For over 20 years, modders have made some of the worlds most popular games such as Battle Royle, DotA and Counter-Strike. They've helped countless games like Minecraft, Skyrim, and The Sims expand and live on with new and exciting content for players. Mod.io is a platform that makes modding smoother for the players, the modders, and the game developers – making it easier to support UGC (user-generated content) on all platforms. Scott Reismanis from Mod.io was kind enough to write this article on what exactly modding is and how you can get started on your own...
What is modding?
Modding is an insanely popular activity that is essentially the art of modifying someone’s game to create new content within that gaming world. Anyone can do it whether you consider yourself a coder, artist or musician, and it’s a great way to improve your design and development skills. Many of the biggest names in PC gaming started out as mods. For example, Counter-Strike, Defense of the Ancients / League of Legends and PUBG are some of the most famous. Modding has been around for 20+ years now, and it’s becoming more popular as services like Steam Workshop and the cross-platform modding SDK called mod.io that we created, aim to make it more accessible to game developers, modders, and their players.
A mod can be as simple or as complex as you like. For example, creating a skin for a Minecraft character can be done in a 2D editor with no coding knowledge, whilst creating a total conversion can take years of work and require many creators to collaborate (see the Mod Hall of Fame for some of the most famous mods). There are many modding communities – if you want to see some examples you can check out ModDB and mod.io which are communities we have created.
So why mod?
Modding unlocks creativity, builds skills, and brings happiness to gaming communities. For many people modding is a hobby where they can create, test ideas, or tweak a game to be smarter, easier or do amazing new things. For people looking to get into the industry, modding can be a great first step.
Discover your passion. Modding is a way of trying out some of the work that game studios actually do. You can try whatever interests you most and see if you’d really like it – mods do everything from graphics to level design, UI enhancements, sound, AI behaviour and more.
Build your skills. If you are working on something you like then you will do more of it and get better at it. Mods build skills because they are using similar (or sometimes exactly the same) development tools that the game developers use. The great thing about mods is that you can post them online for others to use and get immediate feedback from the players on what they think. This feedback can be invaluable in both improving your skills and learning what gamers like.
Pathway into a gaming job. Modding isn’t a job guarantee, but it certainly doesn’t hurt! Modders build up a portfolio of their work over time, which they can show to gaming studios when applying for a job. This helps to both demonstrate their development skills and prove how interested they are in getting into game development. Modding is also starting to become a career for some, as forward-thinking games like ROBLOX have demonstrated, and we expect it is a path other games will explore in the future as they aim to reward and empower their creators. Finally, some very skilled and fortunate modders have gone on to create their own game from the concept they made whilst modding. The Irish modder Brendan ‘PlayerUnknown’ Greene created the Battle Royale genre, that includes games like Fortnite and got to make the breakout hit PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
How to get started
Start easy, pick your game, build your skills, and get feedback. Try to start with something simple and build your skills from there. Coding is a key modding skill, but there are modders who specialize in graphics, sound and map design as well. To build a mod you need to own the relevant game and have the appropriate software. This video gives a simple example of how to modify the sounds on a car rally game, using free opensource software. No matter which game you pick, if it’s moddable you will likely be able to find and join a community of creators and start learning from them. There are loads of tutorials and forums on specific aspects of modding for popular games. You can find these on websites or Discord. The exact skills that modders use vary by their speciality interest. Common skills are Programming, 2D or 3D Art, Sound Design, Level or Game Design, Production and Testing.
- For programming, you need to know the language used by the game. For example, C# is used in games built in Unity, a common game software engine.
- For art, the industry standards are Adobe Photoshop for 2D art and 3D Studio Max for 3D art. These can be expensive, but there are many more affordable alternatives and they offer discounts to students.
- Level design uses a 2D or 3D level editor that varies by the game you are interested in.
Getting feedback on your creation is often the most useful (and rewarding) part of modding. So, once you’ve created something you’re proud of, be sure to share it with others! Moddable games usually have tools provided by the developer to help create mods and post them online in places like Steam Workshop and Mod.io. With some trial and error, passion, and a little persistence there’s nothing to stop you from making mods like these!
Good luck, have fun, get creative and we look forward to playing your mods! And please don’t hesitate to reach out anytime to our friendly team at ModDB and mod.io. We’ve been involved in modding for 20+ years, and love helping creators get started.