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Opinion: Next-gen consoles need to embrace modding

Rob Taylor thinks the future lies in gamers' hands

Now, for a while it looked like PC gaming was all going the way of the dodo, but - having battled piracy to an uneasy stalemate - it's well and truly back in the big time. Lazarus mod your heart out. In part, that's ostensibly because everybody who considers themselves a remotely hardcore gamer is sick to the hind teeth with the near-obsolete tech currently masquerading as cutting edge console gaming, and many have treated themselves to a beige box in lieu of any shiny new consoles.


Nope, the renaissance of PC is also because of a revelation that's taken consoles waaaay too long to catch onto. PC games have always been better, and it's nothing to do with keyboard/mice combos, GTX 690s in SLI configurations or multi-monitor setups - it's mods.

Consider this fact: once the console and the PC gamer were almost entirely separate entities, chalk and cheese, Banjo and, er... Kazooie. Games like Oblivion, Skyrim and - more recently - Minecraft have brought the audiences together, negated this disparity. Now we're all PC gamers of a sort - especially Xbox 360 owners.

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Which brings us to our core point. In an age where every gamer is a potential game developer - and a bloody talented one at that - consoles need mods to flourish. Just look at Skyrim: within a day ofrelease there were already hundreds of user-created mods on the Skyrim Nexus, one of which - a post-process injector - instantly elevated the PC version's slightly ropey vanilla-visuals to Witcher 2-besting fare. Now, at the time of writing, there are 17,000 of them.

Some are simply simple glitch fixes, others are shudder nude skins - but an insanely impressive number are genuinely stunning additions to the adventure. Pegged Skyrim as your GOTY on 360 but haven't played a modded PC version? You're still missing out.

WE ARE THE MODS

Back in the day, mods were essentially glorified hacks. Now, the savvier developers actively embrace the talent of their gratis global workforce. Bethesda released the Skyrim Creation Kit as DLC on PC, Valve have their Perpetual Testing Initiative for Portal 2 (within days, levels of the scope, complexity and ingenuity to put Valve themselves in the shade were being uploaded). Tellingly, both these toolsets were only available on PC.

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Minecraft is another notable example. Curiously, the version chosen for initial release on Xbox (Beta 1.6.6) was so removed from the current PC incarnation that the two were, in the eyes of the hardcore, different games - especially considering most PC players had a wealth of custom mods installed, meaning almost every copy either looks or plays uniquely. To see the extent of the talent pool in fandom just Google 'Minecraft + Game of Thrones' and gawp at the results.

So let's hope next-gen embraces these gaming warriors, embraces the exciting world of modding - and eschews the scary closed-platform, police state-alike future the likes of Microsoft appear to be embracing with the forthcoming Windows 8.

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