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The Rebirth of PC Gaming? Bring On the Modders!

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the model-of-a-modder-major-general dept.

PC Games (Games) 249

Deathspawner writes "The future of PC gaming is oft-debated, but one thing's for certain: modding has always made it better. With that, wouldn't it make sense for developers to focus more on giving the community the modding tools it needs? Further, couldn't publishers look to modding as a way to increase revenue, by allowing modders to sell their sanctioned creations? Valve already offers robust community options in its Steam platform — and already has payment processing in place. Is this the natural next step for PC gaming?"

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249 comments

The questions developers ask (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41086579)

How much do I make off mods?
Nothing

And where are most of my sales?
On consoles.

And where are most of my pirates?
On the PC.

Who do modding tools benefit?
Only the PC gamers.

Does developing modding tools cost me?
Yes.

And remind me again how much I make off any given mod?
Jack and shit. And Jack left town.

I think I've made my decision.

Re:The questions developers ask (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41086631)

That's the difference between a good developer and a crap dev. A good dev will put years into their product, and give a game that people truly love like an artisan spending months to years on a single piece. A crap dev will crap out a product every 6 months, make a truly forgettable game (it has to be otherwise people won't buy the next one in 6 months time!) like cheap imported furniture that is going to fall apart in a year anyway.

Re:The questions developers ask (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41086711)

No, its simply the reality of people who have to for their bills themselves as opposed to the basement-dwelling, obese leech who lives off of their allowance from mommy and daddy.

Re:The questions developers ask (4, Interesting)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087031)

Hi! Obese leech basement dweller (neckbeard) here!

Or I must be since I make maps and mods for video games. We are basically level and game designers (mostly amateur) who have a real passion for creating content and perhaps more importantly, creating good content. We're basically like a whole team of content designers that don't actually ask for anything in return but a handful of tools to help us do it. That's a small price to pay for the huge amount of content we can really churn out, note that the competitive maps that really made Starcraft what it is today were designed by us, not Blizzard.

Oh, and I'm skinny, live on the ground floor, and don't receive one cent from my parents.

Re:The questions developers ask (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41087181)

That's called an outlier. Seriously, hindsight for you is a beautiful thing, and we appreciate what people like you do. But look at it from a strictly monetary standpoint (which is the view of most humans today). I can make 1 game, really well, release everything the community needs to really, genuinely make the game its own, and I can make $1 million (arbitrary number). OR, I can make 50 games, make them crap, and say Fuck the community and make $10 million (again, arbitrary, but larger than the first). SOOooooo, it's easier, it's quicker, and it makes me more money. . . . . .

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

br_whale (2693121) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087657)

It's not really like that. The only devs that look at stuff from a monetary standpoint aren't making games for the right reasons and therefore aren't likely to actually make good games. Whenever I make a game, I always end up with a decent SDK to go along with it. I don't see why more studios don't release their internal tools when they release the game? At least release your map editor with a multiplayer game.

Re:The questions developers ask (4, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year and a half ago | (#41088521)

Not to mention you have to look at how mods can give your game real legs. I recently rebought Freelancer which is from like 2004 because i lost the box in my last move, why would i buy such an old game? the Mods frankly make that game fricking HUGE! Hundreds of systems, stations, bases, factions, you can be a pirate or a miner, join guilds, they created this huge expansive world around the game. And there is no reason you game devs can't make money off the mods either, just look at how Running With Scissors packaged up their Postal 2 with several mods as the "Fudge Pack" and sold quite a few copies.

But you are right, the grey sludge producing bean counters that want a game to be usable exactly X amount of time (so they can sell you the next grey sludge, ala EA) don't want mods because they figure if people are enjoying game A then they might not be willing to buy the same game with one or two features tacked on for another $60. Hell most of the shooters being released today are so damned generic that if you squinted you probably couldn't tell which game you were looking at. Those kinds of devs HATE modders, because often the modders frankly make the game better than they do. For an example Red Faction: Guerrilla with the weapon mods is actually pretty damned fun, without them? Royally sucks, might as well just stay in the truck and just run over everything...yawn.

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

fredgiblet (1063752) | about a year and a half ago | (#41088765)

I haven't played Freelancer in a long time. I remember really liking the game but the campaign made everythign closed off. Are there open-world mods that let you just go everywhere and ignore the campaign? If so which mods would you recommend?

Re:The questions developers ask (0, Troll)

skipkent (1510) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086713)

That's the difference between a good developer and a crap dev. A good dev will put years into their product, and give a game that people truly love like an artisan spending months to years on a single piece. A crap dev will crap out a product every 6 months, make a truly forgettable game (it has to be otherwise people won't buy the next one in 6 months time!) like cheap imported furniture that is going to fall apart in a year anyway.

By your standard DNF must be one hell of a polished and superb game!

Re:The questions developers ask (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41088327)

A crap dev will crap out a product every 6 months, make a truly forgettable game (it has to be otherwise people won't buy the next one in 6 months time!) like cheap imported furniture that is going to fall apart in a year anyway.

I think this is one reason for piracy.

I enthusiastically purchase well-made games that are enjoyable. I can think of one game that I've logged hundreds of hours on and that I've purchased four times (once on PC, once for console and two for gifts to friends). If the company announced they were making a sequel, I wouldn't hesitate to pay 0-day price and pre-order.

There are other games, that for various reasons, feel like nothing but money-grabs by developers who are out of ideas. Unfinished, unloved and leaving me pissed off.

I recently played a game called "Gas Guzzlers Combat Carnage" by some indie studio (I think in Eastern Europe) called Gamepire that was a hoot to play, worked very well and cost less than $20. I even wrote the devs a fan letter telling them I hoped they'd go bigger and do a "Burnout Paradise"-style game with lots of wild arcade racing and crashes and explosions and stunts and stuff, because they did Gas Guzzlers with such elan and a sense of fun. It's basically Forza with guns. Good single player, good multi-player. Good all around.

But when a company has done such a bad job over and over, and ripped people off by not giving them value, I don't see how it's a surprise that people are pirating their games instead of laying out $60.

I know for a fact that there are people who have pirated a game and then liked it so much that they went and bought a copy. I actually think this is pretty common.

I'm not convinced that a big shakeout in the PC gaming industry is a bad thing. There are a lot of big-name game companies that are putting out crap and ripping people off and deserve to go out of business.

Re:The questions developers ask (5, Insightful)

Kreigaffe (765218) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086689)

DayZ is responsible for more sales of Arma2 than Arma2.

Re:The questions developers ask (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086889)

DayZ is responsible for more sales of Arma2 than Arma2.

You could say Arma2 is a pre-release beta of DayZ.

This is a point in the argument that is being missed. What if, say, super mario galaxy had a great engine but all the levels sucked.... then nintendo released mod tools and one of the hottest games out there was "super mario zombie galaxy" or something.... So they saved all their money on "art devel" all their money on "testing" and all their money on "PR" (I don't see ads... is Arma2 primarily advertising itself as a bootloader/engine for DayZ?)

I don't understand the people who claim its not possible to make money off modding tools. How do the original engine developers and original modeling tool developers make money? The business model is take a good engine, some good devel tools, some crappy starter art just to show off what might be possible, and resell.

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

citizenr (871508) | about a year and a half ago | (#41088187)

DayZ is responsible for more sales of Arma2 than Arma2.

You could say Arma2 is a pre-release beta of DayZ.

Except Arma2 PC game sales are a side business to Bohemia main one - supporting military training facilities.

Re:The questions developers ask (5, Interesting)

Shikaku (1129753) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086701)

So why is TF2 the most valuable game to Valve, when it allows modding, and also puts them on sale?

Re:The questions developers ask (2)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086761)

Because Valve already long ago recouped their money.

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

dj245 (732906) | about a year and a half ago | (#41088403)

Because Valve already long ago recouped their money.

Valve makes more money on hats than they made selling the game.

Re:The questions developers ask (5, Insightful)

morari (1080535) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086919)

The Team Fortress franchise in itself started as a mod for Quake.
Counter-Strike started out as a mod.

Re:The questions developers ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41087705)

Any examples from this century? Serious question.

Re:The questions developers ask (5, Informative)

Earl_Parvisjam (2621029) | about a year and a half ago | (#41088255)

Games that benefit from modding off the top of my head:

The Sims, Sims 2, Sims 3...
Elder Scrolls Series
Starcraft
Halflife series
Portal 2 (added a mod tool to stir new sales about a month ago)
Civilization series
Torchlight series
World of Warcraft (heck, almost all MMO's for that matter)

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about a year and a half ago | (#41088277)

DotA

Actually, the original map to do it was for Starcraft and called Aeon of Strife. It spawned an entire genre (called AoS) which spans popular titles like Smite, League of Legends, and Heroes of Newerth. And now Blizzard DotA and DotA 2. This may have never come to pass if some people sat down and made the first DotA with no monetary compensation. The entire industry is profiting from the work of a few modders.

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41086935)

TF2 was a smash success that they have tried to parlay into a new profit model. The Mann Co. store broke $2 million in sales last year. So, a workable model.

Modding is cool, and they made enough money to add some extra coolness. But the equations in the GP post are still valid they simply ignored:

"If I have a multi-million user smash hit game, and I invest a full time developer into creating/curating/securing a mod-interface, will the coolness points this buys me, spread over millions of players pay a dividend equal his/her salary?"

"Maybe."

So if you want to argue for modding.

1. Write a game changing game with staggering sales.
2. Profit!!!!!
3. Make it free-to-play
4. Find a way to monetize free-to-play
5. Add some coolness-centric developers
6. Break even?

Re:The questions developers ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41087231)

Because Valve has brains. We were talking about game developers in general.

People who buy the game for the mods (4, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086753)

How much do I make off mods?
Nothing

I disagree. Would Valve have made as much money from Half-Life if there were no Counter-Strike?

And where are most of my sales?
On consoles.

If you're a sufficiently large developer. Do XNA games released on Xbox Live Indie Games outsell comparable PC games?

Does developing modding tools cost me?
Yes.

Developing level and scenario editing tools in the first place costs you. Why not continue to polish them and release them a few months later so that you can make a few bucks off players who will buy a game for the mods?

Re:The questions developers ask (4, Informative)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086757)

How much do I make off mods?
Nothing

Many games make most of their PC sales because of mods. ARMA2 is a good example given by another poster, but each and every Bethesda game is an even bigger one.

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41086759)

Am I the only one seeing the fallacy in the premise here? From the article:

When a game developer embraces the modding community and releases development tools dedicated to it...

When game developers start developing modding tools for their games, it seizes to be a PC-only advantage. They can just as well release those tools for other platforms, right?

Are modding tools even allowed on consoles? (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086881)

When game developers start developing modding tools for their games, it seizes to be a PC-only advantage. They can just as well release those tools for other platforms, right?

Since when do companies like Nintendo, Sony Computer Entertainment, and Apple's iOS division allow developers to release modding tools?

Re:The questions developers ask (3, Interesting)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086879)

How about making the modding tools run on consoles? Today, consoles have:
- Hard Drives
- Internet connectivity
- Keyboard and mouse support
- Good resolution displays
- Powerful enough CPUs for editing tools
- Sufficient memory for editing tools

10 years ago this would not be possible. But today it is entirely feasible. There is a marginal cost to having to Q&A the tools, but it might be worth while because you can then sell the tools as DLC. Or release it later on for free to revitalize sales of the existing game.

Wii has 64 MB of RAM (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086955)

Keyboard and mouse support

The last time I checked, Microsoft still refused to make a mouse driver for Xbox 360. Or are you calling Kinect a mouse substitute?

Sufficient memory for editing tools

How so? Wii has 64 MB of RAM and 24 MB of VRAM.

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

oakgrove (845019) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087259)

The people that developed the game in the first place did it on a PC so the "mod tools" already exist. It's just a matter of making whatever changes they want and releasing.

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

SrLnclt (870345) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087435)

While the hardware is available on most modern consoles, I doubt Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo would let this last long. They need to keep everything proprietary and in their walled garden to prevent rampant piracy after all.

Re:The questions developers ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41087911)

UT3 for ps3 allowed you to install mods designed for the pc version of the game so it is possible on that platform at least.

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087741)

How about making the modding tools run on consoles? Today, consoles have:
- Hard Drives
- Internet connectivity
- Keyboard and mouse support
- Good resolution displays
- Powerful enough CPUs for editing tools
- Sufficient memory for editing tools

10 years ago this would not be possible. But today it is entirely feasible. There is a marginal cost to having to Q&A the tools, but it might be worth while because you can then sell the tools as DLC. Or release it later on for free to revitalize sales of the existing game.

Some games do have basic modding tools - Halo (Halo 3 onwards) included a "forge mode" which was basically a map editor, and a ton of people create some very interesting maps out of it. Some of it for online multiplayer (standard FPS style, but also more unique racing games and other goal-oriented ones), some others created interesting Rube-Goldberg style machines, etc.

The hardest part really is how you get the mods distributed, since you often cannot get the files out of the game onto a USB stick and reimported the same way. (Halo has a special file sharing service for this - you upload your files to it and others can download it via their consoles).

Of course, I guess a developer will get punished if they wanted to release modding tools as DLC - after all, it's supposed to be free...

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year and a half ago | (#41088601)

Because the control freaks that own the systems like Nintendo, Sony, Apple, MSFT, etc are about as likely to allow that as they are to make their systems FOSS?

But if the rumors are true then next year we may all get a choice thanks to GabeN and the Steambox, which if it follows Valve's philosophy on PC will be open to mods and since it'll be a COTS system you'll be able to make mods on the PC and sell them or give them away on both PC and Steambox. But until then it'll be a cold day in hell before one of the established players even allow modding after the system is EOLed. I mean look at how many original XBoxes ended up being used as cheap SD media players? You'd think MSFT would have welcomed those sales when the first system was winding down but nope, they were douchebags about modding the Xbox 1 right to the end.

Re:The questions developers ask (2)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086991)

Who do modding tools benefit?
Only the PC gamers.

Presumably, your game designers would benefit from good modding tools as well.

Does developing modding tools cost me?
Yes.

If you've provided your game designers with good tools to design their game, this cost is already sunk.

Re:The questions developers ask (3, Insightful)

geminidomino (614729) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087641)

This exactly what Runic Games (Torchlight/Torchlight II) did, and it got them a lot of good will and a lively and loyal, if small, community around them.

Supposedly, Bethesda claimed to have done the same thing. Having tried to use the Skyrim mod tool, though, I can't imagine that the devs used it day after day and haven't strung someone up by their toenails in the breakroom yet...

Human resources (4, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086993)

I just realized that you appear to have forgotten a question:

Where do I find artists and programmers to hire for my next game?
From the modding community.

Re:The questions developers ask (4, Informative)

oakgrove (845019) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087147)

How much do I make off mods?

Nothing

Yeah because Valve hasn't made a dime off of Counter-Strike [steampowered.com], right? I mean they've only shifted 27 million units [wikipedia.org] in the franchise since buying the rights to the mod. I'm sure they really regret opening that can of worms now.

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087185)

So, as a consumer:

Why don't you enable community mods with an approval process for console offerings?

Provide a mod toolset for PC use, with a submission system. Use your paid DLC packages as dependencies for core functionality, so that the community ones drive sales of the paid ones.

That solves several of your problems.

Oh, righ, the console operators don't like community dlc. That's right. Sorry. My bad.

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

Tukz (664339) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087215)

I ask the Developer:

Is your game moddable?
No

Do you think I'll buy it then?
Oh yes, because it...

I'm already walking away.

Re:The questions developers ask (2)

cwrinn (1282510) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087349)

Why, then, is it that near every game comes out with an extensive modding platform if it is worth nothing to them? Your logic might make sense if you exclude the mountain of evidence that nullifies your whole point.

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

Shifty0x88 (1732980) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087397)

They could always get a cut of the profits, if the mods are sold. ie: the parent company that gave you the modding tools would get something like 10% of the sales of your mod, something similar to Unreal Engine's license(I think it is 25% after $50k in sales, plus a $99 fee for putting the mod on their website).

It would get the parent company money back from the cost it took to make the tools(which by the way, were probably already created for the dev team to make their job easier, they just need to polish it, and wrap it together into an IDE), as well as get more people to play their game because of the publicity of the greatest mods that were created, and allows Indie dev teams, to create a product without re-inventing the wheel.


All of the could be possibly if they chose to do so, and it would make a profitable business model if they worked the numbers.

Re:The questions developers ask (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087499)

I'd agree that's what they are thinking. But I think they are wrong. A good example is Neverwinter nights. I bought that game 5 years after release so I could play some of the mods people had made for it. That's money they wouldn't have had. Look at Team Fortress 2... that wouldn't even really be a game without all the player made maps. It would have faded into obscurity a few months after release. The mod community let Valve spend less time making maps and focus more on game play. It SAVED them money.

Design a Game engine.
Create basic game mechanics.
Build 10 or 20 maps.
Release GOOD mod tools.
Let the community design the rest of the game for you.

Some of the greatest games in history have been done this way. Quake, Doom, Unreal, etc... etc...

Re:The questions developers ask (3, Interesting)

dj245 (732906) | about a year and a half ago | (#41088525)

I'd agree that's what they are thinking. But I think they are wrong. A good example is Neverwinter nights. I bought that game 5 years after release so I could play some of the mods people had made for it. That's money they wouldn't have had. Look at Team Fortress 2... that wouldn't even really be a game without all the player made maps. It would have faded into obscurity a few months after release. The mod community let Valve spend less time making maps and focus more on game play.

I'm not sure I totally agree with that. The maps made by valve are excellent, and you can tell that they spent a lot of time thinking about player routes and wall placement. I have over 800 hours in TF2 and I only play Badwater, Gold rush, and Turbine.

Not to say that there aren't great player-made maps too. Turbine is an excellent map, and I believe it is player-made entirely or in part. I think this map is so good because it emulates a lot of the features that Valve uses in their maps- 3 routes to every flag, enough space and obstructions that 1 sentry doesn't dominate, a way to destroy every sentry given enough skill and thought, etc. One of the reasons I think TF2 is special is because the textures are so simple and cartoonish. You don't need to spend hours and hours painting textures or figuring out stylizing. Everything fits together well aesthetically already. You can concentrate on the things that matter like player pathing and other geographic placement.

But your point that without player-made maps the game would have failed, I can't buy it.

Re:The questions developers ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41088397)

You don't have to develop modding tools, you have to make your game moddable. DayZ has caused ARMA to be in the top 5 of the steam top-sellers list for the past few weeks (or even months?) I'm sure that has got them some money.

Re:The questions developers ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41088501)

No. Those are the questions PUBLISHERS ask.

Re:The questions developers ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41088541)

This is incorrect. Look at how many copies of half life were sold just so people could play counterstrike. Me thinks you just have a lemon of a game.

pc games are a nonstarter (-1, Troll)

noh8rz7 (2706405) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086615)

pc games will never get back where they used to be. Why spend $2k on a pc rig, in order to play a game that I can play for free on onlive?

Cap (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086673)

Why spend $2k on a pc rig, in order to play a game that I can play for free on onlive?

Because OnLive will cause you to hit your ISP's monthly cap earlier. Or because not all games are on OnLive.

Re:Cap (3, Insightful)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086723)

Why spend $2k on a pc rig, in order to play a game that I can play for free on onlive?

Because OnLive will cause you to hit your ISP's monthly cap earlier. Or because not all games are on OnLive.

Or because OnLive under the very best conditions has terrible graphical degradation and noticeable input lag.

Re:Cap (-1, Troll)

noh8rz7 (2706405) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086737)

i'm sorry that you have such a junky ISP that you have download caps. frowny face :(

also, i have limited gaming time, so it makes no difference if there is a limited or infinite selection of games. similarly, i do just fine with basic cable becuase I don't have time or inclination to watch ESPN 8 (the ocho) or home shopping network 3 that are on the expanded cable.

onlive definitely hits the right note here, for people who want to ocassionaly play AAA games without all the expense and hassle. fixes the piracy and drm issues too.

Re:Cap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41087323)

You can have all the frowny face you want. For some people, there's no other choice than a capped ISP. My local cable co is the only game in town, unless dial up or satellite is your thing. They have a 100Gb cap with a $1.50 per 1Gb overage.

Re:Cap (1)

noh8rz7 (2706405) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087649)

onlive burns 2.5gb/hr, so your cap would get you 50 hours. If you play video games for more than a full work-week every month, that's another issue!

Re:Cap (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087511)

It is truly sad to see OnLive stoop to turfers...

Re:Cap (-1, Flamebait)

noh8rz7 (2706405) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087675)

whatevs mofo. i'm an onlive fanboi and i advocate it wherever i go. it's a great service and you get really inexpensive access to AAA titles. it also works on the oldest crappiest pc or mac, with 100% quality. tell that to the steam people. also, i dont have a huge ugly box in my living room that says "nerd1"

Re:pc games are a nonstarter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41086725)

Onlive can't take advantage of higher resolutions. It also cannot use any mods.

Re:pc games are a nonstarter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41086767)

Because you want that game to actually look good and PLAY good maybe?

The concept of OnLive is "nifty" and that's about it. Casuals will love it.....real gamers will joke about it.

Re:pc games are a nonstarter (0)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087207)

Are people really spending that much on a gaming PC? I mean, I've built my PC (4GiB RAM, Core2Duo 2.6GHz) for roughly $ 325 + a $ 125 graphicscard (9600GT with 1GiB) and I was able to play Half-Life 2, Bioshock 2, Crysis, Alice: madness Returns and similar games on High-Settings without problems...

Re:pc games are a nonstarter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41087487)

Put BF3 or The Witcher2 on it and anything other than low settings will have you seeing single digit framerates....

Re:pc games are a nonstarter (1)

RogueyWon (735973) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087689)

Because Onlive is temperamental, unreliable and prone to going bust.

PC gaming is strong right now. Very strong. If Valve would just release their Steam sales figures in a format that would let them fit into the industry sales charts, then we'd probably see some fairly scary stuff.

But this isn't new, and there is a reason for it.

"PC gaming is dying" is an over-used cliche, albeit one that sometimes (but not currently) is used with a degree of reasonable evidence behind it. PC gaming suffers early in a console cycle. When consoles are capable of putting out near-PC-quality technology, then they dominate the market. Developers aim for them for all kinds of reasons (installed base, ease of development for a consistent platform etc).

But towards the end of a console cycle, the PC has pulled far away in technological terms. All of those clever people who got into games development because they want to push technical frontiers want to develop for the PC. And at some point, they reach a critical mass that even the suits go along with them, justifying it on the basis that it's adaptation for the next console generation. Meanwhile, the quality gap between PC games and console games grows to the point where players start leaping to the former.

We've kind of forgotten this, because it didn't happen at the end of the last console generation. The PS2/Xbox/Gamecube were killed just a bit too early. Many of the PS2's best games came out after the PS3's release. This time around, it's different. A bargain basement PC can easily move graphics way in advance of what the 360/PS3/Wii are capable of.

And the next generation is still some time off. The Wii-U doesn't count. They're talking about PS3 technical parity. Just... lol. The Wii-U is, I suspect, going to be a sales flop of the kind we've not seen in a decade or more. It has a badly-communicated input device and underwhelming tech specs. The Wii succeeded (in the early years, before dying early) because it had a simple, easily understood and easily marketed selling point. The Wii-U has no such thing. The successors to the 360 and PS3 are what matters. And right now, we know nothing about them.

PC gaming has actually been close to victory in the past. Between the point where the SNES became obsolete and the PS1 launched, console gaming went through an existential crisis. Remember the Saturn? The 3D0? Remember anything worth playing on them? No, me neither. If not for the Sony Playstation and its unexpected success, the PC might have become the de facto leader in the games market.

Of course, the Playstation got Gran Turismo, Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid, became a world-conquering phenomenon and the PC slipped back again. But now... the dice are in the air again.

Re:pc games are a nonstarter (1)

Tapewolf (1639955) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087735)

Why spend $2k on a pc rig, in order to play a game that I can play for free on onlive?

Aren't they dead?

Re:pc games are a nonstarter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41087811)

I spent $700 on a PC (including monitor, etc.) 3.5 years ago. Given I would have needed a PC anyway it would have probably cost me $500 if I didn't want to game. So I get better hardware and it only costs me an effective $200 over 3.5 years and I can still run every modern game at native 1680*1050 resolution (not at max settings, but still higher quality than consoles).

Re:pc games are a nonstarter (0)

noh8rz7 (2706405) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087903)

yeah but instead of spending &700 on your gaming rig you could have tossed in an extra $500 and gotten a macbook... so maybe you should hold off on claims about value.

Re:pc games are a nonstarter (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year and a half ago | (#41088471)

yeah but instead of spending &700 on your gaming rig you could have tossed in an extra $500 and gotten a macbook... so maybe you should hold off on claims about value.

His point is that A gaming PC for him has been good value because the additional costs costs involved in turning from a basic PC to a gaming PC is relatively little. Its not a particularly good point. The fact that he could have spent twice as much, and got a Apple branded computer for over twice the price...and couldn't do any gaming or upgrade is an even worse one. I think this isn't really the thread for promoting Apple.

Rebirth (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41086621)

What do you mean rebirth?
PC gaming is in full swing..

Re:Rebirth (3, Interesting)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086733)

What do you mean rebirth?
PC gaming is in full swing..

Nor was it ever in serious decline if you look at sales data (hint, right now it's the biggest gaming platform and the fastest growing), but the meta-narrative has asserted its decline for years.

Re:Rebirth (0)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086825)

It would ony be 'fastest growing' because of the pitiful amount of sales compared to consoles for most titles. And considering that their are over 230 million current gen consoles sales plus another 150 million of current gen handhelds so it is high doubtful it is the largest platform. The Wii alone accounts for more than double the amount of Steam users.

Modding is incompatible with DLC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41086657)

The games companies really want to sell you DLC, often a simple extra map, a new vehicle, or different outfits for a character, maybe if you're lucky a full mini-campaign.

If you have fans providing these very same things for free then it's much harder to sell new content unless it actually has significant value. Also people buy new content when they run out of actual content, and if there is a new unlimited supply of user-made content, not under the control of the developer then that doesn't happen.

Unfortunately I see things becoming less and less modable, or your ability to mod things heavily sandboxed in terms of what you can do compared to what the actual game does with no ability to import the original levels, models, scripts etc. to figure out how they worked (because it would be locked down as per anti-piracy requirements of resources / DLC etc.)

Re:Modding is incompatible with DLC (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086937)

So, AC... pick one:

1) DLC items with free mod maps

and

2) DLC maps with free mod items

are both possible, but I think option #1 will be more popular with FPS players and option #2 more popular with the "lets play dress up dollies" players?

PC is king (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41086671)

I don't think I've ever found a better gaming experience then I've found with Gemstone IV.

What is better? (1)

grumpyman (849537) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086819)

I think it is better in the context of hardcore players who wants that flexibility, which constitute small group of the players. Is it "better" for the gaming company? Is it "better" for most other players who don't mod? I'm not sure.

Thought PC gaming was "dying out" 10 years ago (3, Interesting)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086827)

At least that's what the /. articles were saying back then. Maybe it's just FUD like the movie-makers in the 1950s who said TV would kill theaters.

Re:Thought PC gaming was "dying out" 10 years ago (1)

oakgrove (845019) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087401)

Well, don't look now but PC gaming is an 11 billion dollar a year industry. Consoles? Eight [techi.com]. And that's all consoles combined against the single PC platform. The concept of PC gaming "dying" is little more than a well-worn meme to generate flame wars these days.

Of course no one knows the exact numbers but it's pretty obvious by practically every industry report I've seen that PC gaming isn't only alive and well but it's growing very fast.

Re:Thought PC gaming was "dying out" 10 years ago (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | about a year and a half ago | (#41088657)

It was. Well, it sure as hell looked like it was when Xbox 360 and PS3 first came out. Now it doesn't look as much like that.

Hey 20 years ago, Apple was useless and dying right? Space: 1999 was pessimistic predicting there'd be a Moonbase Alpha is as long as 20 years instead of like 5 years. Oops.

Sometimes people make mistakes. Sometimes when it's clearly obvious X is going to happen, hey! Guess what! X doesn't happen.

Cope.

Dedicated servers (2)

leathered (780018) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086839)

Making mods or custom maps is only viable when you can run your own servers on which to play them. Nowadays most new games have servers that are run by the game publishers themselves, if this is the case how do you persuade the publisher to run the mod on them?

Or shared hosting (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086913)

if this is the case how do you persuade the publisher to run the mod on them?

The same way I persuaded Go Daddy to run MediaWiki on pineight.com: pay to rent space on a server to hold the scripts associated with the mod.

Re:Dedicated servers (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | about a year and a half ago | (#41088707)

What server am I playing my Skyrim mods on?

You have a very, very limited view of what constitutes a "mod".

Endless Space, new 4x game allows modding (1)

Shivetya (243324) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086851)

Endless Space (go look it up) is a new 4X game with much more in common with MOO2; though it is still amazing how much a sixteen year old game got right than anything since; but with snappy graphics and a lot of polish. They invite people to vote on upcoming changes and features as well. The game is delivered via Steam and is one of the most bug free games I have seen recently, it certainly is the best true 4X Space game I have played in ages (read: no real time silliness)

There is a small community already going at it, modifying tables in the game to bring balance where players believe its needed. There is even an early attempt going to change the whole universe into B5.

Will the developers incorporate good mods? Most likely, They already give credit to many for ideas and such. For most that is more than sufficient. People like to participate and even simple recognition on a forum is fine, but name in game credits does help too

Modding has pretty much always improved sales (4, Interesting)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086855)

Looking back over 25 years of computer gaming modding has pretty much always improved sales. From the days of the original Civ games to Wolfenstein to Doom to NeverWinter Nights vs NeverWinter Nights 2 examples abound. Those games that support the community readily modding them have pretty much always had better sales than those that didn't.

Simple example would be NeverWinter Nights vs NeverWinter Nights 2 for an example in point. Embrace your user community and you will be rewarded in sales for years to come. Pull a Sony and you'l end up with a (what was the name of their PSP replacement again?)....

There can be a pent-up demand for this... (1)

mlts (1038732) | about a year and a half ago | (#41086899)

I'm sure some company could make a good income from mods.

For example, take a game like NWN1 or NWN2 which allows not just for single player modules, but persistant worlds. Develop the backend so that the game company can provide a server backbone and the PW designers upload their areas and global scripts, and/or allow connections to private servers. The key is giving not just the ability to add customizable scripts (such as having an object be able to cross PWs with its own scripts attached like Enserric), but to also allow the usual database of a character, mobs, and objects to be extended as the PW makers see fit.

How can this make a company money?

1: The initial client.
2: Expansion packs of additional tiles, monsters, routines, spells, etc.
3: Use of the multi-player network.
4: Use of servers similar to mudhosting.net so PW designers do not have to keep their own boxes online.
5: Commercial modules.
6: If a PW maker wants to charge a small fee, they can have the revenue go through the software maker.
7: Websites for PWs, so if a PW wants to give players a way to show statistics/quest progression/achievements, that is possible.

Will this be a blockbuster? Nope. Steady income source over time? Yes. To boot, this model minimizes the need for DRM other than a CD key to get on the online servers.

Free competes with paid DLC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41086963)

Why let the modders create free content when you can create it yourself and charge for it?

Re:Free competes with paid DLC (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087683)

When you can use the free DLC to drive sales of the paid ones, of course.

But that requires your DLC to add new core functionalities for the mod makers to capitalize on, rather than just puking out spurious garbage, like a few retextured models.

BUT, if you DO offer DLC that adds new functions, the community mods that make use of those functions will drive the sales of your paid dlc. Without fail.

It's not necessarily tools that are needed (3, Informative)

Milharis (2523940) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087063)

I'm a Rome Total War modder, so my knowledge of modding is mainly restricted to the Total War franchise, and how The Creative Assembly deals with modding.
But I think that it's probably the same thing everywhere.

When people think of mod tools, they often think of an editor which allows to modify textures/models and scripts, for the most part. While that's great because it allows beginner to easily mod a few things, that's only minor modding.
The problem is that while it's fun to change the texture of a horse to a bunny with a hat, it's not those kind of mods that TFA is talking about.
It's the total overhaul mods that make modding so good, like Counter Strike. And with the amount and diversity of modifications needed, no tools is going to be able to do it.

In RTW, most files are text files, which means that basically everything that is not hardcoded in the exe can be changed using Notepad. The only place where a tool is needed is for art ressource, as those are packed. And for RTW, it wasn't CA that released this tool, but a guy who reversed-engineering the packing system. In the subsequent release Medieval II Total War, CA actually released a tool to unpack things, because they had added protections.

The newer TW games however don't have the same major mods, because they changed the way data is structured. Things which used to be rather easy to do are now (almost) impossible, simply because no one can access the data in a useful manner. Because of the thriving modding community created by the previous games, there are a few people that are painfully trying to make sense of things, but HEX editing is a huge pain, and has huge limitations.

All of that to say that modders don't really need tools like editor (though they are quite nice).
What they need is a way to access and modify data easily (which can be through a tool like an unpacker, or a converter), and documentation/information to make sense of it.

Re:It's not necessarily tools that are needed (2)

neminem (561346) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087279)

While I was never more than a fiddler, and this was also obviously like a decade ago (can't believe it's really been that long!), all my experience with real modding was in the original Starcraft.

The original Starcraft did actually have a pretty respectable map editor, complete with a scripting engine that, while not the most user-friendly ever, was technically still Turing-complete. But there was still a lot you couldn't do (natively). Well, by the end, there was almost -nothing- you couldn't do. Anyone else remember Camelot Systems with fondness? I especially remember how they said there were some things you were just never going to be able to do (add new custom action buttons, for instance), because it would require hacking the actual exe, which would have been far too complicated and prone to breaking things, then less than a year after they said that, they released StarGraft, which did just that.

I'd argue that, while having first-party tools for editing data would be nice in general, it's probably enough if a game just doesn't intentionally -prevent- third-party modding applications from working.

I want "reverse" DLC. (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087095)

I would think that this could greatly improve the value of console gaming as well.

Think about it: as a publisher, you get paid twice. (Once for the PC version and its deveopment tool suite, and again for the console version for testing.) The number of interesting DLC packages would be enorous. Many may even be free. It will greatly increase the desirability of your games.

"But won't it compete with our paid DLC?!"

Not if the community DLC requires it as a dependency for core functionality. Then the community DLC will actually add additional value to your paid DLC, and people will want it more.

So, why aren't you guys doing it?

Re:I want "reverse" DLC. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41087255)

In your barely-disguised sales-barker pitch for your so-called "reverse" DLC, you completely neglected to explain what it would even be.

Unless you mean "set up a shop where players can create things to download or sell and split the profits", in which case I have to wonder how that is different from Team Fortress 2's Mann Co. store (a lot of those items were made by players and Valve gives them a share of the sales).

Re:I want "reverse" DLC. (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087377)

No, you are just unimaginative, and need me to spell it out for you.

So, I will.

Let's look at a game from yesteryear that had a good mod community: TES3, Morrowind.

It had 2 official expansions: Tribunal, and Bloodmoon. In addition to new play assets, both expansions added new core functionality to the scripting engine. As such, buying the expansions became a requirement to getting the better community made mod packages. You simply needed them, if you wanted to use X mod, because the mod needed those scripting functions to run.

The community created mods therefor, did not compete with the official expansions, but instead drove sales of the expansions.

The reverse DLC would for allowing the top mod community content to be "blessed", and distributed as a dlc on consoles. To improve the replay experience of the title, and to drive sales of the paid DLC packages they require.

You can't buy that kind of advertisement.

Planetary Annihilation will do modding and Linux! (2)

fuzzel (18438) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087149)

It's good that Planetary Annihlation [planetarya...lation.com] will have support for modding and Linux :)
So give them your voice and some of your cash by funding them on Kickstarter and then next year we'll all happily be destroying planets!

Skyrim is infinitely better with mods (1)

Jackyshadow (1001714) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087447)

I bought Skyrim over Steam summer sale so I am a bit late to the game. The benefit of being late is that there are lots of completed, polished mods out there.

The mod community just blew my mind, offered things that are far beyond my expectation. It sometimes feels surreal that there are highly skilled people out there spending huge amount of time and effort to produce these insanely quality mods, for free.

Skyrim PC on itself is pretty good. But it has some stupid flaws (e.g. console centric UI). The smartest thing Bethesda ever did is to make it mod-able, let the community finish the things that developers are not willing to invest money/time on. With couple of mods plug in, this game becomes perfection.

EA and Bioware should learn a lesson here. I can only hope Dragon Age 3 would be similarly mod-friendly (given EA's track record, I am not holding my breathe).

Re:Skyrim is infinitely better with mods (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41087719)

If you've been modding Skyrim then I'm sure you're familiar with Skyrim Nexus (skyrim.nexusmods.com). You may not realize this but many of the same modders who make mods for TES games also make mods for Dragon Age. Just check out Dragon Age Nexus (dragonage.nexusmods.com).

captcha: graphics

Speaking from an MBA's perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41087469)

I'm an MBA type (hence posting anonymously since all the hate towards MBAs). Every company wants a large market, and wants to make a product that meets the needs of it's consumers. One of the biggest challenges is understanding the needs of those consumers; even market research can fail because sometimes consumers think they know what they want in an ideal world, but operate differently. It's a real challenge. For video games, you have to create a game that works well (usually in the control of the developer) and is fun (completely in the control of the customer). Fun is subjectively defined and different for every person, so while it's a hittable target it's often very much out of the developer's control, and yet fully the responsibility of the developer to input into their product for it to sell.

Modding in my perspective reduces the developer's responsibility for fun, and shifts it to the customer, leaving the functionality aspect of the game, which the developer has a lot more control over, to them. Basically you're allowing the community to take your game and define the fun variable that they're after on their own terms, which would certainly appeal to a much wider customer base and increase sales. If Valve released the Source Engine as a game for sale with a decent game on top, but provided modding tools sufficient that someone with average programming skills and good storytelling could make a great compelling game with minimal effort, they would dominate the FPS market (I know that technically they did that, but the example is used just to illustrate the point).

I know people hate MBAs on this forum; this is a programmers'/engineers' forum and there's always tension between product developers and business people. However, good MBAs think like what I described above, and good game developers would think the same way.

Re:Speaking from an MBA's perspective (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087565)

If that's the case, why do the MBAs of companies like Sony and Microsoft have apoplexy at the very thought of community produced content?

Usually, the answer I hear is 'licensing'-- really, it is that they can't have exclusives, if the community doesn't play that way.

As an MBA, perhaps you could better explain why they have such an insistence on exclusive content, rather than relying on the innate qualities of their platform's offings to provide distinction?

Corporations want to control you. You will conform (1)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | about a year and a half ago | (#41087519)

There is just no way getting around it. The goal is to consolidate and forced conformity.

Modders will exist as long as these companies decide its worth selling parts to you directly. The entire computer industry is looking at Apple and thinking to themselves "lets copy them"

Apple is not friendly to modders.

The future is windows store, apple store... you will conform because there will be no choice.

Pc gaming is fucking dead. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41087581)

PC gamers are just like apple users, they have an inferior product but will never admit it and use the same 2 or 3 arguments over and over and over and over again.

Sure pc has maybe a dozen good games for it but half of those have been out for man years like warcraft and the other few dont exactly make up for the fact PC sucks compared to console gaming.

I can buy what maybe 2 pc games that came out this year that are actually good that I cant get anywhere else vs the dozens of good console games to come out this year?

I can spend about 1400 bucks building a good gaming pc or for the same price buy a ps3 and dozens of games for it for a lot less money?

I can buy pc games where like 90% of them are on consoles as well?

I can play games online on my pc or on my consoles as well?

I can play my games on the nice big tv while sitting in my recliner with a nice sound system or sit in a chair and play on a 23inch monitor?

None of that having to search for a patch, wait to install a game, work around windows issues with the game and all that with a console cause I put it in and play it (aside from the cluster fuck that shit devs like bethesda put out cause they screw the pooch on every system with their games).

PC gaming sucks but pc gamers will never admit it or convert because they are just like those mindless apple zealots who refuse to accept the fact they are using a inferior product that costs a lot more than other options and love to be smug and pretentious about it any chance they can cause they have to justify themselves.

PC gaming was once great. Now its just for wannabe nerds and people with more money than brains.

no to f2p (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41088391)

I'll tell you what's NOT the future of PC gaming: "Free to Play".

I've never seen so much crap. It's a bad idea, executed badly, and if a game developer thinks that free-to-play is the way to go they need to look for a job in a call center somewhere.

I went into it with an open mind, but after a year of not being able to play any F2P game more than about 5 minutes, I'm convinced that it's an idea that needs to die a painful public death.

It's not that it's a good idea being done badly. It's a bad idea that actually encourages bad execution.

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