Comedy And Tragedy: I Read Readme Files


Who reads readme files? Me. I do. I read a lot of readme files, from mods specifically. I’ve pored over hundreds, possibly even thousands, looking for weird and wonderful ideas, remnants of history, and fragments of human lives. I’ve kept a blog of interesting readmes for years and even talked about them at conferences, but somehow never really mentioned all this at RPS. Take my hand, dear reader, and soon I hope you’ll stop ignoring these two little words: read me.

The important thing to realise is that the readme file and its mod are separate, and one can be enjoyed without the other. Like any text, we can read a readme file and draw out threads that interest us, ideas we enjoy, and things we find funny or weird. The readme is enjoyable and interesting in its own right. Look, let me show you a few snippets from readme files I’ve particularly enjoyed. You’ll see they document ideas and, more than that, they reveal the humanity that runs through everything we create – the triumphs, struggles, and tragedies of our lives. And sometimes they’re about fruit:

[FRuiTDooM for Doom. 2000.]

FRuiT invades DooM… See for yourself! Ever wonder what it would feel like to launch apples at your friends? Ever had the overwhelming urge to stuff pineapples in your rocket launcher? Now all this and more is possible with FRuiTDooM! Watch imps throw peaches and Cacos shoot oranges! Pick up strawberries to gain health! Don’t miss this fruity experience!!

Wacky readme files are probably what got me started on this pursuit in the first place. I downloaded something goofy, read a short explanation of that goofy thing, and realised I didn’t even need to play the mod because the idea was probably better than the reality. Of the squillion readmes I’ve read, I’ve only played perhaps a few dozen of their mods. Look, look at this sentence and tell me this idea isn’t evocative and delightful in itself:

[CrateDM for Quake 2. 1998.]

CrateDM pits opponents against each other in a room full of crates, and the players are crates.

Or this, here’s a rejection of the need to create pointless stories for every game:

[Catch the Chicken for Quake 2. 1998.]


Once there was a chicken. Some idiot picked up this chicken and discovered he received mysterious points for holding onto it. His friends became so jealous they killed him and took the chicken for them selves. Catch the Chicken had begun.

And here’s a stupid joke that doesn’t need to be seen to be laughed at:

[Thanks Obama for Dark Souls. 2013.]

Replaces the death screen “YOU DIED” with “THANKS OBAMA”

I’m especially interested in when modders try to change and fix other people’s games. Mods add, remove, and change all sorts of things to better fit what the authors want or need. They’re wonderful demonstrations of how we all enjoy and dislike different things in games, reminders that we don’t all have the same experiences and reactions. Spiders are a popular target for removal, and I do enjoy how hard this modder tried to annihilate them:

[NoSpiders for System Shock 2. 2002.]

I have now set the spiders to be destroyed as soon as they are created. As a safeguard I’ve also set them to be invisible, completly silent, slower then your avarge dead slug, have one (1) hitpoint, have weapons that make no damage AND they are on the Good team so any other AI’s around will slay them! That enough for ya? ;)

Some people want a game to be more violent (this is the best and most earnest description of a gore mod that I’ve ever read):

[Wolf3D Gory Graphics Disk #1 for Wolfenstein 3D. 1993.]

Gorier graphics than the original. Make guards heads explode when shooting them! Make dogs lose a gallon of blood from a massive head-wound. AWESOME!

Some want them to be less violent:

[Wolfenstein 3-D Kosher for Wolfenstein 3D. 1993.]

This archive contains a file that will make your Wolfenstein 3-D a more kosher game. Instead of shooting at people, you shoot at objects which, like the original guards, will shoot at you. (If they didn’t shoot at you, then the game wouldn’t be Wolfenstein.) I also changed the skeletons, bones, and blood into objects. However, in order to keep the original “spirit” of the game, I left the Nazi symbolism. Another thing I couldn’t change was Mr. Blazkowics’s bloody face when he get’s wounded. In short, I changed the game from an “R-rated” game into a “PG-rated” game. However, the incredible action is still intact.


The guards have been changed into “marbles”. The original brown guards are now brown marbles and the original SS blue officers are now blue marbles. The dogs are green marbles, and the big “boss” at the end is a gigantic blue marble. These marbles will shoot at you too, therefore, I recommend using the “God Mode” when you first play this version of the game. When you destroy a marble with your gun, the marble will fall apart and turn into a bunch of marble junk on the floor. When a blue marble is killed, it will turn into blue junk on the floor, when a brown marble is killed, it will turn into brown junk, and when a green marble is killed, it will turn into green junk.

The blood that was on the purple wall was turned into tar and the hanging skeleton was changed into a hanging potted plant. (To add a natural touch.) I replaced the skeletons in the prison with smiley faces in the cells and most of the skeletons and piles of bones on the floor were changed into smiley faces.

Beyond these changes, the game is the same. Have fun!

Some people want to make a game more balanced:

[Quake DeathMatch Enhancer for Quake. 1998.]

Although Quake, made by id Software, is a great game technology-wise, its basic gameplay (both single player and DeathMatch) comes up lacking. Most of this is due to its poor weapon balancing, where certain weapons were clearly more powerful than others, leaving DeathMatch as a simple game of find-the-good-weapon. However, id Software was wise enough to leave an open door for users to alter this weapon setup as they wished. This modification does just that. It keeps the same basic structure of Quake (no new weapons or completely new features) but enhances the gameplay for both MultiPlayer and SinglePlayer games, putting the emphasis more on skill and intense combat rather than searching for the win-all killer weapon. After having created this enhancement, I have not gone back to playing ordinary Quake.

Some people want to make a game more realistic:

[Realistic Weapons for Quake. 1996.]

This patch does the following:

* Makes the weapons unreliable – they can jam/explode if overused
* Recoil on grenade and rocket launcher
* Spikes, rockets & grenades slow down while in water
* Rockets leave a bubble trail in water
* Spikes, rockets, grenades and backpacks can travel through teleporters
* Rockets add weight and slow down the player
* Rockets can be dumped
* 200 Health increases speed slightly

In real life, weapons are not always reliable and can jam and sometimes, in the case of large projectile weapons, explode. In addition, water has more resistance than air and when large projectiles pass through it, can produce bubbles. There is also a large kickback from shoulder* mounted projectile weapons. Quake in its original form does not model these. This patch inserts those things.

Lots of people want to make games more realistic:

[Tollerton’s Physics Mods for Quake. 1997.]

Imagine you are running to your right and you throw a rock directly in front of you. Which direction does the rock go? Well, down, of course, but also it moves *diagonally*: foreward and to the right. It’s simple vector addition: If you are moving 5 m/s to the east and you throw the rock 5 m/s to the north relative to you, the rock moves [5<90] + [5<0], or 5m/s to the north and 5 m/s to the east, or 5*sqrt(2) to the northeast. (No, you don’t have to know *any* of this.)

Quake is flawed in this respect. Instead of moving along with the player, as it should, rockets, grenades, and nails move straight ahead, totally ignoring the player’s real velocity.

And that is precisely what this patch sets out to fix.

And some people really dislike one stupid lousy jerk who won’t stop camping:

[AntiCamp for Quake. 1997.]

Credit : A player by the name of BosMan on for making me so pissed off at campers that I made this mod..

You’ll notice that most of these are from Quake. That’s partly because it’s quick and easy to browse Quake readmes, scrolling through FTP mirrors rather than trawling the monolothic, sluggish forums and portals mods tend to be distributed on nowadays. It’s also because Quake mods cemented my interest in games. Every month, the PC Gamer cover disc would bring me new weird things, things that people just like me had made. I also get a little nostalgic treating them as historical artefacts reflecting what people played and how. This is from possibly one of my favourite readme files:

[Quick Turn for Quake. 1997.]

Added 4 impulses to weapons.qc. These impulses allow the player to turn 90 or 180 degrees left or right much quicker than can normally be done by holding the run key and the left or right turning keys.

It comes at the point where FPSs are fast and complex enough that playing purely on keyboard wasn’t good enough. However, making the jump to using a mouse as well was a huge step, and one that seemingly this author hadn’t taken, or possibly didn’t even know of. They couldn’t turn fast enough, so they added more keyboard commands. That’s great, that. I didn’t start using the mouse until Quake II myself.

Readme files remember the culture around them, and the medium they’re transmitted on. Check out the note at the bottom of this:

[Puke Launcher! for Doom. 1996.]

This is a graphix patch for either Doom or Doom II. It replaces the rockets that the rocket lancher shoots, to GOBS OF PUKE!!! YES!!!!!!! The puke that flys out of yer rckt launcher isn’t any ordinary barf, it’s acid puke! Aaaahhh!! So watch out! THIS PATCH IS GREAT FOR DEATHMATCH! I also replaced 4 of the sounds!! This patch is AWESOME MAN!


Anyone listen to death metal? If you do, email me!

In 1996, it would not have been easy to find a Doomy death metal pal online. You couldn’t Google “death metal” and easily find websites, forums, and chat rooms devoted to it. They existed, but the Internet was a lot smaller and search engines barely even worked. Why not throw out a message in a bottle? Or tie one to a puke rocket.

And here’s a vision of the days when the stereotypical hardcore internaut’s drink of choice was Jolt Cola. Before Mountain Dew jokes, before chugging Bawls, Jolt was the marker of taking fragging seriously:

[Jolt Doom for Doom. 1994.]

The people of Earth are ADDICTED TO JOLT! In fact, Earth has been plagued with Jolt for hundreds of years. Among the general populace, Jolt has caused mutations, cancers, and worse…

Jolt mutated EVERYONE who drank it. Most of the mutants died from their own hideous deformities. Still others perished in the perpetual maelstrom of caffeine-induced violence. But some survived.

You, a rare person who never drank Jolt, are about to meet these awful, Jolt-addicted mutants face-to-face…

The scientists of Earth (otherwise known as Nerds) strove valiantly to save the people from Jolt. In the end, however, the Nerds became more addicted to Jolt than anyone else!

The corrosive cola ate through their stomach walls. In fact, it ate their WHOLE BODIES away! Now, all that is left of the Nerds is their skulls. And the Nerds are still as addicted to Jolt as ever! Their never-ending withdrawal symptoms include flames coming out of their skulls. Oh yes, and their Jolt-induced mutations have resulted in telekinetic flying abilities. They go around flaming, flying, screaming, flaming, flying… You get the idea.

Be forewarned: So great is the fury of the Nerds at not being able to satiate their Jolt addiction that they devote all of their energies to the task of slaughtering those who can still drink Jolt! The brain-damaged Nerd Skulls have one overriding philosophy: “If we can’t drink Jolt, no one else can either!”

All of these weird and funny and interesting things were made because people wanted to see them in games they loved. Mods let people make a game more personal. Even installing a mod is customising a game, making it be more the way you want, but creating them is something special. I realise it may seem I’m mocking (it’s my accent, isn’t it), but I’m genuinely excited that people are creating things and sharing themselves. Here, look at this:

[Kew’s Cowbell Mod for Minecraft. 2012.]

Hello, I am Kew. I am 10 years old. I have created a mod that enables you to create cowbells in minecraft.

My dad helped me. I want to learn how to mod, so he is teaching me. We have started small with a simple block that can do things when the user clicks on them like playsounds and spawn mobs.

We are going to make more mods in the future. Next one is a block that spawns a huge pirate ship or maybe an airplane or a t-rex or.. :) .. to do that we need to learn how to make our own mobs with 3D models.

That’s lovely, isn’t it? And modding communities, like any community, can be territorial, but because they’re creative they’re often believe in sharing and helping each other. People create tutorials and share their source code, as this notes:

[The X-Mod for Quake II. 2000.]

Sorry, but we copied code from everyone, everywhere.
So, we do NOT have a real credit list!
– eraser bot code
– ID Q2 ctf code
– ID Q2 dm code
– many Q2 mods & tutorials

They wanted people to learn, to make more things, to make almost whatever they wanted:

[Spooge for Quake. 1997.]

Keep in mind, my brain wanders. While wandering, I thought, “HEY! Wouldn’t it be rather unique if I could just piss on on things / people? So I tried producing this. This being my first attempt at QuakeC, I got close. It behaved more like, um, well…. JIZZ! So i just gave it the proper .MDLs and .WAVs, and there you have it, one of the most twisted addons. A small one, but it’s an addon. I think I did pretty good considering I didn’t know the first thing about QuakeC or even C++ when I started.

The world has many, many mods about sexy things, of course. I enjoy those a lot too, but have chosen not to go into them here because it seems a bit weird and questionable to drag things people made 20 years ago out into the limelight. Oh, go on, I’ll show you a harmless one:

[Villager Breeding for Minecraft. 2011.]

Basically, you find two villagers, give them some wheat, and they make another villager.

Anyway, as I was saying, normally I don’t talk about the actual person who made the mod at all. I prefer to let the text stand on its own and not draw new Google connections to someone’s name. Everything I’m saying about them here is my imagination. Mostly. There is one mod where I can’t help but say who made it. I find it hilarious and inspiring that this is from the earliest mod I’ve found by Minh Le – the chap who’d later create Counter-Strike:

[M-16A3 Dual Mode Assault Rifle for Quake. 1997.]

While the technological improvements of most other warfare equipment has gone on at a feverish pace, the real of small arms fire has remained stagnant for the past 3 decades. The M16 remained the staple assault rifle for the western civilization. Going through few modifications it was considered by many in the world to be THE assault rifle of choice. In the late stages of the year 2010 the US Army was issued a new breed of assault rifle.. The M-16A3 !!!! Fa la la la ll al Da ad adad ad l a lala (que dramatic music)

The M-16A3 not only surpasses it’s predecessor in terms of accuracy and fire rate, it has a new firing mode, the EM Gauss fire. Using electro-magnetic force the M16A3 is able to direct a normal bullet from it’s chamber at near light speeds. The resulting impact has the capabilities of piercing upto 6 inches of armour. With this new weapon the US Army plans to establish itself itself as one of the predominant military forces in the world (second to the Candian Armed Forces.)

Unfortunately, General Quake has been quick to stock his personal gun collection with these new M16’s. Fortunately for you, he has conviently layed these M16’s next to his existing array of nailguns. Now it’s time to make the big bad boy bleed, It’s time to severe some heads!! it’s time to bust some limbs!! It’s time to shower the people in a hail of gibs!! .. and when you’re done that maybe you can try out my new patch.

Tada! nice story eh?! I know, I know.. I’ve already got Steven Spielberg knocking down my door for the script..let him in! I’ll bust his face for screwing up Lost World!! what a crap movie!!

Mods are made by people, people who sometimes do weird things. Readme files tell us about those people, their creations and passions, in their own words. Focusing on readme files is like visiting a gallery but only reading the artist statements next to works. Quite what we imagine based on them is up to us, of course, but some people are quite open about talking about themselves. Some are a little odd about that too:

[RealQuake for Quake. 1997.]

Other Stuff To Know!
I Didnt Make All Of The Stuff By My Self
So I Dont Take Credit For It!!..

I Dont Care What You Do With This Modification!!

I Am Swedish

I Dont Dance Disco!!

I Dont Give A ?uck!!

Have A Nice Life!!

Tony G?t?ano?itz

Some readmes offer adorable little sad glimpses that we can’t help but spin out into stories inside our heads:

[YAD for Quake, 1997]

I named this mod YAD because at the time of it’s creation, I was in a Quake clan called YAD (Young and Dangerous). I’m not in the clan anymore, but I can’t think of hat to call it.

Some of these stories are cute:

[Posessed Pickups! for Quake II. 1998.]

An interesting unexpected way to keep campers at bay! Imagine you are playing against your ruthless girlfreind that has a bad habit of sitting on that rocket launcher spawn area as if it were Fort Knox. You slip her this patch, and fire up a deathmatch game. There she goes, running off to get her rocket launcher… but… it isn’t there… (?) She turns around just in time to see it hobble toward a window and bounce through into the courtyard outside. It takes her a full 5 minutes to catch up to it as it wanders away from her, during which time you have sighted your trusty railgun on her back.


Once picked up, ALL pickups respawn as MOVETYPE_INFIBOUNCE, causing them to bounce and wander aimlessly about the level. If at that point the item is picked up, it will respawn where you picked it up, thus providing an endlessly random pattern to item placement, and a new challenge: chasing items around the rooms

And some are heart-breaking:

[Fishing in Skyrim for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. 2012.]

DEDICATION – and a warning to gamers…

This mod is dedicated to my fiance, Kiersten, who passed away in April, one week before her 22nd birthday. She loved Skyrim and sushi, so what began as a birthday present evolved into a memorial to her life. The new species of fish this mod adds are named after things she loved, and I am in the process of adding a small fishing camp populated by her Skyrim toons, so she can live on in the fantasy world she loved. A book will be added in a future version explaining all the symbolism added in the module, for those who care about the backstory.

Kiersten died from something called Deep-Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which is a blood clot you get from sitting in one position for too long. Gamers are at high risk for DVT – she died after playing MW3 for 11 hours. The only warning sign she had was a cramp in her leg. Two hours later, she was dead.

The best way to avoid DVT is simple: Save your game, stand up, and walk around for 2-3 minutes every 3 or 4 hours. Go to the fridge, pee, look out the window, play with your pet…anything, just MOVE. That simple action would have saved her life: it could save yours.

When deep vein thrombosis symptoms occur, they can include:
• Swelling in the affected leg, including swelling in your ankle and foot.
• Pain in your leg; this can include pain in your ankle and foot. The pain often starts in your calf and can feel like cramping or a charley horse.
• Warmth over the affected area.
• Changes in your skin color, such as turning pale, red or blue.

When to see a doctor
If you develop signs or symptoms of deep vein thrombosis, contact your doctor for guidance.

If you develop signs or symptoms of a pulmonary embolism — a life-threatening complication of deep vein thrombosis — seek medical attention immediately.

The warning signs of a pulmonary embolism include:
• Unexplained sudden onset of shortness of breath
• Chest pain or discomfort that worsens when you take a deep breath or when you cough
• Feeling lightheaded or dizzy, or fainting
•Rapid pulse
•Coughing up blood
•A sense of anxiety or nervousness

Should you encounter a Khajit named Lillani in your travels, know you just met the spirit of a truly good person. She will be missed.

A readme might save your life.

This article was originally published as part of, and thanks to, the RPS supporter program.


  1. RedViv says:

    Why… I… The last… why would you do this…? D:

    • Rizlar says:

      Yeah, I was going to post something upbeat saying how great the article is but now I just can’t do it. :'(

  2. jezcentral says:

    There is so much love in each of the messages. What wonderful stories they tell. Except that last one, obv.

  3. OctoStepdad says:

    great article! I usually treat readme files as instruction and don’t pay attention to them.

    Also, that last one is very sad but I am glad he had the strength to turn a birthday present into a memorial for her.

  4. Zallgrin says:

    This article is fantastic. Thanks for the compilation!

    And yes, the last one is tragic, yet I’m very grateful to be reminded of the dangers of DVT. Too many people ignore it or boast with ungodly long gaming sessions. Not to be a spoil sport, but taking breaks is really important.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      Used to pull 48h+ gaming sessions (or “spodding” sessions as we called them) when I was a student. I would often struggle on the walk back from the labs to my halls, with pains in my legs. Whatever was going on there, clearly wasn’t very good! Then again I didn’t really need leg pains to tell me that. Still, remembering how that felt is something that helps me to ensure I take regular breaks when working these days. Stories like this one where nothing really reckless was done, are tragic and sad. They also hopefully make some of us realize we’ve been both lucky and stupid taking chances with our health.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      I always liked how Guild Wars would pop up a message every hour saying, “You’ve been playing for X hours, please take a break.” Ideally, you’d know to take a break anyways, but there were times where I’d look and go, “oh damn, 3 hours already!?”

      FWIW, I gained some weight after having a cycling accident that broke several fingers on both hands and my left wrist (not the right one, which was broken (for its 3rd time) over a decade ago and has never been properly set). Rehab was a draining experience that left me exhausted on a regular basis. So, it was really easy for me to gain weight during that long period of time. Now that I have enough strength to do simple calisthenic exercises, I take a 15 or 20-minute break every couple of hours to stretch, do some pushups, situps, lift a bit of weights, or just do jumping jacks, squats, knee-lifts, etc.

  5. Keymonk says:

    Awesome article! It was really quite touching.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Arnvidr says:

    That last one is heartbreaking, hitting close to home.

  7. JiminyJickers says:

    I really enjoyed that, I surely haven’t read a readme file in many a year. But maybe next time I wander across one, I’ll peek inside.

  8. psepho says:

    What a beautiful article — one of the best bits of games journalism I have ever read.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    Alice why are you making me cry over a readme file!

  10. thedosbox says:

    I’m speechless. This was an excellent read – thanks Alice!

  11. Skeletor68 says:

    I want to send that puke rocket guy an email to discuss some death metal.

  12. Ditocoaf says:

    DANG. This is beautiful. It never would have occurred to me that I’d find an article on Quake mod readmes touching, but here we are.

    There are lots of websites on this web that cultivate a love of games. But here at RPS, it’s… a different sort of passion. More sentimental, thoughtful, reflective. Articles here celebrate the way games make us feel in the moment, but also what they can say about us, what they can do to us, what they can mean in a wide variety of situations and histories and potentials. It’s fascinating.

  13. Martel says:

    Thanks for sharing Alice, this was a great read.

  14. CloudPS says:

    Wonderful article, one of the best I’ve read in a long time.

  15. heretic says:

    Thanks Alice, really good finds in there

  16. smisk says:

    Great article.
    I’ve always been slightly fascinated by readme files as well. It’s like a little glimpse into the life of someone you’d normally never interact with.

  17. JP says:

    from the readme for my Tourism mod for Unreal 1:

    Q. Why would you remove shooting from a shooter? Do you hate fun?

    A. Absolutely.

    • jrodman says:

      I loved being a tourist in Unreal 1. I did it with god mode, however.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Ha! So the violent flip-side of Naked Doom. Reaching for a similar experience but requiring a different solution. I’d never seen that, that’s great.

      [Naked Doom, gang, is a mod JP made removing Doom’s starting weapons, so folks could create new levels and experiences without those bobbing fists and pistol. “Make a cool weird artsy walking simulator or something!” says the readme.]

  18. Monggerel says:

    I remember the Read Me for the “A Tree” mod in New Vegas.

    It changed my life irrevocably.
    In utter darkness there’s nothing left but forward.

    Edit: Oh yeah. That last one… I’ve seen plenty of mods dedicated to the memory of folks who passed away. Jedi Academy maps in particular tended to have memorial kinda rooms (some hidden as easter eggs, others not so much). It’s… well, yeah.

  19. tristan371 says:

    This makes me sad that I’m too young to have experienced quake in its glory days. My first real online gaming experience and my first modding experience were both Halo: Custom Edition but I know what you mean about those ReadMes telling stories. I still have some saved in a Misc folder.

  20. MrFinnishDude says:

    Well now i’m paranoid of getting Deep-Vein Thrombosis.
    We are gamers, most of of us just sit on our ass the whole day.
    I guess that is a good thing that i’m paranoid about it , but damn is that scary.

  21. padger says:

    This is a total brainfuck. Amazing, Alice, you are the best.

  22. lowenz says:

    I remember (the description of) Q2 CrateDM. Thanks for making me feel so old! :v

  23. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Thanks, thanks Alice.

  24. BrokenSymmetry says:

    Amazing article. Thanks!


    You should make a Twitter account to post highlights, like The Strange Log! Or, considering that you haven’t updated the blog since you started writing for RPS, perhaps it’s not a good idea to come up with even more things to do.

    “I tried to make a mod about pissing but it ended up a mod about jizzing” is the most beautiful story of the modern age.

    (As for the final file, maybe I’m not a real gamer, but I can’t for the life of me imagine how someone might spend 11 straight hours playing a game without getting up from their chair. Don’t these people urinate?)

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      I still update it, but mostly ran out of easy places to browse. I’m slowly working through the archives of PlanetQuake, PlanetUnreal, and other GameSpy sites, but it takes a lot longer than the id mirrors which have their readmes out in the open. Beyond that, I’ll be onto the Nexus portals and gosh, those will take forever. I have read thousands of readme files and most don’t have much interesting, so anything that drags the process out drains my enthusiasm quickly.

      I used to tweet new Tumblr posts on my Twitter, but I’ve given that up. I suppose I could create a new account especially for it, but at that point it feels a bit like showing off, as I imagine it’d mostly be seen by folks who already know I did this.

  26. Shadowcat says:

    That was a lot of fun, Alice :)

    I’ve worked on a couple of mods. The first was utterly trivial. The second was slightly ambitious, and never completed. That first one, though… the game changes were trivial, but then I decided it needed a readme, and that the readme needed to present the change in the context of the game fiction, which required a back-story and a mission briefing. After which I realised that the game text itself needed to be updated to reflect the text of the readme file, which entailed more writing (and a lot chopping and changing the wording to get it to fit just-so in the available spaces).

    It was still a tiny mod, and the total amount of writing was only in the region of 1,000 words, but I think the decision to include a readme must have increased the time I spent on the project tenfold! (But hey; it was fun to do :)

    So yeah… read the readmes, everyone!

  27. Publius says:

    [Tollerton’s Physics Mods for Quake. 1997.]

    Oh, god. That. Yeah, I wrote that. I try to slip my name onto a project a lot more surreptitiously than that nowadays! Otherwise, you know, you might have a coworker email you and say, “Hey! I think you just got mentioned in an RPS article.” Not like that’s, uh, ever happened or anything.

    Somehow, I actually got it merged into somebody else’s mod. (I will mercifully leave the author of that mod anonymous.)

    You’ll notice that most of these are from Quake. That’s partly because it’s quick and easy to browse Quake readmes… It’s also because Quake mods cemented my interest in games

    Are you sure that this is merely selection bias on your part? I tend to think that at least my cohort — a bunch of kids writing tiny game mods for things like realism/control/weapons — probably was more common in Quake than it was (or will be) in any other game, for quite a few reasons.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Oh fantastic! I do enjoy hearing from people whose readme files I’ve read. Thank you for making yourself known.

      I don’t think it’s selection bias. Minecraft modding is far, far larger than Quake modding ever was. It is HUGE. Look at Curse’s Minecraft modding forum – link to – 241 threads have been posted in over the past day. And that’s just one forum.

      Minecraft has so many tiny little things made by kids and teenagers. I don’t look at more Minecraft mods is that they tend to be posted on forums that take ages to click throw, waiting for threads to process and images to load, and they usually don’t have readmes or even descriptions. Some just embed a YouTube video and leave it at that. It’s a terrible shame.

  28. Antistar says:

    Some mods and/or their readmes are just so… odd that it makes me wonder about the mental state of their authors. That maybe they’re actually crazy – or were high as a kite when they made the mod/readme. Or maybe there’s some tremendous culture shock going on that I’m not aware of. That Wolf3D ‘kosher’ mod readme about changing everything to marbles, wow. Just… what?

    I remember a mod for Morrowind where the author was having some kind of problem with the aspect ratio of the game. I think it was that they had a widescreen monitor but couldn’t work out how to set a widescreen resolution, resulting in everything being stretched horizontally. Rather than fix the issue, they instead created and released a mod that made all NPCs in the game incredibly skinny, to counter the horizontal stretching.

    Anyway, as a mod author, I often receive pleas for help from people who apparently take “readme” as… more of a gentle recommendation than an instruction that they should pay attention to, so I wish that more people were as passionate about reading readmes as Alice. Godspeed, you readme-reader you.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      In some cases, I’d venture that they’re simply teenagers who, in the mid-90s, didn’t use text to communicate as much as we do now. English used to be that class where they made you write essays instead of what you wanted to write (in my case) or just wanted to slack off and avoid altogether. Now it’s that language you use to “text” (text as a verb) your friends.

      Everyone writes now and it’s 100% thanks to the ubiquity of the Internet. Part of the charm of these old files is that they’re from a time when most people saw writing as a chore. I know, right?. But from medieval times when literacy was that thing priests need to make copies of scripture to most of the 20th century when writing was only important to future journalism majors and book nerds, the pre-Internet era was full of this kind of thinking. As a result, readme file writers lived in a transitional time when we went from writing being a mostly nerdy activity between “pen pals” to emails and eventually tweeting on smartphones. As such, they weren’t as good at communicating via text as we are now, merely twenty-ish years later.

      Sometimes it’s hard to realize how far we’ve come, and how things were back in the pre-digital times.

  29. Cecil says:

    Ugh, how about all those readmes that abuse my submissiveness to that command and offer nothing but some adds with links. :( Makes one cynical…

  30. disconnect says:

    A couple of my favourites from back in the day:

    link to

    link to


    All commercial games are designed for a theoretical entity known as Darren.
    Darren is a spotty 14-year-old male who doesn’t get on that well with
    people, so he spends all his time in his bedroom playing games on his
    computer. Darren is easily impressed by graphics and music, and he
    doesn’t really want to learn anything really tricky – as long as it
    has Ninja Hampsters in and works with a Kempston, that’s OK. Somehow
    he can persuade his Dad to fork out 25 quid once every few weeks for
    the latest version of R-Type with different graphics on his Amiga,
    don’t ask me how. Either that or he waits and hits up his mate Wayne for
    a pirate version in a couple of weeks’ time.

    Consequently, it has become much harder for programmers to retain
    their creative integrity and earn a living too. It is virtually impossible
    for a small independant developer to get games out to the people
    without first hooking in to one of the larger companies for distribution
    and advertising, and those larger companies tend to want stuff that’s
    very normal, spaceship-and-alien stuff, no llamas please and not too

    Plus ça change…

  31. SuicideKing says:

    Double exclamation marks seemed pretty popular in the late 90’s!!

  32. Horza says:

    Isn’t that Jolt Doom readme basically the plot of Sunset Overdrive?

    • Kaben says:

      I was just about to type this exact sentence. Its a scarily close idea – I wonder if the author of this readme has had anything to do with Sunset Overdrive?