I was recently giving the Orbolt site some thought, and so I'll dump my notes in the hopes that it is useful to SideFX, because this definitely needs to be addressed.
The experience should
be something along the lines of: New user installs Houdini, user follows some introductory tutorials, user goes to "asset store", sees a list of "featured" or "essential" HDAs and installs those to improve the "out of the box" experience. One of the big complaints I've seen about Houdini (and made myself) is that it feels like there's a lot of simple and obvious functionality that's missing from the available tools. Of course the answer is "build it yourself", save it, and now you've got that tool. But that's wasted effort in many cases when there are good assets to fill in some gaps (and learn from). SideFX Labs is a fantastic demonstration of that, but we need something that is broader than Labs (or the new name of it) but is still as easy to install and use, and doesn't feel like a weird hacked on sketchy download that might work in my version.
To overhaul the Orbolt site and increase contributor engagement, here are my thoughts on the current site (subjective and only from my experience which may be overlooking things).
- Don’t put “Most Recent” as the main selection on the front page (big turn-off immediately)
- Either put “Featured”, “Top Selling”, “Most Downloaded” or “SideFX Picks”
- Put a few categories
- Featured Tools
- Featured Effects
- It’s not clear if this is an official marketplace
- C4D link at bottom may be deprecated
- It's weird to have a Houdini ad near the bottom ("Hey person browsing Houdini assets, I think you would be interested to learn about Houdini")
- Put the “Browse Categories” at the top of the page
- The rating system is killing the perception - so many have 0 ratings which looks bad, or 1 3-star rating
- Put the price on the thumbnail for paid assets and say "Free" for free assets
- Clear out the cruft (dispose of anything that isn’t supported in 16+)
- Offer “credits” or make “competitions” for developers to produce high quality content (e.g. if a free asset gets downloaded >1000 times, you get $10 of marketplace credit to buy someone else's paid HDA)
- Curate the marketplace (as others have said) - if it’s something that adds no real value (or one extremely specific use case) over existing tools, clear it out. Or at the very least make the GOOD stuff a lot more prominent
- Learn from (http://sidefx.com/tutorials
) - it’s not the greatest implementation, but it has a lot of submissions. I wrote this point not knowing about the Content Library, actually, which is basically the tutorials browser for assets. Not sure how to feel about the Content Library implementation
- Use social media and youtube
- Best HDAs of the month
- Take enough cut of sales that sideFX can invest actual resources in the marketplace. If you have to take 30% to actually maintain the site until it gets to a reasonable scale, I think that's justifiable (unlike some other stores)
- Call it Houdini Marketplace or HDA Marketplace (Orbolt doesn't mean anything to me, and Content Library seems like a different thing - a library is for assets and examples rather than functionality and tools) - Houdini is kind of unique in that the tools are the assets
- Advertise in the target spaces (Unity, Unreal, Maya, Max) - this is for them too! (and encourage creators to share their assets in these places too)
- Make a lot of noise about Free access (I don't know if I have the details correct here, but this should be highly visible and without ambiguity)
- You don’t need a Houdini License to use many of these assets
- Houdini Engine for Unity (or XYZ) is FREE (for Indie, < 100K)
- You can sell assets for Full Commercial Houdini on the marketplace even when created with Indie
- In many cases, it’s the hobbyists, educators, freelancers, indies that are willing to share tools freely, or who would be most interested in some passive revenue from their existing efforts. Therefore, investing energy to make this widely understood pays dividends.
- The “requests” feature needs to be more standardized and formalized, it’s just a big list of people saying “hey, can anyone build me this thing that I will try to describe”
- Form for: Brief title, description, category, houdini version, similar to (link)
- Quick closed/fulfilled/already exists status updating (by moderators or requester)
Anyway, some rambling points, but I don't think the value of a robust, well-maintained, and high quality marketplace should be underestimated. Especially when those assets end up in other DCCs - many people who think of Houdini for movie VFX would try some Engine HDAs for their Maya or Unity project and then decide to learn how to make their own HDAs. New Houdini user!
Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
TL;DR - the current marketplace(s) is/are obscure, unappealing, and stuffed with fluff. Investing resources in this space will pay off.