Creating a Particle Effect

Particle Effects:

For Project 1, I created a particle effect that changes based on whether the player has finished the level or not. The purpose of this particle effect is to have a more visually appealing indicator that the level is complete and that the player can move to the next one. I also wanted the particle effect to match the art style of the game, which is pixel graphics. Note that this project was done in 2D.

I started by creating a Particle System in Unity by right-clicking inside the Hierarchy and selecting the Particle System option.

HierarchyParticle.png

Doing this will make a GameObject called Particle System appear, similar to the Particle System that, as you can see, is a child of the ExitLevel GameObject.

The default Particle System shoots white circles in a cone shape, as can be seen below. However, this doesn’t fit well with the current theme of the game.

SceneParticle.png

So, to fix this, the first thing I did was to change the Material in the Renderer settings. I want this particle effect to mimic a section of the border so I created a Material that is the same colour as the border and applied it to the Particle System, the result of which you can see below. Note, however, that in order to get this result I had to change the Shader that is on the Material from Standard to Unlit > Color.

SceneParticleMaterial.png

The next thing that I changed was the Shape. The default shape is a cone but, in order to make a believable-looking wall, that will have to change. After experimenting with a few different shapes, I settled on the Edge shape.

The first thing to adjust is the rotation. The default X rotation of a Particle System is -90 degrees which means that, with the Edge Shape applied, the particles are now shooting towards the camera, if in the 2D camera setting. Set the X rotation to 0 to stop that. So now the Particle System should look the the one pictured below.

SceneParticleEdge.png

Now, while that seems all well and good, it doesn’t mimic a wall very well. The first step to fixing this is to position the Particle System where I want it and adjust its value from there. As you can see in the picture below it doesn’t fit quite, since it is supposed to fit in the small opening in the border below it.

SceneParticlePlaced.png

The first setting I change was the Start Size, to 0.1, since those particles are far too large for what I need them to do. Then I went to Shape > Radius and changed it to 1.8 in order stop the particles from extending into the border. After that I did some tinkering with both Start Lifetime and Start Speed, finally settling on 1 and 0.66 respectively.

The Particle System now looks like the image below. There is a fairly obvious problem here, that problem being that there aren’t nearly enough particles to make a convincing mimic of a wall.

SceneParticleAdjusted.png

In order to add more particles, I went to Emission > Rate Over Time and changed it to 10,000. This, however, isn’t the only setting that must change. If you don’t change Max Particles to 10,000 (Rate over Time multiplied by Start Lifetime) as well, you will get a solid line of particles once every second instead of a block of particles.

The image below is a big block of 10,000 particles. Now, all that remains is adding some functionality through coding.

SceneParticleDesignDone.png

Here is what I have written for the Particle System:

ParticleCode.png

The first thing I do is reference the EndLevel script because there is a function in there that detects if all the enemies have been defeated. Then I wrote a public reference to the Particle System. This allows me to assign the Particle System in the Inspector. Finally, the float partiChange determines the rate at which the Particle System decreases emission.

The function LevelComplete() check if all the enemies are defeated and, if so, retrieves the emission and then the emission.rate of the Particle System. I then change the constantMax of the emission.rate so that it decreases according partiChange. Then, last of all, is an if statement that checks if the constantMax goes below a certain point. If it does go below that amount the rate that constantMax decreases at is set to 0, meaning that it remains at the rate that it dropped to.

This script is then attached to the ExitLevel object that was in the Hierarchy from earlier. Now the Particle System is done and this is the final result.

Project 2 – Post-Mortem

For the past few weeks I have been working on a board game with three other people. As of this week, the major portion of this project has been completed. All that is left for my team and I to do is some minor tweaking to gameplay. Other elements, such as card design, token creation, filming crises, etc, will become the responsibility of the Graphic Design Team and the Film Team. There will, of course, be communication between all teams, but it is closely approaching the date where, after which, no more changes can be made because production would have already started or be near completion.

 

What is this project?

This project involved a class of fifteen students who created a board game that would operate as a common base. These fifteen students were then broken up into four teams, with each team required to make a different scenario that would introduce their own additional rules to the base game.

 

What went right:

Communication:

The team used Discord as their main method of communication. During the planning phase of the project, everyone in the team contributed and shared their ideas. Then, throughout the rest of the project, the team was willing and able to cross-check their work with each other.

The team’s success in this area relied on all members being frequently available and open to discussion. There was never a need for emergency contact because team members promptly replied to messages and were always available for online group meetings.

 

Organisation:

Tasks were created and distributed amongst the team members. The team utilised Hack n Plan after every meeting. On Monday and Wednesday, during our in-person meetings, the team created a list of tasks that must be completed before the next meeting. Each task was broken up into smaller, more manageable tasks that could shifted between members of the team if required.

The reason why the team was successful in this aspect is because of competent task breakdown and distribution. Each team member was in charge of a certain aspect of development and would have all tasks that related to that aspect assigned to them. However, the workload of some aspects varied throughout development so, in order to get the most out of every member, people with little to no work to do had tasks from the other aspects of development delegated to them.

 

What went wrong:

Delivery:

The team rarely had all our prototype cards ready for playtesting on-time. While the team had created all the cards, they were not printed. Therefore the team had to spend time printing and cutting all of the cards before they were capable of playtesting. This means that, instead of being able to run two playtesting sessions, there was only time to run one.

What caused this was the date that the tasks were completed. While the team did well in allocating tasks amongst team members, most tasks were worked on and completed over the weekend. This mean’t that the cards and other items that the team had created were typically printed out the next day. Unfortunately, more often than not, this mean’t that the team’s intention was to print the cards before the meeting and arrive to the meeting with all the prerequisites ready. However, there was always a problem and everyone would arrive with none, or very few, of the prerequisites required for the game.

Setting deadlines for each task and/or having ‘Printing’ as a task, in the Hack n Plan, would of helped to mitigate the problem and would have allowed for a smooth transition between group meeting and playtesting.

Rulebook Layouts: What I Learned and How I Applied It

I was recently tasked with creating a Rulebook for the board game being created for Project 2 of Studio 1. The class was split into four groups and were each tasked with creating a different scenario for the same board game. The Rulebook initially consisted of a base Rulebook that would explain the rules that are common amongst all the scenarios, then an additional 4 Rulebooks that would explain the rules that are specific for each scenario.

I started my research into Rulebook layouts by analysing the Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game Rulebook. I decided to start with this Rulebook because it is a game that I have played and am familiar with, plus the theme of the game is somewhat similar with the theme of the project.

This first thing that I noticed about the Battlestar Rulebook was the Component List and Breakdown. I decided to include those same sections in the Rulebook I was making because I find it to be an excellent way for end users to ensure that they have everything that they need to play the game, as well as a convenient way for me to explain some surface elements of the game.

At this point, the Rulebook was filled with descriptions and explanations, but nothing that actually defines gameplay. After a few playtests, it was apparent that a game manager was needed in order to run the game properly. To help remedy this, the ‘Game Setup’ and ‘Gameplay’ sections were given step-by-step instructions that end users could follow.

However, this wasn’t too helpful because of another problem. That problem was delivery. More often than not, whenever a playtest was coming around, the Rulebook wasn’t very accessible and the explanation of rules was delegated to one of the team members that was operating the playtest.

Another issue that occurred was the re-designing of certain gameplay elements, namely the Hazard Cards. The layout of a Hazard Card changed four times and the gameplay of a Hazard Card changed three times. Keeping up with constant rule changes in order to maintain the validity of the Rulebook was vital. To do this, I attended all playtests and created playtest reports with reminders to adjust the Rulebook.

Perhaps the most complicated part of this process is collaboration. I was working with another student on the Rulebook. This means that a document had to be made that outlined what wording and layout was going to be used. The purpose of said document is to make the process of combining my work with the other students’ work smoother.

 

What I Would Do Next Time

If I were to write another Rulebook, I would follow a more methodic process. There were small things that were overlooked, such as the Spacewalk, that could be implemented much smoother if they were found earlier.

During playtests, I would take notes on how rules were explained as well as where gaps are in the Rulebook. Since there were approximately 5 playtests, that means that there were 5 opportunities to present, and receive feedback for, the Rulebook. When considering how helpful the last playtest was (the only playtest where the Rulebook was used), it would be a great boost in the quality of the Rulebook.

In order to make that happen, I would need to make sure that certain sections are done by certain times. For example, if the ‘Game Setup’ section is completed by the first playtest then I can receive feedback straight away. This allows me to present the Rulebook more often because the Rulebook I just helped make was built by working on every section a bit at a time. This meant that the Rulebook constantly had unfinished sections so I couldn’t show it to anyone, or at least I didn’t want to.

By the making the Rulebook one section at a time, I can show each section to the team as it is finished and receive feedback and implement feedback faster than before.

Collaborators

Graphic Design:

Brady and I met with Morgan, a Graphic Design student, during class on Monday to discuss an estimated delivery date of the Rulebook as well as what I could do to make the Rulebook transition from Development to Design easier.

She told me that if I include sample images, along with the text that is already there, it would be easier for her. My intention was to include images in as many places as possible, along with text to explain exactly what I wanted the image to look like. However, due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to provide everything that I intended to.

We agreed that Brady and I would deliver a draft of the Rulebook for Morgan to look over and the it should be deliver a week and a half from the time of the meeting. This goal wasn’t achieved either. Even though Morgan was given access to the Rulebook on Google Drive, the Rulebook was not in a state sufficient enough for submission. This happened because I underestimated the amount of work that was remaining on the Rulebook, as well as overestimating the amount of time that Brady and I were able to commit to the Rulebook.

 

Audio:

Ben, Ruby and I met with Bronte, an Audio student, during class on Wednesday of Week 9. We showed her our pitch, as well as the Sound Bible we had made, and discussed what kind of audio assets we would need. She asked us what kind of style we were after and how many tracks we would need, then we asked her about delivery and communication. We decided to use our SAE emails to communicate with one another.

Only using emails didn’t hinder us and I believe that is because we were only after specific audio assets which weren’t likely to change. The first samples that Bronte provided us were great and left us feeling that she understood the theme that we were trying to go for.

Below is a recent string of emails between Bronte and I.

pasted image 0.png

Bronte placed all the audio assets that she made in a folder in Google Drive, below is a image of that folder.

pasted image 0 (1).png

Animation:

Ben, Ruby and I met with Hayden, an Animation student, during class on Wednesday of Week 9. We showed him our Art Bible and discussed what kind of art assets and how many art assets we were thinking of. He asked us questions about art style and deadlines, then we asked him questions about workload and communication. We decided on communicating through our SAE emails, as can be seen below.

pasted image 0 (2).png

After the meeting, our first few emails were all about clearing up some details that were overlooked such as file formats and sizes. From there on, I had conversations with Hayden via emails every few days. This approach brought complications however. Deadlines were often made impromptu and complications that arose could only be addressed every few days. Instead of using email, I should have included Hayden in the Discord server that the team was using, especially since the art assets that we required were likely to changed depending on how we change the design.

Below is a an image of a Google Drive folder in which Hayden has placed all the art assets that he has made.  

pasted image 0 (3).png

Creating Item Cards

I have created a template card with the board game being made for Project 2. My intention when making this template was to make sure that all the information that was required to be on the card was clear and easily understood. I created this template using GIMP.

Card.png

When I created a new file, I set the image size to 14cm x 20cm. Then I created the black outline of the card, as well as the card layout, with the Pencil Tool with size at 10px. I separated the card into 5 different sections: the Title, Deck, Resources, Artwork and Abilities.

The Title is the section at the top of the card and has the largest sized text on the card.

CardTitle.png

To do this, I used the Text Tool and made a small text box. I then typed the name of the card, in this case ‘Kinda Gross Towel’, and expanded the limits of the text box to match the section. I then highlighted the text and increased the font size until I felt that it fit nicely within the limits of the section.

I made it like this so that, when a player receives the card, it is very obvious. Also, as players become more familiar with the game, they may come to associate the name of the card with its abilities so having the title be large is important.

 

The Deck section is at the top-right of the card, defined by a distinct circle.

CardDeck.png

I followed the same method that I used for the Title for the Deck section as well. I created a text box, placed the corresponding letter, expanded the limits of the text box to match the section and then increased the font until I felt it looked good.

This section tells players what Deck this card belongs to. It is used during the setup of the game, as well as when a player discards a card. I gave it a unique area because of how vital it is during the setup of a game. The letter in the circle is in bold and represents the first letter of the deck that is belongs to: M (Medical Bay), K (Kitchen) and CB (Cargo Bay).

 

The Resources section is on the right-hand side of the card and tells the player how much of each resource the card is worth.

CardResources.png

To create the coloured squares I used both the Rectangle Select Tool and the Bucket Fill Tool. I used the Rectangle Select Tool to to create an appropriately sized square. The square is small enough to allow for three squares of the same size to fit within the section, but also large enough to fit a decently sized number inside of it. I then used the Bucket Fill Tool to fill each square with the colour used to represent one of the resources. After that, I used the Text Tool to label each square with the amount of resources that the card provides for each resource type. I followed the same text method for the numbers as I did for the Deck.

This section has 3 numbers, each one inside a differently coloured square. Each square represents a different resource: Blue = Tech, Green = Bio and Yellow = Energy. I decided to give this section colour so that it stands out from the rest of the card and allows for players to distinguish between resources without the need for text. However, having colour be the defining factor means that it may be impossible for a colour-blind person to read it.

 

The Artwork section is in the middle of the card and is a visual representation of the Item Card

CardArt.png

This section is fairly large on the card and is intended to provide a visual connection from the card to the game board. However, due to the constraints of the project, this section may be cut. Another reason this section maybe removed is to make more room for the Abilities section.

 

The Abilities section is at the bottom of the card and is the largest section on the card. It describes the abilities that the player gets when they receive the card.

CardAbilities.png

Since some cards have both a Passive and an Active ability, I started by using the Pencil Tool, again at 10px, to draw a line to split the section into two. I then created a text box, using the Text Tool, on either side.

This section is broken into a Passive and Active area. The details of the abilities are listed in their respective area. In order to fit the wording of the abilities on the card, I had to re-word some of them. Even still, some of the ability descriptions of some cards don’t fit properly.

 

 

Project 1 – Post-Mortem

Project 1 involved each student receiving an artist to research. Each student must then adapt the game Berzerk (Atari) to their given artists’ style. I was given Harriet Powers, an African-American woman who made quilts depicting biblical stories in the late 19th century. I decided to adapt Berzerk by using the panels of Powers’ quilts as levels in the game. I used Unity to create this project.

This was the first project of Studio 1, which started development in early February and ended in late February. While I was supposed to submit the project at the end of February, I held off on submitting it in hopes of being able to continue work on it later. Unfortunately I didn’t have much free time over the trimester to work on this project, so not much progress was made.

 

What Went Right:

Art Assets:

For this project I decided to create all of the assets by myself. I managed to make all the art assets that I needed and I even added some animations to the player and to the enemies. It felt great to branch out and expand my skillset. I learned how to use Pyxel Edit for sprite work and sprite animation work.

The reason why this happened was because, over the holidays, I took an interest in a certain aspect of streaming culture. That aspect being fan-art. A streamer that I was watching had 2-3 people in their chat that would occasionally draw quick pieces of fan-art. I saw it as an interesting way to improve skills as well as contribute to a community. So that inspired me to find programs that I could use. By the time uni came around I was excited to use those programs for my projects.

What I can take away from this is that finding a passion outside of profession can positively impact my work, especially if that passion could be used in my profession. Also, I am typically very lazy after coming back to uni after the holidays. However, since I found something productive to do over the holidays, I maintained the working mindset while still enjoying myself.

 

What Went Wrong:

Prioritization:

I spent a lot of time creating all the art assets and, unfortunately, I didn’t leave enough time for the rest of the game. So, when the time came to move on to the next project, I was left with 11 levels but little gameplay. What’s worse, because of how I set up the levels, when I came back to the project it was hard to add the work that I had done to the first level to the rest.

The reason why this happened is because I didn’t have any planning or management properly set up and let my eagerness to create assets supersede the other aspects of game development. Since there was no plan in place, it was hard to estimate just how long it would take to make all the assets. When all the assets were done, I was left with very little time and not much else to go on.

What I can take away from this is that I always need to set up a plan before working, regardless of the amount of work that I need to do. It will help me remember what needs to be done as well as prioritise work by its importance.

Pitching A Stitch In Time

I recently pitched my game idea, A Stitch In Time, to my fellow peers at SAE QANTM. My game is a fusion of Berzerk (Atari/Arcade game) and Harriet Powers’ art style. You can find a recording of my pitch here.

It isn’t my best performance but, considering that I hadn’t slept the night before, I think it was acceptable.

I received some rather interesting feedback from my peers after my presentation. Someone asked if I might be overscoping the project, which is worrying because I have been prone to overscoping before. Some also requested that I look into, and draw inspiration from, more of her works. While this is generally great advice and I would be more than willing to take it on, the two quilts that I showed in my presentation are the only existing examples of her work. I didn’t make that clear in my presentation however, so that is my mistake.

Concerning overscoping, I have considered cutting the mechanic that draws enemies, that haven’t been killed, from the previous level and into the next level when the player transitions. I would consider adding this feature back into the game if I had any spare time after the project was completed but, as it stands, there is already plenty of work to done.

Another questioned the scoring system that I was going to use, stating that, even though $10 is relevant to the time period, it seems rather small and that I should check how much it would sell for today. After searching around, I found that replications of the Bible Quilt were made but finding a price for one is hard to come by. So instead, I shall convert $10 in 1898 to what it would be worth now, meaning $285.

Some were concerned that angels and demons don’t fit well with the theme of the game, suggesting that replacing demons with colonial white people would be more appropriate considering the era of the art piece in question. I agree that this change would better suit the kind of game feel that I am trying to achieve and, to further increase that feeling, replacing the angel with Harriet herself would be better. This change would also allow me to add an appropriate life system into the game by giving the player as many lives as Harriet had children (9).

The final question was concerning Evil Otto, a type of unkillable boss character that would spawn if you took too long to complete the level. I won’t be putting a version of Evil Otto in my game in order to focus on completing other elements.

Dev Diary – Creating 2D Assets

For my first project of Studio 1 (one of my subjects at uni), I decided to take on the task of creating all the games assets by myself. Quite a daunting task but I felt that, given the simple shapes that my artist used in her works, it wouldn’t be too difficult to create something that, at least, vaguely matches hers. What sparked this drive was actually a program that I had purchased from Humble Bundle called Pyxel Edit. I am not too sure of this program’s reputation at the time of writing but I was excited to start creating my own assets, instead of relying upon Unity’s Asset Store.

While I found it easy to adapt Harriet’s artwork and style to the program, my lack of knowledge when it comes to pixel art in general was quite evident when I began to import my assets into Unity. When I began my first import I had finished approximately half of all the assets that I had needed. While that sounds all well and good, I soon realized that my assets were far too small for my intended screen size, as they were a measly 64×64. This led to me redoing all the assets that I had done previously but in a much larger canvas, 264×264.

I also attempted some simple animations while re-creating the previous assets. I was able to animate both the player and the enemies, even if it is just one extra frame. I learned the process of creating a sprite sheet, albeit a small one, as well how to import my own assets and animations straight into Unity. While assets are simple to import to Unity, the animations required a bit of additional work. Since the animations are imported as a single sprite, I had to enter the settings of the animation in question and split the sheet into multiple cells that Unity could recognize. Since my animations were a simple two frames, it was easy to understand what I needed to do, but that process allowed me to understand more complex sprite sheets and how to use them in later projects, if need be.     

Environment:someportal Player Animation:Player.gif

Review Condensation

I have been looking at video game reviews recently and it struck me how condensed everything seems to be. After Google searching ‘video game reviews’, I opened every link on the first page. I found myself on the following websites: GameSpot, IGN, MetaCritic, Polygon, GameRankings, CNET, EuroGamer, Common Sense Media and The Escapist. Much to my dismay, I found that only 1 of the 9 websites did not immediately show me how they ranked the game within their rating system. That website was CNET.

The following images are screenshots of the above websites’ front pages on 07/12/2016.

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Why does this bother me so much? I personally find that compressing an entire games’ worth into a simple number does not do any game justice, regardless of the games’ quality. I find that numbers provide a false sense of objectivity within a medium that is inherently subjective.

A reviewer whose website I frequent is Jim Sterling, whose website is The Jimquisition. I genuinely appreciate the way in which he reviews video games. Firstly, his articles appear like this:

jimquisition

While it does appear to be similar to the way that the previous review websites present themselves, the main difference here is that there is no obvious indicator as to what Jim’s opinion is from the outset.

After this 2500 word review, he ends with a rating out of 10. What differentiates this rating out of 10 compared to the ratings of the websites mentioned at the start is that a ‘Review Score Guide‘ is provided via a link on the header of his website. This guide explains what his numbers mean, as well as what kind of games would receive these numbers.

As a developer, I see reviews, as they are now, as being closer to advertisements than to criticism. While it may not be the intention of the reviewer, I believe the general public see reviews as a vetting process instead of an analysis or a breakdown of a product. Not that this is exactly bad for developers, good reviews can lead to more sales. This isn’t exactly bad for consumers either. From a consumers’ point of view, reviewers are telling them whether a game is worth their money.

However, the fault that I see might not be a problem within the reviews sector of gaming, but within myself. Perhaps my opinions on reviews comes from a sense of fear that stems from my own games. A fear that the games that I might create may be falsely construed or that I might present my game in the wrong manner, thereby reaching a different target audience than intended. Take, for example, the user review written by jmhoffer (MetaCritic does not allow for direct links to reviews; jmhoffer’s review should be the first on the list) for This War of Mine. Jmhoffer gave the game 0 out of 100 and criticized the crafting, tool durability and water treatment for not being realistic, going so far as to dispute the developer’s claim that they lived through a war zone.

This kind of review, where people judge a game based on what they believe games in the genre should be, frightens me a little. The reason for this fear can be traced all the way back to my childhood. I have always had the pressure of my family’s success pushed upon me. My relatives on my fathers’ side of the family are all professors and my relatives on my mother’s side of the family are all engineers. Add to that the pressure of being a son whose parents are the least ‘successful’ in the family; my mother is the only one in her family who is not an engineer and my father is the only one in his family who is not a professor. The expectations that were placed upon me through schooling were very high. Getting an ‘A’ for an assignment was considered the standard, therefore anything less than that was seen as failure.

There are two things that are commonly associated with success in the gaming industry, these being your sales figures and your games’ reception. These two are often seen as being hand in hand because surely people wouldn’t buy a game if its reception is bad. The system of reviews we currently have, presenting a games’ worth through an aggregate score, sparks this pressure in me once again. What I fear isn’t exactly negative reviews, it’s reviews that are negative because the person expected something other than what I offered. In essence, marking my game against criteria that I had no intention of including and, therefore, didn’t consider.

But that is the point of freedom of speech, is it not? Being able to say what you want about whatever you want, regardless of prior experience or knowledge.

 

Do you have any insights or opinions? Please leave a comment below or tweet at me at @m_vonwil.

Can Mods Distort People’s Perception?

Length: ~1200 words.
Note: Near the end, this post briefly mentions some serious topics. Please bear this in mind when reading.

A subject that I have recently delved into is fandom. Fandom is the classification given to  a collective of individuals who all share a similar passion or fondness for a particular entity. Some of the more prevalent fandoms of modern media include: Whovians (Doctor Who), Bronies (My Little Pony) and Trekkies (Star Trek), as well as many more.

Whovians, Bronies and Trekkies respectively.

 

What I would like to discuss is not about why fandoms exist or their purpose, but about their influence on those who have not experienced the original media. Fandoms create a community and provide a sense of belonging amongst its members. Furthermore, they provide avenues for people to express themselves creatively. This creativity comes in many forms, the most common being: art, cosplay and fan-fiction. Video games, however, have an additional avenue called modding and it is this avenue I would like to further explore.

While I wouldn’t say that I’m apart of any fandom, I have certainly benefited from them. My first experience of fandom comes from the Skyrim modding scene. Mods are modifications to a video game that adjusts, alters, adds or removes content to/from the original work. The content of these mods can range from Dovahbit of Caerbannog (a pet rabbit that can carry your stuff, harvests ingredients and can wear hats) to Falskaar (a fully voiced, 20-30 hour mod with its own quests and music).

Bethesda, developer and publisher of Skyrim, has the top six places in NexusMods’ database, with 130,244 mods and 1.618 billion downloads in total, across six of their titles, as of this writing.

bethmods041216

As a developer, it is unbelievably flattering to see so many people who are willing to put in time and effort in order to change the game however they wish, regardless as to whether they are changing your game because they hate a decision you made or because they want to improve or add something that they feel is missing. Mods can even be a selling point to some people because it is seen as a way to further increase the value of the product. I personally have seen comments saying that they bought Medieval 2: Total War purely because of the mod Hyrule: Total War.

Games with modding potential provide so many benefits, not only to the game itself but to the people who play them. The benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • People who creates mods are able to express themselves and their skills, as well as share their creations with other people in the community.
  • People who bought the game are able to access additional, fan-made content, thereby extending gameplay.
  • The developers can potentially increase sales through the popularity of their modding scene.
  • The game itself can improve via modders improving the base elements of the game that the development team didn’t have either time nor money to fix before release.
  • With YouTube and video streaming in general being so popular, channels such as MxR Mods exist and allow someone to make a living from mods, or at least advertising mods.
  • The mod Tamriel Online adds multiplayer into an entirely single-player game. Quite an astonishing feat!
  • Some modders are even offered employment from game development studios because of their creations

However, there can be adverse affects from having such an openly adaptable game. Mods that add things such as: nudity, mutilation, slavery and rape exist, though they cannot all be found on the NexusMods website (due to their nature, I won’t link to these mods). This leaves me feeling rather conflicted. While I don’t have any interest in using these mods, I don’t believe that they should be taken down nor do I feel any offence from them. If the cathartic hypothesis regarding violence in video games is to be believed, then allowing people to express these kinds of fantasies inside of a fake world may lead to real world benefits.

*A point that has to be made here though, is that Skyrim is a single-player game. I feel perfectly comfortable defending the more obscene mods that are available for Skyrim because of this. The actions that one takes within the world of Skyrim effects no-one but the single person who is playing. As soon as multiplayer is introduced, however, the existence of these mods become entirely detrimental. Take this article (NSFW) on Kotaku for example. The article details how some players in Grand Theft Auto V (GTAV), with the help of a mod, have been able to simulate sexual activities with other players through animation manipulation and position locking, regardless of the other players’ willingness to witness or perform these acts. So, rape, essentially. It is bad enough that people suffer such a tragedy in the real world, so why bring this into a fake world? It may seem like I am contradicting myself; I defend Skyrim but reject GTAV?

*I can absolutely understand condemning both games but, as a game developer and designer, I can’t help but emphasize the differences in the source material. Skyrim is designed as a fantasy world where one can go to experience a world unlike our own, with: Khajiit (sentient cat people), Argonians (sentient lizard people) Dragons and magic in abundance. On top of that, all actions taken in Skyrim effect only the player because there are no other human players. GTAV, on the other hand, is designed to emulate some aspects of real life and parody others. It gives the player almost everything that the real world has, complete with cars, guns, drugs, airplanes, mobile phones, skyscrapers and explosives. The game allows for multiplayer, meaning that a players’ actions can effect not only themselves but other people as well. It is this, the addition of multiplayer, that completely changes the situation. It changes it into an action that requires consent from two parties but provides no avenue to do so.

I believe it is important to discuss such extreme situations because fan collaboration, such as the mods discussed, is not always controllable, nor is it instigated, by the developers. At the moment these types of mods are fairly hidden from the general public, meaning that only those who seek them out will find them. Which is perhaps for the best. These mods have the potential to severely damage a products’ image, the gaming industry’s image and possibly society as a whole, considering the popularity and demographic of gaming . Personally, I find it a little difficult for me to imagine what it would be like if a game that I made enabled this kind of material, nor would I know how to react. Should I allow my future products to be open to people’s freedom of expression, thereby potentially adding additional gameplay or improving graphics at no cost to me, or should I limit my game to my expression only, thereby potentially decreasing the value and popularity of my product?

*Edit – 10/12/2016

Do you have any insights or opinions? Then please leave a comment below or tweet at me at @m_vonwil.