Hey there! Nice to see ya again, Morgan! Still owe you a whole freaking lot for designing those outfits for Frink-ality for me so I didn't have to bother re-learning Blender. Your work has been consistently pretty darn great!
Nobody blames you for wanting to take a bit of a step back. Modding I would definitely consider an entry way for many into the game development process, which is already pretty exhausting in it's own right. The work you placed into your modelling over the years has been pretty apparent.
I've spoken to a couple of people over the years that have definitely experienced emotions of burnout similar to what you've described, and feel I've gone through similar emotions myself. It's incredibly easy to think of a concept and have visions of how to build towards it, but the actual work itself can become almost overwhelming. It's not something you should fault yourself over or beat yourself up over.
I still definitely look forward to Smokin' Bouviers when it does drop! I haven't tinkered with the Fully Connected Map mod as much as it's embarrassing to say. The concept of a smoking ban as the primary driving force for the plot sounds like a lot of fun and plays nicely into Hit & Run's gameplay mechanics allowing you to get in trouble with the law. It also reminds me a fair amount of Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment in a way.
I can understand not wanting to invest tons of years into making the custom map a fully realized reality, and you're doing a lot more than you think by working on it by yourself. It's brave to admit you'd rather take the time to step away and just leave it be for now to focus on other things. A lot of fan projects feel like they get lost in that cycle of trying to make something grand, but there's always going to be an audience if you ever decide to return to it. I've followed a couple of pretty big fan projects. While not quite on the same scale, Sonic Robo Blast 2 was a game I played a lot when I was a wee lad on my Windows XP laptop. Huge modification of the Doom Legacy source port that's been in development since 2000, and the version I played on my laptop was 1.09.4 back in 2006/2007. Still super excited to see updates years later, and the quality jump from that old version to the latest release is insane. If you were ever to return to Los Springeles, I'd definitely watch for updates!
I absolutely share your sentiment with adoring Hit & Run as well and the amazing content people have created for it. Hit & Run to me is a bit more than a licensed game, which is why I continue to be a part of the community and hold the title in such high regard (despite it's caveats). It's creativity and spin on the open world formula that Grand Theft Auto ended up establishing is fantastic for a variety of reasons. It's wonderfully unique with it's Level structure and overall cartoon-iness that is somewhat attached to the IP the game is based off of. If anything, Hit & Run kinda represents a now dead genre of open world games that haven't really been seen since the Saints Row franchise. There are few games I can name that take Grand Theft Auto's structure and purposefully play around with being fictional to play around with concepts that would otherwise be more questionable in something more grounded in reality. Saints Row got pretty goofy around the third entry to differentiate itself from GTA further (introducing concepts such as alien invasions and superpowers), and the experiment was mostly a success. Hit & Run kinda has something similar going for it with Level 7 purposefully paying nod to the Treehouse of Horror entries, introducing a zombie invasion and aliens you have to kill. It's absolutely wonderful, and not something that I think most 'Triple A' developers would bother with these days. That and the simple satisfying nature of the Story Missions is why I keep coming back to it, whereas I haven't really finished any Grand Theft Auto entries I've actually touched.
I'm honestly super glad to see more perspectives of Hit & Run as a whole, and I still look forward to seeing you around! You've done a great job hosting and collaborating the mod jams you were in charge of to drum up activity and there were some great things birthed from it (looking at you, Think of the Children!). Thanks for all you've done and sharing the same interest in this game!
Happy Modding to you as well! Don't be afraid to reach out to me again if need be!