Something, Something Game News – Pay2Mod: Why Steam’s paid workshop failed so hard so quickly

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prison02Off with their heads!

Over the past few days, the PC gaming community has been up in arms over the new paid modding system Valve implemented into its flagship Steam Community Workshop. Almost as quickly as it arrived, it was shunned and then shuttered only days later. It’s a rare occasion for Valve to blunder so violently in such a short time, however I will give them credit for responding as quickly as they did. So what happened?

The majority of the backlash started with one mod which was removed within hours of the paid program’s launch. The controversy began due to the mod’s creator having used assets from another mod by another creator. As should be expected, using another’s content to get paid is rather frowned upon.

permissiontomakemoneyWell that escalated quickly.

However, Steam Workshop was never set up to have the kind of regulation you might expect from a paying service. The mod mentioned above wasn’t even removed by Steam, but by the developer for having received so much negative press. Yet, with Valve offering paid options for modders, not only does it infringe on some of the communities’ ideologies, but potentially creates an atmosphere where mods might become exclusive to Steam due to a developer’s interest in profits. The proprietor of the Nexus modding community Robin Scott weighed in on Reddit asking:

“Can you make a pledge that Valve are going to do everything to prevent, and never allow, the “DRMification” of modding, either by Valve or developers using Steam’s tools, and prevent the concept of mods ONLY being allowed to be uploaded to Steam Workshop and no where else, like ModDB, Nexus, etc.?”

It’s fair question considering what a mod actually is: a contribution to an already finished product. It’s kinda like if you took a painting, added your own character to it, then asked to be paid for your work. While you may have legitimately improved upon the artwork, and perhaps put in nearly as many hours as the original artist, the fact remains that it was never yours to begin with. So the question stands: does a modder deserve to be paid at all?

10845818_10155497807325603_7012942427859232575_o"I call it: 'Dog Bridge' by Monet and Carol. Isn't it better?!"

It’s a tricky question. While the point still remains that mods are not original contributions, there’s no arguing that some mods have evolved into highly successful standalone games on their own merit. DayZ for example, was a mod to the ARMA 2 engine by a single developer (who did happen to work for Bohemia Interactive before it was appropriated by them, however), and is now one of the highest selling games on PC. Counter-Strike and Team Fortress Classic began as mere mods to the Half Life engine as well, and have also gone on to become two of the most highly celebrated and influential games in the industry. Not to mention the original DOTA having been a Warcraft 3 mod.

Successful mod developers have come forward, unsurprisingly, in favour of the paid system. Garry’s Mod creator Garry Newman suggests that the market would balance itself, rewarding quality over quantity. He is convinced that people won’t pay for unimpressive mods, while the better ones will shine through and receive the funding they deserve. Shawn Snelling, a prominent modder and map designer for CS:GO also believes modders should be compensated for their time.

exposureA lovely satire piece from The Beaverton.

I just want to be clear in my position that I do not disagree with their sentiment. Of course hard-working modders deserve compensation, and many of them have already been rewarded. Again, some of the most successful titles we know today began as mods, and wouldn’t be as such if not for their developers having made the decision to monetize their efforts. But mods like DayZ didn’t become paid, standalone versions overnight. The decision to sell was almost always after they had become celebrated, and provided enough content to be sold as complete games. Even still, the original DayZ mod for ARMA 2 can be had entirely for free.

The issue here was strictly implementation.

With almost no warning or advisement from the community, Valve issued an option to allow the content creators to decided whether or not their work had value, when point of fact, it should have been at the discretion of the community itself. Right out of the gate, there were already mods with little effort done by the developer, and/or stolen assets, wrongly asking for payment with absolutely no regulation nor communication from Steam. Anyone could put in as little effort as they liked, and still demand payment just for you to download it. As one can imagine, this kind of honour system doesn’t work on the internet without oversight. “Protest mods” even appeared, some asking for $hundreds to provide a single, worthless asset, just to prove how ridiculous the new system was.

While I don’t see this as the last we’ve heard from this kind of program, my hope is that it comes back in the form of a “tip” system, where customers can chose to donate to mods deemed worthy of compensation and recognition. This way, both the consumers and the developers can get a more realistic idea as to whether or not a mod should be monetized or perhaps made into its own game.

Feel free to weigh in yourselves. Do you think it’s fair to charge for mods before they’ve had any recognition?

/gameon

10523309_10155498371360603_2318789489273724365_o"From one Redskin to another... Go fuck yourself."

Obligatory first post.

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allthememes

Because memes.

Well here I am, another gamer putting up a blog in the hopes of creating some sort of existence in the digital world. Fun, right?

I do, perhaps think of myself as more than a gamer on occasion. I work in the game industry as well as play. I have a pretty banging PC tower (obligatory hashtag, #pcmasterrace), but I don’t entirely hate console peasants. I still own nearly every Nintendo console ever made… but maybe I’m not a purist because I don’t have a Virtual Boy. I guess I’m just not that nostalgic when it comes to failed experiments.

IMG_1818

 Yeah... no.

So why am I writing this blog when there is already a sea full of blogs and “legitimate” game review sites? Well, for one thing, I’m pretty tired of a lot of the publications out there. When I see IGN give some wretched, old franchise regurgitation from one of the big 3 publishers (don’t worry, we’ll get to them later) a 90 on metacritic, while the user score sits somewhere around 2.0, it makes me want to stab myself in the eyes with a fire-poker burning with the heat of a thousand suns.

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Fair warning... Activision is high on my shit list.

Also, don’t get even get me started on how grossly overrated these so-called “next generation” consoles are (nevertheless, I will eventually get started). We’re getting close to a year since release and there are still no titles worth the price of entry. Suddenly, everyone’s faith in Nintendo is returning because they give a shit about making quality titles even with their vastly older franchises with more brand power than the Pope.

the-great-supper-game-mascots-nintendo-mario-sonic-capcom

Remember when the blue hedgehog was Mario's biggest competitor? Now, he lives in his eStore.

I will also likely preach about the church of Valve and their rather exemplary contribution to the industry. I guess it helps when your CEO/Founder is the biggest stereotype basement gamer nerd I can possibly imagine — and I honestly mean that in the best possible way. He’s clearly a guy who gives many of the fucks you might expect from such a character. He cares about his company name, and he cares about the industry as a whole. Not to mention his most popular and lucrative title is not only free to play, but has professional gaming tournaments with $10 million prize pools. While I’m not personally a big fan of DOTA 2, it’s hard not to get carried away in the grandeur of it all. Much respect to the Gabe.

Key-Arena

“It’s not a sport. " - John Skipper, President of ESPN

So, I’m a little passionate. This is the internet. Please try not to take it too seriously. You can call this a place to vent, a place to show off, and a place to pretend like maybe I know about things and even influence other people in some minute way. Maybe provide an example for how people should appreciate developers who actually care about making good games over high profits, or share with my fellow gamers in the love of this grand institution of artwork and skilled programming. Or… perhaps just say, “fuck it,” and post memes because they cater to the lowest common denominator of primate decision making and therefore incite the fastest consumer response!

Either way, it’ll probably be fun for at least one person. Me.

/gameon

fuckit

P.S. I hate you if you don't love this movie.