As player’s expectations rise with each new game, so do the budgets of “Triple A” developers looking to impress their audience. This can mean stunning new visuals, more accurate physics and improved game play. Unfortunately it can also mean studios limit financial risk by producing sequels to proven series, sticking to tried and true concepts and genres instead.
To curb rising costs, some developers have focused on creating robust platforms, or “engines,” to power their own games, as well as license to others looking to save on production costs and focus on creating content. Many of these engines are incredibly dynamic, and versatile enough for use in platform, real-time strategy, first person shooter and even role playing games.
MODDING – OPEN DOOR FOR INDIE DEV
One of the most exciting outcomes of these new game engines is the rapid growth of the MOD community and the dramatic increase in what can be accomplished by a motivated individual or group.
“Modding” is the process of modifying an existing game by adding new content, redefining the way the game is played or nearly creating a new game entirely.
“Mods” are generally referred to as either “partial” or “total” conversions, with the latter usually largely indistinguishable from the original game.
As user generated content and mods continue to extend the shelf life of many popular titles, the original developers have embraced the community and begun offering more and more of the tools typically reserved for full engine licensees to anyone who owns their game. While they grant no commercial license, any prospective game developer now has access to serious tools designed for professional game designers.
Anyone planning a career in the games industry should consider learning to mod immediately!
WHO, WHAT, WHEN… HUH?
While modding may seem daunting to someone just starting out, the process can actually be broken down into very manageable tasks including: game designer, 2D and 3D artist, programmer, level designer, sound designer, cinematic producer, and project manager. Certain roles may be better suited to particular individuals.
Any ideas should be defined through concept art, scripts, design documents, and/or reference images. Once a concept has been finalized, the creation of the game assets can begin.
3D props and characters must be modeled, textured, and rigged within the game engine specifications. Levels and environments must be created to house your characters and dictate game play. Well crafted animation provides life and realism and sound design helps bring everything together.
Depending on the scope of your project, certain programming may also be necessary to add or change core functionality.
Fortunately these roles and responsibilities are nearly identical to those within commercial game studios and any future employer will appreciate an applicant who has experience in, or an understanding of, other related disciplines.
CREATING YOUR OWN MOD
Like most coordinated efforts, creating a mod requires a well laid plan. Refine your ideas and create lists detailing elements to be created and what functionality will be implemented to achieve your goals.
Beware of ‘feature creep’ and remember that completing even a simple mod is more impressive than a lavish project that is only partially completed.
If warranted, assemble a team of like-minded, determined colleagues. Strong leadership is important to ensure you remain on track and reach your goals.
One particularly mod-friendly engine is Source®, created by Valve Software, the company that awed the gaming industry with the releases of Half-Life® and Half-Life®2. Several of their games, including Counter-Strike®, Day of Defeat®, Portal® and Team Fortress®2 actually began as mods prior to being distributed commercially. Many of the original modders even found employment at Valve based on their mod projects!
Throughout the process seek help wherever possible and continue to learn new techniques and hone your skills. Resources from groups like Noesis Interactive who specialize in training modders are invaluable. Marketing yourself effectively on community sites such as Mod Center and ModDB will help ensure an audience for your mod and validate all of your hard work.
Noesis Interactive produces high quality video based training materials for modders, machinima producers, academic institutions and indie-developers.
Take advantage of game ready 3D computer graphics content from a site like Flatpyramid.com to create your Next Gen Game.