Modding (video games)
- For other uses of "mod" or "modding" see the disambiguation page Modding.
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Modding is the fan practice of creating new or additional content for computer or video games. The content itself is called mod as an abbreviation for modification or module (or campaigns, for larger, stand-alone additions to games.)
Depending on the hard- and software used, this can be done by using either tool sets provided by the developers, modifying the source code, or ROM hacking (for console games).
It can range from fan translations to unlocking buried content to adding new levels to stand-alone games using the original game's engine. In the latter respect, and in the required skills, it may be similar to Machinima. While any individual with access to the required tools and code may mod, community and a high degree of organization are required to create sophisticated and extensive mods like translations or entire new modules.
Even though the actual concept may be similar, the term "modding" is not used across all fandoms. In MMOs, especially, game modifications that would give a player unfair advantage are strictly prohibited and may result in a game ban. (The line between an acceptable mod or add-on and a hack or cheat is usually delineated in the game's TOS).
- Addon or Add-On is the term used in World of Warcraft fandom.
- The Sims fans use the term custom content for additions that don't change gameplay mechanics, and mods for those that do.
- Creatures fans call mods "COBs" or "Agents," and call the adding of COBs and Agents "Injecting."
- Furcadia players call mods "patches," though this shares the term with a "patch," which is a fix in a video game by the game's creators.
- Petz fans don't have a general term for a mod, but call the creation of custom animals "hexes" or "hexies," and the act of creation is called "hexing." Custom backgrounds and items aren't usually referred to in the same way.
- Zoo Tycoon traditionally just called mods "downloads."
Types of mods
- Fan translation
- Quality of life (QoL) improvements - Bug fixes, graphics improvements, tweaking game mechanics for satisfying gameplay.
- Cosmetic mod - Merely changing the appearance or textures of in-game objects and environments.
- Unofficial patch / Dummied content restoration - Adding "dummied" content—planned content that was ultimately cut in the course of a game's development—by implementing unused source code and other concepts.
- Original campaign - Adding a new campaign (such as a game mode, mission, or storyline) to an existing game.
- Overhaul - A bundle of drastic modifications that may include QoL improvements, and changes to cosmetics, music, user interface (UI), and even dialogue and plot, but not so drastic as to be a completely different game.
- Total conversion mod - Completely different games that merely use the source game's software as a backbone. (Examples: Skywind, Golden Eye X)
- Randomizer - Particularly popular for roguelikes and adventure games such as The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Castlevania, and Pokémon.
- Vanilla - Unmodified. Some games are so popularly modded that the community has to specifically clarify when referring to the unmodified game. (e.g. Minecraft, The Sims, The Elder Scrolls).
Unlike other transformative art forms like fanfiction or vidding, modding is often supported and encouraged by rights holders, as long as it aligns with their plans for the Intellectual Property. This support ranges from toleration to providing toolsets to featuring mods to incorporating them into the official game at a later date to creating official games based off popular mods.
A good example of an officially approved mod that later became incorporated directly into the base game is the "Mo'Creatures" mod from Minecraft, by modder DrZhark (John Olarte). The horse models of the mod were tweaked and officially added by the Minecraft team in April 2013, garnering DrZhark a shoutout on Jeb's offical Twitter.
Mod vs full-fledged game
In the United States context, the mechanisms of how the modder gets into the code of the game to mod it may violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or even simply the end-user license agreement (EULA). A particular concern of companies is the use of copyrighted material by another company in mods, such as a "Aliens vs. Predator" mod for Quake, which was legally contested by 20th Century Fox.
Projects considered to be full-fledged fan games and remakes face more legal troubles than mere mods. Certain AAA companies have been known to take legal action against fan game developers (see Square Enix's cease and desist action against the Chrono Resurrection project.)
- See Fandom and profit.
Most EULAs forbid fan modders from selling their mods.
- An example of a fan translation project which requires ROM hacking: English translation of the Japanese Playstation 1 RPG Tales of Phantasia, Phantasian Productions.
- An example of a highly sophisticated, semi-professional community are the Rogue Dao Studios, who create extensive original campaigns using the free toolset provided with the game Neverwinter Nights 2.
- An example of an unofficial mod by an original creator is BioWare Senior Designer David Gaider's Ascension mod for Baldur's Gate:Throne of Bhaal, similar to a mangaka's doujinshi in that it adds the creator's ideas  that they could not, for various reasons, include in the commercial release.
- An example of the sometimes close relationship between modders and game companies, and the potential for modders to go pro, is the appointment of modder and beta tester Jon Shafer as lead designer for the Civilization V game by Firaxis.
- An example of game cloning is Oolite, a free space combat and trading game, originally a clone of the classic 1980s game Elite but running with high resolution graphics etc. on multiple platforms. It has an active modding community designing new ships, activities, weapons, scenarios etc. for the game, and this community has its own fanfic etc.
Modding sites and communities
- Nexus Mods
- Mod DB
- Steam Workshop
- Mods Online 
- GameFront 
- Great House Fliggerty - Morrowind
- RUN. THINK. SHOOT. LIVE.  - Half-Life
- Infernal Warks  - Devil May Cry
- Simptropolis  - Sim City 4
- ModTheSims  - The Sims
- DeadlyStream  - Knights of the Old Republic
- The Infinity Engine modding communities Spellhold Studios and Pocket Plane Group are examples for such modding networks. Accessed August 26th 2008
- For example, the official Dragon Age: Origins toolset provided by BioWare. Accessed May 3rd 2011
- A good example are several game improvements incorporated into Dragon Age II that were taken straight off the "most popular mods" ranking at the Dragon Age Nexus (only excluding the adult-themed ones), including a respec potion, extra dog slot, and the no helmets hack
- The most (in)famous of them all: Counter-Strike, originally a Half-Life mod. See the Counter-Strike Wikipedia page. Accessed May 3rd 2011
- [https://twitter.com/jeb_/status/319938276003827712 Also big thanks to @DrZhark,] Twitter. Apr 4, 2013 (Accessed 6/30/2021)
- September 6th 2004, Chrono Resurrection Homepage. Accessed May 3rd 3011
- Phantasian Productions Accessed May 4, 2011
- Ascension/WeiDU Accessed May 4, 2011
- Date unknown. David Gaider, Ascension Mod Readme file Accessed August 26th, 2008
- Oolite homepage Accessed June 12th 2015