Valve and Paid Mods

When Valve with collaboration of Bethesda allowed modders in the Steam Workshop sell their mods, the gaming world exploded. You can read more here and here at Kotaku. Many concerned about capitalism at works within the much beloved Steam. Many enraged over the decision although there are several agreed with such move. I am somewhat supportive with the notion of modders getting paid and I believe things will be different in the future regarding gaming and modding.

Horse genital for $99.99

Horse genital for $99.99

Quality. It’s already been pointed out in the article above but actually I’ve been thinking about it when I heard about the announcement. When modders got incentives, there will be more quality mods out there. Modding may take a long time to be finished and usually will be on going until forever. Highly moddable games have longer lifespan and that’s why games like Command & Conquer: Generals still have people playing it due to mods despite Electronic Arts already dropped Multiplayer option for the game (still can be played through LAN/Private Networks). But that’s not all.

Allow me to give an example of DarthMod. From the first Rome: Total War game until Shogun 2, this guy have been making realism mods and eventually created his own indie game, Ultimate General: Gettysburg based on the similar gameplay by Creative Assembly‘s Total War Series after years of modding. Newer Total War games mods like Rome 2 and Attila are spearheaded by Radious but, this guy’s too, closely supportive along with DarthMod previously. Given with monetary incentives, one might wonder more games may be created in the future. If you browsing through forums and even comments at this game, you will find something like, “You made great mods, I am gonna buy this game as a support,” while ordinary people might not have a clue what’s the game about from such comments.

In a sense, think about doujin industry in Japan where through doujinshi works, many artists and authors made through to the commercial industry for expanding their works.

The Return of Modding Supports. When Electronic Arts still big with Command & Conquer Series, they created modding tools for the games until they feel such tasks are no longer economical on their side. This will open other big studios’ eyes that this modding things can make money to them.

Modding community have been bitching about new games became too hardcoded that the games are harder to be modded. Not forgetting platform that ban users for a slight modding to their games that they consider as trying to cheat like Ubisoft and EA. People modded Half Life 2 and making new games based on the engine. Valve itself gave the SDK files openly for those purchasing the game in hoping the community will be creative enough to develop more games. Not many studios are following this notion as they afraid to release their games codings as in most of the time, programming codes are usually patented.

Revolutionary. Remember when Apple started something and others starting to follow? Valve is something similar like that too. When true modding supports starting to appear, more professional modders develop better mods. Professional as they get paid. Apple started Developer contents that gathered many developers to create apps for their devices. Google followed and Microsoft expand (they already had but not too big previously). Nokia was late and look what happened to them now. Similar to Samsung’s Bada.

Though from these main points I brought up here, there are issues and concerns about this move too. Modding Community Crumbles. Why? People are now stingy, not sharing anything about their mods as everything can make money. As of now, modders communicate with each other on how to make this and that. They also created new functions that previously not available on the original game and shared with the public. Example, air to air combat in Red Alert 2 (discussion here and couldn’t find proper video for the mod).

I happened to experience this when I was working with Unity3D during the earlier development of version 2.0 as the community support forums weren’t that helpful as everyone (the users) mostly stay quiet if they find something new as they afraid others may use their codes to outpace them.

From here on, modding community providers like Nexus Mods will have lesser people sharing anything. But as an outsider, I have to question the site itself. People are throwing shits over Valve saying something like, “making money out of people’s work,” and how’s that differ from Nexus themselves? Even in a form of advertisement, certainly the site do make money out of those mods without much works. Sure, indirectly. Perhaps Nexus also getting various donations to make them keep working. Do not underestimate advertisement income. I’ve seen how one getting easy money from such thing. Perhaps someone can clarify me about this.

Stealing Already Available Mods as Own. This is currently happening now at the Steam Workshop. Without proper copyright and intellectual property which is not usually owned by modders, things are getting crazy here. This is just like doujinshi stuffs in Japan. Certainly the modders are not the original creators for something that’s not their own. Remember, we do not own games that we have bought. We just purchased licenses to play them. Since we moddify the games out of license, doesn’t mean the mods will be totally ours.

Base Games and That’s All. This is what I predict if big companies like Electronic Arts trying to make future games; an average game that only has multiplayer or just a simple and short single player game. Take a look at earlier Battlefield series that their main attraction were on online actions and look how many mods being created on that plus community owned servers. Only starting on Battlefield 2142 that modding slowed down as Electronic Arts imposed restriction here and there because people stick on Battlefield 2 too much.

Lack of Parody. Mods added a lot of parodies and cross-game properties like characters and whenever money is gained from intellectual property, it will create an issue. Master Chief, Shepard, Mario, Link and several other characters from different games appeared in many other games thanks to modding. One time ago some Russian modders recreated Star Craft using C&C Generals game engine and their total conversion of the game got axed by Blizzard. It was a fully working mod and imagine if such thing generate money for some college grade modders. Suing and everything, right? Though the Russians didn’t get charge or anything since Blizzard only told them to put them down. Things were almost different with Halogen modders who also had created a working Halo RTS game on C&C Generals as Microsoft tried to sue them. They backed out as Microsoft later promised to create a strategy game called Halo Wars (but sadly not on PC and some people raged about it). Both examples explained how things can go wrong about using other properties despite not even getting any profit out of it.

From a point of view, it looks like Valve trying to expand their workshop and gather existing modders from other platforms to Steam. It will kill some parts of the online community but bringing the others. As I stated earlier, I am pretty much excited about this notion from Valve. In some part of the world, modding have been a bit dull and some were too long. I am just hoping for the best.

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