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A mod or modification is the alteration of the program code of a video game in order to make it operate in a manner different from its original version. Mods can be created for any genre of game but are especially popular in first-person shooters, role-playing games and real-time strategy games. Mods are made by the general public or a developer and can be entirely new games in themselves, but mods are not stand-alone software and require the user to have the original release in order to run. They can include new items, modded weapons, characters, enemies, models, textures, levels, story lines, music, money, armor, life and game modes. They can be single-player or multiplayer. Mods that add new content to the underlying game are often called partial conversions, while mods that create an entirely new game are called total conversions and mods that fix bugs only are called unofficial patches.
Games running on a personal computer are often designed with change in mind, allowing modern PC games to be modified by gamers without much difficulty. These mods can add extra replay value and interest. The Internet provides an inexpensive medium to promote and distribute mods, and they have become an increasingly important factor in the commercial success of some games. Developers such as Firaxis, id Software, Valve Software, Mojang, Re-Logic, Bethesda Softworks, Crytek, The Creative Assembly and Epic Games provide extensive tools and documentation to assist mod makers, leveraging the potential success brought in by a popular mod like Counter-Strike.
Mods can help to continue the success of the original game, even when the original game has become dated. In that case, players might have to clarify that they are referring to the unmodified game when talking about playing a game. The term vanilla is often used to make this distinction. "Vanilla Battlefield 1942", for example, refers to the original, unmodified game. For vanilla games, prefix "v" or "V" is commonly used together with the game title acronym, e.g., VQ3 stands for "vanilla Quake 3".
As early as the 1980s, video game mods have been used for the sole purpose of creating art, as opposed to an actual game. They can include recording in-game action as a film, as well as attempting to reproduce real-life areas inside a game with no regard for game play value. See also artistic video game modification, machinima, and demoscene.
A total conversion is a mod of an existing game that replaces virtually all of the artistic assets in the original game, and sometimes core aspects of gameplay. Total conversions can result in a completely different genre from the original.
Often developers intend to sell their total conversion as a stand-alone product, which necessitates the need to replace any remaining original assets to avoid copyright infringement.
Since most total conversions only share the engine in common with the original game, if the engine becomes free software or freeware, the total conversion can be playable without having to own the original game.
A total overhaul mod changes or redefines the gameplay style of the original game, while keeping it in the original game's universe. This may include upgrading the graphics or adding new models, dialog and music to the original (while still respecting the plot), or changing the pace of how the game is played. Total overhauls are usually combined with significant add-on material as well. A prominent example is Black Mesa, which remakes the original Half-Life.
An add-on or addon is a typically small mod which adds to the original content of a specific game. In most cases, an add-on will add one particular element to a game, such as a new weapon in a shooting game, a new vehicle or track in a racing game, or items in a game like Minecraft. This can be accomplished without changing any of the original game's existing content. Many games are flexible and allow this, but that is not always so. Some add-ons occasionally have to replace in-game content, due to the nature of a peculiar game engine. It may be, for example, that in a game which does not give a player the option to choose their character, modders wishing to add another player model will simply have to overwrite the old one. A famous example of this type of mod can be found for the Grand Theft Auto series wherein modders may use downloadable tools to replace content (such as models) in the game's directory.
An unofficial patch can be a mod of an existing game that fixes bugs not fixed by an official patch or that unlocks content present in the released game's files but is inaccessible in official gameplay. Such patches are usually created by members of the game's fan base when the original developer is unwilling or unable to supply the functionality officially. One downside of this type of mod is that leaked content can be revealed. An example is the Hot Coffee mod for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which was removed in version 1.01 because of lawsuits by parent associations. Hot Coffee was brought back to version 1.01 by a group of a modders in 2005 who found the animation files and scripts in the first version of the game. The scripts were re-added and the animations were re-hexed so the game would not have any conflict.
An art mod is a mod that is created for artistic effect. Art mods are most frequently associated with video game art, but modified games that retain their playability and are subject to more extensive mods (i.e. closer to total conversions) may also be classified as art games.
Official status of modsEdit
For example, in the Civilization IV expansion Beyond the Sword: two existing mods, Rhye's and Fall of Civilization and Fall from Heaven made their way into the expansion (the latter through a spin-off called Age of Ice).
Most mods do not progress very far and are abandoned without ever having a public release. Some are very limited and just include some gameplay changes or even a different loading screen, and others are total conversions and can modify content and gameplay extensively. A few mods become very popular and convert themselves into distinct games, with the rights getting bought and turning into an official modification.
A group of mod developers may join together to form a "mod team".
Mod-making tools are a variety of construction sets for creating mods for a game. Early commercial mod-making tools were the Boulder Dash Construction Kit (1986) and The Bard's Tale Construction Set (1991), which allowed users to create game designs in those series.
There are also free content delivery tools available that make playing mods easier. They help manage downloads, updates, and mod installation in order to allow people who are less technically literate to play. Steam for Half-Life 2 mods is an example.
Game support for modificationsEdit
The potential for end-user change in games varies greatly, though it can have little correlation on the number and quality of mods made for a game.
In general the most modification-friendly games will define gameplay variables in text or other non proprietary format files (for instance in the Civilization series one could alter the movement rate along roads and many other factors), and have graphics of a standard format such as bitmaps. Publishers can also determine mod-friendliness in the way important source files are available (some programs collect their source material into large proprietary archives, but others make the files available in folders).
Games have varying support from their publishers for modifications, but often require expensive professional software to make.
For advanced mods that are total conversions, complicated modeling and texturing software is required to make original content. Advanced mods can rival the complexity and work of making the original game content (short of the engine itself), rendering the differences in ease of modding small in comparison to the total amount of work required. Having an engine that is for example easy to import models to, is of little help when doing research, modeling, and making a photorealistic texture for a game item. As a result, other game characteristics such as its popularity and capabilities have a dominating effect on the number of mods created for the game by users.
A game that allows modding is said to be "moddable".
The games industry is currently facing the question of how much it should embrace the players' contribution in creating new material for the game or mod-communities as part of their structure within the game. Some software companies openly accept and even encourage such communities. Others though have chosen to enclose their games in heavily policed copyright or Intellectual Property regimes(IPR) and close down sites that they see as infringing their ownership of a game.
For cross-platform games, mods written for the Windows version have not always been compatible with the Mac OS X and/or Linux ports of the game. In large part, this is due to the publisher's concern with prioritizing the porting of the primary game itself, when allocating resources for fixing the porting of mod-specific functions may not be cost-effective for the smaller market share of alternate platforms.
Also, mods compiled into platform-specific libraries are often only built for the Windows platform, leading to a lack of cross-platform compatibility even when the underlying game is highly portable. In the same line of reasoning, mod development tools are often available only on the Windows platform.
Mod teams that lack either the resources or know-how to develop their mods for alternative platforms sometimes outsource their code and art assets to individuals or groups who are able to port the mod.
The mod specialist site for Macs, Macologist, has created GUI launchers and installers for many UT2004 mods, as well as solving cross-platform conversion issues for mods for other games.
Unforeseen consequences or benefits of moddingEdit
In January 2005, it was reported that in The Sims 2 modifications that changed item and game behavior were unexpectedly being transferred to other players through the official website's exchange feature, leading to changed game behavior without advance warning.
In July 2007, CNET News reported that a Grand Theft Auto mod video uploaded to YouTube contained a link to a malware website. When a viewer clicked on the link and downloaded the mod, it infected the computer.
Mod packs are groups of mods put into one package for download, often with an auto-installer. A mod pack's purpose is to make an easy download for downloading multiple mods, often with the goal of resolving cross-mod interactions that can happen, or to make the original game easier or more difficult.
Legal status of mod packsEdit
Mod packs have had legal issues in the past. Often mods are distributed without consent or consultation with the original mod author, which is believed by some of the gaming community to be against copyright laws, while others believe the mod to be open and not copyrightable due to it being a modification for an already existing game. Some mod authors have included malicious code against mod pack authors to prevent distribution, often with other particular mods.
- ↑ Cannon, Rebecca. "Meltdown" from Videogames and Art (Clarke, Andy and Grethe Mitchell, eds.). Bristol: Intellect Books. Pp.40-42. 2007. ISBN 978-1-84150-142-0
- ↑ Sid Meier's Civilization Mods by Rhye - Rhye's and Fall of Civilization
- ↑ Fall from Heaven
- ↑ Civilization III: Play the World Review - PC Games - CNET Reviews
- ↑ Flew, Terry and Humphreys, Sal (2005) "Games: Technology, Industry, Culture" in Terry Flew, New Media: an introduction (second edition), Oxford University Press, South Melbourne 101-114.
- ↑ Supernatural powers become contagious in PC game by Will Knight, NewScientist, 7 January 2005
- ↑ CNET news 2 July 2007 Grand Theft Auto mod virus uses YouTube to spread 
- ↑ http://www.pcgamesn.com/minecraft/minecraft-mod-gregtech-contains-code-crash-game-should-its-changes-be-undone-other-mods
- Brief overview of the differences and similarities between open source software development and co-creation in digital games - Jedrzej Czarnota, Gamasutra, 7 August 2013
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