For those of you not familiar with The Binding of Isaac, it’s a randomly generated dungeon crawler with heavy rogue-like elements developed by Edmund McMillan and Nicalis Games. What originated as a simple flash game hosted on Newgrounds is now a highly successful PC game with ports to the Nintendo 3DS, Playstation, Xbox, IOS and soon, the Nintendo Switch; has gained amazing traction on both the YouTube and Twitch communities, and has seen four expansions in its lifetime. The most recent of these, Afterbirth+, was released on Steam on January 3rd, 2017 for the PC, with a release for consoles expected in spring.
So, what’s new in this expansion? Besides dozens of new items, bosses, achievements, and even a new character, what perhaps stands out the most in the final expansion for the game is developer tools, also known as mod support. This allows the community to design their own items, enemies and even characters to add into the game. The developer of TBoI, Edmund McMillan, stated “[…] the point of Afterbirth+ is to hand the game off to the community.” Unfortunately, the initial release was quite buggy; and even now, almost two months after the release of the expansion, the mod tools leave a lot to be desired.
Popular speedrunner and modder Zamiel made a video detailing several major bugs and limitations present both in the modding tools and in the main game that you can watch above. While some of those issues have been fixed since the upload of the video (such as the problem with entity stacking), many still have not been attended to. The fact that the developers rarely if ever upload a changelog means that dataminers have to dig through the code to find out what changed and share it with the community. This is a prime example of the lack of communication on the developer’s part that needs to be remedied if they truly want to provide the best experience possible to the players.
As an expansion originally advertised to provide a sandbox so powerful one could even create a whole new game with it, many fans were extremely underwhelmed with the mod tools provided. Without LUA bindings for floor generation, getting raw room data, subclassing or overriding existing classes, modders are extremely limited in what they can actually change in the game. It’s important to reiterate that the developers intended for this expansion to hand off the game to the community – so why limit it in such a way?
This leaves us at a point of uncertainty. The staff has said that they’re looking into bugs, and developer Tyrone Rodriguez stated that “What you see now isn’t the final version of the mod tools, but just the beginning.”. However, with still no changelogs and no anticipated update dates, the modding community is left scratching their heads and doing their best to work with the extremely limited tools given to them. All we can hope for is that these bugs are fixed eventually and that the game can finally truly become what was promised.