This place freaking rocks, dude. I’ve been going to ModDB and playing a lot of the user made content hosted here for years. Despite using their services for over a decade, I never really looked into who pays their bills, who designed the site or who curates their content. Let’s change that today!
In 1998, an Aussie named Scott Reismanis, aka INtense! worked on many underground gaming site like GamerZoned which was renamed to GaminZone, ChaosRealm and ModRealm. In a 2016 interview by Timothy Courtney, INtense! stated:
“These sites were all short lived, but taught me a huge amount. The most important of which was how much I enjoyed working with the community, and instead of making another editorial site, I wanted to create something that the community ran. It freed my time up to program, whilst also giving developers control – win win!”
This ‘community ran’ something became ModDB, officially launching in June of 2002! More than just a rebrand of ModRealm, ModDB was a self sufficient engine for developers to host their content! Mods were easily searchable by players and update notes about particularly impressive mods were published frequently. The site also featured a ‘Mod of the Day’ to keep things fresh.
By early 2004, the site was getting over 10,000 visitors a day and some behind-the-scenes revisions were needed. INtense! moved the site to servers more powerful and worked on a version 2 of the ModDB engine. This V2 of the site kept the same look and feel of the original but added new features like file hosting and an improved gallery for each mod.
2004 also ushered in the very first Mod of the Year awards! Sixteen different categories were on critique ranging from design ideas like best player models, best animations, best level design to gameplay awards for best in each genre. Mod of the Year was voted for by the community. This years mod of the year went to the WW2 FPS Red Orchestra for Unreal Tournament 2004 that focused on historical accuracy and gameplay realism to draw players in with a deep sense of immersion.
Side note: Tripwire games, the team who developed Red Orchestra, is now a developer with around 50 employees and seven stand-alone games under their belt!
ModDB’s user community kept growing and INtense! kept working on improving the formula. In December 2005, V3 of the ModDB engine was unveiled, bringing with it an overhaul to the UI, plenty of performance tweaks and even space for indie games. V3 also grew the team of administrators, leading to more in-house content like reviews and interviews. The 2005 Mod of the Year awarded the now famous Garry’s Mod for Half-Life 2 as their mod of the year!
Side note: INtense! joked about Team Fortress 2 and Duke Nukem Forever never coming out but gave Black Mesa the most anticipated upcoming mod… a mod that to this day in 2018 is still in Steam ‘early access’.
Shortly after V3 launched, the massive influx of daily users demanded the site to up their game once more. What the team called V3.5 was released and many features for navigating mod pages were implemented. The admin team was also split in two – a side for content creation and a side for administrative work. Around this time, INtense! founded DBolical, a parent company for ModDB and subsequent ventures. The 2006 Mod of the Year awards were the biggest yet, featuring sponsorships from Alienware, Gearbox, the US Navy, and more! Editors’ choice for Mod of the Year went to Goldeneye: Source while the 80,000 community votes went to Point of Existence 2, a total-conversion mod for Battlefield 2.
November of 2007, the ModDB team launched V4 of the engine. Yes, the interface we all know and love has been in use for over a decade! The ‘groups’ feature was introduced in this update, giving power users a shared space to link up with like minded creators or players of their favorite mod.
To this day, DBolical still runs ModDB as well as its sister sites — IndieDB and GameFront. The company has also ventured into software integration, hosting a service called Mod.io that does something or other to make it easier for your indie game to be modifiable. I’m not sure what it all does but its only three months old and made by awesome, passionate people! A link can be found to it here.
ModDB has been my go-to service for as long as I’ve been experiencing modded content. If you haven’t used their site before, I definitely encourage a visit!
Thanks to Scott Reismanis and all the talented people who have helped keep this place optimal over the years. Shouts to all the indie devs and mod makers too! Your content is what keep sites like mine and the one mentioned today going!
Sources: A lot of this content came from the ModDB about page but I tried to venture outside of that when ever possible, sighting those sources as I wrote.