The era of paid Steam mods ended almost as quickly as it began. Some people are pleased. Others are even more upset than they were before.
It is often the moments after the indecipherable cacophony of controversy that are most telling. People calm down a little, stop spewing steam from their ears and enraged garbage from their mouths. They cool off and, you know, actually talk. Well, some of them do anyway. And so, in between all the cries of “victory!” modders and fans alike have begun trying to pick up the pieces, figure out what all of this will mean in the long run.
Some are not happy at all with how this turned out. Flawed though Valve’s implementation was, they wish Valve would have at least left the foundation intact as something to build off of.
Modders have been chiming in too. Some, like Edhelsereg, have pointed out why everyone’s favourite simple fix for this whole issue, optional donations, isn’t so simple at all. Their post is lengthy (and worth reading all the way through), but here are some key bits:
“I started publishing mods two years ago. Since my first mod was released on the Skyrim Workshop my mods have received over 200,000 individual downloads and two donations. That means 0.001% of users donated.”
“And to all the people who say a donate button will help. I’d like to talk about the workshop ratings system. On every mod page there are two buttons that you can press (whether you have subscribed to the mod or not) that contribute to a mod’s overall rating. Giving a thumbs up is optional, but very much encouraged by creators. Most users simply do not rate.”
“My most popular mod has been downloaded by over 70,000 people of which less than 1.5kof them have rated it. That means 98% of users didn’t take the time to rate the mod (and that is above the average for most mods on the Workshop), an act which takes one click, and costs nothing to do.”
Edhelsereg has put a lot of effort into modding. Now, however, they’re considering quitting. Not because of the paid mod fiasco, but because they can’t justify bleeding time and money anymore. They explained:
“Over the last year, I have been inactive in the modding community. I have several new mods that are close to being finished, some even got to a beta stage that users had a chance to try.Unfortunately, I could no longer justify investing my time in modding. It was not a matter of greed, but practicality. I needed to pay the bills.When I heard that Steam was going to make it possible for mod authors to charge money for their mods, It caught my attention. For me, it meant I might have a justification to come back to the modding community.”
“Most modders don’t mod forever, they usually stop at some point. Even the best. Have you ever wondered why? MODDING IS A LOT OF WORK. At a certain point, passion is no longer enough to keep you going. Without proper encouragement and validation, you become drained and burn out. The community needs to find a way to bring more incentive for creators to keep making mods. Paid mods may have been the solution to bring back modders like Chesko and ThirteenOranges, but I don’t see that happening now.”
Other modders have opted for less… delicate approaches. They’d prefer that fans who don’t think their hard work is worth a cent learn a lesson the hard way. No empathy, no understanding, no chance for modders to prove that they deserve a few bucks here and there? Fine then. No mods:
Others have started a petition asking disenfranchised modders to reconsider. It’s an apology, albeit a small one.
Meanwhile, the teams behind mega-mods like SkyUI — who came out of pseudo-retirement at the promise of a payday — are on the fence about what happens next. Creator Mardoxx_ noted that previous versions of SkyUI generated less than $US500 in donations over four years, and that they simply don’t have the time to do this stuff for free like they did when they were younger. Other team members found themselves in similar boats. After all the backlash, Mardoxx bit back with this line:
“There is no ‘community.’ The past 48h have shown this. There never was.”
Predictably, people were pissed. But their appeal comes from an understandable if emotional place given how vehemently people wailed and gnashed their teeth at the idea of paying $US1 to bring new features to a mod that was otherwise dead. So what happens now? Some sort of new version is likely on the way, because it’d be a shame to waste the work they already put into it. But SkyUI’s schlangster closed the book on the whole ordeal somewhat grimly: “Obviously,” they said, “things will never be the same after this.”
They’re probably right. In the short term, the Skyrim modding community is vomiting acid all over itself, presumably to make its own tail go down a little easier. Pretty much just don’t go to any Skyrim forums right now. It’s capital-U Ugly in there.
Further out, meanwhile, we may or may not see paid mods return — hopefully in a much more carefully implemented fashion. Some fans are already preparing, brainstorming ideas for a better system in hopes that Valve and co will listen. Here are a few suggestions from a Reddit thread on the subject:
/u/DavidJCobb: All mods must have a seven day return policy, no questions asked and no consequences.
/u/BullZEye22: Mods should gather a certain amount of approval before they can be sold.
/u/fadingsignal: Behind the scenes, there should be a partially dedicated faster-response support team for mod authors. If a mod is having trouble because the Steam downloader is screwing it up, or there is abuse or stolen assets being used, someone who is a verified author should have a slightly elevated support level, so they can in turn better support their customers who purchase their mods.
For Paid Mods:
Modders need to get at least 50% of the sale. Valve and the publisher can work out how to split the other 50% on their own. There are more than enough differences between mods and other “industry practices” to allow this.
/u/fadingsignal: Option to set the minimum price to $US0
/u/sleepystudy: Humble Bundle esqe slider when checking out, or perhaps a manual entry.
For Unpaid Mods:
/u/NeuroticNyx: A donation button for unpaid mods on the Steam Workshop. No profit form Bethesda can be made from this, as it is not endorsed.
/u/MaryMudpie: A system of Pay-What-You-Want for all mods. (Probably not going to happen.)
/u/EggheadDash: A pop for a donation once the game is closed, with Yes/Remind me Later/No options.
The thread is lengthy and doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head with everything (for instance, a better system for collaborating/drawing on other people’s work, something like a mod equivalent of middleware), but it makes some strong points.
Others are trying to figure out how to make the modding community a better place in the meantime:
There is, however, also a darker side to the proceedings. I’ve come across a couple threads suggesting that any and all modders who even tried putting their mods up for sale should be boycotted and exiled from the scene permanently. Others are discouraging everyone except a very narrow range of people from modding at all:
Hopefully, in time, all this nastiness rots away. For now, though, the aftermath is proving nearly as contentious as the battle. Fingers crossed that something good comes of all of this… eventually. Please?