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I've made a fair number of 2D games (and actually completed/released a few of them). I'm hesitant to move into the 3D realm, because of the order of magnitude (everything takes ~10x more work).

To get started, I was thinking about picking something and modding it. What's a good, "easily" moddable game? By easily, I really mean:

  • Most or all of the content can be changed via tools (not code)
  • Tools are included, and mature (don't crash much, etc.)
  • The game is free or cheap
  • The game is scriptable (scripting language or SDK)

I'm not really particular about a target language, although I lean towards something more like C# than JavaScript.

If this is not a "good" question, we can make it a list and community wiki it. I really want to know options to get started in the 3D modding realm.

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Any specific game genre? Most genres have a specific game or two well known for moddability, but... –  thedaian Jan 9 '12 at 22:26
@thedaian I'm not really picky on genre either. Anything interesting is fine. –  ashes999 Jan 9 '12 at 22:33
see also gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/6213/… –  Tetrad Jan 9 '12 at 22:55
-1. Seems to be a disguised "which technology should I use" question, which is explicitly off-topic as per gamedev.stackexchange.com/faq#questions Like all such questions, there's no 'correct' answer possible, and any answer would be localised in time, so it may no longer be correct a few months from now. –  Trevor Powell Mar 10 '12 at 1:57
I don't see how its a "which technology should I use" question. Its asking what technologies meet well specified criteria (that are objective in nature) and any game that is easy to mod now will be easy to mod until the related development tools are no longer supported which effects all software development. The answers may become less complete over time but they will never be incorrect. –  ClassicThunder Mar 10 '12 at 2:16
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closed as not constructive by Tetrad Jun 20 '13 at 19:11

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4 Answers

Roblox is a game scripted in Lua, it's 3D, free (You can pay for virtual money), and has lots of tools. Lua is a very easy language. Roblox is a basically a website, where you make games or play games. There is a shop to customize your avatar and buy gear. The only problem is that mostly everything in the shop is extremely expensive. The games in it can be made with or without Lua. Roblox is made out of blocks, but with ramps and stuff. If you want to check it out, it's www.roblox.com

My second favorite game is Minecraft. It uses java to script. You can make mods for it, but you cannot actually program in-game. You can generate a world randomly, and everything is made out of blocks. The only problem is it's $20 (maybe $30 now that it's out of beta), but I think it is totally worth it. If you want to try it, it's at www.minecraft.net

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Although I've never used it personally, I believe The Elder Scroll Construction Set is incredibly powerful and lets you change virtually anything in The Elder's Scroll games (as you can probably deduce from the over 25 thousands mods available here). I've seen both Oblivion and Morrowind for sale at 75% off before on Steam (i.e. at 5$ each) although that's not the case right now.

And of course, Half Life and most other Valve games are also extremely moddable. For a more complete coverage of the topic, you might want to start exploring this website though.

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The game Dungeon Defenders (available via Steam) has a free DLC for its development kit. Its based on the Unreal 3 engine so its a modified version of the UDK, but the entire game is modable and its price is not too high and often goes on sale as of late (But that may have just been the recent holidays). Not going to put up my own answer as what could be accepted, the longest list of cheapest games to mod? :) –  James Jan 9 '12 at 23:16
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I have had a good experience with Bohemia Interactive's ArmA II. Very good support by both the creators and the community. Scripting is particularly well thought-out, with a built-in mission editor that live-reloads your scripts.
I found the vanilla game itself a bit off-putting, though. I feel this is an important aspect to consider when choosing a game to mod. It's easier to create a fun mod when starting with a fun game.

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Modding is dead. Don't misinterpret that - modding was originally introduced as a way for people to experiment with virtual worlds without creating them entirely from scratch; many assets made for them, most common game code already in place.

We can now get most of that in free programs entirely built for that purpose, without bothering to having a $50 game surrounding it. Unity3D, Unreal Development Kit, and CryEngine 3 are all examples of open-to-use engines that come with some basic assets, a physics engine, and a number of useful developer tools that don't necessarily need you to program. So when I say "modding is dead", all I mean is that those hobbyists called modders can now just pick a free engine and call themselves "game developers".

Unity supports C# directly. UDK uses its own scripting language, UnrealScript, which I believe is similar to Java in some ways.

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-1: modding was not for making virtual worlds, it was -- and still quite actively is -- a way for people to enhance and experiment with their favorite IPs/games without needing to build a whole new world from scratch. See Steam Workshop as a simple example of this, or moddb, or Nexus or so one. –  Sean Middleditch Jun 20 '13 at 18:08
You'll notice the poster's requirements didn't mention anything about games having dragons, Combine soldiers, zombies, or well-known character IPs. This is a technical question. –  Katana314 Jun 20 '13 at 18:10
Tons and tons of games include tools of the nature requested by the OP. Especially as he's looking for older games (free or cheap). Your answer claims that such tools and games using them are gone or pointless in the industry today, which is just wrong, plus you proposed "write a game from scratch" as a replacement for "mod a game." Unity and a complete game - even if you make all new assets - are quite different; Unity still requires oodles of game logic and infrastructure to be written for all but the most trivial of games. –  Sean Middleditch Jun 20 '13 at 18:29
You guys nailed it. Thanks for that. –  ashes999 Jun 20 '13 at 20:51
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