We recently discussed the importance of modding in gaming culture as a means of expression or critique. I am a proponent of modding since it allows fanbases to come together and support the game through means of content creation. This creates a stronger bond between the gamer and the developer. Pixel Dungeon is a perfect example of how modding can be used to positively impact a game and bring together a community of players from around the world. What is interesting about Pixel Dungeon mods are that they come in the form of mobile releases, something I have not seen before.
The base game, Pixel Dungeon, is the version I am playing for my game log. It was developed by Watabou. The game is free to download and is open source. The developers must have been open to the idea of community mods or else they would not have released the code to the public. Many mods of Pixel Dungeon have been released; each of them either tweaking or adding gameplay mechanics and features. Out of the eleven known mods, I chose two to look at more in depth to see what they had changed from the original.
Soft Pixel Dungeon
The first mod I took a look at was Soft Pixel Dungeon. In my previous post, I talked about how the game was quite difficult. This mod aims to solve that problem by tweaking a few mechanics. The first changed mechanic I noticed was that enemies took less hits to kill. This helped ease the gameplay because now I took less damage and spent less time grinding to try and level up. Another changed mechanic was the search distance. When looking for secret doors, I would have to go block by block and hit the search button many times before actually finding the secret door. With the improved mechanic, the search distance is increased three times so that I could search more blocks more efficiently. This again decreases the difficulty and thus increases the accessibility of the game. I spent much less time trying to find my way out of a floor. The last changed mechanic I noticed was the increase in health potions and the decrease in harmful potions. All of my playthroughs of this mod had me finding health potions within the first two floors, unlike the base game where health potions were sparse. I also noticed how I accidentally set myself on fire or poisoned myself way less frequently. This changed mechanic helped me the most because it allowed me to focus more on the action than where I needed to find my next health source. All of these mechanics helped decrease the difficulty of the gameplay and in turn, increased the accessibility of the game. I talked in my previous post about how Pixel Dungeon was a good game for casual players to get into in order to become acquainted with more difficult games. By increasing the accessibility, this mod helps increase the amount of casual players that could potentially become more serious gamers.
Your Pixel Dungeon
The second mod I took a look at was the most intriguing out of the two. Your Pixel Dungeon aims to put the creativity into the player’s hands. With this mod, you can create your dungeon and edit what items you find, what enemies you encounter, or how many bosses you have to fight. You have complete control on how your dungeon is mapped out and how easy or difficult it can be.
I created a map called “tongue” and then proceeded to spawn a lot of armor and weapons. I then made a room with an imp. I was quite random with my decisions; no real thought went into the creation of my dungeon. I was so excited with the amount of control I had over how my dungeon ran. I could see myself spending hours crafting my perfect dungeon. You can upload/download maps to your phone and play other people’s creations in order to experience unique takes on the Pixel Dungeon formula. This feature allows creativity to flow from player to player as they run through dungeons from around the world. I believe this mod brings the community together in order to make the game more personal and “handcrafted”. I argue that by creating a map editor mod, you are also increasing the accessibility for new players because you are allowing them to make a version of the game they want to play. Your Pixel Dungeon also features a much needed tutorial mode.
The tutorial mode runs the player through all the different items you could acquire within the game. You learn what each item does and how each item affects your gameplay. This feature (absent from other versions) is so helpful for new players because they can now understand the game without having to put in hours of grinding through dungeons. When I first began playing Pixel Dungeon, I was so lost because I did not know what everything did in the game. With the tutorial, I was able to get a better grip on the ins and outs of the Pixel Dungeon formula. This will help my future gameplay immensely. This feature also increases the accessibility of this game because it eases players into the game and allows them to begin a playthrough with at least some knowledge on how the game works. Much easier than being thrown into a game and having to learn by doing. Your Pixel Dungeon aims to not only help players understand the Pixel Dungeon formula, but also craft that formula to their eye. This mod serves to open the door to players who are interested in modding as a means of expression, but do not think they are ready for actual code manipulation.
Soft Pixel Dungeon and Your Pixel Dungeon are perfect examples on how mods can increase the accessibility of a game and increase the potential audience of the game. Mods can bring a community together in order to help bring the gaming experience to more people. The fact that these mods are available for free and on mobile devices allows a mass audience to experience gaming and modding in a new way. Mobile modding allows more people to craft games in the way they want to game and then share that experience to the rest of the world. I argue that mobile modding will make the gaming community more progressive because a larger audience can now critique the culture and then share those critiques on a larger scale.
Postigo, Hector. “Modification.” In Debugging Game History: A Critical Lexicon, edited by Raiford Guins and Henry Lowood, 325–34. MIT Press, 2016.