Queen's School of Computing
Supervisor: Prof. Ahmed Hassan
Internal examiner: Prof. Sameh Sorour
External examiner: Prof. Ahmad Afsahi (ECE)
Chair: Prof. Joshua Dunfield

Studying the Distribution Platforms for Game Mods to Understand
 How to Create Active Modding Communities


Gamer loyalty is important for the sales of a game. Long-time players of a game are more likely to buy the developer's next game. However, the gaming industry and the needs of gamers are rapidly increasing, and changing making it difficult for game developers to address these rapidly evolving needs. Game mods are modifications of an original game, which can help game developers save cost and time, and improve the gaming experience for players. Hence, it is crucial for game developers to build and maintain an active modding community.

In this thesis, we study game mods to provide insights to game and mod developers, and researchers on building an active modding community. An active modding community consists of two dimensions: (1) continuous growth of mods from mod developers, and (2) continuous adoption of mods from gamers. We investigated these two dimensions respectively:

To help game developers understand how to best help mod developers to continuously deliver high quality mods, we studied the characteristics, release schedule and post-release support of highly endorsed mods from the top 20 games on the Nexus Mods distribution platform. We observe that mods with official modding support have a higher median endorsement ratio than mods without official modding support. We also observe that supporting the same modding tool in games within a game franchise is associated with faster release of mods. In addition, we observe that bug reports (i.e., post release support) of mods is poor in quality, making it difficult to address many of them. However, solved bug reports are often resolved within one day.

To help mod developers understand how to build popular mods based on download count, we investigate the impact of the following five dimensions of the popularity of mods in the CurseForge mod distribution platform: mod category, mod documentation, environmental context of mod, remuneration for the mod and community contribution for the mod. We analyzed the impact of 33 features across 5 dimensions of mod characteristics on the popularity of mods (i.e., mod category,
mod documentation, environmental context of mod, remuneration for the mod, and community contribution for the mod). We observed that popular mods tend to have a high quality description and promote community contribution. In addition, mods that simplify mod development are more
likely to be popular.

Based on our findings, we suggest game developers who desire an active modding community to provide an officially-supported modding tool. In addition, the Nexus Mods distribution platform should improve the quality of their internal bug reporting system to achieve higher quality bug reports. Furthermore, we suggest mod developers to contribute to improve the support for mod development, to improve the description of their mods, and to welcome community contributions.