Once it tore itself away from the shackles of Grand Theft Auto, the Saints Row series has always been about freedom. In ever-escalating fashion, the series allowed you to look and play how you wanted. This culminated in Saints Row IV, where you played the President of the United States, using your Matrix-style superpowers to fight against an invading alien force. When it comes to limitations, Saints Row IV doesn't have many within the confines of its world.
That world is still rigidly defined though, because Saints Row IV hasn't allowed PC players to natively mod the title. For a long time, Saints Row: The Third and IV mods had to created by fans who basically hacked into game to create new content. Every mod they created was the result of finding the game's nooks and crannies and exploiting them.
That all changed when Volition parent company THQ died and the developer passed on to Deep Silver. A change in regime meant that Volition could now devote resources to helping the mod community. It meant that Deep Silver Volition could interface with the community directly, asking them what they needed and providing comprehensive tools for modding.
"We are just at the beginning of things, and this is a grassroots effort within Volition," said Jeff Thompson, Studio Director of Programmers at Volition told Penny Arcade Report last year. "By that I mean, right now, it's entirely fueled by people within Volition who want to do this."
"With Deep Silver and Koch, we are now part of a company that is both profit-focused and thinks both strategically and in the long-term. This is a company that has done a lot of its business with PC gamers," he added. "It's also a company that trusts us and supports us to do things that are longer-term investments like building up stronger relationships with the community."
This weekend marked the first full release of the Software Development Kit for Saints Row IV, allowing aspiring modders to create new weapons or modify existing weapons. The SDK is available over on SaintsRowMods.com. This is Release A, allowing modders to create new weapons for the game. It includes tutorials, template files, and a preview of a new weapon that's coming in an upcoming Saints Row IV expansion.
This is only the first SDK release, hence the focus on weapons. Volition has a total of four SDK releases planned, each allowing more extensive customization options for the full game. Release B will let players create new character meshes, skins, and clothing options. Release C involves animation, so modders can create brand-new taunts. Release D involves modding and tuning vehicles for use in the game. Volition also wants to explore world geometry modifications, new mission creation, audio modding, and further vehicle modding support in the future.
Volition's commitment to the modding community is impressive and will probably help the Saints Row series moving forward; games with full-fledged modding communities tend to have long shelf lives. You can look to community-driven releases like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Team Fortress 2, DotA 2, Minecraft, Civilization V, or Portal 2 for examples of healthy games with a long tail. Even better, this connection with the community will probably help the developer when it decides to get to work on the next Saints Row.
If the Saints Row franchise is about true player freedom, allowing mods was the inevitable endgame. In a series where you can dress up in a classy suit, run at super-speed, leap four stories into the air, and beat an alien to death with a purple dildo, letting players have full control of the game is the next step. Developers can create amazing things, but some of the best content is created when they let passionate fans play with the same tools. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes from the Saints Row IV modding community in a few months.
The release of the SDK follows the announcement of the newest Saints Row IV DLC, Gat Out of Hell. The new content follows the adventures of Johnny Gat and Kinsey as they head into Hell to save the President from Satan. No, I did not make any of that up. Gat Out of Hell is coming to PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on January 27, 2015 for $19.99.
Wait, did that list say PlayStation 4 and Xbox One? Of course it did. Volition is also bringing the original Saints Row IV to those system with Saints Row IV: Re-Elected. The usual features apply here: better graphics and all of the previous DLC. Re-Elected will cost $29.99 on its own, or $49.99 in a bundle with Gat Out of Hell.