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Modding tools for  Battlefield 3 ? It's a scary business, says DICE
Modding tools for Battlefield 3? It's a scary business, says DICE
August 17, 2012 | By Mike Rose

August 17, 2012 | By Mike Rose
Comments
    18 comments
More: Console/PC, Programming, Design, GDC Europe



Bohemia Interactive's ARMA 2 has received a significant boost in sales over the course of the last few months, all thanks to a certain popular zombie survival mod which is now even getting its own standalone version.

The success story behind this mod has led gamers to question why other big-name developers refuse to allow modding of their online multiplayer titles. One of these in particular is DICE and its Battlefield franchise.

Battlefield 2 had official modding tools in place, and the modding community helped to keep the popularity of the game churning for many years after its initial release. However, recent sequel Battlefield 3 came with no official modding tools, causing an uproar from the modding community.

At GDC Europe this week, Karl Magnus Troedsson, general manager at DICE, explained why this is the case -- essentially, DICE is scared of the implications of giving players access to parts of the game's code.

He reasoned that, while the company is very much aware of how important modding can be for building up a game's longevity, "we're afraid of all the things that can come with releasing the code."

Giving players access to certain parts of the code would potentially leave it open to hacking exploits, he said, and this is something that DICE is not comfortable with at all.

Adding to this, he noted that Battlefield 3 is not just a PC release, but also available on console, and that if DICE was to accommodate modding tools, it would want to provide these to console players too, which is rather more tricky.

"If we do mod support, we want to do it really, really well," he reasoned. "We are not ready to do this yet."

Gamasutra is in Cologne, Germany this week covering GDC Europe and Gamescom. For more coverage, visit our official event page. (UBM TechWeb is parent to both Gamasutra and GDC events.)


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Comments


Brian Pace
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Uhh not having mods on the console version is not an excuse. Skyrim has modding tools just for the PC version and not the console. I don't see why they couldn't do that. I think they are really just worried about people touching the multiplayer code.

Kayin McLeod
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No, I think it's clear they are more worried about having control over their DLC sales plan. Think of this: Skyrim, so far, has one piece of official DLC at twenty dollars, yet the modding community has made dozens of superior quality content released for free. If DICE (with EA's hand up their butts) were to release modding tools, how could they justify charging anything for a few new maps, when if there were tools early on, people would have already ported over the old Battlefield maps (instead of charging for them in DLC) and created content that probably would have made the asking price for the DLC seem ridiculous.

Kyle Redd
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I actually don't need any more evidence to know that the DLC prices for Battlefield are ridiculous, but there appears to be quite a few folks that haven't caught on just yet.

A fool and his money, right?

Vincent Hyne
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Kayin's on the money.

That's the end of this discussion really.

Matt Robb
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You know, you can provide a modding API without exposing the internals you don't want exposed.

Besides, the hackers don't need to be "given" access to create hacks. =P

Tom Baird
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As the myriad of recently hacked companies will tell you, 'security through obscurity' is not a good solution. If the only thing stopping hackers from exploiting your engine is that they don't know the API, then you are leaving yourself wide open anyways, because they will find a way; they always do.

Case in point, the PS3 was originally rooted by soldering a wire from a specific part of the CPU to a specific part of the RAM. This does not strike me as a particularly intuitive solution to their problem. These are very resourceful people. and unless there is a very specific reason (outside of they don't know about it) they can't do what they want to do, they will figure it out.

Matt Robb
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I put a little thought into it, and the article talks about how Battlefield 2 had a much longer lifespan due to mods. I've also heard about how these companies are looking into "subscriptions" to their games so you get access to new installments just by paying your subscription fee. The conspiracy theorist that hangs out in the back of my head chimed up and suggested they may not *want* the lifespan of the game to be longer, as it doesn't make them money.

Or perhaps there's some other business reason why they weren't interested in mods.

Adam Rebika
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The conspiracy theorist that hangs out in the back of my head chimed up and suggested they may not *want* the lifespan of the game to be longer, as it doesn't make them money.

And I think he has a point! ;-)

Andrew Grapsas
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Source engine, Unreal engine, CryEngine, etc. all support modding. What is Frostbite 2 doing so differently? If he had said, "We don't want to spend resources right now supporting modding infrastructure," I would've had no issues with it; but, saying it's a matter of security? And support modding on console? Me thinks this guy was just jet lagged or something and said some silly things.

Ian Morrison
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I'm inclined to think that modding is becoming a casualty of newer business models, like DLC and F2P. Allowing modding--even mapping--for your game can undercut your sales of new maps, or character skins, or new weapons, or whatever it is you're selling to make the game profitable. This doesn't make me happy, but it does explain why games like Tribes: Ascend--whose forebears had incredibly active modding and mapping communities--provide not even the barest hint of user generated content.

Matthew Doss
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I agree. It can, and will undercut on the sales. But lets think about this reasonably. A lot of companies are charging for DLC maps, guns, etc that shouldn't have had a price on them to begin with.

The simple fact is that if you are original with DLC you can still sell it *WHILE* also allowing mods. No, you can't take maps from a game you made a couple years ago and then resell them. But to be frank, that seems like a pretty shady practice to begin with.

What you can add are new modes, new campaigns, etc. In fact, it has been proven before that you can even commercialize the best of the user created mods.

Responses like DICE's are simply a cop out. Hackers hack around the already existing system with or without mod tools. If DICE were still playing their game they would see that there are already issues without mod tools.

This is nothing more than an excuse to continue to resell maps and weapons that have already been done before at an inflated price.

Bisse Mayrakoira
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Mr. Troedsson of DICE: it's perfectly within your rights to protect the DLC, server renting etc. business models by forgoing the traditional modding capability, but please don't lie, that is disrespectful.

I actually do not doubt that they might release some limited modding capability in the future, but if they do, they'll obviously do it like Blizzard did for Starcraft 2. A modder will only be allowed to release any content if it goes through EA censorship, only resides on EA servers, and is in total, absolute control of EA with all rights assigned upon submission.

Michael Hartman
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> Adding to this, he noted that Battlefield 3 is not just a PC release,
> but also available on console, and that if DICE was to accommodate
> modding tools, it would want to provide these to console players too,
> which is rather more tricky.

Terrible, terrible, terrible excuse. People don't play games on console because they want to mod them.

Modding is a PC thing. Nobody cares about modding on consoles. Modding is one of the things that makes PC gaming special.

Horrible excuse. :(

Henri Mustonen
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Kinda funny that the thing that made the company what it is, is now feared.

The modding scene in BF1942 gained name, popularity, sales and self taught employees for DICE. It was common knowledge that people behind Desert Combat-mod were hired to work on BF2.

Now there's this "me too"- urge to stand next to call of duty. Have to admit that I'm a bit disappointed, but then again... The Bad Company series didn't have modding support either so I'd assume many people weren't really expecting to see modding support in BF3.

Wiz 1974
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it also means it is easier to sell you maps, if your only choices are the official ones....

Titi Naburu
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Dice would release a modding platform, select the best works and offer them as paid downloadable items. Players would rush to design the best scenarios.

Martijn B
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As a current developer of possibly the oldest surviving Battlefield mod, "Forgotten Hope" (http://www.fhmod.org), I have mixed feelings about this . To me the statement translates to the following excuse: "we won't offer mod support so modders won't see our gaping security holes". Two birds, one stone.

As some indicated above, typical current lifetime of a game is ~6 months or much less. This is what kills mods. Such a short time frame is not enough to build a toolset & pipeline for a modern content-heavy mod. It is also not worthwhile to build a community around. Modders like to know if there will be enough players left to play their mod by the time they have something they can release.

A big mistake with BF2 was that DICE/EA gave away a half-baked mod toolkit. The mod community would probably have been better off without; because modders would have build their own (often superior) tools. Due to this availability, homebrew mod tool development was delayed as many tried in vain to use the highly unstable waste-of-time that is called 'BF2Editor'. (I still can't believe DICE actually used this POS to create BF2!). So if a company is going to offer mod support, they have to go all the way.

With BF2 DICE/EA also broke mods on several occasions with patches. It required all sort of insane workarounds to make mods work again. Some features were irreversibly broken. I would rather have the assurance that no patch is going to break my mod in the future (or at least a heads-up when it does). That is far more important than an SDK. Modders are pretty inventive and are capable of building their own tools (a DICE studio even uses some of the tools I and others created).

But to get back on-topic: scary business because of hacking potential? I think that's a poor excuse, because there will be hackers/cheaters regardless of mods. If your mod tools enables (or aids) some kind of hacking/cheating, then your security is a failure one way or another.
And guess what? Modders fear hackers just the same! I for one would not make a mod for a game that is going to be ruined by hackers. Call of Duty 2 had great modding potential, but was destroyed by rampant cheating, and mod support had nothing to do with that.

Ultimately, mods are moot because DICE/EA doesn't care for post-release game life, and mods are part of that. And as others suggested before, it makes perfect economic sense to willfully neglect older games so people buy the sequels.

When I helped DICE/EA with the last BF2 patch, they weren't even interested in supporting their own DLCs, let alone mods. A primary reason for the last BF2 patch was to add SecuROM, as their SafeDisk license had expired (thankfully failed after legal threats). Only a handful of actual bugfixes made it in. For some reason people keep seeing 'support' where there really is 'none' whatsoever. Free patches/DLCs are only to bridge the gap to the next sequel announcement.

As a long time hard-core old-skool modder, I hate to say it, but the golden days of Battlefield modding are long, long over. Even if DICE/EA would suddenly start to care, the very short game lifetime combined with toolset learning curve, technical/artistic complexity of modern games...make it not worth the effort.

So I don't think it is entirely fair to put the blame on DICE/EA alone, a big part of it is that the games industry simply moves to fast.

william marsh
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No mod tools on Call of Duty and BF titles helped me decide to drop both games from my wishlist and download Unity. I won't build COD or BF but I will have fun doing what I do and I won't be spending money on DLC. No company will increase the cost of my platform games >30% just cuz... etc


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