Last month, Bethesda released a statement that didn’t fall quietly on the ears of their fans. Sony would not approve mod support for Fallout 4 and Skyrim Special Edition on PlayStation 4, pushing the fate of the highly anticipated feature into the void.
Today the fates crawled back out of that void with the announcement that mod support (and native 4K rendering, if you’re into that) would be coming to the PS4 versions of these games after all. When asked what was behind Sony’s change of mind, Bethesda’s Pete Hines responded with this passage from the company’s statement, the crux of what PlayStation 4 mods will be lacking moving forward:
How profound an impact will this caveat prove? Modders can only work with content included in the game and its DLC, while player imported textures, models, and audio files all will count as the aforementioned external assets. That means you won’t be able to make dragons into Charizard and Macho Man Randy Savage. Nor will we be turning them into the infamous Thomas the Tank of Eternal Dovahkiin Doom.
But a mod doesn’t need to be bringing forth the apocalypse to utilize external assets. Some of Skyrim’s all-time most popular mods include those for new weapons and armor, additional hairstyles, or entirely new, fully voiced companions – in other words, external assets galore.
That said, it’s unlikely that the PS4 modding world will be a dry, dark one stripped of creation. Vanilla assets can be used to make followers, new homes, entire towns – all of which would need to be cobbled together from existing art. We’re also unsure how dramatic we can get with this cobbling, so don’t count out unspeakable arts and crafts horrors yet.
The jury’s still out on scripts, however. These packages of programming can eke out functions like quest lines or events. Their status on the PS4 remains unknown, but should scripts be off the table as well, you can expect most Skyrim mods to come in the form of modifiers – ones that alter your damage, perks, or armor attributes, for example.
As of now, it’s looking like mod support on the PlayStation 4 will be objectively ample, but noticeably neutered compared to the content we’ve come to admire. Skyrim’s long history of modding on the PC has remolded the game into a veritable sandbox, and our perspectives along with it. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim of 2011 was a glorious game about dragons, shouts, arrows to the knee, and ten billion slain Draugr. The Skyrim of 2016 is an equally glorious but unmistakably distinct one, filled with Pokemon, crazy perks, downloadable questlines, infinite retextures, and the lovable Dovahbear.
“Full mod support was not approved,” Hines added. “This is what we are able to do.”
On its release this October 28, Skyrim Special Edition will offer well more than its original. But thankfully, Skyrim now means much more than its original release, and restrictions like these, regardless of scope, respectfully stand against the new ethos players have given it. The result is one that warps in the face of the Skyrim community’s immense passion, ingenuity, and willingness to change every molecule of a timeless favorite. It’s not a poor version of Skyrim arriving on the PlayStation 4, but a different one.