If Bethesda agreed to allow monetization of Skyrim mods, but would not attempt to take down free mods, what's the problem?
A week ago, gaming darling Valve set up an online store allowing designers to sell game mods. Now, after a backlash from gamers, the Half-Life biz has shut it down. The Steam giant wanted to give small-time developers a chance to flog paid-for Skyrim mods – think of mods as expansion packs that bring in new graphics, weapons, …
One problem was mod developers taking down their own free mods and putting them behind a pay wall. SkyUI is a good example, since it's more or less essential to make the game playable.
However the real problem, as I see it, is that once someone pays for a mod they can justifiably expect it to actually work as advertised and receive support.
My big problem with it, as someone who knows A LOT of Elder Scrolls and Fallout 3/New Vegas modders, was that someone could full well steal your work, say a free mod, repackage it saying it was theirs and make money off of it and there isn't much you can do about it, as I'm pretty sure you can't GPL mods for their games. So there's not much you can do without stepping on ZeniMax's well paid lawyers' toes in the legal arena and they're not easy to deal with. Not to mention Valve's.
Bethesda (and not to mention id, which is also a ZeniMax company now, they still behave the same in regard to source code releases without art assets and such as they used to though) is one of the most friendly developers toward its customers and people creating content for their games, their publisher and owner, ZeniMax, is one of the most unfriendly publishers in the business though.
I don't get the downvotes for asking a question though, most people do not know exactly what this meant other than Valve and Bethesda getting 75% of sales, with Valve taking the lion's share.
"Hmm. Maybe they should try getting into the music business."
Not enough people understand this, but yes, they really should, Vavle clearly showed it's greed here with that percentage. 75% is amazingly, embarrassingly high, especially when you consider they just host the files! Gabe Newell is not a darling saint running a glorified licensing platform. If you need proof, you can now buy hard copies of games at local stores that still require you to connect to Steam to activate...total lock in.
I never thought it would find myself defending Steam or anything to do with it, but the split was actually 30/45/25 Valve/Bethesda/Modder (according to this blog post).
It's been a long time since I've been involved in their modding community (not since Morrowind was the hot item) but I'm really kind of disappointed in Bethesda for that. If Valve's 30% cut was a given, some obvious choices would be for Bethesda to take the same amount, or at most take half of what's left. I have no idea how they figured leaving the content creator with only 25% was fair. They claimed it was "industry standard", which is a poor excuse even if it's true.
you can now buy hard copies of games at local stores that still require you to connect to Steam to activate...
Yes, Skyrim being a very good example.
I got a retail CD version and *still* had to go through through dreadful process of downloading the whole bloody game from Valve. Skyrim is not my favourite in the Elder Scrolls series but I would have had more time for it if it was not shackled to Valve as tightly as it is.
Well, I'm only part of "we" if emailing Valve makes me included, but I feel like I helped. Anyway this was a stupid idea on many levels and I'm glad they shut it down.
If developers believe some mod content is worth monetizing, and mod developers are working at the professional quality level and want to get paid… hire the modders, or pay for the source and rights of their work!
I had the devil of a time getting Skyrim's SKSE kit to work- if I had paid money for it I'd feel justified about being angry, but I feel more tolerant about the product as a labor of love given back to the community.
Yeah we did win. And I wrote a letter too. I also participated on some of the Steam threads that got nuked by Valve.
Gamers won, and we haven't been winning much lately. Between gamergate and its accompanying nonsense from both sides, pre-order pay-to-win crap, Day 1 dlc, Assassin's Creed: Unity being a broken mess, Always on DRM, and a bunch of other crap, etc etc, as a consumer in this segment things have kind of sucked lately.
Just curious though, you're the first person that I've ever heard have trouble with the script extender. What happened? I mean its really easy to install, even manually (copy the unzipped folder into the Elder Scrolls or Fallout game's root, copy and replace the files, and then launch the script extender launcher through your mod manager, a shortcut, or whatever. I guess you could launch it in command prompt or powershell if you really wanted to as well of course) so I strongly doubt you were installing them wrong. People posting at El Reg can generally follow directions when it comes to installing programs, at least usually.
I've had my anti-virus really wig out about the script extenders before, (OBSE, FOSE, NVSE, and SKSE, I use all of them) and throw their files in quarantine, that I'd have to go manually restore and whitelist them, so I'm wondering if it was the same thing with you. It was tedious but I do kind of understand why a decent professional antivirus program would freak about them, but they work just fine now after I whitelisted them.
"Between gamergate and its accompanying nonsense from both sides,"
How is gaming companies taking privy with journalists to coerce them into giving good reviews "nonsense"? You do know that is what Gamergate is actually about right? A lot of people think it's about some woman sleeping with a man to get her game published. While even if that were true (which apparently it isn't), I would just consider her lucky/smart. But it isn't just about her, it's about the example that she could of been (which again, apparently she isn't).
We know it's happening, that's why shitty FPS games like Call of Duty never score below 8/10. Or why does ever EA game seem to score 8/10, even when it won't play when you're offline! The spark that started Gamergate is very warranted.
For the rest of your post, yep...seems like gamers are just considered consumers and must be locked in a cage to suck every penny out of them.
Also as I already mentioned Call of Duty, well that game is proof that Valve has already been selling mods for years.
Nonsense from both sides? From the side that said "games should be taken seriously as an art form and considered critically in the same way that books, music and films are" and from the side who said "OMG OMG THERE ARE WOMEN! WHY ARE WOMEN TRYING TO RUIN EVERYTHING! WE HATE WOMEN SO MUCH! LETS THREATEN TO MURDER THEM!"
Because maybe I am old and cynical and out of touch, but one of those two seemed to have a lot more nonsense associated with it than the other.
I get why modders might want to charge. I mean if the options there to help pay for the tools you might use then yes. But if it's an unsupported mod then I expect to pay a token value. But if 75% goes back to the original games producers then I'd say that goes massively against the token. Or it forces modders to raise the price. In the end I think it was very poorly judged.
However don't think we've seen the last of it.
There were a number of troubles with the implementation. The cut that modders received was IMO insulting (and led to modders hiking prices), both Valve and Bethesda said they wouldn't curate the store, there were huge numbers of fraudulent listings, etc. I don't have an issue with modders getting money for their efforts, but I object to the way that this was done.
From a consumer's standpoint it was terrible: pay more than the value of the game you're playing for an amount of content that would be insignificant within the game itself, and receive no after-sales support whatsoever, even if a game patch breaks the mod you're using. You have no recourse, you cannot get a refund past the first day, fuck you.
So people are complaining that they added an option which was basically abused by developers who decided they would charge for previously free things rather than make more? And that is Valves fault how exactly? It's a bit like Cadbury deciding they to sell chocolate at Asda when they used to give it away for free, and people blaming Asda... In fact it's not just like that it is that. Some customers are stupid, some developers are greedy, would have been nice to let it run I like the idea, now they have lost the chance to make any revenue at all which removes any incentive for developers to make really good add-ons, so the devs and customers lose, because the devs and customers where d**ks.
It's more like Cadbury happily making and giving away chocolate for free, just for the hell of it, without involving Asda at all. Then Asda persuading Cadbury that they should start charging for the chocolate, as long as Asda gets a 75% cut.
Even that analogy doesn't work, since the biggest cut was going to Bethesda, who aren't contributing anything at this point.
I'm rather shocked, that firstly you've not reported on this while it was happening and secondly that no effort had gone into detailing the almighty multi-level cluster fuck of a mistake this was.
The fact the modder only got 25%, while exploitive and underhand, is in fact rather secondary to the other issues raised.
The EULA of most games gives ownership of any User Generated Content to the publishing company, thus if a mod is sold is it the publishers responsiblity? Do the modder have any claim to their creations, if not how can they protect themselves from someone copying their work.
Further more mods are not a commercial product, the modders behind them are not in the position to ensure a reasonable life span of the product.
The refund system of 24 hours fails to account for mods conflicting further down the line.
All in all this is much bigger issue than VALVe and Zenimax getting money for other peoples work.
A system like this should never exist in a normal commercial setting, since each party will have it rights and responsibility clearly laid out. Here it was completely ignored for a fast buck.
There needs to be a serious look at how Consumer software and media is licensed, because consumers are tied to vague onesided agreements that no commercial entity would agree to.
Regarding that one-sided legal agreement, I can see how Bethesda can claim ownership (or as they prefer to say, a perpetual irrevocable license) to content created with their toolkit, but a complete mod normally includes art files made with Photoshop, 3DStudio, a microphone and your own lungs, etc. I've always been unclear whether they claim to own (license) all that stuff just because it has been packaged with a mod at some point. And if they do claim that, I have serious doubts about how it could be legal.
I'd had a Steam account since shortly after they launched it but had never used it. Recently, though, I bought Goat RPG Simulator; when I realized Steam ran in the background even when playing a single player game, I uninstalled it (along with the Goat game). I buy games through GOG now.
I may be in the minority here, but I think allowing for paid-for mods could be a good thing.
I do think that anything previously offered for free should remain so, but giving developers an incentive to produce good quality mods (or up-to-date iterations on older mods) can only be good for the playerbase. That said, the developer would have to get a reasonable amount of the money for this to work - say 70% to the developer, and then Valve and Bethesda split the remaining 30? Or 50% to developer, 20% to Bethesda and 30% to Valve, if Valve and Bethesda will police the paid-for apps.
I agree with you. Modders should be able to get paid for their work and beeing paid is a much better incentive compared to not beeing paid at all.
The way Valve did implement this however, was damn suicidal.
The moder scene for Skyrim is enormous and heavly interwoven. Meaning: There is a ton of stuff and a lot of it is using one anotheres stuff (like assets or coding). If some of the more basic mods (that are in turn used by others or used as a base by others) now have to be bought, the one that are using those base mods are out of luck. In addition, the creators of the basic mods can then sue the creators of the additional mods, since they are using their stuff. -> Legal hell assured.
An other problem with the big sykrim modder scene: It is easy for people with bad intentions to find free stuff and then load it onto steam and stating it is their own. The modders would have to start policing the Steam-Workshop from then on and would have to try to create take down notices if they found their free mods beeing sold for money...
If a game starts out with a steam-workshop on which you can put stuff for money (like the valve game team fortress 2), then it is much less open to abuse in the first place.
On the topic of paying modders:
I find patreon coupeld with a short delay perfect.
The modder provides the newest mod to their patreons first and one week later for free in the steam workshop for example. This way everyone can get the mod (including other modders who can then create even better stuff on the basis of the mod) and those that support the modder through patreon get it this little bit faster.
The modder can get a roughly calculable amount of money every month/creation and the rest of the world can get ever better mods. (after all, in order to get enough patrons, you have to create quality mods. Otherwise people will not back you)
Something like this integrated in steam would be nice
While Skyrim wasn't something that I bothered with, the Total War series pretty much only had any replay value with mods. In fact I think I spent a tiny fraction of my time playing the official versions, and almost always a modded version.
While the mods where free, I donated money to the writers because hosting and producing it aren't free, and updating it for the various patches rather than leaving it to die is something I appreciate. Considering some of the base games I got in Steam sales, I spent more on the mod than on the base engine.
Considering the improvements pretty much made them new games, to the extent of new maps, units, AI, economy and game balance, I was happy with it.
Of course the makers realised this, and made each edition harder to mod. To the extent that my favorite mod team no longer works on the new content.
I thought it was short sighted that they pretty much went the "DLC them to bits" route, and banned/restricted modding to prevent people just adding the new units rather than forking over for them.
But game companies failing to understand their core market is nothing new. Blizzard make gambling games, then are shocked (SHOCKED I tell you!) that people will pay real money for the rewards for them.
As a developer, or hobbyist...
I spent a lot of time and effort making a mod that could be free or paid for.
If its paid for, someone else is monetising my work and I essentially get a "donation" of 25%.
The publisher is getting free development effort and still getting paid...
As a consumer,
I am happy to pay the developer for their work. I am indeed happy to pay a little for the distribution overhead (i.e. valve still have to host and distribute the content...)
I am not happy to pay a games publisher for someone elses work as if they created it themselves. It feels like paying for pirated copies which just seems dumb at every level.