Every time you read one of these "Best of the Year Awards" features, you always hear the same stpry. Oh, yes, see, this year was way more exciting than the last year, because, you know, everything was so different. Yeah freakin' right. There is almost no difference between 2004, 2001, 1998, anything. It's all bloody the same, right?
Well, I'd be lying to you if I said that the Mod of the Year Awards this year wasn't exciting. When the time came for the Top 100 Mods to be announced, we literally had to sit and watch the list eb and flow, backwards and forwards, top mods slipping off the list, only to come back mere minutes later. The list was changing so dramatically that we couldn't even get a jump start on the writing until it came down to the wire!
From there, we've seen the Top 5 mods slowly shift between established classics, new faces in the community and hard-working projects just beginning to pick up steam. We've seen Half-Life, the game engine that saw the modding community explode, finally be dethroned in the listing, no longer dominating all of the categories and finally having to step aside to allow room for others. And, as I've already mentioned, we've registered 80,000 votes in all and seen our site traffic go through the roof as the impact and popularity of mods continues to rocket ever upwards.
I'd be the first person to roll my eyes at phrases like "the best turnout ever," but let's be realistic here. Mod of the Year 2006 has been awesome. And this is coming from the people who worked their butts off on it.
Prepare to play something different.
Mod of the Year Editorial
It's hard to believe we managed to cut 4,000 mods down to a measly 100, then strip that down even further into the few mods you see here. I can sit here and tell you that they all deserve recognition until we are blue in the face, but when it comes right down to it, the mods that win the Mod of the Year Awards have something special to them. There is something undefinable, something great that just makes these mods ring true with the people that play them. It's good to give credit where credit is due, and there is definitely some credit due here.
Ultimately not everything can win a Mod of the Year award. Eventually we have to stamp our feet and say, look, we love the gold-plated toilet and the mountain of everlasting gobstoppers, but if we crown 30 mods as the victor, it just doesn't feel right. Therefore, we've decided to compromise and create this nifty little space dedicated to the mods that came really damn close to victory, but just missed out due to being ineligible or just barely falling short of the mark. If you haven't already, check these mods out. They may not have won, but they are worth every bit of recognition we can give them.
Plus, the gold plated toilet is mighty comfy on the rump.
5th Place. MINERVA
MINERVA, which now comprises two parts of a planned three, is both simple and elegant in its design. Players assume the role of a Gordon Freeman-esque individual and are thrust back into the heart of the Human-Combine war, expanding upon the Half-Life 2 universe while remaining firmly inside of its' boundaries. A rogue, unexplained artificial intelligence (clearly stolen from the Marathon series) has captured you to do her bidding and drops you off on a distant island, where the Combine are conducting unnatural experiments. The first thing you'll notice about MINERVA is the great sense of presentation that never falters below the professional level. The maps, the visuals, the level design, all of it is good enough to trick you into believing that this is an officially-made Valve product. The environment is rather linear, but there are enough side paths and backtracking allowed to give you the sense that you actually have control over which direction you want to take. Everything then takes an astonishing twist as you head underground, deep into the facility that looks just as impressive and unique as the Citadel did within the original game.
MINERVA may end quickly and still has yet to be completed, but it is definitely worth looking into for an awesome single-player experience.
4th Place. Hidden Source
Honesty is a simply fantastic policy, and just about everyone who's honest with themselves can say that playing Hidden: Source is a freaking scary experience. Very few games can just put weapons into the players' collective hands, tell them what's going on, and then spend the next hour or so scaring the absolute hell out of them.
What's also great about Hidden: Source is that it's almost two seperate games. When playing as the military commando team, it's all about teamwork, keeping comrades alive, and keeping an eye out around every corner to spot what could well be your doom. As The Hidden, it's about sneaking, keeping behind cover in the shadows, biding your time, then leaping out to make the sudden attack. Both require thought, skill and determination. Both are frightning, rewarding and unbelievably fun.
3rd Place. Goldeneye Source
I never had a Nintendo 64 myself, so my experience with Goldeneye was limited to tournament matches with my friends, who were all vastly superior to me. One time, a friend of mine (also ironically named Joe) killed me 15 times in a row on a single match, with me only nailing him once. But because he didn't get a flawless victory, we endlessly taunted him as having lost the game. It made no sense, but the mockery was immense.
Goldeneye: Source brings back memories of this and more. It is all of the classic fun of the first console FPS to really ring true, while removing all of the annoyances that originally went along with it. Now, turning 180 degrees doesn't take half a minute. Aiming is precise and smooth. James Bond actually looks kind of like Pierce Brosnan. Everything about Goldeneye: Source just screams class, retaining an old school feel while remaining fresh and new enough to differentiate itself from the original. It's everything a remake should be and more.
2nd Place. Project Reality
For a mod that claims to "not be for the masses" on its' official profile, it sure did score pretty high, didn't it?
Project Reality, as the title so aptly implies, brings realism to the forefront in Battlefield 2, forcing characters to cope with a battlefield much like they would really face in the middle of a modern day war. Gone are the arcade elements and score systems, replaced by things like bleeding, realistic ballistics, new class sets and a wide variety of original maps. And when you consider that all of this has been done on an engine that has been virtually abandoned and unsupported by its' creators, that is one hell of a feat.
1st Place. Point of Existence: 2
After so many votes, so much effort and a whole lot of fun, Point of Existence 2, for Battlefield 2, has won Mod of the Year for 2006. Point of Existence 2 manages to extend the gameplay of the original game into a new setting with a complex and believable storyline. It manages to have stylish art assets while remaining within the bounds of realism and enforces teamwork without feeling like a chore. It takes a popular formula to the next level of balance, flow and fun.
With so much high-quality custom content, this epic total conversion positively demands to be picked up and played. It has got everything a great mod should have, and then a whole lot more. With all the beautiful maps, thoughtful mechanics and startling art, the effort the team put into this mod is immeditately obvious.
Now, the players of 2006 have spoken and have given their congratulations, not only the developers of Point of Existence 2, but to modders everywhere.
Top Unreleased Mods Editorial
Waiting for things is a royal pain. As some of you who know me can attest, I can't stand to wait for anything. I curse at the red stoplight, I stomp my feet when my downloads aren't instantaneous and I grumble at length waiting for mods to come out. Good things come to those who wait, which must be why I struggle continuously, but some of these mods are proof positive that there are good things on the horizon. It must be said that this year's most anticipated mod listing is, really, quite similar to the one that arrived last year. Whether this is because the hype machine is just working overtime or deadlines are slipping, who can really say. But the point is, these mods are still the things to look for, whether you curse in the process or not.
Unfortunately, not everyone can win Mod of the Year, but some mods can lose especially hard. These aren't those mods, but wouldn't it be funny to write about those? Anyway, honorable mentions are reserved for those few mods which barely missed out on receiving an award through different circumstances, but are definitely worth taking note of. Check them out sometime, you won't regret it. You won't be able to play them, since they are unreleased, but you can sit around and drool with the rest of us and think about all the fun you might have had if they were actually out.
5th Place. Project Revolution
While some of us wait endlessly for the day when Blizzard will finally glance away from World of Warcraft to acknowledge one of the other games that made them a household name, Project Revolution has every intention of keeping the Starcraft fire burning. This is a straight port of a classic game, taking all of the base units from the original title and porting them into Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne for fans to do battle with. And considering that Starcraft was one of the greatest strategy titles of all time, it's no wonder that Project Revolution has some heavy community support behind it.
4th Place. Insurgency
A fan favorite since it was originally announced, Insurgency transports players to the modern battlefield in Iraq, the Balkans and Chechnya. There are certainly a lot of mods out there that focus on intense reaslism, but Insurgency hopes to set itself apart by emulating real world conflicts and placing a heavy emphasis on teamplay. Don't let that throw you, though. Special teams are being designed to cater towards the casual gaming crowd as well as the hardcore realism enthusiast, meaning that anyone can give Insurgency a try.
3rd Place. First Strike
While LucasArts may have trouble creating a fun Star Wars game, the mod community certainly seems able to. First Strike is an upcoming Star Wars mod that allows you to fight the epic battle for the galaxy on a number of different planets. Whether you choose to become a freedom fighter of the Rebel Alliance or a servant of the empire, First Strike promises to provide Star Wars fans with intense, fun, sci-fi combat. Let just hope it is released before the 2007 MOTY awards!
2nd Place. Forgotten Hope 2
A remake of the popular mod for Battlefield 1942, Forgotten Hope 2 is a World War 2 mod that features an arsenal of over 250 pieces of true-life equipment, destructible environments and a focus on cover and concealment to survive. Forgotten Hope 2 looks to take all of the positive aspects of the original mod and update them to take full advantage of the Battlefield 2 engine to create one of the most immersive World War 2 mods you'll ever play!
1st Place. Black Mesa
Was there ever any doubt that Black Mesa would win the unreleased Mod of the Year? If you've been living under a rock for the last couple years, let's recap a bit. Before Half-Life 2 entered our lives, Valve announced that they would remake the original Half-Life in the source engine. Every screamed with joy. The chance to play one of the most influential first person shooters of all time in all of its remastered glory? We were so there.
And then it died. Valve crushed our hopes and dreams, however sad they might have been, by explaining that the remake would be nothing but newly implemented physics and water effects. Forget seeing Xen, the Lambda Complex and the test chamber in high resolution graphics. Valve figured, hey, if the fans wanted it, they could bloody well make it themselves.
Black Mesa is the community response to this. What a response it is, too. Every screenshot released comparing the original Half-Life to the remake illicits screams of approval from the community. Never mind that we've all essentially played this game before, there is something about seeing it like this that just drives people wild. Is it the amazing new soundtrack, the obvious eye for detail, the sheer dedication of the team or the fact that we all just go bat-shit wild for anything with Gordon Freeman in it? Whatever reason you choose to justify it with, there is no denying that this year's top unreleased mod is the same as last year and will probably continue to be until we all jump into Black Mesa for the first time. Again.
It'll be just like coming home.
Top Indie Games Editorial
With more game engines available to develop on than ever before (Torque, Q1, Q3, XNA) more and more modders are turning towards making their own, fully fledged standalone game title. 2006 marks the first year that indie game development efforts are recognised by the Mod DB Annual Awards, and its an area we are excited to see grow, as the titles available become more diverse, creative and polished than ever before.
Ultimately not everything can win a Standalone Game of the Year award. All of the following polled extremely strongly, but in the end aren't publically released - which is a key requirement for winning this category!
5th Place. CodeRED - Alien Arena
Alien Arena 2007 is a standalone game based off of the Quake II/III source that combines the classic sci-fi atmosphere of CodeRED with the tournament style deathmatch of Q3A and UT2k4. With major graphical enhancements such as hi-res 24/32 bit tga textures, light blooms, real time lights and shadows, stainmaps, textured particles, shaders, and reflective water, Alien Arena brings the venerable Quake II engine into modern gaming. The engine also includes mutators, adjustable effects, bot skill settings, and fully configurable deathmatch, team deathmatch, CTF, All Out Assault, Team Core Assault, and Deathball games
4th Place. Nexuiz
Nexuiz is a 3d deathmatch game based on the Darkplaces engine. The darkplaces engine is an advanced quake1 engine developed mainly by Forest "LordHavoc" Hale, who has been working with the Quake1 engine for many years. A few of Darkplaces main features are Quake3bsp support, realtime lighting and shadowing, new particle effects, advanced menu system, and Md3/Md2 model support. Because Nexuiz is based on the quake1 engine, its source code is entirely GPL and can be downloaded at any time by request.
3rd Place. OpenArena
OpenArena is an open-source content package for Quake III Arena licensed under the GPL, effectively creating a free stand-alone game. You do not need Quake III Arena to play this game. You do need OpenGL accelleration though, and a minimum system requirements around the average 1998-era rig. Oh and this game runs on pretty much every platform from Linux to Mac to Windows.
2nd Place. Warsow
Warsow is a high-speed standalone deathmatch mod that utilizes a heavily modified version of the Quake 2 engine. Combined with cell shaded graphics and an emphasis on movement and jumping tricks, Warsow is one of the most frenetic mods you'll ever play.
- Fast-paced, skilled gameplay focused on trix (trick jumps) and the art of movement
- Complete weapon System including Weak and Strong fire mode for each gun
- Cartoonish graphics with celshading (more SF/Comics than Manga), mixing dark, flashy and dirty textures.
1st Place. Tremulous
Tremulous is an open source game that blends a team based FPS with elements of an RTS. Players can choose from 2 unique races, aliens and humans. Players on both teams are able to build working structures in-game like an RTS. These structures provide many functions, the most important being spawning. The designated builders must ensure there are spawn structures or other players will not be able to rejoin the game after death. Other structures provide automated base defense (to some degree), healing functions and much more...
Top Mods by Genre Editorial
The difficult thing about conducting an awards show for mods is: How do you break it down? At one point do you say, "No, that doesn't fit this category, it has to reside in another"? While we bicker and debate things like this day in and out, you can be satisfied in the knowledge that mods of many genres are also being presented with awards. Granted, many of these awards are similar to the previous year. I guess there isn't a high demand for racers and sports games, but, at least they aren't all Half-Life 2 mods, eh?
Honorable Mention: Tremulous
Choose your class and begin the build phase. Feel your excitement build as you and your teammates work together to erect a massive defense. Place various blocks to build huge walls and platforms. Prepare yourself, for you are about to fight. Combat phase begin! You release your energy, sprinting forward in an attempt to break your enemies defense. It's a race to the flag now, snatch it and win this epic new version of Capture the Flag. If you need a game to get your adrenaline running, then play Source Forts.
Adventure. Afraid of Monsters
Honorable Mention: Iris
It always impresses me to learn that there are lots of mods out there that are the sole vision and result of an individual's hard labor and toil. Afraid of Monsters is one such mod and every ounce of love for the project shows. Art styles change dramatically as you play, emphasizing the paranoid descent into drug-fueled madness that your character is experiencing. Creatures hunt for you in the night, pills are your only refuge from the madness and even when everything goes black, the eyes continue to watch you from afar. Combat is present, but with a central focus on solving puzzles and exploring the environment, Afraid of Monsters is an awesome entry to anyone's adventure library.
Honorable Mention: Battleracer
I'm not a fan of racing games. When I play a straight-up racer, I have a tendancy to crank the wheel around 180 degrees, then haul ass up the course going the wrong direction. Pity be to those few leading cars that can't dive out of the way when my nearly unbreakable car front-ends them at 180 miles per hour! Unwheel is a game that appeals to this kind of sociopath. Forget realistic driving physics and painstakingly researched cars. That isn't the point. The point is leaping your car over a train, smashing it down on an enemy racer and watching them explode against the pavement as you race ahead of them with smoke pouring from your tires. Unwheel is about throwing a lot of random vehicles together, hitting the street and seeing everything collide at high-speed. Anything else need not apply.
Honorable Mention: Hypercube: Source
Everybody loves a bit of retro gaming and BlockStorm brings that back with the addition of some snazzy graphics. Two modes are included, one based on Arkanoid (A Breakout clone) and another based on good old Pong. You'll find your mind drifting off to a time when games were simple, yet just as fun as anything today. What really tops it off is the fact that not a single bit of source code was touched--BlockStorm is created entirely in the Hammer map editor!
Honorable Mention: Iron Grip : The Oppression
Empires shot onto the scene with the controversial release of a buggy and unfinished product. Since then, however, they have developed into a polished and very developed title that pushed the boundaries of what's possible in Half-Life 2's engine. Huge battles, vehicles, epic landscapes and a smooth and seamless blend of genres are just a few of the highlights in this impressive mod. Empires has gone leaps and bounds to become one of the top genre blending titles around, and indeed the most popular multi-genre mod of this year.
Role Playing. Battle for Elements
Honorable Mention: Mournhold Expanded
When it comes right down to it, Diablo 2 has been a tiny pimple on the backside of the modding community. You'll only find less than a handful of mods even worth mentioning in the grand scheme of things, but when you do, there's just something about them that makes you run to your computer, install-disk in hand, to try out another round of that Diablo 2 goodness. Battle for Elements takes the expansion pack for this blockbuster, Lord of Destruction, and cranks its core to overdrive. This mod features new levels, new weapons, new monsters, and a brand new level of difficulty to make the experience that much more endearing. This is the essential mod for you old-schoolers out there.
Simulation. Discovery Freelancer
Honorable Mention: Torn Stars
Freelancer was a fun game, but after playing for a few hours, there's really nothing left to do. Luckily, Discovery Freelancer is ready to fill in the blanks. Coming in with a colossal amount of custom content, it really extends the game into new realms of replayablity. Really, playing vanilla Freelancer, then comparing it with Discovery Freelancer is like comparing apples with lots and lots of huge, juicy apples. So much more, so much better, but the same taste and feel that we know and love.
Sports. International Online Soccer
Honorable Mention: Carball
To make a soccer game from an FPS engine is not a feat to be coughed at. To make a good soccer game from the aforementioned engine is decidedly respectable. However, to make a fantastic soccer game that's still being played today, which is what the team behind International Online Soccer have done, well, that's approaching the realm of godliness. While console games provide more complex soccer simulations, International Online Soccer holds its own against the competition. With a sequel in the works, this continues to be one very solid mod with a some very exciting prospects for the future.
Strategy. Red Alert 3
Honorable Mention: Mental Omega
Red Alert 3 continues the story of Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge. Players will enjoy seeing their favorite units and characters given a huge graphical boost in the newer Generals engine, while being able to battle it out in an all new single player campaign with new factions to choose from! If you thought a couple of dinosaurs would be enough to stop Yuri, then you're in for one hell of a surprise.
Before voting opened for the 2006 Mod of the Year Awards, we ran a poll to see just what people thought of the past 12 months. Only 34 percent of people thought it was a cracker of a year. 26 percent were already looking towards 2007 and the remaining 40 percent were sitting at home, sulking. Now, I’m not sure about you, but when December 15th rolled around and the Top 100 Mods were announced-–I really struggled to pick my top 3. I felt like Gollum in Lord of the Rings; half of me wanted Mod A and the other half wanted a juicy sweet fish....and Mod B. In the end, I narrowed the top 100 to 90 or so mods, changed my top 3 vote every day and thought about stupid, fat hobbits--er, how far modding has come and how it continues to push the boundaries. Damn hobbit analogies.
“I felt like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, half of me wanted Mod A and the other half wanted a juicy sweet fish...and Mod B”
No longer is modding focused on the big few games (HL, UT, Battlefield, Doom, Quake) and one genre (First Person Shooter). This year, we saw strategy, puzzle and adventure mods from classic and new games make the cut as the modding community becomes increasingly efficient and talented in its ability to churn out fresh new content. It is a shame that we can only list the top 5 mods, when there are tons available for all manner of games--4000 in fact--which so many talented developers have dedicated their time to. There is something for everyone, and with new stuff released daily, it is hard to keep up with it all.
So for all the naysayers out there: 2006 was a great year for mods. The classics returned and went commercial: Garrys Mod, Red Orchestra and Natural Selection. Amazing new mods were updated and released: Iron Grip, Point of Existence 2, Project Reality, Hidden Source, Goldeneye Source, World of Padman, Killing Floor, and so the list goes on. As more and more awesome ideas surfaced, some extremely promising mods began edging towards completion in 2007: Infinity, Drawn to be Alive, Project Revolution, Black Mesa, Forgotten Hope 2, Insurgency, when can I stop...In fact, of the Top 100 Mods, 43 are unreleased, so everyone can expect a massive 2007. If it is anything like 2006, we are in for a whole new world of fun--like a kid in a candy store.
The players have spoken and these are your mods. Tomorrow, the Mod DB editors take their turn, and we’ve spent the past month arguing about our favourites. Keep your eye out for a few surprises ahead, and remember to always "Play Something Different".
--Scott Reismanis, Mod DB founder
January 23rd, 2007
Follow this link if you'd like to read the Editors Choice 2006 Mod of the Year