DayZ, Garry’s Mod and Dear Esther creators weigh in on Steam Workshop paid modding debate

The developers behind successful PC hits DayZ, Garry’s Mod and Dear Esther, all of which saw their origins as mods for other games, have weighed in on Valve’s recent introduction (and subsequent removal) of paid modding.

Steam Workshop saw the ability to charge for mods added a few days ago, with chargeable mods making their debut in Bethesda’s 2011 title The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

However, after backlash from some players, Valve and Bethesda removed the feature, with the latter firm clarifying in a blog post: "Even though we had the best intentions, the feedback has been clear – this is not a feature you want."

DayZ creator Dean Hall, speaking before the announcement of the retraction, praised the ability of developers to charge for user-created content.

It’s absolutely a fair thing to allow,” he said.

I believe it will be good for the modding community; it will provide them a baseline way of generating money, but I do not think it will provide an end-state for the larger mods.”

DayZ began as an extensive mod for military simulation title ARMA 2, before being acquired by ARMA developer Bohemia Interactive and released as a standalone game.

Hall continued: My belief the introduction of paid modding is a great sign of how important content creation is, and I would argue it’s a strength of PC that modding has not been easy to transition and tap on the consoles.

Making money from content creation is complex, and there are different avenues for different games – some which work better on PC than on consoles. I think professional modding is a natural evolution for direct content creation."

Dan Pinchbeck, creative director of developer The Chinese Room and co-creator of Dear Esther, which started life as a Half-Life 2 mod, also weighed in on the debate.

The issue is less about whether or not talented content creators should be able to get an income from their work,” he said, following the U-turn. That’s a no brainer for me – of course they should.

The problem is how you curate this – Early Access and pre-alpha purchasing has resulted in stores being flooded with cynical, poor quality products that make it much harder for genuinely great games to get discovered.

In principle, paid mods is a good idea, but it needs a proper infrastructure to exist in, or it’s going to suffer exactly the same problems.

We all understand Valve’s concerns about administrating these kinds of programs, but there’s got to be a way of protecting the people that the system is designed to help from being flooded out by trash.

Hopefully that’s something that can be found, and we can see the amazing work being made by modders getting enabled to get some financial returns.”

Garry Newman, the one-man-studio behind eponymous Half-Life add-on-turned-standalone smash hit Garry’s Mod, agreed that the question of charging for user-created content ultimately comes down to how it is handled.

I can understand the reversal of paid modding in Skyrim and I can understand why people hate paying for mods,” he stated. I still support it.

How it was done with Skyrim showcased the shitty way the system would be used.

I like the idea that someone could spend a couple of months of their life working on a mod for a game, then making enough money out of it to give up their job and work on it full time. I don’t like the idea that someone could spend a day making a crowbar model and ask people to pay for it – and that was the impression the Skyrim stuff gave. It didn’t show how users would get better quality mods – it showed them how they’d be paying for what they already were getting for free.”

Newman criticised Valve and Bethesda’s approach to profit sharing with content creators. Under the short-lived system, mod creators received a quarter of the total cost charged to users.

I would really be embarrassed to suggest taking 75 per cent of the profit on someone else’s hard work without any real justification,” said Newman. That seems like a big miscalculation byBethesda.

Charging for mods should really be a way of empowering the modding community, not a way for developers to exploit the hard work of modders to make money.”

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