I’m checking my email every couple of hours or so, after having put in a request to be in on Bethesda.net’s tenuous venture to bring Fallout 4 mods to my Playstation 4. Unlike the Xbox platform, which runs on Windows 10 and can use native files, the PS4 has its own file formats and must have mod files converted in order to be applied to any games its running. Bethesda started a closed beta to get help in setting up this process, and I’m sitting on my hands ready to pitch in. It’s not that I’ve been unhappy with the huge amount of DLC they’ve provided (and will be continuing to provide over the next couple of months) for the relatively cheap $30 fee of my “Season Pass”, but there’s something about the freedom of being able to modify a game to my own rather odd tastes that I’ve missed for a while. In fact, one of the major reasons I’ve ever been interested in games is because of this.
Way back in 1995, I was slipped a copy id Software’s The Ultimate DOOM, and my life changed. Not only was I presented with one of my all-time favorite game experiences, but, as I learned from that burgeoning source of information known as “the internet”, I was also actually able to create my own DOOM content as well. Mind. Blown. Right? Soon I was knee-deep not only in the dead, but also in a world of linedefs, sectors, vertices and monster spawns. The only thing more engrossing and challenging than testing the growing number of fan-made “pwads” was spending hour after hour crafting my own.
The following year brought Quake, and my little map-making mind was blown yet again. Here was a fully three-dimensional world of warped science fiction and quasi-Lovecraftian madness, and a quickly growing community of fellow mod enthusiasts at the ready to expand its borders in their own particular ways. I was quickly introduced to a number of amazingly talented and generous folks from all over the globe, some of whom I still manage to stay in contact with to this day. Many of them have been involved with many of the games you’ve played on PC and consoles, as game developers quickly realized that not only was modding good for extending the life of one’s product, but also provided a stable of viable game-creating talent. When Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington created Valve that same year (1996), they brought with them a number of Quake mappers and modders to realize what would eventually become the first Half-Life. I’m sure this is already well-known, but even the tremendously popular Valve game Team Fortress 2 is based on a Quake mod made popular online shortly after the game was first released.
The modding communities for games have since become vital components to several popular franchises, even going so far as to creating product on par with those of the developers. This of course brings us to the current time, and some unsettling situations that have threatened the long-standing relationship between developers and their communities. Last year Valve tentatively tried charging for mods via their Steam Workshop, which quickly proved to be a major debacle, and now Bethesda’s burgeoning Bethesda.net site is having growing pains, trying to make Fallout 4 PC mods available to console gamers without providing proper credit to their creators. The threat of monetizing fan-made content without supporting the effort (which Valve tried, and many suspect Bethesda is ultimately wanting to try) is dividing the game makers and their biggest fans. Instead of making these situations easier for both parties involved, more obstacles are being thrown in the way.
Whether mods will end up being monetized or not (I’m hoping for the latter, for reasons), their future use across the board obviously needs to ensure that the creators are not only properly credited for their efforts, but that those efforts are able withstand the constant patching of the game software and endless combinations with other mods available. This will require a great deal of patience and diligence by both sides, not to mention from the users of said modifications. As it stands currently, the best vendors for mods are those outside the realm of developers, such as the marvelous folks at the Nexusmods, who provide a solid support team, forums and chatrooms that provide a free flowing interaction between the users and creators of mods for their supported games. Both Valve and Bethesda could learn a great deal from them, as they have gone out of their way to make modding a painless process, by not only keeping users up to date with new versions of mods, but even providing a installer which takes the ever-present question of “Where Does This Thing Go?” out of the equation. Until all of these bases have been covered, the future use of mods — especially those currently being applied to console versions — will be held in contention.
That reminds me — I need to check my email again…