Modding is still a bit of a bastard child when it comes to game development. Despite the presence of many incredibly fun and carefully constructed game mods out there, some people still don’t pay it any heed. One can’t really pinpoint who these “some people” are, but they’re, well, around. You know. Watching us and stuff.
Modding can be a lot more useful than most people think, and it only seems fair that a case gets presented for it. Here’s a few reasons for any self-respecting game developer to think that modding is cool:
1. It’s educational
Modding can take a variety of forms, but all tools share one particularly awesome trait: they’re great learning aids. On one extreme, modding can consist of making custom maps for Starcraft and using the editor’s scripting utility to make interesting situations. On the other hand, modders can also build up to things like total conversions of popular games such as Deus Ex and even Oblivion.
The point is that beginners can look to modding in the same way that they’d seek out tools like Game Maker and AGS. It’s just as accessible and just as educational, with the added benefit of providing a structured and familiar setting for enthusiasts to work in.
2. It’s experience
In the world of game development, your portfolio is king. Many, many people who have trained up the necessary skills to start devving on a major project (programming wizardry, familiarity with 3D editors, a natural aversion to sleep) often don’t know how to apply those skills.
Due to the (generally) low resource requirements and high accessibility of game modding, a lot of aspiring developers harvest experience points by working on one or two modding projects. This removes the classic Catch-22 of game development by affording people the opportunity to work on medium- and large-scale projects without having to become part of a formal, publisher-bound team that builds something from scratch.
3. It can land you a job. Honest!
This relates very closely to point number 2. Having a nice mod or two under your belt can really help your case in a “real world” job situation, even if it’s not in the glamorous style of Counter-Strike or DotA. This doesn’t apply quite as much to programmers (unless the reworking is sufficiently extensive), but it works for artists and designers.
Just make sure that you’re realistic about your chances: there’s a lot of devs out there, and jobs aren’t going to be handed to you on a silver platter just because you make a version of Unreal Tournament with kittens in it (though this would admittedly be very cool). It’s a good idea, sure — but not a guarantee.
4. It can be really fun
Do you like modding? Do you have fun doing what you do? Well done, you’ve pretty much won either way. ‘Nuff said.
(This article was heavily inspired by a GameCareerGuide feature entitled “Is Modding Useful?” If you’re really serious about modding, go ahead and read it. Right now.)