Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Modding lessons, courtesy of The Witcher

Will The Witcher 2 include a toolset? There's no official confirmation at this early stage, but Internet rumors and idle speculation suggest it probably will.

Thus reassured, we move on to the next two unknowns: 1) whether the toolset will be available at release, and 2) whether it will allow modifications to the official campaign. If the answer to either of those questions is "no," it's going seriously to limit the growth of a Witcher 2 modding community. I can't explain it any better than Robin Scott of the Nexus modding sites, who posted this on the CD Projekt forums:
The D'jinni was a nice idea but from my understanding it had one fatal flaw; it only allowed the creation of new modules rather than modification of the original game campaign and content. Such limitations only serve to "gimp" the development of the mod community as many of the early mod releases for games come from small tweaks and bug fixes to the original campaigns.
D'jinni is the name of the toolset for the original Witcher. I've never used it, so I don't have anything to add specifically about the Witcher modding community. However, there's one interesting and, I think, often-overlooked point here that applies to all modding communities, which is that smaller add-in mods - the respec utilities, the rules tweaks, the bug fixes, and yes, the nudity/sex mods - are crucial. Without them, players are more likely to move on before the larger, standalone mods can be completed.

I wanted to point this out lest anyone get the impression, based on my post about the state of modding for Dragon Age, that I look down on add-in modules. I do think it's a shame that the few standalone mods out there don't have a chance to stand out among all the add-in mods for Dragon Age - but that's because there's no decent way to find anything on the Bioware Social Network. The fact that there are a number of popular add-in mods for Dragon Age is a good thing for the community, and that includes standalone mods.

Unless we're talking about two utility mods that do the same thing, mods generally don't compete with each other. Modders may compete with each other to make the best mod, but their mods don't compete with each other for players. Just the opposite. The more good mods there are in a community, the more likely players are to give them all a shot. After all, they're free and only "cost" the player some time. The main barrier to using mods is learning how to find, download, and install them. Once you know how to do that, you aren't likely to stop at just one.
(The relationship between DLC and mods is different. Theoretically, if there are enough free mods to play, players may not want to shell out money for DLC. In fact, I recall some Neverwinter Nights players saying as much when Bioware launched its Premium Modules program. However, I still think that in most cases, DLC and mods are likely to be helpful to each other by keeping the game's players engaged. But I digress...)

The net of all this is that the success of mods - the sort of "success" that is defined by number of downloads, that is - is heavily dependent on the vitality of the community as a whole. In that sense, there really is no such thing as a standalone mod.