Gaming Under the Hood: When Gaming Turns to ModdingApr 22, 2016 | 1 Votes
When one has played so many games in one’s life, there comes a time when one wishes that there could be more than just playing, winning and completing the game. Every gamer would probably experience this one way or the other, but there are certain err…individuals who will have this burning desire to take gaming to the next level. These people are called game modders and most of them eventually move up into actual game designing or programming.
Game modding in one of its simplest definitions means just that, to modify or change a game to exhibit a different characteristic and/or function from the original. This has been going on since the early days of video games. Programmers and designers would take the concept (and sometimes even the code) of the video games and add their own ideas and twist to it, which results in a modified game, or sometimes, an entirely new one. Some moddings are done in a rather unsavory way, which seems to be very prevalent today especially in the mobile games market, while others followed certain parameters and industry standards which led to a nicely modded game.
The most notable game mod that is considered to be the first case ever of game modding is the very popular arcade adventure game, Castle Wolfenstein, which was released in the early 1980’s. Not contented with the base game, a programmer with a talent for game design modded the game by converting the characters from WW2 German soldiers to the loveable little blue Smurfs with a penchant for violence. The title and ending screens were changed as well, along with the opening theme and narrations. Voices that were in German were re-recorded in Smurf while the original German setting was replaced. Using only a sector editor (an app used to edit the hexadecimal data on a disk), a paint program and Muse Software’s very own audio app “The Voice”, the game Castle Murfenstein was born.
By the 1990s, when Wolfenstein 3D FPS was released by Apogee Software, the developers noticed that mods created by the gaming community started to extend the life of the game with the free additional content and development tools they provided. So, by the time ID Software released Doom, they made sure that gamers would be provided an option to create and develop additional content and they tried to make it as easy as possible.
This eventually led to the inevitability of game modding as a crucial part of the modern game industry and its influence on the very nature of the gameplay of the game itself. Game mods such as Team Fortress (and subsequently, Team Fortress 2), which was spawned from Quake, as well as Aliens Total Conversion, which evolved from Doom, made game modding as popular as ever.
In fact by the time 1998 comes around, Epic Games released one of the first complete modding tool packages, which were designed by the developers themselves for their hit game Unreal. The Unreal editor (UnrealEd) which came with the game, resulted in a gaming environment where the distinction between developers and end users started to blur.
Gamers who turned into modders where considered as developers and the really talented ones were hired or absorbed by the game companies themselves. Team Fortress is a very good example of this. As the 3 creators of the mod where in the process of updating the game from a version they created for QuakeWorld for on-line multi-play to a stand- alone version, the team was hired by Valve to port the mod for Half-Life instead and released as Team Fortress Classic in April of 1999.
A few months later, the first beta version of CounterStrike mod for Half-life was uploaded to the internet by its two creators in June of the same year. CounterStrike was so popular that the gaming and modding community it spawned was so active and new content in the form of maps (game levels) and skins started pouring in to continually expand and upgrade the mod. By the 4th beta, the mod and its developers where absorbed by Valve and by November 2000 the first retail version of the game was released.
The immense ever growing popularity of CounterStrike both on-line and in LAN shops brought forth the emergence of the so called multi-player on-line battle arena (moba) and the e-sports industry that we currently have today. The effects of game modding where not only limited to fps games but to other genres as well. The most notable was the development of DOTA (Defense of the Ancients) a mod based on both WarCraft and StarCraft real time strategy games published by Blizzard. First released in 2003, the growth and popularity that the DOTA mod enjoyed was so astounding that it was updated to DOTA All Stars, and eventually, being absorbed by Valve, updated and re-released as the hugely popular DOTA2 back in 2013.
Game modding has come a long way through the years and has not only helped the games themselves by extending their lifespans but also the gaming industry in a very big way. After all, game modders are actually gamers in general turned developers who continually extend and enhance the life-cycle of the games they love. They are, in some sense, still playing the game... but this time, under the hood.