Wolfenstein: The New Order and modding

I’ve been a massive fan of Wolfenstein since the very first game, Wolfenstein 3D. I played it briefly as a little kid before my grandparents decided it was too adult for me and restricted my access.

wolfenstein-3dI doubt kids of this generation would be phased by the pixels.

When I hit early high school, I became reunited with this game, and discovered it’s extensive and at the time large modding community. Over the decades hundreds and most likely thousands of mods were made for the original game, not just changing maps and graphics but pushing the abilities of the engine to it’s limit. Talented programmers converted the game engine to get around memory constraints and added many many features that pushed the game so far that sometimes it’s hard to recognize it as Wolfenstein 3D.

So, we get to Wolfenstein: The New Order. Upon running it for the first time, I was treated to the honour of being forced to agree to a EULA. I skipped through it as 99.9% of people do, but did skim a little bit of it. I saw mention of the following.

If the Software makes available, as a separate downloadable installer, a level editor or other similar type tools, assets and other materials (the “Software Utilities”) that permit you to construct or customize new game levels and other related game materials for personal use in connection with the Software (“Customized Game Materials”), then in the event you access such Software Utilities, the use of the Software Utilities is subject to the following additional terms, conditions and restrictions:

(a) All Customized Game Materials created by you are exclusively owned by LICENSOR and/or its licensors (as the case may be) and you hereby transfer, assign and convey to LICENSOR all right, title and interest in and to the Customized Game Materials and LICENSOR and its permitted licensors may use any Customized Game Materials made publicly available to you for any purpose whatsoever, including but not limited to for purposes of advertising and promoting the Software

So basically, should a level editor or any type of game modding tool get released, any content you create in those tools become the property of the “LICENSOR”, which I assume is Bethesda/Machine Games/id Software.

If my assumption is right, this unsettles me. Modding games is something that has been around as long as games have been. I can almost guarantee that from the moment the first video game came out, people tinkered with it; it’s human nature to do so.
We are at that point where community involvement is nearly crucial to games. Valve rely on community created content for games like Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2. Community created content that gets approved for the game actually goes into an in-game store, which the creator gets most of the money for.
The new game being developed in the Unreal Tournament series, UT4, is being made transparently with actual contributions from the community. Every step of the way, we can see videos of work in progress, offer feedback and ideas, and even view and contribute to programming, map design and any other aspect of the game we’re interested in. After release (Which will be 100% free), there will be a marketplace for the game, in which users can sell their own content created for the game. This can be anything from maps, models, sounds, even full blown game modes and other mods.

So in a world where this is direction we’re headed, it is frustrating to see one of my favourite game developers take such a backward stance. Id Software used to keep modding in mind, and actually encourage it.
The original Doom games were built to use WAD files, so users could create their own campaigns and other modifications and release them in one easily shared file. The result of creating such a classic game and making it with modding in mind is that the game is kept alive, people are still playing it and even creating new content for the game despite it being over twenty years old.

Since then it feels like community has fallen by the wayside for Id Software, possibly due to the acquisition by Zenimax. Rage was released in October of 2011, but it took until February 2013 – 16 months after release – to get the official modding tools up. The game had Multiplayer, but only co-operative missions and a four player vehicular competitive mode. I never played it because it just was not popular enough to find anyone to play with.
I decided, upon writing this piece of word vomit, to look up the wide, vast variety of mods that would have come out in the past year and a half of the game’s release. Except it turns out only one mod is listed on ModDB, which adds a new single player map and a survival map (?) as well as a bunch of balancing modifications.

There could be any variety of reasons for why the game did not have multiplayer game modes more commonly associated with first person shooters. It is questionable whether or not they would have helped the longevity of the game, but in comparison with games like Quake 3, which people are still playing, Rage was a failure.

Wolfenstein: The New Order won’t suffer from that problem with longevity because Id Software didn’t even implement multiplayer this time. This seems like a good decision, given the way other shooters like those in the Call of Duty series are losing any real decent story in their campaigns.
Should we get any modding tools for this game, obviously those mods will need to be singleplayer.
At the time of writing there has been five thousand total players playing the game at the same time on Steam today. There is obviously a player base at the moment, so if any modding tools were released in a timely fashion, we should be able to get some mods out and there will be a sizable number of people to play them. That leads to the original issue though; will players be willing to create content that takes their valuable spare time to make, only for Id Software and Zenimax to look at it and go “That is ours now.”?

I’m willing to guess, probably not.

  • Josh

    The simple answer is that Carmack is no longer involved. He always advocated allowing the community to tinker with the game code and id Software thrived because of it.

    Now you have CEOs and shareholders wanting income growth so the devs are trying to find new ways of making money, and that includes profiting off community mods. The fallout from Steam allowing mod sales probably only slowed down the direction we are heading, but surely did not stop it. As an old school gamer, this really makes me sad. Modding the hell out of Quake and UT were sometimes more fun than actually playing them, and I think the same can be said about Skyrim.

    • I would still say it has more potential to help modders than it does to hurt them. What it does will depend on the companies themselves but it’s still people making the decisions, if they want to make money off of mods and they’re smart they’ll do it in a way that encourages their community to make mods. If they don’t do it that way it won’t work and they’ll stop doing it, or they’ll keep doing it and it’ll mean nothing.
      What Valve was offering to do, mainly, was let community members profit off their own mods and it was implemented specifically for Black Mesa, so that would be an entirely different beast.

      I remember Interplay doing something like this back in the day releasing a level compilation as an expansion pack for Descent, and holding level design contests for its sequel, both were pretty well received and without them I’m not sure the modding scene for that game would have blossomed so much that there are still huge new maps and campaigns designed for it, since it wasn’t an easy game to build for compared to its contemporaries.

  • Honestly I don’t see it that way. I doubt the company would be interested in any but the very best mods and maps done for the game and at any rate, there isn’t much modders can do with their creations after they’ve been built apart from releasing them to the community. The company isn’t going to bother using that rule unless it’s actually worth the time and effort to use it…
    In essence they might act like they own a map or a mod *if they decide that particular map or mod is worth owning*, but even if they do decide that it doesn’t really take any rights away from the people who made it that they would have had if the agreement wasn’t there.