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"Skyrim Workshop Now Supports Paid Mods" - Thoughts

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So I was surprised to see that now the Steam workshop is implementing a new monetizing system with regards to mods. Starting with Skyrim, being an avid mod user myself I find this rather unsettling and further indicator of the dark path the industry is embarking upon. If bethesda wants to keep making earnings off of their titles thay can simply push out more of thier high quality DLCs, not having to leech off the work of the community. With that said this system is optional and many mod authors are pledging their mods to remain free on reddit (The long awaited Beyond Skyrim amoung them)


So thoughts? My worst fear is that this system gets enough backing and developers like Bethesda will lax in their creation of future content for thier games. Relaying on the community to make their horse armor for them.

Last edited by LibertyPrime on Fri Apr 24, 2015 4:35 pm; edited 3 times in total

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Last edited by DeutscheKind on Wed Sep 02, 2015 5:44 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : expunging.)

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Another thing to note is the fact that this could cause friction in teams which develop big DLC sized mods or other content of that nature. An example might be voice actors that previously volunteered to their voice in a mod might want a slice of the pie and not do voice work for a mod unless it's being monetized. The result being that in the future if this system takes roots those big mods akin to Tamriel Rebuilt or Skywind might not be inclined to use a donation system anymore might be harder to recruit and coordinate dev teams.

That being said, from a company's stand point this is just an innocent way to gain some money on the side. Unknownst to them they've created a rift in the modding community. Only the passing of time will tell how large that rift will beocme.

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The only thing about this whole deal that annoys me is the fact that Valve gets 75% of all profits made through this system. 75 fucking percent. That's just being greedy.

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This whole thing really worries me most people that make and post mods would just post it and leave it as long as it works on their own game but when people start paying money and then mods don't work with whatever they have this could raise alot of issues

@Zeiss I thought it was 40% valve 35% beth 25% creator

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Valve is dividing it up with the publisher. But I feel it's still horribly unfair to the creator.

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In theory I think it's a good idea.
In practice, this is one hell of a cluster****.

  • First off, Valve is taking way too big a cut of the money. They get 75% for doing zero work.
  • Then there's the lack of QC--if a patch breaks a mod you've paid for, you're out of luck.
  • Then there's the anti-consumer problem of selling content that was free yesterday.*
  • And, of course, the problem (that is already happening) of random people stealing free mods from the Nexus (or elsewhere) and uploading them to Steamworks with a pricetag.

*That said, I don't see any problem with charging for subsequent versions of the mod. IE a state where there's a free version and a paid version of the same mod.

Ideally, I think donation-style support directly to the modders would be far more beneficial to the community AND the modders themselves. Valve has a pseudo-monopoly, and they are abusing that more and more with each passing day.

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Seems that this little scheme is backfiring on Steam, lots of hate flowing around. Chesko one of the big time modders pulled his mods from the workshop due to the unapproval of another modder called Fore for using his animation framework in Art of the Catch, an animated fishing mod.
More on that here: https://www.reddit.com/r/skyrimmods/comments/33qcaj/the_experiment_has_failed_my_exit_from_the/

At the time of this post it seems that the paid mods on the workshop are no longer avaliable.

This really turned out to be a disaster, authors are pulling their content from the nexus in fear of it being stolen and monetized on the workshop. Bethesda and Steam really did mess up here. They ended up hurting a healthy and passionate community of creative fans for thier own personal gain.

Last edited by LibertyPrime on Fri Apr 24, 2015 6:37 pm; edited 1 time in total

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These are really good points Lupin. I would also feel more comfortable if we started with the option to donate money to the mod's creator through Steam then build up on this system. The Arissa mod is a professionally voiced companion who offers many options. Lots of work went into that. I wouldn't mind donating money for that.

I just don't want 75% of this donation to be divided between Valve and the publisher of the modded game.

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Zeiss wrote:These are really good points. I would also feel more comfortable if we started with the option to donate money to the mod's creator through Steam then build up on this system. The Arissa mod is a professionally voiced companion who offers many options. Lots of work went into that. I wouldn't mind donating money for that.

I just don't want 75% of this donation to be divided between Valve and the publisher of the modded game.

In my opinion the modding community can't be backed by some company. The moment corprate politics come into play and the line between hobby and profesionalism is crossed, the modding communiy loses it's spirit. The way I see it most modders have a job or are studying and modding has always been something you do in your spare time. Some put more effort into it than others. But to start up a career off of modifiying a software product seems rather unrealistic to me. Especially when so many exterior factors come into play. Now that doesn't mean that I am belittling many of the high quality mods out there.

Of course the whole scene would benefit from a well implemented and polished donation system. I think the Nexus is going to create a donation system if I'm not misaken.

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Remunerating those responsible for crafting and hosting great user generated content seems fair enough to me, though I have zero faith in Valves ability to manage things properly.

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I'm going to do a brief stream to talk about the economics of this before the Exploration because I lack the ability to summarize my thoughts due to a crippling condition called Lorerunnitis.

The Lorerunner
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Last edited by DeutscheKind on Wed Sep 02, 2015 5:45 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : expunging.)

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I'd rather keep the tip jar system.. make paying optional.

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Good idea in theory; PR suicide in practice. This will be a large black mark in Valve's history unless they make some changes and fast. We already know what happens when you start charging for formerly free game content. People will buy it, it will be successful financially, but you'll start climbing the ranks of "most hated companies." It's bad for the mod community in general too. There will be a few that will make actual money for modding, but the majority will fall below the $100 mark and Valve and associates will pocket the profits there.

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The biggest problem is that, no matter what Valve does, we have very little power to change things.

What are we going to do, stop using Steam? Not gonna happen.
And even if most informed gamers ignore the paid mods, there are more than enough uninformed gamers out there (just look at how well Rome 2 Total War still sells) to make this scheme profitable for Valve.

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With a 75% cut in the Profits, and the toxicity that can brew from fanbase projects such as mods... it'll be a bumpy road that's for sure.

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I still have concerns about copyright issues. I don't mean in terms of the game developers claiming content made by modders. But I can certainly see instances where modders could get some flak.

For instance, if someone puts up a mod that converts something like Rome Total War into a Star Wars Wars game, I could see the Star Wars powers going after that. There are already mods out that redo some of those TW games with units and maps based on Lord of the Rings. Those mods might get some problems if they start selling them.

Another worry is that people who are really good at modding will abandon work on projects like that for fear of copyright issues and concentrate on what they can make money on. It could reach a point where certain types of mods are no longer getting made because people are doing other things to make money that seem safer.

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Valve are going out of their way to make people hate them at this point. Modders should definitely be compensated for their work, however in any other way than this. Locking mods behind paywalls is rather... idiotic, to use the nicest word possible. There are so many other ways they could have made this system, like putting donations to the modder on the mod page, or even just making parts of the mod pay-to-use. Sure, that second system isn't very great, but it's still better than this. Now, if every mod was say, $.50-$1.00, that would be... questionable, but I'd be fine with it. However, we are seeing mods going up for $5 already, which is stupid. A lot of people don't have the money to afford one game, so making the extra FAN-MADE content a purchase is not helping. Worst part is that the modders are getting 1/4 of the cut. 1/4. You sell a mod for $.25, someone buys it, you get $.06. Sell a mod for $1, you get $.25. This is just ridiculous. Valve even advertises it as "A New Way to Support Mods" (Stupid/misleading, because supporting would be optionally donating, not having to buy the damn mod), but with the lack of money/lack of people supporting this, modders are going to be barely making enough to buy a meal at McDonalds.
TL;DR Valve needs to pull their heads out of their asses and 1) Make a different system, preferably donation orientated, and 2) Not take so much money from them. I hate to say this, but they practically have a monopoly on the PC Gaming industry, so I highly doubt they need much more

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I've seen most of my points against the actual system already posted here and elsewhere like the Bethesda forums and YouTube by Archengeia.

I'll focus on the community aspect instead, prefacing that I've been a modder for the TES/Fallout games since Oblivion. The modding community for those games is the oldest and most active today, possibly the most tight-knit as well. Over the years, I've seen it steadily decline. What was once a small pool of enthusiast modders working on Morrowind has grown with each release. The larger a group becomes, the less likely they are to work with one another. Competition increases, "trade secrets" become more guarded, user-created assets start getting locked down behind permission restrictions, etc. Skyrim modding has often felt like a popularity contest, made worse by the rise of YouTube mod reviewers and Let's Players. Nothing against them, of course, since it's only the natural progression of the industry as a whole.

Paid modding has always been the next logical step and something I saw coming ever since Steam Workshop integration with Skyrim. Bethesda actually delayed the Creation Kit until February 2012, three months after Skyrim's release, just so they could heavily promote the new partnership with Valve. Modders were rightfully against this needless delay since most of us knew we'd stick with sites like Nexus for distribution. Workshop is so horribly limited and streamlined, it's only feasible for small-medium mods or mods that don't require branching installation setups. But it's very existence caused the community to split into the two camps we have today. Nexus has become known as the place to go for people who are more technologically inclined while Workshop is for those who'd not want to invest too much time in understanding how a game works.

Something happened a few years ago on Nexus. A modder tried seeking donations and got shut down. This caused a brief debate, and eventually led up to the site owner allowing donation links to PayPal. That was the moment money had entered into the conversation. It created a new divide: those who wanted to mod primarily as a hobby in an open source community and those who wanted to mod for popularity/money.

Now we have the paid mod system on Workshop and it's set to drive an even bigger wedge between those two camps along with the one I stated earlier: Nexus vs. Steam. However, this time, it stands to destroy the "old guard" that have created the majority of content up until this point out of passion. Consider that modding has generally been open source for the most part. While it has become more restrictive over time, people still shared what they knew and what they had made, allowing for that knowledge and assets to be included in someone else's mods. However, once money enters into the equation, even the most generous are less likely to share if they feel they'll be taken advantage of by someone even if they plan on sticking with releasing their content only for free. People to watch out for will be those who release mods on Steam for a price, sometimes through content theft. Valve has already demonstrated they're willing to ignore takedown requests. After all, they stand to gain the most out of everyone regardless of the modder-to-modder conflicts.

If the modders that still uphold the original philosophy of modding leave as they see the hobby has become more trouble than its worth, expect an even sharper creative decline in mods than the jump from Oblivion to Skyrim. Just 24 hours after Valve opened the gates, we've had a prominent modder leave it all behind due to an argument over content rights and a flood of junk mods with a price attached to them to make the Workshop mirror the worst of microtransaction stores. A part of Valve's EULA that we've all glossed over until now has been activated, stating ownership of mods uploaded to their storefront. This gives them the power to withhold mods as they see fit, and in a doomsday scenario, apply prices to all mods regardless of the author's wishes.

You wouldn't be seeing the outcry if things weren't bad in the industry as a whole right now. DLC, season passes, early access, broken games... customers are tired of having to pay for content that was once free or included in the base game. It's sad to see some devs defending this move by Valve/Bethesda, using the defense of "think of the modders!", waving away criticism as people being "entitled" (straight out of the BioWare playbook). Devs are coming at this from a perspective of industry professionals, when modding was supposed to be a level below independent game development as requiring the least amount of responsibility. Now modders who want to make something worthwhile have to consider whether they'll be able to with the low payout and new expectation from others to be compensated for all of their work. I'd say 95% of modders are not prepared to deal with these project management headaches, and not because they lack talent.

The claim that this will let bigger projects to flourish is naive and coming from a place of ignorance about the community to be infiltrated for the sake of greed.

The lesson that people should take from all this is that nothing good lasts forever, as grim as it sounds. I think this might be the first genuine crack in Valve and even Gabe Newell's aura of perfection since before Steam took off in popularity. I'd urge anyone to support third-party modding sites like Nexus and steer clear of the Workshop from now on, and whatever you do, do not pay for mods. Don't fall for the emotional appeal that you should support the modder. If you want to do that, donate to them directly through PayPal or Patreon. That way, Valve/Bethesda doesn't take a cut nor takes it as a sign of support for further advancements into paid-modding.

EDIT And just minutes after I post that, it's all over. We won!

Thought the warning about this becoming an issue into the future remains:
Skyrim was probably not the right place to start iterating. We think this made us miss the mark pretty badly, even though we believe there's a useful feature somewhere here

Whatever game Bethesda has in store next (Fallout 4?) will likely have to deal with paid-mods from the get-go.

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