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?
… [visit site to read more]
Valve are known for their odd experiments, from Team Fortress 2 hats to – heck! – Steam itself, but they tend to roll with them no matter what the reception, polishing these oddities up with force of will and years of refinement. Their plan to support selling mods through Steam, however, has gone back to the drawing board.
They launched a pilot scheme last week with Skyrim, and had planned to start letting other devs enable paid mods for their own games if they wished. Instead, they’ve removed paid mods from Skyrim, refunded everyone who bought mods, and confessed that “it’s clear we didn’t understand exactly what we were doing.”
… [visit site to read more]
[Update: Despite Bethesda publishing this post defending paid Skyrim mods only an hour ago, the program has since been pulled from Steam following discussions with Valve. The original story can be found below, we'll have more as it breaks.]
To put it lightly, the rollout of paid Skyrim mods on Steam hasn't been without pain. An awful lot of people think mods should be universally free, a point they're making by gumming up the works with silliness; others have objected to the relatively small slice of the pie—25 percent—that mod makers will earn on the sales of their creations. But Bethesda says its early discussions with Valve confirmed "quite clearly" that allowing mod makers to earn money on their work boosted both the quality and the quantity of the mods available to gamers.
"We have a long history with modding, dating back to 2002 with The Elder Scrolls Construction Set," it wrote in a new Bethesda Blog post. "It s our belief that our games become something much more with the promise of making it your own." There are downsides: The availability of mods is one of the reasons Oblivion was re-rated from T to M, "costing us millions of dollars," it continued. Even so, "while others in the industry went away from it, we pushed more toward it."
The initial discussions between Bethesda and Valve actually began in 2012, and right from the outset it insisted that the Marketplace had to be open rather than curated. "At every step along the way with mods, we have had many opportunities to step in and control things, and decided not to," it wrote. "We wanted to let our players decide what is good, bad, right, and wrong. We will not pass judgment on what they do."
The post confirmed that Valve gets 30 percent of all mod sales, which it described as "standard across all digital distribution services." Bethesda itself takes 45 percent, and the mod makers gets the remaining 25 percent. But it denied that the relatively steep take represents some kind of "money grabbing scheme," noting that mod sales, even during the past weekend when Skyrim was free, made up less than one percent of its total Steam revenues. At the same time, while the 25 percent cut "has been operating on Steam successfully for years," it left open the door for adjustments, saying, "If it needs to change, we'll change it."
Most people don t know, but our very own Skyrim DLC has zero DRM. We shipped Oblivion with no DRM because we didn t like how it affected the game
As for the long term impact of paid mods, Bethesda acknowledged that there is the potential for damage but said most of the implications are positive. "Not only do we want more mods, easier to access, we re anti-DRM as far as we can be. Most people don t know, but our very own Skyrim DLC has zero DRM. We shipped Oblivion with no DRM because we didn t like how it affected the game," it wrote. "There are things we can control, and things we can t. Our belief still stands that our community knows best, and they will decide how modding should work. We think it s important to offer choice where there hasn t been before."
Our own Tyler Wilde gave some early opinion on the good and bad of paid mods last week, and we also published a guest editorial on the matter from a modder earlier today. Meanwhile, Garry's Mod creator Garry Newman and Gabe Newell have weighed in on the matter, but despite their positive takes the petition demanding an end to paid mods has climbed to more than 130,000 signatures. Offering choice is good, but this is clearly going to be a hard sell for both Bethesda and Valve.
[Note! I wrote this column on Wednesday due to having a shortened week. So, this was written before all the recent controversy over paid mods for Skyrim. And, it just so happens, the creator of this mod is Chesko, same creator of the now-removed paid Art of the Catch mod. Do I have great timing or what? Anyway, this is still a neat (and free) mod. You can grab it from the Nexus.]
There's something oddly enjoyable about camping in a game. Walk off into the woods, erect a tent, build a campfire, and sit and gaze at the flames as the world around you slowly grows dark. It's serene, comforting, and a nice change from all the dragon slaying and dungeon crawling.
Skyrim has a few camping mods already, most notably Frostfall, which brings a harsh and challenging survival theme to Skyrim. The Campfire mod, however, is more about simply creating an immersive and enjoyable camping experience.
Through the use of some new survival spells, you begin by gathering materials like deadwood, branches, and stones (bring a woodsman's axe with you). You don't have to manually hunt around for materials—I kinda wish you did, actually—but you select the item you want to gather, and then you're told how much you found. A little time passes each time you search, to represent your gathering efforts.
Once you've done some gathering, you can place your campfire on the ground in front of you. It'll be a fragile campfire, which won't last long, but by adding kindling to it, it'll level up into a better campfire, suitable for a few hours of cooking. Feed some more fuel to the fire and it'll grow bigger, providing a comforting warmth that will give you a bonus to skill gains for the next several hours. Your followers can also join you in sitting by the fire.
In addition to campfires, the mod comes with some camping gear, like tents and tanning racks (these were in Frostfall as well, I believe). Campfire also has backpacks that dynamically represent your camping gear. For instance, if you have a bedroll, cooking pot, and axe, you'll see these items on your back. How cool is that? While Campfire is not currently compatible with Frostfall, it sounds like the next version of Frostfall will support it.
You can use Campfire without SKSE and SkyUI, but as always, those two mods will enhance your experience and allow you to customize your settings. Interestingly, you can also download a devkit for Campfire if you're interested in creating your own custom camping gear. There's even a few tutorials to help you get started.
In yet another sign that the universe is unfolding as it should, yesterday's announcement that Valve will now allow modders to sell their creations on Steam has led to an influx of "protest mods" with high prices, low content, and some admittedly amusing descriptions.
Take, for instance, the Extra Apple mod, currently priced at $35. It does exactly what it promises: adds an extra apple to the counter in The Bannered Mare. Or the Rubbish Bucket DLC, which provides a bucket for your rubbish—or at least it will, when it's done. Currently it's in Early Access, and instead of a bucket it's just a pile of wood on the floor. But you can put your rubbish on it! As long as you've installed the Rubbish Mod, that is, which will set you back another $3.
And there's the Literally Nothing mod, which speaks for itself.
To clarify, these mods are not actually available for purchase just yet. As Valve explained yesterday, new paid mods must first be posted without a purchase option, in order to give the community time to examine them and call out any abusive or stolen content. And while some of the mods in the queue appear legit—Light Armor Clothing, for instance—the bulk of them seem intended to make a statement; some, like the Micro Transactions mod, even include a link to the petition calling on Valve to drop paid mods altogether.
A few of these mods are funny, but they also have the potential to gum up the works. Some are obviously not meant to be taken seriously, but with others it's much harder to tell: The Chicken Companion, as an example, is literally a chicken wearing a Dragonborn helmet. It looks legit (and awesome!), but... well, it's a chicken in a Dragonborn helmet. You tell me.
The maker of the Rubbish mod said it took him about 30 minutes to learn enough of the Creation Kit to get the job done, then add the items and upload it to Steam. That's not an especially heavy investment of time, which means that if enough users are sufficiently committed to the cause, they'll be able to bury the system with crap in relatively short order. Bethesda stated that neither it nor Valve will be curating the mods for sale on the workshop. While they may be relying on the community to flag objectionable mods, in the end, they may have no choice but to step in and police the mods themselves.