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Thread: What makes a great mod?

  1. #1
    Retrosmith Mach's Avatar
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    Default What makes a great mod?

    Shane's Random Bits article on why modders mod? rattled loose an old idea when I was planning my berserker mod (yes, its still a WIP )

    That idea is "What make a great mod?" I mean the jaw drop...off the charts mod. The truly epic, the Doom 3, Dark Blade, Edelweiss, {insert your own here}, what makes them so epic? And if you could figure it out, could you build one too?

    Here's what I drew awhile back as I was noodling on that question.



    The way I figure it, a mod is
    1) what you build ie the finished mod,
    2) why you build it or the story that goes into it, and
    3) how you build it or the worklog.

    What you Build
    When I look at Doom 3 as a finished product, I see the amazing design with everything just working...the hidden controls, logo, and the tiny flood lamps. I'm in awe of the planning that went into it. To think that Crimson had much of what he was building thought out in advance and was able to adjust when needed is exceedingly impressive.

    Looking at any of Filimon's mod's, I'm amazed how he constantly introduces new materials, birchwood, brass, and leather that were rarely seen in mods before. The same with AnG3L. Langer's mods max out the epic factor on materials and continues to with his pursuit of Aerogel. Kayin did too with his LOTR mod.

    Lastly, a mod can be great by exploring hardware extremes but hardware changes so rapidly that its tough to keep up. It difficult to play the "bigger, faster, more" game when everything is obsolete within 6 months. But think about recent trends, water cooling is passe, folks are pushing the envelope now with phase change, oil submersion, and multiple CPUs or motherboards in one mod.

    But I've ramble enough for now, your turn? Without knowing how it was built or why, what makes the mod or the final product of modding great?

    Oh yeah, one other question, can you put a number to a mod's greatness? How do you measure it in a contest or otherwise?

  2. #2
    Undead Pirate d_stilgar's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a great mod?

    I think the biggest thing that makes a mod great is craftsmanship. This is something that cannot be done by everyone even if they could identify it and apply a formula. There are plenty of cars in the world that turn heads and really give the 'wow' factor, but there are few of us that could build or even design those cars. We lack the knowledge, skill, or design experience.

    The same goes for a good mod. We know it when we see it, but it's rare that we would have thought of that. A good mod (like any good design) is one that makes other modders feel dumb that they didn't think of it themselves. A design solution should seem like the natural response to the problem, so natural that the solution doesn't stand out on its own but becomes part of the whole design.

    I think that is why, to a certain extent, I am attracted to http://www.million-dollar-pc.com/. The mods on that site address the needs of the build and express the cases and hardware in an appropriate way. There are a few cases there that I don't think would make the design cut if I were choosing, but all of them express a high level of craftsmanship and total design.

  3. #3
    DerGanove Ichbin's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a great mod?

    I think marketing goes in there at least a little bit. Of course word of mouth is fantastic, but you have to plug and enter in some contests to be in a magazine or popular website.

    An Epic mod in my eyes, has gone viral.

  4. #4
    The floppy drive is no longer obsolete. AmEv's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a great mod?

    When you go to a LAN party, and someone associates your face with a mod.

    And you don't even know them.


    (or is that stalking...?)
    Two years. They were great. Let's make the next ones even better!

    Tri.fecta

  5. #5
    Stupidity feeds my children blueonblack's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a great mod?

    There are a lot of variables to that formula, as you mentioned, and all of the ones in your recipe are valid. Ironically, since the question was posed by you, what appeals to me the most in a mod are the details. Fit and finish are awesome, and absolutely required in an excellent mod, but the modder at the top of his game, the one who either makes other modders strive to do better or makes them wonder why they bother... that person does the details.

    Mach, you are the paradigm of what I'm talking about here. Not only details, but details that exist simply for the sake of being details. The etched-foil biocide tubes come to mind, of course, but that's simply an extreme example. The aged sticker on the bottom of Cobramatic is another.

    If someone goes to the lengths to finish the details it really makes the mod *finished* in my opinion, and that really does make a difference.
    “Do not trust people like me. I will take you to museums, and parks, and monuments, and kiss you in every beautiful place, so that you can never go back to them without tasting me like blood in your mouth. I will destroy you in the most beautiful way possible, and when I leave you will finally understand why storms are named after people.”

  6. #6
    Retrosmith Mach's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a great mod?

    Quote Originally Posted by d_stilgar View Post
    I think the biggest thing that makes a mod great is craftsmanship.

    The same goes for a good mod. We know it when we see it, but it's rare that we would have thought of that. A good mod (like any good design) is one that makes other modders feel dumb that they didn't think of it themselves.

    I think that is why, to a certain extent, I am attracted to http://www.million-dollar-pc.com/. The mods on that site address the needs of the build and express the cases and hardware in an appropriate way.
    You're right, there is an aspect craftsmanship in the final mod that makes it great. I'd call "well put together" or fit & finish.

    Wow, there's a big one that's missing. Innovation. I was highlighting the unique use of materials and design but you're right, pure innovation. A new idea that no one thought of but is dead obvious once you see it.

    Agreed on the MDPC, the mods there remind me of origami or a Japanese tea ceremony where the mod becomes a vehicle for perfection. Perfect sleeving, pictures, everything with form following function where the form is bounded by the constraints of a traditional case.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ichbin View Post
    I think marketing goes in there at least a little bit. Of course word of mouth is fantastic, but you have to plug and enter in some contests to be in a magazine or popular website.

    An Epic mod in my eyes, has gone viral.
    It's an interesting measure, viral. Especially when you consider that many people cross posts their mods to many forums these days. Its a chicken and the egg though, is a mod viral because its epic or is epic because it gone viral? In other words (to go all Morpheus on you ), if an epic mod gets built in a basement and no one sees it, is it still epic?

    Quote Originally Posted by AmEv View Post
    When you go to a LAN party, and someone associates your face with a mod. And you don't even know them. (or is that stalking...?)
    A little weird and likely stalking It is an interesting question for prolific, epic modder's like Bill Owen. What's the weirdest reaction you have had to someone meeting you or your mods in person?

    Quote Originally Posted by blueonblack View Post
    ... that person does the details.

    Mach, you are the paradigm of what I'm talking about here. Not only details, but details that exist simply for the sake of being details. The etched-foil biocide tubes come to mind, of course, but that's simply an extreme example. The aged sticker on the bottom of Cobramatic is another.

    If someone goes to the lengths to finish the details it really makes the mod *finished* in my opinion, and that really does make a difference.
    Thanks Blue, I agree details are important. I'd propose that intricate or visible details imbue epic aspects into the finished mod but hidden details have nothing to do with whether the finished product is great. The reason I put the hidden tubes in Barsarkar-gang wasn't for the finished mod, it was for the worklog. I tripped over the idea with Cobra-matic's sticker. The idea that our hobby is as much worklog-ing as it is modding. Bear with me on this point....

  7. #7
    Retrosmith Mach's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a great mod?

    Let's talk about how Worklogs make a mod great. When I started down the path of designing Barsarkar-gang, I struggled with how to do a worklog well, the purpose,as well as the reasons for a worklog altogether. When I don't understand something, I look to an analog of something that I do understand and extrapolate.

    I came to modding late in 2005 via car modding (my handle Mach is one taken from an old Mustang forum). Car modding has a lot of similarities to case modding except for worklogs. When you add up all the similarities, community, social interaction, asking for help, the car show, etc, you come up with limited parallels on worklogs.

    The closest parallel that I could find was not in car modding at all but in art class, specifically in-class critiques where your work in progress was criticized, sometimes brutally so, including your process for creating. As my sculpture professor used to say, "If you perfect your process, you perfect your art."

    So if modding has greater similarities to art than cars, and worklogs are our way to document and critique the creative process, then what do epic mods have in common in their worklogs? And if you figured them out, could you apply them to your worklogs to make that aspect of you mod epic?

    Brief story, there's a guy who carves amazing wooden animals. They look like they can come to life when he's done. He starts working on a new carving while a group watches on. As a trunk and tusks start to emerge, the group realizes its an elephant. So someone asks how he does it. He stops, puzzled, and replies "Easy, I get a block of wood and carve everything away that doesn't look like an elephant."

    Seeing the elephant lurking in the wood took Skill and acting on the Skill, how he was able to tease it out in life like detail, is Execution. Skill is what you can do and execution is how you do it. Great mods take Skill and Execution but you only really see both in the worklog.

    From a modding perspective, Cygnus X1 by Attila Lukacs over at Bit-Tech followed a perfect balance of skill and execution. Using little more than a file, he built an amazing mod. Watching him I was constantly amazed by what he was doing and even more impressed by how he was doing. It's a subtle difference but think of it this way, if you got the skill, you may need to execute a few times to get it right. Its almost impossible to separate them when you get it right the first time, every time.

    More later on worklogs, I've got RL work reports to get done before bed. I leave you with these questions though, do you think worklogs are an essential part of our hobby? If so, how do you see the process of creating and documenting a mod evolving?

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