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Modding 102 – Introduction

Modding 102 – Introduction

There are a lot of Mods out there. I mean, a heck of a lot. For instance, the site Nexus Mods has, as of October 17th of this year, 44,115 files for Skyrim alone. That’s… a lot, and it doesn’t even include additional mods available through Steam Workshop as well as other sources. So… yeah. That’s a lot to go through.

To make matters even more difficult, some of these mods can change a game drastically. Others can introduce instability, and others can turn a game into a total resource hog, bogging down your frame-rate to an insane level (one mod I tried out took me from my capped 60/uncapped 100+ FPS in Skyrim to – I kid you not – 15 FPS in certain areas… that’s just one mod), which isn’t great. So, with all there is out there, how can you choose the mods that are right for you?

This series of articles is intended to help you out in that regard. I’m going to go through several mods for some of the most mod-friendly games out there, and talk about how you, too, can spot likely issues before you even try them out. I’ll be covering some of my favorite mods, and I’ll talk about alternatives that I’ve tried out and why I chose one over the other. I’ll try to highlight the best, and provide tips and so forth.

There’s a method to my particular form of madness. I’m not saying this is the right way – just the student 20 way. Mods are all about experimentation and tweaking a game so that it’s just right for you, so naturally you’re going to find things I haven’t tried. You’re also not always going to like my choices, which is why I’m going to try to include several other possibilities that fill the same niche. So, before we get going, here’s a peak into what’s to come:

The Games

For this part of my modding series, I’m going to stick with easily modded games that have modding communities that are supported by the original game developers. So, we’re going to spend a lot of time with Bethesda. I’m a huge fan of the more recent Fallout games and the Elder Scrolls series for a lot of reasons, most of which can be summed up with the words “just my kinda games.” Bethesda Softworks has released modding tools for every Elder Scrolls game since Morrowind, and for Fallout 3 and New Vegas. They’ve also been incredibly supportive of their modding communities, offering space on their official forums for modding discussion, enabling Steam Workshop on Skyrim, and generally being completely cool with the modding scene. They’ve already announced their intent to do the same with Fallout 4 (YAY OMG NEW FALLOUT GAME THAT IS TOTES AWESOME!!!!!). The modding communities for these games are massive, productive, and talented. They’re also at least reasonably friendly and helpful, so of course I’m going to focus on them.

They aren’t the only ones, though. There are plenty of games out there that allow mods/plugins/addons, including World of Warcraft, Audiosurf 2, Portal 2 (and Half Life related games in general), the PC Baldur’s Gate/Icewind Dale series, Harebrained Schemes’s Shadowrun games, and Torchlight 2 just to name a few. I’m not going to cover all of them because I have a finite number of years left on Earth, and I have other things to do, like eat, sleep, play Fallout 4 (OMG OMG OMG FINALLY!!!!) when it comes out, and watch The Flash, Arrow, and iZombie.

So which ones am I going to cover and why? These:

  • Recent Fallout and Elder Scrolls Games: As previously implied, I would be remiss if I didn’t cover these. Specifically, I’m going to talk about Fallout: New Vegas (because it’s awesome) and Skyrim. Depending on how things go, I might dip into Fallout 3 and Oblivion, but a lot of the material overlaps (especially for FO3 and FONV), so those are on the back burner. Don’t wait up for them. I’ll also add in stuff about Fallout 4 (ALL HAIL BETHESDA!!!! BREAK OUT THE NUKA-COLA!!!!) once it becomes available, although tha’s not going to be until early next year,
  • Torchlight 2: A fantastic game that is, in my less than humble opinion, everything Diablo 3 should have been. The modding community is very active and supportive, and the Steam Workshop installer works fantastically for this game. It’s also substantially different from Bethesda Softwork’s amazing games, so it’s gonna get some coverage.
  • Starbound: My favorite Terraria clone, ha-ha. Starbound was built from the ground up with modding firmly in mind. Making mods for it is so easy even I have made one. There are a positively silly number of incredible mods available at the Chucklefish official forums, and the community’s great. I wish they’d use the Steam Workshop to make installing mods a bit easier, but you can’t have everything.
  •  Maybe Baldur’s Gate: The game that got me into modding in the first place, the old Baldur’s Gate series from Bioware has a big modding community that’s been active for more than a decade. The game is primitive by today’s standard (even the HD reboots have that “Old School” feel), but lots of people still love it. It’s also slightly more difficult to add mods to, which will give me a chance to talk about that process.

That’s it, and that’s more or less the order I intend to tackle the games in. Skyrim is first on my list, because I’m currently in the middle of my five billionth play through. Still haven’t “beaten” it – I just keep playing it and playing it.

The Mods

Different kinds of games generally have different kinds of mods. For instance, Torchlight 2 has a lot of great Class mods, but Class Mods don’t really fit in to Skyrim because it is, at it’s heart, a game without character classes (it was hard to put that sentence together without calling Skyrim classless…). So the kinds of things I’m going to cover here will vary a bit from game to game. I’ll be covering the same territory in several places, but in others there will be major differences. Generally speaking, however:

  • Major Overhauls: These are mods where massive changes have been made. I’m not actually going to cover a lot of these because, as far as I’m concerned, these games are awesome already, so I don’t much go in for major overhauls. There are some, though, that are too cool to pass up (I’m looking at you, Tale of Two Wastelands).
  • Graphical Improvement: One of the joys of modded games is that just because they’re old doesn’t mean that they have to look old. Now, I’m more into gameplay and character options than I am into visuals, so I don’t use a whole lot of these. I have, however, tried out a vast number of them, and I’ll share my thoughts with you.
  • Aural Enhancement: Audio mods – those concerned with sound effects and music – are popular, and there’s a good reason for that.
  • Gameplay Enhancement: Just because a game’s good doesn’t mean it can’t be, you know, better. Skyrim is awesome, but the magic is a little repetitive and dull, and Heavy Armor is a bad choice late game compared to Light Armor. Also, everyone in Skyrim seems to have a death wish – they all run towards the Dragons attacking their towns instead of away. So, sometimes, a few tweaks to AI, creatures, loot, and so on can be pretty awesome.
  • Annoyances: As much as I love these games, they have a few questionable design issues. These include crashing problems and bugs, weird gameplay mechanics, and other idiosyncrasies that can lead to annoyance or immersion breaking problems in games. Some mods address these problems, and I would like to talk about a few of them.

That’s the plan for pretty much every game I’m covering, but there will be other things to discuss.

In Conclusion

I love modding and mods. I don’t think that’s a secret – at least, I hope it’s not. I think all game companies should embrace the modding community. I realize that mods would create issues in the PVP portions of games like Call of Duty, but since I hate those games, I don’t really care. Mods enhance the experience of playing a game, and they forge a strong community of like-minded people who are all just trying to have a little fun – and then share that fun with everyone else who plays that game. What’s not to love about that?

Through this series, I want to share my love of mods and modding with my fellow Baconeers. I want to have a chance to talk about specific mods I love and use, and to talk more about this particular side of gaming. I’m also hoping I can entertain, nay, enthrall people with my sterling wit and my written charisma. What? That’s a thing. I have those things…

–student 20

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