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Xenolith: The User-Friendly Indie Game Mod Community [Interview]

For those of you who enjoy modding, you know how much effort it takes to go through the variety of websites and forums scouring for a specific mod or update. If you have ever wanted to simplify that process, this is your chance to do so — at least, when it comes to indie games. Axel Rothe had similar desires and ideas when it came to modding for indie games, but he actually managed to put his ideas to the test and develop a modhosting community, hoping that modders and non-modders alike will enjoy using a more streamlined method of downloading and updating mods.

This idea seems really exciting to us at IGM and so we decided to do an interview with Rothe about Xenolith: The Foundry, the aforementioned community, in order to gain some insight and distinguish what makes it so different from other communities. We hope this helps everyone establish an idea of what to expect:

Indie Game Mag: I’m sorry, but I have to admit: Axel Rothe is suspiciously similar to Axl Rose, what’s going on here?

Axel Rothe: Oh, no they are on to me! Actually you aren’t the first to make this association, but I must disappoint you that I am in fact not the lead singer of Guns and Roses, as much as I would like to be.

Xenolith: The Foundry sounds like an intense RPG, but apparently you guys are a modding
community for indie games. What can you tell me about Xenolith?

Xenolith is a project that I developed after noticing the lack of a good modhosting site in the indie scene.

The site acts as a database for modifications of indie games uploaded by the creators themselves.

Modders can add descriptions, pictures and of course files to their mods page. Above that they can
also add source code for others to use.

Feedback is very important for modders. Users can show their appreciation by liking a mod or by
giving direct text feedback. And most importantly users can subscribe to their favorite mods.

Subscribing is free and ensures that whenever an author updates their game the subscribers will be
notified about the newest version.

What sets Xenolith apart from the Desura and ModDB communities? What makes you
different from other modding communitites?

Desura is more of a competitor to Steam than Xenolith. Like Steam, Desura allows modders to
upload their mods, but only if they are cool with it. This is usually means that only really big mods get
uploaded and smaller but maybe better mods never get on Desura or Steam.

We allow any size of mod on the site should it be as simple as an ini settings file or a full blown
overhaul.

ModDB is well, cluttered to say the least. I think ModDB is a good site, but it has such an incredible
amount of dead projects and games that were abandoned on the site that finding anything turns into a
fox hunt.

We try to keep the site clean of dead projects and all pages as simple as possible. So instead of each
mod having 25 different pages and a bunch of extra stuff, we have everything on one page.

Are you trying to go for a more social approach?

I think it’s quite important to communicate with your players. This is what made indie big. For the first
time developers were asking their players for input and it was all about making the game better and
not thinking about how to leech the players dry like certain larger companies like to do.

Modders are like mini developers and they to need to communicate and receive feedback.

But in contrast to developers modders aren’t out for the money and therefor the sharing aspect is very
important. That’s why we added the possibility to share source code directly on the site with full mark-
up.

Thus far, how much success have you had with developers? What about with the public?

Some like the KSP developers are a little more conserved and aren’t too cool with advertisement of
external sites.

However developers like Chris Simpson from Project Zomboid and Chris England from Xenonauts
have been very forthcoming and even encouraged their users to use Xenolith.

The Data Realm developers were also very happy to finally find a decent modding database that’s not
a wordpress blog run by a 12 year old. There are actually tons of sites like these and when Xenolith
was new many thought that Xenolith was just another blog. Seems we proved them wrong.

With over 580 users and almost 100’000 views I can safely say that we must have some kind of
appeal to the average gamer. Our reddit posts also received almost 100% positive feedback.

What is the hardest thing in trying to have people using your modding database?

Definitely getting people to leave the “uncomfortable” comfort of the forums. While forums are messy
and unsuitable for modding directories, many have accustomed themselves to the thread-system.
They don’t want to try something new, even if it is easier.

The ones that do give Xenolith a try usually don’t leave anymore.

How welcoming and friendly is the community to new modders and users? Are there
tutorials and the like?

Yes, we have several writers who compose modding tutorials and game guides. Anyone can use the
site. There is no such thing as a bad mod, if you like what you made there are at least hundreds that
would like it as well.

Why develop a new modding community?

As it stands there aren’t any modding platforms for smaller indie games and smaller modders.
Whenever I was looking for a specific mod for example Minecraft, I had to scour a messy forum. Often
I had to abandon the search because I just couldn’t find the mod.

Another thing was that mods were updated frequently, but I’d never be informed about it. So I took it to
myself to create something that covered all indie games and would make it convenient for both players
and modders to use.

The current systems just didn’t do it. I mean Nexus-Mods charges money to be able to subscribe to
updates. That’s not really an option in my opinion.

Do you think there is a fair bit of interest in modding indie games? It seems to serve a niche audience, but could it also have casual appeal? How?

Looking at the Minecraft I think this is a rather large niche. Indie games aren’t small time things
anymore and now thanks to Kickstarter I know we will be seeing more indie games popping up.

Modding has always been something that casual gamers have had some trouble getting into.

I am currently developing a mod manager that will help installing mods from our site directly into your
game. It will hopefully not just serve to be a great tool in general, but also a great way for casuals to
appreciate mods. I can’t give an ETA at the moment, because I’m still in a very early phase and can
only work on it in my free time.

What games would you like to see on the platform that have yet to make the leap?

We’ve covered most of the officially mod supporting indie games out there, so instead of getting more
games on the site we need more modders of the currently supported games to join us.

It would be great if we could get the same response from the other communities like we are getting
from the Project Zomboid and Cortex Command crew.

What would you like to tell the indie (and gaming) community as a whole?

Indie is about sharing your ideas and creations and using the right platform is important.

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And with that, we want to thank Axel for answering our questions and giving us a much better idea of just what the hell Xenolith: The Foundry is about. For those of you interested in checking it out, whether it be for downloading mods or making your own, check them out on their official site.

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Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Xenolith: The User-Friendly Indie Game Mod Community [Interview]

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