Mod (computer game)

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A mod (also the or the mod; abbreviation for English modification or German modification ) is a usually free extension or modification of an already published computer game , usually created by hobby or rarely professional game developers . In a narrower sense, Mod refers to a specific category of computer game modifications.

Definition of terms

Different terms have been established for the various possibilities of computer game modifications and expansions:

  • Supplementary sets ( add-ons , download content (DLC)) usually offer an expansion of the plot, levels , new 3D models , weapons, etc.; the basic game principle and mostly the original game content remain unchanged and are only supplemented by the new content. While the term add-on is the English term for supplementary set in general and it can also be a DLC , the term downloadable content exclusively refers to additional content published by the game manufacturer for an already existing game that can be downloaded online. DLCs ​​are mostly chargeable.
  • Mutators (from Latin : mutare , "(ver) alter", "swap") are dynamically switchable program changes that make small and limited changes to the game, e. B. increase the pace of the game or activate other rules of the game. Mutators are especially common in the Unreal series .
  • Mods (in the narrower sense) make a variety of additions and changes, such as: B. the complete replacement of the arsenal or simply the revision of numerous existing 3D models, textures , levels, or audio data. Like expansion sets, they retain the game principle (at least to a large extent), but fundamentally change the original game content.
  • Total conversions ( Engl. For "complete conversion") modify the game completely. All that remains is the game engine . The same changes come into play here as with mods , but often also changes in the basic game principle or, for example, the implementation of a completely new scenario. See also: fangame .
  • Standalone mods are mods or total conversions that are distributed including a copy of the original game engine and can therefore run completely without the original game.
  • Engine mods are not created by the original manufacturer, further developed versions of the engine of a game, which can fix bugs as well as add new functions.
  • Unofficial patches are adjustments to commercial software (often games) by the user community, solely for the purpose ofcorrecting errors or deficiencies (e.g. technical limitations or compatibility). This special form of mod is clearly distinguished from other types of mod in that the (game) principle, balancing and content are explicitly not changed or expanded, but only the original developers' vision for the software is attempted. The motivation to create these is typically missing or expired official support ( abandonware ) and typically gain acceptance by the user community as "official" support continuation.

The boundaries between the categories are partly fluid; Mixed forms are possible. Many players therefore prefer to speak of “a mod” in general when it comes to a modified version of an original game, no matter how numerous the changes are made.

Definition of terms

The way in which a mod changes or supplements the game in question is only limited by the possibilities of the game engine in question and the creativity of the mod developers, who usually come together from the fan scene .

Game companies often also support mod development themselves, as it is a comparatively inexpensive way to add to the already finished PC game and thus make it even more attractive for the buyer. For this purpose, the game development companies publish special editors and software development kits for changing their games. Otherwise, the mod developers also occasionally resort to reverse engineering techniques .

It is controversial when the term “ mod” was used to change a computer game and where exactly it comes from. However, there is evidence that since the mid-1990s the term patch has been used in the game Quake and the abbreviation WAD (for Where's all the data ?) Has been used alongside Mod in the game Doom . Likewise, the formulation Game Hack (Engl. For gaming hack ) is busy, but today uncommon (see Quake).

The private creators modifications are commonly known as mud or Modderin referred. This is a further Anglicism that was formed from the word modification , which, at least in German, can also be understood as an abbreviation for modification creator . Other expressions for private modification creators can occasionally occur, such as B. Maker (English for doers). Creating private modifications is commonly referred to using the slang term modding or modden .


The creative occupation with computer games, whether for artistic reasons, simple curiosity or scientific interest, began with the first computer game Spacewar! (1961/62). Even if there was no economic framework at the beginning, the fact that software was modified and these game hacks or patches were distributed fulfilled all aspects that are understood under the term of product piracy .

The promotion of creative employment and the associated copyright problems are two aspects that accompany the modification of computer games to this day. In the early days of the game industry in the 1980s, dealing with it was therefore the focus of game developers. It was not until the 1990s, when both computers became more widespread and games and developers achieved a certain degree of awareness, that the first trend-setting decisions were made. The development studio id Software and the first-person shooter genre were decisive for this . Instead of protecting the software more and more, the creation of hacks or homebrew editors was encouraged and, among other things, instructions, scripts and (excerpts) the source code of games were published. The positive aspects in the interaction with modder communities around titles such as Doom (later Quake ), Unreal Tournament and Half-Life , significantly influenced the way the computer game industry deals with mods.

While modifications with full-price titles were already being sold in the late 1990s and modders often made the step from private developer to manufacturer, the modding landscape reached its first peak in 2000. The release of the modification Counter-Strike became a phenomenon that became known to the public far beyond gamer communities. With it, the modders and their modifications came into the light of a wider public over a wide area, at least in the English-speaking area.

To this day, the transition from modder to game developer is fluid.

Before 1980

The modification of video and computer games , or what was then known as hacking , began with the release of Spacewar! ( Massachusetts Institute of Technology ), the completion of which is dated 1962 with the addition of the starry sky background. After the game was distributed to other institutes, the professors and students there began to adapt the game to their own wishes. Although the modding of computer games is older than the computer game industry, it should be twenty years before one should speak of the first mod in the modern sense.


In 1983, when both the spread of home computers and the establishment of computer games began, Andrew Johnson and Preston Nevins created a modification to the computer game Castle Wolfenstein , which is indexed in Germany and which many also refer to as the first mod : Castle Smurfenstein . The main change was the replacement of the original Nazi soldiers and their votes for Smurfs . The developer of Castle Wolfenstein, Muse Software , first and foremost Silas S. Warner , created the first cornerstone in dealing with such software hacks by creating private modifications through the follow-up title Beyond Castle Wolfenstein (1984) through an easily accessible code simplified.

But other developers also promoted the creation of their own game content, such as Broderbund's Lode Runner (1983), which enabled the player to create their own levels / maps (game areas) with an editor.


In the late 1980s and early 90s, the handling of modifications was significantly influenced by shooters . For Duke Nukem (1991), modders not only developed their own levels, but also level editors (see Homebrews ) to create such levels in a user-friendly interface.

In 1992, the initial levels of the first first-person shooter Wolfenstein 3D by id Software were finally offered free on the Internet. The u. a. Because of this free availability, the growing modder scene encouraged the developers to make the modifiability for their next game Doom easier. The developer John Carmack was largely responsible for this. This was of the opinion that the source code of games, in terms of freedom of information, should be freely available to the public. The first levels of Doom were also freely available on the Internet; In return, however, id Software this time asked the modders to create mods only for the registered version of Doom and not for the freeware version.

The modder community not only stuck to the default, but even developed safety features so that their modifications only worked with the registered version of Doom . She thus laid the foundation for a rule of conduct that is still generally valid today, albeit unwritten, which is also referred to in various scenes as the modder or modding codex . Regardless of legal guidelines, this modding codex regulates the handling of content created for games in the various modder communities. On the one hand, the wishes of the developer studio are given in, on the other hand, the wishes of other modders. The best known is probably the phrase "Give Credit, where Credit is due" (English for honor where honor is due ). This calls for the work of other modders to be identified as such (e.g. in a credit section in the readme ) and thus to appreciate the work of the original author.

While Doom's sales shot up, the developers at id Software noticed the potential of the various modifications. Ultimately, Final Doom (1996) featured a multitude of levels created by modders. Id Software also recruited several modders for the next game, Quake (1996).

The modder Ben Morris had also made a name for himself with the Doom Construction Kit level editor he had developed and wanted to build on the success of the editor with another one, this time for Quake : Worldcraft . After joining Valve in 1997, his Worldcraft editor became the cornerstone of the development of the Half-Life series (1998) and its modding community, which also comprised the then half-staff of Valve.

As it worked Tim Sweeny to its title ZZT be one of the first modding communities had formed on the Unreal Engine . Several former Doom and Quake modders were also recruited by his company Epic Games and created the title Unreal Tournament (1999).

All three titles ( Quake , Unreal and Half-Life ) came out with editors and extensive documentation. Many titles in which employees from id Software, Valve or Epic Games played a part are still in this tradition today.

2000 until today

In 2000 modifications became known outside of their genre as well. At the Half-Life Mod Expo , where modifications based on Valve's Half-Life game engine have been presented since 1999 , a title called Counter-Strike attracted attention.

In contrast to the original game and its game mode Deathmatch (everyone against everyone), the players competed against each other in two groups in a kind of variant of robbers and gendarmes . Counter-Strike was, at least in the English-speaking world, the turning point at which the public also understood that modders not only created small game additions on their home PC, but also modifications that could rival full-price titles in terms of quality and scope. More than eight years after the main game was released, Counter-Strike was still one of the most popular multiplayer games on the Internet, with over seven billion minutes of play per month .

While the shooter genre largely dominated the modding scene in the 1990s, around the turn of the millennium, computer role-playing game developers also opted for extensive modding . Here, however, the objective developed primarily through the genre itself, which was initially closely linked to the pen & paper role-playing game and whose possibilities were to be transferred to the computer. Nihilistic Software integrated an editor in Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption (2000), which should enable groups of players and modders to play a virtual pen & paper with all its possibilities on the computer . Despite extensive documentation, from the level creation to theoretical practices from the film school to the creation of film sequences (so-called cutscenes ), the system did not catch on.

In 2002, the developers put Bethesda Softworks the RPG Morrowind , the Elder Scrolls Construction Set and the developer BioWare , the Aurora toolset , the first part of the Neverwinter Nights series, along with detailed documentation in. As a result, strong modding scenes developed for both series.

In the same year, the first DLC content ( Downloadable Content ) came onto the market with the introduction of the Xbox Live network for the game MechAssault (see BattleTech ).

To this day, the shooter genre largely follows the tradition of modifiability, while other genres promote certain orientations depending on the game content (e.g. a focus on creating new levels). It differs depending on the manufacturer to what extent he supports and legalizes the modifiability of his software. Usually the game genre or the game content is decisive. Many modifications have meanwhile succeeded in becoming known far beyond their fan base. The best example of this is probably Counter-Strike , which was originally developed as a modification for the game Half-Life , but is now also available as a standalone game, as well as Tactical Ops based on the Unreal Tournament or Team Fortress .

Nowadays there are modder communities for almost all well-known computer games that create additions of various kinds. Simulations such as IL-2 Sturmovik or The Sims and real-time strategy games such as Total War or Command & Conquer have creative scenes.

In recent years in particular, titles from manufacturers that originally consisted of modders or so-called modding teams have increasingly appeared .

Modifications for game consoles

Various console games also tried to establish a form of modding with editors , such as Timesplitters (2000) from Free Radical Design , whose game contained a level editor. Here, however, the technical possibilities of a console (especially the limited memory and ease of use) stood in the way of a larger modding scene. While the lack of distribution options was also a problem in the beginning, today it is the license agreements between the game developers and the respective console manufacturers as well as security reasons, which is why modifications by private individuals for game consoles are rarely or not at all supported.

Significance for the game industry

Dealing with private modifications is still characterized by positive as well as negative side effects for developers. On the one hand, they can promote the popularity, quality and longevity ( product life cycle ) of a title, on the other hand, modders have insight into the software and can thus exert an external influence on decisions made by game developers or distributors ( publishers ).

Positive aspects

Ideally, game manufacturers benefit from the work of the modders . For example, various developers copy mod content in order to integrate it in subsequent titles or bring out revised additions that consist of modifications. For example, the Sid Meier's Civilization add-on package Beyond the Sword , which includes the modifications Rhye's and Fall of Civilization and Fall from Heaven , should be mentioned here.

In a few cases, these modifications even make it into the sale as independent full-price titles. The best- known modification remains Counter-Strike , based on Half-Life (1998) or Half-Life2 (2004) or Team Fortress , a multiplayer modification (1996) originally developed for Quake , which sets the genre standards of the multiplayer mode for Shooter continued and was copied many times. Other modifications managed to become alternative successors to existing player series, such as Jagged Alliance: Wildfire (2004), originally a modification of Jagged Alliance 2 (1999). or came up with expanding possibilities. Like InstaGib a mutator for Quake, which introduced a form of reality mode as an advanced difficulty variant ( one shot and death ), as it exists today in various forms in other shooters, or Multi Theft Auto , which has a multiplayer mode in Grand Theft Auto III (2001 ) implemented.

Otherwise, modifications can also have an unpredictable impact on the genre or industry. The strong German modding scene contributed to the role-playing game Oblivion (2006), aided by the German dubbing landscape through a large number of professionally set modifications ( e.g. M.Syd Jr.'s Blood & Mud , on which a team from TV and radio participated, or Nehrim in which the band Schandmaul had a performance), to bring the synchronization of computer games more into the focus of players and the trade press. This sometimes led to a revision of the German synchronization of various titles. The best known example was The Witcher (2007) from the CD Projekt developer studio . The German synchronization was edited after consultation with the fan base and published free of charge in an expansion package.

In some cases even today modders of successful or promising modifications are contracted by game companies. For example, in Desert Combat, a modification for the game Battlefield 1942 (2002) by Digital Illusions CE , whose team contributed to the subsequent title Battlefield 2 (2005), or DayZ , a zombie modification for ArmA 2 (2009), which was made before Bohemia was completed Interactive was taken over as an independent title and their modders were hired as project managers.

Negative aspects

Above all, the DLCs offered by game developers can compete with private modifications insofar as they are chargeable.

While DLCs are the only way to add something to game consoles, they sometimes fail to capture the scope of modifications that are available to gamers. However, since the fan scene can record the effort of possible changes in the game and modifications are usually offered free of charge, some DLCs are accused of pursuing purely economic aspects. In this context, the paid horse armor from Bethesda Softworks for the fantasy role-playing game Oblivion (2006), which was not available in the original game , became legendary . The additional content, which was offered for download for $ 1.99, became known far beyond its gaming community and became the epitome of " mini-DLC for economic reasons ". In the follow-up title Skyrim, the developers refrained from small expansion packages.

A factual correction through indirect influence of the modders showed up. a. for a title in Creative Assembly's Total War series. The publisher Sega had tied the availability of special units of the game Empire: Total War (2009) to the purchase of a certain retailer (e.g. Amazon ). When these units were later offered to all players for a fee via Steam , at least the owners of a special edition of the game received units for free under pressure from the community . It was to be feared that modders would unlock the units for players by simply changing the code, as these were in every game.

Influences beyond the game industry

Modifications also have an impact on the public perception of computer games beyond the industry. While in the USA the GTA series ( Grand Theft Auto ) by Rockstar North was used as a negative example of the computer game industry, the killer game debate in Germany was largely based on the modification Counter-Strike (available as a full price title at that time), which by game critics became the epitome of the killer game . (see Counter-Strike )

In return, various media magazines were criticized by gaming communities because statements or images were allegedly based largely on modifications, but not on the original titles. As an example, both sides liked to cite the so-called GTA San Andreas Hot Coffee Mod by the Dutch modder Patrick Wildenborg , which is an inaccessible sex feature that was hidden in the code of the original game, but was only made accessible to the public through the modification.



Originally a private project, conceived as a total conversion of Half-Life, Counter-Strike is now a standalone mod and only shares a few game resources (such as textures) in the so-called retail version with Half-Life or Half-Life 2 . Counter-Strike is considered to be the most famous modification of all.

Desert Combat

Desert Combat is a total conversion for the game Battlefield 1942 and was more than twice played towards the end of development as much as Battlefield 1942 itself. A large part of the team behind Desert Combat was for the development of the successor game of Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2 , under contract taken.

Forgotten Hope

Forgotten Hope is a comprehensive modification for the game Battlefield 1942 created by an international team . After the release of Battlefield 2 , it was successfully ported to this new Battlefield Engine. Since the modification describes the same scenario, i.e. the Second World War, Forgotten Hope is more of a comprehensive expansion. Part two of the modification, Forgotten Hope 2 , which was released for Battlefield 2, is a total conversion of the game. The aim of the modification was to make the Second World War as realistic as possible. This is particularly evident in a precise damage model, detailed 3D models and well-researched battles. The average player rating of 9.3 (10) (as of March 4, 2012) at ModDB and the award for "Mod of the year 2010" show that the goals were achieved. Despite the fact that it was the most played modification for Battlefield 1942 after Desert Combat , Forgotten Hope was never able to build on their success. The main point of criticism was the high level of difficulty due to the game's high demands on realism, which often led to frustration, especially for new players.


InstaGib is a classic mutator from the multiplayer line of the Unreal series . All weapons are replaced with an instant kill weapon with unlimited ammunition.

Jagged Alliance: Wildfire

Originally, Wildfire expanded the original game, Jagged Alliance 2 , just to include new weapons and more realistic weapon behavior. Today Wildfire is sold as a standalone game and an extension of the actual game.

Multi Theft Auto

Multi Theft Auto is the first multiplayer mod for GTA III . The mod extends the game (or its successors Vice City and San Andreas ) by a multiplayer mode, so that several players can play together in a city via LAN or Internet. There are also other multiplayer mods for Grand Theft Auto (e.g. San Andreas Multiplayer ).

Team Fortress

Team Fortress is a multiplayer mod which already has many features of total conversion. Originally developed for Quake in 1996 , modifications based on Team Fortress were developed for a number of other games . Games (excerpt): Quake , Half-Life

Battlefield 2142

First Strike is a multiplayer mod for Battlefield 2142 , which already has many features of a total conversion. It was developed based on the Star Wars universe. Similarly, Revenge-of-the-Fallen refers to the Stargate universe.


There are numerous mods for the game Minecraft . These include mods that improve the graphics of the sandbox game, but also add new game components or helpful tools. In a future update, the programming and installation of plugins should be made easier and thus controllable even for inexperienced players. Minecraft mods can be downloaded from various websites and forums.

Panzer Corps

The game Panzer Corps offers the best conditions for modding thanks to the engine and the course of the game. In this context, modifications in the style of a total conversion have appeared repeatedly since 2011. These extensive additions to the game, with specially designed units, scenarios and maps, have received a lot of attention from the fan base: "Africa Corps", "Winter War", "Eastern Front" and "Pacific Corps". In addition to these expansions from the fan base, smaller mods with new units (unit mods), newly designed units (sprites) and changed options in the game (mutator mods) appear at regular intervals. These modifications are widespread in the fan base as a supplement to the official expansion sets (DLC) from the game manufacturer Slitherine . All these privately created modifications of the fan base can be found on various fan sites and forums or can be downloaded there free of charge.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Mod  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Total Conversions - When the game principle is undermined
  2. a b c d O. Sotamaa: Computer Game Modding, Intermediality and Participatory Culture , 2003, pp. 4–5 ( Memento from 7 February 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 149 kB)
  3. Glossary on Doomworld [1]
  4. ^ S. Brand: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Buns, 2000 [2]
  5. Homepage of Castle Smurfenstein [3]
  6. a b c d J. Wagner: Triumph of the mod , 2002 [4]
  7. a b S. Morris: WADs, Bots and Mods: Multiplayer FPS Games as Co-creative Media , 2003, pp. 2, 4 [5] (PDF; 48 kB)
  8. J. Kücklich: Precarious Playbour: Modders and the Digital Games Industry , Fibreculture Journal, 2005 [6]
  9. Homepage of id Software Archived copy ( Memento of the original dated November 8, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  10. Quakewiki: Past, Present and Future of Worldcraft [7]
  11. Statistics on [8]
  12. Homepage Rhye's & Fall of Civilization [9]
  13. Short articlePCActionBlood & Mud Archived copy ( Memento of the original from September 30, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  14. ArticlePCGamesNehrim [10]
  15. The Witcher Wiki [11]
  16. Article on DayZ [12]
  17. Game Director Todd Howard about DLCs for TESV: Skyrim Archived Copy ( Memento of the original from March 1, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  18. Heise article: Take-Two sues against GTA advertising stop [13]
  19. GTA Wiki [14]
  20.  : - Forgotten Hope 2 Mod
  21. : - Mod of the year 2010