Updated: Feb 23, 2021
Welcome back everyone. In the last article we looked at Unofficial Patches, the unglamorous mods that fix broken games.
Now we will look at Cut Content Mods.
Creating a video game can be a messy business, not unlike creating a major film.
During a film's development scripts might be re-written, characters changed, ideas altered, and a fair chunk of content may end up on the cutting room floor.
Film studios often cut footage to reduce the film's length for cinemas, only to put it back in later for the ‘Special Edition’ home release.
With video games however, content is most often cut due to simply not having enough time to finalise it before the game's release date.
The view may be taken by the developers, publishers, etc. is that it is better to leave the content out completely than to leave it in unfinished. This is probably a wise move, as suddenly seeing something that is not up to the same levels of quality as the rest of the game can be quite jarring.
However, just because the content is not used in game, it does not necessarily mean the files have been removed. Removing these files takes time, therefore time-poor developers may choose to simply leave them in place.
And if the files are still there, they can still be used by someone who knows what they are doing.
Sometimes developers will release these files themselves, so that modders can use them with their blessing. Some may go so far as to release whole early game ‘builds’ for modders to use.
Build 1935 of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Shadow of Chernobyl.
Video by Stalker-Portal.ru
A Cut Content mod aims to bring the cut content up to the same quality as the rest of the game, and then re-insert it. This creates a 'fuller experience', much like the aforementioned ‘special edition’ versions of movies.
The range of content that may be cut in the development process is simply staggering.
At the lower end of the scale, it may be something small and simple, such as an alternative sound file or character skin. Going up in scale it may include whole characters, enemies, weapons and items. Sometimes even whole maps and gameplay mechanics will be sacrificed to get a game out on time. For example, many of the locations and enemies shown in the video above were cut in the final release. Mods such as Call of Chernobyl put them back in.
In extreme cases, the amount of cut content may constitute most of the game!
This happened in the wake of the infamous leak of the Half-Life 2 beta in 2003. This leak – which saw the FBI involved in tracking down the perpetrator – put the release of the game back by a full year, as much of the game had to be re-made.
The final released game was probably the better for it, so at least there was a silver lining. The files that were leaked have since been used by modders to re-create the much darker game Half-Life 2 was originally going to be.
Half-Life 2: BETA - The Full Original Story
What Half-Life 2 was going to be...
Video by Bolloxed
Half Life 2 commercial release
What Half Life 2 became.
Video by Bolloxed
All in all, Cut Content mods are a great addition, and allow players to experience a game the way the developers would have liked, if time were not an issue.
That's it for now. Next time we give old games a new lick of paint with graphic mods.
Are there any other cut content mods you can think of that should be celebrated? Have you perhaps made one of them yourself? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.
Iain is a 40+ author and gamer from England, who started his gaming journey on the Atari 2600 36 years ago. His specialities include obscure cult classics, retro games, mods and fan remakes. He hates all sports games and is allergic to online multiplayer. Since he is British, his body is about 60% tea. He can be reached via Twitter at https://twitter.com/IainBaker17, and contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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