Nov 7, 2013
Throughout gaming’s life-span, PC gaming has always proven itself to be the platform to chose should you be at all interested in modding or customising your favourite games. On top of this, PCs also have an advantage over consoles in that you can customise and choose whatever hardware you want for your machine, based on its specific gaming needs.
In last week’s Hypothetically Speaking, we asked the question what if next gen consoles had modding tools, and how it may impact the hardware market. However, even if consoles had more freedom with modding games, the inability to customise hardware may still be an interfering factor to dissuade PC gamers from purchasing consoles. For example, even if your PC/console could run games such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with all settings on maximum, your hardware may fall short when trying to add some of the graphical modifications or HD texture packs available. Obviously, with a PC, you could invest in better hardware, but in a console you are stuck with what it comes with.
Graphical overhauls are not that uncommon, but usually are developed by a team which has had some investment from the original’s creators. However, sometimes they might just be generated by the community or third-party. A prime example of this would be Black Mesa, a remake of Valve’s Half-Life, which took the original and remade it in the new Source engine.
Some game mods could be simple quality of life changes that could address some of the issues that weren’t fully explored in development. Particular UI changes, and HUD elements that work well on consoles, being specifically designed for gamepads may not work as well for mouse and keyboard inputs (here’s looking at you, Skyrim menu).
Other modifications could dynamically change some of the core components of the game by adjusting some of its mechanics, adding new elements to fighting, various role-play parts, or even adding new difficulties. Furthermore, it’s always good fun to get your hands on new equipment for your characters, be in new guns, armour, over-sized Final Fantasy inspired melee weapons and other various cosmetic choices. Although there could already be a large number of weapons in a game, you can never have enough of them.
Various other mods have the potential to pull in audiences which are not usually interested in a particular title. I personally struggled to get into the Total War franchise, however when I learned there was a mod that changed the factions in the game to that of the various factions from The Legend of Zelda franchise, I swiftly bought the game to play with the mod. Allowing the factions of Hyrule to battle each other on an open field sparked an interest for a game I previously wasn’t hadn’t invested in.
Sometimes, mods can be used to breathe life into an older game that may have been side-lined for a while. Take the Iron Man mod in GTA IV, for instance. Even if you have already completed the campaign, side missions and quests, it might be fun to have a second outing in the game because of mods. It’s hard to imagine a game were running and flying around your favourite gaming cities or worlds in an Iron Man suit would not reinvigorate interest in an old title.
Modding games is certainly easier on PC, and allows gamers more creative freedom to showcase their adjustments and fun changes. It would be a huge step forward if next gen consoles announced modding potential, however for the time being it feels unlikely that it will happen. Perhaps as more information is revealed regarding the Steam console, it may shake up Microsoft and Sony’s plans. Steam would have access to the Steam Workshop, and seeing as though digital downloads and installing to your consoles hard-drive is becoming increasingly popular, the files should be easier to modify.
For the industry, modding and game customisation is also good for those making the additional content. It allows gamers to showcase their work, be it new quests, new weapons, armour etc and build a virtual portfolio to put forward for a potential job opportunity. It’d be a great addition to a CV if you could demonstrate that your work has been featured and highly reviewed in things such as the Steam Workshop, Nexus Mods etc.
Furthermore, developers are beginning to implement “Player Studios”, which allow talented graphic gaming designers to create various cosmetic content to be sold in the game for a small fee (micro-transactions, we meet again!). This has been successfully implemented in Team Fortress 2, and will soon launch for Planetside 2.
It’s a win-win situation for both gamers and developers to be a part of. The designer gets a cut of all sales of their product sold in game, while the developers do not need to spend their resources on pumping out new cosmetics as frequently. Not only will the cash be well received, but it is a great way to earn a positive reputation and build a portfolio in games design.
If next gen consoles did have modding tools for players to generate their own content, it could easily be distributed on the Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation+ networks. It might take a lot to get this ball rolling, but the return could be well worth the investment. Also, it could be a great way to encourage PC gamers to get their hands on a console they may not usually have purchased if they could have fun with modding.