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The word modification, has its origins in the latin word modificare, which means to

control, to set the bounds of something, or to moderate. Today, the slang term m
odding is more frequently used, especially when it comes to the virtual world or
anything technologically complex. Its synonymous to words such as alter, rework,
revamp, adapt and customize.
Modding something is the act of changing the function of any object, hardware or
a computer program to perform differently from the way it was delivered or envi
sioned by its designers.
Virtually any alteration to a product can be classified as modding, from fine tu
ning a cars engine or bodywork, overclocking a computer to changing the buttons o
n your favorite shirt. Going even further things such as piercings and tattoos c
an also be classified as body modifications, songs performed by different artist
s and different interpretations of mythology and history are also forms of modif
ications.
However modifying something can have legal implications, many countries have law
s in place which limit or prohibit the modification of certain objects of progra
ms either to ensure the protection of copy rights or to discourage potentially h
armful or unsafe alterations to delicate systems.
Most often however altering software is often encouraged by companies, a programs
source code can be provided along with the program itself as to encourage custo
mization and tailoring of the software to an individuals needs. Many programming
jobs require the employee to work with the tools and source code provided by the
workplace.
Gaming consoles can be modified to allow the execution of illegal CD or DVD copi
es of games or simply of games which were purchased in other regions as to those
initially distributed by the producers, or maybe simply just backup copies.
To enable this however, a console must undergo either a softmod or a hardmod, a
software modification or a hardware modification. Software modifications tend to
be more popular since its usually cheaper and more easy to perform, and there ar
e less risks involved in doing so.
However modifying console games is very rare and discouraged, console games are
regulated by the producers, thus consoles are considered to be a closed platform
, meaning that not everybody can release content for it. This can actually be be
neficial to consoles as their main function is gaming, and thus they lack ways o
f protecting against malicious code that can be introduced by someone if content
is not moderated, but on the other hand this situation can also be exploited by
greedy developers as the diversity of additional content is small, they can rel
ease minuscule additions to games, such as map-packs and reskins and charge big
sums of money for content that could otherwise be obtained for free as a mod on
computers.
Though probably the most popular console modifications are related to aesthetics
, such as changing the shape or color of the case, adding in LED lights or a bet
ter cooling system.
When it comes to games on personal computers however, many developers support th
e practice of modding and also profit from it indirectly.
The popular game Counter-Strike was originally a modification of Valves Half-Life
, which helped its sales dramatically, before being developed as a stand-alone ga
me. Just as the game The Stanley Parable was a modification of Half-Life 2, whic
h later on became its own game, and many other such examples, with probably the m
ost famous one to date being the DotA (Defense of the Ancients) modification for
the game Warcraft III, which spawned its own genre of games called MOBA (Multipl
ayer Online Battle Arena), some games belonging in this category are League of
Legends, Dota2, Dawngate, Heroes of Newerth, etc.
Video game modding is a popular practice, since a game can have many modificatio
ns at one time, the original word modification has been abbreviated to simply ca
lling each individual modification a mod.
Each small mod can add a huge range of alterations to a game, some fix perceived
deficiencies or bugs within the game itself which might have been overlooked or
sometimes ignored by the developers, they allow the player to customize their e
xperience of a game, or revitalize it, some mods intend to improve the games look
s by providing higher resolution textures or models and other times they can cha
nge the gameplay mechanics by introducing a twist or a new element to the game a
dding in a new layer of complexity or giving it a distinct flavor which the orig
inal product lacked.
However this practice is not always beneficial, as games can be altered by peopl
e with subpar skills which might end up harming the experience rather than enric
hing it, and sometimes due to the widespread availability of mods, people may oc
casionally refuse to play the original unmodified game probably believing that w
ithout mods the game is unplayable or doesnt offer a worthwhile experience. Which
essentially undermines the efforts of the game creators which provided the very
platform these mods operate on.
With mods being so widespread, a few patterns on the types of mods that can be c
reated can be observed:
Overhaul, these types of mods replace a wide array of game-assets, they can aim
for the artistic aesthetics of a game replace textures and meshes, they can twea
k the lights, shadows reflections and other visual aspects of a game and even ad
d in new sounds, music and even voiced dialogue, but often go further by tweakin
g mechanics and gameplay aspects, adding in various new elements to the game and
not only enriching the overall experience, but revitalizing it as a whole.
Total Conversions are similar to overhauls with the exception that the general a
im is to create an entirely new game based on the foundations of the original, t
he changes are often very extensive and core gameplay aspects can be altered, a
total conversion can have be a different genre of game from the original. Total
Conversions usually only require the original games engine to run and often deriv
e from games whos engine became freeware or open source.
Add-on: An addon is usually small mods that add or modify only a small aspect of
the game, they can be things such as adding in a new item to the game such as a
new weapon in a shooter , a new playable map, expanding upon an existing charac
ter thus giving them depth, which may help the player become more immersed or en
joy the game more. Addons dont have to change the original games content but merel
y work with it in a new way.
An Expansion, is similar to an addon, although the scale is much bigger, expansi
ons usually rely on modding tools that are usually either provided by the games o
riginal developers or created by the community to help with more easily modifyin
g the game. As the addon, the expansion doesnt necessarily have to change content
within the original game, usually, an expansion can add many new items to the g
ame, a new landmass to explore or a bigger number of maps to play in, it can add
new characters, but doesnt modify gameplay or artistic aspects of the game.
Another type of mod is an unofficial pach which is usually an effort by the comm
unity to fix bugs that were overlooked or not yet present in official patches an
d extend the games stability and functionality.
And while almost everybody can create a mod, those that manage to create truly s
pectacular additions to a game, often gain popularity within the gaming world an
d have an easier time landing a good job in the gaming industry.
Game developers in favor of modding usually release powerful editors and support
ing tutorials in order to help the community in developing high quality mods. An
example of such a tool is The Elder Scrolls Construction Set, this editor was s
hipped with the game Morrowind and is available for download for the game Oblivi
on. This editor gives extensive control over content but is difficult to learn t
o utilize properly. The mods created by this tool are usually saved as plug-in f
iles, with a .esp extension and occasionally as .esm for more complex master-file
s mods. These modifications are then loaded into the game through the provided la
uncher or a third-party program and can thus be enjoyed by the players. Fans exc
hange these mods freely online through various websites and, through them, they
can change anything about the game from creating new character abilities to addi
ng huge mansions into the side of a cliff overlooking a city of giant mushroom-t
owers or creating an entirely new plotline. The file sizes of community made plu
g-ins can be as small as a few kilobytes if they just edit basic game settings,
or they could be a few gigabytes if they add a large amount of new content.
These larger files tend to provide a large amount of extra files such as meshes
and textures, that can occasionally lead to errors if not installed properly, ho
wever due to extensive support of the developers, the process of installing mods
is as easy as unpacking an archive into the right folder and in case anything g
oes wrong the community is happy to provide help for those in need.
Due to the amount of support for modifications, these games enjoy a long shelf-l
ife, and mods are still being developed for them even decades after their releas
e.
The Construction Set features 3 main sections, the object window, the cell viewe
r and the render window.
The object window is a large list of every object within the game, lights, walls
, NPCS, containers, plants, etc.
Each of these is split into categories for ease of navigation, and each object i
s assigned an ID, different statistics are present for each object such as the n
umber of times it exists within the gameworld, if it has any scripts attached to
it, its in-game name, the meshes and sounds it uses and so on.
Placing any object in the world is as easy as dragging-and dropping said object
onto the render-window, however properly positioning it takes a bit of practice
and getting used to. Other sections can also be opened through use of the tabs
at the top of the main window. These include the scripting window and the dialog
ue window. The scripting language is robust and well documented, the few limitat
ions that exist are usually bypassed by external fan-made programs such as a scr
ipt-extender which introduces a variety of new possibilities to complement the a
lready present system.
The render window shows by default the 3d world and everything in it, its used fo
r navigation purposes, placing objects, and also has the functionality of a terr
ain editor, and can display different animations and useful statistical data tha
t the user can toggle on or off depending on the situation.
And lastly the cell-viewer, presents a list of locations called cells within the g
ame, and provides tools for interacting with them, the user can set general weat
her conditions from here, give or modify names of cells and define if a cell is
in an exterior environment or an interior one.
With the growing popularity of The Elder Scrolls series, the latest addition to
the franchise, Skyrim, presents an even more powerful editor, The Creation Kit,
and along with a huge dedicated community, a vast number of weird, interesting,
fun and bizarre mods have emerged in the past few years that offer every one of
its users the exact level of customization that they desire, and endless hours of
entertainment.