Will the move to DLC spell the end of Mod support in games?

Obviously this thread is targeted at the PC game segment, but I got to thinking the other day about Modern Warfare 2 and their (to me) strange decision to remove the option to host dedicated servers.

I think I can make the statement that DLC is becoming an increasingly important source of revenue for game developers. Borderlands already has a couple DLC packs out with more on the way, Dragon Age is working on some (note: also supports modding).

Does making your game engine mod-friendly provide a sort of free competition to DLC planned by developers? I look at the latest Borderlands DLC pack which is nothing more than some Arena events and some storage thrown in, for a (in my opinion) hefty fee of $10. This is the type of thing that is usually quite easily accomplished via a mod. Hell, there is a “workaround” on the PC forums regarding item storage issues in Borderlands to simply modify a file and increase your item limit to 100.

Anyway, there’s a lot of intelligent people here, including some in the game industry. Do mods pose a threat to DLC revenue, and as such will developers/publishers begin to take an anti-mod stance in order to maximize profits in the future?

Good question.

I think the user mod scene will still thrive on the PC, but the barrier to entry will get higher for the bigger budget games. Even Dragon Age, which does support mods as you pointed out, has a higher barrier to entry than NWN or even NWN2. Unless you’re satisfied with just scripting mods or reusing the levels in the main campaign, any user-made stuff with new areas/story/characters, etc will be few and far between. At that point, a mod maker needs a third-party program to build new environments or models.

I really hope that this does not happen. One of the main reasons for buying a multi-platform game on the PC rather then the consoles is mods. Take Oblivion or Fallout 3 for example, both these games have inumerous mods that greatly enhance the players experience over the vanilla game. If the option to mod games is completely removed I’ll most likely buy everything for my xbox (control issues not withstanding) as its simply easier to set up and play games on it then the PC.

The worst thing is that goodgimp already stated game developers make alot of money from DLC and I can certainly see something like this happening in the future, for AAA titles at least.

There are really a couple of questions in the OP, so I’ll try my hand at each of them:

Yes, they can compete with each other. Depending on the resources being poured into the mod vs. DLC battle, the competition can become a money & time sink for the devs/publishers. It makes sense that we’re seeing more mod incompatibility with the games that rely upon DLC for continued revenue.

It should be known that I love mods - whether it’s Civ (Kael), Morrowind/Obivion, Medieval: TW 2, or some other game. They’re often a wonderful source of extended gaming and is part of the joy of having a gaming PC. They’re also a personal hobby that I used to work on feverishly (not so much nowadays, given real-world time constraints). That said, there are some bad things associated with them: support is often spotty if it exists in the first place, balancing is often very poor, and they can introduce glitches that hamper your enjoyment of the final product.

I personally think that professionally developed “mods” in the form of DLC would be worthwhile to purchase as long as the cost wasn’t over the top (yes, $10 for additional storage is ridiculous). These would have requisite support built in, and everything that can be a negative for a user-made mod is washed away.

As for whether mods will fade away, I sincerely doubt it. Some types of games are well set up for the DLC model, while others simply are not. In turn, the same can be said of development houses. For the games where you won’t see direct competition between mods and DLC, including mod support is a boon for the game. Many games will benefit from far greater sales numbers over their lifetime due to the enhancements that mods provide, and of course the gamers get more bang for the buck by having a brand new or better experience for no additional cost. For those that are better off in a pure DLC environment, on the other hand, I could see that drying up.

Dragon Age is an interesting one in that respect: plans were made for DLC to coexist with mods. I agree that the barrier is quite a bit higher than with most games to do anything story-related, and I think that’s part of why that model will work for the game. People can modify to their hearts content with the little stuff, but for lengthy content additions they’ll keep coming back to EA/Bioware to pick up more.

I just don’t think there’s any real effects. The thing that will kill modding is if people just stop gaming on PCs and move it all to some kind of locked up console device. The stuff that Bioware offers will almost always be of a higher quality or at least be part of the official canon of the game world and people will want that stuff first.

After they finish with that, if they enjoy the game enough to play it multiple times, they’re going to hit up some of the mods. And since mods are pretty much universally freeware, there will always be people making it and people trying it.

What may change is what companies offer as downloads. Your Borderlands example of inventory space is a good one. That kind of thing can’t be the primary focus of downloadables because it’s usually easily hacked around somehow in the game. So they include some arenas and bam, download for pay that’s actually worth something.

Also, people will always find stuff to mod that the developers never thought of, so even if the devs offer a lot of good downloads, there will be users who find other stuff to do with it.

It would be a true shame if developers worked to stop mods rather than making their dlc worth the value. In an ideal world only 2 or 3 of the highest quality mods would be able to offer the same quality of content that official dlc offers, not because the developer sabotaged modding, but because dlc is professionally made.

I dont think it’s a concern right now.

Players are divided by their focus on a game. In general players can be so casual that they just buy the base game and go no further. Or they are fans that buy the base game and DLC/expansions. Or they are the hardcore who buy the base game, DLC/expansions and download mod content.

I’m not saying that there aren’t people who go to mods but skip DLC/expansions, but they are rare (probably as plentiful as those moders who buy DLC/expansions just so they can study/mod the content). Right now there is a perception that mods are low quality and difficult to find/install that keeps many away. If someone is willing to overcome that then most likely they have already consumed the DLC/expansion content (in general).

So quality mods are a powerful selling point for developers. Showing new content for no cost (outside of the consider cost of making modding possible) gets friends to sell to their friends about a mod they love and keeps a community engaged and discussing/playing a game for far longer than the same game without modding.

if you buy dlc on the pc you are killing the pc mod scene. eod.

I don’t see the correlation between the support (or lack) of modding in a game, and the presence of DLC in the same game.

A game can have DLC, or not. For me it’s not important, as i don’t buy DLC. If i buy the game, it will be because the core game it’s good enough in quality and “quantity”.
A game can have mod support, or not. It’s an extra, sometimes a very nice extra, in other wods it’s not a deal breaker when i buy a game. I can buy a game without modding if it’s good enough. Of course if have to choose between two very similar games, same quality, same genre, same price, and one have mods and the other doesn’t, i will chose the one with mods.

There are very few cases where i will buy a game because the modding is a primary factor.

TL,DR: DLC is not a factor in my buying habits, mods are a small factor.

So perhaps they won’t give me reasons to stop buying games just because the kill the modding scene just because the dlc, but also they won’t give me reasons to buy game for that same DLC.

Same as naeblis. It’s not like anyone has been falling over themselves to rush out mod tools or compilable .dlls or an SDK since the 90s. If they wanted to kill mods there are all sorts of obnoxious things they could do rather than just the usual indifference you see these days.

One thing that will never cease is the lack of quality to most of the user-made mods for games that have an active community. Eventually the mods filter down to about 3-5 essentials and a few more are-nice-to-have’s, unless the game is exceptionally modded like Oblivion. First-party mods (DLC) will always be excellent quality compared to most of the community efforts, so I can’t see DLC or official mods going away at all.
However, if the community wants mods, or the game is good but needs tweaking and the developer won’t support it, the community will find a way. Multiplayer Oblivion was hacked in at one point - I think it died a quick death due to unpossible codings - but the community wanted it, so they had a go. I doubt modding will go away at all, especially considering that a fan base of 10,000 can do so much more than a development team of 50 with regard to new stuff.

But if it modding does get shoved off the catwalk, I doubt I’ll be investing in many games in the future. Like a few above me I never consider DLC as worth any money at all, much less factor it into an initial purchase decision.

Since this is PC centric I have a hard time imagining any PC Developer trying to crack down on modding. We live in a post Couter-Strike world where mods have showed they can be a real boon for a game. Extending its life-span/user-base and in some cases create a whole new game. It would have to come from the Evil Corporate Publishers, and even then I if there’s a will(or Whip!) there’s a way.

Its not about cracking down on modding, but many developers don’t do much (or anything) to support modding. We have examples of every extreme from no modding support at all to companies that release some of their source code.

People will want more good content for the games they like. An awful lot of people won’t really care if it’s DLC they have to pay for (as long as prices aren’t obscene) or free mods. Lots of stuff will never be commercially viable as DLC, but those relatively few that will play that mod will love it to bits.

If you build a system to support modular content so you can charge for DLC, then there’s just the question of whether you want to open that up to the general public. I would assume that for traditional console developers, most wouldn’t bother making an end-user “polished” version of their development tools (an SDK and/or editors, 3D plugins, etc). But then again, most PC gamers may not care about purchasing their titles in the first place. I have to say that I would have enjoyed Mass Effect a lot more if it had modding support. I think it adds a lot of additional headaches for the developers, but at the same time they can get ideas from the community and a wildly popular mod can reinvigorate and continue purchases long after a publisher might consider dropping additional QA support or additional expansion funding.

Ripe with fallacy. Thank you for your useless comment!

I find that mod support is not only good for a game long term, and good PR, but its actually a technically worthy thing to include. For my last game the one thing that made sure that I had decent mod support was putting in support for DLC, so in my case they are actually symbiotic. If you know there is a chance you will do DLC, you need to build in support for it at quite a base level, and of course that support makes it trivial to enable really handy, compartmentalised mod support.

So in my humble experience, the two feed off each other, rather than compete. Any dev who worries his DLC is below the quality of fan mods really needs to put more effort into their DLC…

Yeah, it has nothing to do with DLC. If so, mods would’ve been shut down years ago as competition for expansion packs.

Mods are tough. You may not be able to distribute your tools, for example. If you write your own lighting, you can build it into your editor and give that to the community to make maps and such. But if you rely on a third-party lighting solution—which more people are doing nowadays—you may not be able to distribute your editor if you’ve embedded their code into those tools.

In an ideal world DLC would mean tangible extra content, i.e. something akin to the expansion packs of old, which would still leave plenty of room for mods like UI hacks, custom AI scripts, skin packs, etc.

These days, most big ‘mods’ - well, TC-s mostly - are focusing on recreating older games anyway (something most devs don’t seem to want to bother with) so while there’s not much of a reason to actively support modding, its demise has fairly little to do with DLC packs themselves.

I dont think modding is dying. Moddb had over 21,000 downloads so far today. As developers move into smaller discrete pieces players are given a new vision for what modding can be (the main killer of mods is ideas that are to ambicious).

Modding will evolve, but players will expect and enjoy more customization in future titles. Be it in new ways to create their own content, ability to sample their friends, or the ability to introduce parts created by people or teams they don’t know.