As a kid, I not only played video games, but I often wondered what was going on behind the scenes of the video games and what made up the final product. To further explore this curiosity, I took programming classes, and by my adolescence I was introduced into the world of altering these games, or modding. This is true especially for games on PC—many people create third-party mods, from changing the appearance of items, to re-organizing the user interface of a game, to even game cheats. One of the most famous and controversial mods was the “Hot Coffee” mod of the PC version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where they altered the game to include nudity, prompting reactions from parents, politicians and the game world alike.
So why is modding so good for the original game developers and future ones? According to modder Dean Hall, who created a mod for ARMA 2, a 2010 military simulation game, “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.” Hall even said the developers were happy with the fact that their game was being modded. “They’re very happy. The sales have been huge, just massive…so they’re obviously very happy about that and it’s a validation for their strategy and focus with modding.”
One of the most popular games that currently makes heavy use of third-party mods is World of Warcraft via their Curse client, and mods are essentially a huge part of the game, although some players prefer not to use mods.
Some developers are firmly opposed to the idea of anyone modding their games, but if it isn’t already a reality, it slowly is becoming one, especially for people who want to become game developers themselves. “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,” Hall adds.