Hello, Lusinazis! In a strange turn this week, I shall not be bashing EA or feminists like Tim. While Mr. Che the Fey rapidly hammers out his “Games are Racist” manifesto (I am looking forward to tomorrow’s article, Tim!), I will be talking about something a bit less serious, but much more important, modding. Modding has been around for quite some time, and has been something that PC owners gloat about to their console-locked friends ever since its beginning. The increasing complexity of games has giving way to mod tools that are capable of generating equally complex user-created content without much difficulty. Today, it seems that the only limitation placed on modders is not their skill but rather their imagination.
Modding early PC games posed quite the task to the early trailblazers. Games like Doom and Quake did come with a suite of modding tools for fans to utilize like today’s games. Still, this lack of resources did not hinder the creativity of the public. Through vast amounts of trial and error, experimentation, and communicating with peers, many impressive mods were distributed on the internet. Some of these mods garnered their respective creators a vast amount of notoriety. In fact, two of Valve’s biggest series, Team Fortress and Counter-Strike, began as mods of Quake and Half-Life, respectively. These releases impressed Valve so much, that they would later hire the development teams behind both mods.
Games that have large modding communities can experience an unprecedented level of longevity, Diablo 2 being a perfect example. Released in the year 2000, Diablo 2 was insanely successful, taking home awards from many different gaming publications. This success helped grow the Diablo 2 mod community to epic proportions, leading to a veritable sea of mods. These mods varied from the simple, like additional weapons, to full-blown overhauls of the game. Apart from helping maintain Diablo 2‘s popularity early on, the modding community also allowed for a sustained level of popularity that continues on even today, thirteen years after the game’s release. When Diablo 3 was announced, many fans were disappointed to hear that the inclusion of a Real Money Auction house would mean that not only would the game require an internet connecton, but also that modding the game would not be allowed. Some fans of the series even chose to stick with Diablo 2 because of this.
While modding is not normally available to console gamers, many people have taken to ROM hacking. ROM hacking is a form of modding where the additional features are hard coded to the game’s data. Games like Super Mario World and the Pokemon series are particularly popular with the ROM hacking community. While official hacking tools are never released for these titles, that has not stopped the hacking community from developing their own. Due to the nature of ROM hacking, most hacks aim to be full overhauls or translations of a game rather than adding a few small changes. On the console side of gaming, almost all hacks are developed for the SNES and PSX eras of gaming. Consoles from these eras can easily be emulated on a computer, something that is vital when dealing with ROMs. The story is quite different for handhelds as even DS titles are extremely popular to hackers.
Sometimes, a quality hack can even produce a game that is more fun than the base of the hack. A hack of Pokemon: Heart Gold/Soul Silver that goes by the title of “Pokemon: Sacred Gold/Storm Silver” surpasses the original in quality, quite the feat for anybody that has played the it. Instead of attempting to rewrite the story, the creator focused on other aspects of the games. Along with being more difficult, all 493 Pokemon are available without the need of another game, meaning even the anti-social can satiate their need to “Catch ‘Em All”. Many other features have been added to these hacks, but not at the expense of the core story experience of the original game, resulting in a fantastic way to play even if it is one’s first time playing the game.
With so many great things that modding is capable of bringing, it should be expected that there would be some sort of drawback to counter the greatness. The truth is that modding presents very little in terms of drawbacks, and the drawbacks that do exist are usually mere annoyances. One drawback is that modding can make multiplayer in games like Torchlight 2 a bit difficult because both players must be using the same mods. Single-player games like Skyrim can present a difficult decision for gamers that have both a mid-level PC and a console as they may have to pick between mods and a better graphical experience. The last drawback has to do with the more ambitious mods that set out to completely mod a game. Many times great mods are abandoned in an unfinished state because their creator underestimated the level of dedication required to complete a full overhaul mod.
The number of companies that release mod tools has been steadily growing this generation. I hope that this trend continues as mods can be an excellent way to add free content to a game. Some larger companies worry that promoting modding will cut into DLC purchases. While modding combats retarded DLC like vanity items, companies like Bethesda and Fireaxis have proven that modding works well with DLC that is focused on story and gameplay content. I hope that the next era of consoles can finally bring modding to the living room, and with consoles becoming closer to PC, this may become a reality. Now, LusiHitlers, how have mods/hacks altered your experience with a game? Also, do you feel that modding will be the next of the PC-exclusive features to fall?