Modders will never stop, either game makers make them official or illegal, but the truth is if you're putting code into the world with games people love they're going to want to get inside of it. Modding blew up with the open availability of game engines and some developers handing over the keys while others have resisted and instead try to keep modders off their servers. Yet in a time of bland yearly releases can modders add some much needed creativity to the two biggest shooter franchisees? I think so.
Let's Talk about mods baby
First, what is a mod exactly? A mod is simply a rework, addition or change of attributes to a game. Mods can range from making the gravity in a mulitiplayer map equal to that of the moon - allowing players to jump into the horizon – to a complete game rework where ancient warrior battle against Thomas the Train instead of dragons in The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Modding has been around at long as there have been computer games. Starting off in the early days of games like Castle Wolfenstien but really exploding when id Software released its ground breaking first person shooter Doom.
Doom was so well loved and had such a long lifespan that amateur programmers started taking it apart, adding art and reworking the levels. Seeing how this new community of home developers was selling more games and getting more people to play id Software packaged some of the best mods up in the final released called Final Doom with mod-community created mission packs.
Developer took notice of the extra legs that modders gave their games. So when Tim Sweeney and the team at Epic released the mind-bending Unreal – which later became the game engine of choice for first-person shooters – it also revealed UnrealED. UnrealED allowed for the editing of games based on the Unreal engine, which is no small number. Included for free this was not only a level editor it allowed for the creation of scripting, or events within the game so designers could mod their favorite titles, into brand new ones.
Developers embrace the community and mods to different degrees. Valve is one of the most accepting. Not only allowing but promoting mod tools, just one look at Valve's original releases and you can see why. Valve's company was based on the many mods for Half-Life. Counter Strike, Day of Defeat, Team Fortress, all these games started out as mods but created the kind of mulitplayer deathmatches and capture the flag games that are given to today’s shooters.
But then there were bad guys
But moding can sometimes result in changes to a game, especially a mutiplayer game that make things unfair to other players. This is were most developers draw the line against all mods, saying that if they allow them they will break the game for those who just want to play. But that said, there are moders out there now selling mods and cheats to recently released games. In fact Call of Duty: Ghosts was modded and gamers were already using exploits on game servers a week before the title launched.
The problem is not allowing any moders only invites the programmers looking to make a buck by selling cheats rather than promoting a community of development.
Let's see an example you say
Probably the most popular games to modify in recent times have been Grand Theft Auto 4, Arma and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim giving all the titles a much longer lifespan than the average game. Grand Theft Auto IV mods include everything from Spiderman and Hulk games to a realism mod that makes its graphics look as good as its sequel.
Arma welcomed the mod community from the beginning, and just this week launched a stand-alone version of one of it'\s most successful mods DayZ. The original DayZ was created by a amateur developer who was later hired by game maker Bohemia Interactive to create a full version of the game. Bohemia also reaped the benefit of over $5 million in sales in just 24 hours, which all started as a free fan-made mod.
The number of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim mods is mind-blowing. From minor tweaks to monsters to complete redesigns of the game. Getting easy tools to player and home developers mean there are a lot more people playing Skyrim in all it's modded glory than would normally be hacking away at a two-year old game.
Yearly releases vs. mods
The Battlefield series started out with one of the most modded games ever. Battlefield 1942 has hundreds of free playable mods. Likewise the Call of Duty series also supported PC modification, but in years since both series have moved away from amateur developer support to building bigger games with yearly – in the case of Call of Duty – or nearly yearly titles in the case of Battlefield.
These yearly releases have been plagued by two big problems. The first is that they have been buggy to different degrees. Players have had to endure months long beta test, after the beta test and while shelling out their cold hard cash to fix bugs that should have been dealt with before the game shipped. The other problem, is that the ideas for the series seem pretty stale. Only adding one or two new features or a barely interactive cheesy storyline. It seems that these first-person shooter giants are plagued by a lack of creativity or a fear of it. Which is where the modder is sadly missed.
Neither Battlefield 4 or Call of Duty: Ghosts supports mods at this time which not only hurts the series and drains it of a lack of ideas but also forces those who do make mods to go underground, working on multiplayer hacks and cheats to make the game uneven.
My suggestion is to ditch the yearly releases in favor of supporting the mod community that already exists around these games. Give players and home developers the power to create new single player games and modes of play and keep the next title in development until its ready to come out instead of using millions of paying customers to preform beta tests.