Before I start, I just want to say I sorely misjudged the frenetic pace of events at this year's (and my personal first) GDC. While the first two days were slightly less hectic, the final few had Scott and I running around all day and attending 'networking events' during the night. While we took part in many of the panels and lectures, I'm going to leave much of the coverage up to the sites more suited to doing that kind of stuff. My prerogative is to touch on the ideas and issues that are specifically of interest to the modding and amateur development community.
During the 'Game Designer's Rant', Clint Hocking stated that the games industry is the most creative in the world:
"I should rant about creative stagnation... but that's such a tired and generic topic, I don't even think I can get pissed off about it. We have a considerably broader range than many other industries. Pound to pound, we are the most creative fucking industry in the entire world. Being creative is fairly easy. Having the courage to create something that challenges people is fucking hard. Why don't we create a game that fucking means something, that fucking matters?"
Developers make the systems that can engage and control a player's experience. Independents are starting to challenge the experiences that most people associate with playing a game. Mods, in their own way, have pushed a few boundaries too. Genres have been blending and creative minds out there are exploring new waters. The big boys have been hedging their bets with iterations on the classic FPS model that's been around since Doom. While the commercial indie world has had their champions to cheer over, where's the wildly inventive kings of the modding world? Moreover, why are most, if not all, of the successes in the modding world just similar to what the studio giants have had to offer? I think that modders are capable of releasing content that is creatively on par with the games seen at the IGF. We just have to be willing to make the games that we want to play and not focus what we think everyone else wants to play. As Tracy Fullerton from USC put it in her lecture on the 'Indies of Tomorrow', we need to divorce ourselves from the preconceptions of gaming. Get inspired, not just from other games but from everything else around you. Challenge yourself to challenge others - provide a new experience that's unlike anything they've had before.
People who develop games/mods do it because it's what they want to do. However, it's never all just happy times and sunshine. Finding a way to keep yourself motivated is half the battle. Sometimes its finding a Russian company that "borrows" your ideas (Kyle Gabler of 2D Boy), or just a small tight knit group of fellow developers. When you're starting a game or mod project, you can be guaranteed there's going to be rough patches ahead and you'll probably get pushed into assuming roles you never intended on serving. It may feel more like work than a hobby at times which is why many mods don't come to fruition. Having the fortitude to push on through the developmental barriers and making some sacrifices can net you the big payoff in the end.
Finally, I hope a lot of this year's coverage of GDC around the web has spurred some new thoughts on how you approach your development process and given you some renewed direction. The Independent Games Festival cancelled the modding part of their competition for 2008 (although Flipside and Foamzilla both made it into the student showcase). There's a lot of great work going on out there in the modding community and it's my hope that mods are brought back to the IGF in a big way. A lot of that will come down to you developers - make yourselves known and who knows, 2009 could be your year.
can you only make yourself known once you push away everything related to the game your modding? Dose it take a total conversion to get peoples attention now days? Or is it possible to make people stop and take notice with just game play and original content...?
It doesn't have to be a total conversion, just gameplay that explores a new direction from what the average gamer is used to.
i meant more like to get noticed what dose a mod have to do? Is it more PR then word of mouth or is there something that most mods neglect to do that is important to make it succeed?
Just look at this years MOTY then you know how much influence PR has and how less treading new waters ( not Editors Choice, this always broke free of this ).
PR and marketing makes a huge impact no matter what the content of your project. A lot of teams underestimate this and learn the hard way. It's doubly important if you are developing a multi-player game/mod, you have to foster a community around your project to keep players active. There's no shame in being a hustler in addition to being a developer. If the content released in press updates is worthwhile and easy to digest, you'll reap the benefits.
Two words: Garry's Mod
So how about that CCP party guys? ;D
I guess this is now the birth of Mod Developer Studios. Organisations that carry the title/logo/letterhead/structured backing their products. But this is also a free organisation.
A group that doesnt carry the title of their current project, but their own recognisable name. A pseudo-studio.
I don't see most mods as statements or things that are created in the name of a cause. Mods are things that people create because they think it would be cool to have in the game. I don't think mods, or any game in general, should strive and try it's hardest to be unique. I think something like that will just naturally come.
that was a good post makes sense really, think about this if a game TRIES to make its self completely different to every other game then would it become a hit just because its unique (the gameplay could suck), and then this will possibly then inspire other people to make new games with the same idea thus creating another genre or will the game be anything but a success because it chose to not put in any elements that people like nowadays.
It's very much the truth. Mods in themselves do not have to be particularly innovative or unique - they just have to alter or refine gameplay.
Should a mod wish to significantly revise said gameplay, then they can quickly become unique.
The issue really, is when people set out to completely replace the gameplay, and in doing so just reinvent the wheel - creating a modern shooter revolving around terrorists and counter-terrorists in Unreal Tournament is no longer making 'something that's cool to have in the game', it's completely changing the game, but in doing so failing to achieve anything - it's not a unique or interesting spin that could only be achieved by replacing everything, and it's not something that would have been cool to have had in the game. So what is it, and what creative reason do you have to do it?
how can we alter a game into a new genra without being inspired by other things...
regardless of how much you think about something, its been done before, even if you dont know it. So there has to be something that will take an existing game and move it to new places, for example HL2 currently work within a 3d environment, to make something new your going to have to give the player freedom to go outside this environment but still not effect the game in anyway.
here is an example, Mario we all know the idea created originally by Nintendo was a side scroller, now take the new paper Mario same side scroller but you can now traverse into 3D which makes for more puzzles that require a different train of thought. This is a prime example of moving a game into a new area of play.
I say think additional game play elements not total conversions that make players HAVE to experience new ideas regardless.
I would say do it like me. I just do the game with the game mechanics I would like to play but can not find. That's what I think modding is about: create the game you would like to play. Chances are others find it interesting too then.
Even if the game you want to play already exists, or would better exist on a different platform?
I said "does not exist". Granted the negative existence proof is impossible to do ( philosophical problem ) but often you know if something like that is done somewhere else, especially in AAA titles. There's not much sense in recreating what exists if it has not a twist to it. Then I could go play that game instead. And what you mean with "better exist on a different platform"? Modding is computer only so far even if certain people think they can mod a console ( we might get there but not yet ) and there platforms are not a topic anymore if you are not a brain dead developer :D
I think if you do try to make something unique then you have to try damn hard to refine into something fun.
I see the point your making, maybe if people did try to make something unique it would inspire others to build from it, like some sort of catalyst. But I don't really like that kind of method, there is already enough post modernism around.
Is it just me or do these comities have a lot of swearing non-PR savvy people on them? I mean seriously, if you are going to get up on a stage in front of people.. try not to make an *** of yourself. Thats the lesson I learned from GDC :P
The only thing I even agree on is that Indie developers have the potential to do better things than the commercial industries.
So, apart from the financial return (albeit small), is there any real difference between Indie and Mod community?
I've always seem the Mod community to be a little bit more out-of-box than you're run of the mill EA studio/black hole.
I've also seen the indie developers as more adventurous with their game mechanics.
Am I wrong?
The difference is that an Indie Project composes of a team of members working together usually for more than just one project. Mod Projects on the other hand has a team which has the tendency to fluctuate a lot in the beginning and you usually make only one project together not multiple ones ( although this is possible ).
I guess this is an odd event. What you just said is something that I've been thinking for the past two weeks. Its pretty awesome this article came up (fate, no?).
The incentive is title-to-name. I talked to a few in the industry, and mods (with actual level of polish) are titles as long as they have had proper documentation backing.
Proper documentaion would have to include forum snipets, screenshots of the work contributed, etc.
The real variable is how much the organisation of this pseudo-studio fluctuates (like you said). Nothing stopping a group of people, releasing multiple 'titles', with proper dedication and scheduling.
'But if I wanted to go through all that bull, I'd get a job'. Modding is fun, no doubt, but the problem with getting in the industry is chicken and egg, 'two titles min for entry'.
some people like myself use modding as a way to creativly expand there CV or portfolio
LARGE Total Conversions are what gets you a job in the games industry (hence why i'm making one) SMALL Total Conversions like The hidden: source or zombie panic: source is what brings in alot of attention, but not noteworthy of a high status.
Tweak mods are pissy and arent really mods IMO. Those include new weapons, pickups, abilities, etc, they arent unique, even if the tweak itself creates something unique.
I am personally working on a large scale total conversion (on my own) just like CRC is working on the Out of Hell mod for UT2004, as I believe this is what inspires people to want to be a mod developer or game developer, it's the fact that even with little to no resources, the newbies can create masterpieces.
I think us mod developers are masters are passionate creation rather than budget creation which development studios like EA work on.
What I mean is that budget creation has the attitude of "hey lets make another ww2 game with better graphics so we can get more money", passionate creation is like 2k games with bioshock, they wanted the players to have a new experience or a revamped experience from a long time ago.
Small mods probably have a better "experience gained versus time put in" factor than large mods. They're also more likely to release, and releasing something is where you get the majority of experience, since that's where you really begin to understand the feedback loop and what your game fails and excels at.
Also, people who make small mods can still get work out of it, especially since they will have a playable example of their work, which can look much better on a demo reel that some static mugshots. I'd imagine this is especially true for Programmers and undoubtedly true for anyone looking for entry-level Design work.
-So what game did you design?
-I've not heard of it, do you have a working copy that I could take a look at?
-Yeaaaah, about that. It kinda never got released.
-So you don't have a playable version?
- Don't worry about leaving the way you came in, I have a special trapdoor reserved just for timewasters like you!
- But I just wanted to be a game designeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer!
I mean, there are sooo many options available to developers to create new and wonderful games, but do they bother thinking about it? not at all, they seem to be stuck in this "war" frame of mind.
Don't get me wrong, I love war, but come on, some of the best games were games like Sim Ant or the Hugo's adventure series and games of that type.
What happened to innovation? what happened to imagination?
Developers keep trying to do the same thing better, and it's working to an extent, but we are all getting tired of it, which is both good and bad; good in the sense that this will pressure us mod makers or wannabe mod makers to start pushing out some wonderful masterpieces that rival what the big companies are doing, the down side is that we don't get paid for it and the fact that games are getting more and more boring.
Why do you think there is such a large fan base for games like Spore? or Duke Nukem Forever (which yes..it IS another FPS, but why was the DN series so freaking great? it's because your character actually had character, and add to the fact that he made lots of smart arse comments).
Ask yourselves this.
"Why do I keep looking for mods?"
It's because retail games are boring, and we have a mindset that mods bring out the best of gameplay. Sometimes the worst, but thats ok.
So i'm really excited to see the future of Independent games development, it's a very bright and shiney future which will last for many lifetimes.