Want to start your own mod?

We all know what a mod is, and most of us have really good ideas for a cool mod, but are ideas enough? Well I think not, and I’m going to try and explain why.

With the arrival of the Source SDK, and having it available to everyone now via Steam, we see many enthusiastic new comers, bringing great ideas to new Mods, but most of the times failing to execute them, and what’s the reason for that?

Well most of the times they don't understand how complex it is to create a mod. Now there’s a division here that needs to be made. One thing for example, there can be simple Single Player Mods which only add some new maps. Another thing is to make a complete modification of the game your modding for. And the differences start with the number of people needed to create each part of these modifications.

Whilst the first could perhaps be made by just one level designer, the second requires a full team, having a Project Leader, Level Designers, Coders, Modellers, Texture Artists, Sound Artists, Concept Artists, etc. The list goes on.

Just this factor shows how hard it is to create a full modification. You being the Mod Leader would need to act almost like the owner of a company. You would need good communication skills, be able to assign tasks and manage the work being done, solve internal problems, deal with the supporting community, and basically keep the team together and working. These skills are only achieved with experience, but how do you get this experience? Well my opinion is doing has everyone does, or tries to do.

First you need to decide what your specialty is, what I mean with this is to learn one of the different arts that making a mod require, lets say for example Level Design. After you decide what you want to do, you should practice your techniques, and try to master most of them, until you can say you’re good at something. When you get to the stage that people start to appreciate your work, it is time for you to find a mod to work on, there are lots of Mods looking for people to join their teams, and many sites that publicise those requests for help, you just need to keep your eyes open, and be a bit lucky.

Another thing I would like to point here is how to evaluate how serious a Mod is, it's usual for people to join a team, and later realise that things aren't the way they expected. What I’m going to say right now may also be helpful for those starting a Mod and trying to get someone to work on it. Let’s take for example the announcement requesting members for the mod team; what do we expect to see here that tells us how good a mod may be?

A mod that has a website with a proper domain (.com or .net for example, and not a Freewebs site) shows already that they are looking for something serious. After that look at their site, if the mod is still in early development it’s understandable that the site doesn't have much information, but there are some key points that everyone likes to see in a mod website.

First of all a small description of the mod, then a more detailed piece explaining the game play, the characters, the vehicles, everything the mod will have. This detailed piece of document will pretty much tell you everything about the mod, so that everyone reading it may get a good view of what you are trying to accomplish.

Another important thing to have on a website is a list of the team members, and their contact (or at least the contact of the mod leader), plus all positions that are still need to be filled, so that a Level Designer (for example) that is looking for a job may know if you do, or do not need him. Also a forum helps on this task, so that applicants may post about their skills, and saying why they want to join your mod.

Having this covered you need to show what you have to offer. Screenshots of your models, maps, textures, some sounds for download, and some concept art etc, so a media section in a site is always good even if the mod only has a small amount to show.

After seeing the site, read the text requesting for help again. It's always nice if it includes some concept art, or some early media screenshots, showing that there’s already some stuff being made (or already completed), and allows you to evaluate the quality of the mod.

So now you may have chosen a mod to work for, what’s next? Well try to learn as much has you can from that experience, take your time to learn about the other arts, because the more you know the best you will understand other peoples work. Always try to be friendly with your mod team members, and avoid getting into arguments with them, and do your work the best way you can, this is pretty much common sense for everyone working in a team.

I kind of run away from the main point here, but we well get back at it now. So why isn't just good idea enough to start your own mod? has you can see for what I just explained there is lots of work just in the early stages of the Mod that needs to be made, and to be a good leader you should learn has much has you can about all the things that a good mod requires. A nice and disciplined team and perhaps the most difficult of all, to have a strong yet friendly hand while making important decisions.

I hope this article will show to all the new comers and the modding community what creating a mod is all about, it's almost as hard has managing a company, and some people even have to study to be able to do that. I'm not saying that people should give up on their dreams and projects relating to games, just saying that you should take your time to make something really good.

- By Barrakid 03/06/05