Thoughts About Gaming Mods

Okay, this again is my personal views on the subject, and for those who do not game, this refers to people putting together maps, changes, to the equipment, storylines, or alternate views, directions,  and so many other additions and/or corrections to an actual retail game. It means one, with a kit from the game company, can go in and change things around a bit, maybe making the game more to one’s personal liking. This also has a tendency to extend the life of such games, since there is so much more available from the gaming and modding communities to allow one to continue to play a favorite game.

Part of what this does is allow one to see how much work goes into the original game, the storyline, the script, and the alternate paths one can travel. Of course most modern games are linear, meaning they start at point “A”, and somewhere towards the end, end at point “B”. While the goal is to give the illusion of choice and direction, it usually isn’t there. And when it’s done right such restrictions aren’t noticed, but when wrong, can destroy a game right out of the gate, or box. Then you have sandbox games that really have no storyline per say, but give you an open unexplored world in which to explore, discover, and build into whatever you like or imagine (within the constraints of the game world, of course). And in a sense in-between these are the RPG’s which have some sandbox elements because the world is open, but at the same time has a major storyline, with many, many, many, side quests existing out in the gameworld. Generally these 2, sandbox, and RPG, don’t include kits, but this is more of a game company decision, as some do and some don’t.

With the modding kits, these game companies provide, it allows the everyday gamer, who is enthusiastic and wanting to try their hand at creating something, a method to do just that. Lately I’ve been playing some mods created for the old Fallout 3 game which is a hybrid of a RPG, and FPS, and has a huge modding community. (To see what I’m speaking about, here’s a link to a website that specializes in these mods. http://www.nexusmods.com/fallout3/?)

For those who haven’t played this game (Fallout 3) or know anything about it, this is a Post-apocalyptic story dealing with the area in and around Washington DC approximately 200 years after the fictional event. It’s an alternate futuristic view and a different direction than true history. For example atomic power is used, or was used (before the war), including the automobiles that everybody owned. These autos appear to be closer in appearance and design to the cars that came out in the late 50’s and early 60’s. There were underground vaults built to house part of the population in case of an attack, which eventually came from China, destroying much of the world, leaving DC in ruins, and the world bathed in radioactivity. Your character emerges from the vault into this devastation, and find a surviving human element that has set up a primitive society. Your initial quest is to find your father who had left the vault years before. And from there you learn about this broken world, how to survive, and solve the large puzzle that is before you.

There’s the good and bad in all of this. First, even with the provided kits, modding isn’t easy or simple. It takes time to learn, and time to apply what you learned before anything can come of it. Again some of these fan created mods are simply environmental changes, bug fixes, and maybe a better balancing (Referring to the use of force within a gameworld and the balance of weapons and such so one is not so overpowering that there isn’t anything that can counter. Balancing a gameworld is one of the critical steps in making a game right.), maybe fixes that removes stuttering, crashes to the desktop, or any number of other problems that makes an unplayable game playable. And it can change the rating of a game from “anybody can play”, to “adult only”, if this is a direction one is looking or wanting to go.

Still once the game has been played to the conclusion, the DLC’s (downloadable content) have been added and played, it is time to see what those modders have done, creating their own worlds, their own quests, and their own endings. It gives one a chance to see the variety of ideas and directions that go well beyond the original story. And many of these modders put their heart and soul into their work, plus a lot of their spare time to create their masterpieces. Most of the time it is an individual who does this, but other times friends or other modders come together, and put their time and effort into the mod. This gives you both the good and the bad. Most can come off a bit amateurish. And what I’m referring to here is not necessarily the world or map they’ve created, but the script, and in some cases, where they’ve tried, the voice acting, which can be a bit weak.

Yet, when it is done right it can be difficult to tell the difference between the actual retail game, and a community created mod. Again, as I stated above what is added isn’t necessarily a new quest, or a new area to explore, but could be something as simple as adding a companion to assist you. Even here you can run into the good and bad, and only by trying a number of these companion mods can you find the ones who seem to be fully fleshed out. An example of one of these companions would be Willow for the expansion game Fallout New Vegas. A game in the fallout universe but obviously in the area in and around Las Vegas. Willow is one of the most popular companion mods and when you use this mod you understand immediately. This companion mod has a depth rarely seen in such characters.

Still in all of this, one must start somewhere, and when I’m within this mod I’m presently playing, I keep hoping to see where it could go, to see it fulfill its potential. Maybe because I’m older, or maybe because I am a writer, I see things, directions promised, making me expect or anticipate more, only to be disappointed. Even with the rather large mod that I’m presently playing, it makes me wonder how the storyline could be so weak. It’s not that these modders didn’t try, because it’s obvious they did, and they put a lot of hard work, effort and love into it. Still, for me, the storyline ends up wanting on so many levels. From the actions the NPC’s (Non Playable Characters) are presenting, to the environment created, to the dialogue presented, which comes out simply as; us against them – a black and white view, that in the end left me with more questions as to why, than showing any closure or methods of working through the presented issues or problems. Plus the actions conflicted with the dialogue, not portraying an accurate picture of the game world, or the situation you, as the player, find yourself in.

No, I’m not going to reveal which mod this is because this would single them out and be totally unfair. I’m sure they are proud of their product, and in truth they have a right to be. But I suspect this shows why certain game companies remain successful. Because they have the resources, the understanding, and experience to know what makes a game work, and also the understanding that there could be a large following out there, and because of this provide the tools necessary to allow the community to make mods for their games. And I suspect they watch these modding sites and communities to find new talent which they might tap in the future.

Still, for me, this particular mod, again not for the map, because I love exploring these maps, these fictional worlds, became a disappointment. The storyline in the end was too simplistic, too black and white, there truly were no twists and turns, and a very linear direction that was predictable from the beginning. And part of why we read, play games, watch movies, or other entertainment is to read, watch or play into the surprises, those twists that were completely unexpected, but hinted. To watch a complicated storyline become clear and see the conclusion with the actors, be it that book, the big screen, or your gaming system. For these stories, and dialogues to be more in the direction of life, not that we will ever do things like Bruce Willis in his action movies, but those twists, those turns, those surprises is what we wait for because we do face this is our own lives.

In conclusion I will say overall it is enjoyable to add and play these mods, to give a little more life to an old favorite game. One I may have played through at least a half-dozen times, trying out the alternate paths, attempting to find those hidden areas, small surprises, and hidden gems I may have missed during my earlier explorations, or playing a different character where I can choose such. Eventually they do become old, and I move on to try my hand at another. And maybe, at times I look back nostalgically and think of going back, to play such one more time, revisiting it like an old friend I haven’t seen in years, and maybe look over those mods, hoping to find some of the depth, to explore other parts of the game world, and watch as they give the game a chance to feel new again.

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I continue to write another short story which will be presented here in the near future. I suspect that it will begin to show up here in February. I’m approximately 2000 words from the conclusion of the first draft – the easy part. Then comes the editing and revising before it’s ready for prime time. As the sub-title of this blog states, you can never be sure what the subject of the post will be unless the post is part of a series. Have a great week, and may you be here next Saturday for the next one. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

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Published in: on January 24, 2015 at 7:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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