The Monogamous Relationship between the PC and Mods
May 24, 2010 § Leave a comment
For many the decline in the emphasis placed on the PC as a platform isn’t much of an issue. The party moved on to consoles a while ago, leaving PC developers to face some very difficult decisions about the platforms their future titles would grace with their presence.
Mods (short for modifications) are programs or files which will change either a small part of a game, or create an entirely new one based upon the initial groundwork done by the game’s developers. A small mod might be an additional multiplayer map, or a new gun, whilst an example of an entirely new game created as a mod would be Counter-Strike, which started out as a mod of the original Half Life.
Mods are an incredibly important part of the industry. Not only are they a blast to play around with for the end gamer, adding literally months of fun to a title in the form of what would today be called ‘free DLC’, but they also provide a very important means for amateurs to release games, by simplifying the process of making something in your spare time.
Whenever any industry veteran is asked how to get into the industry, the answer given 9 out of 10 times is to get involved with a mod team. That experience of putting together levels, and creating art assets for a community project is invaluable when a person comes to working in the industry as a professional, and it’s experience you can’t really get anywhere else.
I’m not saying the mod scene is ever going to die out, but the shunning of the PC platform by publishers is driving people towards consoles, and reducing the potential market for amateur releases. This is unquestionably a bad thing to my mind when consumer feedback is really the only thing you have going for you when you’re not getting paid to put something out.
The solution I’d advocate is to make Mods far more accessible to consoles, and hence console owners.
Epic Games had this same idea with Unreal Tournament 3. Their method however, was less than ideal. Soon after the game’s release, they put out a tool which allowed you to ‘cook’ your PC mod and turn it into something that could be played on your console.
The problem was that getting mods onto your console was simply far to convoluted for your average console gamer, who had no means of browsing mods on their PS3, and had to either get seriously invested in the PC mod community, or else wait for knowledgeable journalists to point them in the direction of something worth trying. Without any form of marketplace for the mods, there was no way for the average consumer to find something to suit his tastes.
Titles like LittleBigPlanet have proved that if you make downloading other people’s creations easy enough, then not only will gamers download the creations of others, but that creators will be incentivised to produce the best possible content.
Give console gamers the engine, and some substantial tools, and they’ll produce more than you ever thought possible. They’ll fill consumers machines with hours of the most creative entertainment ever made, and they’ll become the great designers of the future with the experience they’ll gain.
But of course, there’s always going to be that piracy issue bogging progress down…
So what about you. Would you be more tempted to try out a mod if you could play it from your couch, or are you already getting your fix on the PC side? Do you think we’ll ever see mod tools make it into console games, or is there just not enough incentive there for developers?