Why has the mod scene become less active over the years? Have next-gen games grown so big that the sheer size of their codebase prevents independent game developers and AI enthusiasts from experimenting with new ideas?
This week’s developer discussion is based on a comment by Chris Dirks on Getting Started with AI and Programming in Games:
“I’m interested in AI design, but not really looking to build my own game. Which existing games or frameworks would you recommend to start building AI mods for? […] FPS is a slight preference but I’m open, and I’m not picky about languages either.
There was an active dev community for counterstrike bots back before CS Source, but it seems to have died away and most of the sites have vanished.”
Sadly, it seems like a common observation of the industry.
Where Have All the Modders Gone?
After Doom III came out, John Carmack was initially disappointed that the mod scene was “slacking” compared to previous Id games. More recently though , he’s realized there’s a trend here:
“In general, all the technology progress has been essentially reducing the ability of a mod team to do something significant and competitive. We’ve certainly seen this over the last 10 years, where, in the early days of somebody messing with DOOM or QUAKE, you could take essentially a pure concept idea, put it in, and see how the game play evolved there.
But doing a mod now, if you’re making new models, new animation, you essentially need to be a game studio doing something for free to do something that’s going to be the significant equivalent. And almost nobody even considers doing a total conversion anymore. Anything like this that allows more media effort to be spent, probably does not help the mods.”
It’s therefore no surprise that modders are increasingly getting absorbed into the AAA treadmill:
The teams behind the original Enemy Territory, Team Fortress and Counter Strike have all been hired by Id and Valve respectively.
Any coder capable of understand a game’s codebase enough to hack a mod (with little or no documentation or tutoring) deserves a job as a programmer in industry!
If the head of the mod scene is increasingly going professional, and its long tail is disappearing, then what does that mean for AI?
Independent AI Bots
Around the time of Quake 1/2 and the original Half-Life, there was a wealth of bots available: Reaper Bot, Gladiator, Erasor, HPB Bot — not forgetting sites like Bot Epidemic. Now even those bots are hard to find, let alone new ones!
Are the default AI bots with commercial games good enough already?
Has the advent of broadband internet and network play canceled out the need for AI bots?
Is it too hard to build a bot from scratch in such detailed levels, or using complex engines?
Is there any other reason that independent bots are very uncommon these days?
What Do You Suggest?
Do you have any advice for Chris, or anyone else looking for a starting point making AI mods? What can we do in general to improve the state of independent bot development? Do you know any exceptions to these trends in the modding scene?