Articles & Editorials: The Curse of the Mod

  • Date: 09/08/2005 | Author: Mr Lee

I am a prolific player of the mods for our wonderful Command and Conquer games. Ever since playing Yuris Revenge and thinking to myself my computer cannot run General at the minute, how do I fill the space I have trawled the internet for the best and the worst of the mods for C&C. The overall rating from me on these mods was that they were good. Initially I was very impressed with some of the graphics and the coding and even considered making my own mod. It was while drawing up the ideas for my mod that something hit me. The mod was only going to destroy the game on a simplistic level.

There are those out there reading now and you are already firing up your Internet Explorer to file a complaint at me for saying mods are destroying C&C, but wait, I can explain this. Think to yourself about the beautiful game play and the atmosphere of Red Alert 2 and YR. Think about how much you felt like you were contributing to the Great Russian War Machine by smashing the filthy Capitalist horde, or how you were repelling the heinous communists using the mighty technological Allied forces. That was a great feeling, yes? Now think of the first mod you brought in for it and how suddenly, the great Communist War Machine lost some of its greatness and became the “well rounded technologically” War Machine and how technologically advanced Allied forces became “the slightly better than Soviets because we got some firepower too forces”. This is where we find what has been dubbed ”The Curse of the Mod”.

Nowadays, you look at mods, not just for RA2 and YR, but also for Generals and ZH, and most other games, and you see people trying to create better gameplay while sacrificing what made the game what it was. Character, depth and atmosphere were crucial to the gameplay of RA2 in my eyes. Sure we had the amazing visual effects of the superb prism towers and the brute electrical blast of the Tesla coil, but it was nothing without knowing that you were helping Premier Romanov/General Carville into a bigger vision. Each side had its unique style that we learnt to adapt to, and become better Generals with. We learnt that a full on tank attack on a soviet armour column was never going to work really because we would get ripped to pieces. Not in though. In this mod we could build new allied heavy tank and we could stand toe to toe with the soviet armoured might. Was this right though? Should the allies be able to stand toe to toe with soviet armour? In my eyes it removes the Allies purpose and gives them an unfair advantage. This is an example of the Curse of the Mod. This situation steals the atmosphere and kills the gameplay in many peoples eyes. This is also where we see the Curse of the Mod in its ultimate form; Yuris Revenge.

Acerz, my fellow article writer at CNCNZ.com, pointed out why Yuri was the hardest army to win with in any game of YR. Now he also pointed out in the start that he was prepared for backlash from the article he wrote, and he asked a bit of respect because of difference. Here is why Yuri demands respect and condemning in the eyes of someone seeing him as the prime example of the Curse of the Mod;

You begin your skirmish as Yuri and you find that you have seen your enemy and you know they are going to attack you, but you also know that you have got a generic defence set up so it can beat anything. Several Gattling cannons and several psychic towers are set up. Ace, you cannot lose. BANG. Heres the problem, the Soviets and Allies would not have this liberty. The Soviets would have had to decide between building a sentry gun and flak cannon because they do not know whether or not your attack is going to try and eliminate your sentry guns with harriers/disk/V3 rockets OR whether they are going to try and hit you with Navy Seals/Crazy Ivans/Brutes. The indecision of the moment would cost an Allied/Soviet player his defence and they would be reeling. Not Yuri though, its a simple solution for him. Plunk goes the Gattling Cannon and he sits behind a comfort zone and watches as its like slinging mud against a brick wall.

For me, YR represented a move towards the ideas of someone else being imposed on a smaller group of people. In retrospect, YR was not exactly the games many people wanted. They wanted to continue with the wonderful atmosphere but they got a flawed product, something that was not C&C, they got something that was lacking in love and effort. There are specifically two units in YR that sow this imposing of ideas and the destruction of atmosphere. These units are Boris and the Battle Fortress. I will begin with the Battle Fortress. The Battle Fortress was meant to represent the Allies ideas about combating the Soviet armoured might. A large box on wheels designed to play on their strong infantry (especially with the addition of the Guardian GI). What they got instead was something capable of mowing down Soviets, Allies and Yuri alike. There was no balance to the unit whatsoever in that it could be used in nearly any situation. Many would argue that this was the intention and that the Battle Fortress was meant as an all purpose “Allied Apocalypse Tank”, what was created was a monstrously unbalanced game winning unit. I am sure many people can relate to the horror of realising you were playing against a British allied commander online, and then seeing several Battle Fortress with 2 Snipers and 3 Guardian GIs in it. After trying your best with tank rushes, and infantry sweeps and even air attacks, you have ran out of forces and you are being trodden on, finding yourself on the defensive all of a sudden because one unit allows all these upgrades. It was not ever the case where you found yourself unable to counter an allied attack before, but the Battle Fortress changed that. This was not character, it was atrocious. Boris, on the other hand, was just as bad. A man meant to represent the Soviets greatest citizen and his love of all things Russian. We all had images of him with his AK47 and his bottle of vodka, charging at the Allied base and standing a while away from then while getting out his laser designator. This designator though, was a problem in that it provided an infinite amount of airstrikes on one position, a liberty that the allies, with their superior air force, did not have. This created an unbalance as Boris designated a point in the allied defence and watch as the allied defence crumbled because of this superior technology. This was not what the allies should have had to worry about; they should have been worrying about the 8 rhino tanks trying to barge their way in through the front door like their namesake would. But little Boris, the one man army has managed to blow your door wide open and now the Apocalypse tanks are eating your base. Again, this is atrocious in many peoples eyes.

Switching the game over to Command and Conquer Generals and we see the same thing happening where the GLA gain staying power and the USA lose technology in favour of a bigger punch or China become the Technological gods. Again, something gets added to kick the character (where it had any) of Generals. ECM Tanks, Fire Bases and Battle Buses did for Zero Hour what the entirety of Yuri, Boris and The Battle Fortress did for YR. This is excusable by the simple fact that many people do not consider Generals a C&C game, merely franchise exploitation. They say this because it lacked atmosphere and the C&C feel.

Now, we move back to the modder looking for ideas as to what tank he should add to the new mod hes designing for YR. In his mind he sees a tank that has a wondrous rate of fire, has armour thats heavier than the queens purse, but not too heavy and can fire at both land and air targets. He thinks if there has ever been a real tank like that and it his him that the Shilska was like that, so he gets to work coding and skinning it for his new mod, adding it to the Soviets side. He then thinks up that the allies need something equally powerful to counter it, something with finesse and thats quite powerful. He thinks of a howitzer used by the Germans in WW2 and skins and codes it for his mod. There is a slight flaw in his thinking though. The German tanks in WW2 were the most powerful tanks on the battlefield. In RA, these tanks would be Soviet Tanks and by adding a heavy artillery piece to the Allies, he has killed off some of the character of that side and is making the mod lose something by default. This sort of thinking though, appears to be far too commonplace in the modding community, and it is tearing apart gameplay in favour of who can create the biggest tanks in the quickest time. Thats not gameplay, thats turning the game on its head.

Though, to many people, Red Alert 3/Tiberian Twilight is going to be the greatest thing EALA has made to date, they suggest far fetched ideas for it and if you look at the CNCNZ forums in the Red Alert 3 section, you see some obscure ideas and some ideas that seem cool but in reality, would kill the game before its even been launched. Unbalanced, atmosphere destroying ideas that only seem to be centred towards creating a bigger boom. I know we all suggest dream ideas, but in reality, they are silly. When we turn these ideas into mods, we kill off something that was there most of the time. Rare gem mods create something beautiful and you can normally tell which mods there are because of the amount of updates they have. If you look even closer though, you will notice that these are actually not mods, but total conversions for the games. The reality of the situation is that theres been very little in the way of real modifications for C&C games in a long time, just conversions and thats because smart people have realised, where you can use a game to create your own, you cannot create a modification without succumbing to The Curse of the Mod

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