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In many games (often single-player computer games) there's a built-in way to alter gaming experience; either by modding (e.g. Minecraft, most games on Steam Workshop and Nexus Mods) or by some in-game way to cheat (console commands or retro-style cheat codes). And even if there is no native support, life will find a way. This can be an amazing asset to any players for several reasons:

  • It can enhance your gaming experience by adding new content (levels, quests, items, etc.).
  • It can remove / change features you dislike about a game (perhaps you dislike the 10 minute long game intro where you cannot move. I'm looking at you, Skyrim!)
  • It helps you have some stupid fun (what happens if every force applied to a rag-doll is multiplied by x10?)

These are all great things, but from experience and observation it's very clear that these things can have the complete opposite effect:

  • New content can be utterly broken and unbalanced (instant-kill weapon).
  • Removing features can lessen gameplay (I don't like questing; let's remove all quests).
  • Remove the need to actually do anything (I need to gather 1000 gold to buy this item? give_gold 1000).

Of course what a player finds fun and what might run their experience is completely subjective, which is why I'm not wanting to remove these features, just discourage extensive the use of them. Because the problem here is not that the player is able to do these things; the problem is that the player is unable to see that it might affect their gaming experience in a negative fashion and when it does they are often unable to localize the problem and its source leading to them getting bored of the game because of their own actions.

So my question is this; How do I give players all of the benefits of altering my game but also make them understand that it might lessen their gaming experience so that they (themselves) can regulate their use of it? Again note that I'm not trying to completely prevent it; only discourage it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it really impossible for extensive use of mods to be fun? Personally, I wouldn't want you to decide for me. I hate systems I encounter that deliberately and artificially restrict what I can do with them, game or not. \$\endgroup\$ – Anko Apr 22 '17 at 14:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Anko absolutely not, I adore mods and cheats and I use them extensively wherever I can. And as for deciding I don't wish to decide for the users - that's why I wrote "...so that they (themselves) can regulate their use of it" instead of simply excluding it. \$\endgroup\$ – Charanor Apr 22 '17 at 15:05
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A very common method is to disable achievements when gameplay-affecting mods are enabled or cheats are used. Players want those achievements. But when they are using overpowered mods or cheats, they become meaningless anyway, so disabling them is completely reasonable. This encourages the player to try everything in the game in vanilla mode at least once.

The nice thing about this method is that it only affects players who have not yet unlocked all achievements. The moment where all achievements are unlocked is also the moment where the player runs out of stuff to do. So this is also the ideal moment to bring out the mods and cheats to refresh the game experience.

To still allow the player some convenience mods which improve the game experience without making the game notably easier or harder, you could mark certain functionality in your modding API as "achievement-safe" and still allow achievements with mods which only use the achievement-safe API features.

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