StarCraft 2’s first paid mods include a turn-based RPG

Almost nine years after first announcing plans to sell some player-made custom maps in StarCraft II, Blizzard are finally following through. SC2’s first two paid player-made maps will launch in the StarCraft Arcade with the next big update, with a share of sales going to the creators. Ark Star is a new turn-based tactical RPG in the world of StarCraft, while popular free mod Direct Strike will start offering an optional premium upgrade with cosmetics and extra modes. They’ll be priced at $5 apiece, though Blizzard don’t detail quite how big a share will go to the modders.

Blizzard say they’ve been working with the creators of these maps “over the last year”. The scheme sounds similar to Bethesda’s Creation club, where Bethesda have control over what’s sold in the marketplace and work with creators, than Steam’s abandoned paid mods free-for-all.

Ark Star is made by Daniel “Pirate” Altman, who won Blizzard’s Rock The Cabinet modding contest in 2015 with Dwarven Combat. The mod will see see a squad of Protoss searching for a fancy weapon, engaging in turn-based combat, levelling up, looting, chatting to folks, and all that. It’s a tactical RPG, yeah? Looks a little like this:

Direct Strike by “Tya” isn’t a new map, already having fans on Battle.net for its arena battles where players build waves of units to shove each other. Observe:

The old version of Direct Strike will be pulled when this launches, but the new one will still be playable for free. If players want, they’ll have the option to pay $5 for the premium version. That includes new four modes plus cosmetic bits to customise your area and workers. If someone with the premium version hosts a lobby, all players who join it will get to play the premium modes.

These maps will launch with patch 4.3.0. Blizzard haven’t yet said when that’s due. The SC2 Arcade will still be crammed to the gills with many other free mods, of course.

17 Comments

  1. PseudoKnight says:

    Sigh, so I just uninstalled. I was trying to like this as a product, because I love Starcraft the game, but this isn’t for me. I tried to look past this type of stuff, but this reminds me of why it’s not worth investing my time into it. I understand that people like the idea of giving something to content creators, which is great, but that already happens and this isn’t a good way to do that. This is just a company profiting on third party content, and with a potential to poison the community as I’ve seen happen in other games.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      That makes no sense to me. The person who spent god-knows how many hours creating a full strategy-RPG within the Starcraft 2 engine is the one likely to benefit most from being able to sell their work.

      Apparently many Team Fortress 2’s guest mappers still make a steady living income from the built-in ‘tip the mapper’ stamp system. That’s a hell of an inroads into doing that stuff for a living.

      • guy15s says:

        Why does one example of a good paid mod suddenly invalidate skepticism over a paid mod system? It’s not that hard to make sure your flagship products don’t suck, and I think the previously failed paid mod marketplaces hold more weight than one or two flagship mod offerings.

        • anHorse says:

          A lot the new RPS writers seem to be these vaguely right wing corporate apologists.

          It’s not a great look for a site that at least still pretends to be independent

      • Horg says:

        If by benefit from you mean ”give up all rights to” then you are right on the money. The only reason this system exists is so that should the next DotA-like success be created in SC2, Blizzard will have complete control over the IP. The drip feed of income Blizzard are offering is bait in a trap. Do please read the ToS for SC2 mod makers, it’s something that’s received a huge amount of criticism since its implementation.

      • PseudoKnight says:

        It’s a problem with the implementation, as I mentioned in my post. Content creators already have revenue streams, if inefficient, this just allows Blizzard to take the majority share.

        Having personally spent thousands of hours modding, this is not the direction we want to take it.

  2. Elric666 says:

    I frequently forget Blizzard and StarCraft are a thing, since they don’t appear on Steam.

    • australopithecus says:

      Yeah, I often forget that PC games without DRM and draconian terms of service are a thing, because they don’t exist on steam (or battle.net).

      • Billtvm says:

        Most DRM free games are also on steam and for them steam just acts as a delivery platform and launcher.

  3. Ham Solo says:

    Paid mods… Hahaha, no thanks. I still remember Skyrim’s non-existant quality control, all of the stolen assets and 0 customer support by the modders regarding bugs and other issues.

  4. SaintAn says:

    This is incredibly sad news. I told people this would happen and it is only going to get worse as it spreads and becomes more acceptable just like how DLC, loot boxes, and microtransactions have become accepted and a big problem.

    On top of most games having loot boxes, microtransactions, DLC, expansions, being overpriced, and being barebones/shallow, they’ll have paid mods and far less mod communities.

    And before any ignorant person tries to argue and say this is great for modders or this is corporate benevolence from the corporations they worship like deities, it’s not, and you shouldn’t be talking about things you don’t understand. Good modders already make a lot of money from donations, bad modders make money too. I was just on one modders Patreon yesterday and they make $5,000 a month while doing very little work on their overhaul mod.

    • ludde says:

      Yep, if this draws in a lot of money it will likely spiral. They’ll push and expand on those microtransactions more and more until they’re in your face and the main point of the game. Then all they need is some subscription fee and it’s a full on freemium model.

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        ooshp says:

        I know right. It’ll get to the point these ‘content creators’ team up together and spend years creating a project with many hours of content that we pay real money to play.

    • Oasx says:

      ” Good modders already make a lot of money from donations, bad modders make money too. I was just on one modders Patreon yesterday and they make $5,000 a month while doing very little work on their overhaul mod.”

      The fact that a modder had a patreon page means they probably are among the 1% of best and most popular modders around. There are full time creators and streamers who would kill to earn just half that amount per month on patreon.

      Of the hundreds of thousands of mods out there, how many do you think earn their creators a single cent? Most creators are not going to be lucky enough to be discovered or make mods for the right game so that they can make any kind of money, demanding that they work for free is dumb.

  5. Czrly says:

    Even as a huge sceptic of all mechanisms that intend to “monetise” community content, I must admit that those two do look like properly novel mods. They are not merely mash-ups or remixes of existing assets. They actually look like someone invested time to create a thing and, as such, that person *should* be paid for that work.

    Personally, I only have two questions: how much are the modders being paid and, if they are being paid, who’s ensuring that everyone involved in the effort is being paid fairly? Someone had the idea for these, are they the ones getting the money?

    And, secondly, what will happen, next? My greatest objection to microtransaction models is the effect that they have on game balance. Instead of adjusting the balance to optimise “fun”, the utility function becomes microtransaction revenue and that, frankly, is a travesty. If these paid mods become a Thing, how will they influence the future of Blizzard’s games?

    Only time will tell.

    • PseudoKnight says:

      The mappers are not allowed to say what they’re getting from these purchases, but if other systems of this type are any indication, it’s a minority share of revenue. They would have phrased it differently if it were otherwise.

      • Billtvm says:

        Most DRM free games are available in steam, and for them steam just acts as a delivery platform and launcher.