Why the Paid Mods Fiasco Is More than What It Appears to Be

Published: April 29, 2015 11:00 AM /


Steam Paid Mods Featured Image

Humor me for a minute. Back in 1993 the world was graced with a game called Doom. You've heard of Doom so I'm not going to go into detail about what it is, but I will talk about how it came out. It was initially released on floppy disks as well as uploaded on some BBS and FTP places. After the success of Doom, id created The Ultimate Doom in 1995 and Final Doom in 1996. The Ultimate Doom was available in stores as a standalone game, and owners of the original Doom could download patch to upgrade free of charge. Do you see what's wrong with that picture? Or, rather, do you see what's right with it?

There's a new gameplay trailer out for Just Cause 3, which you can watch here, that promises the following.

This footage is all actual gameplay. It was captured in-game using cinematic camera angles. It contains no cut scenes. Nothing was staged or scripted.
Give it a watch and see if you agree. Back? What did you think? Well I'll tell you what I think. I think that Avalanche and Square Enix London aren't giving us the whole truth. That's not what we're here for, though. Do you see the connection to Doom? It's right at the end, here.
Preorder now to secure the exclusive weaponized vehicle pack. Coming Holiday 2015.
Followed, of course, by a reminder and link to preorder. Where would we be, as a species, if we weren't reminded every three seconds to preorder games long in advance so that we could receive "exclusive" day one DLC? Well, we'd probably be somewhere similar to 1993. You see, back in 1993 games like Doom didn't have DLC. Expansion packs existed but they came out long after release and gave absurd amounts of new content. Many developers, id included, gave out their expansions for free to current owners of the game. If you couldn't afford it you could go on a local BBS and get the game for free, and id didn't care because they knew that piracy was just a cost of doing business. In fact I first got Doom by copying off my friends ("don't copy that floppy" was as much a joke then as it is today). I later went on to purchase Doom in mid 1994 and every Doom game since.

Nowhere, anywhere, did anyone ever think about anything related to the things that games like Just Cause 3 are doing now. Day one DLC, on disc DLC, preorder for DLC, it's madness. Back then we were drooling over promo footage of Donkey Kong Country. Nobody had ever put the thought of "what if you could pay $10 for a shiny new in-game item that was on the disc from the beginning and was taken out of the game to sell to you" in our heads. It's such an absurd idea that if I had heard it in 1994 I would have laughed at the surrealist absurdity. Those words, to me, would've been like a weird portrait with too many eyeballs.

Nowadays we accept this practice. Paying $25.99 each for 69 different golden codpieces all on disc at launch is just normal to us. Remember when everyone freaked out when Bethesda released the horse armor DLC? That was a huge deal back then in 2006. "$2.50 for some additional skin!? That's ridiculous! Who would ever pay that much!?" Of course, nowadays people spend thousands of dollars on digital hats and knives and nobody blinks. We gave up the fight against bad DLC the moment we looked at overpriced skins and preferred them over similarly purchased major expansions.

So what about mods? Well if you've read the title of the article you know I'm going to talk about them. I'm just a bit verbose, which is a polite way of saying I need to get to the point and stop wasting your time. Mods are a very similar battleground to DLC, and Valve's recent stupidity to make people pay for mods has even been called "user-made DLC" by some. It's been called other things too, like "stupid," but we'll focus on user-made DLC. It made me think of the early battle against DLC and how quickly the world gave up and bent over. I've heard on Twitter a lot that mods should not be a hill to die on. Let me respond to that. First off, protest isn't death. If you're dying from protest you're doing it wrong. Secondly, it may just be the most important fight in recent memory. Why are mods so important? Besides the thousands of obvious reasons, most of which is "I can make game better with them," there's the fact that it's a gateway to some worse things.

I pose a question: If Bethesda and Valve start making money off of user made mods, where will they make money next? Corporations want money. They seek money like a vampire seeks blood, and they don't care where they get it. After they profit off of mods they will inevitably move elsewhere. Whether it's beefing up their current practices or locating an entirely new source of cash, you can expect that you're gonna pay for it. If they win the battle for paid mods they'll jump on the next gravy train with only a glance back to enjoy the fire they've lit. While some like that kind of heat, happily buying up every overpriced piece of DLC they can get their hands on, I've got certain disagreements. First off, I can't really afford to go around buying hundreds of dollars in DLC for every game I play. Second, I don't like being taken advantage of.

For many, many years a lot of people looked up to a guy named Gabe Newell. They loved him so much that they called him a god. They dedicated their computers to him as shrines; they bought body pillows of his face; they sacrificed virtual goats in his honor; and one guy watched How to Train Your Dragon like 500 times to appease him. He was perfect, immortal, the king of kings, et cetera. After the paid mods fiasco, he was declared the false prophet and images of him were destroyed. The PC gaming community turned on their self-appointed god so quickly you could see  atoms fly off from the sudden deceleration. Reddit's /r/PCMasterRace community has shifted from "praise gaben" to calls of "no gods, no masters". One user, /u/MasterGuns244, had this to say:

PCMR is not about worshiping companies or their leaders, there are no gods nor kings, only each other.
All of this shows that the PC gaming community actually does care about the issue. It was enough to drop all the jokes and get serious. It was a battle we're all willing to fight. It was indicative of an industry precedent that, once set, cannot be undone. Once we allow paid mods to be sold it will grow and worsen until the modding community is entirely destroyed. If we allow it to happen we will soon have to check "mods" off the list of reasons to choose PC over consoles. That's why we don't let it happen. Maybe it is an odd hill to die on, but it's my hill. I will never purchase a mod on the workshop. I will boycott any game that chooses to use paid mods. I don't care if it's Fallout 4 or Half-Life 3 or The Elder Scrolls VI: Free Ferrari and Milkshake Edition. It's the principle of the thing and to beat a corporation you have to be unwavering in your principles.

The paid mods fiasco is more than just disliking the mods or having to pay for them. It's sticking up for the community and taking a stand against what will come if this battle's lost. Sure, Valve reversed their decision on Skyrim, but they haven't canned the whole project. Until they do, it's as alive as ever. Until they destroy it nothing has changed. I'm gonna stay angry, I'm gonna stay alert, and I'm gonna yell a lot on Twitter because let's be honest that's about 99% of modern activism right there.

Of course I could be entirely wrong and Valve is actually doing this because they know mods cause alien invasions or something. If you have anything to add or evidence of mod-fueled aliens, let me know in the comments.

Have a tip, or want to point out something we missed? Leave a Comment or e-mail us at tips@techraptor.net

No author image supplied

I've been talking about games for as long as I can remember, and now I'm writing about them! Follow me on Twitter @XavierMendel for hilarious(ly… More about Xavier