The Pros And Cons Of Bethesda's Creation Club

GIF: Kotaku

On 11 June 2017, Bethesda announced Creation Club, a platform through which users on PC, PS4 and Xbox One will be able to purchase content for Skyrim and Fallout 4 developed in partnership between Bethesda and “the very best” third party content developers.

The announcement triggered immediate community concerns that Creation Club is just a rebranded “paid mods” system, which was announced and quickly cancelled back in 2015. However, a close analysis reveals the new system is significantly different. From the information available at present, some of the key differences are:

  • “Paid mods” was uncurated, meaning anyone could sell anything for any price. Creation Club is to be curated by Bethesda, meaning content developers must submit a pitch to Bethesda for approval, and undergo quality assurance testing prior to release.
  • “Paid mods” allowed content developers to set a price for their content, and receive 25% of the revenue. Creation Club involves Bethesda paying content developers an as-yet-unspecified amount, and selling content on Bethesda.net.
  • “Paid mods” allowed content developers to sell content that had previously been free. Creation Club is limited to the creation of new content. In light of ongoing community concerns and confusion around Creation Club and its relationship to “paid mods”, it’s timely to revisit the most common arguments for and against the monetization of third party content.

The arguments for monetising third party content

One of Fallout 4's greatest creations: The Tower of Flesh

It’s inherently fair for skilled content developers to be paid for their work

There is no human right more fundamental than the right to be paid for work. This should be self-explanatory, but here’s an illustration: Imagine your neighbor is an amateur handy-man and has made some modifications to your house for free because he enjoys it. Now imagine one day he says he’s started his own business and is going to start charging from now on. Your options are: (a) pay for his services, or (b) decline his services. No reasonable person could deny his right to charge for his services, simply because they used to be free.

The current system benefits everyone except content developers

The current system is broken, in that it benefits everyone except the people doing most of the work. More particularly:

  • Bethesda benefits commercially from third party content (even when it’s free) because its games attract a strong following thanks in part to the content that is available.
  • Content users get to enjoy a massive amount of additional content.
  • Third party content hosting platforms receive revenue from advertising.
  • Streamers, who broadcast themselves playing Bethesda games loaded up with content, often receive advertising revenue and donations/subscriptions.
  • Content developers lose money. This is because making content tends to take a lot of time, and time has a monetary value. To illustrate the point, content developer Jonx0r wrote that making celebrated Skyrim mod Wyrmstooth took him approximately 2,000 hours. He subsequently decided to quit modding because of the heavy toll his hobby had taken on his career.

Bethesda is entitled to introduce paid content

From a legal or rights-based perspective, Bethesda is entitled to sell intellectual property which it develops jointly with content developers. On the other hand, the role of content users, as prospective purchasers, is limited to either buying content, or not buying it; they have no legal right to free content, nor are they entitled to decide whether content should be available for sale.

Creation Club will result in more and better content

Economics 101 tells us that giving content developers a chance to profit from their work will help attract and retain talented people, and keep them motivated to do their best work. In a competitive marketplace, content users would “vote with their wallets” and reward Bethesda for commissioning good quality content, and penalize them for commissioning bad content. Over time these market forces would create an abundance of good quality content.

This system may even also allow some content developers to generate enough income that they could work on development full time, producing much more content than they could by working only in their spare time.

The arguments against monetising third party content

Bethesda will sell bad or overpriced content

The argument goes that Bethesda will try to sell more horse armor DLC, or similar.

However, Economics 101 tells us that in competitive markets, bad or overpriced content generally doesn’t sell. Bethesda’s curation / quality assurance system should ensure bad content is never put on sale. In the case of overpriced content, very few content users would buy it. Bethesda would quickly recognize the need to lower its prices. Realistically, in a paid content system, consumers could collectively exert downward pressure on prices by refusing to pay for content until it came into an acceptable range.

Further, competitive online marketplaces tend to make it easy to browse for content by category, as well as promoting popular content on special lists (such as Steam’s “Popular new releases” and “Top sellers” list). Such features ensure that popular content receives extra attention, while bad content disappears into obscurity.

Developers will try to make low effort content

The argument goes that developers will be lining up to pitch content that requires the lowest possible amount of effort, like re-textures or new weapon models.

However, Bethesda's profit motive means it will have an incentive to respond to the desires of content users by carefully selecting the type of content it approves. It no doubt has excellent data already on the relative popularity of each different type of content. In other words, Bethesda will presumably be aiming to match supply with demand from content users.

This new content is just "mods" which aren't worth paying for

The argument goes that mods aren't worth paying for, for various reasons like quality and simplicity, and should be free.

However, there is very little difference between the work of professional game developers and highly skilled modders / content developers. The idea that one has value but the other has no value is a curious one. Ultimately, the value of something is determined by what people are prepared to pay for it, and since we know gamers in other communities (eg. Valve’s Team Fortress 2) have happily paid millions of dollars for third party content, we can expect there will be many gamers who are happy to pay for Skyrim and Fallout 4 content, even if others are not.

A better system would be a donations system

Image: Supplied

The argument goes that content users can be trusted to donate to content developers via PayPal or Patreon, so it's unnecessary to put that content behind a paywall.

This is one of the more curious arguments, for two reasons:

First, this argument is usually presented as though a donations system would be a compromise between the current system, and the proposed system. In fact, there is already a donations system in place on the Nexus and it has been in place since before the paid mods system was introduced in 2015. The fact that so many opponents of paid content seem to be oblivious to the existing donation system is clear evidence they have never made a donation.

Second, no matter how good a content item is, the number of people who donate will be negligible. Skyrim mod “The Forgotten City” drew critical acclaim from IGN, PC Gamer, and Kotaku, was the first mod in history to win a national Writers’ Guild award, and was described by Skyrim Mods Weekly as one of the best Skyrim mods of all time, and yet fewer than 0.01% of users donated. In other words, continuing with the current “donation system” simply means that, in practice, over 99.99% of people would access the content for free.

Developers who want to monetise their content are just greedy

The argument goes that content developers who previously worked for free are being greedy in seeking to monetise their work.

By way of background, in the “modding community” there are two groups of people:

Content developers, a small group of people who create content in their spare time; and Content users, a large group of people who use the content of others but create no content. An example of the relationship between those two groups is as follows: of the 1.1 million people who downloaded the award-winning, critically acclaimed Skyrim mod, The Forgotten City, as of June 2017:

  • Fewer than 5% of players “endorsed” or rated it;
  • Fewer than 0.5% left a comment; and
  • Fewer than 0.01% made a donation.

Hence, the idea that it is content developers here who are "greedy", and not those content users, who seek to deny content developers the opportunity to generate income from their largely thankless work, is a curious one.

In many cases, high-quality content takes hundreds or thousands of hours to create, as in the case of Wyrmstooth (2000 hours) and The Forgotten City (1700 hours). As above, this time has a monetary value. Allowing content developers to set a price for their work would give them a chance to recover some or all of the time/money they invested in their content. Further, it would allow them to pay the talented artists who contribute to their work, such as composers and voice actors.

Bethesda is just being greedy

The argument goes that Content Club is a cash grab by Bethesda, which is just trying to make a profit from the work of other people, without creating anything new.

On the other hand, Bethesda is a company which exists for the purpose of making a profit. It is arguably reasonable for Bethesda to charge for additional content where it has invested heavily in the creation of that content by providing development tools, a platform for sharing content (which involves software engineers and servers and admin staff), paying staff to curate and test content, and developers to make that content.

Some people will steal content made by others and sell it as their own

The argument goes that some developers will abuse the new system by selling content made by other developers.

However, Bethesda’s decision to curate content for Creation Club should ensure that intellectual property theft is rare, if not impossible. Presumably any theft would be fairly easy to prove and report, and anyone caught stealing a third party’s content would be identified and banned immediately.

People will just pirate content

Many users have pointed to the risk of piracy in response to the unwanted monetisation of third party content.

Some piracy is inevitable in the PC games market. And yet, the PC games market continues to thrive. Clearly, piracy is not a reason to shut down the market altogether. In any event, even if piracy became rampant on PC, it would be rare if not impossible on consoles, which would be a much bigger market in any case. Hence, the risk of content piracy has no relevance to whether or not Bethesda sells content.

Paid content will kill the collaborative spirit of the modding community

This argument is based on the premise that there is a lot of collaboration and sharing of information between content developers, and the fear that introducing commercial competition may kill that collaborative dynamic.

To see whether commercial competition kills collaboration and information sharing, we need only look at the indie games industry, where developers form extensive networks and exchange information regularly, even though they are technically competitors. Sharing information is a common way of increasing one’s profile and extending one’s network. Clearly, a profit motive hasn’t stopped this exchange of information in other communities, so there’s no reason to think it will do so in a Creation Club system.

It may even be that new forms of collaboration emerge: the potential for profit may drive enterprising content developers to band together into teams. Since collaboration and the division of labour makes projects more efficient, teams of professional content developers would be able to create more content, more often than they could working as individuals.

Content developers who want to make money should just get a job in game development or make an indie game

The argument goes that modding is only a hobby, albeit one that may lead to a career in the game development industry.

However, for many content developers, a career in game development is simply not a viable option. Reasons for this depend on the individual, but some common ones include:

  • There are simply not enough jobs at attractive studios like Bethesda for everyone to work there
  • Game development companies are renowned for offering unattractive working conditions
  • Many content developers live in countries (ie. outside the US) where game development industries are not well developed, and can’t or don’t want to relocate
  • Indie game development is a speculative way to make a living

Content developers should just make content for fun

The argument goes that since modding is fun, and so many people have done it for free, it's not real work and no reward is necessary.

However, content developers make content for their own reasons – whether it’s fun, or learning, or a creative outlet, or an intellectual challenge, or to create a folio piece that might land them a job one day. Whatever their reason, the fact that somebody enjoys their work doesn’t diminish their right to charge for it.

"I'm a modder and I don't want to charge for my work."

Image: Dead End Thrills

The TES Renewal Project team has already tweeted that it will not monetise the eagerly awaited Skyblivion and Skywind projects.

No content creators will be forced to charge for their work, and there are valid reasons why individual content creators might want to make their content freely available. In fact, there is a movement within the modding community called "Forever Free" in which some content developers have pledged to make their content available for free indefinitely. A certain number of developers offering their content for free would be one way of ensuring prices for comparable content remain low. Free content and paid content are entirely compatible. One developer’s desire not to charge for their content is not a reason to oppose the right of others to charge for theirs.

Developers may not provide tech support for their content

The argument goes that third party content will be buggy and purchasers will not receive the tech support they expect in respect of a commercial product.

Creation Club appears to have been set up to minimise issues with the quality of content, by introducing quality assurance and testing phases by Bethesda itself. It may also be that Bethesda provides some form of technical support in relation to paid content, although that remains to be seen.

Some content items require other content items/software to work

An historical argument against monetisation of content is that complexities arise when content items depend on other content to work. It remains to be seen how Bethesda deals with such dependencies in Creation Club. However, in a scenario where both content items are for sale, presumably content users would need to either buy both, or neither.

However, in some cases, content is dependent on software which is technically not a mod and/or not for sale, for example, the Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE). The common argument goes that it’s unfair for content developers to make money from their content when the makers of SKSE don’t make anything. This argument overlooks the fact that the creators of SKSE have stated they were comfortable with paid content being dependent on SKSE. However, since SKSE (or its equivalent for Fallout 4) will reportedly not run on consoles, presumably Bethesda would not approve content which depends on SKSE. It is entirely possible to make high quality, complex content that is not dependent on SKSE.


As we have seen, there are many compelling arguments in favor of the monetisation of third party content: it's inherently fair for people to be paid for their work, the current system benefits everyone except content creators, Bethesda is entitled to monetise content, and Creation Club should result in a new wave of high-quality content.

On the other hand, it appears none of the 14 common arguments against paid content stand up to critical evaluation. Why, then, do these arguments persist? Perhaps these arguments are simply rationalisations put forward to justify a perceived entitlement to free content. It is understandable that content users, many of whom have enjoyed the privilege of free content since as far back as 2002, would want it to continue. Perhaps they have become so accustomed to this privilege that they now perceive it as an entitlement, and see the introduction of Creation Club as an attempt to take that entitlement away.

The truth is, of course, that nobody is entitled to free access to the work of other people. Bethesda and content developers are, and should be, entitled to decide what happens with the content they create. If Bethesda is able to weather the storm of controversy, and offer fair remuneration to content developers, Creation Club will be a win for content developers, a win for content users looking for more high-quality content, and a win for Bethesda.


Nick Pearce is an Australian developer and the creator of The Forgotten City, a Skyrim mod that became the first video game to receive an Australian screenwriting award. This blog post, which originally appeared on Gamasutra, was republished with his blessing.


Comments

    Title's a bit shit. Should be, "We tout the Pros and argue against the Cons," of paid mods.

    'Argue poorly', if we have the room for it.
    I mean for fuck's sake, you could easily have replaced a dozen paragraphs with, "Oh, market forces'll sort it out, don't like it, don't buy it."

      I like your title, I noticed almost every con had a second paragraph that begins with "However".

      yeah the problem with "market forces will sort it out" approach is that it doesnt actually work when it comes to games, i mean just look at the MW2 boycott, all the crap from steam greenlight and early access, even bethesda's very own horse armour dlc sold a fucking massive amount.

        Maybe you're looking at that wrong. As in, if it sold a truckload then obviously not as many people were upset by the idea as was thought. Maybe the ones complaining were actually a small but extremely vocal minority? And for the record I didn't buy horse armour, I don't mind the idea of buying cosmetics, but they cost too much.

        I'm a strong believer in the "market forces" idea. As long as stuff is optional then I don't mind. It's only when you do stuff like introduce the best weapon in the game but force people to pay a lot for it that I'm concerned. The whole paid content creation idea seems like a good one to me.

        As a customer I'd feel more inclined to pay money through a curated site than I would some random third party one. Largely because I'd expect some consumer rights if there were problems. As a creator I'd feel better about selling through it since you're getting exposed to the *whole* game audience. Third party sites can be great but not everyone who plays knows about them.

      So what do you see as the real cons of Creation Club (or at least what we think Creation Club will be)?

      The only legitimate complaint I saw about the previous paid mods launch was that while all mods were free, creators were borrowing ideas or assets from each other, which created an obvious problem if one of those creators started trying to monetise their mod. That seems to be covered in the article, so what else is there?

        Oh man, I spammed a few of them lower to poor @zombiejesus a little lower, just now. They're all hopefully minor as far as I can see, but definitely not worth dismissing out of hand the way the author has. He's putting a lot more faith in Bethesda than the company has earned, given its previous ill-fated offering.

        It's more like contradictions everywhere. Like... he tries to claim that a modding community is one of the big benefits to a game company because it generates sales that they would've have had if mods weren't a big draw... then conveniently ignores the idea that a big part of that draw is that mods are, presently, free. "You should try Skyrim, it's got tonnes of DLC!" doesn't have the same ring to it, right? Which is fine so long as there's still great shit for free, but when you start creating haves and have-nots, even amongst the content-creator community who will have to jockey for position into the creator club's exclusive circle, you're going to get conflict. Hell if I know how it's going to pan out, but the vibe I'm getting from this guy is that he wants everyone to stop complaining because he's made it, and that 'the age of entitlement is over' from anyone who's concerned that the 'good stuff' will be hoarded by creators for possible inclusion in the program.

        Me, I figure dismissing concerns isn't a great way to prepare for the worst, and it's certainly not the most honest way of tackling what might turn out poorly. I'd prefer the Risk Assessor take.

          So, I agree that a lot of this will depend on how exactly Betheda runs the programme. But in the abstract, my thought is that if Bethesda consents to allow paid mods, then it should be up to the mod author(s) to decide whether to participate.

          It is not at all clear that all mods will go the paid route either (provided Bethesda doesn't cut that avenue off). I've written a lot of software that I've released as open source over the years that I could probably have tried to sell: partly on ideological grounds, and partly because I don't want to turn small hobby projects into business. I'm sure some modders will feel the same. For others, they might not want to be constrained by going through Bethesda's QA process and legal checks (you mean you haven't secured permission to use Randy Savage's likeness in your mod?).

          One thing that I suspect will become obvious quickly is that simple mods won't be viable in the Creation Club, even if their idea is innovative. If the mod is simple enough, someone will do a clean room reimplementation and release it for free, capturing the user base. There are many examples of this happening over the years, e.g. for mobile games.

          The successful ones probably won't need to be as substantial as a traditional Bethesda expansion, but would need to be non-trivial.

        My main issue is the possibility of a flood of low quality mods prices too high, or even free, clogging up the good stuff. Market Forces or Bethesda taking care of that? Steam and Google Play store have become a deluge of poor quality things hiding the good stuff.

        What I'd like to see isn't just strongly curated stuff, but *curated bundles* of stuff. Rather than expecting me to go dig through all the mods for the ones I want, have a human (Bethesda) curated list of (for example) "New Quests/Areas". Let me purchase and use all the HD Towns in one bundle.

        My main concern is two fold: Pricing and Finding Quality Content. Hand me the quality content at a decent price, and don't make it hard to find or buy, I'm happy.

        That being said, pricing could be a concern. If I have a full game that I've mostly paid, I'm going to find it hard to drop even $3 for all the towns in my game to look more HD. Or a $5 mod to provide four or five hours of content? It's gonna be hard for me to justify to myself...

        Weapon and armor packs are things that are gonna kill it for me. There's gonna be a tonne of those. Even at 99c each, for four or five weapons, there's gonna be a lot and I'm gonna get frustrated. Each individual may look cheap, but combined you could pay a fair bit for a relatively small portion of the game.

        In the end... I suppose for me it's all about taking what was a full priced game, and then am I really going to want to set aside another $x0 just to play it more? I dunno

          Given that the mods are optional, and will be competing with existing free content, I agree that the service will be a failure if they load it up with low quality content.

          But from everything they've said so far, Bethesda will have invested money in everything that is going to be sold on the service, both through their own legal checks, QA, and presumably through platform QA for consoles (assuming they want to make the same content available on PC, PS4, and Xbox). If something has no prospects of turning a profit, it doesn't sound like there is any reason for them to make it available for sale.

          That is quite different to the previous paid mod system on Steam, where there was essentially zero investment from Bethesda for each piece of content: all they did was skim off some of the profits.

        They're trying to sell a crappy reskin of powerarmor for three to five dollars. They're nuts.

    I don't have a problem with this implementation of paid mods from what we've seen so far, and sorry @transientmind but I think the arguments he makes are sound. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes.

      Look, I'm keen to see how this is implemented, and I'm especially excited by the prospect of the creation club taking the pain-in-the-ass hassle out of mod conflicts/load orders, and allowing the injection of new content onto Sony's stupidly restricted mod platform.

      I'm just irritated at the intellectual dishonesty of calling this a 'pro and con' list. As if it were an actually objective list and not an argumentative essay. It's disingenuous in the extreme.

      Note that he simply ignored concerns about pricing/quality by hand-waving away all arguments under the banner of blind faith in Bethesda to concede to market forces (eventually). Utterly ignoring the fact that this first of all means that there are people who will lose out in the event of the pricing being bad for a while before it can adjust to good, and that the nature of digital DLC purchases may (and very often do) bypass a lot of reasonable consumer protections explicitly to prevent many of those vaunted 'market forces' from actually working honestly. Especially if we discover, for example, that 'creation club credits' are only sold in batches that exceed invididual mod purchase prices.

      The argument goes that Bethesda will try to sell more horse armor DLC, or similar. However, Economics 101 tells us that in competitive markets, bad or overpriced content generally doesn’t sell.
      It's a shame that doesn't actually bear out in reality; something that Steam is still struggling with. 'Caveat emptor, bitches!' right? Pretending exploitation doesn't happen is not the answer to criticism of it.

      And while's it's slight, an irrirtation that really gets under my skin is how Nick goes to the trouble of citing an example of donations for mods 'not working' (coincidentally contradicting his market forces argument), by talking up that award-winning mod... that he very fucking carefully avoids associating himself. It's only the footnote at the bottom of the column which reveals that he made that award-winning mod he's been humble-bragging. Several other opportunities arise to call it, "the mod I developed," or, "my mod," the way a normal person might, but none are taken. Always carefully distant descriptions. It's sneaky. Deception isn't only about lying. It's about how openly and up-front you present your stake.

      So, like I said... title's a bit shit.

        On that last point. This article was originally published at Gamasutra, if you look at the article, the about the author information (including the fact that he created The Forgotten City) appears before the article, not after, as is Kotaku's norm. The lack of clarifying in the article is more of a style guide issue than anything to do with the author being sneaky.

        How dare you not pat the author on the back and congratulate him for being so progressive.

        I think the title is more "Why I think I should be able to sell the mod I spent 1700 working on"

        I agree there is a bit of hand waving but as you say a lot of it is "don't like it, don't buy it." and I have no issue with that. Opening up paid mods wholesale was a terrible idea but having a curatored list of QA controlled mods to buy isn't a bad thing.

        I don't see why his response isn't adequate for you when it comes to pricing. Something is worth what people are willing to pay for it. It's a classic commerce equation: 1000 units at $1 each (underpriced) gets you $1000; 100 units at $20 each (well priced) gets you $2000, and 10 units at $50 each (overpriced) gets you $500. It's in everyone's best interests to find the price that best suits what the majority of customers consider reasonable, there's no incentive to overvalue something.

        And even if they do, you just don't buy it. Again I don't see why you think that's not an adequate response, it's the way everything else works. Mods are luxury items, they're not essential for anyone. You wouldn't go on ebay looking for an ice cream cake, find the only one there at the moment is $250,000, then complain about it but buy it anyway. You'd just shrug it off as not worth the price and check again another time. I'd love to get a big 60 inch 4K OLED television but I don't think they're at all worth the asking price right now, so I just don't buy them. There's nothing wrong with that, the price either comes down eventually or it doesn't.

        The title could be phrased better, sure. I'd probably have it say "Weighing up the arguments for and against Bethesda's Creation Club". I don't think there's anything in it so egregious to get worked up over though, and I don't think it's fair to say his arguments are poor.

        As Snoweee pointed out, author details are at the bottom on Kotaku as a matter of style, it wasn't that way in the original article and implying that the author had anything to do with apparent deception because of it isn't reasonable.

          Enh, I wasn't particularly worked up. Just derisively eye-rolling. I can understand the perceived emphasis granted by the casual swearing and italics, though.

          But hell, I think I can probably get more worked up the more I think about it! Let's see... I mean, being utterly dismissive of pricing concerns aside (which is NOT as cut-and-dried as 'economics 101': see freemium/F2P mobiles targeting whales as an example, or the illusory effect that price-as-feedback has absent the right to refund or rating. Or that paying piecemeal for mods can have an unperceived rising tide effect beyond the initial purchase that starts to look dangerously close to the kind of thing that the ACCC tries to protect us from in other industries, not to mention when you have a monopoly for something in high demand, you can just sit on it at an unreasonable price until the market is forced to acquiesce out of lack of fair competition), there are several more points that irk me in not a particularly major way, but which are all effectively ignored, avoided, or dismissed as well.

          Such as his claim that a paid mod system doesn't detract from free modding, but on the PS4 at least it is clearly not a place of equal footing. Free mods are unable to inject assets. One assumes paid mods will be able to. Forget time and skill, there are just hard limits there on what can be done. (I just assume he doesn't give a fuck about PS4 users who want access to high-quality free mods, though, given the unflattering way he tends to characterize 'content consumers' elsewhere in the article. After all, he's already assumed a right to pay, which I'll address in a minute.)

          Hell, I take issue with his underlying principle of trying to claim that 'it's inherently fair for people to be paid for their work.' That comes with some serious caveats. And not if it wasn't solicited, mate. Graffiti artists can't paint your wall then demand the building owner pay for the art. I can't pour 1700hrs into a home-drawn Simpsons episode and try to claim I have the inherent right to be paid for it. And that's what modding IS. It's digital, interactive fan art... that he's trying to claim some kind of inherent right to be paid for. And he ignores that the same free-market argument he uses elsewhere can be turned around... No-one's forcing players to buy mods, but no-one forced him to spend 1700hrs making a mod without pay. And there is something implicitly contradictory between his claims that the free market determines the value of something and his complaints that hardly anyone donated. What does he think the free market IS? It's a very self-serving flexibility of morality on display there.

          And we can go further. Like just how confident can we be that Bethesda won't consider, "no existing mods," to be more of an 'aspirational guideline' than a hard rule, given their track record? If someone's got a free mod out there, but someone else includes that functionality in their paid mod, is it going to be allowed to fly because there's sufficient else in there and is just too handy to ignore? Who gets dibs on the first of each type of function? Will the paid developer who didn't know that obscure mod existed before they replicated the functionality still get paid? Will the people who unwittingly bought something that already exists free automatically be granted refunds on discovery, or will they have to apply for them? Will they even get them? Are we going to see some kind of feature mod arms race to effectively 'patent' all the non-asset-injecting mod functions? Will people avoid creating those mods for now, in the hope that they can pitch the idea as their chance to join that select group? Will that idea be 'stolen' in the meantime? What kind of competition are we looking at to join the club? Insiders currying favour with each other? Jobs for mates? Favouritism/politics in an already frequently catty modding community will become a thing? How many alterations will someone like Nick make to their 1700hr project, effectively considering it a 'new' work, while salvaging as much as they can to qualify as something new? Just like the first time paid mods turned up and ended up being refunded and shut down, expect this to start out very messy, and people to get very upset. Including creators specifically... something he carefully kept OUT of his response to concerns about the spirit of the collaborative community.

          This is, ultimately, a one-sided article of self-interest that masquerades as something more objective, and that bugged me enough to leave a snarky comment.

          (And regardless of whether the footnote here was a preface elsewhere, it's ancillary information that deserved to be placed in context where the references were made. It's not naturally included in the body text, which is just weaselly when writing for a publication that we know uses pull-quotes and could quite possibly be counted on to do so for a humblebrag. Especially if quoted elsewhere. And it's not the only instance in the writing which annoyed me, either. Tacking himself on to some un-earned rights: "Bethesda and content developers (he says) are, and should be, entitled to decide what happens with the content they create." Not necessarily, Nick. IP laws, remember? I also arched an eyebrow at the characterization of a mod receiving thousands of comments, and tens of thousands of endorsements as 'thankless', let alone awards. Makes me wonder what his expectations really are for what he does. Or if he is - by saying 'largely' - referring to the modding scene as a whole, it kind of leads back to that idea he partially subscribes to when it suits him: free market not of money, but of thanks, perhaps? If the mod doesn't receive thanks, did it really deserve them?)

          I'm very interested in the creation club, but the hell I'm going to believe it's the next Bill of Rights for modders, all puppies and rainbows.

            Haha, well your post might be a bit long given I'm still at work so I'll cherry pick a few things you said to reply to.

            Free mods are unable to inject assets. One assumes paid mods will be able to.

            I don't know about that assumption. I think the limitations on Bethesda's existing mod system actually stem from limitations on the console systems and PS4 in particular. Rather than them saying "let's not allow custom assets for any platform because we don't like it", I'm pretty sure the way it went was "PS4 won't allow us to use custom assets, PC and Xbox will, but we're trying to build a unified system across all three so we're kinda stuck with the lowest common denominator" which is no custom assets anywhere.

            With the paid mods system, I think one of the motivations is Bethesda's trying to work around the PS4 asset limitation. Sony doesn't want any scrub to upload custom assets of giant penises, but because this new system is curated and directly involves the developer Sony may be more willing to allow custom assets because they know it'll be vetted first.

            That would be consistent with what happened with the PS4 mod thing in the first place, where Bethesda thought they were good to go and Sony pulled the plug at the last minute. The impression I get is much more that Bethesda wants custom assets and the works, Sony doesn't, and this is the best compromise in between that still gets PS4 people some cool mods.

            And not if it wasn't solicited, mate. Graffiti artists can't paint your wall then demand the building owner pay for the art. I can't pour 1700hrs into a home-drawn Simpsons episode and try to claim I have the inherent right to be paid for it.

            Graffiti artists can't demand the building owner pay for the unsolicited art they created, I agree. But mods aren't being force-downloaded onto your system and then the creator demanding you pay for them. Copyright issues aside, it's absolutely reasonable to expect to be paid for your hand-drawn Simpsons episode. If people want access to it they pay for it, if they don't want access to it they don't have to. It's not unsolicited when all you're doing is offering to sell your work to interested people.

            A few quick-fire ones:

            And we can go further. Like just how confident can we be that Bethesda won't consider, "no existing mods," to be more of an 'aspirational guideline' than a hard rule, given their track record?

            Bethesda might also decide to donate all proceeds to charity. Risk management is about giving attention to risks proportional to their likelihood and potential damage. Prematurely stressing about things that might happen isn't a useful manifestation of that. If Bethesda decides to be dicks in future, you can rest assured the internet pitchfork mob will disproportionately burn them at the stake for it.

            If someone's got a free mod out there, but someone else includes that functionality in their paid mod, is it going to be allowed to fly because there's sufficient else in there and is just too handy to ignore?

            My understanding is Creation Club mods must be self-contained and can't depend on other mods. If you mean wholesale copying someone else's free mod content into the paid mod, that entirely comes down to the licence on the original work. If the original mod author is fine with it, there's nothing to worry about. That permission needs to be obtained though, it's not automatic.

            Will the paid developer who didn't know that obscure mod existed before they replicated the functionality still get paid?

            We're not dealing with trademarks or trade dress here, just copyright. If a paid developer creates something from scratch that happens to have also been done by someone else it's generally considered fine. Copyright protects a specific implementation of an idea, not the idea itself.

            Will the people who unwittingly bought something that already exists free automatically be granted refunds on discovery, or will they have to apply for them?

            I don't see why this would need to be treated differently to anything else. If you buy a TV and then discover someone else is also giving away very similar TVs for free, you don't get special dispensation for a refund, just the usual refund reasons still apply. No difference here.

            Are we going to see some kind of feature mod arms race to effectively 'patent' all the non-asset-injecting mod functions? Will people avoid creating those mods for now, in the hope that they can pitch the idea as their chance to join that select group? Will that idea be 'stolen' in the meantime? What kind of competition are we looking at to join the club? Insiders currying favour with each other? Jobs for mates? Favouritism/politics in an already frequently catty modding community will become a thing?

            These questions are all predicated on the same base flaw, that no two people can create a mod for the same thing. Bethesda isn't likely to sponsor two mods that do the exact same thing, but there's no reason to think two mods that share common features (but differences as well) wouldn't be allowed to coexist. Your Skyrim Animeland mod that includes your catgirl power armour design can sit on the store right alongside my Skyrim Sexy Wimmens mod that also includes my catgirl power armour design :)

            How many alterations will someone like Nick make to their 1700hr project, effectively considering it a 'new' work, while salvaging as much as they can to qualify as something new?

            I'm not sure what you're asking here, but when you buy a video game you get access to all the standard updates for that game for free, with major content updates (DLC) costing extra. I doubt Bethesda's going to allow mod creators to create paid DLC for their own mods so I think it's safe to assume that once you buy a mod, you get all the updates for it that the creator makes. If you're concerned about a mod maker splitting their mod into five separate ones so they can be charged for individually, I think that's a valid concern and we'll have to see how Bethesda handles it.

            Whew. Now to rush back to finish work!

              I think the last half-dozen quotes are all coming from one fundamental misunderstanding or base assumption: Bethesda has said that mods won't be going into the curation section for sale if they already exist for free. That's where all your answers to those questions along the lines of, 'they can both exist' start to become a problem.

                My understanding of Bethesda's line there is that a mod that is currently free cannot become paid, not that a feature in a mod that is currently free can't also feature in a paid mod. If that were the case, paid mods would be a ghost town.

                When I say 'they can both exist', I mean paid mods and free mods can both exist simultaneously, not that the same mod can be both on the paid store and free elsewhere. I mean that the two concepts can coexist just the same as paid software and free software does elsewhere.

                TotalBiscuit's video on this makes good arguments for why this is a completely different thing to 'paid mods', worth watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hLmM6pK0wg

                  So now that you know they're selling mediocre power armor reskins for three to five dollars, and are charging people for aesthetics that are worse than what other modders have already released, what's your opinion on the creation club?

                  @wildwiredweasel The most expensive reskin is $1. There's only one armour more than $2.50 which is the hellfire power armour, with custom model and associated quest.

                  So what do I think of it? I think it's a brand new platform with no third party developers on board yet, but has a good foundation.

                  Side note, multiple accounts aren't allowed here.

                  "You're not allowed to have multiple accounts." ... I don't think I do. Unless i made an account a looong time ago. But I'm pretty sure I didn't.

        This paragraph annoyed me greatly.

        To see whether commercial competition kills collaboration and information sharing, we need only look at the indie games industry, where developers form extensive networks and exchange information regularly, even though they are technically competitors. Sharing information is a common way of increasing one’s profile and extending one’s network. Clearly, a profit motive hasn’t stopped this exchange of information in other communities, so there’s no reason to think it will do so in a Creation Club system

        Clearly? Clearly?!
        Is it so much to ask for an example of these great collaborative networks?
        I'm not saying I don't believe him, but do not deliver an empty statement and then declare the evidence to be bloody clear.

        I agree, the title is piss poor and should be changed to:
        "I'm so gonna make money on my mods you guys"

      Remember when Bethesda themselves stole that New Vegas robot murder mystery mod & implemented it into Far Harbour? Sure you remember, So would the writer of this pro mod article as the original article on the mod theft was published on Kotakku... How can we trust Bethesda to curate & prevent mod theft when they themselves have committed the greatest mod heist in gaming history? That's not a question, We already know they can't be trusted.

        Like I said at the time, there wasn't any theft there, it was just coincidental. I've played both of them and they're nothing alike. I don't have the trust problems with Bethesda that you seem to have.

          What becomes of the unofficial mods for Fallout & Skyrim? Does Bethesda continue the silence on other ppl fixing their games or do they monotize that? How does Bethesda sell a patch to their game? Creation Club raises alot of questions that Bethesda are only going to answer by inaction.

            Some of the questions you're asking have already been answered, to be fair. Paid mods don't stop free mods from existing and since the unofficial fix mods existed before the Creation Club they're not eligible to be on it anyway.

              It was nice having a intelligent chat on the topic without it descending into namecalling, You sir are a gentleman lol :) Again sorry for my tone, I have Aspergers disorder a type of autism, It's hard to articulate what i'm trying to say at times.

          I think you should have trust issues with Bethesda, not just Bethesda but with everything that wants your money. You should be wary because one slippy slope can very easily change the landscape for worst.
          On a principle matter, I don't think mods should cost anything. Modders came into this scene knowingly that they probably won't get any money from it. Then comes a company that wants to profit from an already free market.
          If this does come into play, mods as we know wont be 'ours,' it will be Bethesda's.

            As a matter of principle, if you think people don't deserve to be paid for their work just because it happens to be a hobby for them, you're a scummy person. That's the same garbage mentality that has artists being told they should work for free because it'd be great for their "exposure". The fact that some people choose to release their work for free doesn't mean you're entitled to everyone's hobbywork for free.

            Work made through the Creation Club will be owned by Bethesda, absolutely. That's how third party content creation works, Bethesda is paying the developer to create content for them. They're paid during development, not just when sales roll in. There's no difference between this program and any other DLC except that they're accepting portfolio applications from the general public instead of industry sources.

            Last edited 22/06/17 11:29 am

      Please excuse my tone, I don't mean to come of as confrontational, I just no longer trust Bethesda plus Pete Heines is proven to be a known lier.

    Yeah, I feel like the main complaint against paid mods is "I've never had to pay for it before, so I demand it stay free".

    I'm not in to modding, but some of the stuff out there looks like it would have taken around the same amount of work as creating a brand new game. Why shouldn't people get paid for that?

    As long as Bethesda isn't taking too much off the top (I know, that's a pretty big "if"), I think this is a good system.

      Why shouldn't people get paid for that?

      I don't think anyone said they shouldn't, the umbridge appears to be more centred on who pays for that. Paying for something changes the relationship a user has with the work and maker. I currently enjoy the relationship I have with modders as a simple benefactor in the little 'let's improve/customise our video games' community. I don't like the idea of changing that into a buyer/seller relationship and all the complication that comes with that.

      I don't have that relationship with Todd Howard and the Bethsoft team either, I don't pay them anything - all of that 'business relations' is had with Bethesda the publisher. They pay the team and I buy the product. If there's mods out there worthy of being compared to full games sold on store shelves then that's how they should be sold, as products, not mods and their employers should not be the end-user.

        If the users don't pay for mods, then who does? Bethesda? If that were the case, they would be within their rights to to set up a paywall on the right to use mods on their products, that sounds even worse.

        Wouldn't you have the same relationship with Todd Howard as the modders with Creation Club? You give Bethesda money, they give developer money. If something doesn't work, it's on Bethesda's head for approving a broken product.

          Correct. The important distinction is how these products are advertised and expected to be consumed. They would cease being mods and the modders would cease being modders. They would be products (DLC/microtransactions) and are made by employees (contractors).

          The reason I make that distinction isn't just stuff like others have mentioned (support, QA et.al.) but as I said, the relationship is just different: one is money on the table and the other is not. One is a friend that gives you a gift, the other is one that offers a sale. I love the community of fans that band together to make thousands of bits and bobs that all improve each others experiences. I hate buying games that have thousands of optional purchases that imply that the experience could be improved through buying them. (In the way I enjoy being able to customise the look of my gun in FPS, but dislike that process being turned into a trading-card market a-la CSGO.)

          I'm not saying that I'm entitled to these modders just making me free stuff because I want it. But when they do, I end up thinking of them and their creations differently than if they asked me to buy it, and then I would also think differently of the product they have improved based on the opportunities available.

    I think it is worth holding off to see the level of quality coming out of this. If it is sutff as great and well thought out as "Interesting NPC", but an expanded mod team have worked to make the mod not have errors every which way, then sure.

    However I get the distinct impression it is going to be tonnes of lazy extra weapons and clothes that use existing animations and such.

    This service will literally live or die by "QoL" in game.

    It's a decent idea from a quality and compatibility standpoint, but my main concern is cost/value. If they're going to ask a few dollars for cosmetic items or a single weapon/piece of armour they won't be getting any of my money.

      So now that it's out, what's your thoughts?

        I haven't really looked at it yet since I'm busy with other games, but what I've read in articles hasn't really convinced me its got anything worth my money though... and the things about it apparently auto-downloading everything to your machine (whether you purchased the mods or not), screwing up your load order and a lack of a rating system all sound pretty bad to me.

    A biased article from a biased author. Mods are meant to be free, and if you want to make money in the industry - there is no shortage of options to do so. Having a donate button/patreon where a person can choose to pay rather than be made to is the right way to go. And there are examples of modders out there making out like bandits with the money they are bringing in. This is a way for Bethesda to milk more money out of a 5 year old product without barely having to do anything themselves. The whole thing screams paid mods and we all remember how that went.

      Since when have mods "meant to be free"? Where are you getting that definition?

        In the very name of it.

          Can you point out which part of the word "modification" means free? My mechanic friend will be disappointed that he won't be able to charge customers for engine modifications any more.

            Clearly you are talking a very different game. Your mechanic friend is getting paid to do a job. The modder is doing something in their spare time for enjoyment, as a hobby. A hobby and a career are very different things.

              My ex makes video game themed jewelry and sells it on Etsy. Are you saying just because it's a hobby for her, she's not allowed to ask for money?

                But your ex went onto Etsy TO sell it,on an already existing storefront. Modding is free, and has been from the beginning. Big difference.

                  For one, modding isn't free, it has free and paid mods just like any other software. Premium mods have been around since the start.

                  And this situation really isn't different at all. Just because something is a hobby for someone doesn't mean you have a right to their work for free, that's one of the most inanely selfish things I've ever heard. If people want to make mods for free, that's their choice, but it's by no means required and sure as hell isn't baked into the definition of what a mod is.

    If the mod is always maintained with compatibility with everything else in the store (and updates) and integrates into the game seamlessly, I'm not against it.

    I doubt it will though.

      If it does then it's not really a 'mod' in the conventional sense any more; more like a licensed product.

    I doubt it will work correctly on PS4, Sony will have major restrictions on what can be sold or disable trophies and it will be dead in the water like mods currently are on PS4

      Personally I've got my fingers crossed that certain quality-of-life mods or cosmetic-only will have some kind of internal tagging which will be verified by the curators as not invaliding trophies. Seems like one of the bigger benefits of getting official stamps of approval, beyond the quality, testing, and compatibility that I'm also hoping for.

    Personally I think the debacle over paid mods last time and a quick look at where 'curated mods' sales are already implemented (CSGO, DOTA2, The Sims) points towards cons outweighing the pros.

    Ultimately the only way this functions is in building the notion that these modders are actually 'staff' being hired by development studios to make actual DLC and not what people consider to be mods. And even then it runs the risk of leaving as sour a taste in the mouth.

      I hadn't thought of that. It also disproves the argument against low-effort content. There's tonnes of low-effort content up in those games, AND it's over-priced.

      I know that true libertarians will cry, "But how can it be 'over'-priced if it's still priced like that? People are obviously buying it, or the price would be lower!" but that's only because 'the free market' is being treated as some kind of infallible, inviolate thing of purity, as opposed to something that can be - and almost always is - manipulated by the canny and wealthy for the sake of exploitation.

      Actually looking at existing examples in the industry gives me LESS faith in the apparent wisdom and judgement of the free market.

        I don't think you understand libertarians. Libertarians would say the company had the right to try and sell it, but just because someone has the right to do it doesn't make it a good idea. Unless you want them arrested for trying to sell a product...?

        Anyway, now that the creation club is out and they're charging money for mediocre reskins, what's your thoughts on the creation club?

      Ultimately the only way this functions is in building the notion that these modders are actually 'staff' being hired by development studios to make actual DLC and not what people consider to be mods.

      That's exactly what it is. You submit a portfolio and a pitch to Bethesda, they decide whether to greenlight it, they pay you for milestones and you deliver the work to them for QA and deployment. Bethesda owns the work and is legally responsible for making sure it works.

      It's basically the same process as for third party DLC (which is really common), the only difference is it's open to the public rather than done through industry channels.

      What's one of the most common things you hear when people talk about a really good mod? "The developer should hire that guy". This program is basically doing that, letting you apply to be hired on contract to develop content for them and get paid for it. There's nothing bad about that.

        We'll see. I'm already of the opinion that I don't like the way it's done it other games already, so I'm not optimistic. By my way of saying 'hire the guy', I'm indeed referring to the old ways not open to the public. I much prefer developers releasing content that reflects their responsibility to create a viable product under their studio name, over the name of an independent contractor that they've simply approved the work of.

          Your latter concern doesn't really apply here. Bethesda will be releasing things under their name, they'll own it and be responsible for its maintenance.

          As for work done by independent contractors, I think you underestimate how common that is in game development. I doubt you'd find a AAA game that has ever existed that hasn't had parts of it developed by independent third parties. I worked as a developer for one of those third parties myself a few years back, and as TotalBiscuit points out in his video on this topic it's been that way for decades - even whole sections of a game, not even separate DLC, are often done by an independent third party.

          I don't mean to sound argumentative, I just think if using third party contractors to develop game content is something that bothers you, it's probably something you'll need to try to come to terms with because odds are the majority of games you've ever played have been developed that way.

            Oh sorry I must have miscommunicated. I have no problem with the industry using independent contractors and am well aware of it being common. My issue is with that system being exposed to the public and using the fact that it's independent as a foil for the reasoning behind the nature of the contents. You say Bethesda will be releasing it under their name, but I think that will only apply to being approved to be sold via the Creation Club. The modder is still going to be the maker and their name will be attached to it (I mean if I applied for this I'd definitely want credit front and centre).

            Basically what I enjoy is being sold a substantial product that stands as a representation of the efforts of a studio and the credits are on the credits screen. I prefer DLC to be like Skyrim's Dawnguard and Dragonborn packs designed to be a part of the studio's holistic offering and not piece by piece little customisations facilitated at the behest of hundreds of licenced freelancers.

            I know a lot of the skins in Overwatch are made by contractors, but I get to benefit of seeing them presented as part of the whole Overwatch package and not separate little add-ons made by some outside community (even if approved by the IP holders.) Similarly I wish CSGO felt more like this over having their customisation gameplay abstracted into a trading-card-esque marketplace.

              At the risk of stating the obvious, you can still get that experience if that's what you want, just don't use the Creation Club. More to the point, Creation Club existing and selling to people who are interested won't detract from your experience in any way.

                It's clear we should agree to disagree. I'm not a fan of 'if you don't use it, it won't affect you'. There are always knock on effects. I've never bought a skin in CSGO, but I wish I could turn them off completely, as simply having my opponents skins in the matches is a reminder of that system. It doesn't stop the game from being enjoyable, but it does detract from my experience.

    Well there are allot of awesome mods on the nexus that have just been abandoned and left to decay with bugs and incompatibilities, perhaps this can convince some of these modders to persist in completing their work.

    A good example is with FO4 mods where there are new damage and ballistic mods but often break each other or don't work for a large portion of guns on the nexus, no incentive to continue developing the mod so they rot. It is a shame,

    I do worry that Bethesda is taking too much of the modders money (should be 50/50) and also that mods will become too expensive, what if I want 100 different mods from this service? is that going to end up being $1000? kinda crazy.

      This is exactly how SkyUI v5.0 ended up when the paid mods fiasco occurred. He had long found disinterest in reaching v5.0 as more profitable pursuits took time away from it. When the option of being paid came along, he finished it and added it to the store. It became the go-to example of previously free mods becoming a paid product and forming a rift between everyone who benefited from that mod previously.

        It seems an odd complaint though. Given the choice between version 5 existing but with a price tag, or not existing at all, I think I'd still prefer the former. At least then I'd have the option to buy it if I thought it was worthwhile (and it is, really).

          The thing is, you can't miss what doesn't exist. I'd rather it not exist if it's existence brings negativities nascent to itself.

          Honestly IMO SkyUI is such an integral mod that it transcends being a mod at all. The maker should have been hired or the rights bought* and it should have been integrated into Skyrim fully.

          *I have no idea how that works for mods, if at all. It's messy, but I'd still prefer it.

            You'd rather it didn't exist at all and nobody got to have it because you personally don't want to pay for what you obviously consider valuable? Does that not sound selfish to you?

              No. I prefer it not to exist because when it did for two weeks, everything horrible that could happen, happened. Because the joy of skin customisation in games like shooters are transformed into fashion shopping and gambling. Because I've seen mod communities being torn apart from infighting over IP disputes and business interests.

              To me all this bad stuff sours the milk of modding. For all the good it could do, it fills me with the kind of disillusionment I see when browsing the app store: while surely giving developers such access to publish so easily is a wonderful thing, coming with it is a million others willing to steal and exploit to make a quick buck.

              Yes I know it's selfish to deprive others of the existence of something, but thankfully in such a thought experiment, it not existing in the first place means nobody lost anything. It's all about hindsight.

    Ill take a wait and see attitude with the issue this time. i didnt support it last time but this seems more along the lines you see with other games where modders work with companies and their work is released as a dlc

    I get that I'm coming to the party really late and there's been a lot of great discussion already. One thing that I wanted to touch on is; let's for argument's sake say that Creation Club doesn't kill un-paid mods and they can live in relative harmony (a big if).

    Isn't more content for already great game a good thing? In my mind the potential is awesome.

    I think of two main areas:

    1. Creation Club could greatly increase the longevity of the game.
    2. Creation Club could encourage professional development teams to produce their own content knowing that they have the ability to make money off it. Raising the overall quality and quantity of mods available.

    ----------------------------------------

    I love the Witcher 3; and with good enough content feel like I could play that game forever. If tomorrow CD Projekt announced a full fledged Red-Kit and their own version of Creation Club, well that might make my day, my month, or even my year ;)

    Let's be realistic, of course it's a rebrand.

    They can put as much positive spin on it as they like but the concept is very simple on paper:
    Modding creates content, content is the pillar of the service based gaming model, content sells, service based models make money.

    It takes somebody with the business sense of a loaf of bread to compare the speed of development and return of inhouse content vs that of a modding community.
    oh I dunno, like the fallout/Elderscrolls folk?

    I'm all for modders getting into a paid program, but until I see the modders themselves actually benefitting, I will remain sceptical.

    The size, diversity and history of this particular community was always going to create furious debate and controversy.
    It's a foreign force with more power suddenly inserting itself in to a fractured culture that always kinda just worked.

    The type of program I would invision would run parallel to the existing modding dynamic, still providing tools to foster that community.
    It would focus on the creation of substantial and quality content by modders collaborating with each other and the developers with a fair fee paid the modders themselves for their work, even in the long run.

    rant rant

    its kind of funny.. anyone who googles the creation club is going to discover the top link is to a biblical creationist website.. bet they are wondering where all the extra traffic is coming from and what "mods " are

    undergo quality assurance testing prior to release

    Bethesda

    'nuf said

    Upon looking in my Fallout 4 Data folder, I found files for ALL of the Creation Club mods. Want to know the worst part? I don't have the Creation Club, nor does the content actually appear in the game (they're just archived since I don't actually have them). They take up 681 MB of my hard drive for shit I don't use and wont use. Bethesda needs to stop half-assing their shit.

    Last edited 31/08/17 1:49 pm

    Where are the pros in this really? The mods get a few cents, Bethesda raking in the money from the modders work, and customers get overcharged by Bethesda's nickel and diming.

    As far as I'm concerned this whole Creators Club is an epic Con! (as in both negative and a scam)

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