Farming Simulator devs go against the grain

When you think about games with an active modding community, you likely think of heavy-hitters like Skyrim, Counter-Strike and the like. Dig a little deeper and you'll strike the root of something else entirely: Farming Simulator.

In an industry of space marines, monsters, aliens and assassins, the Farming Simulator games choose a different course – one drawn and directed not just by them, but their players.

First released in 2007, the Farming Simulator series has grown in popularity year after year. Last year's Farming Simulator 14 sold 2 million copies worldwide, and a key ingredient to developer Giants Software's success has been the modding community.

With each new Farming Simulator game, Giants releases both the in-studio asset creation tools as well as the game's source code to their PC fanbase. The open nature of the game's development and release results in an active modding community, and Giants pays attention. Many modders become listed on the official Farming Simulator website, and it's the modding community that influences the features present in the game, both directly and indirectly.

Tractors, trailers, maps, livestock, buildings, gameplay modes and even entirely new games have been created thanks to Giants' generosity toward their playerbase. The developer recalled, for example, a mod that took the Farming Simulator engine to the skies to create a plane-racing game. Giants isn't just inviting players to get their hands dirty though, they're watching and learning what the players want.

When Giants Software moves to develop the next iteration of Farming Simulator, they implement features that they think can't be easily added post-release by the mod community. Leaving tire tracks in the soil – a new visual effect for Farming Simulator 15 – may seem like a small thing, but the developer told us that since the game uses dynamic meshes on its terrain, it's an effect that's difficult to replicate.

Other times, it's the modding community that spurs Giants into action. The developer told us they received "tons" of letters in the past asking for flashing lights on top of the farm tractors, and when said lights were officially implemented, they received a showering of praise. For Farming Simulator 15, Giants is adding a first-person power wash mode, which began life as a mod.

The relationship between developer and modder in the Farming Simulator world is symbiotic, and shows the power of a positive relationship between a studio and its audience. Farming Simulator 15 will be out this October for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and PC.

[Image: Farming Simulator 2013: Focus Home Interactive]