Modified: A look at user created alterations to games.

Unsure (and uncaring) of whether or not many in our class consider themselves gamers, I figured I’d talk about something that was very dear to me while growing up in the 90s; Video Game Modifications.

As discussed in class, modifying games, either via source code or eventually, graphically, began with games themselves.  Developers made modding possible by making the source code of their games or game engine available for others to manipulate and/or change in betterment or variation of the program.

Varying types of mods exist, including total conversion (complete reworkings of a game, its mechanics, and content; in effect creating a new game), add-ons (adding to the games content), overhauls (leaving the game as is, but changing some aspect of gameplay, e.g physics, graphics…), and “unofficial” patches (which fix bugs, glitches, etc., leave the game intact, but are not released from the game developer and are instead released by private parties).

Here is an example of each type of mod.

Bid for Power a Quake 3 ->Dragon Ball Z Total Conversion [youtube][/youtube]

Fallout 3 add-on Lookout Point [youtube][/youtube]

Elder Scrolls 3 graphics overhaul compared to original[youtube][/youtube][youtube][/youtube]

Link to unofficial patch info for Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines (which interestingly enough could be considered a total conversion of Half-Life 2, since it was made with the Source Engine)

Some others that I’d like to note include Counter Strike; Yes, Counter Strike was originally made as a conversion of the original Half-Life, and the Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II Restoration project; which took files within game folders that had seemingly no use, broke apart source code, discovered that it held story material and an entire planet that was unplayable, and pieced together what Oblivion (the developing company that released KOTOR 2) released as an unfinished game, making it all playable again.

Gameplay from the restored Droid Factory in KOTOR2. [youtube][/youtube]

The relevance of these two mods? The determination and desire of gamers to be given/have the opportunity to play enjoyable and complete content.

I remember another game, Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights, that provided users with an interface or modding tool set/construction set specifically for modding and most importantly, creating their own content/story/characters/etc. Based on, if not an offshoot of, actual Dungeons and Dragons rule sets, the fact that this game was an RPG made this possible. Aside from the popularity of Counter Strike, the content/wide array of differing stories, ideas, etc., that came through modding Neverwinter Nights, gave us gamers with a way to express our creativity, in a literary sense (e-lit even), for the first time (as far as I know), without needing a great deal of knowledge in the manipulation of code. Though, modding for joy’s sake is still fun, none the less!

Due to varying reasons, modding has been steadily on the decline. The blame could be placed on one specific example; the release of Grand Theft Auto’s Hot Coffee mod, (where its content, like KOTOR2, was already present in its code/archives), but I place it more so on pirating (people not paying for games = developers getting stingy with their work), combined with the idea of the DLC. DLC, or downloadable content, is much more readily available then mods were in the late 90s as well as a whole lot easier to apply to games (they install themselves where as with a lot of mods you had to put files in appropriate places/alter files/etc.) Since DLCs are released by the same companies that put out the games in the first place and since they can charge per DLC and make money on their modifications, why allow anyone else to do it?

There are however, still a few companies that will allow their consumers to mod games. Bethesda, the creator of the Elder Scrolls and Revamp of the Fallout series usually releases a tool set for their games. Valve too, with its vast history in having its engine/s modded, continues to allow modifications.

I leave you with a story created with Garry’s Mod (Half-Life 2), which allows for, mostly, messing with the engine’s physics.



  1 comment for “Modified: A look at user created alterations to games.

  1. February 18, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I’m not sure if you intentionally disabled comments on this blog entry, but I re-enabled them. Hope that’s OK!

    Anyway, thanks for this thorough overview of modding. I just wanted to add a couple to your list — examples where modding becomes a platform explicitly artistic or literary purposes or as a critical intervention (what, for instance, Alex Galloway has called “countergaming”).

    Velvet Strike, for example, uses Counter-Strike to stage an anti-war protest.

    The Stanley Parable (which I just learned about from some of my FSEM students) does some kind of experimental storytelling thing with the HL2 engine.

    It’s interesting when mods are used to, say, criticize the “military-entertainment complex,” but in so doing, stand on the shoulders of its technologies.

    That DBZ mod looks awesome, by the way.

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