Id Software: We Don’t Hold Back Mod Tools for DLC

When it released RAGE last year, id Software told players that it wouldn’t be releasing mod tools to go with the game, despite a long history of doing so. The development went into a growing pile of games without tools, and among many gamers, the assumption was simple: Why let players mod games when developers could sell them DLC?

“I would say that never enters our mind,” said Jonathan Wright, lead programmer at id Software who got his start as a modder, during the “Celebrating id Modding” at QuakeCon 2012. “DLC makes it harder on the developers because we just have more to do, so as soon as the game is finished we’ve got to make more content. We also have to support, on the platform of consoles, we have to support the official paths for installing and downloading DLC. It’s just a lot more work for us, and I think probably in general that makes it more difficult for the developers to support modding because we have a limited amount of time.”

As Double Fine’s JP LeBreton noted during the panel, releasing mod tools is a lot like putting out a complete second product, and carries legal implications because of alterations to the code that players might create, like adding pornography to a game. The point: putting out mod tools can be difficult.

From Wright’s point of view, it’s not the prospect of making more money through DLC, but a lack of time to work on releasing mod tools, that holds them back.

“We’re not thinking of it as, ‘Oh, because people are playing mods, they aren’t going to play our DLC.’ Maybe somebody somewhere in a marketing office thinks that, I don’t know, I’ve never heard that opinion before,” He said. “For us, I think, mods are cool, mods get more people playing the game. You can’t play the mod without buying the original game anyway, so that’s always a win for us. I think there’s probably some association there, perhaps, with the DLC making less tools come out, but I would say it’s probably just strain on the developers.”

That said, Wright said he personally is pushing for more modding tools to be released by id in the future. Wright worked on RAGE, and said the possibility of releasing tools for that game got “lost in the noise.” But mod support is something to which id is trying to get back, he said.

“There’s actually recently been discussions internally about putting more of a focus on modding,” he said. “I can’t say what all that’s going to be, but from my standpoint, I’m definitely interested in it. I was kind of the impetus of the discussions anyway, and I think there’s a lot we can do. I think it would be awesome to ship the next product on Day One and have mods available, and have an excellent path for people to go through to download mods.”

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2 Comments on Id Software: We Don’t Hold Back Mod Tools for DLC

R.J.

On August 4, 2012 at 6:30 pm

I do think that the powers that be tend to be afraid that modding makes it harder to sell DLC, but it’s a foolish way for companies to look at it. It’s much harder to get someone to shell out for DLC if they finished the game months ago. With mods, they have a reason to keep playing, which means they’ll be more receptive.

It probably is true that the effort that goes into making kits available gets in the way, but more importantly, I think the rigorous schedule that devs are stuck with is a bigger issue. Publishers would much rather the devs move on to the sequel than make something that will be free.

Phil Hornshaw

On August 4, 2012 at 6:45 pm

@RJ

Definitely something to that thinking, although comments made my John Carmack during his keynote further illustrate the issue. He spoke about id’s need to get games out quicker, and I think there really is a financial consideration to that. The company tends to take forever to make games (we actually talked with Tim Willits about it — http://www.gamefront.com/tim-willits-on-ids-long-dev-cycle-its-because-of-john/), and it seems to be hard for id to sustain that; paying people to work on a game for six years isn’t necessarily balancing so well against the financial return on that game.

So the mod tool situation, specifically at id, seems like it really is a time issue. While a publisher — in this case, Bethesda — might prefer a sequel, I don’t think they’re necessarily blind to the benefits of modding — especially Bethesda. What the case is with Activision and EA, however, is probably open to a lot more speculation.