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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Are Mods Dying?

As readers from way back know, I was pretty active in the Unreal mod scene at one point. Before I blogged, in fact, I had dev diaries of what I was working on (which, sadly, may not have survived my recent hosting transfer) and wrote for a few mod sites. I even ran for a while as well as I participated in the last Make Something Unreal contest and ranked in a few of the phases. Ended up buying a shiny new sound card out of the deal.

Update: Wayback machine has the old Bounty War diary.

Since MSUC, though, my friends who are still active in the mod community tell me that interest in making and playing mods has nearly disappeared for Unreal Tournament 2004. Some of the projects moved over to Half-Life 2 - but even HL2 seems to be more than ever just a playing ground for Valve to pick and choose projects to add to Steam (gee, big surprise there). While a few interesting Doom III mods hit a while back, it's been a while since I've heard tale of a new one making a splash.

That's not to say that there aren't still mod teams and I'm sure some of them are doing great work. It seems, though, that the professionalization of mod work is almost complete.


-The old concept of a "mod" meaning that someone would go in and tinker with the core gameplay in fundamental ways is almost obsolete.

- No mod since Counter-Strike has been able to succeed commercially nearly as well - even though this has largely become the goal of many mod teams. Not even remotely, and that includes Valve favorites like Day of Defeat and Natural Selection.

- Many mod teams these days are simply nascent gaming studios. They don't have the capital to officially license a game, so they work within the EULA to create a total conversion and then try and pitch it to publishers to push the licensing fee. Largely, this is unsuccessful. And some exceptions like Red Orchestra won a license from Epic's contest.

- MMO's are becoming an increasingly dominant genre on PC's ... and they don't support modding. As FPS gamers move to consoles (which ... don't support modding), the demand for mods will decrease. With these trends, RTS games are the next big mod "market" in waiting.

Don't get me wrong, I think there will be hobbyist and garage developers on PC's for as long as we have PC's. That's not the same crowd, though, that cobbled Future Vs Fantasy or the Action series - not to mention smaller mods like stat tweaks, new powerups, weapon mods, or whatever. Possibly if XNA takes off ... we might see a new mod scene emerge for the 360 scene. For now, though, it seems mods are nearly done evolving into something completely different with little hope of return.

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Unknown said...

a) please enable full story in RSS again :^)

b) We used to have modding of MMOGs. It was called adding a new area to a MUD and I recall Sojourn MUD even having instructions on how to do so and how to get your area added to the system. Ah, those were the days.

Josh said...

a) That was so odd - Blogger was freaking out about that. Should be back now.

b) Yeah, I remember my brother talking about modding MUDs. I wonder if Ryzom will evolve in this direction, should it become a free venture.

And you could call things like Second Life one big mod experiment.

Greg Tannahill said...

Are you discounting the Warcraft 3 Doom of the Ancients mod because it's not commercially successful, because it's not a total conversion, or just because it's not your cup of tea?

It's really hard these days to find a game of WC3 happening that's not DoTA.

Josh said...

Because I was completely unaware of it? :)

RTS mods are woefully off my radar. Which they shouldn't be, because I'm thinking the RPG and RTS genres might be the saving grace for what I would really consider "modding".

Unknown said...

FWIW Blogger randomly chooses to clip my ATOM feed as well. No good reason, but there you go.