Saturday, November 22, 2014

State of Decay: A testament to game longevity and modder tenacity

Does bringing up State of Decay feel like digging up an old almost dead cow? Like it almost doesn't seem relevant anymore and you're waiting for a successor to properly do things?

What if I brought up Skyrim, do you still feel the same way? Or does the fact that the game is still being heralded as an ace game by modding enthousiasts feel like there's some longevity on that game?

What if I told you SoD came out AFTER Skyrim? Almost a whopping two years, in fact!
Now, their atmospheres are hardly comparable, but had I brought up New Vegas then the year gap would even be larger and I don't want this to get out of hand too much...

But New Vegas is still being played. For a few seasons, it had seemed it's modding scene was slowly dying, but with modders going back and giving it a few more tugs, it seems there's still hope for it.

What's the point I'm going after? You should know by now, knowing me:
This is a testament, maybe an open letter to developers, about what positive impact supporting Mods can have on your game.

SoD is actually quite a stand-up came. I like it, it sweats pure potential.
But after a year, that potential already seems drowned, lost.
It could have been different. In fact, modders tried to manage it.

The game has no SDK (a development kit - giving modders almost free reign in what they could mod into the game) and so the scope of what modders could do was extremely limited.
Imagine if some mechanics that sit uneasy with you could be modded out or changed for the better? What if some gripes could be addressed without having to sacrifice another mod's functionality for it?

Skyrim does it. Fallout New Vegas, Fallout 3 and Oblivion did it.
Hell, even Morrowind, dating back to 2002 did it and (although perhaps debatable) is still doing it.

Maybe the Dev team behind SoD had no choice in the matter. Bethesda is a company that has long known about the potential behind moddability, but others don't. And maybe an invester behind SoD didn't feel it was a priority.

Which is why I'm not directing this blog post to just Undead Labs, but basically to the one or multiple people who have control over what direction Undead Labs' development goes for future games.

Please, embrace modding.
Game studios who don't, have the pressure on their shoulders to be up and running with their next game within a few years or face becoming irrelevant. Not to mention that any blatant bugs are a stain that's hard to wash off.

Meanwhile, I'm not feeling too impatient about the next Elder Scrolls game (I'm pretending ESO doesn't exist...) because I can chisel this one to my liking. And I'm sure that every day there are more people who buy the game, making more purchases. Bethesda could take it's sweet time developing the next moddable game. And in fact, hearing how early staged Fallout 4 is, I'm sure they are.

Skyrim's Bugs? Why, TES has had a long running series named "Unofficial Patch" that, more often than not, addresses all serious issues and makes the game feel even closer to how smooth it was intended to be.

I've been writing these pieces before. Advocating moddability in favor for game longevity and fan appreciation. It makes your game last longer, giving you more sales while you can focus on another project. Like a sleeping, healthy cow. And nobody even hates you for it.

Unlike bringing out DLC like Lifeline which is just a tacked-on Hordemode in an uninteresting new city. Not to mention that at some point we were hoping for Multiplayer, the only reason I had any interest in Lifeline. I still feel shafted from that.

Ubisoft and/or EA has been making those same mistakes, ousting out and fighting moddability in favor of their own DLC. I'm sure Bethesda is no saint, but when compared to them I'm sure we'd almost see that company as an Angel.

So pay attention, game developers. The public has it's own imagination, and if you don't allow us to express it in your game, we'll find one that'll let us.

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