Wednesday, October 29, 2014

24th Sep 2014 - Modding, why its great and why its getting sh*t on

As a time long advocate of modding, hearing people complain about a moddable game is frustrating. Especially when the complaints relate to a game being a bit shallow, or a problem a mod can perfectly fix.

But first, let me explain in what perspective it is frustrating me. People like to complain. I guess that's how our culture is like. And in the same spirit, we'd rather complain about a game than do some minimal work to allow it to become better or even the best. I don't think I've seen a single complaint around Skyrim that couldn't be addressed with a mod or a plugin.

So in other words, people who spout the common complaints about a game are usually people who are too lazy to enhance their own experience. All they care about is spewing said venom, and leave.

And that's unfair. Especially when I see inexperienced critic's stick around the same trope. "It's an ocean with the depth of a puddle", or "There's very little to do, and the characters all look the same".

So I'm going to launch a personal campaign under the slogan: Divert your expectations.
Not coincidentally, the Steam Curation of my group Obscurum Complex revolves around games where modding enhances the game's experience. And in all honesty, games like these deserve their own genre.

I campaign for the notion that games that will serve to be perfectly moddable, being supported with an SDK in the least, should not be reviewed in their current experience, but for their potential and how that potential is being nourished.

A good example of potential vs cherished potential is Starbound and Skyrim.
At their core, both games can mindbogglingly expand the scope of their purpose and entertainment value. However, while Skyrim has been tremendously pushed and supported by both their developers and prominent modding communities, Starbound has seen less of such support. In fact, one can consider this game's modding scene to be nigh-on dead.

How is that possible? Simple, it has the potential, but the developers didn't stick through and rarely kept modders in mind. It wasn't a case of whether Starbound could do it, eventually. It's that the opportunities were not presented because the game is no longer being updated.

Starbounds potential has been killed off. On the flipside, Skyrim has flourished. What started as a game with stripped down or poor RPG elements and very basic combat, not only has the potential but actually accomplished to go in various directions.

Just to make a rudimentary list of what Skyrim so far has achieved thanks to modding:
- An animation suite that is almost as useful as Source Filmmaker, and tremendously less difficult to use.
- An immersive experience where Gamers, just like you, have tailored the game to make it stand out as if it was a Triple A title in it's >stereotypical< meaning.
- A Hardcore Survival game where not only Primary needs such as nourishment and sleep require to be satisfied, but where the harsh cold mountains will cool you down and even cause hypothermia. A game where you need to plan your route and bring Wood to start campfires to keep yourself warm. (Realistic Needs And Diseases and Frostfall)
- A challenging combat system where spamming attacks or constantly charge attack will actually leave YOU vulnerable. (Requiem)
- An Anime dreamworld (or Nightmare for the likes of me, sigh) where everything is so Anime-fied, that you wonder if you're not playing a fanmade game based on your favorite series.

By no means is this a complete list. These are just the four I could mention on the top of my head. Dream it up, and it may very well be possible AND already done.

And the best of all: While Skyrim can become one of these things, nothing says that you cannot combine these. Or mix one experience with another. I myself am running a setup that makes Survival preparation essential while keeping combat tight. I disabled fast travel as well, so if I decide to go for an attack, I need to be properly prepared cause there's no fleeing in the harsh colds. Mods that add extra travel carriages become useful, but just manually traveling the distance somewhere makes you appreciate the land's beauty even more.

This is why I advocate moddable games to not be seen as just games, but as modding frameworks. The strength in Skyrim does not lie in what it provides on it's own, but allows others to provide? How far can you push The Witcher 2 in changing up the game? Not as much as Skyrim, I'll tell you that much.

And this is where I show that I understand that it's simply a lack of expertise that makes people inappropriate review it. They do not understand that, while Skyrim on it's surface offers little, it has so many systems in the background that allows for it to be molded in such a way, that it becomes a different game entirely.

For example, a common problem with Oblivion, Fallout 3/New Vegas was Savegame bloating. Due to how scripting worked, if a mod was uninstalled while its scripts were running in a save, they would loop and cause the savegame to steadily grow in size for no reason. This has been addressed in Skyrim. The game now is capable of even more advanced modding that allows you to not only revamp currently available menu's, but add new neat looking one for features you didn't even know were possible. The days where you had to activate an item in your inventory to get a mods menu is over. SkyUI with MCM collects it all tidily in one menu, somewhere right below Load Game. As if it was there all along.

So when someone says Skyrim is shallow, they might be right, but they're also neglecting their own laziness or apathy in improving it first-hand.

Oh, and to sign this one off: DONT USE THE SKYRIM STEAM WORKSHOP.
It's a compatibility nightmare waiting to happen.
If you want to properly mod Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout 3/New Vegas or Skyrim, all you need to do is go to and get started from there. A proper mod should neatly list what all the things are that you need. If you don't know what it is, Google it. 9 out of 10 Google will correctly link you or link an article that explains the process in such a simplified way, that even brainless bacteria could follow it.

Once you're experienced, you can head to for the more complicated or adult oriented mods. However do keep in mind that both websites are not on good terms with each other.

So please, stop shitting on games that have achieved greatness through the community. You can argue all you want that it could be a cheap cop-out from a developer, but you can not appreciate the systems in place in the background that actually support and encourage the modding they expect to happen.

And even if it was a cop-out from the Developer, you're basically neglecting having a great game in favor of not being seen as wrong in your review.
So what would you prefer? Having a good game, or being right in a review? Keep that in mind.

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