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Mods: "Lifeblood of Gaming Industry"? 281

Jadsky writes "Salon is is running a story about how modifications to games are now the lifeblood of the industry. It cites "Day of Defeat", an add-on to Half-Life, and proceeds to give an analysis of the history and current work on game mods. It also mentions Castle Smurfenstein and the Doom Construction Kit, which many of us played with before there was z-space."
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Mods: "Lifeblood of Gaming Industry"?

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  • Tuxracer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Walterk ( 124748 )
    so where are the Tuxracer mods to support that?
  • Imagine that. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BLAMM! ( 301082 ) <> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @12:48PM (#3351265)
    Let people play *with* the game as well as *in* the game. And you still make money. If only other software companies would learn this lesson.
    • It would seem to me that other companies should be getting a clue just by watching other companies enjoy success as a direct result of mods. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Is there something intrinsically wrong with the system that other companies are so stuck in the cost/revenue/profit cycle they can't/won't step out for a minute and realize that they would be better off sharing development with players?

      I would like to propose a user-driven move for all software to be more like this but my faith in our ability to do such is waning...

    • Re:Imagine that. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tattva ( 53901 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @01:10PM (#3351481) Homepage Journal
      Your *asterisks* make me *wish* you understood html. :)

      Really, I don't know what you are complaining about. Microsoft Office and Visual Studio have tremendous scripting features, as does just about every major application these days. It's not like Valve gives you the Quake 3 engine source code, they just give you the data manipulation tools for the data on which that engine operates.

      • Asterisks (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by Rupert ( 28001 )
        Some of us were adding *emphasis* to our /email/ long before HTML was thought of. Typing habits are hard to break. Besides, typing * is a lot quicker than typing <b> and doesn't have the same catastrophic effect if you forget to close the tags.
      • I do understand html []. I'm just lazy.

        But point taken. (Although it wasn't really an MS crack, I should have known better on /.) I should have said "more software companies" instead of "other software companies". There are plenty of games that include level editors and such. I just wish there were more of them and that they embraced it as much as we see here.

        But to rebut your comment, Office and VB are designed (better?) to be data manipulation tools. Games aren't and it seems to me that companies would rather you didn't mess with their "private" files. That's just paranoid thinking IMHO.
        • You may understand html, but you failed to note that [] does not have the https port open.

          I'm sure there's a pithy comment I could make about encryption, security, and, but it just isn't coming to me right now.
      • *What* *do* *you* *have* *against* *people* *who* *use* *asterisks*? j/k
      • Check out Dungeon Siege [] from Gas Powered Games and published by Microsoft. This is the latest RPG and they knew in advanced about player supported expansions and I think will benefit greatly from it. I am already looking forward to some new mods. Several Ultima titles are already in the workings. Check out for more info on modding Dungeon Siege if you are interested.
      • Your *asterisks* make me *wish* you understood html. :)

        You're obviously *not* old school. *grin*

      • Re:Imagine that. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by argStyopa ( 232550 )
        It's simple; he's talking about all the damn games that ship with neither an editor or customization tools. For every Quake3 there are a dozen Cossacks or Baldur's Gates. There are mainly 2 reasons (IMO) that this is the case:
        1) marketing wonks decide that letting the players make more games means foreshortened revenue stream. These are the same idiots that think people will buy a 'scenario pack' at the store for $40. Tell you what moron, how about I take that same amount of money and just buy a different game?
        2) developers throw together tools to build a rough version of the game to sell to investors or publishers. Publishers bite, and developers jump into building the game. They work for many months on this labor of love. Finally, they start planning on what goes into the final master disk. Someone realizes there's enough space to include the devtools but whoops- these are the same crappy, kludgy, hard-to-use tools they've been using since before they had a publisher. Suddenly, the idea of nursemaiding 000's of gamers (some of the "cd-tray is a cupholder" variety) through using tools that, if misused, my seriously screw up the game, is much less attractive and the idea dies a quiet death.

        Both of these are patronizing. Give us the tools. Id proved with DOOM that even marginal access to the code under the game will ultimately extend the lifespan of the game tenfold. If I play a marginal game, but have no tools I play it and toss it in the drawer, never to be seen again.
        Give me the tools, and if I'm interested in the game I may try to make it better.

        Most of the bigger companies have NOT figured this out, to their woe.
    • Re:Imagine that. (Score:2, Interesting)

      Some software companies learn this lesson, and then forget it. Case in point Firaxis, creators of Civilization III. Civ II had tremendous flexibility to create new scenarios. It was and is a great game, and also has limitless replay value due to mods and scenarios created every week.

      Civ III on the other hand is crippled by shortsighted design. Sure it has a cool built in front end to modify the game rules. But the map creation utility is poor to point of un-usability. Add to that the inability to place starting cities and armies, and the Civ III scenario community basically can't exist.

      They learned the lessons, and then threw it out the window for unknown reasons.
    • About 6 months ago I bought Red Faction [] for the sole purpose of modifying it. My team chose this platform because the type of mod we wanted to produced would benefit greatly from the engine's GeoMod technology. To make a long story short, the games creators to my knowledge have never published any means to create mods beyond simple deathmatch variants. What my team had planned was quite an in-depth total conversion so we were forced to scrap the project. We're hoping the next engine from id, Valve, et. al will contain dynamic terrain so we can pick it up again, or that Red Factions creators will come to their senses.
    • They aren't reaching the vastly larger market of people who like to mod their games. They are reaching a market of people who like to play mods. Most gamers aren't the type to spend tons of times creating cool new maps or weapons or rule sets. They will however, play coutner-strike or scenerios created by other people. Game companies get free labor for developing a long term brand by helping out those who mod games.
  • TFC Rocks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by diatonic ( 318560 )
    I still think that Team Fortress Classic [] is one of the best mods ever done for halflife. It was the reason I bought halflife... I enjoyed playing TFC so much. I never played the single-player version of halflife... but the mod motivated me to make the purchase.
    • What is really funny is that it has been said that mods are in fact detrimental to the gaming industry and TFC and Counterstrike were cited as specific examples. The person that wrote the article (can't find it though) claimed that because people were playing halflife mods three years after the game initially came out (the article was in 2001, HL came out in 1998) was hurting the sales of new games. Why go spend $50 when I can play TFC for years? I loved the single player of HL, but TFC was what hooked me. My girlfriend still shouts "The flag is in the corner!" to mock me of my clanning days.


  • I remember playing a Wolfenstien3d mod that replaced most of the Nazis with Barney. I found it around 1993, but it had probably been around much longer. There was a lengthy story in which Barney incited the children of the world to revolt and kill anyone over 13. It came with a DOS-based text editor that "glided" text onto the page (scrolling was very smooth.) It was a really cool story, and I've been looking for that text editor for the past few years, but have been unable to find it...
  • It shouldn't be much of a surprise that mods help the gaming industry. Not everyone likes to sit back and be spoon-fed their entertainment; some like to actively participate and mold things the way they like. Others just enjoy playing in a manner the original developers never intended or thought of.

    I remember playing "Barney-stein" with the Beavis and Butthead guards and loving every minute of it!

  • by MrBlic ( 27241 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @12:53PM (#3351317) Homepage
    A game programmer friend of mine gave me a preview of Natural Selection [] and I am blown away by the amount of flexability that can be added to the half life engine. Charlie added a particle system for some smoke and dripping water effects. He made it more strategy-oriented by letting one player enter a control room where he can oversee operations and give resources and orders to the other players....

    It's a beautiful thing.

  • The Quake3 mods are far superior to the inept Half-Life mods which use (as the article states, the Half-Life engine, which, in turn uses the Q1 engine)

    If fellow /.'ers are interested in Quake3 mods, I recommend; similar to CheaterStrike, er, CounterStrike, but it's based off the Q3 engine, thusly, a far better experience. Note the screenshots of volumetric smoke and water with the lazer scopes. Very cool.

    ~[e]Nosferatu aka :
    • The Quake3 mods are far superior to the inept Half-Life mods which use

      Umm, Counter-Strike ?? by far THE most played mod EVER. The mod that was so popular, Valve sold it retail. The mod that is so "lame" Sierra is releasing Conidtion Zero, a Single Player game based on it. Guess those half-life mods suck.

      (as the article states, the Half-Life engine, which, in turn uses the Q1 engine)

      Half-Life is based on the Quake II enginge, not the Quake engine... if you are going to bitch about something, at least have a clue on the subject =)
      • Half-Life is based on both the Quake I and II engines. They (Valve) started work with Quake I and added in bits of Quake II where necessary.

        See PlanetHalfLife's FAQ [] for a bit more detail.
    • One of the big Advantages of Counter-Strike is that it is still playable on old hardware. P233 with no 3d accelleration? Fine - it'll still run!

      Sure, the engine (A Quake I/II mix) is quite old now, but the creators of CS have done an amazing job with it. The sheer quality of the textures and lighting is amazing. To be honest, from the looks of the screenshots, UT looks like it has a higher polycount, but I don't think the overall impression looks all that much better.

      Anyway, graphics can only count for so much. CS is great fun to play (I can't speak for UT, not having played it...), and CS is the most popular online game ever. I remember being amazed when I first tried Counter-Strike that there were over 20,000 CS servers out there. I don't think any other game has come close. CS is *BIG*.
    • Navy Seals: Covert Operations is the best Q3 mod out there right now, IMNSHOBIK. It's more realistic than the cartoony Urban Terror (or, god forbid, CS), and also more fun. Not to mention it's the only mod I've seen where teamwork consistantly spontaneously appears.

      Once a couple problems get taken care of (speed whores, for example), it will be a masterfull game.
  • by jerkychew ( 80913 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @12:53PM (#3351321) Homepage
    I think a perfect example of how vital mods are to a game is to look at Halo on the Xbox. I've been playing it for months, but it's starting to feel a little long in the tooth. Being accustomed to games like Unreal Tourney and Quake I/II/III, where there are literally thousands of add-on maps, characters, etc. online for the taking, I'm used to adding stuff to my games, keeping them forever fresh.
    Since Halo isn't (officially) online yet, there's no way to add mods or functionality. My use of Halo has started to taper off, while I still play Unreal Tourney pretty regularly. Not bad for a game I've had for over 2 years.
    • I've been playing it for months, but it's starting to feel a little long in the tooth.

      Don't nobody at Bungie care if you get bored of a game after many months. They businesses, and they in business to SELL games, not support them.

      You know you woulda bought that game anyway and you know you gonna buy the next one when it comes out too, cause it was tight when you got it and you already got a few good months outta playin it. That's all they was sellin right there. A game that would keep you instrested until the next new $hit come out. Ain't no money in helping your customers re-use the same played out $hit foreva.
      • Um, not exactly.

        Bungie is one of the few great gaming companies out there, despite now being owned by Microsoft. Bungie, much like id and Blizzard, care what people think about their games. They are not in it solely to make money. I've been a big fan of Bungie since I was a beta tester for Myth, and I'm still a fan of them today.

        Second, any first year economy major can tell you that repeat customers are worth more than one-shot customers. People that enjoy a game and keep playing it are more likely to come back and purchase its sequel. If you create your product correctly, repeat customers shouldn't be a problem, and those are the ones that cost less (in advertising, promoting, etc.)

        Interesting dialect, by the way.
  • I bought Quake 3 when it hit the shelves not because I thought it was good (indeed, as a game itself it is incredibly weak), but because I knew that Carmack and crew were bound to learn from the previous Quake experiences (Action Quake was one of the best games ever, but was a mod) and they'd make it versatile, and that they did. Now I'm a big fan of Urban Terror [] and it has made my Q3 purchase absolutely worthwhile.

    The saddest thing though is that mod workers are usually compensated by accolades alone: Urban Terror, as an example, represents an unbelievable amount of work and talent, yet while id is pulling in $50 from every player, The Urban Terror crew is pulling in nothing.
    • You make it sound like the id folk deserve nothing for the engine they wrote - the mods wouldn't be possible without the engine, and as you say yourself, the mods wouldn't be half as good if the engine didn't let mod designers do so much. I'm willing to bet that there's more people that can (or are willing to) create mods than advanced 3D game engines...
    • If you think the Urban Terror crew deserves some money for their hard work, why not send them a check for $10? Or use something like paypal.

      It's not like they'd refuse it or anything.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @12:57PM (#3351360) Homepage Journal

    But I don't think that that's the same as saying that they are the lifeblood of the industry. They do increase sales of some titles, but mods also mean that you don't have to buy more titles because the one game you purchased turns into more games, magically, and for free! Eventually it starts looking dated, and you start looking around for the next pretty engine with some cool mods, it gains weight (the mass of subscribers, though engines do submit to a bloating process over time) and the cycle begins anew, as one might say if one was feeling wanky that day.

    Basically, I bought half-life about when it came out. I played a lot of it. Then I played counterstrike, in the days before it was known as cheaterstrike; Before every asshole had an aimbot and transparent wall drivers - before the transparency drivers even existed. Now that it's been overrun by cheaters, I play Tactical Ops. I lost my HL CD key, and I don't even care.

    So now I'll be able to pretty much just play games on UT for a while... If I want an entertaining special forces tactical game, I play TO, and there's a bunch of other mods. Of course, nothing has been modded as imaginatively as Quake1, but who plays that any more? Besides me. But the point is, I won't bother to buy another FPS until the new ver of UT comes out... whatever they decided to call it. Is that healthy lifeblood, or just stagnation?

  • by chachi5000 ( 533103 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @01:00PM (#3351388) Homepage
    Unreal Tournament is a three year old game that is still very popular because of mods. Specifically in capture the flag mode (CTF), which was really an after thought for the game.

    The player/developer community work together solving CTF problems (spawn killing mods), creating new ways to play the game (CTF relics that enhance your character abilities) and making it more fun (StrangeLove Rockets you can fly around a board).

    Check out this site []. The bottom left side of the navigation has about 25 different sites dedicated to mods. Many of them CTF related.

    Great independant CTF servers like [] and [] contribute to the mod community. They give mods developers feedback and a place to test new ideas. Many of the mod developer s post regularly to the forums of these sites asking for feedback or ideas. Check out the mod forums of both CTF servers.
  • by Pvt_Waldo ( 459439 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @01:00PM (#3351389)
    They treat us MOD developers (like Day of Defeat []) VERY well, giving us resources, channels to communicate with each other (and them), tools, plus PR.

    If you've ever read the Clue Train Manifesto [], I think you might agree with me that they follow some of the Cluetrain Rules. Open things up, allow players and developers to talk, etc. How many game companies run mail lists where their own coders get involved with discussions with mod developers? If you didn't look at the 900 pound gorilla [] behind them, you'd swear it's open source or something :^)
  • What skills are useful? Any good books?
    Do you just download an SDK or what?
    • disclaimer: this only applies to Halflife because that's all I've tooled with

      First, download the full sdk []. Next, get a C++ compiler. Last I knew they promised compatability only with MS Visual C++. Next learn C++. :-) Lastly, go into the code, probably the weapon code first and change a value. Like change the damage values or the spreads. Recompile, play the game. Repeat but change a different value. Once you're comfortable mucking with that stuff, try mucking with the models. There are a couple good sites out there, here's one to start with []


  • Ambrosia Softeware (Score:3, Interesting)

    by the phantom ( 107624 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @01:02PM (#3351403) Homepage
    This is something that Ambrosia Software [] figured out a long time ago. They have produced some of the best Mac [the phantom ducks his head to avoid rotton tomatoes] games of all time. Some of the games that they have put out are truely amazing, such as Maelstrom (a really good Asteroids clone), the Escape Velocity Trilogy, and Ferazal's Wand (sp?). However, what has made their games truely wonderful is the ability to midify them. Escape Velocity Override was a great game, but you could only play it through a few times before everything had been done. But, there was the Frozen Heart plug, Femme Fatale, and several other complete replacements that forced me to pay for that little bit of shareware. And Ambrosia has been allowing users to modify their games for a very long time -- it seems to me that Maelstrom was one of the first, in the early 90s.
  • by ydnar ( 946 )
    What, no mention of Pinball Construction Set []?

    Besides the usual awful AppleSoft BASIC hacks, my earliest (and fondest) memories of game tinkering were with Pinball Construction Set's awesome built-in editor. IIRC, it was the first game to ship with out-of-the-box modding support. EA was way ahead of its time, one might say...

    Bill Budge is my hero.


  • by zaren ( 204877 )
    Ya know, it still sounds like an interesting game.

    I really wish that whoever was involved with the Mac port of it hadn't abandoned it :p

    At least I can keep myself occupied with "real world" mods for UT like Tactical Ops [] and Infiltration [].

    Aww, FSCK! []
    • The people doing the porting to Mac didnt abandon it, Valve killed the project. Andrew Meggs, a Logicware employee, was responsible for the Half Life port. He singlehandedly got it up to beta. It even included PC->Mac networking for multiplayer, which Valve had thought would be impossible to get working. Valve at this point realized that if Mac people could play PC people, that when the game got updated, breaking the protocol, Mac users would be wanting an update too, so they could keep playing. Valve knew they would not be releasing a new game for a few years, but rather would just keep updating Half Life... adding features, networking improvements, etc. Because of this they did not like the thought of having to pay to keep the Mac version up to date with the PC for a few years till they got around to releasing a new game. They decided it would be wiser to never let it get past beta, and just write the whole thing off as a loss. Logicware went under soon after. Nice story eh?
  • I think I had more fun with the "Simpsons" mod of Doom then with the actual game.
  • the player community. MMORPGs capitalize on this. MODs help encourage this. Just like the GPL, community helps the game grow.

    You could have the most advanced and spiffy game on the planet but if you don't design some way players can "contribute" to the game (or if the game attracks "ho hum" non modivated players) then it will fade into the background after a few plays.
  • My first "mod" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FurryFeet ( 562847 ) < minus threevowels> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @01:14PM (#3351517)
    Was accomplished with a hex editor on Jordan Mechner's "Karateka" for the Apple II. We started by changing the starting credits, so "By Jordan Mechner" became "by [insert your name here]". We were 11 at the time, and that was exciting.
    Then we discovered ehere in the disks were the sprites, and started to change them by trial and error. Not an ounce of artistic ability, too. So, we ended up with even crappier sprites. But "we made them".
    Ah, the memories...
    • Talking about Karateka for the Apple II, I remember seeing a mod that sort of looks like a walk-thru of the game in form of a movie.

      The fights in the movie are so funny you actually see enemies killed by the lowering gate and a lot of blood...the shoot-down-the-bird part is funny too. Anyone remember that?
      • Re:My first "mod" (Score:3, Interesting)

        by FurryFeet ( 562847 )
        My first memory of Karateka was actually what great graphics it had. Really, at the time they were amazing.
        Hated that damn bird. And the first time I ended the game (three of my friends eagerly watching) I had the nastiest surprise... anyone remembers what happened if you approached the princess in combat mode? >;)

        Yeah, she killed you with a well placed kick. We figured out it might be the fighting stance that motivated her, and I had the dubious honor of playing the game again (no save files) and enter walking, to actually save the princess.
        But I've never forgotten the shock of getting kicked in the throat by the princess exactly when I was feeling the rapture of conquering Karateka :S

  • by SkyLeach ( 188871 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @01:17PM (#3351530) Homepage
    That, IMHO, CounterStrike [] is STILL selling copies of Half-Life, while the game itself is getting pretty old. This is a proven case where a mod was more popular than the origional game.

    The even made a box edition because it was selling so well.

  • Day of Defeat mod (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iamr00t ( 453048 )
    It's a great piece of work.
    The best WW2 game I know. That includes realism in the first place. That's the key. Sounds, models, movements, weapons, how weapons work etc.
    Personaly, that's the only online game I play.

    Now, as for lifeblood...
    You know, from the developer point of view, the mod is created for particular game as a hobby of course, but you want your mod to be playable on as many computers as possible.
    And Half-Life exists on very many computers. It was game of the year by all accounts, and sometimes even for more than one year.
    And then Counter-Strike came (which is popular due to the same reason - popularity of base game). And even more people bought the game.

    Half-Life is 3 years old now. And it's not the same as it was. High-quality models, voicecomm and netcode fixes really transformed the base game. And mods take advantage of it.
    Actualy, HL it coming very close to what TF2 was supposed to be. Will we see TF2 as a mod for HL? ;-)
    The only problem is that it only supports 32 players.

    In the end, I (the consumer) win. Mods are free. Woohoo. I bought HL to play CS. Valve releases new patch with voicecomm. Free. I fed up with CS and switched to DoD. Free. Then they release new version (2.0), totaly new gameplay (and much better too). Free.
    • The 32 player limit is a pain. I think it should have thousands of players and you shouldn't respawn on overlord until all allies or axis are that'd be realisic :)

      I'm with you though - I was gonna get Medal of Honor and someone told me bout DoD. I was sick of CS as well, and have spent quite a lot of time getting my head blown off all over Europe.
  • Aliens TC (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chrysrobyn ( 106763 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @01:18PM (#3351536)

    Anybody else remember the Doom II Aliens total conversion?

    A friend of mine had found it, played it through, and told a bunch of us to set aside our Saturday afternoon for it. He was the computer attendant in one of the school's [] least popular labs and he told us he'd lock all four of us in while we played this game undisturbed. We were to bring headphones.

    With the lights off, and the headphones in our ears (no music), it was very easy to immerse ourselves in the Alien world we saw in the movies. We had precisely one rule: No respawning.

    I didn't find it extremely replayable, most of the enjoyment was based on having absolutely no way of knowing what would happen next. I was a decent Doom II player, but I didn't have a good familiarity with the maps -- I was roasted on maps that everyone else knew. This time was different, none of us knew the maps. It was the first time I played a co-operative game and had it actually work. And work it did! Looking like the dorks you see in the movies, we physically jumped back when some of those creatures came at us.

    I still tip my hat off to those copyright infringing guys. You are truly talented.

    • I remember the aliens TC for the original Doom. The first time I opened the doors on sub-level 37 and saw all the ichor, I shuddered, thought to myself "I'm never going in there", and let the doors close again.

      I never did finish the game. I always ended up out of ammo in the cargo bay, and Sigourney Weaver notwithstanding, you can't kill a mother alien with just an exoskeleton.
    • Re:Aliens TC (Score:3, Informative)

      by lpontiac ( 173839 )
      Anybody else remember the Doom II Aliens total conversion?

      Well, it originally came out for the original Doom. When Doom II came out, someone kindly hacked the files about so they'd work with the new game.

      Incidentally, if anyone feels like giving it a spin for old time's sake and has a copy of the DOOM wad files, go to Doomworld [] and download an OpenGL-enabled version of Doom, grab a copy of Aliens TC that's been modified to work with modern versions of Doom [] and let her rip :P

      I still tip my hat off to those copyright infringing guys.

      The term "foxed" was coined when Fox shut down the Alien Quake project. :/ Somehow, Aliens TC for Doom has managed to survive without any action being taken.

    • Yeah.

      That was the first time a game ever actually scared me.

      No monsters at all on the first map. I wandered around thinking I was missing something. Finally did the portal to the next map. Wandered around that a bit. When something finally did start moving around I almost fell out of my chair.

    • The Aliens Doom TC will be forever, in my mind, the mod that all other mods aspire to. Few games or movies scared the bejeezus out of me like the Aliens TC. For the time, it was the most realistic, immersive experience I'd ever had. After the first playthrough it wasn't nearly as good, as you knew what was going to happen, but that firs time through was something to be remembered.
    • A friend of mine did the audio for that. I used to play the normal Doom game just with the audio mod. The rocket sound was the best, using the dropship crash as the sample, complete with that peice of metal bouncing around at the end.

      I should encourage him to put that sort of old stuff up on his website []. He needs a good reason to update it.

      Meanwhile, my only contribution to data packs for existing games are a pair of DOS Monopoly packs [] based on the Star Wars Ep1 and Pokemon boards.

  • Speaking of which... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ronfar ( 52216 )
    I notice that Doom and Wolf3d have been ported over to the GP32. []

    Not a mod, per say, but this kind of amateur development is important, too.

  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @01:30PM (#3351662) Homepage Journal
    Give the audience the engine for graphics and menus, etc..., and what do they have left to deal with?
    Game Design

    So you have people that can ignore the months of engine building a tweaking, but, instead, spend those months on plot, balancing, and gameplay.

    Like DeusEx []? That's nothing more than a heavy UT mod.

    But I don't think this is necessarily a good thing. Now the gaming industry can't do what its done for years. They (meaning the publishers, ie - EA) always want a copy of the latest hit, for example, everyone wanted a "Doom" clone. This evolved to using the same system with a twist, like Doom with a plot where the plot isn't to kill things, but to sneak around (Thief).

    Now, they can't do that, cause some kids will do that, and release it for free.

    So, for the gaming industry to survive, they need to really innovate games, make them mod'able, and hope for the best. This is quite a new turn.

    It'll either kill the industry, or we'll see some majorly different games in a year or two....
    • People will pay money to play the same game, provided that the game engine is better. Since every game engine has its own inherent limitations, the drive in commercial game development will most likely be to develop good games on top of good engines.

      Of course, there are cases like Deus Ex (and many other games that borrow their predecessors' engines), but a game engine only remains viable for so long. The Half-Life engine, for instance, has been pushed to its limit, and it's unlikely that there will be any more hugely successful half-life mods. People will inevitably want to move on to things like the upcoming Doom 3 engine.
  • Quake1 MegaTF (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NiftyNews ( 537829 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @01:31PM (#3351664) Homepage
    I wonder if I'll get a response, but I played MegaTF for 4 years in college (ending 2001).

    Know what? It's based on the Quake1 engine. But it's a heck of a mod and the community kept it lively. Gameplay is king over graphics. Even 33.6'ers could join in and still participate in matches without fear of being owned by LPB's.

    God I miss that game. Sadly, after 6-7 years of development, someone discovered bunnyhopping and ruined it. Perhaps one day I'll return...
    • In the QuakeForge [] quakeworld server, setting no_pogo_stick to 1 will make bunny hopping much more difficult/less effective*. I found and fixed (actually, made it optional) the `bug' that allowed bunnyhopping. QuakeForge clients take note of the server's setting of no_pogo_stick and adjust their prediction accordingly.

      The reason I made the fix optional is while bunnyhopping unbalances games like TeamFortress, it's considered to be a perfectly acceptable skill in other mods.

  • N.E.R.D. [] is an online gaming community that provides players with tons of statistics & customizations for Counter-Strike which is a mod of Half-Life.

    It is all the mods to the mod that has made it one of the largest Counter-Strike communities in the world!

  • Not So. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EnglishTim ( 9662 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @01:39PM (#3351760)
    Licenses are the lifeblood of the gaming industry.

    Mods are bloody cool, but

    a) You don't get them on consoles, and console games make up the majority of games sales.
    b) They do add value to a game, but for the majority of games with modding ability, the reality is that only a small community of dedicated players actually make/use them.

    point b) is a good thing,as it means that the minority who are modding are actually concentrating on a small set of games, rather than being spread around between many games.

    The only game I can think of that has resulted in a measureably large increase in sales due to mods is Half-Life, as a result of Counter-Strike and TeamFortress. I suppose you could also say MS Flight Simulator is another example, but really - there aren't many. Quake (I, II, III etc...) have probably been helped by mods, but I don't think their sales have been driven by mods in the same way Half-Life's has.
  • 2 games series, mechwarrior & quake.

    Back in the days of 1996 you had two large communities. Quake and Mechwarrior. There were leagues for both, there were active online players of both.

    One you could expand (Quake) and one you couldn't (Mechwarrior)

    Quake community grew and grew and as the game changed and became more advanced so did those doing the mods, maps, and skins. They spawned Weapons Factory, Rocket Areana, Ubran Terror.. countless maps, and even more numerous skins. The code was open, the architectire was open(.pk3).We got statistical tracking, we got cross referencing those stats. Other game developers caught on and we got RTCW, MOH, DoD, and the one i'm hooked on..Kedi Knight 2: Outcast. Open game, active community.

    Now take a look at the Mech community, that was around at the same time. Everyone was in a clan, a huge percent of players were involved in leagues. The game wasn't open but the mechs were(a text file). That spawned mech editors, NAIS(mercs), cheat detectors, and mech organizers( i have 500 varients). That was it tho..untill Microsoft stepped in. Mechwarrior today has had all the "sim" like features stripped out of it, skins are difficult to make(they provide no blanks). There are 0 mods, there are 0 apps, it keeps log files in some non standard format...but uploads stats IN BINARY! to microsoft tracking servers(hacking would be against DCMA).

    so 2 genres, 2 communities starting at about the same time. Its pretty easy to see that its not "if you build it they will come" but rather "IF YOU LET THEM build it THEMSELVES, they'll come running!"
  • Garage Games (Score:2, Interesting)

    I'm very suprised that Garage Games [] was not mentioned in the article.

    They allow you to buy the source code to the engine that powered Tribes 2 [] for $100.

    Not only that, but they have released a project called Realm Wars []. This is a game that the community contributes to. If you bought the source code, then you can contribute source code. If not, you can still download the demo, and contribute SCRIPTS, artwork, models and more.

    It will be extremely interesting to see how this pans out.
    (as long as I don't get any UE errors)
  • by jilles ( 20976 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @02:08PM (#3352107) Homepage
    I must admit I always found unreal tournament a bit boring. However I've been hooked for months already on a modification for it: strikeforce. Without that modification (and many others), unreal tournament wouldn't have survived long on my harddisk. Strikeforce is an absolutely brilliant mod. Great maps, great gameplay.

    I had the same with the original unreal. Single player was fun while it lasted. After that I kept the game around to play the mods.
  • Civilization II (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chazzf ( 188092 ) <[cfulton] [at] []> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @02:09PM (#3352113) Homepage Journal
    I'm surprised no one has mentioned, but Civ2 is easily one of the MOST modded games ever. Six/seven years after the game was released, and after numerous clones/sequels, the game is still going strong (hell, I still play it on weekends).

    The reason it was modded so often was that Microprose made all the data files open (hmm, almost Open Source, in a way). While the engine was still closed, players could edit plaintext files to control it's behavior, as well as that of the units. The graphics files, for units, terrain, cities, even leaders, were simple GIF's that could be easily modified. Later, Microprose even added a rudimentary macro language for scenario builders.

    I have seen many truly remarkable Civ2 mods. Some people overhauled the ENTIRE game, replacing everything. Forget scenario editors, this goes way beyond.

  • I wonder...? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CleverNickName ( 129189 ) <wil@wilw[ ] ['hea' in gap]> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @02:16PM (#3352185) Homepage Journal
    You know, one of the reasons I've always liked PC games better than console games is the ability to get mods, updated rosters, etc., through the Internet.

    I mean, would anyone still be buying Half-life if we didn't want it to play CS and DoD?

    I wonder if, once we can have Linux on our PS2's, we'll see mods for GTA3 and the like.

    Does anyone know if it's possible to release mods for console games?
  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @02:29PM (#3352327)
    On the web, if you go for the few remaining gaming news sites, it is easy think that mods are the center of the universe. But then you look at where the serious action is in gaming:

    1. Big console titles like GTA3, MGS2, FFX, Halo.
    2. Monster PC titles like The Sims and Roller Coaster Tycoon. The Sims has sold over 6.5 million copies.

    then you get a different feeling. Are mods interesting and important? Yes. But lets not get carried away. In reality the communities surrounding games like Half-Life and Unreal tend to be self-serving and isolated, with notable exceptions (gotta mention Counterstrike). You just don't find all that much innovation in mods for, say, Unreal. Now, sure, the mod community will argue otherwise, but that's what I meant by "isolated."
    • I entirely disagree.
      The 'serious action' you mention prove it themselves. The console titles are inherently unMODable, but look at the game concepts: MGS2 (derived from Thief), Halo (derived from TeamFortress), FFX is essentially the tenth 'mod' of FF. The PC titles are even better: The Sims is blazingly customizeable (not the engine, but the superficial stuff that is amusing to those who play the Sims) and RCT is equally moddable with custom rides etc.
      Tell me how successful the Sims would have been if you get 2 people, 3 types of houses, 2 carpets, 5 pictures, and some furniture - and NEVER ANYTHING ELSE. Or RCT if you had only the default rides, no self-designs or importables.
      No, this precisely proves that customizability directly extends a games lifespan.
      • The 'serious action' you mention prove it themselves. The console titles are inherently unMODable, but look at the game concepts: MGS2 (derived from Thief), Halo (derived from TeamFortress), FFX is essentially the tenth 'mod' of FF

        MGS2 was the sequel to MGS, which was a sequel to the original Metal Gear on the NES. Even on the NES version of Metal Gear, stealth and sneaking by guards was a big part of the game. The NES version of Metal Gear was out years and years before Thief, so I don't think that argument holds. Also, Halo is really nothing at all like TeamFortress except they are both shooter games. If anything, Halo's a lot more like a single-player Tribes...Calling a sequel a 'mod' is pretty flimsy..especially since in the Final Fantasy games (BTW, I'm not a FF-fan, I liked the pre-FF7 games, but nothing since) the engine and the entire story and characters have changed each revision...The argument that games like The Sims and RCT have longevity because they are moddable on a personal level is true, but that's a different thing than what this article is talking about.

        While modding is cool, I have to agree with the original poster, its not 'the lifeblood' of the industry. Far more successful games are not specifically modable (without serious reverse engineering) than are modable.

    • I can't help but notice that your list of "big console titles" doesn't include anything more than a few months old. DooM was about as big in its day as any of these, and basically continued to be just as big for several years, until Quake took over. Considering that Half-Life uses the Quake engine, Quake is arguably still doing well today based on mods, after nearly 6 years.

      In 6 years, people probably won't be able to remember any of the console games (except for the FF series, which is pretty distintive), and few people will actually play them.
  • Regarding Wolf3D:
    It wasn't the very first first-person game-- that title belongs to "Ultima Underworld" (1992), released a few months earlier from Looking Glass Studios....

    Catacomb Abyss [] came out in December, 1991. Dig those EGA graphics!
  • Right now, mods come after games, basically just using their engines, then modding everything but the core engine itself.

    An upcoming title, Legends [] just may be the next step in the evolution of gaming. Basically a mod that just skips the first step of buying a different game just to get the engine.

    The game is based off the tribes 2 engine, and will be released for free. People can modify it however they want and contribute to the project in any matter they see fit.

    Will be interesting to see how their experiment goes. Could revolutionize online gaming, and change the way mods are developed forever, or it could fail miserably and accomplish little.

  • by WillSeattle ( 239206 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:23PM (#3352839) Homepage
    then The Sims would keep coming out with new "upgrades" or "add ons" every few months ...

    then Pokemon would keep having new "versions" every few months so you would keep getting new ones ...

    then AD&D would have kept coming out with new Books and Campaigns every few months since the dawn of gaming time ...

  • by Sj0 ( 472011 )
    Jesus! I've seen more patting on the back lately for mod makers, and frankly, it's making me sick. With Microsoft talking about paying modders for their work, I think many people don't understand what will happen when all this money and fame goes to a modders head.

    Alien Doom. Now there was a mod... :)

    though ZanZan is really f*cking cool for a Doom mod!
  • People always seem to forget Abuse (1995, Crack Dot Com, []) when they discuss 'moddable' game engines.

    When Abuse came out, to my knowledge, there were no other games with a built-in script interpreter. All of the game's AI routines were done in LISP, all easily editable by anyone who knew LISP (granted: most people don't know LISP), and the game engine has an integrated level editor. But this game came out a full year before Quake 1, and still never gets mentioned in these discussions. Hell, they even had a $1000 level creation contest when the game came out.

    Truly a shame, because it's a great game, and the engine was way ahead of its time.


  • Mods?

    Screw them, I've always seen myself as more of a rocker.

    Also, I was never a fan of their big coats and silly little scooters.
  • Think about it, you can sell X number of copies of your game due to your cheesy graphics and story (*cough* QUAKE *cough*) and then sell 2x more to die hard gamers who will download a free TC and replace your crappy creative work with stuff done by someone else. Basically you get paid for your engine, and somebody else donates the creative work for "cred". Not a bad scam. Maybe the TC folks get paid too, big friggin deal. Still, it's entirely reasonable given that game engines have separated the engine from the creative content for so long, to allow parallel development of the storyline and graphics from the rendering engine, combat system, etc.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire