Modding Games: How I Work On Mods
Many video games, especially PC based ones, allow you to modify them. You usually are given a restricted API to work with, allowing you to manipulate the game in specific ways. Normally, you can’t really break the game per se, but you can indeed mess up with mods. But when you make a killer mod, people worldwide can benefit from it. I found a niche issue in Elder Scrolls Online, which I am writing a mod for.
This article is just a discussion about how I go about learning what I need to make a mod, as well as some info on the mod I’m working on.
It’s All In The Language
The first point to make about modding games – You do need to be relatively versed in the language the game wants you to code in. Fortunately, a lot of games use simple languages, with arguably the “hardest” game I’ve seen being Minecraft (where you must code your mods in Java). A lot of games have communities and offer information about how to mod them, usually by way of Wiki’s or official blog posts.
When I found my niche issue in Elder Scrolls Online (ESO from here on), I immediately went to ESO UI. This website holds pretty much all of ESO’s mods, however there will be some that don’t publish here, or even publish at all. Some people make mods just for themselves, which also has its place. However, if you’re going to get into modding games, I’d recommend at least finding the largest community or mod site for your game.
Finding The Resources
When I started looking into the information for ESO, I had to go to ESO UI. On here, there is a Wiki section, which gave an insight to the world of coding a mod (known as Addons) for ESO. It was on here that I found that Lua was the language of choice, a common language for mod development. Also, I stumbled into some tutorial pages on how to make your first ESO Addon.
Naturally, other games have their own resources. Some websites have full APIs for use with their application; even services like Discord have full APIs available, in case you want to make a chat bot. Most APIs are relatively well documented, but I won’t lie – They’re not always the easiest documentation to get through. There’s usually a lot of different aspects you can mod, so you need to know what you’re looking for.
Having A Solid Plan
Before you dive into making your first mod, make sure you know what you’re trying to make. If you just want to try and see if you can code something that appears in the game, check out tutorials for that game’s API. Meanwhile, if you’re like me and have found a niche that you want to fill, then you could write down a plan of action. Consider what it is you want to do, then think about what aspects of the game you’ll be affecting.
For instance, the mod I’m developing at the moment targets a specific screen of the crafting stations. The screen is the improvement screen, where you improve an item’s quality. Currently, the process can be described in this sequence of events:
- Select the item to improve
- There are 5 levels of item quality: White (Normal), Green (Magic), Blue (Arcane), Purple (Artifact), Gold (Legendary)
- There is a 6th level which is Grey (Trash), but these can’t be improved.
- Select the number of materials you’re going to use.
- Most people stick to max needed materials, so it has a 100% chance of improvement without destroying the item, though.
- Press E or click the Improve button.
- Press E again or click the OK button to the screen warning you that you’re about to improve the item.
- Do this for each level of improvement.
The Addon I’m developing will automate a lot of this process. I make a lot of items in game, all of which need improvement. The Addon I’m making allows the player to click a quality colour, then automate the whole process above to that quality. This drops the number of steps from 4 steps initially and 2 steps for each quality after, to just 3 steps overall. This is how my mod will work:
- Player selects the item to improve.
- Player selects the quality to improve the item to.
- Press E or click the improve button.