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Modding Video Games Is Good For The Original Game Creators And Future Game Developers

Originally Published on Techdirt.

Earlier this year we talked about how a video game mod, DayZ, breathed new life into a 2 year old game, ARMA 2. This game was not a critical success by any means at release, but because the developer welcomed and made possible the ability for others to mod the game, it recently became one of Steam’s best sellers thanks to the popularity of the DayZ mod. Reflecting on this success, the creators of the mod, Matt Lightfoot and Dean Hall, spoke about what creating the mod means for the original game developer and other potential developers.

When asked how ARMA 2 developer Bohemian Interactive felt about the mod, Dean had this to say:

They’re very happy. The sales have been huge, just massive. By our calculations based on player IDs, you’re looking at 300,000 in sales, which is a very significant chunk of total ArmA 2’s sales. So they’re obviously very happy about that and it’s a validation for their strategy and focus with modding.

By embracing the mod culture in video games, the original creators were able to reach out to more gamers and make more money. This is a very powerful tool that game creators can take advantage of. Yet some developers seem to not want it, at all. Very strange. Perhaps as more developers look at successes such as this one, they will learn to be a bit more accommodating to fans.

But what is in it for the modder? Most mods are released for free and so there is little financial incentive to create them. Dean also has something to say on that front:

Yes, I think modding is really good because you go along someone else’s footsteps and you can learn a lot about how someone else has done something. It’s kind of like reverse engineering things. You figure out what they’ve done, how their data structure works, how their engine works and all these other things.

I think it is a really good place to start because you’re using someone else’s framework. If you want to cut your teeth straight in there with C++ I think that’s a lot to chew off and you can end up not getting exposure to all those issues that if you knew them would make a lot more sense when building your engine from scratch or using someone’s toolkit engine from scratch.

As a developer myself, this is something I can certainly attest to. You can learn far more by following and altering existing code than you can by trying to create something on your own. As you become more comfortable with inner workings of the programming languages or other tools you are using, you gain more confidence in your ability to create something from scratch. What better way to promote progress than to provide new developers the ability to learn from your work?

It is really great to see more discussion happening in the games industry about modding—and especially its potential to launch the careers of new developers. We have seen many mods such as Defense of the Ancients, a Warcraft 3 mod, spawn very successful stand alone games, which is a goal that Dean and Matt hope to reach as a result of this very successful mod.

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