Valve has this week unveiled a new Steam feature as part of its Steamworks platform that some would consider long overdue: allowing the distribution of mods. It goes without saying that one of the best aspects of PC gaming is modding. Modding could be as simple as replacing the skin of a weapon, or as complex as a total conversion to make the game appear completely different, and even behave completely different.
If you've put a few hundred hours into The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about. My brother has put over 1,000 hours into Grand Theft Auto IV entirely because of game modding. It's big business, and Valve wants in.
At first, this capability struck me as being a very good thing. After all, the best mods have been designed by the best modders, so why shouldn't they be rewarded for their efforts? If only it were so simple.
Right out of the gate, the mod marketplace for Skyrim, currently the solely supported game featuring this mechanic, is filled to the brim with minor mods that are commanding big prices. We're talking sword reskins for $0.60, an armor set for $2.50, or adjusted game mechanics for $5.00.
While no one is obliged to buy any of this, it does raise a question: we whine and moan when the game developers themselves sell off such minor content and label it as DLC, so why is it kosher for the users, people who've had no part in developing the game, to do so?
What risk we could also see is people selling mods they don't even own, or taking previously-free mods they've created and begin selling them for a price. Prior to this, PC modding was largely free; it felt like an open community of creators wanting to share what they've made with the world. Now it's about putting in as little effort as possible and making a quick buck.
Well, to say that the gaming community is upset by Valve's move would be an incredible understatement. There have been calls to boycott Steam this weekend, and some modders have spoken up to "thank" Valve for ruining what they love so much. Making matters worse, content creators will get a measly 25% of the profits, while the other 75% goes to the game's developer and Valve. 25% is an extremely low cut, and could be considered an insult to anyone who puts genuine effort into their mods. What bugs me is if you hit the link below and click on "Browse Mods", it defaults to the paid mods.
Since its introduction this past Thursday, the Web has been on fire with people bashing Valve, a company that's typically loved, with its founder and CEO Gabe Newell considered the "father" of the PC Master Race community. I'd be surprised if Valve didn't make some change, but I have a feeling if one is made, it'll simply have to do with quality checking, rather than removing the feature entirely. I guess we can be glad that only a single game is supported right now while all of these details are sorted out.