Mods & Modding—Resources and Tips, newbie-friendly

A top reason I've always gamed on PC is the wonderful modding community which develops around so many games. For those of you new to all this:
Mod = Modification—change(s) made to the game by fans;
Modder = fan who makes, or contributes to, a Mod;
Modding = changing your game, selecting and using mods which make changes you're interested in.

If you want to dip into professional articles, PCG has loads—I see ~20 in the last couple of months alone by following this link:

As the experts here—@mainer for sure, @Zloth I think, who else?—weigh in, I'll edit this post to make it more useful. I might even give credit if I'm having a good day.

Resources

NexusMods
ModDB
Steam Workshop
Experts, please add any other good ones, and ideally why you'd use some over others.

Managers

Software to make installing, changing and uninstalling easier or simplicity itself.
@mainer already suggested:
Vortex
ME3Tweaks
Steam Workshop
Experts again—no rest for the informed—any other good ones, when/where can they be used?

Examples

@mainer says there are currently over 66,500 different mods for Skyrim. To which I have 2 things to say:
1. Gulp!
2. Maybe we can coax you into making a thread combining your expertise with the recent PCG article on the same topic :)

So you see why we can't discuss individual mods or game in this thread. A few examples I use(d), to give you an idea:

I just installed the most recent version of this—they're still updating it, years later; kudos and many thanks, modders.
Out of over 100 options it gives, the big 2 for me:
♦ skip ALL the intro, start in Dutch's bunker;
♦ skip the infamous capture sequences, and be able to finish the game.

I would've enjoyed Civ4 for a few years, such a great game. With this mod, I enjoy it to this day ~15 years later—it reduces so much of the inevitable tedium in such a big game.

This one is… mental. A huge mod for Red Alert 2 Yuri's Revenge, for example:
♦ A new faction, The Foehn Revolt;
♦ A 100-mission campaign!

Most mods are much smaller of course, the above require teams of talented fans working together.

Okay, over to you all—what do you know, what do you need to know?
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Mods really are important stuff. I'm worried about how they'll survive if the "cloud gaming" takes off, but that's a future worry. This is now!

It's late so I'll just list off a few mods of great note...

The "Aliens" mod for Doom was the mod that showed me what mods could really do. Doom was built with the idea of letting players make their own levels, but this went way way beyond that by changing the textures, sounds, enemies... it was still very much Doom play style, but it felt like a new game!

Mods saved Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. The game was released in pretty bad shape but, over the years, mods fixed the many bugs and even restored some excellent content that was cut from the original release. This is a so-so-at-best game that turned into a great game because of the work of modders.

Gentleman of the Row - has a similar story. Saints Row 2 was ported to PC (by CDProjekt Black) very badly. They didn't even fix timings so, depending on your processor speed, the game could be outright unplayable. Modders came in and fixed it up nicely, though, making this another fine game that would have long since been forgotten had it not been for their work.
 
I'm worried about how they'll survive if the "cloud gaming" takes off
My hope is the devs will release SDKs for the modders, and the retailers will have the equivalent of Steam Workshop where modders upload and players can install or disable in a few clicks.

The browser extensions niche works kinda like this, as does the YouTube modding scene as far as I know.

The "Aliens" mod for Doom
I haven't tried it, but the Age of Doom mod sounds spectacular too:
 
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Resources

NexusMods
ModDB
Steam Workshop
Experts, please add any other good ones, and ideally why you'd use some over others.

Managers

Software to make installing, changing and uninstalling easier or simplicity itself.
@mainer already suggested:
Vortex
ME3Tweaks
Steam Workshop
Experts again—no rest for the informed—any other good ones, when/where can they be used?

Resources

As far as resources go, the Nexus is the place that I start when looking to mod a game:
Welcome to Nexus Mods
We host 329,530 files for 1,445 games from 134,253 authors serving 28,840,303 members with 5,056,910,097 downloads to date. We support modding for all PC games. If you can mod it, we'll host it.

There are a couple other sources available, that I haven't used, but may be of interest:

There is Lover's Lab: LoversLab is creating Adult Game Mods (18+) | Patreon
Where you can pretty much mod some games to the point of being X-rated. Not my thing truthfully, but it does exist, but it's also not free. PCG did an article about it several years ago:
Inside the Skyrim sex modding community where almost no taboo is off limits | PC Gamer

There's also AFK Mods: Downloads - AFK Mods
This site is another one I have actually used, but is definitely worth keeping an eye on. Started by Arthmoor who pulled all his mods from the Nexus over a recent policy change on mod collections. PCG did an article this year on this issue:
One of Skyrim's most popular modders is pulling his work from Nexus Mods | PC Gamer

I don't really have an opinion on the choice that he made, but Arthmoor and several other modders have left over that policy change, the essence of which can be found here:
Collections - Preview and Tester Sign Up at Nexus mods and community
It's one of those controversial issues that PC gamers who mod should be aware of.

Managers

In addition to those you listed there's also Mod Manager 2 (MO2):
Mod Organizer 2 at Skyrim Special Edition Nexus - Mods and Community (nexusmods.com)
It offers a completely different approach to general modding of PC games. Personally, I found it had a very steep learning curve to understand, whereas Vortex was much easier for me to grasp, as it was much more "visual", if that makes sense. It's just another option. Some people swear by it and disparage Vortex, and some Vortex users will say the same about MO2. I say, look at them both and find what suits you. I'll still recommend Vortex as a general mod manager any day: Nexus mods and community

Examples

@mainer says there are currently over 66,500 different mods for Skyrim. To which I have 2 things to say:
1. Gulp!
2. Maybe we can coax you into making a thread combining your expertise with the recent PCG article on the same topic :)
Thanks, but I really don't consider myself to be an expert at modding games. When you consider the fact that all through high school and college the digital age didn't exist. No PCs, no internet, no cellphones, ect. Everything I've learned since is self taught. Modding games was much the same at first, and I made a lot of mistakes, though I feel I've come to a comfortable spot when modding certain games.

I have gained a lot of experience at modding certain games, primarily Bethesda's games, but over the years of doing that it was mostly trial and error (heavy on the error at the beginning). The most important thing I can say would be to read. Read the mod authors description, install instructions, conflicts, compatibilities, and patches (if needed). Also, if on the Nexus, look through the Posts Section and the Bugs Section. You can often pick up info there that you hadn't considered. Most complaints come from someone who just hasn't taken the time to read through the information provided by the mod author.

Mods really are important stuff. I'm worried about how they'll survive if the "cloud gaming" takes off, but that's a future worry. This is now!
That worries me, as well as how the acquisition of Bethesda by Microsoft will affect future games. I think one of the reasons Bethesda's games have achieved such longevity, is the ability to mod them from multiple sources, without fear of censorship, or cost. Will that be affected? I really hope not, and I guess we'll find out when Starfield releases next year. But I am concerned.

If you look at the top 6 games on the Nexus, ranked by number of mods available, they are:
Skyrim @ 66.4k
Skyrim SE @ 40k
Fallout 4 @ 38.6k
Fallout New Vegas @ 24.4k (granted that was Obsidian, but the same game engine)
Oblivion @ 30k
Fallout 3 @ 15.6k

Hopefully, nothing will change, but I'm always skeptical of corporate takeovers, despite their promises, as I've lived through a couple back when I was working.
 
I also want to encourage people to learn how to mod themselves. Countless times I've played a game and thought, 'You know, this would be better if...' and then changed it myself because there were no mods that did what I wanted. This is important if, like me, you play a bunch of indies that really don't have mods.

A good first step for learning how to make your own mods is to find a game that has tons of mods, like Skyrim, and then searching for 'how to' videos or written guides. Of course, modding is a bit different on each game, but learning how to mod one game will still help you with modding other games.
 
I also want to encourage people to learn how to mod themselves. Countless times I've played a game and thought, 'You know, this would be better if...' and then changed it myself because there were no mods that did what I wanted. This is important if, like me, you play a bunch of indies that really don't have mods.

A good first step for learning how to make your own mods is to find a game that has tons of mods, like Skyrim, and then searching for 'how to' videos or written guides. Of course, modding is a bit different on each game, but learning how to mod one game will still help you with modding other games.
I completely agree, there's many times I've been playing a game and wished I could either add or change some feature in the game There are lots of tutorial articles and videos that detail (to varying degrees) how to use a game's specific set of mod tools. Bethesda games, like Skyrim as you mentioned, are a good place for anyone to start as there's probably more information and tutorials available than for any other game.

It can be time consuming. The last time I delved into a games modding tools was with Morrowind. I wasn't really focused enough on a creating a specific mod, but I became engrossed in the architectural building sets, I spent countless hours with them, and while I never uploaded any, I did use some of my created buildings in my own game, primarily as home bases. I think that's why I like the settlement building aspect of Fallout 4 so much, it's very reminiscent of working with modding tools.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Sometimes modding is REALLY easy. Sword of the Stars 2 has a mechanic where you spend a few turns researching whether you will be able to research a technology. So, after a couple of turns, your scientists would tell you there's a very good chance they will be able to complete research into meson torpedoes, or they tell you there isn't much chance so you don't waste time trying to research it. The problem for me was that the pre-research check is very inaccurate. What's the point of making a forecast when you can't do so accurately? The number determining the accuracy was in one of the game's many .ini files, though. I just looked at the file with Notepad, changed the 0.5 to 0.95, and had a lot more fun with my game!

Most games aren't like that, but some are. XCOM2 has piles of stats in the .ini files, for instance.
 
Sometimes modding is REALLY easy. Sword of the Stars 2 has a mechanic where you spend a few turns researching whether you will be able to research a technology. So, after a couple of turns, your scientists would tell you there's a very good chance they will be able to complete research into meson torpedoes, or they tell you there isn't much chance so you don't waste time trying to research it. The problem for me was that the pre-research check is very inaccurate. What's the point of making a forecast when you can't do so accurately? The number determining the accuracy was in one of the game's many .ini files, though. I just looked at the file with Notepad, changed the 0.5 to 0.95, and had a lot more fun with my game!

Most games aren't like that, but some are. XCOM2 has piles of stats in the .ini files, for instance.

Paradox' grand strategy games have pretty much every variable you might want to change in plain text settings files. Save files are plain text as well and can therefore easily be edited as well.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
They're good for changing the graphics, too. I've got 0 clue how to do those.

full

Cyclons in X3

Want to see Lara Croft fight Kratos?
View: https://youtu.be/pLNkuEdeFlU


Voices work, too...
View: https://youtu.be/urFu8bgd5RU

Duke Nuke'm, Schwarzenegger, Laura Bailey, and others I don't know off the top of my head at the end of that one.
 
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