Modding is an awesome thing. It brings us add-ons, new content, and in some cases, even whole new games. There have been a number of mods over the years that have ended up becoming full retail games in their own right. These eight games are some of the best that began their lives as mods.
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Killing Floor (Unreal Tournament 2004)
Tripwire Interactive’s co-op first-person shooter has sold a reported 3 million copies on PC. Players team up to survive waves of zombie-like enemies, using the money they earn for kills to pick up better weapons along the way. The original mod team joined with Tripwire to bring the game to retail. There’s even a sequel in Early Access on Steam right now, and it all started off as a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004.
The Stanley Parable (Half-Life 2)
The Stanley Parable mod was originally developed as a way by Davey Wreden for two reasons. He wanted to see what type of storytelling was possible in videogames, as well as showcase his game design talents for prospective employers. It quickly became more popular than Wreden expected, garnering over 90,000 downloads in two weeks. Wreden teamed up with award-winning environment artist William Pugh to release the HD Remake of the game, which sold over 100,000 in three days.
Red Orchestra (Unreal Tournament 2004)
Red Orchestra was one of the most popular total conversions for Unreal Tournament 2004. Set on the Eastern Front of World War II, the realistic shooter captured the attention of fans of the genre, and went on to win the “Make Something Unreal” contest that Epic Games sponsored for modders. With the license they garnered from that win, they brought the mod to retail under the name Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 in 2006.
Diaspora: Shattered Armistice (FreeSpace 2)
Diaspora: Shattered Armistice is a mod based on Battlestar Galactica built in the Freespace 2 engine. When Volition released the source code for FreeSpace 2 in 2002, the mod team began to work on modernizing and modifying the game’s engine. Once that was done, they brought Diaspora: Shattered Armistice to retail. In fact, the game was so well done that when work was being done of the officially licensed game Battlestar Galactica Online, they hired a number of the modders who worked on Diaspora to assist.
Natural Selection (Half-Life)
Natural Selection blended shooters and strategy games together in one Half-Life mod. In addition to asynchronous multiplayer shooter gameplay, it included a top-down “Commander” mode that let a player set objectives, purchase upgrades, and issue orders. The mod was so popular that its creator, Charlie “Flayra” Cleveland, founded Unknown Worlds Entertainment to create a retail version of the mod. Released in October of 2012, the retail version took the form of a sequel, titled Natural Selection 2.
Team Fortress (Quake)
Although Team Fortress is now a staple in Valve’s catalog, it actually began its life as mod for id Software’s seminal shooter, Quake. Valve acquired the mod the same way they did Counter-Strike – they showed up with a suitcase full of cash and offered modders a chance to do the same thing they were doing as a hobby for a living. Renamed Team Fortress Classic, it was released in the same package as Counter-Strike. An art style change and lots of hats later, we had Team Fortress 2, which most everyone has played now.
Defense of the Ancients (Warcraft III)
Defense of the Ancients was born when lead developer IceFrog converted the Starcraft scenario “Aeon of Strife” to the Warcraft III engine. Like most mods, it soon began to evolve from that into something more. As DOTA evolved, it was less like either of its source games, and more like its own product. Between the work of the mod team and the suggestions of the community, it became wildly popular. In 2009, Valve hired Icefrog and began development on DOTA 2, which released in July of 2013 and quickly became hugely popular on Steam.
When the multiplayer in Half-Life turned out to be a little bland, modders did what they always do – they made something better. Minh Le and Jess Cliffe teamed up to make the most successful mod, which was a little team-based shooter called Counter-Strike. The head-to-head shooter was so popular that Valve did the only logical thing – they bought the rights to the mod and hired its designers. Since then, they’ve released multiple versions of Counter-Strike, and even today, 16 years later, it remains one of the most popular titles on Steam.