Tune Up Your Game!
By Rowan "Sumaleth" Crawford
Unofficial missions are produced independently of the original game's creators and, to date at least, have been a sole side-product of id Software games. While the games are produced independently, according to the license agreement for Quake and Quake II the add-ons still need to be passed by id Software. A couple of add-ons in the past, such as 'Juggernaut' and the mod, 'Shrak', both for Quake, actually attempted to ignore the license agreement and avoid paying id Software royalties. I asked Todd how id Software approached this practice, as well as the exploitative compilation CDs mentioned above:
"I don't believe it is prudent to discuss our intellectual property enforcement policies in any level of detail. Any discussion would have to be so generic that it would be worthless from an information standpoint and would only provide avenues for unscrupulous people to exploit in the future. Suffice it to say that id Software has very valuable intellectual property rights and we will defend them via whatever means we deem to be appropriate and necessary."
Are there too many mission packs? One or two official mission packs seem like a reasonable number when you consider the development periods between major game releases, and extending the life of a game you enjoy is always going to be an attractive prospect, especially at a competitive price.
However, there is going to be a point where the large choice of mission packs and mods spreads the consumer dollar too thin, invariably leading to sales figures that are too low to recoup the production costs. How many mission packs a game such as Quake II can support is anyone’s guess, but, in the "official" category at least, id Software believe two packs to be the right number.
Looking at the production side of mission packs, a commercial 'mod' actually requires significantly more work than a mission pack. As the term 'Total Conversion' suggests, a commercial mod needs to replace each an every model and texture from the original game, whereas a mission pack usually only adds a small number of each to the existing base. Not to mention the task of establishing and maintaining a whole new storyline and gaming style. The risk is also greater; a mission pack in a known commodity, whereas a buyer doesn't know what sort of gameplay they might be getting with a commercial mod, and that often leads to making the safer purchase choice.
It's easy to be critical, or skeptical, of commercial add-ons for popular games, particularly in the case of the unofficial variety which aren't endorsed, and therefore aren't guaranteed of quality, by the original company in any way. However, it's just as easy to miss the real reason people make them, and it's not the 'get rich quick scheme' that a lot of people might imagine; the real reason is that creating these types of add-ons represents a way for everyday gamers, with a bit of talent and a lot of determination, to take that first step into the gaming industry. The enormous 'mod' scene that has embraced Quake and Quake II is testament to the creative aspirations found in the players of the games, and it's these people that create most of the unofficial mods and mission packs. In other words, it's a passion, and in a lot of cases it actually leads directly into to the big scary world of creating games professionally. A dream for many.
So there you have it, the world of add-ons under the microscope. I started this article interested in discovering whether I thought they were hurting or helping the gaming industry, and particularly the gamers, but having reached the end I find myself drawing the conclusion that they aren't can't be judged in those terms; their success or failure depends entirely on whether players are happy to buy them. If players buy them then it's hard to imagine they aren't worthwhile from everyone’s point of view, and player are buying them, and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Why? We just can't seem to get enough of games we like!
- Rowan "Sumaleth" Crawford is a member of Team Impact. His most recent project has been the upcoming Quake 2 Internet Pack: Extremities.
|Credits: Illustration © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Tune Up Your Game! © 1998 Rowan Crawford. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, dangit.|