Paid modding, mod authors, and donation

This is just kind of a ramble. Something made me kind of sad today. I was chatting with an old friend of mine on nexus. Our friendship goes back to very long ago to 2009-2010 when I was 14-15 and I was active there. We were there mostly for Fo3 and oblivion.

During the chat, he started talking about paid modding. First I thought it is just talking. we always talked about getting paid and becoming video game designers kind of jokingly back then, but then I saw he is actually really serious. I have some issues with that topic but I didn't open it up instantly. It is not nice to instantly start a debate after so many years, started talking a little more about it, asked more, and the more interesting thing I heard was that he said, I feel like I'm a slave labour.

Now before I continue, you know, one thing that I noticed now going back to nexus for Fallout 4, is that everything changed. Back then, all the known modders that are now 20-26, were all 15-20. The community was still kind of young, it felt fresh. There were 20+ years old people there and some gurus back then too who made mods mostly for morrowind from the old TESSource website, but most of the community for Fallout 3 and oblivion were very young actually.

Art mods and add-ons were mostly like this, for example, I made a custom dagger model for myself only, for my own playthrough, I took a screenshot and I uploaded it. My friends would come and say oh where did you find it, that's cool etc etc. So you pretty much shared it with your friends. It was kind of a friendly sharing. At least that was the trigger for me to first try to work with more professional modding tools, it was to share it with my friends and I sent them privately. I didn't plan to make something for everyone and release for everyone like downloadable content and expect them to download and endorse at all. And then kind of expect to make a living off making custom weapon models/textures, or homes, or going into a group and making fully voiced quest mods.

The community changed so dramatically especially after Skyrim. The same people got older, much better, much faster. And they've grown up. Now, you know, they demand much more. Back then he gave me a model to work on textures for it, it took me days to actually make it, because I was young. He himself took days to tweak and add magic effects properly or make a small quest line. Now if he has two weapon/armor mods and send them to me to work on the 2k and 4k textures I do it in some hours or a day and half in photoshop and blender.

So everything became faster, easier. Moding oblivion was kind of tedious if you remember. Not just installing, making mods was ten times more tedious. After creation engine everything got a bit easier, more optimized especially. And modders who are professionals now just make too many mods too fast. There are 8000+ files for fallout 4 already. And they've grown up too so they kind of have demands.

Paid modding

Paid modding, mod authors, and donation

Now, I know it about myself as a fact that I won't work for free. Even if I do anything now I do it for our friendship, not for anything else. I charge people for the hours I work. I'm used to it. That is why I won't get into the mod authors community, because of the duties, because of the people that ask questions and request more. Or let's be honest, the least of it is, if it doesn't get enough attention I won't feel good about myself. So if I really get into releasing textures/models I'll have to and will put hours and hours just to satisfy my feelings and my confidence on my art and abilities. And that is why I don't do it. It will be an ego thing, it will be stressful, and it has literally nothing in it.

So considering that, I'm not against the very concept of getting paid for what you create. I am absolutely for it.

But the fact about paid modding, and my own issue with paid modding that I opened it up and told him too after we talked enough about the problems he is having in his life, is that it's the rule in any job, when no one ordered you, no one is obliged to pay you for what you made even if they admire and love your work. Because he was talking about selling stuff that are already popular and was calling himself slave labour.

-You have an idea
-You decide to work on it
-You decide to release it

Then when it gets popular because it's a good work, after it got popular you start to think about charging people.

when:
1. It wasn't ordered by anyone
2. You haven't put a price on your work from the day one.

If anyone wants to charge people they have to do it before they release the product. This is a rule in the market. So that is for that.

But the problems begin when you actually put a price on your product. When you put price on it from the day one, when it is for sale, it needs marketing like the actual downloadable content of video games. And with the small size of most content no one will even bother clicking on them let alone pay to get them, even though a small tweak can change so much. That is a reality.

Also modding can be literally illegal if the developers mention that you can't modify/reverse engineer this product in the License Agreements. It is their intellectual property and they are the ones who let you or don't let you make mods and make changes in their property. So if it is legal, except the need for marketing if you are selling it on a private website, you have to pay at least half of what you make to the creators of the video game, and If you put it on nexus or Steam you have to pay them too because they are doing the Marketing for you.

The amount that will stay in your hands in the end is 10-20%, and with the small size and the fact that most people avoid paying for small downloadable content, and when the developers are involved in it too they will feel like it is an indirect way of selling horse armor DLCs to them, it won't even make enough money to pay the amount needed for advertisement. And when something is for sale donation is meaningless too.

So, from a pure economic perspective paid modding is a defeated cause, because most people buy content that add to the hours of their game play. If the small content or even the bigger content that don't add to the hours of gameplay are for sale people will ignore them and they become obsolete. And it is not because the users are necessarily greedy. It is because they can buy a new game with the amount of money they have to pay to buy mods. And mods worthy of being actual DLCs, mods that add to the hours of gameplay are not too many.

So that is the issue with paid modding. It is a defeated concept from an economic perspective. And we saw what happened with Valve too. I don't think anyone sane enough would repeat that business failure.

Mod authors do have souls

But then what about mod authors? what about the people who spend all those hours creating mods? Don't they deserve anything?

Most of the modders are very young talented designers or programmers. And like I said they do something because they really love it and they really make thousands of peoples' video games better, sometimes much smoother, they add to the content, to the hours of gameplay, they add to how fun a game is. They keep a game alive for years. TES and fallout's modding community is the best example how fans can keep a game alive and fresh for 14 years. It is insane.

Believe me, making one single model is too hard. Working on 4k textures even if you do it fast is a pain in the backside. It's not like you magically do it, you put hours into it. Just guess how hard is making a total overhaul. A weather overhaul or complete creature reskin or making new quests, skill tree and levelling system overhauls.

For what? For literally nothing, and people post negative comments too.

It is a very hard thing to do. And mod authors are mostly university students too like you and have problems in their lives in this economic mess that we are in it, but at the same time they are extremely talented fun and creative people who like make mods. And like I said there is no way that they can make modding a business and succeed, except if they succeed in making nexus itself pay them for the amazing traffic they bring to the website and get a share of the advertisement like youtube. That is the only way they can be paid based on the amount of click/downloads/endorsements which I hope it happens one day, but it seems it is not happening anytime soon. And the only other way is donations.

Personally I do donate. I started donate to my friend again. I donated to chesko back then monthly for a year because he contributed a lot, to the key cap debug, to survival mode. I donated to Alex, I donate to fadingsignal to chucksteel. I myself try to somehow pay for the mods I really like. Still, I don't pay for all of them and I always have like 100-150 mods in my load order after the game and mods are a little more optimized and safer. I mod my games to death. But I do try to pay for the mods that become inseparable parts of my game.

In the end, I want to say the only way to help mod authors a little is encouraging donations. Donate to your favourite mod authors. If you can, if you have 2-5 dollars to spare, and you are having fun for hours with a mod, go and click and do donate. For a mod that has 14k downloads and 2000 endorsements there can be a good amount of donations from all those 14 thousand people.

Enough of those 1-2 dollars can make a lot of change for someone who spends a month and half and sometimes more than that making a mod.

It was just a ramble. I don't know who's bored enough to sit and read this. I was kind of sad. It isn't easy seeing your friend sitting dissapointed of his life. I felt like emptying myself.

And that's all.


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What Guys Said 7

  • I'm actually just trying my first mod,
    Sort of, I'm learning how to use the level maker that comes with the shadowrun games

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  • Modding by users should be a labor of love. People can do what they want, but if you want to make money out of something related to games, just go for real game development. Right now I am desperately trying to learn the Vulkan API, because I hope it's the future, but odds are I will not get anywhere, professionally, because I didn't start learning this sort of thing when I was 12.

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  • Interesting topic, one that is quite relevant to me as somebody who has been modding for good 5 years and spent hundreds of hours on creating mods and assets.

    I don't really want to elaborate on this because I think it has a very simple answer.
    Charging for mods: no (if this ever becomes legal and endorsed by property holders)
    Donations/Patreon whatever: yes

    Charging people for money has massive implications.
    Quality assurance, customer service, legal issues.
    Most of modders simply aren't prepared to face the consequences of joining e-commerce.
    Bethesda has crash landed VERY quickly following their decision to allow paid mods once they realized modders are irresponsible teens who started charging for copyrighted third party content or for straight up stolen mods in A DAY.
    How about mod conflicts? How about quality assurance?
    Who is going to review every single mod to see if it doesn't contain copyrighted materials?
    And that is no laughing matter, it is no longer the modder's neck that is on the line but also the neck of the company who is allowing to sell copyrighted material as part of their game and presumably accept some part of the profit.
    They very quickly realized that this just isn't feasible and that there is just no infrastructure to currently allow it.

    If you have a faithful fanbase who is willing to support you with money out of their own accord then great !
    If you feel like you deserve money for your work, just start selling on Unity or Unreal marketplace.
    They already have the infrastructure for it.
    Modding is just a stepping stone and it always will be.

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    • I told him the same things. He always knew it's a hobby, the game was our canvas. But he's a little under pressure. I don't blame him. He had a job at 20, he lost it only recently. He’s not a hobbyist. He never was since I knew him when he was 17.

      The Valve thing was a horrible business failure for lack of consideration. And the fans and those young thieves made big modders hurt too. Even chesko was attacked. I was absent at that time I haven't played video games for near three years until this Christmas. But knowing him I really got angry, of the whole thing. it was a really bad move economically.

      Most if not all good mod authors already do what they do only for recognition for getting jobs more easily, or just as a hobby because they have the ability. I think you know that. But still they are in university, jobs are not too many, and they spend hours and hours making those mods. They can’t make a business off it like I said, but can be appreciated more.

    • Casual mod users are too insensitive and spoiled. I bet if any of them worked on just one mod for three days they would even agree with paid modding, even if practically it’ll be a failure. Doing something hard makes you appreciate the people doing the same thing more easily.

      I just said it would be nice to have a better culture of appreciation. People usually feel very entitled when they get free content.

  • "If you are good at something, never do it for free"
    But you have to invest your talent in the right place. There are lot of bedroom music producers who make far better tracks compared to the mainstream artists. There are lot of painters who can make palpable artworks while those artists' works sell in millions who just spit some colours on a piece of paper.

    This is not a right way to earn. You should assess the profit for your work before putting time in it.
    Not all do it for money. People do it, because they love it. Just like meatballs21 said, it's a lot of work but you are making something YOU want in YOUR game and then sharing it with other people too.

    It requires a bit luck and insanity with thick skin. People will demoralise you. They are your customers. They deserve to get what they paid for. Unlike, he deserves to get paid for what he worked because there's wasn't any contract between two parties.

    If he's upset because of this, why don't he show his talent in architecture and engineering. They'll pay a lot. Make games as a job.

    And yes, I wasn't "bored enough" to read it. Reading about struggles of life motivates me.

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  • I think you're making mods for the wrong reason if you're expecting to get paid for it. Yes, it's a lot of work but you are making something YOU want in YOUR game and then sharing it with other people too.

    People will be rude and demanding if it's free, and ten times worse if you charged money because they figure they are now your customer!

    If you want to make money from mods, use them as your portfolio when you apply to make games for a full time job.

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  • Eh, I very much feel if the users like the mod so much to donate then by all means to, but, in no means should they feel pressured to do so.

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  • mod's can't be payable is optional by donation that's all. if u don't like that idea then don't make mods.

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What Girls Said 2

  • Expecting money already just kills genuine creativity

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    • Money encourages creativity. It's a proven fact in business. But in this case it is just not possible to make a business out of making mods.

  • I have no idea how to mod..

    But I always found it rude and disrespectful when in the comments on Steam, I'd see people repeatedly asking for, or demanding, someone make something particular.

    You're not paying them. They make, what they want to make, what they like to make.. and then they share it. If you like it, great.

    I mean, I guess it's one thing if it's buggy/glitchy.. but, you can't get upset or demandy with people who are using their SKILL in their HOBBY and you are benefiting for FREE.

    I appreciate the Modders, their passion and generosity is great.

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