Valve, the games, and the community as a whole.


About the author

Amateur games journalist looking to expand his portfolio. When I'm not writing for Super Combo, I'm editing articles for others or goofing around in Dota 2. If you enjoyed the article, let me know! I always appreciate feedback. You can learn more about me at

One Response to “Gabe’s Little Elves: Four Top Modelers Talk About Steam Workshop”

  1. Chalers says:

    Awesome stuff. I really like how you covered the different motivations of contributors and such. Makes me want to go and get some animating done. 🙂

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