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The first video game mod in video game history was Castle Smurfenstein, a total conversion of Castle Wolfenstein replacing Nazis with smurfs, released in the early 1980s. Since then, modding became ordinary – today you can expect tweaks, custom levels, and other modifications to appear for every video game that offers this possibility to its players. There are entire game categories that are mods, if you think of it: all slot machines you can play at the Royal Vegas are all modified versions of Charles Fey’s 19th-century original. While for most of their lifetime slot machines were not video games at all – the first video slot appeared in the 1970s – all games at the Royal Vegas are built on the same mechanic, with different themes and benefits for their players. This doesn’t make them less fun to play, but Fey’s Liberty Bell still outshines any game at the Royal Vegas. This isn’t true for modern day video game mods, like the list below of 5 times gamers outshined game companies.
The original Team Fortress was released as a Quake MOD back in 1996. Thanks to the flexibility built into the game, modders were able to modify it seriously. This gave birth to many mods, including some that completely changed the gameplay – like TF did. Team Fortress introduced classes, a feature that was later used in many video games.
Valve created its Team Fortress Classic three years later, initially as a mod for Half-Life, and as a standalone game in 2003.
League of Legends
Today’s most popular MOBA was once a mod built with the World Editor of Warcraft III, based on a map from its futuristic brother, StarCraft (Aeon of Strife). The people responsible for the release of Defense of the Ancients (DptA) are Steve Freak (currently a game designer at Riot Games), IceFrog (currently a game designer at Valve) and Eul, who built the original map. Today, DotA and its standalone brother LoL are played by millions of people all over the world, even competitively.
CounterStrike is a true success story in the world of video games. Initially released as a Half-Life mod by Minh “Gooseman” Le and Jess “Cliffe” Cliffe in 1999, it was insanely successful, so much so that Valve acquired the rights for it (and the developers) in 2000. Since then, CS has become one of the most played multiplayer shooters online, and – since CS:GO – a truly competitive game.
Day Z was initially built as a mod for ARMA 2 by gamer Dean “Rocket” Hall in 2012. His work was highly appreciated by the gamer community – Day Z reached one million players in its first four months, and boosted the sales of ARMA 2 by at least 300,000 units within two months of its launch. Bohemia Interactive, the developer behind the ARMA series, engulfed Hall and started the development of a standalone Day Z game – which is currently available as an “early access” game through Steam.
Built by Garry Newman of Facepunch Studios, Garry’s Mod was originally a mod for Valve’s Half-Life 2, released in 2004. Its success prompted a rework of the sandbox game as a standalone release, published by Valve two years later. Its success on Windows-based PCs led to a port for Mac OS X in 2010, and a Linux port in 2013. By January 2016, Garry’s Mod broke the 10 million copy barrier.