ARTICLE: The State of Gameplay Mods

The last time I seriously wrote a review for the old Doom Armory site was probably some time in 2008. At that point, I felt the "scene" for gameplay mods and weapon patches was beginning to stagnate, as was my interest in seeing more people make more mods. I believed that the community had hit its peak and probably would never go beyond the rather lofty standards set by mods like Zero Tolerance, Immoral Conduct (which at that point was nearly six years old) and my own Agent Diaz. It seemed that the weapon mod community had nowhere to go, no new frontiers to explore outside of "which old first-person shooter can I hack the resources out of next?"

It was soon after that I saw the unfortunate next step: the era of shuffle mods.

Community members were massively polarized by the release of a certain infamous mod called Aeons of Death. While it certainly wasn't the first gameplay mod to mash together so many resources from so many different places (we have Daniel's ZDGuns to thank for being the first), it certainly gained the most reputation...both good and bad. Its supporters love it because it can provide a literal new experience every time the game is started, simply because of how many unique monsters and weapons are available. Its detractors are far more vocal, decrying the gigantic arsenal and selection of monsters as being inconsistent at best, redundant and ugly at worst.

Aeons of Death provoked perhaps the harshest response possible when it was featured in Scuba Steve's 2010 edition of his annual Doomworld feature, The Cacowards. There, it earned the title "Worst Wad" - not for its quality of workmanship, but because of the precedent it set: that one could create an epic "masterpiece" merely from assembling bits and pieces of other games, and that it was entirely possible that said project would gain a number of fans because they recognized elements they liked from games they'd played years ago.

I don't disagree with that. In fact, in many cases, I believe that the popularity of these so-called "shuffle mods" is precisely the problem with gameplay mods these days. Too many people would rather just add more cool stuff to their arsenal and never pay any mind to how well it all fits together. I cite the far worse examples of Alando Guns X, 100GunsX, and Serious Skulltag, the latter of which actually got its creator banned from at least one forum for stealing content made by other users. I still see mods like this getting made, and in the worst cases, no credit whatsoever is being given to the people actually responsible for creating the content. (One author absolutely insisted that he'd made a weapon that I had coded years ago - his code was identical to mine, right down to a placeholder message.)

But shuffle mods aren't all that's been made over the past few years. The more experienced folks have been taking more of a "back to basics" route, especially those who entered CutmanMike's Mutator Contests. Maybe working within limits is the best way to inspire creativity - after all, without the restrictions on new graphics, we wouldn't have such unique ideas as Omega or Parkour, or (dare I self-promote?) Style Mod.

Maybe there's a dividing line here. The people who will carry this community forward from the hell that is resource-ripped shuffle mods...are the people who actually need no resources at all.