Mods, Hacks and Fan-Translations
Some people are not satisfied with how their favorite game looks and plays like. So, they resort to altering this game to mold it in the game they wish it has been. This practice is known as modding, or hacking, or romhacking. It's prevalent in PC games, but it's also done for console and handheld games.
How To Apply Mods
Main Page: Apply ROM Hacks and Translations
Types of Mods
- Mods alter the game files
- They're permanently included in the ISO/ROM
- They exist within hardware constraints
Games released only in foreign countries (like Japan) often have enthusiasts translating them to their language. After they whip up a translation on some script dump text document they extracted or transcripted from the game, they insert it back in the game.
- Graphics (title screen and in-game graphics with text)
- Programming (in case game has no variable width text)
GBA and DS games don't take too kindly to flashcards. If it's not a black screen at startup, then some roadblock would be implemented by devs to trigger in-game and render all progress impossible. Region-locked games have it even worse, especially import ones. They could use some alteration to the ROM image so that the programming check doesn't go off.
This could be as easy as changing some bytes in a header, or programming-out region locking as well as fixing how the game displays (for example, PS1 games display way off with only a superficial region change done).
- Terranigma (SNES): NTSC version patch (changes region, removes region locking programming)
Some warez groups for distributing ROMs like to add lengthy unskippable intros with rotating rainbow text and crappy messages, that appear before the game begins executing. Unfortunately, this practice is still going on with some newly released games.
They sometimes include trainers, that is hardcoded cheat codes for invincibility, infinite HP and so on.
- Programming (repointing initial part of executable code from game to intro screen)
- Lots of Homebrew stuff, depending on the author
Mostly done for RPGs with an obscenely high encounter rate, games with a lot of grinding, or inconsistent enemy difficulty. There's also rebalancing mods for games that suffer from some bosses being bullet sponges, and absurd prices (like the dreaded triforce quest in WW) leading to padding or unnecessary frustration.
Many Android games have their microtransactions nulled by giving the player infinite money or removing cool-down timers.
- Stat Values
- Programming (not often)
- Valkyria Chronicles rebalance patch (PC)
- Breath of Fire 2 Easy Type (SNES)
- Mother 1+2 Translation with Easy Ring (NES)
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii):
Restoring Cut Content
Sometimes stuff gets cut from the game before it's released because devs ran short on time. Sometimes stuff gets censored because some offended people can't stand it existing, either soccer moms from the nineties yelling "think of the children" while calling for censorship of M-rated games, or social justice people wanting "problematic" games banned today (examples include GTA V's Australian ban and female costumes in many MMOs). It may be also because it simply would be too costly to license. This sort of stuff often has people rallying to restore it to the game with whatever little remnants there still is in-game.
Stuff getting scrapped before release
- Sonic Adventure: Beta Windy Valley (GC, PC)
- Metroid Zero Mission: Crocomire mod (GBA)
- Star Ocean 1: unused difficulty options (PSP)
Stuff getting removed from localizations"
- Final Fantasy 4: Retranslated (SNES): prostitute sprite restoration
- Tales of Phantasia DeJap (GBA): Correcting the translation - like sex worker erasure (called "Man" in-game), and Ragnarock called Kangaroo
- Actraiser: Retranslation Hack (SFC)
Stuff getting modded to be more "offensive"
- Pointers to enable access to these otherwise inaccessible places
- potentially other things too
It's often swapping sound files from the English version with ones from the Japanese version, provided they use the same format (which they sometimes don't, and the need for a more throughout hacking).
It's really popular, but frowned upon by hacking sites usually hosting content, since any patches would contain copyrighted data for voice performance of Japanese VAs. That's why you find these undub things directly pre-patched to ISOs on your favorite shady ROM site.
- Sound data
Ever wanted to play M.C. Kids (a genuinely fun game) but couldn't due to the game starring the unbearably repulsive hideous satanic abomination that is Ronald McDonald? Wanted to play as a dick / Mara in the original Super Mario Bros? Your girl wanted to play as Zelda in the Legend of Zelda? All of this and more is possible (and happened indeed) by the modders replacing the original 2D sprites or 3D models with the ones of their liking.
Level / Quest Hacks
When you take it one step further in changing how the game plays by modifying maps and levels. You could also alter the programming to create new gameplay mechanics (FLUDD in Mario 64 DS, Paint Gun in Portal) to accommodate the new level design and you might end up with a whole new game, Chinese-bootleg-style!
Some RPG mods take it one step further and alter storylines and quests left and right, adding enemies and so on.
- Level data
- Graphics (occasionally)
- 3D Model of Level
Asset Enhancement Hacks
GBA games suffered from games having brightened palettes (to compensate for the lack of back-lighting on the early models), and terrible sound quality. SNES games even had muffled sound samples and Megadrive games have questionable palette choices. Not to mention some FMVs in PS1 games being very low-quality for cost concerns, or having artifacts due to the shoddy implementation of hard subs, compared to cleaner versions of the same FMV on other platforms.
Some modders just went and fixed this up, by editing the files containing the sub-par assets to include a higher-quality version, though the replacements are still usually abiding by the hardware constraints. If you're looking for HD graphics you might want to check for emulator-based solutions enhancing the game on the go without actually altering the internal files.
Scrubbing the game of Garbage Data
Main Page: Save_Disk_Space_for_ISOs#Padding