2, Issue 11
February 7, 2000
the Mouth of Madness:
confessional time, ladies and gentlemen. I consider myself to
be the hardest of the hardcore gamers. Particularly when it comes
to first person shooters like Quake and the like. But,
the sad truth is that while I love these games to death...I just
dont play mods.
Ive said it...you can throw your tomatoes at me now. Ill
just sit here and take it.
now that youve all gotten that out of your system, let me
explain myself. I love first person shooters. Heck, I played all
the way through Quake 1 in single player. I love deathmatch.
I love multiplayer. I think out of the box, these games are great
(often flawed, no question, but great in their own way). Which,
I suppose, is one reason why I dont like mods.
for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is the moniker given
to user-made add-ons, or modifications, to these games. I respect
them. Lord knows, I respect that. I think its amazing how
much effort goes into these things. I look at them in the same
way I do console emulators theyre really cool, and
show the author is very, very skilled. But that still doesnt
mean Id rather play that than the original.
are typically two kinds of mods: full blown total conversions
(TCs) and new multiplayer gameplay types. Completed TCs are few
and far between, since they require an incredible amount of work.
By definition, a TC is a total conversion. That means every level,
texture, character model and sound is completely original. At
any given time, there are hundreds of these things being worked
on. For various reasons, most of them will never be finished,
even the ones with the hardcore, dedicated developers working
on them. Why? Well, frankly, if theyre that good, then theyll
end up working at a gaming company. It sounds ludicrous, but it
happens all the time.
the other reason is simply that people either get bored with the
project, or realize what an overwhelming task theyve created
for themselves. Or, as was the case with several large-scale projects,
they simply took too long. The day Quake III Arena hit
the shelves, there were a whole bunch of mods that either were
cancelled outright, or decided to attempt to convert their existing
work to the newer game engine.
the other type of mod, the one thats far more common, and
much saner. The new gameplay type, or PC for partial
conversion. These dont try and reinvent the wheel, they
just add something small and new to the game. They range from
the absolutely bizarre to really simple ones, like mods that tweak
the speed of the game.
I have with partial conversions is that they usually end up being
gameplay types that didnt make it into the game for good
reason. They might be entertaining, but theyre frequently
very unbalanced. There are some very popular mods out there that
are simply unbalanced, allowing one team to easily overtake the
server. Also, because these are significantly easier to make than
TCs, the level of quality is all over the map from retail
quality, to something that resembles the authors first programming
exercise. Again, theres nothing wrong with this, but its
just not for me.
me thinking about mods as a whole, is the realization that while
there have only been a handful of mods for the Quake series
of games Id ever really spend any sort of time playing,
Im very impressed with the most recent batch of Half-Life
mods. Now of course, like any game, Half-Life has a whole
bunch of mods that are silly programming experiments. But, as
Counter Strike has shown, its possible to create
an original game type that is addicting, and of the same quality
as the game itself.
not the biggest fan of Counter Strike, but I know a lot
of people (loonygames own Nick Ferguson for one) that are
completely addicted to it. Personally, I think its fun,
but not enough fun to supplant regular deathmatch. But, and I
say but, I have to admit, its very well made. Its
well made enough, that the most recent version of Counter Strike
was funded by Valve Software.
imagine? Valve is not only actively involved in the creation of
mods, but in some cases, theyve actually funded them (Action
Half-Life, another extremely well made mod was paid for as
well). Thats pretty significant. But, it would seem that
it has paid off. I know several people that ran out and bought
copies of Half-Life just to play Counter Strike.
The last time I heard someone buying a game just for a mod was
back in the days of the first Quake, when hordes of people
bought up the game in order to play a little mod called Team
existence of mods can extend the life-span of a game by years,
as the huge number of people still playing QuakeWorld has
proven. Valve is setting a strange precedent with their hands-on
approach to supporting mods, but the question remains...shouldnt
they be spending that time making their own games better?
companies get directly involved in the creation of mods, I think
a strange line is crossed. Obviously the mods themselves become
more polished, something that is much appreciated. But it raises
all kinds of odd issues. For example: will Valve be funding a
version of Counter Strike for Team Fortress 2? How
about Half-Life 2? (Should they ever officially announce
it, of course).
shipped with a whole bunch of little mutators or mini-mods,
such as insta-gib. While these are appreciated by
fans of the various gameplay types, the more mods included in
a game out of the box, the more confusing it becomes to the newbie.
When I jump into an Unreal Tournament server, I have no
idea what Im getting into. It could be regular deathmatch,
or maybe Insta-Gib. Or something else entirely. It becomes terribly
frustrating trying to find a pure server with UT.
have any real answers to the issues raised here. I cant
claim to know all there is to know about mods, and of course,
Im ignorant in many ways. I respect mod authors, and I hope
there are plenty made for years to come. But personally speaking,
I think Ill stick to deathmatch and CTF.
Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor in chief here