Nexus Mods On Paid Mods: “This would have caused a rift in Skyrim modding no matter how it was done.”

Robin Scott started building websites to support the modding community in 2001 when he was 14-years-old. In 2007, he started a company to support his site, TES Nexus, as it became the main source for distributing Oblivion mods, and today Nexus Mods hosts “115,674 files for 173 games” and has almost 9 million registered users. If anyone knows what the modding community cares about, and exactly what mods can do for the good of games and gamers, it’s him.

In the wake of Steam’s inclusion of paid-for mods, and just a few hours before their eventual removal, I spoke to Scott about whether creators should be able to charge for mods, how he would have done things differently, and what any of this means for the future of the Nexus. Even in the wake of Valve pulling the system down (for presumed later return), his thoughts are an interesting look at the issues at hand

RPS: Firstly, what do you feel about paid mods in theory? Ignoring their current implementation, do you think there’s a way to do it that good for both developers, mod creators and mod players? Are mods something which should be free on principle?

Should mods be free on principle? No. Mods aren’t some sort of charitable donation, they’re made by skilled people who put a lot of time and effort in to what they do, and just because modding has remained free, for the most part, from the start doesn’t mean there’s some inalienable right to free mods. That choice should be placed in the hands of mod authors, not mod users. Are there good reasons why all mods should be free? Yes, yes there are. But are there good reasons why some mods could potentially not be free? Yes, yes there are.

It sounds like I’m doing some serious fence sitting but the problem is that a lot of people are trying to look at this from one angle, I’m trying to look at it from the angle of the publishers, the developers, the mod authors who want everything to remain free, the mod authors who want to be able to earn some money for their work and the mod users themselves, because I’ve got to keep all of those people happy. It’s a freaking complicated subject where there aren’t clear cut right or wrong answers to a lot of the questions, despite how black and white some people try and make it out to be.

Even if there was a good way of implementing paid for mods, or a system where all mods remain free of payment but the mod authors are paid (like a YouTube-style ad sharing system, or a voluntary subscription system) there’s still a whole slew of potential issues that get introduced in to modding when significant money enters. We’ve seen some of those issues already; permission issues with mods that use assets from other mods, a reduction of authors releasing “modders resources” (open source resource packages that all modders can make use of), increased resentment, rivalries, drama, bickering and arguing within the mod author community are some of the issues that spring to mind. Irrespective of how paid for modding is introduced, those issues are a serious concern.

I don’t know if there’s a good way of doing it. I do know there’s no way of doing it without fundamentally changing the dynamic of the modding community. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on how much you liked the “old way”. Personally, I quite liked the old way. But then again, I’m biased.

RPS: I personally feel like mod creators ought to be able to be paid for their work, in one way or another. If you agree, how would you do things differently?

One of the main tenants of the Nexus sites has been respecting and supporting a mod author’s right to choose if, how and where they will distribute their mods, so long as it is legal. Up until now Skyrim mod authors have been bound by the EULA to not sell, charge or directly make money from their mods, essentially making charging for mods illegal. Bethesda have now come out and said you can do that provided it’s through them. I cannot now renege on that principle and say “you can do whatever you want with your mod, but a plague on any person who tries to sell it on another site!”. I cannot and will not begrudge any mod author who wants to try and make money off of their mods.

What I can do is stand up and say, “I’m happy for you that you now have the option to earn some money for your hard work, but you still can’t do that on the Nexus, and if you upload your files to Nexus Mods you do it on the understanding that Nexus Mods is a completely free site for everyone”. Even if Bethesda came to me tomorrow and said “Hey, lets talk about setting up some paywalls on your site for any mod authors who want to earn some money” I’d likely, respectfully, refuse. If they came to me and said “What do you think about setting up a YouTube style system, where mod users can still get all the mods on your site for free but mod authors could have a cut of the ad revenue” then I’d still be extremely apprehensive.

It’s clichéd, I know, but money, changes, everything. I would go through extensive consultation with all the mod authors on the Nexus about it. If there was a general consensus that this would be OK within the mod author community then we’d take it to the mod users and get their take on the situation. Then, and only then, would I make a decision one way or the other. Such a system would keep modding free for everyone but provide a stream of revenue for mod authors. And that’s, likely, how I would do it differently, if I wanted to.

Am I considering that? No. I think if I tried to do that without Bethesda’s permission then I’d be running in to some serious legal issues. Even if I could get their permission we still run in to the same issues I mentioned in the previous question of how it would affect the modding community.

RPS: Do you think paid mods will inspire the things its hoped it will: more mod support from more developers, more and better quality mods, etc?

I have absolutely no idea. There’s nothing to compare this situation to because the TF2, DotA 2 and CSGO modding communities just aren’t comparable with the Elder Scrolls modding community.

RPS: In light of that, how do you feel about the current revenue split which – although it’s variable by game – currently gives 25% to the Skyrim mod creators? I’ve heard the “standing on the shoulders of giants” argument and the “users have already paid for those giants” argument. Where do you fall? How would you change it?

Continued on page two.

109 Comments

  1. Pich says:

    “Local Storefront Ruins Everything”

  2. MrFinnishDude says:

    Well maybe this all wasn’t an end of an era? I hope that when the time comes truly for paid mods, they would be more like donations, not business.

    • Mr_Blastman says:

      Exactly. Donation at most, if anything.

      Remember, these modders are creating content for someone else’s IP. It takes a whole lot of work to create your own IP. Then, after you do this, it takes an insurmountable amount of work, effort and luck to get it recognized.

      Modders are taking advantage of someone else’s IP that has already gone through those processes and piggybacking on their success. They make the IP better, which is good, and I love modding, but, make no mistake, without that other person’s IP to begin with, there would be no modding.

      So I’m rather torn. I totally understand the cut of profits going to the original IP holder. If you’re profiting off of someone else’s hard work, you should absolutely give them their share. But likewise, if you want to profit off someone else’s work, you should only be able to do so if the original author/publisher/ip holder agrees to grant you a license to do that.

      Creating a universe is work and a lot of it. I’m in the process of doing it and I absolutely respect anyone that has gone through it or is trying to do so. I also respect the modders. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have had so many hours of enjoyment in many of the games I love and for that I thank them for their thankless efforts.

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        Yup, donations. That’s the final word on the matter, really.

        And fuck Garry Newman, I’m quite pissed off I have his mod and Rust in my Steam library now. If I could give them away in protest, I would.

      • Shadow says:

        Indeed. The original developer getting the lion’s share of the profit is quite reasonable, for the reasons you explained. The massive effort required to develop a fully functional AAA game dwarfs, to an immense extent, the work any single mod entails,

        The questionable part is Valve’s cut, whose role is considerably more nebulous. So you’re selling the developer’s game on your storefront… right… and? Is it a fee for using the Steam Workshop for profit? An environment which isn’t exactly essential for modding, but merely a convenience? Controversial. In the end, Valve wouldn’t be championing this whole scheme if there wasn’t anything in it for them.

        • Pich says:

          Well, servers aren’t free.

          • k.t says:

            Maybe they should set their rates based on bandwidth then. GTA is apparently 70GB, but I doubt they have to pay any more than the author of some procedurally generated game which comes in at 400KB.

          • Cinek says:

            Servers aren’t free, and yet for years Valve hosted user-generated content free of charge. Why? Because it brings them new clients that buy new games and pay for servers. There’s absolutely zero link between Valve charging for mods and server maintenance costs.

        • pepperfez says:

          More labor went into chip design on the computer used to make the mod, the architecture of the building the modder lives in…
          It’s not self-evident that creators of intellectual works deserve, uniquely among creators, absolute control over all uses of their works in perpetuity. The state of the law gives it to them, but exercising that privilege is making an ethical choice.

          • Mr_Blastman says:

            As long as the IP creator is alive and wishes to enforce their IP rights, then it is theirs to do as they please with.

            Is this ethical? It depends. If they’re a small author/developer/producer, then sure. They deserve all they can get from it.

            However, if they are wildly successful and earn hundreds of millions or even a few billion off of it? Well… then perhaps they should start giving back by lightening up on what they charge or even do something amazing… give it away for free.

            One artist I can think of like that is Jean Michel Jarre. He’s held entire concerts for free just because.

    • Applecrow says:

      Funny, I logged in to say pretty much the same thing. I think a ‘Donate’ button would be a great idea to help support great mods as well as almost act like a mini-kickstarter to make good mods greater.

      Successful and popular mods would help those people get hired in the industry if that was their desire, or might even help some game designers find each other to make a new studio.

    • MrTambourineMan says:

      Paid mods or not I’d really love some honesty here. Stop using “donate button” logic please, because it’s widely known fact that – for all intents and purposes – nobody in Skyrim community actually donates money to mod creators. of mod creator who explains that he got whoopin’ $0 with quarter of a million downloads of his mods in donations. Just be honest and say that you’ll never donate a dime and that’s fine but don’t hide behind a “donate button”.

      • MrTambourineMan says:

        Sorry for the messed up HTML.

      • Lacero says:

        Thing is, a donate button that links through to paypal from an obscure part of nexus no one visits is not going to get any donations. A donate button on steam next to the subscribe button, or even popping up after 10 hours of play with a mod next time you start the game, is going to work much better.

        Valve actually have the infrastructure to make donations work.

      • Coming Second says:

        This is the real edge in this issue, I think. On the one hand, the logic that if only you charged for your incredibly popular mod you’d be a millionaire doesn’t stand up; huge numbers of those who downloaded your thing wouldn’t have if you charged for it. On the other, I think it’s really easy for a lot of players to say “Just put up a donate button”, because it means they remain sweetly unaffected and able to enjoy all that hard effort on your part for free without having to think about it. Plenty of these self-same people will buy a chocolate bar on an impulse, for example, and not think for a second about how that transaction breaks down and who is truly being rewarded with your 65p. That’s what the rift in the community a lot of people have been talking about really means; once a paywall enters the equation, modders find out just how much or little the rest of the players truly value their effort and creativeness, and it’s usually an unpleasant discovery for both sides.

        In this instance Valve/Zenimax provided plenty of outs, by choosing a bad title to try this out on, by approaching the community with it in a clumsy, poorly thought-through manner and by using the easily castigated 25/75 split. Ultimately though, paid modding is coming, and the essential concept is already being used in half a dozen arenas. It’s up to the modding community to get the best possible terms they can and work out a good code of practices, rather than do the internet equivalent of stick their fingers into their ears and scream until it goes away. Because that doesn’t work forever.

        • Cinek says:

          If you make mods for profit – you are doing it wrong. If you want some profit from them – then at least try to make gamers aware that they can donate you. If you are a user and want to support your favorite modder – contact him – Even if he doesn’t offer any official donations he very likely will let you donate some cash if you are willing. The whole rift in community might happen on multiple levels – simplifying it to “oh my god, I might discover that noone likes my work enough to pay for it” is extremely short-sighted. The thing I will miss most is the culture of modding that somehow slowly drifts away. When I started modding it was “from people for people”, purely charity work for fun, and enjoyment – just just ours but also all these people playing mods. (pardon my strong words) And yet Valve managed to fuck it all up in 24 hours and what came out from every possible shithole is a crowd of entitled whores – on both sides, gamers and modders. I’m absolutely outraged by the dick move Valve made to the gamers. And all of this for what? For money in their own fucking wallet – cause that’s the brutal reality.

        • Machinations says:

          Yea, we as mod creators should abandon all principles so Valve and publishers can rentseek from a market that that works to promote their games for free.

          I suppose when they start charging for patches you will tell us how thats right and inevitable.

          Not everything is best driven by financial reward, have you heard of a perverse incentive?

      • badmothergamer says:

        In a recent post of Robin’s on the Nexus he mentioned ideas to make donations more prominent; i.e. instead of just having an indiscreet donation button on the page as they do now, mod authors can elect to have pop up reminder when someone downloads that donations are accepted.

        I’m still not sure how much it will help considering 90% of users don’t even take the time to come back and endorse mods, but hopefully it will bring in a few more dollars for those authors who are looking for it.

      • fireundubh says:

        I’m the modder who posted that comment on Reddit. A few responses:

        “A donate button that links through to paypal from an obscure part of nexus no one visits is not going to get any donations.”

        The Donate button is located at the top of every mod page where donations are enabled. One of my mod pages has 167K views. SkyUI’s page has a Donate button, too, and 21M views. I don’t know how many donations they’ve received. Definitely more than me. But not as much as would be appropriate. In any case, a Donate button at the top of every mod page is not exactly an “obscure” part of the Nexus.

        “Modders find out just how much or little the rest of the players truly value their effort and creativeness, and it’s usually an unpleasant discovery for both sides.”

        Some modders might find the idea of scrapping their mods unpleasant; after all, they’re happy to just have made something. But I’ve been doing this long enough for a lot of games, as well as Unity, UnrealEd, and CryEngine, that I can take any idea and get something working quite rapidly. I’m not sentimental about my mods. Metrics like downloads, endorsements, pageviews, donations, and/or revenue just tell me where I should be focusing my effort.

        “If you want some profit from them – then at least try to make gamers aware that they can donate you.”

        The Nexus prohibits modders from soliciting donations. We can’t tell users, at least on the Nexus, that they can donate or where they can find the Donate button. Robin Scott, who runs the Nexus, fears that allowing modders to solicit donations will attract ZeniMax’s legal team. I think his fear is unwarranted, especially in light of recent events. In fact, I’d bet that ZeniMax wishes the Nexus would push the boundaries a bit, so that they can get a better sense of what’s acceptable as far as financially supporting modders goes.

        “I’m still not sure how much it will help considering 90% of users don’t even take the time to come back and endorse mods, but hopefully it will bring in a few more dollars for those authors who are looking for it.”

        I have the popup enabled on two of my most popular Skyrim mods. There has been no effect. Telling people donations don’t work on Reddit, on the other hand, has yielded a total of $15 across 2 donations. I bought lunch.

        • Horg says:

          ”Robin Scott, who runs the Nexus, fears that allowing modders to solicit donations will attract ZeniMax’s legal team. I think his fear is unwarranted, especially in light of recent events. In fact, I’d bet that ZeniMax wishes the Nexus would push the boundaries a bit, so that they can get a better sense of what’s acceptable as far as financially supporting modders goes.”

          I think he’s being sensible. The Zenimax legal team could talk in private to the Nexus operators and encourage them to start pushing towards a more direct donation system, all the while implying they wont take any action. After observing the effects, they could then sue Nexus. It is wise to be knowledgeable of the law, just don’t trust the lawyers, especially if they encourage you to put your business in a compromising position on good faith.

        • socrate says:

          Most modder that actually expect to get money out of mods these days are either really young,jobless and whining that their isnt any job for them when they are in fact just picky or just lesser modder that deal in texture,model and reskin…which most of the time whine about being poor and yet somehow can afford…probably pirate…a freaking tool that cost up to 1.500$…these little hypocrite are really lucky that most graphic,animation and 3d tool aren’t aggressive on lawsuit on individual..because there is no other way he could have done these thing without those.

          Most of the lesser modder who aren’t really popular somehow got hyped by Gabe stupid idea thinking they would get tons of money when in fact 25% is next to nothing and if you are happy with that you are the lazyess person alive ive known since getting an actual job would actually make you rich beyond imagination compared to that…and with a job you would still be able to mod like any normal modder do…go to freaking school get some knowledge and get a job in the industry but then again im talking to the same people i see coming in the industry for 2-3 year then they end up leaving because its a stressful selfless job with average pay that needs passion and sacrifice…but most of these young people now want everything fast and now…big car,big house,big breasted wife,dog,etc….and the only one that will have that is usually publisher and the corporation behind that…and most people now think kickstarter is the way and are now understanding that this is just an illusion and that they have to make insane sacrifice for it to work.

          i really doubt Dota,LoL,Smite,Counter-strike,etc would be what they are if they were paid mod back then…and they forget that what they are asking is COMMUNITY DLC and not modding anymore…well that was worth complaining for horse armor all to do a BIG FREAKING 360° 9 YEAR AFTER!!!…i have a feeling this is not the end and it will be like DLC and DRM and will slowly inch its way slowly instead of dissapearing…nowaday DLC is accepted although not liked.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            tldr; I hate poor people.

          • Machinations says:

            Actually you can boil this comment down to people make different mods when its done out of love. When profit is the primary motive, people will lock up their mods and not want to share their work, and there will be an influx of simple mods, reskins and the like. Big mods like the Long War would be a thing of the past.

            Valve wouldnt have Steam without counterstroke having been free, so its a bit fcking ironic, no?

        • MellowKrogoth says:

          Well if you look at Twitch subscribtions, it’s clear that some people are ready to support the content creators they love. Popular streamers have a lot of these 5$/month subscribers (substract Twitch’s cut) and get a lot of live donations.

          The real problem is making it easy and creating a culture among users where donating/subscribing is normal and cool. Giving a few advantages to paying users (emoticons and occasional exclusive chat on Twitch) seems to help a whole lot.

          So now we gotta think on how to translate this to the mod scene where you’re not interacting live with modders. Subscribers-only forum, perhaps a few exclusive easter eggs in the mod? Having a Flattr button on all the mod pages would also work wonders, no need to go through a Paypal transaction every time you want to donate.

      • Dux Ducis Hodiernus says:

        This might just be related to the fact that he hasnt promoted donations like… at all…

        might…

        just maybe…

        I mean, i didnt even manage to find a single link to a donation screen on his “master of disguises” mod(the one i bothered checking out). How is it then suprising he hasnt gotten nothing in money when he doesnt even promote donations the least bit…

        • fireundubh says:

          There’s a donate button at the top of the page.

          Also, the Nexus prohibits solicitation:

          “We have a 100% no solicitation rule in regards to donations. This means that you cannot request users donate to you anywhere on the site including on your profile, in your file or image descriptions, in your file readme, via images, forum comments or private messages other than by selecting from the already existing donation options in your preferences area on Nexus sites. If you are caught asking for donations anywhere on the site you are likely to receive a warning or an outright ban depending on the severity of the breach of rules.”

  3. aggr08 says:

    Paid mods would be great, but only if the modding community is designed from the ground up with the possibility of payment. I think they should try it again with TES 6 or Fallout 4. But be sure to drop the price from $60, too, since the most popular mods always seem to be bug fixes and graphics improvements. That is, they’re not “new” content that is traditionally charged as DLC, but fixes/improvements the developer didn’t have the time, resources, or inclination to include.

    • SaintAn says:

      No. Please go back to consoles.

      • Kitsunin says:

        And lazy comment of the night goes to SaintAn. Congratulations…

        • Cinek says:

          Perhaps a lazy comment, but that’s a good summary of quite a large portion of where it’s drifting.

          • Kitsunin says:

            Honestly I just don’t get what he’s even trying to say. The idea that a game should be introduced with paid mod support rather than having it thrown in after a long time, and that maybe a game should be cheaper because of the additional money potentially made through mods, and the fact that those mods shouldn’t even have to exist…relates to consoles how?

    • Deano2099 says:

      That’s not even really possible with the next Bethesda game though. As this interview highlights, the community tends to move from one game to another. A lot of Skyrim modders were Fallout 3 or Oblivion modders. With these games being pretty much the only AAA games with this size of mod community, even bringing it in with a new game isn’t going to give you a fresh start.

      • Jackablade says:

        I’m sure they couldn’t do it now that they’ve salted the earth with this botched effort, but if they’d started with what’s presumably going to be Fallout 4, and made their intentions clear throughout their marketing campaign (and thought through those intentions a little better before saying anything), I think they’d have found a lot more traction.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Those bug fixes are often questionable when you actually take time to go through the details, and texture replacements are most of the time amateurish and lack artistic direction. So no I don’t think paid mods are a reason to lower the price of the game.

  4. Distec says:

    Good counterbalance to the pertinent opinions consisting of “I like money, why don’t you?”.

    • Jeroen D Stout says:

      I have found you can defeat any argument by saying:

      “But that is what companies do, they make money.”

      Once I saw the truth of this, I have gladly given up my protests. My god, this is just what companies do. Take my money, everybody. Do what you do, use my money as information. You know what, if I don’t like it, I can go somewhere else because that is always an option and also just a way to live life, like, just go somewhere else and leave things behind. What a time to be alive, please, go on make money it’s demonstrably making everything better as long as companies are making more money.

      &c ad nauseam.

      • Emeraude says:

        This bears repeating until the idea gets enough mindshare back (and beyond):

        There Is No Effective Fiduciary Duty to Maximize Profits

        The purpose of a company is to deliver a service or product. Not to make money, which is a part of the process of doing it.

        • James says:

          That would be true if companies followed that idea, but they don’t. Most evidence points to most gaming companies following the Friedman Doctrine (link to en.wikipedia.org), which sees money as an end in itself, and results in wealth hoarding, nickle and diming, and market exploitation.

          • Emeraude says:

            Yes, but that’s an ideological stance, not a legal obligation.

        • gamma says:

          That is just the whishful purpose of a company (from the pov of consumers having some real or virtual needs satisfied).

          And while opposition can be found between some “legal” obligation or “ideological” perspective (be the latter the one instituted in the system or not), in fact, capital requires profit and either it’s function is fulfilled within the system or, of course, it perishes.

          The function of capital in this sense is an overpowering superstructure in relation to the individual humans and even colectives that manage it, specially in this time of systemic crisis. Verified via a relentless concentration as a system’s response to the diminishing returns/profits. Accompanied with seamingly irrational moves on the part of corporations, which in extreme act against it’s own survivability by neglecting its assumed basis: consumption.

          The system at this stage couldn’t care less about the ideologies we paint it with, or the laws and social order “we” institute accordingly (nevermind socialy cohesive ones), so much so that even restoring a sustainable balance of power between the capital side and the production side is bound to bring instability.

          • Emeraude says:

            You may find it insignificant, but I do think that the distinction between it being the byproduct of the process of capitalism and not an obligation born of the legal framework of society matters a lot.

            If only because I find considering people as citizens first and consumers second is an important part of the working of a healthy social body.

  5. Horg says:

    ”I imagine, and once again I say this from a position of absolutely no authority on the subject, they wanted to do it now with Skyrim, a 3 and a half year old community, to get all of this drama out of the way and get people used to the idea so that it doesn’t sour their next game release, likely to be announced during their E3 show.”

    It might be a bit late for that. All of the mods i’ve used in Skyrim have been UI mods and bug fixes. These can be broadly categorised as badly needed utility mods (such as interface overhauls), unofficial community patch mods, general graphical improvements, and engine bug fixes (such as the 64hz micro-stutter and 2GB RAM limit). I consider at least the last category to be essential to an Elder Scrolls purchase, as without the mods to fix these we could never rely on Bethesda to fix their engine.

    Now we are throwing the possibility of future paid mods around, we have to seriously consider the possibility that all of the above could end up behind a pay wall. Hypothetical worst case scenario, Bethesda actually make community fixes to faulty engine code, poor PC optimisation, console standard graphics and quest bugs into a revenue stream.

    It sounds far fetched, but it could have happened under the original idea for the mod store. All someone would have had to do was make their modification to the code, upload it to the workshop, and DMCA anyone releasing a free version of the same fix. If the workshop version went up first then you could lock a community patch behind a pay wall, then create a conflict of interest for Bethesda between fixing the bug for the good of the game and profiting from a new revenue stream. Now that we seem to be talking in terms of ‘when’ paid modding will happen rather than ‘if’, I will be watching Bethesdas new release with a huge dose of skepticism. If there is even a possibility of this happening to their new game, then they will lose my business.

    • Geebs says:

      AAIR,IT Bethesda fixed the memory limit bug. Also worth repeating: I finished the majority of morrowind, oblivion, skyrim and fallout 3 – totalling somewhere between 500 and 1000 hours of gameplay – with no game-breaking bugs beyond getting stuck in scenery and needing to revert to a save. The whole we’ll have to pay for someone else to fix Bethesda’s bugs is exaggerated out of all proportion.

      Now, if it was Obsidian….

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        I don’t think they fixed the game crashing memory heap bug a modder solved last year.
        A great video demonstrating it: link to youtube.com

        Sure Obsidian are notorious but Bethesda is hardly innocent. :P
        link to uesp.net
        Just about any quest page has a bug section with varying severity. Most are pretty harmless and only seen under special circumstances and even less are total quest breakers but modders have fixed tons and tons of issues Bethesda will never patch.

      • Horg says:

        Your tolerance of bugs is higher than mine then, I don’t know how anyone could play that long with the inherent micro-stutter in the creation engine. But anyway, you miss the point of my post. Under the old system for the mod store, all of the community bug fixes could have ended up as a paid product. The PC UI improvement, SkyUI, actually did. That is not a far fetched scenario. If that becomes a standard, say for a new game, then Bethesda could conceivably start to profit from poor porting and lax bug fixing. That is not a future scenario we want to visit for obvious reasons.

        • Lanessar says:

          This exactly. Hence why mods in Skyrim couldn’t be paid at this point. Most mods are enhancements to gameplay that aren’t necessary to the playing of the game, I’ll grant that.

          But the first twenty mods in your mod list, those ARE necessary to a smooth playthrough. Even some of the enhancement mods are arguably “bug fixes”.

          Case in point: Convenient Horses. This one mod is what got me into modding Skyrim, as my first purchased horse ran off, never to be seen again, about five minutes after I got him. All I did was dismount to gather some herb or something, and then got attacked by a wolf. He ran off, and then later de-spawned (I’m guessing).

          This annoyed me repeatedly until I began modding the “default” behavior, which was poorly implemented. There are other parts to that mod, but that was the only part I wanted to have fixed.

          If that was locked behind $3 or $5 paywall, and no other modder could fix that problem because of DCMA-style draconian lockdowns, I probably would have quit in disgust of how this game was monetized.

          • Geebs says:

            I assert that “my horse ran off once” != “this game is unplayable without mods”

  6. HallowedError says:

    What’s with the pages? The one with Molyneux was long and had no pages. It might be silly but I like being able to simply scroll.

    • onsamyj says:

      More ads, obv.

      • Thurgret says:

        Apparently the ads don’t even regenerate. I don’t like the pages. Much preferred being able to scroll. Especially a pain if I’ve loaded up a few things to read, then discover that one of them requires six different pages and I have to wait to locate Internet to get the rest — not that common, mostly a concern on train journeys etc.

      • silentdan says:

        I raised this issue in another post, and Graham assured me that he has “some ideas” for how to deal with pagination. It’s not much of a commitment, but I’m prepared to give them a little room to try things.

        That said, if pagination doesn’t go away soon, I’ll banish it myself with GreaseMonkey, turn on AdBlock, and refrain from renewing my Supporter Program enrolment. I want RPS to do well, but they need to think twice about making the site inconvenient to read. Those kinds of cheap tactics often backfire, not with a total collapse, but by turning once-fine sites into Buzzfeed clones.

        In any transaction with somewhat negotiable terms, I’ll ask nicely, and even kick in some money to get things off on the right foot, but if the other side sees that as a weakness, gives no ground, and even tightens the vice, I’m quite capable of making my own arrangements. That’s not my first choice, though. That doesn’t make things better for everyone, it makes things tolerable for me. I’d much prefer asking nicely and paying them, so that everyone can benefit, but that’s ball is in their court, now.

        • pepperfez says:

          Have you considered that there isn’t a conspiracy and whoever’s doing layouts finds pages more pleasant to read than endless scrolls of text?

          • silentdan says:

            I’m not sure what’s conspiratorial about paginating stories to boost ad impressions, but I wasn’t aware that any readers found it preferable. It confounds offline reading for zero benefit to the user (although if you’re seeing a benefit that I’m not, please enlighten me.)

        • colorlessness says:

          Link to a greasemonkey anti-pagination script? Is there a general-purpose one? Would really appreciate this for other sites, not even RPS specifically…

          • bonuswavepilot says:

            Dunno about a general purpose one, but I have hacked one up for RPS. I call it “Don’t Page Me, Bro!”.

            It has not yet been tested extensively, so if you run into problems, fire me a PM, or post to the forum thread here.

            It should remove extraneous bylines and social buttons from appended pages, although the ‘continued on page x’ text will not be removed. (I could find and remove it, but it seems a bit risky to actually be hacking chunks of the text out – not inconceivable that the phrase could occur legitimately in an article).

  7. James says:

    Given the answers here I may find some interesting responses from Robin should he respond to my 9000 word diatribe on the subject. Whilst I have no problem with modders going to developers and saying ‘hey! we want to make this propoer DLC/a game’ and there are many case studies of that happening, I wanted to present the ‘mods are intrinsically free’ argument so that people can understand it, as it is an idea I have seen almost everyone (from RPS to TotalBiscuit to Kotaku) fail to understand. That said, I do go into some deep philosophy, his response (if I get it) will be intriguing.

    Good interview too, good job RPS.

  8. onsamyj says:

    Am I missing something or nobody asked “from where money will come”?

    Say, I have $60 per month to spend on games. I bought Fallout 4/TES IV. Next month I can buy 3–4 small(ish) indie games or 10–15 mods for Fallout 4/TES IV. So, small developers (and small modders, actually) are screwed and rich get richer.

  9. Michael Anson says:

    Even the people running Nexus do not understand or mention licensing? That explains a lot about how this mess got started. Nexus should be encouraging the use of the Creative Commons (or other OSS) license for every mod, to clearly spell out the requirements for basing one mod off of another and protect their modders’ rights. I’m honestly surprised that not a single games journalism site has tackled the issues around licensing in response to this debacle, particularly as it is becoming increasingly obvious that few gamers or modders understand what is going on here.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      I would assume they leave that to the creators to decide. They may have opinions on it, but it was not the scope or discussion this time. Hopefully next time.

    • Person of Interest says:

      I agree that modders need to know what rights they have to license their work. But I’m not sure how much scope there is for mod licenses when mods are already tightly bound by the EULA of the base game or modding tools [Here’s Bethesda’s Creation Kit]. The situation calls for a lawyer to publicly provide some not-legal-advice advice.

      I can’t find any updated EULA from Bethesda that would have allowed mods to be sold. Does anyone have a link?

    • Deano2099 says:

      But that’s the point – they don’t have to bother with any of that stuff, because there was a big threatening wall of Bethesda lawyers going “try and make any money off this and we’ll sue you”. While it wasn’t exactly friendly, it was a replacement for any need to really worry about licensing at all.

      • Michael Anson says:

        There are noncommer ail licenses, and they are quite common in OSS. You still own the portion of the work you produced, and have control over its use through licensing, even if you are restricted from selling it. These rights need to be spelled out to the modding community, so this kind of debacle is not repeated.

  10. kwyjibo says:

    Should mods be free on principle? No.

    Mods must be free forever according to the 133,000 supporters of the pitchfork petition.

    link to change.org

    • Jip says:

      Without [sarcasm] tags I’m just assuming you were being sarcastic because that’s the impression I got.

      Even though Robin said he wasn’t much of an authority on this whole issue, I think he’s better placed than the majority of people, and made some interesting and valid observations on the whole thing.

      Should mods be free BY LAW ? – No
      Should mods be free ON PRINCIPLE ? – No
      Should mods cost money BY LAW ?? – No
      Should mods cost money ON PRINCIPLE ?!? – No

      If anything positive has come out of this, it’s that it’s made a lot of people who did feel self-entitled to mods forever being free have come to realise that all those things they have appreciated have been created with a lot of hard work an passion. And maybe, just maybe, some of those mod authors would like some more recognition for their efforts, perhaps monetarily, perhaps just with appreciation.

      In hindsight, maybe some of those vitriol spitting bastards towards those mod authors have had a look at their behaviour, and now do appreciate their work a lot more.

  11. Jenks says:

    Phew, I almost had a panic attack when I thought the creators of the entertainment I consume were going to occasionally require payment.

    • Distec says:

      You can donate if you want to feel your heart racin’.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      and I for one am horrified, horrified, that companies that sell a full priced AAA game filled with bugs and poor UI now won’t get paid handsomely when someone else fixes their mess.

  12. Steve Catens says:

    Thanks to RPS for posting this informed, sober, and nuanced opinion on the situation, as opposed to some previous pieces which perhaps felt a bit…incomplete in their coverage.

  13. Laurentius says:

    That’s what corporations do to human spirit, instill greed and defile. And even on this site people are like : “poor Valve, thay are not charitable institution that are to make money”, geez like anyone can forget about it. Well, screw Valve, don’t be their Interenet lawyer and lapdog.

    • Jenks says:

      Don’t forget the scumbag modders who think their time is worth something.

      • Emeraude says:

        It is.

        That something may not necessarily be appropriately measurable in market terms though.

      • Laurentius says:

        That’s not the point, point is corporations make or try to make a commodity of every possible angle of human life and sell it on the market. That’s bad and has negative repercusions all over. Creative work is certanly valued but right of the bat corpaoartions are the ones that setup rules for everything and that’s horrible.If books were invented 10 years ago in world tightned in corpoarte grip we would never have public libraries and people like you you would defending big publshers houses as “poor corporation” and idea of library would dismissed as trying to rip poor creative souls of writers.

  14. Emeraude says:

    Good piece.

  15. Darkheart says:

    If the next Beth game is Steamworks only, I would have to think hard if I buy it… I don’t think I can manage my mods the way I want with it.

    And let’s be honest: A Beth game is a basis upon which you build the game you want, thanks to thousands of modders out there. Take that away and I’m not sure have to take part in it. For me it would be back to old-school (indie) RPGs.

  16. metric day says:

    Says the guy who has been profiting off other people’s work for how many years now?

    • badmothergamer says:

      He built the best mod hosting site there is starting 14 years ago. Now running the Nexus is a full time job. He employs multiple people and has to pay for servers (a recent post of his pegged the annual cost of running the Nexus at 500k). I don’t know how much Robin earns but I doubt he’s becoming a millionaire anytime soon.

      As a mod author I’ve had my arguments with Robin in the past based on some decisions I didn’t agree with, but I’ve never felt he was profiting off my work.

      Full disclosure: I’ve been a member of the Nexus since 2007 and a premium member since whenever they started offering the memberships.

  17. k.t says:

    One mod author involved in this mess seemed to say Robin was receiving a cut of sales. Was that nonsense? Or maybe I’m just misinterpreting it and they don’t mean profiting directly?

    • badmothergamer says:

      Robin posted about this on the Nexus. Essentially, when an author posted a paid mod, they could select up to 5 “service providers” to get a 5% cut of Valve’s profit. So if someone posted their mod and selected the Nexus as a service provider, Valve would send the Nexus 5% of Valve’s take (which I believe was 30% of the paid amount). This was completely optional and basically just a way for a mod author to say “this person/service helped me at some point so I’d like Valve to donate a portion of their profit to them”.

      Now I’m going to try and link to his post. With no edit button, please forgive me if I totally botch this. :)

  18. Cinek says:

    Small remark to those thinking that “Bethesda is supporting modders” – if they want to truly support modders the best thing they could do is buying full rights to the mods that fix their game and publish it as an official patch.

    Everyone would benefit from that hugely. Including entire Skyrim modding community. It’s a win-win.

    But skeptic in me says that they don’t give a fuck about users or modders – it’s just greed, nothing more, nothing less.

    • Person of Interest says:

      Bethesda already has full rights to the mods, or at least that’s my interpretation of the Creation Kit EULA, but I don’t think there’s much room for other interpretations.

      Read the Bethesda blog about why they tried paid mods [ link to bethblog.com ]: I think they have the right intention, and yet I agree with Mr. Scott that they’ve made a mess of the Skyrim modding community with this attempt.

      • pepperfez says:

        The line in there about being against DRM made me pretty seriously question their sincerity, I have to admit.

  19. Lionmaruu says:

    want to get money ? get a job. want to get a job on gaming industry, make a fucking game yourself or just apply for a job on the company you like.

    99% of the mods aren’t big/good enough to warrant any money from me, doesn’t matter how much effort someone put on that cheater house with every item on it for tes/fallout, if they charge me for it I wont download it. no one telling anyone to do anything, they do to because they like doing it and they love the game.

    charging for it will destroy the community and will destroy the value of the games, if I have to buy probably bugged shit someone made I just buy all the official dlc’s.

    a DONATE button would be much more important to those whom want to reward the hard works of modders. but buy to use a mod, hell no.

    not to say that most of the modders use graphics/models/sounds/voices from other people all the fucking time, gotta love to moderate that no? will be fucking easy to control this kind of thing if someone is making big bucks out of someones else work. AND The mods that stop working on a new patch from the games dev? and if the guy doesnt finish it? you paid for some shit, ohh too bad now you cant use that fucking thing, its broken.

    that’s why this shit was pulled out, that would have been the most evil thing steam had done in their entire life of mostly goodness. and I am glad they took it out. make a donate button, you like it you send the guy money, nothing wrong with it.

    • Christo4 says:

      Yeah i am of the same opinion. If mods are chaged for, they are basically low-quality microtransactions that can stop working at any time and have no support.

      • Christo4 says:

        charged*

      • Diatribe says:

        I agree 100%. It’s kind of crazy to think consumers would want to pay to access (rather than tip after the fact) something that could break at any time and the creator has no obligation to keep working after patches. Or the creator could have a bad day and force an update that breaks it completely.

        It’s the same reason I don’t buy early access games unless it’s already in a state I would enjoy. Frankly I’m astounded so many people throw money away on these things without a guarantee that it works in its current condition.

        The only reason I bought Skyrim was that Bethesda had good mod support for Morrowind and Oblivion. If they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have bought it, because without mods its just a buggy and uninspired open world. If mods aren’t free for the next Bethesda release, I won’t buy it the game in the first place, unless it is of a vastly higher quality than the rest of their recent output.

  20. lrt512 says:

    It’s adorable that so many of you think that people will actually donate. After seven years as the author of a fairly popular WoW addon, I can tell you truthfully that donations averaged 10$ per year. That includes the time after donation buttons became front and center on the addon site downloader apps to try and draw more. Yep, about 70 bucks for over 3 million downloads. They were just lining up to donate, I tell ya.

    As for the legality of charging for third-party plugins/addons/mods for someone else’s IP, that’s been beaten to death, too. Just Google “Photoshop plugin”.

    Blizzard’s solution was to make it a condition of the agreement to use the addon API that you couldn’t charge directly, only accept donations, and not solicit donations in game. That’s fair, totally within their rights. A very few people who were charging stopped doing their addons, but the majority of us kept going (me, until I stopped playing WoW).

    Bethesda could totally do the same, but in the absence of the IP holder giving direction, it’s fair game.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      People do donate – If it’s presented in the right way. There are a lot of creative people and organisations getting by on donations. Look at Patreon for all kinds of creators or even Twitch (a problem though is that the most successful tend to be built around cults of personality).

      70 free dollars people gave you without any obligations for a free mod is not something to scoff at unless the dollars were your only motivation when writing the addon. Complaining is just as entitled as demanding free stuff.

      The market voted against Valve’s model so that obviously wasn’t the way to go either.

      • Hellfirecw says:

        The word for today is called entitlement.

        For some reason people think that what they give mod authors is free money when in fact it is literally paying for their hard work and many hours spent on creating amazing project. 70 “free” dollars could have been made easily on any job but instead he spent his/her time on a mod. People need to realize that for mod creators need money in order to live and if there isn’t any money than there isn’t any mod. The bottom line is seeing with the donation buttons do not work is that “oh they are not presented correctly”, well guess what buttercup that means they indeed are not working! Mod authors don’t need to make their mods be free or paid for but guess what, its their choice and the consumer needs to deal with it.
        That being said steam could have done a lot of things better such as the percentage split and the lack of policing.

  21. racccoon says:

    Valve’s Motive is MONEY & the destruction of the PC’s pure heart, its slowly eating it away!
    its using the PC community like a pawn as it hold an majority = monopoly.
    Next Valve will take the air we breath.
    Valve for fucks sake make your rip off console and fuck off out of the PC!

  22. Dread Quixadhal says:

    Money isn’t really the issue. I would pay for a mod that I liked and used, but (1) I need to be able to try it and see if it’s worth it first, and (2) I need to trust that I’m getting what I think I’m paying for.

    The trial period could be as simple as offering a refund for a week or two after purchase… that’s not a big deal.

    The trust issue… that requires that the mod hosting system have people who will review and approve mods, to ensure they aren’t stolen rip-offs of other mods, and that they really do what the author claims they do. That’s why Steam’s experiment failed… they refused to put forth any effort and expected the community to “police itself”.

    Sorry, no. I don’t trust the community to do anything that requires any effort. There are plenty of individuals who put lots of work into things, but the unwashed masses are still just a rabble, and self-policing only works if plenty of people are willing to try.

  23. Xetelian says:

    There just is no way to charge for buggy unsupported content.

    How much should I have to pay for a mod that adds the spell summon horse to Skyrim?
    How about when that mod is no longer being developed? How long is long enough?

    Too many questions and too much risk in buying something a stranger put together in their free time.

  24. immerc says:

    Can he really be objective about this? He runs a modding site which features ads. Anybody who goes to the Steam site instead of his costs him ad impressions. Presumably it’s in his financial interest to keep the status quo.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      It’s still good to hear different opinions on the paid-for-mods idea. What you do is keep their interests in mind. I mean, don’t you do that with Valve and Bethesda?

  25. Thirdrail says:

    Mods are fan fiction. You can’t charge money for fan fiction. Period. You want money, create your own IP.

    • Steve Catens says:

      You really don’t know anything about this subject, do you?

      Was Durante’s mod, where he pretty much single-handedly saved the PC Gaming community from a terrible port and made an important game playable, fan fiction? I don’t approve of the way Valve handled this, but Jesus, this is the single worst comment I’ve read on an issue already rife with hyperbole and misrepresentation.

    • k.t says:

      Like Team Fortress, Counter-Strike and Dota?

  26. tonicer says:

    I am okay with donating money to mod developers (looking at you Sergeant_Mark_IV) but buying a mod is something i would never do.

  27. Delicieuxz says:

    I think the mistake Valve made was to not present a mission statement that explained the ideals and workings of paid mods before implemented a system for it, which let pessimistic speculation spread and reign in the public. Valve should have explained from the start that the modder sets the price for their mods, and the game owner (publisher/developer) is who sets the payout ratios for themselves and the modder.

    Regarding the benefits of having paid mods:

    Having paid mods allows people who otherwise would only make mods as a part-time hobby to work more on mods, produce higher quality mods, and support their mods better. The draw of paid-mods will bring lots of additional people to the modding scene, and grow the presence and voice of modding community overall. The incentive of paid-mods encourages devs/pubs to enable modding of their games and to release quality modding tools for people to use – and generally increases the openness of the games industry. If devs/pubs start to see modding as an additional revenue arm for their businesses, they will support it more, and that benefits everyone and is what people have desired to see happen all along.

    Paid-mods also means that professional developers can go independent and work on more creative projects, making it easier for new studios to get their start – while receiving a greater portion of revenue for their work than they normally would under a direct licensing agreement with an IP holder (presuming they’d receive at least 25% of gross sales of their work, using Bethesda’s ratio as a baseline that hopefully will be improved upon by other devs/pubs).

    Having more creative projects being made and showing to be financially viable means that large devs/pubs can branch out more in their creative designs, having adventurous and wilder concepts uncovered and tested by independents, enabling their themes to be more safely engaged by larger risk-adverse corporations – which means more creative big-budget games with more interesting designs inlaid within them, which means a broadening of the scope of intellectual content from the entire professional games industry.

    Paid-mods means more mods available for gamers, more professional experience active in the modding scene, more people spreading modding knowledge for others to learn from, better quality mod tools and game-asset access, better support of mods from their creators, greater possibility for adventurous and creative works from independents, greater visible/audible presence/voice for modders, increased and improved communication between devs/pubs and those who engage their games, and a much healthier and more open games industry ecosystem on the whole.

    I think that Valve’s move for paid-mods would ultimately have an effect on modding similar to the effect Valve’s Steam service has had for PC gaming.

    • Emeraude says:

      I think that Valve’s move for paid-mods would ultimately have an effect on modding similar to the effect Valve’s Steam service has had for PC gaming.

      Ultimately, that’s a good way to frame the issue, isn’t it ?

      Certainly, there would be a modding community left after that transition to market, it just would be really different.
      Which, depending on where you’re coming from is either a boon or a loss.

  28. Valkyr says:

    I loved the interview, but please, Graham, RPS, or whoever it is responsible for edition: please check your spelling/grammar before publishing. “14-years-old”, “in to”, “what-so-ever”? Really? It brings down the whole quality of the article with just a few mistakes. I come here for great writing, please be aware that that kind of things is important for such a title.

  29. RegisteredUser says:

    The trouble was that this wasn’t geared towards paying the actual content creators. The approach should be more donationware oriented like already successfully practiced in Countersrike. Give people who do decide(!) to optionally pay the creators some shiny thing like badges or unique achievement or otherwise not important signifier that symbolically rewards them and otherwise just make it as easy as possible to pay in the process.

    Not this “Give 99.999999% of your money to us and we’ll drop a penny in the modders tin. Maybe. If we feel like it. And it isn’t a weekday ending in ‘y'” nonsense that went on.

  30. Saberguy says:

    Ummm, I’m not sure if this has been discussed before, but what about Advertisement revenue? People seem to think there are only two options available here, Donations or Paid mods.
    What about when you click on a mod it gives you a quick 12-15 seconds long commercial, after which the mod would start to download. The modders would get a part of that revenue and the people who use the mod wouldn’t have to pay a cent.

  31. Ohasis says:

    Ahh, I remember the good old days when all you had to do to get a mod was log on to a local modding site and download a set of files with the disclaimer “IF THIS BREAKS UR GAME ITS UR FAULT CUZ UR STUPID MOD USER DUMB DUMB AND DIDNT FOLLOW MY INSTRUCTIONS DONT POST ON COMMENTS CUZ TROUBLESHOOTING IS HAAAARD!” Granted, there were people begging for donations back then, too, but at least Valve wasn’t all like “Let’s pay real money for this, guys! Everyone has the money for these mods, right!? :D :D :D”

    Also, the Nexus has been begging users for money for years. They might not be the most unbiased source of information when asking about whether or not fees should be solicited from users enjoying the services created by other users who are piggybacking off of a successful video game series. After all, that’s literally what the Nexus is, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s great that we have websites that allow for the promotion of mod authors. But if there’s one bad thing about these sites…it’s the mod authors.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of wonderful people who mod for what modding was actually intended for through tools like the Creation Kit; they have a fun idea, they want to make that fun idea into a fun mod, and then they want to offer their hard work to others for the sake of their enjoyment of the fun mod. But I feel a huge chunk of the modding community of today (and this wasn’t necessarily any different at any other point in time) is comprised of people with big egos who feel entitled to monetary compensation in return for the little effort they put in to piggyback off of a AAA title made by a small, passionate company with hard working people.

    If you’re making your mods for the sake of soliciting donations by guilting users into feeling sorry for your “backbreaking labor”, or want to demand financial compensation in return for something you were only able to make because the company who created TES took the time to create the tools for you to do so, then shame on you and please do us all the kind favor of leaving. There are plenty of incredibly talented mod authors who take the time to invent elaborate, beautifully crafted mods and ask for absolutely no compensation for return, because that’s exactly what the modding community is meant to do. This isn’t meant to be treated as some side-job or as a quick source of income. It’s meant for fun.

    If someone wants to donate to you because they actually feel your work merits such a thing, then sure, put a discrete donate button on your mod page. But putting up a giant pop-up saying “MY WORK DESERVES THIS SO PLS PLS PLS DONATE!” is just aggravating and it personally makes me respect you much less, both as a human being and especially as a mod author, because it shows me the mod was not your #1 priority when crafting it and in my opinion it absolutely should be.