TR Member Perks!

The issue of mods is something that is on a lot of gamer’s minds recently, as yesterday Valve Software unexpectedly announced that for Bethesda Softwork’s title The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, modders can now sell their work on Steam. In a not unexpected reaction, the nearly universal backlash against this has been impressive to say the least. Right now, there are over 43,000 supporters that have signed a petition asking Valve to “…reject this act… [as] mods should be a free creation… made by people who wish to add to the game so others can also enjoy said creation with the game.” Notable YouTube critic TotalBiscuit has also put in his two cents, having a more mixed reaction to the entire situation. In the video, the YouTuber states that “… I think that people are a little stuck in the old idea that all modding should be a passion project or modding should be free… the idea that getting paid and doing something out of passion is somehow mutually exclusive…” This is a very complex issue that cannot fully be explained in this editorial. However, there is a question that should be asked by all of those on both sides of this issue: should mods be monetized? Essentially, mods have been a part of the DNA of PC gaming since the very beginning of its existence. The urge to experiment on games and their code has always been there, and for a long time some companies have supported this, including Valve Sofrtware. Personally, I grew up playing with Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft III and its various mods. Mods like Footmen Frenzy, Sniper Elite, Uther Party, Pass the Bomb, Wintermaul… I could go on and on about excellent mods/maps that were released for Warcraft III, and I haven’t even listed some of the more famous mods from Warcraft III, just a few of the ones that I personally enjoyed. If we were to release Warcraft III on the Valve store, with the current 25% to 75% profit ratio for the modder and Valve/Game Publisher, things would be very different. A lot of the mods that I mentioned were created by one person or by a team of people, but eventually other modders picked up the reins to continue their work through either the official blessing of the mod creator or by just going their own way. Imagine now that money were involved in this issue, and the entire situation would be changed. There would not be an Ultimate Footmen Frenzy mod, or the many other variations of that game-type. Creativity could easily be threatened by bringing money into the equation. Instead, for better or worse, gamers would be stuck with that they were given. If Skyrim were to be patched and the mod that you purchased broken as a result, you could very well be completely out of luck. Indeed, for in the FAQ Valve asks users “… to post politely on the Workshop item’s page and let the mod author know the details of what you are seeing.” This is completely unacceptable. Personally, I have never completely understood the love and fascination that gamers have given to Valve as a company, or Gabe Newell in particular, although at least it is easy to see how. The old (albeit reworded) adage continues to ring true for companies everywhere: ‘treat and spoil your customers and they will reward you tenfold.’ Throughout the years, Steam has achieved a virtual stranglehold on the market, and with its Steamworks DRM, a lot of games can only be activated on Steam, regardless of where it was originally purchased. This gives Valve the opportunity to do things that ordinarily would be challenged by a truly competitive rival, which does not currently exist on the PC digital market. Regarding Steam Workshop and Mods, taken as an idea in and of itself, it is a good one. While other places such as MOD DB or Nexus are well-respected and well maintained websites dedicated towards modding, the pull of having mods and games tightly curated, with only having to click ‘subscribe’ in order to try out a mod, is definitely tempting. Introducing money to the mix always complicates things, of course, but it does not have to be this way. The idea of Patreon has been brought up, and it could work well for all parties involved. Continuing, no matter how good a mod could be, in the end it would be up to the community at large if they want to support the content creator. The situation already needs to change, so let me produce an alternative. Instead of requiring players to pay for dubiously supported mods, it would be more along the lines of whether or not you wish to support it. You would have the choice, and this would be the only choice for those wishing to make money with their mods… you would be beholden to the community. To be blunt, if they do not like your work, then you won’t make money. If a mod stops working and the modder does not seem to care whether the mod works or not, it would be up to the community to respond. At the moment, Patreon has individuals or groups of individuals posting their work online in a somewhat Kickstarter-like fashion. A lot of those who are hosting Patreons used to work for free, but with Patreon there is the potential of doing what you truly love for a living, and this has been the truth thus far: if people like what you are doing, they will support your work. Mods by themselves are not original games; they are the gaming equivalent of writers playing in an already established sandbox, bringing their own ideas and insight into improving their experience (along with many others) in some way, whether it be big or small. Ultimately, the question must be asked anew: should mods be monetized? It really depends on you, me, and everyone else who chooses to have a voice in this issue. My personal feelings on this will not be the same as others, but I hope this editorial has been somewhat useful in conglomerating some of the more… interesting aspects of paying for mods. For myself, if there are those who wish to reward the mod creator in some type of monetary fashion, then let it be so. I understand that Valve Software and companies such as Bethesda Softworks will have their cut at the end of the day, but at the moment something has to change on a large scale, as the 25-75% ratio is completely laughable and absurd. Overall, it cannot be understated. This issue will likely shape the future of PC Gaming as a whole. If anyone wants to have a say in the matter, speak out and act now, or forever be silent. For more information, stay tuned to TechRaptor.

Patrick Perrault

Staff Writer

Writer for TechRaptor, who hopes to gain valuable experience in a constantly changing industry.

  • Montana

    It might be easier to subscribe to a mod through Steam.
    It’s also 1000 times easier to break your game when doing that.

    Steam gives you no control of your mods and is guaranteed to break your game sooner or later.

    I’m using ModOrganizer, Boss, TES5Edit etc. to check, clean and control mods and conflicts, Steam simply can’t compete with that.
    Add a paywall and Steam is completely out of the question for me personally.

    Now I wouldn’t mind if I could give modders a buck or two if I enjoy their work, but I doubt the mods I’d like to support would appear on the workshop since they’ve got a small size limit on mods.

    It seems like Nexus is going to make it easier to tip/pay a mod creator so I’ll stick with Nexus.

  • Robert Grosso

    I can understand how this can be problematic, but I think the fact that people want to be paid for their work is a good thing.

    I am usually of the mind to let economics decide this, if you want to pay $35 for a mod to the game, go for it in the end, you are supporting the content creators in that way by giving them some money, along with Bethesda and Valve in this case.

    I guess the real problem is what kind of mods are going to be made and put up for sale, and whether or not you have permission to use assets for those said modifications. Yet one of the strange things that are being rumored is people putting up mock “protest mods” to download, like an apple that costs $35. or a bucket in it’s pre-alpha stage for a couple of bucks.

    Ironic, considering I know people who would buy a monocle from eve online for $70 because they have the cash to burn. I feel like the gaming population is overreacting a bit again on this one, much like the charges against Nintendo and their youtube policy. That said, there are problems that are going to have to be addressed, like the use of assets without permission from modders vs Valve’s laissez faire approach. It is going to be interesting to see what happens.

  • Screech Screecher

    I am not sure how the free market can not be anything except a good idea. It will lead to a Golden Age of mods if done correctly. There are adjustments to the system that need to be done, such as the revenue split is horrible. I don’t think that the company that made the game should get a cut at all and the majority of revenue should go to the modder. Also paid mods should not be able to use any free mods in them without prior written consent.
    Having paid mods will mean having better mods.

  • UntamedLoli

    Why would paid mods suddenly mean better mods? UE4 is free and you can earn up to $3000 per quarter before paying anything. Not to mention the vast superiourity of the toolkit itself and it has its own asset marketplace.

    I’ve been doing modding for almost 2 decades, you are spending a whole lot of time trying to work around the limitations of the game you are dealing with. The vast majority of it also isn’t possible without the work of programmers snapping the EULA in half and reverse engineering the game/formats. Which actually makes it comical that Beth is trying to make any money off it. They only made the CK, they didn’t have a hand in anything else. Paid mods are just riding the backs of everyone else that did the hard work.

    Modding is the hobby that will teach you the skills if you apply yourself to it. Game development is the job at the other end. Just look at how many mods have turned into stand alone games. You probably don’t even have that option legally anymore if you sell on the workshop, you basically gave your assets to Beth/Valve.

    It’s actually infuriating that they are taking a hands-off approach to it as well with that cut. Expecting the community or modders themselves to be the watchdogs, of things they have to pay for to even inspect. Just to make sure it doesn’t contain (possibly their own) content that’s been stolen.

  • Screech Screecher

    I never said they suddenly be better but that they will lead to better mods over time. If you don’t understand why things that you pay for are generally better then things you get for free there really is no point in having a conversation.
    Also having paid mods in no way prevents having free mods. I would imagine they would increase the market size for all mods. Not sure the downside except that it is a change which people fear.

  • Nytezero

    No. Fuck no. Donation options and buttons? Sure. A storefront? Fuck off. Valve ain’t getting a single cent from me, only the content creator.

  • TeLin特林

    I hope the next Fallout/Elder Scrolls doesn’t take the ability to get your mods off steam…

  • chloe

    I dont see why not…But a 75 percent cut would be extreme. Another question is, would you actually pay for a mod?

  • Zanard Bell

    The idea is noble, yes, but the way it is implemented is not. Here are my points:

    1. The modding community is not a ‘marketplace’, it’s a community. While I am a capitalist at heart, I do believe that people have the right to build a commune if they so wish, and this move by Valve/Bethesda is messing up that community.

    2. Most mods are built with an idea that runs antithesis to ‘intellectual property’. Mods that nick from other games, 18+ mods, and a few really complicated mods are the brainchild of a modder that was passed around by the community and improved over time. In short, not one entity really owns the concept of a ‘mod’, in most cases. How Valve will manage to police that, I have no idea, but this will deter people with an unconventional idea to publish their mod for fear of company lawyers breathing down their necks.

    3. We can support the modders already by donating to their paypal/Patreon etc. I don’t see why Steam couldn’t expand on that concept, instead of taking a portion of the 75% that is being deducted from the modder’s sale.

  • Nick

    Honestly, I really wish someone had done this better before Valve decided to stick out there and do it the way they are now.

  • Nick

    1. It doesn’t mess it up at all, it simply allows people to see who in the community wants to engage in for-profit activity. You don’t have to, and other people don’t have to either. No one is forcing content creators/mod authors to set their mods up for-pay.

    2. There is no difference in the concepts of a mod vs a full game. They are all the same. Your ideas are not novel. The community as a whole giving ideas for mods doesn’t make the mods anymore the communities than if a game did the same thing. What matters is implementation, and who gets the idea into a playable form.

  • Nick

    Your argument doesn’t stand up. Who’s to say you don’t use faulty casting methods, or provide an incomplete good? Regardless of physical vs digital the quality becomes apparent once the purchaser interacts with what they receive. Valve has offered refund policies for their items, do you do the same thing? I could say that there are so many potential problems with how you make your physical goods, and so it’s not even worth purchasing them. Are you going to get sued for profiting from someone elses IP? Will I not be able to get a refund after I put an order in because of something like this happening? There’s for sure different levels of risk associated with different types of goods & services, but I don’t think you’ve done a very good comparison here.

  • Zanard Bell

    1, Answered it with #3. And no one is also not encouraging mod creators to profit from their activity, it’s the Steam Workshop implementation that people are having a problem with.

    2. Which is why this happened: . And now the creator can’t even take down his “own creation”. The idea that ‘I did it first, the idea is mine’ is running antithesis to the modding community, and now that they have to monetize it, the ‘community’ that was there to help each other out with coding, expanding the mod, adding other assets etc. are one-upping each other to push out what they thought was their own idea.

    And again, that doesn’t even factor in people who are taking assets from other games (things like armor, weapons, characters) and are modding them in Skyrim. Can they not profit from their work? After all, they did work hard for it.

  • Grey

    My answer to the question is “Maybe, but the current system being implemented by Valve seems poorly considered, poorly implemented, and ripe for abuse which we were seeing as of day one.”

    While I prefer the opt-in option for donating to support a mod or mod creator, I can see paid for mods being a thing. The issue is that it would take some serious levels of quality control and frankly, I have zero faith in Steam when it comes to that. Their track record is abysmal when it comes to full release games. Adding possibly tens of thousands of mods to the docket of the seemingly already non-existent quality control specialists not-monitoring Steam is a horrible idea.

    One step at a time please, Valve. Make sure your shoe laces aren’t tied together before you hit the dance floor.

  • braneman

    No it wont lead to a golden age, it will lead to legal action and DCMA takedowns, mods that break other mods without any fixes in sight, mods that stop working entirely and will never be fixed because its just some random person on the internet that doesn’t care about their steam account.
    Just because you’re suddenly paying for something doesn’t mean its automatically going to get better and provide things normal companies do when they sell you something. Modders don’t have customer support hotlines, refund polices(neither does steam outside of corporate scrip) and possibly even the skills to pull off what they are promising in the first place.
    Or it might even be impossible to pull off alltogether, remember the portal gun mods for gmod? an engine update broke those so they are completely unfixable. What kind of recourse would you have if you paid for something like that?

    You may be seeing a golden age of modding, I’m seeing the death of collaboration and now suddenly a price being put on ideas. I don’t want to go out and get help making a mod now, somebody else might steal it and sell it. The only thing I know for sure is that you can call up your nearest copyright lawyer and tell him he’s a rich man because now there can be money attached to intellectual property theft in the modding community.

  • Montana

    Mods on Steam is good for modding rookies.
    It’s an excellent place to download your first mod.

    But after a while, when your mod list hits 20-30+ mods, you should abandon Steam (do a mod wipe or clean install) and start using one of the better mod tools that gives you some control/insight in to what files are added, conflicts etc.

    On another note.
    I’m all for being able to support mod creators, but I see a can of worms in Steams current system.
    Stolen mods, mods with resources from other mods etc. is a copyright nightmare for Steam and creators.
    If you’re going to sell mods there needs to be a system in place that punishes people who steal mods/resources.
    Otherwise piracy will become rampant.

    This will require a lot of work, something I frankly don’t think Steam will do.
    They don’t even curate the games they sell, you think they’ll curate thousands of mods?

  • Montana

    I would pay for some mods.
    Falskaar would be worth some money.
    Immersive armors too.
    Book of Silence (armor texture pack) is another example I would pay a few bucks for.

    But I’d rather it be through a simplified donations system.
    A one-button press to donate a buck on Nexus would be awesome.

  • Nick

    I think there is a difference here, and you’re right that the risks can vary. I however believe that the cost of the mod also reflects risk to the user. For instance, skins and such can cost about $.50. There’s a low cost both because you don’t necessarily receive much and because the risk is higher.

    I also think you’re mis-speaking about IP. IP is purely ideas. It has no relation to physical vs digital. an Intellectual Property (as it’s name implies) is an ethereal idea, not an actual object. Sony? (I think it was sony) shutdown creation of ‘Jayne Hats’ when people started trying to sell them on official marketplaces even though they were hand-crafted, physical goods.

    It’s always up to the consumer to research the product they are purchasing, this is still the case for physical goods. When you just started making your products I would think the risk would be similar to what is currently going on in the marketplace. Maybe Steam should have taken some cues from sites like etsy?

  • TeLin特林

    Yep. I have no faith in them being able to handle that nightmare…hell, in addition to the issues of curating the games they sell their support system is non-existent.

  • Anita

    Sure. Mod creators should have the option of asking to be compensated for their work with some trivial or minor but non-trivial fee.

    Valve and the Publisher/Developer, however, should not get much of a cut for it. Valve should get a nominal fee for the work they do in hosting and facilitating everything (10%). The developer/Publisher should get jack shit, because they wouldn’t get jack shit for the mod outside of Steam Workshop and they did absolutely none of the work to either create the mod or host and distribute it.

    As for the mod creator… they should charge reasonable amounts.

  • Anita

    Sure, mod creators should have the option to be compensated in a REASONABLE fashion for their work.

    Publishers and Developers should not get a cut of that. They never have before. They shouldn’t now. Especially since they are doing NOTHING. Valve is the one facilitating the service. And even valve should only take a NOMINAL fee to cover the cost of this service. The mod creator should get 90%, valve should get 10%. Period.

    I’m likely to not pay for something at all if I know the guy who made it is getting dick for my money.

  • Screech Screecher

    I guess I just am a bit more optimistic on things then yourself. And if it really will be this bad then no one will buy mods and only use the free ones. Only thing that would change is that there is now an option. I just don’t hate the ability to choose.

  • karmashock

    It should be up to the mod makers and the devs.

    1. Whether or not a mod costs money should be entirely up to the mod maker. They can set the price. Maybe they want zero dollars and maybe they want one MILLLION dollars. That’s up to them.

    2. Have Valve have a stated set percentage that goes to them and keep it small. Something like 5 to 10 percent at most.

    3. Let developers decide if they want a cut of the mod money. Again, on a percentage basis and let the dev decide what percentage they think is reasonable. So if the dev wants 90 percent they can demand that. If they want 1 percent then they can demand that.

    4. All this information should be disclosed to the buyer so that the buyer knows that the 1 dollar mod has 5 cents going to Valve and 25 cents going to the devs and the remaining 70 cents going to the mod maker. Or whatever the break down is as decided by the relevant parties.

    Do that, and the system works just fine. Force people to charge for mods and you have a problem. Force people the devs to charge a set fee and you have a problem. If valve charges too much for their end, then we also have a problem. 20 percent would be the absolute most. Anything beyond that is a mistake. And everything has to be disclosed at time of sale. If I see someone charging 5 dollars for a mod and then I look at the terms and see that the dev is claiming practically all the money, I suddenly understand why the figure is being set so high. If the mod maker is getting 5 percent of the total they’re not looking at what you pay but what they get instead.

  • Robert Grosso

    That is never going to happen though, since Valve charges everyone for using their service with a fairly substantial cut of their profits.

    So if a $10 game is made and sold on Steam, Valve would get a minimum of 30% of the profits, so $3.00 total.

    So think about this, every game on Steam, Valve get’s a hefty penny of it, whether it is on sale or not, which rakes in millions for the company because Steam is still the only service people seem to use.

    For publishers, they already are getting less of the pie to begin win. An average $60 game online would net a publisher only $27 overall, less than 50% of the cost of sale. The rest goes to licensing fees, server maintenance, and in the case of physical copies, payments to retailers and disk/box production. By the way, developers are usually paid already so they don’t get anything extra technically, unless they are owned by a publisher.

    So technically, the guys who made it are already getting dick for your money. This is why DLC and now this modding thing can be lucrative, because it gives the developers extra cash flow; publishers and distributors still get a cut, but it’s raw profits that go to publishers and developers specifically for their work. Legally though, the only way to pay for mods for a product that is licensed is to claim ownership of the product and take a cute of the money, so publishers allowing or disallowing the sale of mods is up to them in the end.