Video Game Modding: What It Is and How to Get Started
Over the last 20 years, modders have created some of the world’s most popular games, such as Battle Royale, Defense of the Ancients, and Counter-Strike. They have helped countless games, including Minecraft, Skyrim, and The Sims expand and live on with new and exciting content for players. Several platforms have arisen that make modding smoother for players, modders, and game developers—making it easier for user-generated content to be widely used by the gaming community. So what does modding mean? This article dives into what exactly modding is and how you can get started.
What is modding in video games?
Modding is an insanely popular activity that is essentially the art of modifying a game to create new content within that game. Anyone can do it—you do not need to be a coder, artist, or musician, although it is a great way to improve whatever design and development skills you already have. Many of the biggest names in PC gaming started out as mods, such as those mentioned earlier and also others like League of Legends and PUBG. Modding has been around for more than 20 years and is becoming more popular as services like Steam Workshop, Nexus Mods, and mod.io aim to make the process more accessible.
Game mods can be simple or highly complex. For example, creating a skin for a Minecraft character can be done in a 2D editor with no coding knowledge, whereas total conversion of a game will take years of work and require the collaboration of a team of creators.
The positive side of mods for developers is that they extend the lifespan of a game by providing fresh content. They also provide a continuous stream of engaging content for players. Mod analytics provide a game developer with insights into what content is popular, enabling the development of new content and rewarding the best creators, ultimately resulting in better games.
Why do gamers mod?
Here are some of the many reasons gamers might want to get into modding:
- Fix critical errors in a game’s code. Sometimes older games do not work well on newer systems, and developers may no longer provide updates. Players can turn to mods to debug, manage, and run the game more smoothly.
- Breathe new life into outdated games. Texture upgrades, such as lighting adjustments, resolution upgrades, and special effects can make a game look newer and more realistic.
- Increase accessibility. Some games can be inaccessible to people with disabilities. Assistive mods that reduce the speed of play or that make UI and text adjustments, such as increasing color contrast, are accessibility solutions.
- Introduce new storylines and gameplay modes. Mods can introduce new characters, companions, and side quests and can incorporate new gameplay difficulties or modes. If they contain enough new content, they can be considered unofficial expansion packs.
- Remove tedious tasks through automation. Mods can speed up certain tasks and cut out the micromanagement aspects of a game entirely or automate them through the use of macros.
- Add new cosmetics and esthetics. One need only look at the Sims community to see how popular realistic texture and hairstyle mods are with players. Adding skins to characters and weapons is one of the most common and simple mods.
- Patch features that were removed. Mods can be used to patch in features that were removed by the developers or to gain access to chapters, music, or other content that was dropped from the game despite being coded into it.
Where to go for video game mods
Here are some of the best mod repositories and sites for various modding communities:
Steam already has a relatively easy and convenient way to mod any game in your library: it allows discovery of mods for almost any game through the Steam Workshop. Simply click the “Subscribe” button under any mod you want to install and it will be added the next time you run the game.
Larger and more complicated mods require a lengthier step-by-step approach for installation, and Nexus Mods makes this process a little easier. You need to create a free account on the site first and then install Vortex, which is Nexus Mod’s mod installer. Vortex makes finding, installing, and playing mods from the site an easy process.
Mod DB is one of the oldest and longest-running modding sites. However, its popularity mainly stems from modders who have experience modding games already. Although it is not so easy to contribute to Mod DB, the platform does have a lot of mods available.
The Twitch Desktop App has a handful of Twitch and community features, but recently, the mods application features from the previous Curse app has been rolled into it. Much like the Nexus Mod Manager, you can install mods through the app instead of dealing with each mod installation individually.
The mod.io platform is a repository of gaming mods for all stores and systems. The platform manages the searching, storage, and distribution of mods, so gamers and developers can focus on creating a game that delivers amazing content, improving the experience for everyone.
Games with large modding communities
Several games, thanks to their innate characteristics, have attracted large modding communities, and over time these communities have created mods that have either drastically changed the games or grown them into standalone titles. New genres have even been spawned by modding communities. The format for battle royale-style games originated with mods to multiplayer games such as Minecraft.
Defense of the Ancients
This game initially started as a mod from Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos. The map editor included with Warcraft 3 allowed players to create custom objectives, items, campaigns, maps, and other scenarios which could be played online using Battle.net. From this platform, Dota was created.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Thanks to the Creation Kit included with Skyrim, modders can tamper with nearly every piece of data in the game, making Skyrim one of the easiest PC games to mod. Mods have been created for new textures and skins, to improve lighting and sounds, to add new effects, and many more. One cosmetic mod even patches a dragon with a Thomas the Tank Engine skin.
Counter-Strike was originally a mod from the legendary Half-Life back in 1999. In Half-Life, players could customize certain maps, and it was through the game’s map editor and the GoldSrc engine that Counter-Strike was created by developers Minh Le and Jess Cliffe.
Resident Evil 2 Remake
Most of the this game’s mods were inspired by the tyrannical nature of its antagonist Mr. X. Modders’ attempts to make Mr. X a little less scary boiled down to reskinning him as various characters from popular media or adding DMX’s classic song “X gon’ give it to ya”, which had become the unofficial theme of the character.
Grand Theft Auto V
Modifications for GTA V provide plenty of additional fun for those who grew bored of driving around Los Santos and shooting at everything. The game has many performance and graphics-enhancing mods, but the best ones are the explosions, bouncing cars, and characters from popular media that have no right to appear in such a title. Now you can run around the city as Hulk or fly like Superman.
DayZ (ARMA 3)
ARMA 3 is a tactical shooter set in a war zone. Gamers play through a variety of scenarios in single-player or multiplayer mode. With the DayZ mod, which is now a standalone game, instead of participating in military missions, players must survive during a zombie apocalypse. All the core gameplay features of ARMA 3 are still present in DayZ, yet they are expanded with new mechanics.
Minecraft took the world by storm with its gameplay mechanics, allowing players to create expensive constructions in a sandbox environment. Such a creatively rich setting is a natural habitat of modders who quickly began to add new features, such as new biomes and items, inventory upgrades, and performance enhancers. The mods also include a variety of changes to the gameplay mechanics and player interface.
Modding safety tips
In addition to their welcome alterations, mods can introduce unexpected and damaging effects. In the worst case, mods could be rigged with malware or significantly hinder gameplay. Here are some tips for navigating the modding landscape safely:
Avoid bogus software distribution sites. Get your mods from respected modding communities and avoid venturing into little-known websites offering unlicensed software or mods.
Scan software with trusted antivirus programs. User-generated content is never fully reliable, even if you download mods from well-known sources.
Do not trust shady platforms. This recommendation applies during your entire online journey.
Do not mix modding and piracy. Modding elevates gaming experiences, and successful products are those that attract more attention.
Protect your online gaming. All players should recognize the potential dangers when playing online. So, take the necessary precautions, like two-factor authentication for your gaming accounts.
Gaming mods can accomplish great things. They can make old games feel brand new and restore content that would otherwise be lost. They make the games you play easier or add new ways to enjoy playing.
Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.