The idea of Mods and Money just doesn't mix, yet it is constantly on our minds. Enter Derek Warner: A level designer in the gaming industry hoping to spark some debate in the modding community.

Posted by DerekWarner on Feb 21st, 2006

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The idea of Mods and Money just doesn't mix, yet it is constantly on our minds. Enter Derek Warner: A level designer in the gaming industry hoping to spark some debate in the modding community.

Derek Warner doesn't believe that Modifications and Money should necessarily keep their distance from one another. It is a contentious issue with many viewpoints, uncertainties and problems which most modders have undoubtedly thought about. After all, fame and fortune are alluring prospects and one must always question why they are making a mod, and what they hope to achieve by doing so.

Each day mod teams become more adventurous, organized and professional as new challenges and issues become apparent. There is a lot to this topic and not much has been written. Read on for one side of the story... and let’s start up some discussion / debate.

The mod community has placed their blood, sweat and tears into projects for years and have not received anything but a picture on a random website or game magazine and a couple fans that disappear faster than the latest iPod release. It is about time that modders get some compensation for their work.

Example Flightsim - Model for sale. One of many
Example Flightsim - Model for sale. One of many

Currently because of EULA and other legal technicalities, modders are prevented from selling their mods. To this date there is only one AAA title that everyone seems to be selling mods for. The Microsoft Flight Simulator community has been retailing planes and other mods for years. With a quick look at one can easily determine that there are tons of mods and models available for Flight Simulator that are actually quite expensive. Paying $20 for a plane with authentic sounds, handling and correct cockpit construction is even a low price for most of the models. This all begs the question: Why can't the latest, greatest mods for Unreal, Half-Life 2, or Far Cry be sold?

The payoff in our industry for people selling their mods is that they can maintain a group of individuals to continue to work on a project, or purchase better equipment. The advantage to being paid for a mod is that it enables the individual to maintain a team to continue work on that project or other projects or alternately to purchase better equipment. There are many companies that have spawned from selling the flight simulator mods and are quite successful. The payment for Flight Simulator mods has generated an income for modders that has enabled them to rent real planes, take digital pictures and record professional sounds which has added to the authenticity and quality of the planes. The mods expanded the Simulator market for Microsoft, thus creating a symbiotic relationship for both industry and individual. The ability to sell mods in an online community could have the same impact, which is generating income for modders, and bring the mod community to even higher levels of creativity. The lack of income and therefore lack of resources for modders hinders the production value of their games. Have you ever heard good recorded dialogue from a mod that wasn’t already from the game?

Another example Flightsim money making mod
Another example Flightsim money making mod

There are difficulties in selling a mod. It is hard to tell whether the community would pay to play a mod. Some would be down right insulted for having to pay to play a mod for a game they already purchased for $50 dollars. Perhaps it all depends on what you receive for your money. Few in the Flight Sim community are upset that they have to pay for new planes; in fact, the opposite is true. Once people started generating income from them, the quality of the planes and scenery packages increased ten fold, even to the point that most "payware" planes are far superior to the ones that the Microsoft developers created.

Another problem in selling your mod is that the original game developers may not want the mod competing against one of their products (e.g., developers adding to their own product with expansions). Lastly, the EULA agreement enables the developers to stop mods for profit, just because they can.

Following, and other media sites, modders should follow their lead selling access to their mods for download just like the big dogs. Nothing in the EULA agreement prevents modders from selling the bandwidth of downloading, the original textures and models, hosting, and advertising of the mod. Modders can use this to follow in the footsteps of the other pay to play websites for establishing independent pseudo-developers.

Moving in this direction, creates a viable marketplace for mods that I think would bring out new designs, characters, and other experimental games at a faster pace than we have seen in the past. The developers in the industry cannot afford to risk experimentation in game play and design, so modders are the only hope of driving the industry forward and compensation for our experimentations will bring new interest to old games, and highlight new talent that publishers and larger companies are always looking for.

Derek Warner

Derek Warner received his Bachelor of Arts in Video Game Art and Design from The Art Institute of Phoenix. Since then he has created Copperhead: Retaliation, a mod for Dungeon Siege, worked for Sierra Entertainment, and Perception on Stargate SG-1: The Alliance in Australia. Derek is currently working on Copperhead: Element for the Far Cry engine and working in the game industry.

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DerekWarner Author
DerekWarner Feb 28 2006 says:

will do! Its going to be an interesting year for mods, and games in general...

+1 vote   reply to comment
methy Feb 24 2006 says:

As usual, I like what Crispy is saying. I want to clarify that I don't think under any circumstances that money should be a reward for modding. I think that modding is a self-rewarding task that does not require superficial financial rewards.

However, I stand by my statement that if mod teams had access to funds or equipment, then it would help produce a better quality product, due to a greater quality of assets. Code and mapping is fairly standard, as Crispy said, but moddelling suites such as 3D Studio MAX (while not necessary) will probably result in a high quality to time investment ratio. The same thing goes for texturing with varying degrees of cost in image editing suites.

However, the real costs come in sound and animation. Motion Capture costs money. Good sound costs money. So if mods want to have something over games in way of centent quality, then they will need some form of funding to do that.

And damned if Crispy isn't right again. If game studios were to encourage the leading mods by giving them studio time, mocap time and other things that really help a mod team out and don't cost a huge amount, then everyone is happy.

But in a way, I am with Koroshiya. Modding is kind of perfect the way it is. Sure, the big guns like INS and Dystopa get all the attention, but it leaves us little guys to mod quietly and at our own pace. It is a hobby, and while there are similar negative aspects that are found in the game developement industry, they don't affect the rest of us.

Anyway, great article (as displayed but this page or two of intelligent debate (minus one comment)).

+1 vote     reply to comment
IGN_Hegemon Feb 28 2006 says:

Hi Derrck,

I wanted to respond to your comments,

1. Yes I was talking about multiplayer mods as they do seem to be the most common mod that I see.
2. Taxes, Lawsuits, Incorporation, Business Licenses, etc are facts of life when starting a business. There is more to selling products online than just accepting money, you also have to look at state sales taxes, supporting the product, providing refunds and returns etc. We (in the US) all know how quickly some people will sue over very small matters such as not getting their game on time or a refund quick enough. You also must consider that mods are typically not made by a single person. Quite often there is a whole team of people who must be paid, which then makes the leader not only responsible for the tax burden (assuming they don't incorporate), but also paying people. If you pay someone over a specific amount per year ($500??) you also must provide them with income information at the end of the year. What happens if you sell the IP/Brand? I could fill this page with what if's, but what it boils down to is that there is a lot of planning required to run a business on top of developing your mod.
3. Having legal rights is great and all, but I was talking more about piracy than anything. Since most mods are folders with data in them, it is very hard to secure the mod and make it hard to pirate if it were sold.
4. Getting some press is easy, getting lots of good press isn't.
5. Fileplanet doesn't require a subscription to download anything. Anyone can access the site and download files. The subscription is an added value for people who want to take part in our exclusive promotions, also I would like to point out that a year subscription works out to be 3.33 a month :P

But this isn't a recruitment special for FilePlanet, I never said you shouldn't sell your work. What I did point out was the difficulties of doing so. There are numerous problems to contend with, beyond the EULA issues mentioned in the article that developers should be aware of before even considering selling their mod.


Scott Miller
Mod Manager
IGN Entertainment Inc.

+1 vote     reply to comment
duckedtapedemon Feb 27 2006 says:

Wow, I thought there were ads in the pages and first glance :(

+1 vote     reply to comment
DeadlyContagion Feb 25 2006 says:

What I'm talking about, is not a program that make mods for you, that wouldn't allow for any creativity. What I'm talking about is some free resources to build on, several basic human builds to build on top of, WYSIWYG editors, which you CAN get something complicated, but simple stuff is easy to do, Hammer did this fairly well, but I found UnrealEd annoying as hell. Making something as simple as a skybox in hammer, is place a box around the map with the skybox texture, then define the sky texture, UnrealEd, place a box around the map, place another box, put in some reference points, etc. Yes I know that Hammer's 3d skyboxes are as annoying as UnrealEd's, but I'm talking about standard 2d skyboxes, displacments are an even better example, I cant even remember all of the steps it took in Unreal, in Hammer, take one face, and create displacement. I think editors wil get easier to use over time, look at the new UnrealEd, it's all rendered in real-time, and boasts itself to be easy-to-use, or FarCry, or the new TES Construction Set, which can make realistic forests in mere minutes. That is the direction games are going in, not something as impossible as a "make me a mod" button.

+1 vote     reply to comment
JoeyFox Mar 3 2006 says:

I agree on the selling part...

My series is just in its infancy... mods are the freeware... but I want to be able to generate money eventually, the team hopes to found our own company with a revolutionairy game design... we just don't have the money or crew to do such things yet...

I DONT agree on selling not so great mods or simple mods. EG: A Star Wars mod can't be sold for UT2007 because of Lucas' rights to the franchise. A crummy tweak mod cant be sold.

I do agree on quality mods being sold. EG: A series that the developer of the mod owns out right (like me)

HOWEVER, Companies who own the game would want thats where it comes wierd.

+1 vote     reply to comment
IGN_Hegemon Feb 27 2006 says:

I wanted to throw in my two cents on this interesting article. The idea of selling a mod is enticing but impractical for many developers, due to budget requirements and technological restraints. If you sell a mod, you will be expected to have servers running for people to play on. You also have income and that open you up to lawsuits and so many other fun experiences like taxes. You would also need to securing your mod and assets, which is not easy to do since most mods don't have a executable required to run the mod content.

What many modders fail to realize is that they are creating a brand when creating and promoting a mod. This brand could be turned into a stand alone retail game that already has market awareness and a community of players. You have the best of both worlds of game development, not only do you get to test and refine your concept, you have sites like ModDB, Fileplanet, Planet sites, and many others to build your community every time you put out news or file release. This builds your core audience which is invaluable to your project if you develop a stand alone version of your mod. The other great benefit is from day one of developing your stand alone title, you have something to show the press, giving you another decisive advantage over traditional game developers.

There is definitely money out there for quality games, it just takes time and dedication to reach the point of making money.


Scott Miller
Mod Manager
IGN Entertainment Inc.

+1 vote     reply to comment
INtense! Staff
INtense! Feb 21 2006 says:

A well thought out piece and a topic which I have personally debated quite a few times.

I mean what makes mods great? Is it the fact that they give you options as to what you play, is it the fact that they are FREE or is it that they try different things. They aren't afterall govenerned by a bottom line and shareholders demanding profit.

For me, well I love mods because they are original, creative, whacky, different - they can do what they want and you can find what you need.

If you add money to this equation, well i'm not certain what will happen. Will it lead to better quality mods, or will it lead to issues, lies and fighting over who receives the money?

If its done right I think money'n'mods can mix (for example, release the mod a month early to a limited subscriber base) then make it available for free. That way the developers and players benefit and it isn't just the download sites and game companies benefiting from your hard work.

Having said all this is mod making about money? Shouldn't it be about enjoying yourself and learning? Many many many game developers got their jobs via modding so there are certainly rewards to be reaped.

Its an interesting topic and one I believe we will hear much more about as digital distribution programs such as Valves Steam become mainstream.

(on a side note i'm not certain you can compare plane making with mod making. I mean a plane is a singular piece of equipment which one person can make and sell. A mod is a whole game conversion and not a single 'entity' so to speak)

+2 votes   reply to comment
DeadlyContagion Feb 22 2006 says:

I wouldnt be bothered to pay money for mods over the internet, it's too inconvenient, thus I would just move on to a free mod, even if the mod looked super awesome. As a modder, getting money for a mod would be nice, but I think it would end up being way too annoying for the end-user to buy every mod that theyd want to try. Thus, mods lose a bit of their charm, being free, and end-up just being independent games, no longer mods. All of a sudden, mods dissapear, as nobody wants to make something for no profit, thus, the mods become less popular, and the medium for experimentation dissapears in the pursuit of profit. As well, if there were free mods, they couldnt possibly compete with the pay mods, losing the ability to have "small" mods, money would be great for the developer, to begin with, but over time, less and less money would be being made, as developers demand more and more money for their mods, eventually, myself, I would just download the demos and not bother paying for the full version.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Koroshiya_Ichi Feb 22 2006 says:

A really well thought out article but to be honest as far as im concerned the two shouldnt mix

there are elements of modding that would probably benefit from some cash flow, but the fact is as soon as money becomes involved with a medium/community it's only a matter of time before money OWNS that medium/community.

As soon as money is integrated with stuff like this it only takes one arsehole to say 'hey, I can make a massive profit on this, regardless of any damanging effects it may have on others' and its all downhill from there

I love the mod community how it is. What makes the mod community strong (and in some sense strongER than the actual gaming industry) is the fact that it's only the makers potential, will power and knowledge that limit what can be achieved. Teams need not worry about budget, wages, deadlines, market success, all elements that are indefinately a result of money and commercialism.

The gaming industry is incredibly lucky to having something like the mod community available to it. It's activaley not only training individuals in the art of game creation, but also showing them that you don't need to be paid to create something fantastic that you can be proud of, not many mediums can do that and I personally see no reason for this to change.

+1 vote     reply to comment
vrapt0r Feb 22 2006 says:

I agree koro money and mods should never be mixed.

The difference between a modder and a game developer is that a modder is driven by an abition, an idea or a passion for gaming. A game dev on the other hand is driven by the fact that they are getting a pay check at the end of the month. Now im pretty happy that modding is one of the things that is not despoiled by money, money causes to much complications, it also breeds coruption and complacency (in the case of EA games). And i dont think all the modders would appreciate the paperwork. :)

I as one do not beleive in rewardless hard work, the modding community can be percieved as a starting level for abitious game devs, kind of like an intership. It trains us to become better devs, gamers and in general better people. The fact that modding doesnt produce a paycheck at the end of the month doesnt mean its less worth while than any payed work that youve done! The reward is the product and the experiance!!!!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Koroshiya_Ichi Feb 22 2006 says:

I wouldnt say it was only money that drives games developers. I mean yeah it's definately a huge incentive and no doubt plays a big part in how much effort they give a project, but when you look at some games and the amount of time, detail and effort goes into them, that takes more than just money to create, it takes a real passion and commitment. Regardless of how much you're being paid, to consistantly give a project every last ounce of effort you have for maybe four to six years straight (or in the case of Duke Nukem Forever four to six ice ages) takes a real compassion for your work.

I definately agree over complacency and corruption. The only company I have a real problem with in terms of money is Lucasarts. Sorry if this gets deleted but no other development team have managed to bastardise an industry purely for profit while overlooking true gaming class like Lucasarts have. They'd rather ship out 1000's of Star Wars games that show no true quality but will always sell thanks to their 'brand' while turning a blind eye to games such as Grim Fandango that while might not sell, show much artstic integrity and pure vision than anything else. I feel many companies have managed to keep a good balance between chasing profits and creating genuinely awesome games, but it's a factor that I really don't think has any place in the mod community. Look at it this way:

Do mods NEED money? - no
Are there mods of a commercial standard that have been funded purely by ambition? - yes
Is the current state of modding good for the actual gaming industry? - yes
Is there any real NEED for this to change? - no

Let's not try to fix what isn't broken, as I said before we're lucky to have a communty this dedicated to quality and creativity that requires no incentive other than their own enthusiasm. In this day and age these commodities are EXTREMELY rare in all mediums, and we should savour it for what it is.

just my opinion

+1 vote     reply to comment
vrapt0r Feb 22 2006 says:

I apologize about my statement concerning the game devs, i do realise that money is not their only incentive. I'm very grateful for the passion and commitment game devs show when they create games, but i do beleive that they wouldnt come back day after day, working as meticulessly, without taking in a little life blood of the world (read: money). After all we are human and theres a reason its called HARD work!!! No offence intendend to any paid game devs around here, i was just trying to get across a point.

I love Grim Fandango!!! Played it ages ago and i recomeneded it to a friend that enjoys the Monkey Island games ( Another LucasArts great). I've been looking for it ever since, I want to give it as a gift to my friend but can't find one place to buy it in my country that sells it. (By the way i live in South Africa)

+1 vote     reply to comment
Koroshiya_Ichi Feb 22 2006 says:

no need to apologise dude I knew what you meant :D It's ust some people may have taken it a little bit 'to' literally but i totally get what you mean and agree that hard work and the prospect of a finished product is often far more reward than cash in hand.

for Grim, have you tried Ebay?

+1 vote     reply to comment
DerekWarner Author
DerekWarner Feb 22 2006 says:

Another aspect to take into account would be looking at the independent film industry. Though, the independent films don't get budgets like the next Lord of the Rings movie, they do get funding to produce their work, and sell their movie after its produced. Without that income they couldn't produce their movie. I look at the mod industry the same way. I would help out other teams to really push what they can do in their mods. I see stories and concepts on this site that are amazing, intregiung, and pushing the industry for change. Being able to get an income and having somewhat of a budget they can do more in their mod, like having voice acting for example.

"Teams need not worry about budget, wages, deadlines, market success,"

Though a valid point, this is actually the reason that 99.9% of all the mods fail, or are never released. WIth my first mod and the current one, we have deadlines, though no budget or wages to consider at the moment, but having a timeline, and a plan for completion is what seperates the "released" from the "unreleased" You can throw money at anything and still get crappy mods, but the players are the ones that ultimatly decided if downloading (or paying) for a mod is worth it.

+1 vote   reply to comment
EdgeFilm Feb 22 2006 says:

I come from the film industry and thus I equate everything to that. I have heard comparisons along the lines of "mods are to games what indie films are to the big studios." I would say, mods are actually more in line with short films. Short films rarely ever make money and a never made purely for profit's sake. The game industry has an indie market, and just like indie films, these indie games cost money. Mods are in an interesting grey area between whole-hearted copyright infringement and whimsical creativity.

I feel that mods should not automatically charge for their services. If a mod is of significant enough quality, chances are it will catch the eye of the games industry, for better or for worse. Being a bit of an insider, I can confirm for a fact that many of the big developers, publishers and game designers troll this site and others like it. Some may have even played your mod, or be watching it, although you'll never know it. I'm not just talking about Gabe and the Valve crew either; industry heavyweights are becoming acutely aware of the fact that many popular ideas that are supposed "breakthroughs" in gaming often were spawned by an ambitious, or simply inspired mod team. Don't be surprised if the big cool never-before-done hook for your mod ends up being the primary feature of Epic's next big franchise. But really, didn't you make that mod because you wanted to play it in the first place? I'd be thrilled if every game out there was like Birthstar, since that is the ideal game I'd want to play.

But back on topic here; I tend to think that, in this whirlwind of unbridled, but all-in-all amateur, creativity, there is little room for something like money or payment. A few mod leaders have been known to dig into their own pockets to get their mod some quality concept art, or a flashy web site, and that's fine, as long as no one is expecting any returns.

Paychecks are never an incentive to put your all into something especially not in a remote situation. At most, they encourage a skin-of-your teeth approach to work. If, on top of that you can instill a pleasent environment, creative inspiration, etc, then your workers are going to churn out work like nothing else, but JUST a paycheck is not going to cut it with modders. In the case of flightsim, it seems to be an established money-maker for a lot of people but I'm sure most of the people who take the time to carefully render each portion of those planes perfectly, really want to fly them in game, otherwise it would simply be half-assed. Incentive money may help a little, but it can't do all the work.

Eventually, the "at least I'm getting paid" mantra wears off, and people will need something else to latch onto. Granted the lack of funding for a mod slows down production and may not allow for AAA quality work to be produced, but I would much rather have a 5k poly character model rendered in Source by an inspired artist than a 10k poly character model rendered in UE3 by a bored factory worker going through the motions. No matter what the skill-level, the latter will never turn out well.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Varsity Feb 22 2006 says:

There is a lot more to consider than this article makes out. What of mods that re-use some of the parent game's content, for one? The examples you've provided are creating entirely new content, but one of the strongest points for modding is the ability to build on existing resources instead of creating your own. I would be very surprised if any developer would let people sell on something that consisted largely of their own work! And I certainly don't think a developer should be able to get away with making a game on the cheap by modding and selling a Total Conversion rather than licensing an engine: if nothing else, we'd be soon flooded with exploitative crap as the gold farming sweatshops expand out.

I don't think modding and money are entirely irreconcilable, though. Selling a mod, Total Conversion or otherwise, as a standalone product while keeping it free for owners of the parent game is an excellent compromise that gets a cashflow going and dramatically widens your audience without ******* anyone off. Making pay-mods for a game following the Gunbound or SpaceCrack model (core game is free forever, pay for upgrades/customisation) would also be a good way of bringing the two together, although when it comes down to it that's a similar thing to the Flight Sim planes. We're also seeing Steam deliver mods, or should I say licensed games based on the established success of one: Alien Swarm: Infested, Red Orchestra: Ostfront and Realms of Valhallon: Age of Nations (if it's still alive).

Selling mods is possible and could well help the industry forward, but gamers are cynical enough as it is about the Steam games and it's not as if they are the mod version dumped into a GCF and flung on the content servers. The morality of selling mods isn't a problem that can be solved with a "yes" or a "no".

+1 vote     reply to comment
Koroshiya_Ichi Feb 22 2006 says:

Derek, I totally agree with what you say about organisation and stuff. The mod im currently working on has remained silent for a god few months before an announcment because I realise the importance of good organisation, research into the technology you're using and generally having a very clear and collective team mind. But it doesn't take money to establish that, in that respect all we need to do is encourage modders to inform and educate eachother and share infomation. Money might provide a shortcut solution to this, but shortterm solutions only create more long term problems and the experience people miss out on by simpley throwing money on a situation will do both they and the project a great injustice.

I totally see where you're coming from but I dont think money is the answer. People need to be educated and encouraged to use their brains, creativity and knowledge to organise and create their projects.

JoeX and myself are currently planning a huge feature that will cover all the major game engines, explaining all their pros/cons and a whole manner of aspects regarding mod organisation and creation. It's very much in the planning phase because it's quite a large prospect, but hopefully this will educate potential modders into properly planning their projects, and not dying as soon as a problem arises.

+1 vote     reply to comment
DerekWarner Author
DerekWarner Feb 22 2006 says:

Great idea on covering the different engines. I'd like to help out with that with the Far Cry engine, which I think is the easiest to mod more than any engine I have used in the past, in or out of the industry.

Back to the topic though, There are some mods that are really held back from production value. Dialogue is the number 1 thing that I think is a major problem, just for the sheer fact of adding immersion to your mod. Maybe I have so much passion for my creation that I want to create the best experience and I would need money to do that. But thats just me. Going back to the flight sim mods, the reason the quality is so high for the planes and scenery is because they get money for them. They can hire pilots to test the planes, rent the planes for taking pictures and recording sounds, and create a product that is polished.

Money is never the reason I would make a mod. I make it because I have a passion for doing it, creating a piece of work that I would like to play. Looking at the flightsim community they do the same. Looking at some of these companies, they consist of mostly pilots, who really would like to fly their plane in the game, and still is created totally on a love for their hobby even though they are making money at it.

+1 vote   reply to comment
Ging Feb 22 2006 says:

In the current state of the modding community, the introduction of some form of cash flow is pretty much the next logical step - sure, it makes amateur mode teams "professionals" in respect that they are earning something from their creations. But I know from my work that I put in just as many hours working on my mod than I would if I had a job (which I don't so I can work on the mod)...

There are of course alternative methods of earning money than selling the product - if you can get permission, put advertising in game. As long as it remains in the ethos of the universe, such as posters or billboards in a current day setting, there's no reason not to put in some form of advertising. Even better, stream the ads from a remote server and charge dependant on location and duration of rent.

Cuts out the problem of getting the fans to pay for a mod but lets the mod team pay for sound engineer sessions, motion capture, whatever they can afford with what they get. It's certainly an option that my team has discussed, but we never got any feedback from valve about whether it was within the realms of the EULA.

+1 vote     reply to comment
JoeX111 Feb 22 2006 says:


Who authed this before I got a chance to properly edit it?

+1 vote     reply to comment
WFW-PREDATOR Feb 22 2006 says:

I say selling mods is unaceptable, the mod it self is a modification, that alters things in a game, and is NOT a standalone product, Stanalone products is a product that doesnt need a bace product.
I think it depends on the developer whatever who can sell its mod/tweak, like The Eldes Scrolls Morrowind series official versus the unoficial pluggins that total convert the game.
If the modification is made by the develepors, then it migth be aceptable to pay for it, but if its a wannabe modder, H**L NO
And I think allso the copyright also have a efect on the mods, since in this case The Eldes Scrolls have the copyright and the modder vare no right selling the pluggin, coming from The Construction Set

I sertanly dont whant to buy tweaks/addons that arent in the stores, like the Flight Sim 30$ for a freaking virtual airplane, ......

+1 vote     reply to comment
::idiot:: Feb 22 2006 says:

umm... to wfw...
What would you call the many games that have been built upon the D3 engine or the UE engines?

Now off that point. Once you put money into the modding equation. Will the devs loose sight of thier mods? The quality that they try to achieve. I mean look at something like Big Rigs or Bad Boys, they can be made by semi-good companies and sell thier games for a normal price. Then their games turn out to be horrendous. Worse than the simple VB games that I can make in 2 days.

If you put money into the modding scene. There will be the higher people who come in. Who have thier university degree in computer moddeling and animation. Then what do they do? they loose the community.
The one thing I personnaly love about mods is that we get to speak to the devs. We know that they are somewhat like us. I mean proffessional guys don't come down to moddb every now and then to say hello. They need to get money to feed thier family.

I'm just saying is that once money is added, new people come in without the same drive as the modders we see here.
Not that thier heartless beasts without any dreams. It's just that they probably need money to run thier life.
Modding here is mostly done as a hobby. As a side project from real life, to see your hands build something totaly magnificent.

+1 vote     reply to comment
EdgeFilm Feb 22 2006 says:

Idiot (it is your name) - those games purchased incredibly expensive licenses to those engines (granted that comes with a lot of benefits compared to an sdk). We on the other hand presumably spent 50$...cough, cough...sometimes.

Pros don't say hello, but they do out for suspiciously named mod watchers with no info in their profile...

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DerekWarner Author
DerekWarner Feb 22 2006 says:

Or ones who write articles on mod sites....

+1 vote   reply to comment
Icemage Feb 23 2006 says:

If I can be brutally honest, 99.9% of mods aren't worth playing - for every Counter Strike, there's a hundred re-skinned AK47s packaged as a "mod". I think I'm being generous if I say that 90 out of 100 mods never make it to release, and of those that do, precious few have anything unique or different about them. You can give a huge list of reasons for this, be it people getting into the modding scene with inadequate skills, a decided lack of originality, lack of commitment, bad team chemistry, or any of a thousand other reasons, but the end result is that the mod community is floating in a sea of mediocrity, and this has become the accepted standard. I see apologists on this and other mod development sites constantly making excuses for why there are just so many unfinished, unplayable, and unprofessional mods... let's get things out in the open and talk about the modding community's Dirty Little Secret:

The main reason why there are so few mods are of good quality is because the people who could produce the best mods ... aren't.

Question: If you're a fantastic modeller, or a red-hot programmer, or a brilliant game designer, or an innovative level designer, WHY would you choose to spend your time making no money, risk your work being plagiarized, risk it never being released (remember, 90+% failure rate), and put up with the hectic pressure of developing a mod when you could do it for a living and get paid for it while spending the rest of your time doing other things you enjoy?

Answer: YOU DON'T. Why? Because it is a dead end activity for those with that much talent and skill. These are the people who are good enough to make it in the game industry, and by and large, they get in if they want to. Other than the (extremely) rares case of someone of exceptional skill who hasn't broken into the industry yet and wants something to put into a portfolio or a resume, pro-quality modders are very nearly non-existent. Sure, there's a handful of ultra-enthusiast pro insiders (like Derek) who do it for the love, but they are a tiny minority.

How would mods making money change this?

First, it counterbalances the many negatives that come with modding. Most of my friends and acquaintances believe I'm certifiably insane for producing for free what I charge impressive amounts of money for professionally.

Second, it gives newcomers something to look forward to. Sure, no one will buy your new interpretation of a Glock pistol - but if you had a reasonable expectation that, given enough practice and skill, you could incorporate your work into something that could make you a bit of extra money, don't you think that would give you just that little extra nudge to excel? I would. Rather than stifling the amateurs, I believe this would set a gold standard for them to aspire to and hopefully surpass.

Money for it's own sake isn't the point of this article; nonetheless, I don't think anyone will deny that the quality of a modeller's work will improve with better modelling software, or that a better tablet will improve a texturer's productivity, or a better compiler will improve a coder's effectiveness. And in all cases, better computing hardware can reduce the frustration and time spent on development. These things all cost money. There is a certain synergy that can develop if you could support your hobby with your own efforts, and that in itself is a powerful motivator.

The instinctive reaction is to resist change. But not all change is bad. Think about it.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Koroshiya_Ichi Feb 23 2006 says:

I don't get how people can look at frustration and weeks worth of development time as a bad thing. Yea money might be able to provide better tools and computing power but so what? The focus of your argument (icemage) is on the end result of a modfication project, but if you look at the modding scene in general, it isn't about product, it's about education, discussion and learning.

Even if a mod does totally suck (in comparison to a commercial game), it has taken time, effort and the desire to learn from it's maker(s) to get it built, in the long run it's this that is of value to both modding and the games industry. I don't agree at all that better software generally means a better end product. I've seen people make absolutely awesome models on stuff like Blender, while others make true disasterpieces on programs like Maya, which cost thousands of dollars.

Just take a look at Kenneth Scott from ID software. For alot of Doom 3 he was using a pc that at the most could only push 700mhz and yet there's no way anyone can argue that artistic quality of those characters/models.

**** I have to get to Uni, anyway long story short -

Modding just doesnt need money. While you can say only 99.9% of mods are worth playing, thats pretty much true of the gaming industry as a whole. There is an abundance of utterly poo, unplayable games that come from developers who've had fantastic equipment, plenty of resources and far more man power than any amount of mods. The only real difference between mods and the industry is the commercialism. Throw cash into modding, and all the aspects it provides the gaming community (which the industry in general quite simply cant) will die. Money doesn't fix everything and to incorporate it into a community that thrives on incentives that are not cash based is like taking a beautiful country forrest and introducing it to the Flamethrower.

+1 vote     reply to comment
garry Feb 23 2006 says:

I agree 100% with this.

If the original game devs want their cut they could set up a handango type system and take it automaically.

+1 vote     reply to comment
WFW-PREDATOR Feb 23 2006 says:

Hail to Koroshiya_Ichi
No more games and just mods in the stores.
"Yeah I would like to buy the Half-Life 3 mod for Half-Life 2"
The new erra of gaming will be destroyed, so NO again NO PAYING FOR MODS EVER
Hey I made a mod and you cant play it unless you pay me 200$ for it.
It just ads a useless bike in a game
BTW the produser of the game has ALL the copyright of a game, so you cant make something "new" like a mod, put your own wannabe copyright on it and sell it, you dont have eany copyright at all.

+1 vote     reply to comment
methy Feb 23 2006 says:

Look, I think that everyone has missed the point. That may sound a bit pompous (and hell, I try), but I really think that no-one has thought about when modders need the money.

To backtrack a little, I fully agree that adding money as a reward for completing a mod would simply add the same restrictions on modding that have plagued the game development scene. The need to make a sell-able product (like Grim Fandango versus Star Wars as perviously mentioned) will arrive and we willl stop seeing gems like Iron Grip: The Oppression and Natural Selection. These mods (while very successful - Natural Selection 2 is a standalone game on a fully licenced Source Engine) are gambles in the way of adding innovative gameplay that may or may not sell. Adding money as the primary reward for creating a high-quality mod is counter-productive, because modding will only be unique, crazy and innovative if people are doing it for thye love and the end result.

That said, I am all in favour of mixing modding and money. I think that modders need money while they are modding. Money does add to quality. If modders have to money to buy weapons and recording equipment to get professional sound, then that is only going to make the mod better. Things like outsourcing artwork and buying servers all cost money, and if mod teams have money avaliable during the development process, then we would be likely to see some amazing end products.

What I would like to see is a Steam-like content delivery system to deliver mods. Something like Vapour. In this content delivery system players can pay for mods that have been sold by the developers of that mod. Players can buy the mods online, and download straight off, maybe even with a trial system. Then, mod teams have access to the money earned for future projects. I know that many modders would not like conditions attached to the money they have earned, but really, it can be argued that they only earnt it due to this magic content delivery system. Anyway, the point is that future projects would get more and more advanced as more money is around. Modders would still be modding for the same old reasons, only getting funding and increasing the quality of their work greatly.

Discussion is what I want. Feel free to make personal insults. :D.

Thanks for the article and discussion, it raises some nice points.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Koroshiya_Ichi Feb 23 2006 says:

methluah. I completely see where you're coming from and agree that yes for sure, money can provide modders with better opportunities that can help them enhance their games/projects.

But the thing is it's not as simple as saying 'ok lets give them money for it' particularly on projects such as TC's. Why? Because legally the team working on it will then have to split the profits up accordingly between members, work out a budget in regards to how much of those profits should then go into new technology the team can use (which might also be a pain if the team are in different countries) and a whole load of legal ******** that comes along with anything as soon as you put money into it. The long term effects of something like this would - fact - eventually lead into the mod community quite simpley mirroring the actual gaming industry, and as has been said before, it's not needed. mod teams can, have and will continue to create amazing things with no budget. The fantasy that with money these could be even better is just distracting people from the real value of these mods.

Ok there is the possibility that with money, mod teams could create better quality assets (not literally. An idiot can make the best equipment look poor, just as a genius can make pure beauty out of nothing. Noone needed a wealth of technology and budget to build Stone Henge or the Pyramids), but I don't think that prospect is enough by itself to warrant funding and budgets for these projects.

There are mods out there that are true works of art, even more so than many games. You may argue that these may have been even better with more money behind them but how can we know that for sure? How do we know that budgets won't just make teams complacent, and encourage them to just get work finished so they can be paid? It's a risk i don't think the mod community needs to make.

I'm probably wrong though, if money does become involved though I hope theres always some area that remains untouched and continues to develop stuff for free

+1 vote     reply to comment
Masakari Feb 23 2006 says:

Well, this is indeed an issue of much debate. On one hand, mixing money and mods might bring about a "corruption", a level of commercialism and greed which haven't (for a large part) been a part of the community.

On the other hand, i do know my modding, and the development of my skills, are greatly affected by the fact that i need to have a day job, i need to feed myself, pay the bills, occasionally i need a new piece of hardware or software to work due to malfunctions or upgrades. It would also help out in having, for example, a good server to serve as a base to your mod, maybe even some outsourcing of game art assets or concept art.

Having some kind of scheme to gain some financial rewards from modding would be beneficial in the sense that it would enable the modders to concentrate on their work, thus contributing to their overall quality. And i'm mainly speaking money just so we could do what we do, not really as pure profit or to buy much better equipment. Money just to get by and live.

Derek, great article. I do have one question - you mentioned the EULAs forbid selling the mod, but not unique contents, or access to the downloads. What about in-game advertizing on the mod, just as we're starting to see in the industry, would this be legal?

+1 vote     reply to comment
Argyll Feb 23 2006 says:

Very interesting point of debate.

I don't think money will drive mod devs to do bigger and better things necessarily. We already have a tendency to do that, without the cash. Even if a mod did have financial income... the most likely case that would be is through distribution and/or advertising sponsors.

Everyone's inspiration to make a mod is different. Personally, when I started it was all about making the 'perfect game' that I have in my mind. That hasn't changed, but of course I make changes to accomodate to the fanbase, since not everyone thinks along the same lines as I do, and I want to be able to play along with several others!

Another major reason for many developers is to break into the gaming industry. Did all actors suddenly walk onto the set and get paid millions? Most likely they started out on their elementary school stage; doing it because they love it and had a vision of progression to ultimately get paid for what they love. For game devs I think it's no different. They start out playing games, and then get inspired to maybe at first change things a little, then add new stuff. Then they get bigger and bolder ideas and perhaps want to completely change the game around into something new.

This is where most people fail. They start up a mod, have all these great ideas, but get brought down somewhere. Is it a lack of people supporting your idea? Is it a lack of skill? Is it a lack of a concrete or feasible vision? It could be either one of those, or a multitude, or something completely different. But what it isn't, is a lack of finances.

You don't need money to publicize your mod or idea. You have websites like this one to support you at no cost.

As your mod grows, there definitely is more demand. This is mostly in resources and time coming from other people. Yes, you could take the route of gaining your own web server and paying for that, but there are cost-free alternatives.

If you're getting tons of hits, maybe you see that you can get some cash from advertising. But what would you do with that cash? It wouldn't be enough to pay the mod developers. There are simply too many and short-lived members to make any sort of pocket change.

The potential that I see for making some somewhat serious cash for mods is in the distribution. You may be able to make a deal with a major file hosting network to provide it only to their subscribers, which maybe you can gain a little dough from. This would downright **** fans off. It's just a mod. We've been playing mods for years, for the cost of just purchasing the game. If it honestly can deliver something worth paying for, then it shouldn't be a mod at all -- it should be on the store shelves.

I think that the best goal that a mod team can set and strive for is producing the best damn mod that they can produce with sheer will power, time, and talent. This can demonstrate not only their individual skills, but their ability to work as a team on a long-term project. If you can overcome the challenges of collaborating with a multi-national team of developers to deliver a quality product, I think that should at the very least turn some heads in the industry.

If you look at who has actually come from the mod community to the industry, the majority from what I know has been directly hired by a development company. This is changing though. Look at Tripwire, they were a mod team and formed into a studio to produce a retail game based on their mod experience. Who else has done this? The guys behind Natural Selection, Unknown Worlds (2-man team according to their website), kind of have kept themselves quiet, but I'm no insider into the NS community.

What is in common with TWI and UW? They both received money towards the later stages of development. Red Orchestra won the Make Something Unreal Contest and received an engine license and some cash. That is definitely helpful when forming a studio, especially without any publishing support at the beginning (that I know of). Unknown Worlds had their Constellation donation service and also it appears that they have done some contract work. They have a business plan and engine license ready, but they are looking for investors.

Red Orchestra: Ostfront is on the way to the consumer hard-drives. The Unknown Worlds project is... unknown to consumers. Both though seem to have self-sustained themselves while in development of their products. What is this to be a lesson for current mods in development? Should they take the same approach of producing a proven mod, then self-sustaining themselves financially until they get something establshed and then approach investors or a big-name publisher? Or, should they take a new approach: 1) Create your proven mod, 2) Develop a business plan, development team, and concept for a new retail product, and 3) Approach a publisher right out of the gate for funding in order to initiate full production?

The first method, that has been followed, is somewhat logical and a natural decision because mod developers don't necessarily have the industry business experience or knowledge, but they do know how to make a quality game. The second method I would think is something that might have the potential to work... but then I don't know what the publishers think.

The best option for individuals looking to break into the industry is to do some talented work for a prominent mod. This gives you something nice for your resume and portfolio. This is the most common, and I've even personally helped one INS level designer get hired by GRIN, who are developing the PC version of Ghost Recon 3, and works on the MP levels. His work for INS directly got him the job, and I was the one who tipped him off at the opportunity!

So, in conclusion (finally), if you are an individual who wants to make some cash from developing: join a good mod, produce some good work, and apply. If a team has the vision of breaking into the industry together, as a studio working on your own game, then you will need some money. Is your mod the right place to gain the finances? Of course... but it is how which is the ultimate question -- one of which is still requiring some definite answers.

Grr... Such a long post that I'm sure many people won't read through ;) But I can't help but wonder. Maybe the journalist in me will do a little bit of investigating into the topic of going pro from being a mod. You deserve a beer if you've endured this 'comment.'

+1 vote     reply to comment
DerekWarner Author
DerekWarner Feb 23 2006 says:


Good point. Though towards the end you talk about getting into the industry from doing mods. You happen to hit a little bit on my next article :) heh. I went to a game design college graduated while completing a mod and getting into the industry professionally. I think I hit all the aspects and was going to write up a little article on this as well. Stay tuned for that.

My only comment is that I am amazed how many people really think (and believe) that money automatically leads to "corruption."

I don't think the goal of making money from mods was ever to become the next Enron, but I think it could be a great start for getting your own studio.

+1 vote   reply to comment
Gothax? Feb 23 2006 says:

Most of the modifications released today are either 1. A student who's developing a modification for a final grade or 2. someone who is making their modification out of love and compation. Paying for a modification, in which most are b-rated quality, takes the excitement of playing one. Modifications are notoriously known for their ability to be played without a cost to the player. Taking this GREAT advantage away strips the meaning of a modification away.

Chosing whether your modification is of ample quality to charge any type of currency is what developers should be taking in mind. Lets take DayHard for example: This modification resembles a great attempt gone wrong. Keeping the modification charge-free kept itself the least bit approachable. Slapping a price tag on the modification would of ruined any sort of success that DayHard provided.

Just my two cents. It's up to the developers to decide this.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Vaarscha Feb 23 2006 says:

Quote:The developers in the industry cannot afford to risk experimentation in game play and design, so modders are the only hope of driving the industry forward

Contradiction in terms...

Once a mod dev will be modding to get money, he doesn't want to experiment too much.
If he even can't afford to loose money (e.g. if he has rented a plane to do photographs, sound recordings etc) he will stop experiments alltogether.

Even though I don't think the planes are a good example at all, let's stick to it: Are there any creative, new ideas you can buy? Or are these just some planes that are liked by a reasonable amount of people who are dreaming of flying them?
There is no real change made. In fact, those "new" planes for the ms flight simulator are not too different from "new" cs clones for half life.

Well, in fact money could help mod teams in some parts, not to give them a living but to give them access to the tools. A lot of this is already done via the SDKs, but also with free modelling packages. I'd agree that in some areas like sound recording, only very few people have access to good microphones etc, however this is a rather unique example.
If you can play game XYZ, you can most likely use the tools to build content for it. Furthermore many people own DigiCam's, so new textures on photobase aren't a big problem. All the other tools should be made free to use for mod dev's! That's what I am asking for, nothing more.

What I, as a mod dev want to invest is my time, my passion, etc. What I do not want to invest is money.
What I want to get from my mods is fun creating and playing. I'm not doing it to earn a living.

+1 vote     reply to comment
TheHappyFriar Feb 23 2006 says:

There's no reason for mod makers to sell mods. They want to make $$$ with games? Download one of the GPL engines/tools. There's Wolf3D, Doom, Quake1/2/3, Descent, Descent Freespace off the top pf my head. Want a physics engine? Find one of the free ones. Need tools for making content? The Gimp, Blender, Project Dogwaffle, all free. Don't know how to use them? Learn. Can't learn? Find someone who can. Don't want to use a GPL engine because you don't belive that people shouldhave access to your code? Tere's budget (ie free or cheap) engines out there, some with very simular tech to D3/Source engines. Don't want to use those? Make your own game/engine from scratch. Almost everyone at the top started at the bottom, modders should be no exception.

Oh no, can't afford making mods? Get a side job! id got started because the few guys had full time jobs to pay for everything & used all their spare time to get out on their own. Sierra started with a husband working full time & the wife programming & taking their games to flea markets & stores themselves. Nintendo went through many different business's before they found their video game niche.

If mod "teams" stopped trying to make the next "Counter Strike" or "Team Fortress" (which, thanks to the buyout, we haven't had ANYTHING new since the HL1 port.. thanks to them being paid) to be bought out by a big company & went to just making mods they they enjoyed we wouldn't need to worry about money for mods.

But if you want to start selling mods for $$, feel free. Just remember that you'd need a new copy of some of your software... the EULA of some educational liscence states you can't make $$ from the software (many universities/schools also say you can't make $$ with their hardware/software). Be expected to pay royalities to the publisher & dev & anyone else who has rights for the game. Prepare to be taxed. Prepare for people to sue you for false advertising.

I wouldn't even bother wasting time charging for "bandwidth" or "discs" orany other crap... Strange, the EULA I have open right now says "You are permitted to distribute, without any cost or charge, the New Creations only to other end-users so long as such distribution is not infringing against any third-party right and otherwise is not illegal or unlawful." "Without any cost or change" seems to stand out to me... maybe it was overlooked.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Icemage Feb 23 2006 says:

Koroshiya_Ichi wrote:

I don't get how people can look at frustration and weeks worth of development time as a bad thing. Yea money might be able to provide better tools and computing power but so what? The focus of your argument (icemage) is on the end result of a modfication project, but if you look at the modding scene in general, it isn't about product, it's about education, discussion and learning.

Perhaps for much of the modding community, learning is the primary focus, but be honest: how many of the learners end up producing worthwhile material? You make this statement as if every modder was doing nothing but learning. This is not the case. Derek is a very talented and accomplished professional working in the game industry. I'm a professional computer programmer by day, and have been for 10 years. Neither of us fits your mold, and, unlike the rest of the modding scene, we (and others like us) ARE focused on producing quality product, not on learning the ropes. We're way past that point, and we are not alone.

Even if a mod does totally suck (in comparison to a commercial game), it has taken time, effort and the desire to learn from it's maker(s) to get it built, in the long run it's this that is of value to both modding and the games industry.

I totally disagree with this statement. Mods that suck DETRACT from the value of the game they were built for. They leave negative impressions of the original game in the minds of the community. I don't care if someone spent 5000 hours building a mod if all it does is add another pistol to the game. If they learned something from it, bully for them, but no one in their right mind will say that such a tweak improves either modding in general, or the game engine it was built for.

I don't agree at all that better software generally means a better end product. I've seen people make absolutely awesome models on stuff like Blender, while others make true disasterpieces on programs like Maya, which cost thousands of dollars.

This statement is also misinformed. The examples given are not a fair comparison. Someone who sucks at modelling is going to suck at modelling whether they're using Blender or 3DSMax, Milkshape or Maya. But for someone who has talent, there is a huge difference.

Modding just doesnt need money. While you can say only 99.9% of mods are worth playing, thats pretty much true of the gaming industry as a whole. There is an abundance of utterly poo, unplayable games that come from developers who've had fantastic equipment, plenty of resources and far more man power than any amount of mods. The only real difference between mods and the industry is the commercialism.

Mod developers are not hampered by the same restraints as the bona fide game industry professionals. They don't have to report to venture capitalists, publishers, marketing departments, stockholders, or any of the other elements that currently cripple innovation in the game industry. If you think games suck these days because the developers are talentless hacks, you're sadly mistaken.

Throw cash into modding, and all the aspects it provides the gaming community (which the industry in general quite simply cant) will die. Money doesn't fix everything and to incorporate it into a community that thrives on incentives that are not cash based is like taking a beautiful country forrest and introducing it to the Flamethrower.

Finally we get to the crux of your position: that modding is just fine the way it is, that it provides a huge cornucopia of benefits to the community, and heaven forbid that anyone defile such a utopia with capitalistic commercialism.

Modding is not fine the way it is. As things stand, there is little to no difference in the level of innovation between commerical games and mods. Commerial games copycat each other in a desperate race to earn the almighty dollar. Modders copycat, and in some cases, steal, the work of others in a desperate race to be the most hyped mod on the block. You even said it yourself - the focus of the community as a whole is not on making good games. Players play mods because they want to play something new and fun, but that's not what most modders seem to be working towards. This is fine? Not in my book, it isn't.

I don't understand the viewpoint that says that indie mod development would suddenly vanish overnight if some mods went commercial. Counter-Strike is a commercial mod - it did the exact opposite of what you're suggesting, inspiring an entire generation to try and follow in the footsteps of its pioneers. Several mods have followed in its wake over the last few years. It hasn't destroyed the community. Instead, it has done exactly what I mentioned in my previous post : it gives a shining example of what can be accomplished via modding, and gives people something to strive towards. For those who still want to produce less-popular but innovative games, the option will still exist to produce a free mod.

So why all the paranoia? Are you concerned that all the good talent will get sucked into commercial enterprises, leaving the community with whatever remains?

Let me clue you in: it's already happening.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Dieblein Feb 24 2006 says:

I just want to drop in my concerns: The real problem I see is that people dont value projects or mods that are produced because of the game idea. It just seems like its exactly counterwise, that mods with comercial intentions are even valued MORE than idealistic ones.

Have a look at They Hunger, It just seems that the fact that it went commercial was enough to fill half of moddb/phl newspages and comments for weeks, look at Eclipse, I totally respect that they made the game as a university project but still in the end it is just a nice tech demo that brought the guys into the industry (hopefully) but not a game they produced because of the game idea. (If so they wouldnt have stoped developing)

And on the other hand look at Project Hull Breach, look at our game Return to Mana and many other projects from people that actually work in the industry, that dont want/need to sell the game or make any profit in terms of employment out of it, and compare the amount of attention people pay to it to the upper examples. It just seems like people that take the more difficult route are even punished for that, sure it would be easier for us to milk some money with merchandising on our homepage, would be easier for me to buy a better Pc or another tablett.

I just think that people (especially moddb) should keep the difference between the projects in mind when comparing them, because I dont see a single advantage free mod teams get in terms of public relationship or community support compared to commercial mods!

+1 vote     reply to comment
WFW-PREDATOR Feb 24 2006 says:

If the mod-maker whants mony I sugest....

+1 vote     reply to comment
Crispy Feb 24 2006 says:

Quote:JoeX and myself are currently planning a huge feature that will cover all the major game engines, explaining all their pros/cons and a whole manner of aspects regarding mod organisation and creation. It's very much in the planning phase because it's quite a large prospect, but hopefully this will educate potential modders into properly planning their projects, and not dying as soon as a problem arises.

Glad to see somebody takes my suggestions seriously ;)

AFAIK in-mod advertising is illegal, since you're making a commercial gain from a product that could not have been made without the use of the game developer's engine (and possibly game assets). If you profit from items included within the mod and game experience then you are liable to get yourself into trouble. Making money from a website is OK because you didn't need the game engine to make that website, and arguably anyone could stumble upon that web space.

I think at the end of the day it all comes down to how you view modding. Is it a hobby or a profession? If you're not getting paid, it's certainly not a profession. As an example, there are plenty of people that spend years doing genealogy research for to find out their ancestry, including buying custom software with which to produce it, documenting a ton of information and frequent visits to local and national register offices to consult birth certificates and the like. They do this in their spare time, outside of their work hours. But do they, after thousands of man hours working on this, their personal project, turn around to their family members and charge them for a copy of their family tree?

Let us take antoher example. If you use a fitness or sports facility you have to pay for membership, I don't know about you, but the enjoyment I get from modding comes for free, so how could I even consider the idea of making money from an experience that gave me enjoyment at no personal financial cost?

I don't agree with money having any major involvement in modding. Firstly, there's the problems of who controls the money. Who's bank account is used and what sort of legal agreements are put in place to ensure this money doesn't get misappropriated. Secondly, there's the question of how this money is distributed between team members. How can you decide who has put more work into a project, how can you put a value on art? What process is more vital to a game's development? What problems would arise if an member suddenly threatened to withdraw all his/her custom content if he didn't get a bigger cut of the 'winnings'. Thirdly, we have to consider just where this money comes from. In most cases this will come form the gamer, but you won't see any money until the mod gets played, and the simple and sad truth to this is that games that get the most play in the shortest period of time are those that expand on existing popular motifs. If only these mods can be assured of earning a decent 'paycheck' upon release, how will the truly revolutionary game ideas, the risk-takers, secure workers of the required calibre. Finally there's the problem of outside organisations being used for funding. In almost all cases, they won't know anything about game design, but they will know just when they want to see your mod released, and they'll exert as much pressure as is needed to ensure you reach that deadline.

What I do agree with is that as modding gets more advanced, certain areas of modding severely lack resources of a professional standard. If I want to map or code with the Source engine I have everything I need. If I want to model, skin and animate it comes at a relatively small cost for a trimmed-down version of the software required. However, if I want excellent audio in my mod I'll need some very costly equipment, and unless I can find sound enthusiasts looking for unpaid projects to work on I'm going to need to raise some money.

What would be great is if the same companies that benefit so from the modding world lend a helping hand. Valve have done well do provide an excellent set of tools for developing third-party games on their engine, but it's a calculated venture which is essentially training future employees to professional standard in their proprietory tools while minimising cost to them in terms of junior employee training programs. I would like the big game developers to put their money where their mouth is (the same place they claim their heart to be), and offer a scholarship or grant programme which would put up funding for mod developers to use advanced facilities they would otherwise not have the money for.

Let us take audio creation and treatment, for example (which methulah mentioned, and which gave rise to this idea). The game developer seeks work partnerships with a sound studio in need of improving its company profile (letting more people know it's there, what it does and who it helps). As part of this agreement the game developer will receive a special discounted rate for studio sessions. The developer perhaps gives out two of these sessions a year, gratis, to selected mod teams that use its engine and that it deems of a high enough standard, and what's more that the developer feels would seriously benefit from developer-sponsored professional sound editing experience. Now, let's just see who's happy about this situation:

The Sound Studio They're happy because they have a lot of people, a significant proportion of whom will go into the games industry and be in direct contact with other professional game developers and producers in the not-too-distant future, who have been introduced to their company and their service. They also have a business partnership with a games industry giant, thus furthering their company profile and introducing it to an even larger audience.

The Game Developer They're happy because they can be seen to be giving something back to the modding community. They're fostering relationships with the future stars of the games industry and consolidating their position as a "gamer-friendly" company. There is also the possibility of a knock-on effect of mods competing for their scholarship programme, meaning more mod teams using their game engine and a bigger proportion of mod teams full of professional-standard game developers are coming to them to show off their products. The game developer can therefore spend less time seeking out future employees as the majority of them will be coming to them for advice, guidance and patronage. Players are more likely to buy their game for the modding community that goes with it.

Mods They're extremely happy because they feel like someone higher up is taking note of their achievements. They have an additional set of incentives to work towards. Depending on the work ethic of the game developer this may not mean they're work has to be visually stunning first time round, provided their game plan is sound they might get chosen for sponsorship. No money ever changes hands between them and the game developer, so there is no question of mispending or embezzlement. The modders can get down to what they do best without having to worry about the 'perils' of man and money.

The Players They're happy because they get better games at lower cost, and they get more mileage out of their games. They are more likely to buy a game which is very likely to have a good modding community behind it. The industry will respond to successful game features pioneered by mods and replicate them accordingly, much to the player's enjoyment.


My conclusion. Modding is my hobby, and I would never charge anyone money for it. If, mid-development, I was approached by a company to make a mod into a fully-fledged game I might consider it amongst my team members, but if we agreed to make a licensed game, from that point on it would cease to be a mod. If there is no company involvement, (i.e. it is a modification), I don't believe a price tag should go with your creation. I also believe that you have to seriously consider whether you want to make a demo for a future game, or a mod. Because the two are not the same. If you're a mod leader, there's more to think about than your personal goals, there are your team members to think about as well. If you're considering making a commercial product if the opportunity arises, the people you hire should be in on your plans from the start.

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Undying_Zombie Feb 24 2006 says:

Money and mods dont mix I dont think. I see mods as a steping stone in learning how to make games. It both adds experience, skill, and knowledge of what most/some of the gamers like and/or not like.

As far as someone saying money being the driving force to make good games? No thats far from the truth. If the company is just looking to make money they will easily make a crap game that is trying to emulate a movie for example. They can simply make money off the game due to its based off of a movie even if the game itself is horrible. and vise versa. ( Take the Street Fighter and Street Fighter 2 Movies for example, then look at Men In black the video game, or Farscape *shudders* )

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DeadlyContagion Feb 24 2006 says:

I agree, I think game developers should put out easy-to-use, dead simple, but still very powerful if you go deep into it, tools. Allowing novice modders to get SOME content out there, and experienced modders to get out ALOT of content out there, THAT is what the mod community needs, not shiny baubles or a 4000$ animation suite, easy to use, free tools, for example, I myself, find it hard to model no matter what tool I use, if it was easier to do, but just as powerful, sure it would flood the floor with noobs, but the noobs could actually get something meh-to-decent from their efforts, and the experts, again, could get something incredible out of a shorter period of time, I have some great ideas, and the inspiration to see them through, but with present tools, I need ALOT of help, which I often don't get. I, for one, would like to see all the awesome ideas on the Mod-DB get finished, as opposed to dying all the time, more selection is always better, even if I have to wade through 1000 CS clones, It would be worth it to see the incredible stuff that inspired modders can make. I, as a player and a modder, wish to see, a) my ideas come to life, b) playing other's great mods, without the prolonged wait times for good mods that we see typically.

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methy Feb 25 2006 says:

That just wouldn't happen though. Sure, it's a nice thought. but you don't think that 3D Studio MAX user friendly. You can't just get a program that makes mods for you, because that isn't plausible. Programs that have a certain degtree of power are as user friendly as possible. Programs like Photshop, Maya, and Audition are as simple and user friendly as can be imagined, and we aren't going to get any better for free.

Because if you think about it, there are already modders who can use the tools we are given. In many cases, these are the same tools used to make the game. Modders still need to code, model, draw, edit and create and they always will. No-one is worried about flooding the floor with newbies and no-one is worried about newbies not being able to do anything, because that isn't the case.

At the end of the day, developers do their best. The closest thing to an über-tool is probably UnrealED, and that still requires years to master. Modders don't need a "Create Mod" button, they need support from people with money to allow them to do things that require money. It really is a simple as that.

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Crispy Feb 25 2006 says:

Quote:You can't just get a program that makes mods for you, because that isn't plausible.

I started modding with some very simple map-making for Red alert. At first I just wanted to make some maps for me to play on (I'd mostly done the standard maps to death on skirmish matches against multiple computer opponents). But later on I decided to stick a few maps on a floppy and take them down to Shoot 'n' Surf, the same cybercafe where I'd first played Red alert. Now, these maps were sea maps, which I hadn't been able to try out on my own because the computer AI never built naval vessels or subs, but against human players they went down a storm :)

Later on, someone pointed me towards a text editor that let me set all of the damage, speed, etc. values for the Red alert units. I played around with that to give V2s nuclear warheads (year we all did that), and to give Migs napalm carpet bombs. I also created some all new units using pre-existing unit sprites.

Next was Starcraft, where I could actually go about making single player missions, including me and my brother recording our own sound files for different characters' spoken lines. We scoured other games 'sound' folders for interesting sound effects to use, like alarms and sirens, thunder, etc.

Then I moved on (or back) to Quake, where I made a couple of promising, but flawed multiplayer maps and some OK SP maps. One of the MP ones was entitled 'chimney' and was based on an Unreal map. Basically there was a big square chimney in the centre of the map with cliffs around the outside. At the bottom was a platform which gave you steady increments of health. Around the outside was a rickety walkway made out of slats of wood that led up to the top, where there was a button. The top of the chimney looked down onto the health platform through a grate, under which hung some spikes. Yep, you guessed it! The button triggered the platform to move up the length of the chimney and into the spikes, with gibbish consequences! Unfortunetely it was hiedously laggy because I didn't know anything about r_speeds and optimisation.

Nowadays (although I don't own a copy), games like Dawn of War offer players a simple interface with which to design their own scenarios, just like I did with Red alert and Starcraft. Mapping for Source or the Unreal Engine's is a trickier affair, but still possible. What I think is hurting the modding community is that people who start these days are trying to master very detailed and tricky software. There's this belief that you should only be modding for a current or next gen engine. The problem with this is that because it's tricker to use, modders are getting bogged down with learning how to do something and not spending enough time on coming up with things that work well. If, instead of going straight onto Hammer, you had a play around with Dawn of War to make some fun scenarios you'll be getting the hang of the most important ingredient for mapping, the theory behind fun, varied and interesting gameplay.

When I learnt Hammer I wasn't learning how to map. I did that with Red alert and Starcraft by fiddling around with enemy placement, creating bottlenecks, high and low ground, destroyable bridges, positioning ore and gem resources in areas which would promote conflict between nearby teams. All of this theory can be applied to mapping in the FPS genre; the resources are the weapons/items/health/armour, the bottlenecks are virtually the same thing, high and low ground is multitiered maps and making use of the vertical axis, the inverse of destroyable bridges are doors that require keys to open them.

To bring this back on topic, I'd like to return to the argument that 99.9% of all mods fail. This isn't because they don't revolutionise concepts, it's because too many of them try to be unique. Not enough mods concentrate on changing small parts of the game to see the effect. These days people don't seem content with making a single player map and releasing it. When Quake was the game to mod for you mostly got mods with custom models and weapon changes. You still played through the official Quake single player to try them out, and once you'd done that you tried it out with one of the many single player maps being released. If I'm honest, I'm seriously disappointed with the severe lack of single player maps for Half-Life 2 compared to for Quake. Yes, it is easier to map for Quake, and the limitations probably helped us concentrate on the playability more than the visuals, but mods like Afraid of Monsters for Half-Life manage to get away with fairly boxy level design while still giving a fairly good single player experience. At the end of the day I'd rather be playing a mediocre SP map than spending that time salivating over the latest Xmod media release.

Graphical superiority is one area of games design that distracts modders from what they really should be aiming for, a solid gameplay experience. I don't think it would be a giant leap to claim that financial incentives would do the same thing.

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Crispy Feb 25 2006 says:

I realise I went on a few tangents back there. But to summarise what I was trying to say:

I disagree with methulah's point (the one I quoted in the post above). You can get programs that make mods for you, they're called single player maps. It may be fairly oldskool, but there's nothing wrong with writing an introductory paragraph in notepad, releasing that with your map and giving people a short narrative experience. You don't have to have voice acting. In fact, text-based dialogue or informational messages make it much more likely that your map will be translated into another language by someone who likes your work and wants to make it available for as many people as possible. The story doesn't even have to be spectacular if that's not your forté, provided the gameplay's good you'll probably get some good feedback.

Anyway, for beginner modders I think the website developer's moniker can be applied: KISS! (keep it simple, stupid!). And in this case, doesn't money only serve to complicate the process?

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DerekWarner Author
DerekWarner Feb 25 2006 says:

Just the way it goes.

99.9% - mods that fail
99.9% - games that fail
99.9% - people fail getting into the industry

Even in the industry we have a 99.9% failure rate. Just that the public never hears about the games we cancel.

Its all just part of the entertainment industry (weither its games, movies, or music).

I know money won't help this... doesn't hurt it either.

Just gotta be part of this group :)

.1% - mods that rule
.1% - games that rule
.1% - industry people that rule :)

+1 vote   reply to comment
Crispy Feb 25 2006 says:

So, you want to see more middleware?

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methy Feb 25 2006 says:

What I'm trying to say is that Middleware isn't the answer. Let's take the example of the Elder Scrolls IV Contruction Set. It allows you to create forests in seconds. These forests are built using SpeedTree RT, and only come with stock-standard SpeedTree trees. This is all god and the like if you want to make a game set around Europe. But what if you want some visual style, something that might not be so realistic. What if you want to use your own tree models. Straight off, you can't.

Allright, the other way to do it. Say you are using the Half-Life 2 SDK. You go and make a brush entity and make it place a random assortment of the models in folder X over the area of the brush. About a half-hour of coding and you have something that is customizable and will probably help you more.

I have been misunderstood (probably due to my bad communication). I don't mean that every modder should be given grants from leading game companies. I think that the leaders of the community, the Dystopias, the Point of Existances, the Iron Grips, should be given grants. These are the guys to which money will not complicate matters. To them, they have left the KISS moniker behind. The money will hepl solve their development issues and help create a better product.

While I agree wholeheartedly that graphical superiority distracts from game design, I want to make it clear that any mod that strives for graphical superiority will either succeed or fail. If they fail, they might regroup and start again. If they succeed, great, there is another pretty mod out there, probably with a large playerbase. What I think the industry should focus on supporting, is the mods that do both.Things like Iron Grip: The Oppression. Unique gameplay coupled with stylish graphics. Now if these guys had motion captured animation, it would probably make the whole operation a lot smoother.

I've gone off topic and I'm kind of rambling. I just hope everyone understands what I mean.

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methy Feb 25 2006 says:

I also want to make it clear that we are talking about different types of mods. I myself have made many single player maps and mods for games like StarCraft, Warcraft III (although I didn't like the game) and Neverwinter Nights. I even released some of the better ones but I wouldn't know where they are now. Frankly I don't care. I'm currently working on a yet to be announced project, which is a complete single player conversion for Half-Life 2. I don't want money, presitge or a following for this, it is just something I want to play and share with other people. However, when it will be released, I will care where it is. It will be a different type of mod to my NWN modules, my Warcraft III RPGs and my StarCraft campaigns.

Infact, we are talking about a different class of modding. It annoys me that people waste time and resources starting modding Half-Life 2 and the like, but nothing we can say or do will stop them. Eventually, they might realise it isn't going to work out, and they will adjust accoringly. But in the meantime, we need to support those who give us a unique and interesting addition. Because it's these guys that make modding special.

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