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Making mods mainstream


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#31
evertaile

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First off, great editorial article and all too true. Let's take Divinity II for example, an awesome game that only suffers in my opinion by way of lacking modability. So many games of its ilk take an epic approach and offer such amazing depth and imersion but lack longevity either due to a too short main story or not enough side quests, or simple too few choice options to give much replayability. Bethesda really are lightyears ahead of the competition in this respect, not only because it makes games last seemingly forever, but because they can also learn from what modders have to offer. As was stated earlier in this thread, just look at FO3 or FONV and you can see implementations made to the game as a response to custom content added by gamers for Oblivion. It is a shame that not enough developers take note of this, and also as stated - it is purely a profit thing. Another rising trend is first day dlc - an afront to be sure, but let's face the facts. Although gaming has become a large entertainment industry and is far more mainstream today than in the days of the first homebound consoles, and despite that industry leaving the bedroom and entering the livingroom - it's still not accepted by those that govern it as anything more than a profit margin. I read somewhere that most games don't actually even make large sums of profit and more often than not only ever break near even, aside from the typical FPS Uber franchises of course. If this is true, then no wonder developers, and publishers look toward their own pre-defined releases and homegrown plugins to restore interest in a game and keep interest, deciding during development what and when it will be added,or even in some cases, as with Fable 3 what is already in the game but becomes per purchased dlc unlocked.

As for modders designing and creating their own game based on their talents/skills. The 2 are worlds apart -- when modding you always have a working game and environment to base your additions on and many available pre-made and again, working assets -- you always have a platform there that works, that does it's job and all you need do is remain inside the parameters of that. The engine code is put together with quest and levelling systems, pre-coded AI and faction interaction etc. To start from scratch, with perhaps as another member stated, UDK is a possibility but as with any engine, you have a basic FPS and anything you like CAN be made from that, given the right tweaks etc. to the engine, which is more distinct programming than Oblivion script etal. Another issue is the huge amount of assets that would need to be made, from scratch so as to avoid copyright infringement and the coherency of these. Also, you'd require a rather large team of individuals skilled in a plethora of areas, or a decent sized group of multi-facetted individuals to carry the ideas and development forward with close communication and interaction both online and offline. Mod colaberations can work quite well when parties are either side of the planet, but anyone whose tried will tell you there are quite a few hurdles...can you imagine the number of 'hurdles' on a project the scope of a game comparable to Bethesda's offerings? I'm not saying it can't be done, because it can, just look at some of the amazing projects coming to light with the NeoAxis engine or what has been produced with Unity as Indie projects, some of which could hold its own with the big boys. But again, none of this was done without a great deal of dedication, close work and time.

SDKs are a privellage and not a right, and I can't see that changing any time soon. BioWare and Bethesda deserve the praise they get for making games transparent and giving gamers the chance to not only get involved in future developments, but for allowing us to realise our aspirations and needs in game and share with others. But that doesn't mean other develpers etc. feel the need.

Edited by evertaile, 05 December 2010 - 01:04 PM.


#32
Offkorn

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And Epic Games. And id Software (also owned by ZeniMax btw). And BioWare.


Don't let Dragon Age or NWN blind you; Bioware is not overly Mod-friendly.

The Infinity Engine games require a host of third-party tools to Mod, the KotOR games are a pain to Mod (as is Jade Empire), and Mass Effect 1 & 2 are mostly unmoddable.

Edited by Offkorn, 05 December 2010 - 02:23 PM.


#33
Dark0ne

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I added this comment to the PC Gamer forum post after someone replied that he didn't think modding was under threat:

I see lots of evidence on each new major release. Modding is definitely under threat. The majority of developers still haven't even thought about releasing SDKs for their games and the ones who do release SDK's often release them reluctantly. Indeed from my conversations with the PR staff at Bethesda they seem to be becoming increasingly sceptical of the modding community, how they act, and there are underlying issues as to why this is.

Morrowind was released with not only an SDK but 3DS MAX3 and 4 exporter tools and DDS texture tools. Oblivion was released without additional tools and a slightly gimped SDK compared to the original Construction Set. Bethesda made no mention of releasing an SDK for Fallout 3 until several weeks after the launch of the game and then finally did out of the blue. New Vegas has an SDK as it's basically the same SDK as Fallout 3's. Is this going forward? Is this progress? Of course it isn't, it's going backwards. Bethesda's gripe is (perhaps understandably) with the seeming ungratefulness of certain elements of the community who are upset with these steps backwards despite my attempts to try and make people thankful for having an SDK at all.

In the middle we have developers like CDProjekt (The Witcher) who release half-tools. They released an "adventure creator" for The Witcher but not an SDK that meant you could make your own quests, to a certain extent, but not really add anything substantial to the game. The community responded badly due to the limited use of the tools and as a result the modding community never took off. I'm currently trying to make contact with the PR staff there about the issue.

On the other side of town you have Bad Company 2 that had no SDK despite previous iterations in the series having SDKs and then, of course, the crown jewel of "couldn't care less", Modern Warfare.

Don't kid yourself just because there's a few bright sparks out there in the more open modding communities; developers/publishers like Valve, Epic and Bethesda are few and far between and mingled with the rise of the money power houses like EA, Activision/Blizzard and Zenimax and the rise of DLCs modding as we know it is very much under threat.



#34
TehChef

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"and Mass Effect 1 & 2 are mostly unmoddable."

That's a fair bit stupid, BioWare. Based on the same engine as one of today's most-modded games and you don't allow us to mod it?

"Don't kid yourself just because there's a few bright sparks out there in the more open modding communities; developers/publishers like Valve, Epic and Bethesda are few and far between and mingled with the rise of the money power houses like EA, Activision/Blizzard and Zenimax and the rise of DLCs modding as we know it is very much under threat."

That bit about Epic proves my point -- UT3 only ever had one piece of DLC released back in '07, and since then Epic has left it up to the community to make their own content.

FREE games are more mod-friendly (read: Nexuiz) than most commercial ones nowadays.

"Indeed from my conversations with the PR staff at Bethesda they seem to be becoming increasingly sceptical of the modding community, how they act, and there are underlying issues as to why this is."

What?! It's these communities that keep their games alive! The RCT1/2 modding community has kept it from going the way of the third iteration. Those games have been around for donkeys' years and they're still going strong thanks to modding. They need not be skeptical of their community, that's what ends up killing great games! The only exceptions to that rule are games like the TimeSplitters series because of the sheer novelty of the official content in the games themselves! Where is gaming going?!

Edited by TehChef, 05 December 2010 - 04:45 PM.


#35
JimboUK

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"and Mass Effect 1 & 2 are mostly unmoddable."

That's a fair bit stupid, BioWare. Based on the same engine as one of today's most-modded games and you don't allow us to mod it?

"Don't kid yourself just because there's a few bright sparks out there in the more open modding communities; developers/publishers like Valve, Epic and Bethesda are few and far between and mingled with the rise of the money power houses like EA, Activision/Blizzard and Zenimax and the rise of DLCs modding as we know it is very much under threat."

That bit about Epic proves my point -- UT3 only ever had one piece of DLC released back in '07, and since then Epic has left it up to the community to make their own content.

FREE games are more mod-friendly (read: Nexuiz) than most commercial ones nowadays.

"Indeed from my conversations with the PR staff at Bethesda they seem to be becoming increasingly sceptical of the modding community, how they act, and there are underlying issues as to why this is."

What?! It's these communities that keep their games alive! The RCT1/2 modding community has kept it from going the way of the third iteration. Those games have been around for donkeys' years and they're still going strong thanks to modding. They need not be skeptical of their community, that's what ends up killing great games! The only exceptions to that rule are games like the TimeSplitters series because of the sheer novelty of the official content in the games themselves! Where is gaming going?!


They keep it alive on a platform that accounts for only a tiny percentage of sales, if they decide at any point it's not worth the investment then that will be the end of it. I'm worried that Gamebryo going out of business will force a new engine on them and they'll use that as an excuse to pull the tools. All it will take is some bad publicity about some of the more questionable mods and Bethesda with understandably pull out of it. Imagine what an ill informed media would make of animated prostitution, killable children and that rape mod. There's even a mod on here that gives you bonus bad karma for eating children, Fox would just love that.

#36
ladydesire

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@TehChef: That's the "problem" (notice the quotes): most publishers don't take the long view, so they see modding as an enemy, rather than the ally it really is. It doesn't help when modders create utter trash that, even if realistic, has the potential, as jim_uk pointed out, of discouraging future modding toolset releases.

Regarding Mass Effect's lack of modability even though it's based on UE3, I think it comes back to the fact that it was originally supposed to be an Xbox 360 exclusive and was ported to PC by a third party; ME2 has limited moddablity, but nothing really worth the time, in my experience.

#37
Ghogiel

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Only see a popularity gain in engine use if it is made available as a learning tool. If developers want to have a stake in licensing their engine to other developers, you only need to look at source and unreal.

any companies who do not have any interest in licesing their engine to game developers won't give a crap.

Bethesda in fact licensed so much of their current engine from middleware providers, it is impossible to get an SDK out of them. Almost every developer is in this boat.

Don't kid yourself just because there's a few bright sparks out there in the more open modding communities; developers/publishers like Valve, Epic and Bethesda are few and far between and mingled with the rise of the money power houses like EA, Activision/Blizzard and Zenimax and the rise of DLCs modding as we know it is very much under threat.


Epic and Valve own a propitiatory engine This is the only circumstance where you will see a feature full SDK that is useful for modding. Those engines were developed to be useful to build many game types, have many features, and often the games can be modded, to some degree, without the need to recompile the exe. Would it be wise to allow redistribution of a modded game exe... not really.

Unless moddability is a game feature and the game developed with that in mind. If they develop a front end interface world editor like the CS GECK the better. again rare, as most developers are licensing theirs.


EAs various developing houses.. probably have no interest in releasing an SDK. < most of these engines are probably purpose built for that game and are u documented, as with most engines, and the rewards of releasing the SDK for madden or fifa football is probably nill. everyone just buys the newest in the series every year. games won't be moddable unless either its built in a modular way in the first place. For example, there would have been nothing wrong with hard coding the number of outfits the game recognizes. if oblivion was limited to 10 outfits? This is a scenario i have encountered.

Winners in the future will be modders seeking to move onto platforms that are catered for indie game development. And those Developers

everyone else will carry on making and selling games as normal, simply because its' not worth it and/or they do not have the rights to release an SDK

Morrowind was released with not only an SDK but 3DS MAX3 and 4 exporter tools and DDS texture tools. Oblivion was released without additional tools and a slightly gimped SDK compared to the original Construction Set. Bethesda made no mention of releasing an SDK for Fallout 3 until several weeks after the launch of the game and then finally did out of the blue. New Vegas has an SDK as it's basically the same SDK as Fallout 3's. Is this going forward? Is this progress? Of course it isn't, it's going backwards. Bethesda's gripe is (perhaps understandably) with the seeming ungratefulness of certain elements of the community who are upset with these steps backwards despite my attempts to try and make people thankful for having an SDK at all.

Are you kidding?
the cs is increasingly feature full from MW>OB>F3. these missing features are removed because you will have to go ask facegen, havok, speedtree, gamebryo, and lord knows who else to get those features released in the world editor. these features never existed in MW CS, so how can that be a step backward. The exporter for max is likely impossible for them to release as almost certainly gamebryo stock max tools. With custom bethesda export scripts.

while without going out of their way, I have noticed that bethesda has graciously released some features from the exe. this means several impossibles are possible with F3 rather than OB. or complex or hacky workarounds are no longer necessary. And afaik they even added extra empty weapon animation slots now for new vegas, this means hard coded features were, in my mind, added solely for modders. Or not :shrug:

they have definitely taken on board modders contributions, as i see features and ideas made in mods creep into their games. NV is a prime example.

TES5 is probably going to be like a modded oblivion :laugh:

at the least its good R&D for beth to see what moddders do in their spare time :)


. I'm worried that Gamebryo going out of business will force a new engine on them and they'll use that as an excuse to pull the tools.


i wouldn't worry about gamebryo folding. That piece of middleware, they may have a perpetual license. And the renderer can just go pretty easily. the only thing that would change might be things like the nif format and the light model would be a different. Remember Gmaebryo has nothing to do with bethesdas current engine cept for the scenegraph, nif format and the lighting model... all of which is modified now anyway.

they'd just code their own if it went. I imagine the world editor would be fairly intact. they'll keep doing what they are doing regardless. makes no matter right now. what they release as tools is gamebryo independant... and if they dump gamebryo, they will still probably want to impliment a system of world building like they currently have.... so they will have a CS. the releasing it to modders is another question

I don't see TES5 modding in jeopardy.

Edited by Ghogiel, 05 December 2010 - 09:04 PM.


#38
TehChef

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"Bethesda in fact licensed so much of their current engine from middleware providers, it is impossible to get an SDK out of them. Almost every developer is in this boat."

How did Epic pull off UDK, then?

Middleware in UDK IIRC:
Bink
Scaleform GFx
PhysX

Look at the top two -- INCREDIBLY hard to license for SDK usage, and Epic somehow pulled them both off.

#39
ladydesire

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@TehChef: Those three are used in Dragon Age as well, and there is a toolset for that, so it must be possible; I imagine there are restrictions in place as to what the developer can allow SDK/Toolset users to do, but someone seems to have managed it.

#40
Ghogiel

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"Bethesda in fact licensed so much of their current engine from middleware providers, it is impossible to get an SDK out of them. Almost every developer is in this boat."

How did Epic pull off UDK, then?

Middleware in UDK IIRC:
Bink
Scaleform GFx
PhysX

Look at the top two -- INCREDIBLY hard to license for SDK usage, and Epic somehow pulled them both off.

For a start, Epic own the engine and sell licenses to other developers. Perhaps they have a licensing deal that allows distribution of those middleware within their engine. Seeing as that would be beneficial for those companies to actually be integrated into probably the most widely licensed and used 3rd party engine out there right now. It'll just increase their market share, and thus profits. I think it's a likely scenario. http://www.develop-o...be-free-for-UDK

And are they actually hard to license? No. read the first line on the licensing page for Bink lol.

PhysX SDK is free to download.

Bethesda only developed the CS, all other licenses will probably be as such as they can't distribute. In fact iirc, as much as was said by either Todd or GStaff at some point when asked about further development tools like a max exporter. the answer was- it's a legal nightmare.

This doesn't mean they can't go and at least try to make an offer for the rights for redistribution of those integrated middleware, but I doubt it'll happen. for a start, why would they when the engine isn't a proprietary piece of software? there is no possible money return on that. and developing a marketable engine, or even getting into 3rd party engine licensing is not something they have experience with. it seems unlikely they'd start now. even more so when that company has rights to a company that may eventually sell their engine to other developers. They'd only be competing with themselves :/

IDtech though. that has potential. I think i heard somewhere they are only going to allow the engine to be licensed to developers owned by zennimax or games published by bethesda.
basically its a leverage piece to increase profits for that family of companies. and entice potential clients to be published by bethesda/zenimax.

anyway the point is, currently they don't have those specific rights.


@TehChef: Those three are used in Dragon Age as well, and there is a toolset for that, so it must be possible; I imagine there are restrictions in place as to what the developer can allow SDK/Toolset users to do, but someone seems to have managed it.


Dragon Age uses Scaleform yes. But can any of the released tools actually encode scaleform flash files? afaik, No. you have hack the flash files to edit or create new UI.

Edited by Ghogiel, 06 December 2010 - 10:56 AM.





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