Monday, June 17, 2013

Modding, How I Love Thee

I basically spent the weekend creating a mod for a game (review pending), and I am entirely okay with that. There was a time in my life when I probably would have lied about that, or downplayed it, but I think I am enough of an adult to finally admit something.

I enjoy modding games.

Now I don't mean I am messing around with games to make them easier or to add cheats or anything like that. I mean, I enjoy making things which enhance a game, to make it a richer experience in some small way.

Strangely enough, the thing that I've done a lot of over the years is make flags. How into flags was I? I actually hosted a site for a game called Hearts of Iron that was just a repository for flag and propaganda poster mods. That is commitment to a principle. I think one of my fake propaganda posters ended up in the sequel, and I am just putting out some feelers to see if that is still true. 

And last week, I was making templates for flags (which can be changed to any two available colors the user picks when they play the game), so the whole process goes full circle.

I've also done some event writing in my past, again for Paradox games, which is another thing which is fairly easy and appeals to something in me. They were events which acted as flavor to the game, and Paradox took some of those ideas, refined them and added them to the game as well (I was credited of course). At the time it was nice to feel like I was part of the process, and contributing to the overall enjoyment of the game by the community, and I am getting that sense again working on these new mods.

But I also know my limitations. Given my skillset, there are some things that I am not qualified to do.

For example, I don't have the patience or the knowledge to build anything in 3D, whether it be a character models, objects or map making, even when the maker of the game gives you the tools to build content for their game. I really loved Unreal Tournament for example, and even though I had played a lot of maps, I could never really wrap my head around the editing program to build my own. I also can't do heavy duty coding or create some of the beautiful artistic assets that some mods need.

So I appreciate seeing people doing hard work to transform a game and make it better, or even turn it into something that it wasn't originally designed to be. When I see some of the work that people have done modding games, especially the larger projects, I am both impressed and in many ways inspired.

For instance, the MGSO mod for Morrowind, which combines a lot of different mods together to make a game from 2002 look comparable to something like Skyrim. I love how there is a synergy between all the different mods, and they really end up as greater together than the sum of their individual parts.It made an extremely good game better in every way.

Or given the dearth of quality Game of Thrones-based games on the market, a small group of people decided that they were going to edit the excellent Crusader Kings 2 into the Game of Thrones game that the world desperately needed, including scenarios for various points from the past 200 years of history in Westeros (and soon Essos), so you can perhaps play a game of what-if with all the characters you love and hate. I have doubts that there will ever be a good licensed version of those books/that miniseries, so I have to support work like this that is more representative of the quality of that experience.This is the sort of thing that I actually could contribute to because like a lot of Paradox games, there are many editable text files, which is one of the things I am good at working with.

And I can't forget to mention the mod that made a little-known hardcore military shooter into something everyone had to try: the DayZ mod for Arma II. It is a game that spawned countless stories of survival based on the actions of strangers interacting in a world full of zombies, a world where you didn't know if that person you see over there is going to be a friend or a foe. For someone who loves emergent gameplay and narratives, DayZ has made something that produces those two things in abundance. The mod has been so successful that it is being released at some point soon as a standalone product.

Just talking about modding and building things sort of makes me want to try my hand at something bigger than the mods I've been working on all these years.Maybe it is time for me to finally start trying to make a game of my own with one of the commercially available software programs... most likely something like RPG Maker VX. I've had ideas for games in the past and maybe the itch that is being scratched a little bit by modding could be fully satiated by trying to do something bigger than I've been attempting. It could be worth a shot.

But that leaves me with a quick question to ask everyone reading: What are your favorite mods?


Semaj said...

I played a FFT mod that made the almost impossible for me to even finish the first stage. They added new monsters and job classes, that almost made up for the insane difficulty. I believe it is called final fantasy tactics 1.3 insane difficulty. Look up some of the vids

Lee Sargent said...

I think modding is the only way we'll ever get a decent Star Trek game!!!

MC said...

Semaj: I used to have FFT, but I traded my disc to someone so I will not be able to try that mod unfortunately.

Lee: Now my question is, what kind of Star Trek game are you looking for, because I may be able to point you in the direction of some great mods.