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Friday, May 05, 2006

John Romero Blames Modders For Oblivion Rating

From the brains behind Daikatana:

The ESRB just re-rated Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion from Teen to Mature. On the surface the bad news for Bethesda is that fewer units will be sold to an M audience and it's a little bit of a black eye as well because of the "nude content introduced into the game from a third party mod". Sure, it's only for the PC version but the news blurb will affect all SKUs regardless.

Ok, so the story is that there was no nude content in the game's data but some modder added it with a utility. In the case of GTA's Hot Coffee incident there was actually some hidden art assets and animations that were unlocked by modders and thus got that game jacked up by the ESRB as well - and it really affected ALL ratings in the industry past that point. It's now harder to get a lower rating because of these hacks.

What's the point of this all this? That modders are now screwing up the industry they're supposed to be helping. In 1993 we opened up all our data to the industrious and ambitious folks out there who want to see what it's like to be able to make their favorite game a little more like what they'd want.....and get a taste of being a semi-game designer in the process. The most awesome example of what this philosophy has brought is CounterStrike.

Now what's going to happen? You'll probably start seeing game data files becoming encrypted and the open door on assets getting slammed shut just to keep modders from financially screwing the company they should be helping. And the day a game company's file encryption is hacked to add porn and the case goes to the ESRB for review - that's when we'll see how well game companies are protected from these antics and what the courts will rule. Hopefully it'll be on the developer's side.
-- Oblivion Re-Rated = Bad News (digg it)

Wow, that makes me pretty mad. But before I rip into any of that, I should state that I'm reading this as translated from babel since Romero's site is blocked here at the office. I tried to clean it back up, but I may have missed some of the odd captials and such that happened in the process. In short, if there is odd typing in the quote, it's probably not from the original. I don't think he meant to say "drank the news". I'll replace it properly when I get chance, but for now feel free to click through using your non-censored connection to read the real version. (Now updated)

Now, let's see here.

First of all - modders don't owe the industry squat. They don't pay any license fees, they aren't under any contracts outside of the EULA. Modders are consumers. The industry loves to use modders for free labor and assets. The industry has received a great deal of innovation and bonus material from the works of modders ... and 99.99999% of the time the mod community doesn't see a dime or often even a thank you.

The gaming industry owes the mod community. Not the other way around. Yes, mods exist because the industry takes time to create support, tools and extendability. In many ways, the mod community exists at the mercy of the industry. Like playing Capture the Flag, though? Thank the mods.

All CounterStrike is a perfect example of is how to ride on the works of others for as long as possible before simply buying them outright. It's easily done as much harm as good for the industry. Now instead of free innovation, the industry is just looking for others to extend the lifespan of their products.

In other words, these "hacks" are your customers. Expecting your customers to modify games in ways that only serves you as a game developer is arrogant and absurd.

The problem isn't the modders. The problem is the ESRB overstepping it's bounds. And it's doing it because instead of the industry defending itself and it's users ... it attacks developers it doesn't like (say, Rockstar) or attacks the people that use the product (those meddling modders).

How about instead, the industry tell the ESRB to rate content as it ships and not worry about what users do with it afterwards. Inform parents about mods, but don't punish the industry because people are actually using them.

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