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Modding Video Games Is Good For The Original Game Creators And Future Game Developers

from the breating-new-life dept

Earlier this year we talked about how a video game mod, DayZ, breathed new life into a 2 year old game, ARMA 2. This game was not a critical success by any means at release, but because the developer welcomed and made possible the ability for others to mod the game, it recently became one of Steam's best sellers thanks to the popularity of the DayZ mod. Reflecting on this success, the creators of the mod, Matt Lightfoot and Dean Hall, spoke about what creating the mod means for the original game developer and other potential developers.

When asked how ARMA 2 developer Bohemian Interactive felt about the mod, Dean had this to say:
They’re very happy. The sales have been huge, just massive. By our calculations based on player IDs, you’re looking at 300,000 in sales, which is a very significant chunk of total ArmA 2’s sales. So they’re obviously very happy about that and it’s a validation for their strategy and focus with modding.
By embracing the mod culture in video games, the original creators were able to reach out to more gamers and make more money. This is a very powerful tool that game creators can take advantage of. Yet some developers seem to not want it, at all. Very strange. Perhaps as more developers look at successes such as this one, they will learn to be a bit more accommodating to fans.

But what is in it for the modder? Most mods are released for free and so there is little financial incentive to create them. Dean also has something to say on that front:
Yes, I think modding is really good because you go along someone else’s footsteps and you can learn a lot about how someone else has done something. It’s kind of like reverse engineering things. You figure out what they’ve done, how their data structure works, how their engine works and all these other things.

I think it is a really good place to start because you’re using someone else’s framework. If you want to cut your teeth straight in there with C++ I think that’s a lot to chew off and you can end up not getting exposure to all those issues that if you knew them would make a lot more sense when building your engine from scratch or using someone’s toolkit engine from scratch.
As a developer myself, this is something I can certainly attest to. You can learn far more by following and altering existing code than you can by trying to create something on your own. As you become more comfortable with inner workings of the programming languages or other tools you are using, you gain more confidence in your ability to create something from scratch. What better way to promote progress than to provide new developers the ability to learn from your work?

It is really great to see more discussion happening in the games industry about modding—and especially its potential to launch the careers of new developers. We have seen many mods such as Defense of the Ancients, a Warcraft 3 mod, spawn very successful stand alone games, which is a goal that Dean and Matt hope to reach as a result of this very successful mod.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Steve Ballmer, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 3:28pm

    Developers?


    Developers devlopers developers!

     

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  2.  
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    Tunnen (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 3:31pm

    The developers that don't want to allow modding are likely either related to the RIAA execs. They want to be able to license the mods. Oh, you want to add a new unit AND modify an existing one? You'll need a "creation" license and also a separate "modification" license. After you pay for all applicable licenses, we will then decide if we will grant you permission to create the mod.

     

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  3.  
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    MrWilson, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 3:31pm

    This is why I will not buy any fancy new gaming consoles. If I can't mod it or run other people's mods, I'm not as likely to play it. No game is perfect in its vanilla form, unless already allows for significant user modification out of the box.

    Even small mods add a lot of value. Simple things like being able to import your own avatars, icons, flags, etc. really help the player invest in the game.

    When game developers ignore the idea that their players might want to be creative also, they lose respect from me.

     

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  4.  
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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 3:32pm

    You can learn far more by following and altering existing code than you can by trying to create something on your own. As you become more comfortable with inner workings of the programming languages or other tools you are using, you gain more confidence in your ability to create something from scratch.


    Bingo.

    I used to take other people's stories and just change the names of the characters. Over time I started changing the stories themselves. After a while I began to understand how they wrote what they wrote and why...

    Eventually I got good enough at it that I didn't want to use someone's elses story anymore I could make something far superiorly suited to my needs and tastes. And that's what I did from then on.



    I did the same thing with artwork, mapping, modding, all sorts of skills. In the copyright world this is called being brainless/imaginative/unoriginal .etc But in the world of logic it's called self-teaching.


    You cannot learn without copying. Even teachers will make you copy things (Such as letters, for small children learning the alphabet) until you learn them.

     

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  5.  
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    vegetaman (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 3:41pm

    Doom, anyone?

    Remember the good old days of Doom mods? Or heck, the current day version of that is basically like Half-Life 2 (the "Source" Engine) mods. So much fantastic stuff has been done...

    Of course, speaking of learning something... I think most of us that learned how to play guitar immediately went out and tried to learn how to play some of our favorite (though easier) songs. Then you take components of them and try your own spin on them (say... and alternate guitar solo or a variation on the core riffs). It's not like we sat down and tried to reinvent the wheel. Same premise with coding here.

     

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  6.  
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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 3:45pm

    Re:

    Tell me about it.

    It'd be one thing even if they limited modding that they'd actually provide a huge variety of options and customization.

    But, they don't, World of Warcraft *cough* female Worgen *cough* with their 1 Derp-Chihuahua face comes to mind. Or how they brought in appearance tab but restricted it so much it almost made the entire thing pointless.

    Now their new race they are adding the females only have 1 face... AGAIN. If I could mod the face I wouldn't care, but, I can't.


    Diablo 3 is even worse I can't customize my character at all, and there's NO appearance tab just dyes.


    I don't understand this new trend of limited options coupled with disallowing modding.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 3:51pm

    So, like I said last time, how is this new?.
    To those of you that only play games on consoles, this is and always has been the standard for PC games.

     

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  8.  
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    MrWilson, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 3:51pm

    Re: Re:

    I would love a World of Warcraft world-builder. I want to build my own dungeons and castles and ruins.

    Using a private server with mod privileges is great because you can mix and match some things (like giving a fire spell to a warrior class character or heavy armor to a mage).

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 3:53pm

    Re: Re:

    "But, they don't, World of Warcraft *cough* female Worgen *cough* with their 1 Derp-Chihuahua face comes to mind. "
    This kinda isn't remotely the same thing. If Xxsephirothxx wanted to make a new female Worgen face with a phallic design in the fur, I (and everyone else) would be forced to download it. However, when playing a mod for a game like Arma 2 (or Quake, or whatever), you actively seek out the server for the game mod you want to play (ie: Day Z), and download the files. Not everyone playing Arma 2 has to deal with how one person has modded it.

    Side note: unless it's changed dramatically, you can actually fiddle around with WoW textures. I haven't looked at it since Wrath, but it's (was) doable, just not something they advertised.

     

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  10.  
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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 3:54pm

    Re: Doom, anyone?

    No, but I remember UT2004 mods at their peak.

    There was this server that had like 20+ gametypes more than half of them 100% user made content.

    They had a racing gametype, a "lego-builder" where you can make houses with a gun that let you place/shoot blocks and objects around, some kind of "Japanese-Gameshow" type where you had to survive/navigate obstacle courses.

    Entire port of the original Unreal game with multiplayer elements, some kind of "Defend your fort" game where you got to build your fort and then defend it from attacking monsters complete with an RPG level up system.

    They even had an RTS gametype. I don't really remember the rest but there was alot.



    I haven't gotten into the Morrowind mods, or the Neverwinter Nights 'modules', modding is truely the lifeblood of gaming.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 3:54pm

    Re: Doom, anyone?

    And then there are the people that make nude versions of Half-life/left 4 dead and make porn with gmod.

    POLYGONAL FAP

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 3:55pm

    Re: Re: Doom, anyone?

    *Nude versions of half-life/left 4 dead models

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 3:58pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Mods to tf2 don't force others to DL anything, you just put things in the right folder and it shows only for you.

    Also server ban all the spotted dick

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 4:00pm

    Oh yeah, the team fortress series started life as a mod to quake

     

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  15.  
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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 4:00pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    If Xxsephirothxx wanted to make a new female Worgen face with a phallic design in the fur, I (and everyone else) would be forced to download it.


    Neverwinter Nights handled this situation really well.

    They had something called an "override" folder where you could add in your appearance modifications and it would change them even on servers without your mod loaded.

    No one else could see it, unless you gave them the files of course.


    You can kind of do this in WoW but you can get banned for it, unfortunately.

     

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  16.  
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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 4:06pm

    Re: Re: Doom, anyone?

    ...And then those same people take those same nude Half-Life/Left4Dead skins, import the My Little Pony meshes, make porn of the two combined and then upload to it YouTube where people like me stumble across thinking it was something else.

    Scarred for life.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 4:17pm

    Re:

    Couldn't agree with you guys more.
    A vast improvement on a previous idea, the birth place of innovation

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Doom, anyone?

    Achievement unlocked: Brain bleach please

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 4:21pm

    300,000 in sales

    And from the wikipedia page: "By July 2012, three months after release, the mod had registered more than 880,000 unique users."

     

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  20.  
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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 4:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Doom, anyone?

    Wouldn't be a need for it if people would just warnings or put the correct title on it. I guess if they did that goatse wouldn't have been so popular.

     

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  21.  
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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Re:

    I've personally taken many existing characters and re-invented them.

    This does NOT mean I completely threw away everything about them from the past, infact I tried to stay as close to the previous sources as possible while adding something new to them.


    One cool example is Carl Banks/Don Rosa's Scrooge McDuck he wears all red, but in Disney's Ducktales he wears blue, in my personal crackfics he wears green+gold.

    In the first example he is very greedy, the second he is still somewhat greedy but more soft, in the third the guy has pretty much said "fuck it" and while he keeps his cash he's now wholly embraces there's more to life than money.


    Right there you can see artists building on top of previous works, starting with Carl Barks, Don Rosa built on his work, Disney built on their works and then I built on all of their works combined.


    Unfortunately, Disney wants to control who builds on "their" stuff, fortunately I thought to myself "fuck Disney" and did it anyway.




    I am now suddenly less capable of having my own characters? Nope. I have a bunch of them. Is what I did too Scrooge suddenly "unimaginative"? Not if you can reinvent him as has been done multiple times.



    I even went as far as to pick my own hues/tones of his original colors and come up with new styles for his clothes.

    And he's just one of several characters I've reinvented. NOT including new characters which must be invented from scratch then reinvented as they develop!



    It's not just innovation it is also EVOLUTION.

     

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  22.  
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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 4:57pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    & Enriching! Everytime I reinvent something it gets more rich, adding layers unto what came before.

    Expecting artists to create in a vacuum is like plopping cake-mix into a pan and expecting it to automatically bake with 6 layers of icing inside and fondant outside complete with decoration.

    Sadly this isn't the case, you have to 're-invent' the cake by adding icing, fondant and decorations to it.

     

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  23.  
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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 4:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Or I guess you can also just take the block straight out of the pan, put a really ugly candle on it and call it 'groundbreaking' like Hollywood does.

     

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  24.  
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    Nathan Gibson (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 5:35pm

    Expanding on modding

    Bethesda Softworks has a long history of allowing mods for their Elder Scrolls series - heck, some mods still drive the occassional sale of TES3: Morrowind.

    With TES5: Skyrim, they've worked with Steam to expand mod support by being the first game using Steam's new Mod repository, Steam Workshop. Things are still a bit bumpy, but it has turned out to be popular. I, personally, haven't used it much, but I see the appeal.

    It's easy to be reluctent to support mods, though, when for every mod that fits nicely into the game world there are 20 mods of various fetishes, anime characters, nudity (which has caused media flak and changes in ESRB ratings), etc.

     

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  25.  
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    VPJ (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 5:47pm

    In praise of modding

    The involvement of an enthusiastic community with a reasonably intuitive toolset will stretch the life of a game well beyond what it would have been otherwise. The Neverwinter Nights community, for example, while not as vibrant as it was, is still releasing good-quality mods, some of which are better than the original "professional" game. Nathan Gibson mentioned Skyrim, and Steam has also released a Portal 2 toolset, with some very good results thus far.

    All hail community modding, I say!

     

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  26.  
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    Haywood (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 6:17pm

    From the beginning like wolfenstein 3d, and Need for speed 1-3
    the games were so so until the modders got hold of them. I remember the delight of creating your own levels on Wolf 3d, or having a monster truck that went 200 mph in Need for speedIII.

     

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  27.  
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    MrWilson, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 6:31pm

    Re: Expanding on modding

    Not to mention that mods and/or cheats are necessary to fix all the bugs in Skyrim...

    But Skyrim's mods make a good game great. Same thing with Oblivion before it.

     

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  28.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 6:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Doom, anyone?

    Rule34 - ruining childhoods everywhere!

    :)

     

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  29.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 6:59pm

    Re: 300,000 in sales

    And I'm one of them..

    DayZ is ---how to describe--- frustrating, awesome, hairpullingly hard, hectic, brilliant, WHATEVER YOU WANT IT TO BE! oh and it has zombies that spawn zombie armies of doom!

     

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  30.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 7:02pm

    Re:

    I also remember 16colour EGA pixilated pictures of Porn on the original Wolfenstein as a mod.

    Anyone who remembers that is both old like me and probably as perverted too .

     

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  31.  
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    Digitari, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 7:32pm

    Re: Re:

    and we, er I mean "he" has carpal tunnel too...

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 8:41pm

    "As a developer myself, this is something I can certainly attest to. You can learn far more by following and altering existing code than you can by trying to create something on your own. As you become more comfortable with inner workings of the programming languages or other tools you are using, you gain more confidence in your ability to create something from scratch. What better way to promote progress than to provide new developers the ability to learn from your work?"

    If this was all that happened, most people wouldn't care. But what really happens is that people look and play with the code a bit, copy it wholesale, and call it their own - without learning anything.

    Moreover, these days to get the most performance out of a video game console programmers do some pretty slick stuff. It's the sort of "trade secret" that is worth keeping, a real advantage. Taking that ability away may make some not want to try so hard to make it better.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:00pm

    There's a lot more to DayZ than what's being said in the article, and all is not very bright.

    First of all, it should be said that the DayZ team plan to make a standalone game of DayZ and the mod is really a way to test the waters and see how the final product should be.
    It's their right and all, no issue there, but I'm not sure they can speak for all modders when they explain what's rewarding about modding - those guys made a mod for money, unlike the many people who make mods solely for the benefit of players.

    Second, for a bunch of guys who have made something that relies on other people's work, they are very defensive of their own creation and how we use it. See this reddit thread for instance: http://www.reddit.com/r/dayz/comments/v0yqr/rocket_demands_takedown_of_kronzkys_dayz_sp/
    (Check the comments for DayZ dev's response and a small debate between both parties)

    To summarize the issue in the thread above: a guy (Kronzky) made a small mod that enables players to play DayZ solo. DayZ guys took issue with this and asked him to remove his mod from the web. Kronzky's mod did not use anything from DayZ and required DayZ to be installed.

    Kronzky and the DayZ makers both have their own point of view on the issue, and quite frankly it's a little difficult to figure out who's telling the truth and who isn't. Kronzky claims that the DayZ guys don't want their mod to be playable in single player because it might hurt their ability to find a contract with a publisher, while the DayZ guys are accusing Kronzky's mod of helping cheaters.
    Additionally, Kronzky claims that the DayZ guys got Bohemia Interactive (ARMA 2 developer) involved when they asked him to remove his mod, which if true is really odd seeing as DayZ is not supposed to be associated with Bohemia Interactive.

    Finally, the DayZ guys are quite notorious for being very protective and controlling when it comes to their mod. They refuse to make it easy for people to host private DayZ servers (you need unofficial files to host your own server), and they enforce their own rules on all public official servers, which gets admins complaining a lot about cheaters and their inability to do anything about it because according to the rules they can't really ban anyone. Players are complaining too, because many would rather play on private servers or even solo.

    A recent update of DayZ disabled the 'single player' option in the ARMA 2 menu, so now even with unofficial files you can't play solo anymore.

    For modders, the DayZ guys really seem obsessed about forcing people to play their mod their way. And when called out on it, they hide behind excuses such as "cheaters", "this is to make sure we can keep making a quality product" and "we know better than consumers themselves what it is that they really want". Reminds you of anyone?

     

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  34.  
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    Tim Griffiths (profile), Jul 31st, 2012 @ 2:04am

    A mod has just been realised for the game Knight Of the Old Republic 2. This mod restores a vast amount of cut content that was intended to be in the game but was dropped due to the game being forced out way before it was ready. The dev left all this content on the disk, some of it almost done including full voice work for dialogue trees, some of it hardly touched. One part was a whole planet that they had planned to include has so little content that the team is rebuilding that as an bolt on mod to their restoration mod because it's not technically a restoration.

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/07/27/grey-skies-are-gonna-kreia-up-kotor-2-com pleted/#more-117715

    Point being that this has been making the rounds as news and likely will drive new sales of a old game. And we get to see the game as it was intended to be. I always felt kotor2 was on the edge of greatness but was too much of a buggy unfinished mess to really get their so I'm very much looking forward to replaying it with the restored content.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2012 @ 8:13am

    Re:

    Those guys are stupid bastards. They're rallying against the very thing they did and the thing that helped arma 2 sell more units

    Reminds me of Disney.

    "Fuck yeah good public domain stuff for our movies!"

    "OH shit mickey mouse is about to enter the public domain, can't let those dirty rotten thieves get it!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Jeremy, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 5:38am

    A great game doesn't need mods, if a game needs mods to be good, then the developers did a piss poor job if random Joe Blow can make it better than the developers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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