Steam has over the years been a major force in changing how games are being bought and sold. And for today’s post we’re going to look at what they’ve done to improve the modding community.
As a developer, mods aren’t exactly high on the importance list for your game, but the value they can add to consumers can be huge for improving your game’s shelf life.
For people who may not know the term, mods are custom created content or files made by consumers to use in their games and the term “modding” refers to the act of creating them.
The term mod is very open to interpretation and can be everything from simply changing the color of a character skin, to creating an entirely new game to be played. The development and release of mods have been a part of the industry for over two decades for both legal and illegal reasons.
The reason is that besides defining content, it can also be used to describe when someone changes the internal workings of a game console or hardware, mainly to run or access games that the person pirated. For this post, we’re going to focus on the creation aspect of it.
Developers have supported the use of customized content in varying degrees. Some developers simply gave their blessing for consumers to use the assets from the game while others shipped or released tools that allowed people to edit and create new content.
While most mods stayed locked to their respective games, we have seen cases where the mod’s popularity extended to the rest of the Industry. Two popular genres: MOBA and Tower Defense were both created as mods and first seen in the game Warcraft 3 from Blizzard.
Being able to create mods for your favorite game can be a great first step into understanding game development and the developer gets free content that they can use in their game.
But the problems with mods was that the quality was subjective and you had to already know about the mod or creator to be able to find it as most modders didn’t have professional sites or easy ways to find them.
And it’s those reasons why the Steam workshop has worked out so well for developers and modders.
The Steam Workshop:
The Steam Workshop, similar to Steam itself, was designed to consolidate content into one source and provide a vetting process to items before they get put up.
The first major advantage of the workshop is that it makes it much easier to find new content as opposed to the old ways of searching for someone’s site. Games with workshop functionality are listed clearly and once you subscribe to someone’s content, Steam will make sure to download and update it as needed, a far cry from the old days where people had to manually keep their mods up to date.
Popular and not so popular content can be reviewed and graded by fans to let people know what the best content out there is. Different games have different kinds of acceptable content based on the title in question. For instance, Team Fortress 2 allows people to post items and hats for consideration while Counterstrike Global Offensive is about maps, stickers and weapon finishes.
A key point about the workshop has to do with the buying and selling of digital items. Depending on the game, new content can be made available to be integrated easily, or it will have to be vetted by the developer to be added. This is where the user review part comes in handy as it allows developers to see easily what content the fans like the most or the least.
If the game in question allows the selling of digital items like Team Fortress 2, any content that gets integrated will also allow the user to receive royalties from it being sold in the store. And as we’ve talked about with the digital item economy, this can be a huge money making opportunity for both the developer and content creator. The developer gets new content developed at zero cost that people are willing to spend money on and the creator gets paid for the work they put into their creation.
Again, this is a huge difference compared to the days where developer and modder were separated from each other.
To be able to make use of the Steam Workshop, the game in question must have been developed using Valve’s Steamworks platform, which allows the integration of Steam’s features and functionality into your game. The ability to create and share custom content has become a desired feature from consumers and one that any developer should take a look at, even if the content will never be purchasable.
While not every game can be set up to have mods and additional content available, the option to create and personalize a game is now one that should be taken into account by game developers thanks to the usability of the Steam Workshop.