Modding is a slang expression that is derived from the verb "modify". The term can refer to the act of modifying a piece of hardware or software or anything else for that matter, to perform a function not originally conceived or intended by the designer.
It is a term generally applied to PC games, especially first-person shooters, RPGs and real-time strategy games. Mods are made by the general public or a developer, and can be entirely new games in themselves, but mods are not standalone software and require the user to have the original release in order to run. They can include new items, weapons, characters, enemies, models, textures, levels, story lines, music, and game modes. They also usually take place in unique locations. They can be single-player or multiplayer. Mods that add new content to the underlying game are often called partial conversions, while mods that create an entirely new game are called total conversions and mods that fix bugs are called unofficial patches.
The Internet provides an inexpensive medium to promote and distribute mods, and they have become an increasingly important factor in the commercial success of some games, such as Spore, through websites such as Sporedum & SporeMods
Legal Issues Edit
Modding may sometimes infringe the legal rights of the copyright owner. Some nations have laws prohibiting modding and accuse modders of attempting to overcome copy prevention schemes. In the United States, the DMCA has set up stiff penalties for modding. In the European Union, member states have agreed the EU Copyright Directive and are transposing it into national law. A man was convicted in the United Kingdom in July 2005 for selling a modded Xbox with built in software and games. However it is also worthy of note that some other European states have not interpreted the legal issues in the same way. In Italy a judge threw out a Sony case saying it was up to owners of a console what they did with it. Similarly in Spain, mod chips are seen as legal despite the EU copyright legislation.
Development & Promotion Edit
A great many mods do not progress very far and are abandoned without ever having a public release. One of the most famous vaporware mods was Star Wars Quake, which was never released despite six years of development. Some are very limited and just include some gameplay changes or even a different loading screen, while others are total conversions and can modify content and gameplay extensively. A few mods become very popular and convert themselves into distinct games, with the rights getting bought and turning into an official modification.
Mods in general are required to be non-commercial (free) when they include any parts from another mod, or the main game, which by their nature they always do. Some mods become open source as well.
Unexpected Consequences Edit
With modding there are a great deal of unexpected consequences that can happen, these can range from crashing to a full game "mess up." Such as in January 2005, it was reported that in The Sims 2 modifications that changed item and game behaviour were unexpectedly being transferred to other players through the official website's exchange feature, leading to changed game behaviour without advance warning.
So basically, modding is fine. Just watch out and think about all possible consequences. It can be serious. Although Spore is quite a difficultly easy thing to modify, unfair consequences can occur. Nothing really bad has so far been reported, but it is best to be safe anyway!