An Empirical Study of the Characteristics of Popular Minecraft Mods
The team size, cost and complexity in game development can grow exponentially as the user requirements increase. Thus, it has become challenging to develop a successful game, and game developers are constantly under an immense amount of stress.
One approach to balance the increasing gamer expectation and development stress is to build an active modding community around the game. Skyrim and Minecraft are examples of games that have been successful in building active modding communities to increase the longevity of the games. For example, the Skyrim game still has a median of 86 new mods released per day 8 years after its initial game release in 2011, along with more than 514M total unique downloads of mods. Prior work also shows that an active modding community can contribute to the increased sales of the original game.
There are two key components of an active modding community of a game: the active development of mods, and the active adoption of mods by gamers. In our prior work, we looked at how game developers can help maintain the active development of mods, and observed that games from developers with a consistent modding support within the same or different game franchises, were associated with faster releases of mods.
In this paper, we identify the characteristics that distinguish popular mods from unpopular ones. To do so, we study 33 characteristics along 5 dimensions of 1,114 popular and 1,114 unpopular mods for the Minecraft game from the CurseForge mod distribution platform – one of the largest distribution platforms for Minecraft mods. We focus on the mods from the Minecraft game because it has one of the largest and most active modding communities. In particular, we answer the following two research questions (RQs): (RQ1) Do our studied dimensions have enough explanatory power to distinguish popular mods from unpopular ones? We observed that each studied dimension of characteristics of a mod has significant explanatory power in distinguishing popular from unpopular mods. Among the studied dimensions, the community contribution for the mod dimension has the largest explanatory power. However, our combined model which uses all the features across the five dimensions outperforms the best model using an individual dimension by 10% (median)
(RQ2) What features best characterize a popular mod? We observed that 18 of the 33 (54.5%) studied features help in distinguishing popular mods from unpopular ones. Simplifying the mod development is positively correlated with mod popularity. In addition, popular mods tend to promote community contribution with a source code repository URL and an issue tracking URL, and have a richer mod description.
An active modding community not only helps game developers meet the growing and changing needs of their gamer base, but also leads to a better overall gaming experience. Therefore, based on our findings, we suggest future work to further investigate the impact of the features that distinguish popular mods, to eventually come up with recommendations that assist mod developers in improving the popularity of their mods.