2013: The Year in Modding

I’ve been spending most of my life living in a modder’s paradise.

Sadly, the modding landscape has changed over the past decade — and not for the better. The industry just doesn’t support modding the way it used to, and as a result, we’re seeing fewer and shallower mods. More than a decade ago, there was no shortage of Unreal Tournament total conversions that allowed for almost unlimited replay value. Today, you’re lucky to find simple re-skins for some of the industry’s biggest releases.

Modders aren’t to blame — developers are. Thankfully, some developers do still support modding, and the current greatest modding projects have arisen from key franchises that serve as the last bastions for the modding community. As we move into 2014 and a new console generation, let’s take a look back at some of the most important modding news and mod releases over the past year.

Modding Headlines

This year saw some great opportunities for modders. Tripwire held a mapping contest for Red Orchestra and awarded $35,000 in prizes. Bohemia Interactive announced its massive Arma 3 modding contest with a €500,000 cash prize pool — the equivalent of $680,000. The grand prize is a whopping €200,000, and the contest will run throughout 2014.

Alexander Velicky, creator of the Falskaar mod for Skyrim, was hired by Bungie as an associate designer. With four years of modding experience and more than 2,000 hours spent on his Falskaar mod — which contains almost 30 hours of new content — Velicky is one of modding’s newest success stories. He may just be following in the footsteps of Adam Foster, creator of the popular Half-Life 2 mod MINERVA, whose journey took him from astrophysics to now working for Valve. MINERVA received a free “Director’s Cut” release on Steam in late April.

Speaking of modding success stories, Garry’s Mod creator Garry Newman this year revealed that his creation has made about $22 million over the past seven years.

Valve gave Half-Life remake mod Black Mesa the green light to be sold on Steam. The mod itself will still remain available for free, but the paid version will be updated with various bug fixes and improvements. More importantly, though, it gives players a way to show their appreciation of the modders’ hard work.

Starcraft Universe, the MMORPG mod for Starcraft 2, saw an alpha release through Battle.net’s arcade. The mod offers custom maps, eight classes, character customization, voice acting, custom physics and vehicle combat. Since its release, it raised $85,000 in crowd funding and was successfully Kickstarted.

Developers continued to show their support for the modding scene. Torchlight 2 mod editor released, along with Steam workshop integration. We learned that mod tools will be coming to the Saints Row franchise. CD Projekt RED released mod tools for The Witcher 2, and later released a mod that rebalances the game’s combat system.

With the release of the Oculus Rift dev kit, modders have been hard at work getting their VR on. Nathan Andrews developed an Oculus Rift-ready Half-Life 2 mod that adds full head tracking and weapon tracking to the game. He then ported his mod over to Crysis.

Now for something completely different; WibiData, a startup data applications developer, tasks potential job applicants with completing a puzzle in a custom-made Portal 2 mod.

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4 Comments on 2013: The Year in Modding

Kevin

On December 16, 2013 at 4:09 pm

I don’t know if it’s a “mod” so to speak, but the combat rebalance for Witcher 2 done in off-hours by one of the CD:PR devs really made it feel like a brand new game. Was pretty incredible.

Dan Miller

On December 16, 2013 at 10:30 pm

You guys left Arkham Origins off the list!

Ares

On December 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Best way to spot good talent. Is by making games available to be modded. Making games near impossible to mod so DLC can be cranked out doesn’t help the industry. Those with the skill and passion to make mods for a game sometimes come up with simply amazing things. Modders end up making better content than most developers. Even better. Fixing the mistakes that never get corrected before or after release.

GoodIdea82

On May 13, 2014 at 10:35 am

> Sadly, the modding landscape has changed over the past decade — and not for the better.

Really? How about these mods for good old GTA San Andreas:
Soccer Team Play (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZVi-6RAFcs)
SA Golf (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwethLRmH2s)
SA Volleyball (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blm16iPMKvQ)
SA Tennis (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeA8ju6ryxU)