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Video game modding (short for "modification") is the process of alteration by players or fans of one or more aspects of a video game, such as how it looks or behaves, and is a sub-discipline of general modding. Mods may range from small changes and tweaks to complete overhauls, and can extend the replay value and interest of the game.
Mods have arguably become an increasingly important factor in the commercial success of some games, as they add depth to the original work, and can be both fun for players playing the mods and as a means of self-expression for mod developers.
People can become fans of specific mods, in addition to fans of the game they are for, such as requesting features and alterations for these mods. In cases where mods are very popular, players might have to clarify that they are referring to the unmodified game when talking about playing a game. The term vanilla is often used to make this distinction. "Vanilla Minecraft", for example, refers to the original, unmodified game.
As early as the 1980s, video game mods have also been used for the sole purpose of creating art, as opposed to an actual game. This can include recording in-game actions as a film, as well as attempting to reproduce real-life areas inside a game with no regard for game play value. This has led to the rise of artistic video game modification, as well as machinima and the demoscene.
Popular games can have tens of thousands of mods created for them.
Many mods are not publicly released to the gaming community by their creators. Some are very limited and just include some gameplay changes or even a different loading screen, while others are total conversions and can modify content and gameplay extensively. A few mods become very popular and convert themselves into distinct games, with the rights getting bought and turning into an official modification, or in some cases a stand-alone title that does not require the original game to play.
Technical and social skills are needed to create a mod. A group of mod developers may join to form a "mod team".
Doom (1993) was the first game to have a large modding community. In exchange for the technical foundation to mod, id Software insisted that mods should only work with the retail version of the game (not the demo), which was respected by the modders and boosted Doom's sales. Another factor in the popularity of modding Doom was the increasing popularity of the Internet, which allowed modding communities to form. Mods for Quake (1996) such as "Capture the Flag" and "Team Fortress" became standard features in later games in the shooter genre. While first-person shooters are popular games to mod, the virtual pet genre with games such as Petz (1995) and Creatures (1996) fostered younger modders, particularly girls.
Mod-making tools are a variety of construction sets for creating mods for a game. Early commercial mod-making tools were the
By the mid-1990s, modding tools were commonly offered with PC games,
There are also free content delivery tools available that make playing mods easier. They help manage downloads, updates, and mod installation in order to allow people who are less technically literate to play.
Game support for modifications
The potential for end-user change in game varies greatly, though it can have little correlation with the number and quality of mods made for a game.
In general the most modification-friendly games will define gameplay variables in text or other non proprietary format files (for instance in the Civilization series one could alter the movement rate along roads and many other factors), and have graphics of a standard format such as bitmaps. Publishers can also determine mod-friendliness in the way important source files are available, such as Doom having its art assets separate from the main program, which allows them to be shared and modified.
Games have varying support from their publishers for modifications, but often require expensive professional software to make. One such example is
For advanced mods such as
A game that allows modding is said to be "moddable".
The game industry is currently facing the question of how much it should embrace the players' contribution in creating new material for the game or mod-communities as part of their structure within the game. Some software companies openly accept and even encourage such communities. Others though have chosen to enclose their games in heavily policed copyright or Intellectual Property regimes (IPR) and close down sites that they see as infringing their ownership of a game.
For cross-platform games, mods written for the Windows version have not always been compatible with the Mac OS X and/or Linux ports of the game. In large part, this is due to the publisher's concern with prioritizing the porting of the primary game itself, when allocating resources for fixing the porting of mod-specific functions may not be cost-effective for the smaller market share of alternate platforms. For example, Battlefield 1942, ported by Aspyr for Mac OS X, had file access issues specific to mods until the 1.61D patch. Unreal Tournament 2004 does not have a working community mods menu for the Mac OS X version and, until the 3369 patch, had graphics incompatibilities with several mods such as Red Orchestra and Metaball.
Also, mods compiled into platform-specific libraries, such as those of
Mod teams that lack either the resources or know-how to develop their mods for alternate platforms sometimes outsource their code and art assets to individuals or groups who are able to port the mod.
The mod specialist site for Macs, Macologist, has created GUI launchers and installers for many UT2004 mods, as well as solving cross-platform conversion issues for mods for other games.
Unforeseen consequences or benefits of modding
In January 2005, it was reported that in The Sims 2 (2004) modifications that changed item and game behavior were unexpectedly being transferred to other players through the official website's exchange feature, leading to changed game behavior without advance warning.
After the Hot Coffee mod incident, there were calls from the industry to better control modders. There is concern about mods that show nudity, and Bethesda does not allow mods with such content to be uploaded on its website. Nexus allows for mods which allow nudity as long as nudity is not present in the preview image. One of the most popular mods of this type is Caliente's Beautiful Bodies Edition, which allows for body modification in Bethesda's Skyrim and Fallout 4, and has been downloaded at least 8.2 million times.
In 2015, members from the Grand Theft Auto fan site GTAForums reported instances of malware being circulated through modifications written using the
The National Crime Agency of the UK has indicated that modding can act as a pathway to cybercrime for some people.
Motivations of modders
Mods can be both useful to players and a means of self-expression. Three motivations have been identified by Olli Sotamaa for fans to create mods: to patch the game, to express themselves, and to get a foot in the door of the video game industry. It has been noted that these motivations encompass intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Poor suggests becoming a professional is not a major motivation of modders, noting that they tend to have a strong sense of community, and that older modders, who may already have established careers, are less motivated by the possibility of becoming professional than younger modders.
One of the first games that supported user modifications as packaged was
Official status of mods
Mods can extend the shelf life of games, such as
Due to the increasing popularity and quality of modding, some developers, such as
For example, a number of fan-made maps, scenarios and mods, such as the "Best of the Net" collection and "Double Your Pleasure", were included in the Civilization II expansion Fantastic Worlds and the Civilization III expansion Play the World, and in the Civilization IV expansion Beyond the Sword, two existing mods, Rhye's and Fall of Civilization and Fall from Heaven were included with the expansion (the latter through a spin-off called Age of Ice). Sid Meier, who had opposed supporting mods in Civilization II, said that "the strength of the modding community is ... the very reason the series survived".
Legal status of mods
Copyright law, as it relates to video games and mod packs, is an evolving and largely unsettled legal issue. The legal uncertainty revolves around which party is legally the 'copyright owner' of the mods within the pack—the company that produced the game, the end-user that created the compilation, or the creators of the individual mods.
Some regard the fan use of copyrighted material in mods to be part of a "moral economy", and develop norms about the reuse of this material, often settling on a system of shared ownership, where mods and code are freely shared with the common good in mind. It has been argued that total conversion mods may be covered in the United States under the concept of fair use.
In 2006, part of the reason that Second Life generated interest was how user-generated content (mods) was central to the experience, and how the intellectual property rights remained with the creator-player. This was developed by the publisher into a market.
Controversy surrounding paid mods
In April 2015,
A total conversion is a mod of an existing game that replaces virtually all of the artistic assets in the original game, and sometimes core aspects of gameplay.
The Half-Life modding community splintered across the different total conversions available, often modding for a particular total conversion rather than Half-Life in general. Examples of famous total conversions include Counter-Strike (1999), whose developers were hired by Valve to turn it into a commercial product, Defense of the Ancients (2003), which was the first MOBA to have sponsored tournaments, and Garry's Mod (2006), for which fans created thousands of game modes over its decade-long development.
Many popular total conversions are later turned into standalone games, replacing any remaining original assets to allow for commercial sale without copyright infringement. Some of these mods are even approved for sale despite using the IP of the original game, such as Black Mesa.
An overhaul mod significantly changes an entire game's graphics and gameplay, usually with the intent to improve on the original, but not going as far as being a completely different experience. This can also include adding revised dialog and music.
Examples of overhaul mods include Deus Ex: Revision, which was given permission from publisher Square Enix to release on Steam alongside the original game, and GTA 5 Redux, which not only improves the original game's textures, but also adds a new weather system, visual effects, and adjusts the wanted system, weapons, and vehicle handling.
Randomizers are a type of user mod, typically atop games of the 8-bit and 16-bit generations, that keep the fundamental gameplay but randomize elements of the game to make it more of a challenge. Randomizers came out of the
An add-on or addon is a typically small mod which adds to the original content of a specific game. In most cases, an add-on will add one particular element to a game, such as a new weapon in a shooting game, a new unit or map in a strategy game, a new vehicle or track in a racing game, items in a game like Minecraft or Terraria, or additional contents in simulation games (such as new pilotable airplanes, e.g., the Airbus A330 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner). An example of a mod that adds functionality to augment or enhance a players experience is ComputerCraft; a Minecraft mod that adds programmable computers and robots to allow the player to automate tasks in-game. This can be accomplished without changing any of the original game's existing content. Many games are flexible and allow this, however that is not always the case. Some add-ons occasionally have to replace in-game content, due to the nature of a peculiar game engine. It may be the case, for example, that in a game which does not give a player the option to choose their character, modders wishing to add another player model will simply have to overwrite the old one. A famous example of this type of mod can be found for the Grand Theft Auto series wherein modders may use downloadable tools to replace content (such as models) in the game's directory. The Left 4 Dead series can also be modded with individual add-ons which are stored in a .VPK format, so that a player may choose to activate a given mod or not.
An art mod is a mod that is created for artistic effect. Art mods are most frequently associated with
Support continuation by mod
After EA lost its license with
IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover, released in 2011, received mixed reviews due to bugs and other issues. Modders fixed the game over time and received source code access, which led to an official re-release under the name IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover BLITZ Edition.
Following the closure of Ion Storm the source code to Daikatana was released to a select group of modders by John Romero, leading the version 1.3 patch, which also ported the game to MacOS, Linux and FreeBSD.
User interface mod
Mod packs are groups of mods put into one package for download, often with an auto-installer. A mod pack's purpose is to make it easier for the player to install and manage multiple mods. Mod packs may be created with the purpose of making the original game more accessible to new players or to make the game harder for veterans to enjoy.
- Adventure Construction Set, one of the earliest games for which user-created content was widely made and distributed.
- Cartridge tiltingwhich modifies a game with often unpredictable effects.
- Creative consumer
- Doom modding
- Fan labor
- Fork (software development)
- House rule
- Level editor
- Minecraft modding
- Modding in Grand Theft Auto, for more information on the GTA modding scene
- Mod DB
- ROM hacking, unofficial modding on consoles
- Skyrim modding
- Steam Workshop
- Texture artist
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