How to Break into Modding

Human Head
06 / 28 / 17
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Hi, my name is Kevin Brock, and here at Human Head Studios I wear many different hats, but officially my title is Game Programmer. However, most people know me as Trainwiz, I make mods.

Or rather, I make mods that replace things in the games that I mod with Thomas the Tank Engine. I also made massive questlines and overhauls, but those are less entertaining and horrifying than my delicious trains. Appropriately, I got my start modding Train Simulator. However, it wasn’t something that fit my playstyle, hence why I would set up complicated creations and have the trains battle one another. It was only after my brother gave me his used copy of Morrowind that I actually started making full things. My early stuff was pretty horrifying (in terms of quality, it’s still pretty horrifying in terms of actual horror,) but practice makes perfect.

There seems to be a misconception about modding, and people think it’s replacing trees with hands or sound effects with nyan cat. But the potential when it comes to mods is so much more; it’s an entirely new slew of content for your game. It’s a guarantee that it’ll last for a long time. You know Lego Rock Raiders? It was a small mining and strategy game released in 2000, and people still play that game because you can mod it. And a long shelf life is more sales. Skyrim is still one of the most-played games on Steam, and that’s largely because of mods. Some developers are afraid to open up their worlds, but in doing so, you’re not so much giving up control (and replacing it with Thomas the Tank Engine), but guaranteeing your work is immortalized.

Now some people want to make mods, but don’t think they’re good enough to do it. It’s similar to the way that people are intimidated by the concept of making games, but I say: don’t be! The bar might look like it’s spiked and on fire, but it’s lower than you think. Making mods is the same way. There’s no real difference between modding and development except the rules are a little tighter and the resources are a little farther along.

So how do you break into modding? Well, whether you’re ruining people’s childhoods or bringing in the next great adventure, learning to code benefits everything. You don’t have to be a master and wield the semicolon like a conductor wields his baton, but you need to understand how computers work and how they process their logic. It’s a darn useful skill that will take you far in modding and in life.

It’s also important to start small. Game work is an iterative process and mods can teach you the basics; from learning how to script and block out a level, to maybe making a small follower. (Don’t believe me? Check out the Elder Scrolls and Fallout modding communities.) Finally, modding is a hobby that can open doors to actual careers. Take it seriously, but do what *you* want to do – fix what bugs you, questmake what appeals to you, and don’t be afraid to go overboard on detail or weirdness. It’s your creation, not beholden to anyone but yourself. Put as many trains in it as you want.