Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Month: April 2015

On Charging for Mods

This week, Valve released their pitch to allow mod creators to, in conjunction with the people who created the original game, sell their mods on Steam.  The whole thing erupted into quite a ‘thing’ on the internet, prompting Gaben to come placate the masses, and in general put me into the uncomfortable position of generally agreeing with Milo and Brad Wardell,.  So that’s weird.  But hey, at least the same article points out that Mark Kern is wrong.

Brad’s points not withstanding, when I think about mods, I think about game events that unleashed real, marketable change on the entirety of the games industry.  Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of LMCTF for Quake (among many others), Curse Add-on Management for WoW, DotA for Warcraft 3, and Team Fortress (1) for Half-Life.  In many cases, mods are as popular (if not more) than the base game.

One of the things that bugs me deeply is the team that had the idea for DOTA aren’t the ones that got rich off of it.  That honor went to Riot, who released the excellent if not entirely original League of Legends off of the core mod’s design.  Meanwhile, most mod creators, even if they are downloaded millions of times, are thankful they can turn that into a bullet point on a resume to get an entry level job.

It’s a sucky position for mod creators.  Many times mods amount to XPack quality of content that extend the life of their base games for years – they are vital in some game communities – and yet, mod creators rarely get anything for their passion other than an ‘attaboy’.  We would see more good mods if the mod creators got some revenue that reduced pressure on them to maintain a day job.

From that thread:

Considering valve is a company that owes many of its early games to mods, do you think that if you had to pay 5 dollars for the original Counter Strike, or Dota mod, would they have ever taken off?

Depends on so many things.  This includes the pricing, whether or not there was a free variant you could play, etc.  But it also includes the fact that Valve and Blizzard are more inclined to support and market mods that earn them a revenue stream.

Mods should remain free, yo!

And most probably will.

Why should Bethesda and Valve get such large cuts of the profits?

Well, because Bethesda spent about $85 million dollars creating the artwork, engine and dev tools for the game that is central to the mod.  And Valve is providing an invaluable service in distributing the mods cheaply and easily.

Valve should let players donate what they want, including $0!

Valve has announced that that is part of their plans.

What if some mods suck?

You have 24 hours to turn around and ask for a refund.  The refund will go into your steam wallet.  Don’t pretend you’re not going to find something on Steam to spend your wallet on.

No, I mean, some of these mods REALLY suck.

In that case, you really want an integrated download system that allows for players to rank and comment on mods so you can review them before downloading.  You know, one kind of like Steam.  At any rate, half-baked stuff is no stranger to PC gaming.  Early Access remains highly controversial, yet some love it, while many (probably most) others have learned that anything on that part of Steam is caveat emptor.

At any rate, selling mods IS NOT NEW.  Wardell’s company has done it for years.  Second Life has done it for years.  Nexus has done it for a while now.  Why people choose to get worked up because one of the most trustworthy names in the market has come along and said they want to extend that level of trustworthiness to a new arena is one I find kind of baffling.


Professional Victims at the Calgary Expo

It’s everyone’s most favoritest example of rank hypocrisy on the net nowadays: a group of GamerGate sympathists lie about their organizations motives to get floor space at the Calgary Expo, hide the fact that they belong to an organization that sells T-shirts with rape jokes and that they’re affiliated with one of the scummiest MRA websites on the web, immediately start selling paraphenalia related to a hashtag that many gamers, especially women, feel is threatening or offensive due largely to the hashtag’s origins in harassing female professionals to the point of national notoriety, and then start going to panels on Feminism in order to grab the mic time in order to talk about how they feel feminism is a sham. Just as a note – if you do one of these things, maybe you’re fine.  Two, you’re on thin ice.  All five, and you’re way beyond the hat trick of being misogynistic jerks.  People who run conventions have shit to do, and they don’t have time to worry if whether or not MAYBE you’re going to cross the line.  Good for the Calgary Expo for trying to keep that shit clean.

You can read the widely cited account on the Mary Sue, but for my druthers the best writeup is the frequently excellent Amanda Marcotte.

Here’s a question: If geeks and nerds are fantastic as they are and should be allowed to carry on, why would you deliberately lie about who you are in an effort to disrupt a convention? Disrupting the convention and trying to ruin it for the participants shows that they do not believe that geeks and nerds are fine and should be left alone. On the contrary, they are clearly offended that geeks are having geeky discussions about feminism and representation in comics and other nerdy endeavors, and they want to shut that discussion down. Harassing people, by definition, is not leaving them alone.

Silly Amanda.  It’s the OLD geeks and nerds – you know the ones who are mad at Mortal Kombat for getting female body types to be down to the point where they’d at least be reasonable for playboy models.  All those new ones – you know the ones who have lady parts, would like slightly fewer half-baked rape references – these are the ones who aren’t TRUE geeks and nerds, those are a problem.  Clearly, despite the fact that comic book stores are still dominated by male heroes and male-leaning entertainment by about a 9 to 1 ratio, attempts to have a panel that talks about correcting this MUST BE STOPPED.

If you want to commemorate this historic moment in the march towards the rights of reactionary internet goons to harass the fuck out of women online so severely they flee geekdom, YOU TOO can purchase a t-shirt and express your pride!  And if you believe in these standards, I hope you wear it, as it makes it much easier to figure out who to avoid at cons.

But of course, the real thing that amuses is that, according to the Mary Sue article, the Honey Badgers fully expected to get kicked out.  They got kicked out  Then started merchandising that shit ASAP.  This is, for those not paying attention, exactly the sort of ‘professional victimhood’ that they like to claim feminists they disagree with, such as Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, are up to.  This is like pure resin hypocrisy, one that seems lost on the ‘masses’ of the fringe movement.

As for the GooberGrape masses who have reached Lot’s Wife levels of saltiness about the topic in the last week, feel free to start up your own convention, because clearly GDC and CalgaryExpo will not be the first who will ask you to at the very least keep your very crappy attitudes towards other con goers to yourself.  Feel free to include blackjack and hookers.  Because you’ll need some sort of entertainment, as most game companies and press will choose to maintain a wide berth.  Hey, that might be why your previous attempts to create your own outlets didn’t pan out.

Jenn of Hardwire is more sympathetic to the kicked out, and tries to go more in-depth into the allegations.

That isn’t the type of behavior one would expect from an entity touting to be for equality under an #ExpoEquality campaign.

Yeah, it sure is a mystery.  Look, there’s no shortage of jerks and assholes with unconventional politics – on ALL sides of the spectrum – at a major con.  And let’s face it, no comic con is going to be a beacon of feminism – hell, the artist signing areas of these things typically is one massive cheesecake factory for eager nerds wanting half-naked harley quinns to plaster on the wall (man, do con-goers love harley quinn).  To get kicked out, you have to be percieved to be a major risk of disruption.  People who raise red flags are going to be on a short leash.

And if you proudly fly the GG banner, that’s a big ass red flag.

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