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I have not modded a single game in my life, but I really, really want to start. I'm a 3D animator (make no money from this, just a serious hobby) and a budding Object Orientated programmer (make all my money from my own web applications, I'm not a millionaire but I live comfortably and have bags of time on my hands) so I feel like I will be able to make some incredible mods.

Fallout is my favourite game series of all time, has a vibrant modding community, its open-world style means the sky's the limit (and occasionally further!), there are excellent modding tools available (such as the GECK), and Bethesda has an excellent attitude towards licencing (unlike those nazis over at EA), so I'm one-hundred percent sure that's what I want to mod.

However I have no idea what modding a game is like, and while the only way to find this out is by modding, what I'd really like to know is how do I determine when is the right time to mod? My heart wants to download the GECK (the fallout editor) right now and get stuck in, but I'm being sensible and writing this question.

The last fallout game (New Vegas) is nearly half a decade old (2010) and Fallout 4 is lurking in the future somewhere. I want to dive in modding new vegas, but where will I be when fallout 4 comes out? Will there be only a slight learning curve and then all the skills I've learned will be utilized to start modding really quickly in Fallout 4?

Or, in between games, are modders simply left in purgatory regarding future releases? Could I become a Fallout 3/NV mod ninja, and then have to learn everything again come Fallout 4? Or do companies such as Bethesda make an active effort to keep everything consistent?

I feel 3D engines are like web frameworks such as Zend and Rails. Basically, I've put all my eggs in Rails and have never looked back. I'm sure that as the web changes, Rails will change with it. I spend every moment of my professional life with Rails as I'm confident it will never die and I will be able to build on my existing skills until I retire. This attitude means I can really throw myself at projects, go the extra mile and learn new skills. However, will I not be able to do this with modding? Will there always be lurking doubt that come the next game, everything I've learned will be useless? Will every new game hit me with a learning curve?

Also (and this would me awesome if true but I kind of doubt it), are moden games similar enough that if I'm a Fallout ninja, the learning curve wouldn't be too crazy if I then wanted to mod Crysis or Portal or even a non-fps like Civ5?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Anko, Jari Komppa, MrCranky, MichaelHouse Apr 27 '14 at 13:53

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is getting philosophical and it sounds like you mainly have a motivation problem, so ZEN MODE ENGAGE!! *transformation scene* This too will pass. Rails will die, Fallout will die, Civ will die, you will die, I will die. Progress progresses regardless of whether you sit there staring at it or chase your dreams. You want change? Do it. </trite> \$\endgroup\$ – Anko Apr 26 '14 at 17:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Off-Topic: You think Ruby on Rails will never die? You aren't in this business for long, are you? \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Apr 26 '14 at 17:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Philipp It's 10 years old and excellent. Why would literally millions of developers suddenly choose to another framework? Makes no sense at all. And the skills I've learned regarding MVC architecture will help me in a new, more open technology such as node.js, that's my point. I'm concerned about being set back to square 1 when modding a new game (which wouldn't happen with a new framework), that's all. \$\endgroup\$ – Starkers Apr 26 '14 at 17:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Starkers What do you think all those people thought who wrote web applications in form of perl cgi-scripts 15 years ago? \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Apr 26 '14 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Starkers that's what you say about Perl from todays point of view and it is likely the same others will say about RoR in 15 years. The only constant in IT is change itself. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Apr 26 '14 at 17:36
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Every game is different and offers different ways to mod it.

General skills like pixel art, music composing, 3d modeling and game design do of course transfer, but when it comes to getting these assets into the game and changing game mechanics, each game engine is completely different.

Some games expose various parts of the game logics in form of scripts, but these can come in all kinds of different scripting languages with all kinds of different APIs. Others require intensive reverse-engineering of the game binaries to get them to do something different than what they are supposed to do. When there already is an active modding community and/or the will of the developers to support modding, you will find documentation and tutorials to help you get started, but when there isn't you will need to apply some hacking skills to figure out how things work on your own.

When two games are based on the same game engine, you will often notice that lots of things work very similar. But when you switch to a game with a different engine, you will have to start learning from almost zero.

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