Mega game mod hosting site Nexus Mods have revealed more information about their upcoming Collections feature which they hope will make installing mods a more approachable experience for users. In anticipation of launching the Collections system, Nexus say that mods can no longer be completely deleted from the site. Instead, mod authors will be able to archive files, though they'll still be downloadable via Collections that include them. It's a big change, and Nexus have written a rather long post (longer than this one) explaining the "how"s, "why"s, and "what now"s of the new system.
Nexus Mods have written an update about their plans for the Collections feature and, as they warn, it is indeed a long one. Foundationally, Nexus say that "it is our conviction and vision that modding should be as easy as possible, so more people can enjoy this hobby that has brought us all together and that laid the foundation for the very existence of our site and community 20 years ago."
That's where their upcoming Collections system comes in. Installing mods for a game is a daunting prospect at first. Even if it's gotten more approachable over the years thanks to mod managers such as Nexus's own Vortex manager, there's still the possibility of sorting out conflicts between mods, managing their load order, and sometimes doing extra tweaking in configuration files. Collections are meant to ease new folks into the process even more gently by presenting a group of mods that play nice together without them sorting through conflicts and edge cases themselves.
They aren't "mod packs", Nexus explain, because mods aren't packaged and redistrubuted by Collection creators. A Collection will be more like a directory pointing to the location of several different mods on the site.
"How it would work is, using Vortex, someone could build a mod list/mod setup locally on their machine, then export a meta file with all the information about the mods/files/conflict resolution etc. and upload that file to the site. We refer to this list on the site and in Vortex as a 'collection'. Another user can now add this meta file/this collection from the site to Vortex and Vortex will then fetch all the download links for the mods, download them, and install them in the same way the original user (the 'curator' of that mod list) has them installed on their PC - complete with conflict resolution data and all."
That's at least part of why they'll no longer be allowing mod authors to permanently delete their files from the site, Nexus say. If a mod used in a collection can be deleted, that pokes a rather large hole in the convenience of the feature.
"Instead of permanently removing a file, mod authors can now choose to archive it which will move it into a file archive and make it impossible to download directly unless specifically requested e.g. via the API. What this means is that when an author archives a file, for most intents and purposes, it is now gone and removed from the files tab, but it can still be downloaded via a collection and the metadata (information) about the file is still in the database. This change therefore addresses both technical problems laid out above, while leaving mod authors with the ability to remove files from view into a 'file archive' that serves as a point of reference."
Nexus say that they received plenty of feedback from mod authors about the change when it was shared recently in their forums and Discord server. Some concerns were addressed by altering their plans a bit, such as the option for a mod author to hide their archived files list from normal users.
The big concern is that this change represents a loss of control for mod authors over their work. Mod creators may want delete a mod for any number of reasons, frivolous or serious. With this change, uploading their work to Nexus means it will stay hosted there even if they choose to archive it. Nexus say that they "empathise with this position" of maintaining control but that "there is just no way to square these two positions".
However, Nexus say that they are still permanently deleting some mods, such as "any and all files that are violating our rules, for example in cases where someone has been using assets from another author without their express permission". They also say they're open to considering deletion requests for files that are outright broken.
Importantly, any mod creator who doesn't wish to be held to the new archiving system has until August 5th to request the permanent deletion of all their mods. It's an all-or-nothing request, so creators will have to reupload any mods they want to keep available afterwords.
For a whole lot more, you can read the entire explanation in Nexus's post. It goes into the differences between using collections as a free or premium user, along with other backend work the site has recently undergone.
Nexus don't say exactly when the Collections feature will go live but "we are edging closer towards external testing with a small number of people".
Graham talked with Nexus founder Robin Scott back in 2015 when the discussion of the day was paid mods for Skyrim. They're rather different issues, but game modding has only grown since then, despite plenty of concerns about what kind of Pandora's Box paid mods might be.