Thoroughly Modding Millie

As a child, my computers were mostly used as tools for exploration and advancement rather than gaming. Whilst I admit to nudging a barely discernible frog across a blocky highway to a blue highway (the river, apparently) with helpful brown rectangles and nasty green rectangles, most of my time was spent pushing the machine to its limits and to see exactly what could be done with a little bit of imagination. For the most part I dabbled with pixel plotting in 1982 before moving on to light pens in 1986, creating decidedly ropey digital art which started off trying to be photo-realistic within the restrictions of a sixteen colour palette (or 121 colours if you include the luminance variations), and resulted in something more akin to Pablo Picasso’s lesser known “4bit Period”. Somewhere along the way, in between writing a couple of text adventures and a graphic adventure, I strayed from my tiny clearing of digital creativity towards the densely populated watering hole of the gamer but I never lost that intrinsic passion for tinkering.

It wasn’t until I got excited by 24bit graphics and Electronic Arts released the incredible Deluxe Paint IV AGA I began to fully immerse myself in customising everything that I possibly could, from custom designed icons for all my Workbench 3.0 software through to altering characters and backgrounds in games through the magic of decompilers and massively overhauled sprite tables. Any friends visiting me in 1989 were blown away by the fantastic new Batman game I was spending most of my time playing when, in fact, it was originally New Zealand Story but with every graphic altered to suit the bleak Gotham that Tim Burton had recently brought to the silver screen.

When I eventually made the leap from Amiga/PC gaming to console gaming when the original XBox was released, all modding activity ceased as the thought of having to transfer data from the console to a PC for modding and then back again really didn’t excite me in the slightest. Recently however, after the discovery of both Willow Tree and USBXTAF, I have once again found myself wading through the murky waters of the modding pool, albeit to a less adventurous degree.

I told Millie that I was going to mod her save... she wan't fazed. Phased? Gettit?

Taking my XBox “Borderlands” save files over to the PC on a USB stick meant that I was able to extract the information and modify the settings to the point where I could either increase my character’s XP points, the amount of cash they had on them (presumably in a very large TARDIS like wallet?) and what they were carrying in their backpack. If I’d wanted to take this to extremes I could even have increased the number of available backpack slots from the maximum of forty to an incredible 65,535… or even modify which individual quests the character had completed to advance them through the plot quicker. For me, however, most of these cross the blurred boundary between having fun with the game and actually cheating. As an in-game collector, the thought of procedurally generated weapons where “87 Bazillion” different guns were possible (the real figure is apparently 3,166,880) excited me to the point where, as mentioned in previous articles, I spent more time trying to constantly improve upon whatever weaponry I already carried in my backpack. As an OBSESSIVE in-game collector, the thought of being able to actually use the various multipliers and component parts to decide for myself how each weapon should perform… well… that was ever so slightly orgasmic.

The first weapon I created. Awesome, and legit.

So began my dangerous trip into the seedy underbelly of console save modding. The greatest risk to me was that my save file would become irreparably corrupted and my carefully honed level 61 character (as honed as you can possibly get from spending a single skill point on every level-up) would float away to the big digitised Sin-Bin in the sky and I’d have to make that decision as to whether I’d start again or just scream like a baby for a few minutes as I shred the disc and manual in my teeth before vowing to never mod again. I wasn’t taking any chances, and so I had the foresight to leave my main level 61 Mordecai character (Mullmuzzler) intact while I tinkered with my secondary level 61 Lilith character (Millie).

I believe the words I used were “Thank fuck I didn’t use Mullmuzzler!” when I eventually injected her back to the save file, only to discover that she’d not only dropped to level 50 but the entire contents of her storage safe at Moxxi’s had been cleared out… so all forty of my beautiful dark orange weapons had vanished. The plus side? I’d made perhaps ten new weapons from scratch. And they kicked arse.

The obvious choice when building a weapon from scratch was whether or not I worked within the confines of the procedural limits or take a chance and add “illegal” components whereby a weapon made primarily from Jakobs gun components could also have the body from a Tediore Protector, resulting in unlimited ammo. To that end, being the experimental type, I did what all self respecting addicts do… and I waded further into the darkness with each additional mod. The first batch of weapons stayed true to the restrictions of the game but were taken to the maximum possible variants to ensure that I had the highest possible power, complemented by the quickest fire rate, largest ammo clip, most powerful sight and the greatest elemental damage… if that was permitted by that particular manufacturer. They were, to all intents and purposes, perfectly legal in terms of gameplay but the chances of ever finding this “perfect” weapon was literally 1:3,166,880 and, as I tended to come across around 400 weapon drops in any given game, it could have meant playing the game a further 7,917 times and I only have one lifetime.

Initially I was gutted when this ridiculously powerful modded Orion with +28 ammo regen wouldn't work although, in retrospect, it's perhaps just as well.

After a successful gaming session messing around with my newly modded weapons, I donned my stained trench coat… tugged the collar up around my neck and slipped on my Erik Estrada mirrored shades before shuffling cautiously back to Willow Tree… for illegal activities. I say “illegal” because, strictly speaking, anything that doesn’t conform to the rulings within the procedural generator of the game is prohibited from the point where the General Knoxx DLC was released. If you’re lucky, whichever weapons you create will slip through the net but, in all but ONE case where I’d cobbled together pieces from several rival manufacturers, the weapons never appeared in my character’s backpack. It was most disappointing, especially when you consider that I’d created what I believe to be the ultimate “S&S Orion” sniper rifle (for my style of play) with 4660 damage, 87.9 accuracy, 2.4 fire rate, 2.7x zoom, 19 round clip, x4 elemental shock damage AND +28 ammo regeneration thanks to the Tediore Protector body that I slipped in for good measure.

The result was a quick fire sniper with 8831.57 DPS (damage per second) and +280% critical damage but the DLC patch meant that it never showed up in the backpack, presumably because I’d pushed the envelope just a little too far by expecting unlimited ammo on a high powered rifle.

There is, as you’d expect, a huge downside to the sheer power of these modded weapons… and that is that the gameplay balance would be so far skewed that none of the enemies pose any sort of threat. At all. This fear was further reinforced and, ultimately, confirmed last week when Pete and I took a quick trip to Jakob’s Cove to continue with the “Zombie Island of Dr Ned” DLC and, with both of us using the same modded weapons, even the Badass Tankenstein enemies could be taken out in a matter of seconds. Fun for a while because of that initial “Hooooly fuck!!” aspect but, as you can imagine, it becomes incredibly boring after more than ten minutes of watching every enemy drop to the ground without a fight. In the end I dropped in to the shadows to reconfigure my backpack and resorted to using my legit game-spawned weapons such as my trusty old level 48 Cold Thanatos machine pistol which I’d picked up from vending machine and which literally cleared me out of all cash at the time… but I had to have it.

My trusty Thanatos - we get there in the end.

And so, we come around full circle to the point where I carry my modded weapons around simply because of the time spent building them, yet I refuse to use them in a legitimate gaming session.

Why? While I still enjoy modding weapons and getting to try them out on baddies such as Motor Head or Crawmerax, I can’t bring myself to actually use them in a proper gaming environment because, by doing so, all gameplay is removed. The fun of the game is overshadowed by the mundanity of having so much power that no worthy opponent exists and, as such, the only way to restore the balance is to return to the legit weapons. With great power comes great irresponsibility.

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Edward Edward says:

    Brilliant :)
    Do you think you’ll be trying any more modding for different games in future, or trying out creating new levels and scenarios on established games (such as Team Fortress 2)?

  2. Samuel The Preacher says:

    Modding small is a slippery slope my friend! Oh yes indeed. I started out with the original Star Trek: Armada, all I wanted to do was make the refit starship Enterprise and put it in the game so I could gad about pretending that I was Captain Kirk… the next thing I knew, it was five years later and I’d got most of a total conversion mod done and suddenly it struck me that this game was now fucking old in computing terms and the engine was obsolete and looked completely shit on my new computer, because it was too low res and I’d basically wasted all of my free time. Days at a time subtly refining ships so that the size was more realistic (and when you’re seriously pursuing realism in the medium of science fictional space ships it’s time to admit you’re fucking mental).

    Don’t do it! I implore you. If a girl asks you what you’re into and you say playing games she might misunderstand and think you’re kinky if she’s a bit thick and/or randy. If she asks you and you say that you’re modding a game to see how far you can push the boundaries before it breaks she’ll run away for the hills, thinking that you’re some kind of dangerous sexual predator who will leave irreparable bodily harm! It’s not worth it.

    Where does it end? One moment you’re changing guns, then you’re making your character’s boobs bigger… then she’s naked. Then you make everybody naked. Suddenly the guns are armour piercing dildos! Then you die upside down in a pub toilet, with your last thought being the shame of it when the police took your PC away and put you on that bloody register that says you have to be sodomised with a truncheon for being in the same room as any woman under 30 years or stone in weight. Not worth it.

    I’m honestly not sure where the fuck I’m going with this. Back into the rubber walled room? Okay then!

  3. Pete says:

    The modded weapons you created are of teh awesome but as you say, a little while in general gameplay and it wasn’t so much fun!

    Killing Knoxx and his Devastator buddies in a few minutes was bloody funny though :D

  4. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    @Edward… dood, I seriously doubt it! I can barely scrape up enough time to play on the GL Gaming Nights without stopping work early on the Wednesday to get the articles ready, so my modding will never reach beyond five minutes here or there. Thankfully, I could quite easily build a half dozen weapons and re-inject the save to the USB stick in the space of five minutes. Seeing everything that Ben does with Unreal Engine makes me want to build games though… they’d be the best games evah! Elephants, space ships, pirates, nuddy girls… yeah baby!!

    @Preacher… I doubt I’d ever get that carried away with anything to be honest, I’m too aware of the time and the end results and, if the result isn’t worth the effort, I wouldn’t even get into it. It’s why half my songs aren’t written beyond the first verse. I also used to spend weeks designing and building typefaces back in the early 90s – it was a hobby and an obsession… it’s something that I got a lot of pleasure from, but wouldn’t even know where to begin now. Everything is all so different – no call for bitmap fonts anymore!

    @Pete… yeah it’s surprising how maybe 3-4 seconds of controlled fire from one of the pistols would take out a devastator entirely. I also liked having them mapped with the non-elemental to the top of the d-pad, incendiary to the left, corrosive to the right and shock to the bottom – meant that every enemy was covered in one quick click!

  5. Ste says:

    I never modded games before but I did create a few Half Life Deathmatch maps years and years ago. That was kinda fun. I used to enjoy putting the more powerful guns in rooms with traps in that would allow enemies to set off the trap from outside the room thus creating a risk/reward scenario. It got as far as starting to design a Counter Strike map based on the Tesco store that I worked at. I never did finish it though.

    Those were simpler times though and the standards nowadays are far above my skill level. HLHammer which was the map creator was really simple to use albeit basic and I just dont have the time and patience required to learn how to use anything else.

  6. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    See that’s something that I’d love to be able to do… the thought of turning our village into a post apocalyptic ruin and slotting it in to Fallout 3 somewhere really excites me, the realism with the surrealism would be a fantastic mix. I’d even throw in our local Aldi and turn it into another Raider filled Super Duper Mart!

  7. Pete says:

    Ah man…. I’d love to get into map making for games like Counter Strike :) And I love the idea of your village in a game dood!! Maybe Mad Mark’s Madventure? :D Just don’t tell Lee lol

  8. Tania Tania says:

    wow, I had no idea you could do that to xbox games, cool! :)
    If I had that kind of power, though, I’d probably end up abusing it, heh heh.

  9. Victor Victor says:

    Man, I just got stomped by a HUGE elephant-type enemy in FFXIII. How do I wish that I had your modding skills. I don’t care that the fun would be gone. Rather no fun than the irritation of coming across an enemy that can delete 1,490HP with one shake of his trunk.
    Very funny stuff.

    I am ashamed to say that I couldn’t get into Borderlands. Tried, but failed.

  10. Ben Ben says:

    Put Steam on your PC and I’ll make you your map in August :P

    Borderlands, one game that I know I really should play more of, but for some reason I just fell out of love for it, it wasn’t that anything else came along I just sort of stopped playing it, shame really.

    *joins Victor in the tried but failed seating area*

  11. MrCuddleswick says:

    Really interesting reading about these exploits Mark. I want a go on the gun that does over 4500 damage please. I’ve never played Borderlands, but even I know that sounds more deadly than a wet fart on a first date.

    What if MS catch up to you and “do” you for cheating? The bandits.

    I’ve never had the patience for modding graphics so far. What does interest me is having the tools to build a game, with a story. Someone else would have to do all the actual modding. I’d be doing the writing. For one afternoon. Then I’d put my feet up.

  12. Lorna Lorna says:

    It is a fascinating hobby to get into, but a complete time sink. I’ve looked into Sims3 modding and object creation since I couldn’t find enough pervy stuff on fan created sites but it would mean having to learn 3d modelling software ‘n’ shit and that will be a headfuck. However, I haven’t tossed it aside just yet and hope to tinker a little with it.

  13. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    @Cuddles I’m not sure anything is more deadly than a wet fart on a first date… except perhaps a first fart on a wet date… assuming you like dates, of course. I’m hoping that this type of modding wouldn’t contravene any of XBL’s fair use policies but I have to admit that it never crossed my mind… until now, damn you sir!!

    @Lorna I’d considered the Sims modding myself, simply as an additional revenue stream, but I’m not sure I could be arsed going into so much detail with something and spend so much time for a £2 payment every few months when someone finally thinks “Wow… a radioactive dog shit that randomly increases your stamina… HELL YEAH!!” so I’ll stick to not bothering.

  14. Adam Adam says:

    I used to do a lot of this sort of stuff -the fiddly farty text editing rather than Preachs painful stuffs. I once found the commentary file to Championship Manager 2 and and inserted a few lines here and there to make it more dramatic than the usual, watching a bar progress one way and the other. It helped having Bruce Forsyth for a referee. It also allowed you to edit the players and their stats (admittedly this went legit later in the games development) and so you could put yourself in the game and all your FWENDS! It was kinda cool.

    It’s always fun to arse around with Game Console editing. A bit of low gravity here, a touch of increased knockback there. All giggles but ultimately unfulfilling I suppose as you touched upon in the article.

    I would be careful with it as Cuddles pointed out, the XBLBan Bots could have you. Not you’re not strictly doing anything wrong and Borderlands is more Co-Op than Competitive but! They tend not to see it that way and to be honest, they’ll just take the standpoint that if you’re doing it with X then are you probably doing the same with Y. It’s a sad thing about console gaming, that its not open source and you can tinker with this and play around with that, but it’s in our best interests. Any PC gamer will be able to tell you the pain of Aim-bots, wall hacks and such will kill a game off. Its great fun to get the better of them, but it still unwelcome and these days with VAC, XBL Ban Bots, Blizz and Bungie Hammer’s -the price is to high to pay.

    I did once have a fart around on a Star Wars Galaxies server. Years ago, a group set about re-creating a stage in the game before it was patched (read nerfed) and they made it possible for people to run their own, stand alone server. It wasn’t the same by any stretch as you couldn’t have the same sprawling, busy world with NPC’s and player genn’d cities but you could arse around with console commands and spawn stuff, boost skills -was an amazing playground, albeit shallow and hollow :S

    Nice Read M, remind us to make you cheif of all things guns when the time comes.

  15. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Come the revolution dood, all guns will be made by Markuz Munitions… and we will reign victorious over those who dare question us. For any reason. Even stuff like “Cold out, eh?”.

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