The first digital fruits of Bethesda's new kinda-sorta-paid-mods programme, the Creation Club, arrive today in Fallout 4 [official site]. It'll then hit Skyrim in September. Unlike Bethesda's disastrous first flirtation with paid mods for Skyrim in 2015, which was quickly abandoned, the Creation Club is more like a DLC microtransaction store partially outsourced to modders. It's a selection of new content Bethesda are approving and commissioning themselves rather than Steam's failed free-for-all marketplace where anyone could upload anything, see. The initial Creation Club lineup is pretty bland, mind, just odds and ends.
Swing on by Bethesda's blog to see everything in the Fallout 4 Creation Club's launch lineup. Content includes clobber like Chinese Stealth Armor and Morgan Yu's spacesuit from Prey 2017, Pip-Boy reskins, weapons, furniture for base-building, and a cheeky nod to Oblivion's horse armour upset with a set of power armour covered in bashed bits of model horses.
Some of the bits have quests attached but largely it looks quite boring. I don't think I'd download any of these as free mods, let alone pay a couple of quid for them.
The Creation Club runs on a new microtransaction currency, Credits, of which all players are being given 100 free (about a dollar's worth). The Credits will be shared across both Fallout 4 and Skyrim, as well as Steam and Xbox copies of the games - but not the PlayStation versions.
2015's paid mods fiasco was a Steam plan Bethesda joined in on, while the Creation Club is entirely Bethesda's gig. Valve still haven't returned to paid mods but Bethesda are back with a different take.
Rather than letting anyone whack anything up and charge for it (whether they made it or not), this is basically a DLC pipeline which can use modders as freelancers. Would-be Creators need to apply, pitch original ideas, and work like it's serious business. Bethesda explain:
"Creators are required to submit documentation pitches which go through an approval process. All content must be new and original. Once a concept is approved, a development schedule with Alpha, Beta and Release milestones is created. Creations go through our full development pipeline, which Creators participate in. Bethesda Game Studios developers work with Creators to iterate and polish their work along with full QA cycles. The content is fully localized, as well."
Bethesda insist that Creations aren't paid mods, and that they won't try to shut down modding. Creators are paid at milestones, as in regular development. Bethesda say they've made "most" of the Creation Club stuff themselves anyway. And mods, they say, "will remain a free and open system where anyone can create and share what they'd like".
"We've looked at many ways to do 'paid mods', and the problems outweigh the benefits. We've encountered many of those issues before. But, there's a constant demand from our fans to add more official high quality content to our games, and while we are able to create a lot of it, we think many in our community have the talent to work directly with us and create some amazing new things."
This all seems fairly innocuous so far. Some high-quality (but minor, dull, and overpriced) new DLC is out for Fallout 4. I'm rarely pleased by retrofitted microtransactions but they seem highly optional and ignorable. I don't worry about Bethesda hypothetically trying to push the Creation Club by cutting down content included with their open-world RPGs because they're an inch deep and a mile wide anyway - there's so little variety they could trim while still having a viable game.
I'm sure Bethesda have hopes for grander Club releases than this pointless assortment of trinkets and baubles, but I can't see it killing free mods. If the Club becomes a roaring success, maybe a few modders will be able to make a living from their skills rather than doing it as a hobby but hey, good for them. There's certainly no shortage of other people keen to make things for funsies and share them free.