“Starfield Upscaler” is the second-most popular mod for Bethesda’s open-world RPG, but its creator sparked controversy earlier this month because the best version of it was locked behind a $US5 Patreon subscription paywall. In a new interview with IGN he defends the practice, and threatens users who try to pirate his work with “hidden mines” that will break the mod.
Starfield released without support for Nvidia’s DLSS upscaling technology that lets players get better framerate performance on PC without sacrificing much image quality. There was a big backlash, and Bethesda has since promised to add official support in an upcoming patch. In the meantime, however, players have flocked to a mod for the feature by NexusMods creator PureDark.
He released a free version that supported DLSS 2, but access to DLSS 3 support, the newest version, was exclusive to his personal Patreon. Drama ensued and pirates who normally focus on “cracking” the DRM protecting games like Starfield instead took a moment to “crack” the “Starfield Upscaler” mod itself.
“It’s funny that people think this is new, I’ve been providing it as a service for more than 10 months, way before Starfield,” PureDark told IGN. He makes DLSS support mods for all sorts of games, amassing what he calls a small Game Pass-like library of mods worth paying for. “I’ve been making new mods and keeping mods updated for months for my subscribers, is $US5 too much for such a service?”
Lots of people don’t agree, and an ethos of “free work, free mods” permeates the creator space around them. More than one company, including Bethesda, has gotten in trouble with fans in the past for going about trying to monetize the community in ways many feel goes against the spirit of it. Some even responded to PureDark’s paywall by making free alternatives of their own, like modder LukeFZ.
Those who still insist on trying to get PureDark’s DLSS 3 mod for Starfield for free better watch out. “From now on I will place hidden mines in all my mods to make it harder for these people,” he told IGN. “The cracked mods will sometimes work, sometimes fail, sometimes work but [be] very wonky, sometimes even crash and they won’t even know if it’s a bug or just them using the cracked version, and they will never have the support I’ve been always providing to my subscribers.”
Update 9/28/2023 2:10 p.m. ET: PureDark’s feelings have apparently changed. In a new interview with Wccftech, the modder says his original comments were made in anger a week ago and he’s since calmed down.
“The interview with IGN was conducted more than a week ago, and it was what I said back when I was angry at haters and those who cracked my Starfield mod,” he now says. “I did think about doing that at some point, but then I stopped doing it. It’s been a long time, and I’ve calmed my mind.”
He added that actually booby-trapping the mod would be a lot of work and not worth the effort. “It’s really not worth it to waste my time fighting or getting back to those people,” PureDark said. “I might as well focus on making new mods and updates.”