The spectres of Fallout 4, Star Wars: Battlefront and everything else in November may loom large, but Just Cause 3 is still shaping up to be one of the most enjoyable, cathartic sandboxes of the year. It helps that expectations for the game are pretty simple — Just Blow Stuff Up — and Avalanche Studios look set to deliver on that front.
But just as important as the explosions will be the game's support for mods. The life of Just Cause 2 was extended with the release of the unofficial multiplayer mod, and there's hope that it'll return in JC3.
I asked Roland Lesterlin, Avalanche Studio's game director for Just Cause 3, about whether the studio would officially support a multiplayer mod for JC3 considering how successful it was for JC2. He told me the situation was a little more complex than that, although Avalanche had already held discussions with modders about their plans for the sequel.
"How a modder wants to spend his personal time, or her personal time, and come in and make something cool for a game they love, we’ll probably lend them some support and we’ve reached out to a few of the modders in the past who have done some JC2 mods and, you know, already talked to them about whether they were interested in working on JC3," Lesterlin told me.
"It’s hard to say we would officially support any mod, because there is a different structure that exists between us as developers creating product that gamers need to feel to secure about and it really works and it, you know, works out of the box and you feel good about it, and creating a mod which you get a little bit more leeway from stability, quality, performance perspective that you might not get as an officially released thing."
Because of that, Avalanche would almost undoubtedly never be able to officially brand a multiplayer — or any other — mod for JC3, but he added that "we certainly wouldn’t be closed door to them". Many of JC3's developers are still modders in their own time, after all, making levels and mods for other games on the weekends.
Given that we were in the same ballpark, I probed Lesterlin for his thoughts on the paid versus unpaid mods debate that had enveloped and enraged the community. He took a fairly neutral stance — whether he was wanting to avoid controversy, or it simply suited his laid-back nature I couldn't say — but he seemed to sympathise more with the idea of mods remaining free, using a heart and soul type of argument.
"I can understand the idea of having paid mods, so that modders can actually — the same YouTubers end up making a living, by making cooler and cooler videos that you and I get to consume and enjoy, and it becomes another entertainment avenue," the game director explained. "I think modders have poured years of their life to create mods and some of them would love to do it full-time, but there is also something about mods that is a heart and soul sort of thing, a labour of love, and games have always been a bit of a sub-culture when it comes to that side."
"Does money take a bit of that soul out of it," I followed up.
"Maybe. It’s possible. And I think there’s a bit of a backlash when the Steam one came out, and honestly I haven’t been part of the modding community for a bit of time, I haven’t done my own mods in a little while, been modding this thing [points to JC3]. We have devs who continue to be modders as well, and make maps and things for various shooters, and they love doing it, and they do it on their weekends and their personal time, which is hilarious."
"They spend all week making video games and then they spend all weekend making video games. I’m kind of interested to see how it plays about, I think money is always a difficult thing. People have to mkae a living and eat food and what not, but at the same time there’s something pretty special about a community that has come together that makes crazy, awesome stuff that extends the life of a game and they just did it for the love of the game."
"And that feels a little different from it, but maybe the way YouTube now has YouTubers who make money from YouTube videos, and no-one’s really upset at them for saying "I’ll have ads on my channel," because people kind of get, 'Oh, well I really like this personality.' Maybe there’ll eventually be a modder who makes his own YouTube channel and says, ‘Hey I made this mod, you can download it from my site or something, or donate a dollar to me so that I can keep making mods because my day job takes most of my time.’ Maybe it’ll start there. It’s hard to tell."
Just Cause 3 is due out for PC, PS4 and Xbox One on December 1.