How’s modding getting better than the game development

Jun 13 2019 7 min read

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The idea of modding has been getting more and more attractive in recent years. While the core official game development is continuously feeding us with endless sequels, remakes, reboots, and killer-clones, the modding community is improving in quality to offer truly unique experiences that inevitably end being implemented by well-established studios after they prove their viability. The modern gaming industry is mostly focused on profits and customer-oriented services these days, while pure creativity has become a rare guest for AAA-games. We tend to find the salvation in user-created mods that are not afraid of exploring new horizons. But how did we end up in such a situation?

Creativity at its finest

Modding has always been the signature feature of PC gaming. Every time when the never-ending “PC vs consoles” war is being referenced somewhere on the Internet, the console community jokingly accuses the PC counterparts of having nothing original on their platform apart from the aforementioned modding. Honestly, this argument is somewhat true, but there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Modding first and foremost serves as the tool to express your talent, interests, desires, and creativity. You’ll have to admit that it also hugely extends the life cycle of the games that support modding – you can play your favourite projects for years and years to come, while they are being powered and driven by the pure force of the communities behind those games. It doesn’t simply mean that developers can throw away their creation sets for the players to entertain themselves with – the game obviously has to be a wholesome and an entertaining one in the first place. But if these conditions do meet, the result is usually flawless – The Elder Scrolls and GTA series are among the best examples of that.

Modding as the feature has become the most influential part of the gaming industry.

Another significant role of modding is its technical aspect. There’s a fair amount of games that suffer from performance issues; such games could’ve been almost perfect otherwise, but the development teams have abandoned them – for various reasons. Regardless of what made the original creators quit supporting their brainchildren, there’s still room for a proper comeback. That is where the modding community takes the leading role, and you don’t need us to list great games that have been literally saved by the efforts of the fans. Interestingly, some performance fixes can be eventually included in official re-releases by the publishers. Moreover, modding as the feature has become the most influential part not only of PC gaming – but of the overall ecosystem and the industry as well. It serves as an incubator for great ideas that later spread across the gaming world only to be caught up, used, and distributed by those who lack the creativity and/or the courage to develop these ideas independently by themselves. This is what’s happening with the official core development right now.

Evolution versus revolution

Unfortunately for us, well-established studios tend to take the route of cautious and slow evolution when it comes to creating a new video game, whereas revolutionary innovations are being mostly implemented by the talented gaming community. Modding is actually replacing the official game development in terms of creativity and discovery of new genres. We don’t have to go far for a reasonable example. Battle Royale, MOBA, now Auto Chess – all these genres have emerged straight from the ideas implemented by modders, not by the famous developers. But it’s not the trend of recent years; it actually started decades ago. Counter-Strike was just a mod (released 20 years ago) for the original Half-Life – and look where we are now! Let’s not forget about one of the most popular mods built upon the Valve’s popularity – we are talking, of course, about Garry’s Mod and its huge contribution to establishing a healthy and talented community. What makes us craving for new mods to be developed though is the sheer desire for new experiences since gaming should not be limited by existing achievements in development – but that’s pretty much all that the official studios can offer today.

Modding is actually replacing the official game development in terms of creativity.

When was the last time when you launched a game and were so amazed by it that you could sincerely say that you’d never seen anything like that before? Probably, years ago. The gaming industry lives by the laws of the jungle these days. When a company discovers a popular concept or mechanics that are appealing and capable of drawing the attention of the audience, the idea behind that concept becomes a foolproof moneymaking engine to take advantage of for the next years and decades. In most cases, the idea works for itself and doesn’t require any significant interventions or improvements in short-term – or even long-term. Who said Call of Duty? With that in mind, we have nothing else to do but to look at what the modding communities are capable of and have to offer – otherwise, we risk to be left with mindless reiterations of existing gaming experiences.

For the times they are a-changin’

Originally, modding has been driven by non-profit intentions to bring the deepest gaming desires to life, and we are not necessarily talking about nude mods. There is still place for projects powered by this idea – take for instance the global mod Tamriel Rebuilt, which sets the goal to create the most ambitious game world for it to be enjoyed by fans all over the world. There’s a wonderful fan project for Total War: Attila, which brings the setting of George Martin’s Seven Kingdoms to the strategic paradise of the franchise. Mods like these will obviously continue to exist and appear because with better tools provided by the official gaming industry, the modding community can embody the most unbelievable concepts and crossovers. Generally speaking, this approach allows us to experience otherwise unachievable impressions from popular settings. There’s always a chance that the interested parties will work together for an official take on the most intriguing models – but while we are dreaming of it, the modders are already working and showing results.

It’s a failsafe concept – to create a unique experience within a well-established game.

However, influential modding nowadays is the one that paves the way to brand new gaming experiences in terms of mechanics and engaging gameplay. It can actually shift towards proper game development, and Drodo Studio has clearly shown how it should be done. It’s a failsafe concept – to create a unique experience within a well-established game to see if it is compelling for the audience. Auto Chess is the phenomenon of the current state of the gaming industry – and an unsurprising way of inevitable progress. Valve hasn’t treated us with new games for a long time (and has failed with Artifact) – but after a few months of Dota Auto Chess existence, the company has rushed to adopt the outstanding idea behind the mod to turn it into its own game. Luckily, the authors of the mod managed to make their standalone version before that, but now there’s also Riot Games, which has taken the very same idea and decided to build a new game mode for League of Legends based on that.

This is what the official industry has become – it is being ruled by the inescapable loop of stealing successful creative solutions rather than by taking risks and being original. The actual development, the real search for new experiences is being handled by modding communities – while huge publishers and developers are parasitizing on helpfully delivered concepts. We can only hope that the original creators will benefit from their ideas – just like Drodo Studio did. And maybe – just maybe – these talented and passionate people will remind the development teams all over the world of what the real purpose of creating games is.

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