Over the last several weeks, we've spent a considerable amount of time sharing the exciting news surrounding a user-made mod for ARMA 2 called DayZ which with over a million players, is now on its way to becoming a standalone game for developer Bohemia Interactive and the mod's creator. The ability for the community to build mods extended the life of ARMA 2 just as it does continuously for the PC versions of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Minecraft.
For PC players of Battlefield 3, no such luck.
In the past, several of DICE's Battlefield games shared similar success stories, dating back to the origins of the franchise with Battlefield 1942 where a group of friends (who formed Trauma Studios) built the infamous Desert Combat mod (video above, skip to 1:40) for the game. That mod - which turned the WWII shooter into one set in present day - was played nearly as much as the actual game, and DICE acquired the indie studio to help build Battlefield 2, a game that also hosted its fair share of mod support where users added missing features from the game, game engine improvements and even total conversions.
Modding allows players to create and play the game the developer cannot or will not make, whether it be moving the gameplay to a different time period, adding or changing weapons/vehicles, or simply building in missing features. Treyarch struck cold in taking its Call of Duty games a little less seriously with the inclusion of zombie mode. For Battlefield, fans hoped that a prank about dinosaurs in the game could become a reality and with mods, they can.
Why then, if the previous games in the series supported it, and if it's proving successful for other games (and past BF installments), does DICE and Electronic Arts not support modding for Battlefield 3, a game that represents the company biggest launch ever?
This is what EA's Patrick SÃ¶derlund said to GameStar last summer as the reason why Battlefield 3 will not have mod support:
"Because if you look at the Frostbite engine, and how complex it is, it’s going to be very difficult for people to mod the game, because of the nature of the set up of levels, of the destruction and all those things… it’s quite tricky. So we think it’s going to be too big of a challenge for people to make a mod."
It's too complex for the modding community is what Mr. SÃ¶derlund said. Watch the full interview for more Battlefield 3 gold, especially the explanation of tactical gameplay involving destructible lights substituting for the lack of a commander role:
This year, the tune has changed slightly and according to DICE GM Karl Magnus Troedsson in discussing the game at GDC Europe last week, the lack of Battlefield 3 mod support is because of two reasons. The first being that they're afraid of hackers exploiting the code, the second because it's a multiplatform title and they (inexplicably) want mods to work on consoles as well.
"We're afraid of all the things that can come with releasing the code."
"If we do mod support, we want to do it really, really well. We are not ready to do this yet."
With the Frostbite 2 engine paving the way for a variety of upcoming EA titles and the importance of the Origin online service for the publisher, we can understand the fear of hackers causing an unbalance in multiplayer gameplay if they're able to exploit the system to their advantage. We also understand that the Origin platform simply isn't built to include or service modded games, at least not yet.
When it comes to the issue of Battlefield 3 also being a multiplayer title on other platforms, namely the PS3 and Xbox 360, that shouldn't be a factor. Of course there won't be mod support for the consoles, they can't even support the same player counts in the vanilla game from PC to console. It's a closed system and there are no mods for Minecraft or Skyrim on the consoles either.
The reality is that Battlefield 3 released before it was finished. That's why more than any previous game in the series, there's a reliance on heavy patching and DLC. In fact, when BF3 launched the Origin service was untested to the public and still in beta. That doesn't mean official mod tools can't come down the line, however.
As Battlefield 3 loses popularity over time and once all of the planned DLC releases have released prior to Battlefield 4, we said before that it'd be smart for DICE to release modding tools to allow for some community passion and creativity. Who knows, maybe by doing so DICE can find a next crop of talent to hire to work on Battlefield 4 or Battlefield: Bad Company 3. If it comes down to that, let's just hope they last longer than Trauma Studios.
Battlefield 3: Premium Edition (and the Armored Kill DLC) will be available in North America on September 11 and in Europe on September 13 for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. PlayStation 3 players will also receive an additional week of early access to all remaining digital expansion packs.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.