Gamers have again and again proved that their creativity could surpass developers, and that’s especially evident in the modding scene, where players have an opportunity to transform game worlds into their own. Modding is perhaps one of the most groundbreaking features in contemporary games, bringing to life not only in-game customizations but also entirely new titles from Counter-Strike to DOTA.
Why Mods Matter
Modding is crucial in securing a game’s longevity. Even the most coveted titles will eventually die out once players have unlocked every possible achievement, spoken to every NPC 40 times, and have done over 20 reruns. There’s simply not enough content to keep the player base from getting bored––and developers can only do so much in the little time they have between updates. In the online PC gaming sphere, it’s not rare for people to quit within the months-long timeframe to a new DLC or major content update.
Developers are already busy fixing bugs, optimizing gameplay, and balancing features––they can’t keep up with ensuring that there are enough things to do to help people kill time. That’s where modding comes in. Game mods are edits to items or gameplay features that enhance or change the overall experience, vastly increasing replayability and the player’s attachment to a title.
It’s important to acknowledge the importance of mods in today’s gaming landscape, where getting people to stick to a title can be a massive challenge. Immersion and player-driven goals are shaping today’s gaming preferences, evident through Minecraft’s success. No two people experience the game the same way, increasing opportunities for Twitch and YouTube streamers to create varied content and for players never to get bored.
How Do Mods Turn Into Games?
Mods can be as simple as adding a new colorway to an item or as complex as changing the entire structure of the gameplay. It’s easier to understand how far they can go through this classification:
- Cosmetic mods –– edits to colors, textures, and appearances in-game. A cat might turn into a chimera, new wardrobe items might appear, maps might turn into different terrains, and characters may look completely different after applying a cosmetic mod.
- Feature mod –– these are edits to gameplay features. For instance, modders might add new achievements, create different game modes to change the difficulty of gameplay, add mini-games, change spawn rates, and more.
- Overall gameplay mod –– some mods go above and beyond by creating new ways of playing an existing game. This is usually done by taking an in-game feature and turning it into a new game mode. An example would be how modders can transform a popular card-based mini-game from an MMO and into a full-fledged competitive card game or isolate the shooting aspect of a story-driven game and turn it into a PvP battlefield experience.
Players have full coding, programming, and designing freedom over mods, as long as the base game allows it. Some titles may have legal restrictions for distribution and asset creation, so it’s essential to look into the fine details to prevent bans or legal action. Historically, the developer works with designers to acquire the proper rights and intellectual property ownership to the mod before publishing it into a new game.
Who Owns Mods?
As for mod ownership, it depends on the game’s terms and conditions. Mods are considered derivative works, so you have some form of ownership, but the extent depends on a case-by-case basis.
However, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) bring in a new era of digital asset ownership, with frontrunners like ESPA empowering designers and players alike. They offer a platform for designers to put custom mod designs up for sale for players to use in practice and Esport gaming modes. Winners receive $MONA rewards, creating a full circle of NFT, mod, and Esport integrations into games like Among Us.
With the rise of these innovative platforms, a more open form of mod ownership is expected to take off in the gaming industry. It opens opportunities for developers to create the next viral game––one that bridges the real and virtual economies by offering support to the player base.
Most Famous Games Derived From Mods
From the turn of the 21st century, mods made their mark in the gaming world with customizable gameplay and creativity beyond the developers’ dream. These are some of the biggest games that––you might be surprised to know––had humble beginnings as mods.
The original Counter-Strike, released in 2000, was derived from the early first-shooter game Half-Life. One of its most popular features was the map editor, which prompted developers Jess Cliffe and Minh Le to mod the game through the GoldSrc engine. The in-and-out PvP battlefield gameplay was so convenient for casual and hardcore gamers alike that it became a huge hit and garnered plenty of attention, eventually catching the original publisher, Valve’s, attention. Valve eventually hired the two programmers into the team and obtained intellectual rights to Counter-Strike.
The game has since shaped the player battleground genre, becoming the framework for newer multiplayer shooter games like Fortnite and PUBG. It became so popular that three more Counter-Strike games came after the original. The latest, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO), was introduced as a title made for competitive gaming and esports.
Defender of the Ancients (DOTA) is another big name that you’ve likely heard of. It was one of the early games that Valve used to build the Esports industry, but it wasn’t always a game. DOTA originated as a mod from Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. It was a strategy game with a very similar concept to DOTA, except players competed against AI. Wanting to diversify and put real competitiveness into the gameplay, Kyle Sommer, more famously known as Eul, created a mod that turned the game into a strategy PvP paradise.
Valve eventually took ownership of the game and spearheaded the release of DOTA 2, which garnered international interest. The strategy gameplay was so game-breaking at the time that it helped grow the early days of Esports.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that most of the games derived from mods became catalysts for the Esports industry to take off. The early gaming scene wasn’t very competitive––it was players who vied for that competition and created a solution that developers couldn’t think of twenty years ago. Players know what they want best––and that’s why their ideas, in the form of mods, are instrumental in shaping the future of gaming.
Do you enjoy playing modded games, or do you prefer to experience the organic gameplay intended by developers?