Free Engines And The Future Of Modding?

By Jim Rossignol on November 10th, 2009 at 12:04 pm.


When Unity 3D went free a friend of mine started playing around with it and voiced the opinion that mods would now increasingly become free or indie games, because here was a 3D engine that was so easy to use, and so straightforward to port assets into. Then we had the UDK announcement, which gave us modder’s favourite, the Unreal Engine, as a free platform. So what does that mean for the future of modding?

I’d always presumed that modding was so popular because it was a shortcut to professional-grade 3D engines. It was a step-ladder, a short-cut, not only to the technology but also to the tools needed to make use of it. Now, however, we have a situation where those engines are not only free to use, but also stand alone: you won’t need your players to own an Unreal game to play something made with UDK. With open stuff like Ogre, and free stuff like Unity, we now have an embarrassment of 3D engine riches, and it seems to me that modding teams will indeed stretch their ambitions that bit further to move their activities over to these engines, and own their work. Crucially, their efforts no longer need be confined to particular communities: they can make games in UDK and anyone will be able to play them.

So what does that mean for modding? What fraction of the current modding community would or could step away from their parent games and develop for these platforms? And would that end the likelihood of there being another Counter-Strike or Killing Floor? Why would the talented few sink their time into yet another mod, when they could be aiming for their own indie game using a free engine?

Modding has already seen something of a decline as engines have become more difficult to work with – the thing Carmack was talking about with the difficulty of introducing new tech to modders and amateur designers. Combine this with games increasingly closing off areas in which modders could work – as in the case of MW2 – and are we at the end of the great modding arc?

Of course I expect that as long as the PC exists we’ll get tweaks and alterations for existing games – those compilations of alterations and unlocks that make Stalker so complete, for example, or the balances generated by the community for Total War games – but what of the most vital life-blood of the modded games: the total conversions and remakes? What modding has done best is generate those impressive titles that occasionally break through the meniscus of amateur ambition and into commercial production. Titles that inspire commercial development. Will modders not now move their ambitions on to these new 3D engines? And will that be for the good, or the detriment, of the PC as a gaming platform?

I’m asking you, Internet, because I really don’t know, and I think the question needs to be asked.

, .

92 Comments »

  1. Mike says:

    Bear in mind that many mods were born out of love of the original – some keep the spirit of the game in mind, others try to enhance, or remake. Mods also allow access to a lot of game content – UDK won’t ship with the wealth of models that the Source SDK does, for instance, and Unity is devoid of any useful content whatsoever.

    I think it’s going to hit the community that bridges modders and indie gamers. People like the Natural Selection guys (or rather, the NS guys two years ago) who are making total conversions of games and have the manpower in place to make the move to self-supported development.

    It’s interesting, as you say, that so much is being offered. Why? A friend of mine tells me that the small print for Unity3D declares that you’re royalty free until you make $100,000. I’d imagine it makes perfect sense to throw the tools out there, because once or twice a year you’re going to get an indie game that hits the big time and makes a large amount of money.

    So I’m not sure we’re going to see a massive shift in what’s being produced. But for a few teams, it’s going to make a big difference.

    • CMaster says:

      Hardly smallprint the liscences page makes it pretty clear that the free version is only for small-time development. I think its more about getting their tool out there and used and seeing good work done with it, as well as the development of a strong community to help their users as anything else.

    • Agrajag says:

      Mike has a really good point about the content. The main things that enables mods to be created in a relatively short time, is the vast amount of models, sounds and textures. TCs have a much longer time-to-market since they have to create a lot of original content.
      What I find interesting is the idea that this move opens up room for resource generating community or commercial packages with similar licensing method.

    • Premium User Badge

      Flimgoblin says:

      tbh if yer making $100k in turnover you can probably manage $1500 for a license for unity pro. Note that unlike Unreal3 engine it’s a one off license, not a 25% revenue share…

    • Jazmeister says:

      @CMaster Yep they’re just trying to get their tool out.

      *chortle*

  2. CMaster says:

    Making a mod for an existing game has (traditionally at least) also given you access to a ready-made community of some sorts. Of course, it also closes off your maximum potentiol audience.

    It is worth noting that this does seem to be that TCs are moving away from being tied to an individual game and more towards the whole thing they always wanted – the technology. UE3 TCs, provided they entirley use their own content are now free of any one game. Source TCs for a while now are able to require only the ownerships of one Source game. Perhaps in response to these latest motions, Valve will relax even that requirement.

    Erm, have I actually made a coherent point there? In short: yes, what were previously Total Conversions will be increasingly marketed as entire games (which they always were really), and Source TCs have already been seperated from any one individual game, will be nice to see UT3 ones going the same way. But modding a successful game isn’t about to go anywhere. It gives you a ready audience keen for more of something not quite the same, but similar and lets you build on established content and setting, which in itself can be valuable.
    So yeah, if stuff like UE3 and Source graphics, networking, input etc is all available for completely free then I can see developers moving away from modding when they want to create something with a total conversion scope. I think this is far from the end of mods mind. Stuff like Synergy and Minerva and FragHouse’s Invasion still rely on expanding the core game, and hence require the core game. Mod developers still don’t have the time or skills to make tools for themselves, so they rely on the good tools that come with these engines.

    • Theory says:

      I want to point out that the shared SDK game provides all of HL2′s code and content — it’s not a blank slate like UDK and Unity. The only thing you don’t get are the game’s maps.

  3. Batolemaeus says:

    I think mods have become victims of their own success. Mods need to build a community, especially multiplayer mods need a solid player base. As modding became more and more popular, gazillions of mods came up and every new game had modding support.

    This sounds like a great thing, but the community got spread too thin. Back in the glory days of mods there weren’t a lot of them, and not a lot of platforms. It was easier to acquire critical mass of players on your servers. Today, mods just die very fast because the “market” is over saturated.

    • Rostock says:

      I agree. Hopefully a bunch of good mods will emerge again, like we saw in the days of Half Life. Sadly it feels like the huge community died a bit with Half Life 2, not because of the game itself but some of the mods became so ambitious. I know several mods that I anticipated greatly back when Half Life 2 came out, none of which are even close to a proper release. I can’t speak for Unreal mods but they don’t seem as prominent as they were either. That’s not to say no good mods have been released since then.

  4. Wilson says:

    I can’t see it having a negative effect on free/indie stuff being developed as a whole. Hopefully it will just improve the quality and/or quantity of free and indie releases. I suppose it might mean we get less free stuff, because if you’ve used Unity or UDK to make your game, you can now charge for it where you can’t with mods. But I think plenty of stuff will still be released for free, even if only as a kind of demo for another more detailed product later.

    I’m hoping it will all be a very good thing for the PC as a gaming platform. At least no obvious reasons spring to mind for me as to why it would be a bad thing.

  5. James G says:

    Don’t forget that while a bit dated now, the Quake 3 engine has been freely available for a while now. I’m actually slightly surprised that we haven’t seen it being used more often than it has been.

    • Tei says:

      It seems that the games that has spawned are less popular thenselves:
      – Urban Terror
      – World of Padman
      – Tremulous
      – OpenArena

    • M.P. says:

      I’ve heard some great things about Urban Terror actually, though I haven’t gotten round to downloading it myself.

      Just to clarify though, is it just the Q3 engine, or the game’s assets too, that are freely available?

  6. teo says:

    I think that must be the most used screenshot in the history of screenshots

  7. phuzz says:

    How long until Source is supplied under the same type of license? (or is it already?). Valve are fully aware of the cash to be made from mod teams (Counter Strike anyone?)

    • CMaster says:

      As I mentioned above, Source Mods (or at least those given Steamworks access, not sure if in general) merely require you to own one of these games. One can only hope that Valve make the liscence even more general in future. Also, there is no option to use Source commercially yet from a modding background, but I am sure valve would be very open to discussions.

    • Poindexter says:

      @CMaster RE: Commercial Source Games

      Valve actually does allow other developers to use the Source engine commercially. Unfortunately the only example I can come up with at the moment is Zeno Clash. But I’m pretty sure other non-Valve games use the Source engine too.

  8. The Sombrero Kid says:

    to my mind the lines between full game developer and modder were becoming blurred, as time went by you couldn’t do a total conversion without the skills of full game development.

    Unity being as polished as it is, is an attempt to redress that balance and unreal 3 going free is a reaction to that and the fact that unreal 3 didn’t take off the way they’d hoped.

    Epic rely on developers and future developers being used to thier tools, if unity takes the modders they could take the game developers of the next generation.

  9. Tei says:

    Making a mod for a existing game, is making a mod for a existing fanbase. Around 30.000 guys that already have the game, and may download your thing and install it. Modding is creating stuff for these 30.000 dudes. These people is somewhat like a “captive audience”. Most RTS conversions mods suck, but people still download these, and give to the mod a oportunity. This a lot more than what people will dedicate to comparetibelly much better RTS *games*.

    Making a standalone, mean you start with a pool of 0 dudes, but what you can get is unlimited. You could be more popular than jesus, if your standalone mod “deserve it”.

    Making mods or standalone mods could be good training for modelers, mappers and these type of artist.
    But is not good training for programmers.
    A programmer can learn more making 3 tetris and 2 abstract shotters, than 1 big “Modern Urban Tactical Unsuspect Warrior” 2GB standalone.

    • AndrewC says:

      Also, for publicity: as a Half-Life mod is still, sort of, Half Life, which means stories and tags and page hits and so on.

      However: these all seem like very sensible reasons, based on very smart forward-thinking on the part of the modders.

      If you dig through youtube, or devaintart or the portal for user-generated content of your choice, what you will get is endless homanges, pastiches, fake trailers, remakes, re-imaginings, slashfic and recycling of exactly the same characters and situations: Batman, Star Wars, Lego, Harry Potter, large ladies with cat ears. Not only are there very few original ideas, but the pool from which most ideas are borrowed is very small.

      People are far more comfortable with or, possibly, only capable of, playing around in someone else’s sandpit. The parasitic nature of mods is here to stay.

      I reckon.

    • Tei says:

      “People are far more comfortable with or, possibly, only capable of, playing around in someone else’s sandpit. The parasitic nature of mods is here to stay.”

      For a programer, making a lego clone is not a originality lost, since how is implemented could be original (original for him, maybe other programmer have implemented it the exact same way.. but I digress..). For other type of dev could be somewhat like a oportunity lost.
      A programmer could make a really alien game. Like the “God vs Bad” standalone mod.

      Whould people play it? less than you think, since is not in the “confort area”.

      So, not only some (not all dev’s) want to play in the “someone else’s sandpit”, but users also want to play in the “someone else’s sandpit.”.

      http://sourceforge.net/projects/gvb2/
      Good vs Bad was too original game.

      Is not that dev’s suck. Is that people suck.

    • AndrewC says:

      You seem to be arguing that some developers aren’t people.

    • Clovis says:

      “Modern Urban Tactical Unsuspect Warrior” and “Womens Fight on Mud” are the best game titles ever and I want to buy them now.

      See Tei’s comment here for an explanation of the latter.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Here, specifically – and I find it alarming that we’re cross-referencing Tei’s comments. Is this going to be an ongoing thing? Should we build an archive of Tei-comments, for easy reference? These are important questions.

    • Bret says:

      Of course some game devs aren’t people. Some are highly sophisticated AI constructs.

  10. Heinz2001 says:

    Bear in mind that Modding means Modification of existing Games, not the creation of new ones.

    I think you can’t compare UDK and Unity3D Gameengines with Ogre3D which is only a Rendering Engine (it’s not a Gameengine – no networking, sound, editors aso.).

    Also UDK and Unity3D are closed Source GameEngines. They are limited to the existing Environment and so the Games are limited to be playable at the current Environment.

    Ogre3D is opensource and you can even port it. Also in Future. Thats a big value if your Company starts to develop with an Engine.

    Think of using the free UDK. You invest much time get checkout how UDK works and get best results out of it.

    But what do you do in about 3 Years? UDK is nowadays state of the art, but in 3 Years?

    UDK and Unity3D are nice to checkout Pro-Editors and Tools. But i think they are too limited.

    • Mike says:

      The “mods are modifications” thing is just semantics, really. We mean content creation using an existing game’s tools.

    • Tei says:

      You can make creations using the notepad (ex: editing the ini files of Gratiouts Space Battles). I don’t know what you mean with “content creation using game tools”. The notepad is not a game tool. A compiler is not a game tool. And calling a ini file “content” is undescript , so everywhere you see the word “content” you can replace it by the word “stuff”, nothing changes.
      Modding may also create his own tools, like the QuakeC community did creating IDE’s for the language, and other communitys do, creating uncompilers and uncompressors for the original pak files. So the “existing game tools” sould be “game tools”.

  11. cyrenic says:

    Regarding the issue of complexity, I think the answer is just better mod tools by the developers. Not every developer will do this, certainly, but games like Starcraft 2 and Elemental: War of Magic look like they’ll have excellent mod tools.

    We’re also seeing developers do novel things with mods. Elemental looks like it will integrate mods a lot like Spore did with its custom creations, and Starcraft 2 will allow modders to charge for content, which will at least be interesting.

  12. Azazel says:

    Everything after Hammer was the point where I got left behind by the escalating difficulty of crafting something half decent.

    At that level of engine complexity I could at least make something and put it out into the public domain and have it look half-way like a professional job. Even if all I ever did was remake some of my favourite maps from back in the Quake days it still felt good to have contributed something – however small – back to the community. Can these standalone ‘mods’ foster the same sense of community? Will their players themselves be able to contribute anything back? Should be interesting to see.

  13. Schmung says:

    We’re in a weird transitional phase with mods. The level of technology you have access to now is stunning, but so is the skillset required to work with it and more importantly the time. You can’t build a game in a reasonable time-frame working part-time with something like UE3 as it’s just too much work. If people are making professional quality stuff for UT3 based games then it likely means they’re a professional or looking to become one and thus they will bugger off in the middle of development. The obvious solution is to make things simpler and downgrade the visuals and complexity a bit so that you can iterate more quickly, but Joe Public no longer seems willing to tolerate games that are essentially a work in progress and the audience for any potential game is always becoming more fragmented and difficult to capture.

    I sound a bit bleak and I think that perhaps that’s in response to my own experiences with the Half-Life/Source engine mod scene and the amount of effort I’ve seen put in that’s pretty much wasted. Thus it has always been with mods to an extent – enthusiasm can dwindle and people move on, but it’s worse now because the expenditure of time is so much greater.

    I think in one of these discussions a while ago someone mentioned free content packs and the like so that people could get up to speed quickly and block out their ideas without having to resort to modelling, texturing and animating another set of MP5s, M4s and so forth. It’s a nice idea that I can’t see gaining traction for a couple of reasons; peoples expectations are now so high that seeing that content again will turn a certain number of people off and I think that there’s a tendency among teams to want make something that’s very distinctively their game with it’s own look and personality.

    I’m rambling a bit here and I’ve the feeling that I’m repeating myself from previous posts I’ve made about this sort of thing, so I think that for the moment I’ll just my piehole because I don’t feel like I’m any nearer drawing a conclusion on the subject – let alone offering any solutions or suggestions. Apologies for dodgy sentence structure or missing words as I’m truly awful at proofreading anything I post.

    • Tei says:

      It seems that something got lost in translation from the Quake modding scene to the Half-Life modding scene. Why not a “single weapon” mod? like a mod that adds the phisic gun for HL1, or that add the ability to summon a friendly headcrap. There are great Quake1 mods that where made in a single day. Maybe the modding scene sould be more like these Indie games, where stuff is not AAA, but is fun to play and fun to make.

    • Schmung says:

      Yeah, Quake was a golden age. Huge productions like Quake Rally and Airquake sat nicely alongside five minute efforts like exploding nails, attack dogs called Cujo and pipebombs.

      I’m not sure how you persuade people to make and play these things though or if there’s even a market for it – especially when anything Source based takes five bloody minutes to load.

    • James G says:

      Look at things like Oblivion and Fallout 3 though and those mods still exist. This is probably due to things like the ease of use of the GECK and the like.

      More currently, Torchlight looks to be already garnering an interesting modding scene.

    • Schmung says:

      I have to admit my perspective is very constrained on this – I’ve never really looked outside of FPS games and never taken a massive interest outside of Quake > Half-Life > Source for reasons that aren’t really relevant here, so much of what I say is based on those games.

  14. Player1 says:

    When i read that the UDK was going free i thought: dear mod teams, port and revive Tactical Ops (the original), Air Buccaneers, Hollow Moon and what not. I think there aren’t many engines really suited for a lot of mods out there. I guess the Quake engine (Smokin’ Guns, great great game), the Source engine and of course the Unreal engine have had the best mods so far. Ah, if Dice could only open up one of their older Frostbye engines… dreams could come true.

    • Azazel says:

      If we’re doing a role call then let’s not forget the Infinity Engine. The Darkest Day for BG2 has to be up there with the highest quality mods yet produced. We can only hope that the Dragon Age tools can be put to similar use.

      Another thing: It’s been a while since I’ve heard the term ‘Total Conversion’ being used. I wonder when that distinct term fell out of common use? Maybe it’s that everything now is pretty much a TC. It used to be kind of a badge for scale of ambition back in the Quake days.

  15. tom@nullpointer.co.uk says:

    Hmm,

    Well you have modding built into core gameplay now anyway at least in some cases:
    Little Big Planet, Spore, Line rider etc, are essentially construction tools where modding stuff IS the game.. Expect to see more of this in the future imo.. The traditional line of FPS style modding seems to be turning into a training (indoctrination :) ground for future game dev employees and University games design courses.
    This is probably tied into the fact that most modding tools are overwhelmingly ‘level editors’ not ‘gameplay editors’ nowadays, this ties into their increasing role in education as box ticking ‘games engine’ design tools for students. The more you restrict a modding tool to reflect its parent franchise (including the genre format), the more loyalty and brand extension you can rely on, but the less creative range is available.

  16. Ging says:

    UDK being free to all is probably not going to encourage more mods to appear out of thin air – but it is however going to encourage all the teams currently working on the huge UT3 mods, who’ve shown carefully crafted clay renders and some level mockups in the past couple of years to shift across to UDK so they can put up news posts saying they’re going commercial. You might see more indie releases through UDK or Unity, but I’d be fairly surprised if it was more than a handful.

    In a lot of ways, mods going commercial has nearly killed the modding scene – it’s not complex tools or a lack of content that’s done it, it’s all the teams who have gone “we’ve got this amazing idea, let’s spend the next 3 years creating something perfect to try and sell it”. Sure, you get the the odd gem that pops up and does good things but it’s pretty rare for a mod to arrive on the scene without the motive of it earning money being there somewhere in the background.

    That sort of depresses me – well, until someone appears at my front door with a suitcase full of cash so they can sell the hidden, at which point I shall becoming fully supportive of mods being made to make cash.

  17. MadTinkerer says:

    This isn’t new. For starters, Carmack has made each of the Doom and Quake games open-source as they get older. There are also tons of 2D SDKs and game compiling applications (of which Game Maker is one of the best) and genre-specific toolkits (RPG Maker series). Then there’s stuff like Inform, a platform-independent programming language for interactive fiction.

    Then there’s Gamebryo (which I don’t know anything about but it’s come up a few times), Torque (powerful but costs more than free), and other affordable 3D engines.

    The only thing that’s new about Unity and UDK is that they’re really, really shiny as well as free. Which is no bad thing if you have the art resources to take advantage of it, and kinda sucks if you don’t have the team or the means yourself to make nice shiny models. They’re not particularly revolutionary, but they do look like very good tools for what they do.

    • kyrieee says:

      You’re not seriously comparing Carmack releasing source code for 6 year old games with Epic releasing a current gen game development toolset are you?

  18. Heinz2001 says:

    The first inGame modding was Ultima Online where players are able to build houses :-D.

    Now some guys translated the uo 2d thing into 3d called Iris2.

    Is this modding?

  19. pepper says:

    I dont really see this happening yet, some will, most wont. Why? Free engines have been around for ages. Ogre.org is one that comes to mind when talking about a quality engine. So if people really want to have there mods standalone then they will develop for a engine like ogre in the first place.

    Mods have a strong user base readily available, which is much harder to archive through using a engine like ogre.

  20. Cooper says:

    Total conversions are hardly that rare

    The source engine, at least, seems to have spawned a whole range of total conversions. Recently we’ve seen The Dark mod (albeit belatedly) released.

    Also, I’m not sure these total conversions based upon publicly released SDKs even count as ‘mods’.
    Is Thief3 a mod, is Batman: Arkham Asylum a mod? Both are based on an unreal engine.

    When the Quake2 engine was similarly released publicly a whole bunch of standalone games came out. Some are still going (I’m, in particular, keeping and eye on UFO: Alien Invasion).

    I’m not sure that we are getting less total conversions or games based on public SDKs than we ever used to.

    Total conversions by modders, due to the nature of the modding scene, were only ever rarely completed, and often released years after the tech they’re based upon had been superceded.

    Rarely do we get timely releases (Black Mesa stil ‘due 2009′ – but most of the team behind that are professionals).

    I don’t think we’ll see any serious public-release SDK based games for the recent UDK release for a couple of years. But we will see them. There will be a few gems, and untold numbers of games stuck in development hell. And there will be games that are in active development for years and years but still may never see a v1.0 release.

    I don’t imagine there will be less of them as before, because the numbers of games (rather than mods which use assets of a commercially released game) released via public SDKs has always been tiny.

  21. M.P. says:

    I agree with earlier posters that the quality of a mod will only get it halfway there, and the other half depends on the game it’s based on having a large, established userbase who are likely to download it. Ergo, these engines being available for free is likely to only help indie developers rather than modmakers proper.

    I’d like to qualify that, however, by adding (and this is pure speculation) that the userbase of some games will be more likely to download mods than of others. I just don’t see the MW2 audience being that interested in mods, for instance. And, while there are millions more people who game nowadays than there were back in ’92, there are also a lot more games between which this audience is fragmented. So I really don’t see any mod acquiring the runaway success of the ones that made it big back in the days of Quake and Half Life.

  22. Sanxo says:

    I’m not sure that UDK is particularly limited really – they distributed whizzle to demonstrate that you could do more things with UE3 than generic FPSs. UDK works fine with Win7 which is going to be the mainstream desktop OS for many years.

    Tools like XNA, UDK etc will gradually kill off toolkits like Ogre3D – who but the most diehard open-sourcer will choose inferior kit?

    • Tei says:

      “Tools like XNA, UDK etc will gradually kill off toolkits like Ogre3D – who but the most diehard open-sourcer will choose inferior kit?”

      Will you make games with XNA?, I feel fear just *imagining* the dependencies and installation hell of *that*.

    • pepper says:

      Ogre is anything but inferior, its even used in commercial games.

    • Nerd Rage says:

      I’d have to double check to be sure, but I’m pretty sure the dependancies for XNA actually aren’t that bad. You just need .NET and the XNA redistributable runtime. So there’s one additional step there (or if you somehow are still running windows without .NET, there’s two steps), but it’s equivalent to installing DirectX.

      Back on the original point though, it’s not fair at all to compare any of those things mentioned to one another. XNA, Ogre, and UDK are entirely different things. The only commonality is that they are all associated with games. Thinking one can replace another is like taking a programmer and asking them to do your network tech’s job, just because they both work in the IT department.

  23. Heinz2001 says:

    Anonymous Coward said:toolkits like Ogre3D –

    Ogre is no toolkit! Ogre3D is an 3D Rendering Engine still used for more than only Games like "Live Interior 3D" or Medical Software.

    Anonymous Coward said:who but the most diehard open-sourcer will choose inferior kit?

    Mh…many commercial companys like Runic, Deck13, Makivision Games ;) -> http://www.flickr.com/photos/35150516@N03/sets/72157613447657691/

  24. Schmung says:

    I wrote a chunk of my dissertation about this way back when the Quake 2 source came out – comparing it’s features and toolset with an open source jobbie (I think it was called Genesis) and the thing that I still remember is that the tools and support for Q2 were so far ahead of anything open source because you’ve got the success and support of the commercial product to build on. With UE3 this is even more true because there are so many games out there using it and there’s ample opportunity to interact with people in the industry who use it day in day out. You’ve got a far deeper base of knowledge to work with if you chose to use it, which is why releasing it free is such a big deal. It’s industry standard and as such is an excellent resource for people who want to use modding as a platform for getting into the games industry.

  25. Frosty says:

    I get the feeling that modding whilst not dying is changing it’s tune. I don’t think I’ve seen or heard much about any particularly popular multiplayer mods for a while (but I might just be ignorant and would be happy for someone to correct me or show me some examples). Far as I can see the mod community is all about those single player additions or total conversions now. Be it fixes for a game, finding lost content or giving a game a complete graphical and interface overhaul those are the types of modifications I regularly download.

    Is this more common now? Do lots more people flock to the upgrade mods as I would call them?

    • pepper says:

      The problem is the majority of the community is expecting the same quality for mods as for commercial games. Which heavily increases dev time.

    • Flint says:

      That’s funny, I’ve been thinking that modding has become more and more multiplayer centric, everyone wanting to create the next MP phenomenon while new singleplayer adventures or total conversions are almost unheard of with the more popularly modded games. Things like ye olde classics getting new clothes or the occasional big name SP mod for an older game, which you refer to, is a different thing of course and whilst completely accurate, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of one game to provide for both audiences like HL1 was.

      Of course, my ‘data’ is rather outdated because I just keep coming back to HL2. HL1′s plethora of singleplayer mods was replaced with a small handful of finished ones, none of which went towards the total conversion route.

    • Tei says:

      The players of a multiplayer mod keep doing “noise” and hiring more people.
      Theres probably out here people that have played 1 great singleplayer mod, and never tell to his friends, while the same guy probablly is still talking about that awesome multiplayer mod.

      A multiplayer game could be easier, since you could do 1 single map and 1 single model, and avoid doing any AI stuff. Is easier for a programmer to make a MP mod, than a SP one. The only thing that is harder on a MP mod than on a SP mod is debugging: you need another guy :-/ to do a 1vs1. While on a SP thing, you can beta test your own stuff (even if is a bad idea to be your own betatester) or submit your stuff to a forum.

  26. DMJ says:

    This is the new desktop publishing.

    Once publishing the preserve of the elite, now even my mother can put together a church newsletter without leaving too much blood on the keyboard. Now there is hardly a computer sold that doesn’t come with MS Office, and if you don’t have it (or want it) there is OpenOffice.org. The skills are taught in school. People do it for work, for fun, and for their own projects.

    That doesn’t mean that traditional publishing has gone away. Books and magazines and newspapers are still printed and sold.

    So shall it be with games. Games will still be made professionally, and the grass-roots will bubble with quirky physics sims, impossible you-shoot-them-ups, and niche games. And nobody will even notice it happening until it is normal.

  27. PHeMoX says:

    It’s quite simple. A free UDK version of the Unreal engine definitely will mean more MOD- style games will be made. Whether they will become successful remains to be seen. Lots of projects, very much like mods, will FAIL. That’s a fact. Hopefully there will be more finished games though.

    When it comes to mods in general, I don’t think it’s going to stop entirely as a lot of developers actually want to encourage it. The idea that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to MOD a game engine is false in my opinion, as it’s for more than 50% up to the developers to really support that kind of change.

    Some engines don’t allow anything, others hand you the tools the developers themselves used. That’s a world a difference, regardless of what Carmack claims.

  28. Blah says:

    Stop calling games mods.

    Fact is UDK is a platform for creating games, not mods.

    The benefit of UDK is that we will see more original and unique titles, not just the same old lame Counter-Strike type stuff, the navy seal vs terrorist type shit.

    • PHeMoX says:

      “Stop calling games mods.

      Fact is UDK is a platform for creating games, not mods.”

      Read my comment again fool. I said MOD- style games. Where do I say they are MODs?

      I’m well aware of what you get with the UDK, here’s a list:

      Unreal Editor, Unreal KISMET, Material Editor, Unreal Cascade, Unreal Lightmass, Content Browser, Animset Editor, Unreal Matinee, Physics Editor, Editor Playback.

      I still think that despite all this, that we’re going to see a lot of MOD- style (mostly FPS) kind of games.

      Which was basically exactly what I said already.

    • PHeMoX says:

      Also, it’s pretty plausible that we will see a flood of games that make a (Total Conversion or not) MOD of the UT Demo.

      Its perhaps less than a true ‘game’, but its the one starting point most will use to their benefit.

  29. Nerd Rage says:

    Ok, I’m dying to know… why do some people capitalize “mod” as though it were an acronym? As far as I know it refers to either a modification or a module, and in both cases that makes it an abbreviation. No need to capitalize.

    • Starky says:

      Man, how clueless are you, it stands for Modification of of Original Design – MOD.

      P.S. I totally just made that up.

    • Starky says:

      Damn those Of’ses, like buses you wait for one and two come along at once.

    • Klaus says:

      Can an acronym be made of the first word it entails. I believe I said that wrong.

    • PHeMoX says:

      I’m not capitalizing it because it’s an acronym or anything, I’m merely capitalizing for clarity and pleasure. ;)

      It’s pretty common for modders to talk about their project being a MOD, instead of a mod.

      But hey whatever you feel like writing is fine with me.

    • MD says:

      It might be common, but it’s still utterly ridiculous.

      And INFURIATING.

    • MD says:

      Seriously, I’m sure I’ve whinged about this in at least one other RPS thread, but as a reader it feels like every time someone gets to the word ‘mod’ they have an uncontrollable urge to SHOUT.

    • Nerd Rage says:

      I expect people to do as they please with the language while online. Without inflection or tone of voice, text isn’t nearly as communicative as spoken words (although some people do choose their words more carefully when writing, for exactly that reason), so attempting to add tone or inflection in an informal setting is entirely understandable. I’m just making sure there wasn’t some life changing aspect of game culture that I had somehow managed to completely miss.

    • manveruppd says:

      Could well be a recursive acronym like GNU :)

  30. TeeJay says:

    The game most crying out for mods and tweaks is Far Cry 2. Forums are full of wish-lists of things – many of which are fairly minor – modders would like to change, ranging from respawn times, light/dark levels, tweaks to weapons and damage etc. So many people are full of praise for the engine, assets, setting and general idea but are frustrated about various things that could be easily tweaked. I’ve read that Ubisoft doesn’t want to release the SDK as the Dumia engine is “too new”, but I can’t help thinking they are really missing out on something. Can anyone explain the thinking behind this, when contrasted with other developers who release SDKs an who would love to have so many people willing to put effort into customising their games?

  31. Fraser says:

    Counter-Strike aside, all mods are ridiculously obscure.

    Seriously. It might seem like a big deal, but even among regular gamers, probably 5% of people have ever downloaded and played a mod.

    I’ve never heard of Killing Floor and I read game news every day. Yeah, that probably means I’m not as “hardcore” as a lot of other people, but it goes to show that mods are a small-time thing in the scale of games overall.

    Opening up the tech will no doubt increase this audience who play games by would-be modders.

    • Jayt says:

      Bullshit statistic coming from someone who clearly doesn’t follow PC gaming closely.

  32. reginald says:

    one big advantage to making a Mod over making a ‘game from scratch using a free engine’, is that mods give you complete access to their parent game’s assets. if you look at Dear Esther, Radiator Stuff (handle with care), Research and Development, or even the TF2 hide n’ seek mod, they are using 90-99% of Valve’s assets.

    Modifying a game is important when you don’t want to spend two years making all of the brick, window, and concrete textures, just to build a simple street scene… or all of the grass, foliage, and trees for a forest scene.

    Look at how long black mesa has been in development, its because they’ve had to remake every single asset from scratch. black mesa has been in development for about the same amount of time that the REAL halflife took, and the black mesa team isn’t even working on major plot or game design.

    • jay says:

      Also Adam Foster and Minerva. He couldn’t have done that by himself (at least not in the same time scale) without all the Valve art content and code.

  33. MD says:

    @ M.P: Just the engine.

  34. jay says:

    @M.P.

    Just the engine.

    There’s open source replacements like Open Arena so you don’t even need Quake 3 though.

  35. bitkari says:

    There have been plenty of great tools available at little or no cost for years now.

    Properly motivated folk have been able to create whatever they please, and indeed some have.

    Having two more great toolsets available is certainly A Good Thing, but, be certain that the real barrier to entry is (as it has always been) skill and effort.

  36. AWOL says:

    I could be wrong here, but didn’t some MOD files originally have the file extension *.MOD?

    That would explain the capitalization, in the same way that we usually refer to executables as EXEs.

    • Nerd Rage says:

      This is entirely possible, some file extensions are acronyms — PNG is an acronym for Portable Network Graphics. MOD would still be an abbreviation though, just as EXE is an abbreviation for executable.

      Capitalizing it just to distinguish it as a file extension seems, to me, as though it is completely missing the point. Focusing on the wrong thing.

  37. Jayt says:

    Long live modding

  38. M.P. says:

    Maybe it’s a recursive acronym like GNU :)

  39. M.P. says:

    Ah, thanks, thought so!

  40. Ymght says:

    [quote]Bullshit statistic coming from someone who clearly doesn’t follow PC gaming closely.[/quote]

    How exactly do you “follow PC gaming”, Jayt ? By reading sites like RPS ? By talking with fellow gamers on Internet ? Here’s the deal : people who are going to take the time to speak up about video games are people who are more passionate about games than the average gamer. Then you get the really hardcore folks who will express themselves much more often and much more loudly than any other user, skewing any perception you might want to get from that even further.

    Meanwhile, professional studies have shown many gamers (between 40 and 60%) don’t finish their games. If a good half of the gaming crowd don’t even bother to play a game they bought to the end, what makes you think so many people are going through the trouble of getting mods ?

  41. Ninja Dodo says:

    Between Unity and UDK this could do for 3D indie games what Game Maker and Flash have done for 2D.

  42. Biz says:

    the bottleneck isn’t going to be access to engines or how open they are. it has been artists for quite some time now. every since graphics evolved to over hundreds of polygons per model the entry level for those total conversions has gone way up. programmer art doesn’t cut it.

    given that high quality artwork probably isn’t going to be generated I think the best solution is in-game editors. the RTS games have really been pioneers in this, and those “mods” tend to be the most efficient to create. they just aren’t recognized as total conversions, even though they have the equivalent effect.

  43. solarchakra says:

    was counter strike originally an a mod?

    • Starky says:

      Yes it was, and so was team fortress.

    • ToadSmokingDuckMonkey says:

      To be clear, Team Fortress started out as TF and then MegaTF, both Quake mods; they had many modes that would seem familiar, and a couple that you’ve probably never heard of. Team Fortress Classic was billed as a mod, but it was actually Valve’s apology note for promising TF2 for Half Life, and being unable to deliver. Day of Defeat also began as a mod for Half Life, before Valve swallowed the team up whole like it had with Gooseman (the individual most responsible for Counterstrike). Of course, later on Valve would absorb a group of students who had made Narbacular Drop, who were hired by Valve to create Portal; L4D was absorbed in a similar fashion.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      I think you’ll find TFC was VALVe’s way of showing people what was possible with their newly released SDK for HL1. TF2 wasn’t even mentioned until long long long after the initial TFC patch release.

    • ToadSmokingDuckMonkey says:

      In several magazine previews on HL1 prior to it’s release, Valve reps were quoted as saying that TF2 was in the pipe for Half Life 1. There were even screenshots in PC Gamer (US) some months after the release of HL1, showing a whole semi-futuristic proto-Battlefield 1942-style game, to be included as multiplayer for a future HL1 expansion pack. TFC was their way of backpedaling without breaking their promise of some sort of TF for HL.

  44. sebsauvage says:

    @M.P.:
    The engine is free, not the assets.

    Urban Terror is really a fantastic game: Fast, furious and lots of special move (there are even jump servers). There are more than 1000 servers on the net 24h/24. It’s a bit hard on the beginning (players on the net are good), but it’s rewarding to hold on.
    (If you are interested, I made a fews videos there: http://sebsauvage.net/v/urbanterror.html )

    Urban Terror has also departed from Quake 3 by using the ioQuake3, an improved opensource version of the original Quake 3 engine. Maps have been reworked to work without Quake3 assets (They are named ut4_*)

    You should try Urban Terror, it’s great. I’m addicted.

  45. friday says:

    I am waiting for…