THE PCG Q&A
Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
- What was the last game or service you subscribed to?
- Which keys do you always rebind?
- How do you hold your mouse?
Mods are one of the best things about PC gaming. Whether we're talking about complete overhauls like Third Age: Total War or Long War or The Nameless Mod for Deus Ex, or those mods that do one thing and do it well, like mod that lets you play GTA 5 as the Incredible Hulk or the ones that put Thomas the Tank Engine into every other game.
Then there are the mods that transcend their origins to become standalone games of their own, like Garry's Mod, Natural Selection, Black Mesa, Counter-Strike or Team Fortress, and yes, that is a lot of Valve games. It's wild to think that mods like DOTA, DayZ, and Minecraft's Survival Games have basically been responsible for the creation of entire genres.
Our weekend question is: What's your favorite mod? Here are some of ours, let us know yours in the comments.
Phil Savage: VTMB Unofficial Patch
I'm getting serious choice paralysis here. Do I pick something big like The Stanley Parable that would go on to become its own game? Do I pick something small like the one Kerbal Space Program mod that adds NASA comms chatter to further enhance an already emotive and atmospheric game? Do I pick something important like Defence of the Ancients or the mod that turns the Skyrim dragon into Randy Savage?
Instead, I'll pick something functional: I can't imagine the struggle of playing Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines without the unofficial patch—be it the major changes like restoring quests and dialogue, the many, many fixes, or just the ability to skip the damn warrens. It's such a major suite of improvements that it's installed as standard into the GOG version of the game. It's not the most exciting mod in terms of new or funny features, but it makes an unfinished cult classic playable. That's a really important example of what modding can mean to PC gaming at large.
Chris Livingston: A Game of Thrones for CK2
Probably the A Game of Thrones mod for Crusader Kings 2. It transforms the real world into Westeros and populates it with hundreds of characters from the books, which, if you're a GoT fan is incredibly fun—not just interacting with those characters but watches as an alt-history is created, quickly spiraling off from the book's events into a whole new fiction. It inspired me to write an exhaustive (and probably exhausting) 10-part diary about playing as Littlefinger's next-door neighbor back in 2015. In that world, Arya was never born, Tyrion had a bunch of kids, Aegon Targaryan actually shows up, and my own character's family spends a full five generations trying to lay claim to an entirely worthless series of tiny islands.
If you're a Game of Thrones fan you owe it to yourself to try it, even if you've never played Crusader Kings 2. You'll pick it up as you go, I promise.
Tom Senior: 12 Angry Tests
There are so many great Doom mods I could go for here, but I'm going to go in a more peaceful direction and say 12 Angry Tests for Portal 2. In fact, I'd recommend the entire scene of user made campaigns for Portal 2. Many of them capture the spirit of the original game, but it's even more fun to see modders play with different mechanics, as Unreal Chamber does. Portal 2 is a game I tend to come back to every year or so once I've forgotten the jokes, and each time these mods give me even more enjoyment from a game I might otherwise have put down a while ago. Moddable games just have a much longer shelf life.
Lauren Morton: Biomes O'Plenty for Minecraft
It took me four years from 2010 to 2014 to finally grow just a bit weary of playing vanilla Minecraft. After enough badgering from friends, I finally started experimenting with premade modpacks on the Feed the Beast and Technic launchers. There are a million (probably literally? I haven't counted) Minecraft mods but my favorite is Biomes O' Plenty which adds a bunch of new biome types to Minecraft like lavender fields, cherry blossom forests, and spooky new varieties of Nether biomes. It's been years since I played Minecraft regularly but Mojang still hasn't vastly expanded the vanilla biomes (aside from the ocean update that I missed and the upcoming Nether update) so Biomes O' Plenty is still a great addition to the game even now.
All I ever really wanted in Minecraft was to explore the world and find the prettiest possible place to build a house and retreat to it like a grumpy witch. After exhausting all the forest cabins, desert fortresses, and underwater sea domes I could imagine building, Biomes O' Plenty gave me back the sense that there would always be something new over the next peak.
Jody Macgregor: The Dark Mod
If I had to pick one it'd be The Dark Mod. which started out as a total conversion for Doom 3 of all things, transforming it into a tool modders could use to make fan missions for the Thief games. Eventually it became a free standalone and is still being supported with a mission every month or two. If you want to sneak around in the dark hoovering up loot and trying not to jump at every noise I recommend downloading The Creeps, Glenham Tower, and Return to the City.
It's hard to pick one mod though because it means ignoring the pile of them that improve the Elder Scrolls games. There's no one mod that makes Skyrim endlessly replayable, it's the combination of Legacy of the Dragonborn (become a museum curator with a home for all those magic artifacts), and Live Another Life (skip the opening and create whatever kind of character you want), and SkyUI and Quality World Map and a dozen others. The last time I restarted Skyrim it was to wander around with a new companion, a bright blue Khajiit named Inigo, whose observations and sidequests refreshed the whole game yet again. If I went back today I'm sure I'd find even more new things to try.
Jarred Walton: Fallout's Unofficial Patches
I'll be honest in saying I don't often take the time to search out mods for modern games, as I've got too many already sitting in my pile of shame. But one of my favorite mods of the past, and one that speaks to the awesomeness of the modding community spirit, is the Fallout 2 Unofficial Patch, as well as the earlier Fallout Unofficial Patch.
The early Wasteland and Fallout games were some of the defining games of my youth, but Fallout 2 in particular released as a horribly buggy mess. After several official patches, the most egregious bugs were fixed, but quite a few side quests were simply cut from the game. The Unofficial Patch (and the related Restoration Project) went into the files, with no official support from the developers, and ultimately fixed most of the remaining glitches, plus added back content that had been cut. The unofficial patch made one of my favorite games even better.
Andy Chalk: A Morrowind mod he can't remember
Sweet and simple: Friendly Cliff Racers. Or was it No More Cliff Racers? Or maybe DIE DIE DIE YOU ROTTEN CLIFF RACER BASTARDS? Whatever the name was, it's probably the most essential Morrowind mod ever made. It stops the Cliff Racers, which are basically Elder Scrolls pterodactyls, from attacking you, and this is very, very important because they attack you all the goddamn time. They fly, so they can see you from anywhere and chase you to anywhere, and—I'm not done yet—because they hang around Seyda Neen, the port where the game begins, they'll start kicking your ass pretty much the moment you step off the boat. They're beyond infuriating, and I don't know who thought it was a good idea to put them in the game, but holy cow, I'm glad that mod was there to get them out.
Morgan Park: Non-intrusive compass for The Witcher 3
Extravagant Aardvark's little compass mod for The Witcher 3 is super simple, but it represents the best way to play most open-world games. For my second playthrough, I flipped off the minimap and navigated the world using only landmarks and directions. It took some getting used to, but exploration was gratifying. After a few hours, I had the dense streets of Novigrad memorized. I also spent way more time looking at the game instead of a line on a map. It's great to see more games embracing organic exploration without the need for mods. Red Dead Redemption 2 (out on PC soon), has a built-in mode that transforms the minimap into a simple compass. Give it a shot!
Evan Lahti: Star Wars Conquest for Mount & Blade
Mount & Blade's brainless combat and incredibly breakable sandbox are a perfect fit for the Star Wars universe, as it turns out. Faces from the original trilogy populate a sprawling galactic map as independent NPCs who are all driven by the same underlying logic, so you'll take jobs from Admiral Ackbar, play pazaak against Grand Moff Tarkin, and watch Leia charge across Endor to stab Stormtroopers in the face with her vibro-shiv. I recommend rolling a Droid Jedi for maximum canon dissonance. Behold.