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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Post comment Comments  (50 - 58 of 58)
-SoUlFaThEr- Feb 27 2006 says:

I've had quite a few people tell me this about my Kreedz Climbing mod. "yer mod is so original why dont you sell the idea to valve" or other similar things. My friends in REAL life are telling me absolutely stupid for spending so much time on something and not getting paid for it. As they shake thier heads at me I'm thinking about all the people I could make happy with a free modification of another great game, as opposed to the few that would buy it. I know I have a huge croud behind my back from 3 years of jumping on climb maps we made in CS1.6........and if each one of them gave me a dollar for my game........I could buy a nice middle class car. I'm just not going to do it. Id rather make them all happy. THAT right there is worth more than any money you can give me. modders are making mods with so much FEVER, simply because they couldnt do such a thing otherwise without that expensive as hell university gaming degree, and a hiring at some game company. they could maybe make a map for CS or for whatever, but WOW man......think of all the guys doing this just for fun! 99.9% of them for sure.

out of 1 year expreience making a game using no money or not even having it invloved, ive dealth with more personell problems than i should have. but im not able to force anyone to make things for the game. so i take these losses and keep trying to find the next guy. Late here in the developement stages i finally got people coming to ME asking for jobs and thats just not at all bullsh.......he guy who comes to the guy I want because i know he'll stay. if theres money involved, he will come to me for the wrong reason and i wont get the coolest stuff his creativity and abilites with the tools has to offer. Thats why there should not be money in modding.

i dont care what any of you say modding should not be taking on cash UNLESS they get so good at it.......that its really ALL thier own content(sound textures models) and at that point they might think about getting that liscence for the engine. As many of you mentioned, modding the learning place :) Im learning a huge amount of things i didnt know about and i love it! if Valve should change the engine again later........ill port my game to it.....its original.....and because of this will live a longer time :) if peeps had to pay........i wouldnt have a croud the size i do right now.......and we havent even released yet :)

Good topic here Derek

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HitmanV Feb 27 2006 says:

mods should never ever, ever be sold!!!

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methy Feb 27 2006 says:

Good point. I think than Natural Selection probably shows the best example of this, although mods like Day of Defeat and Counter-Strike are there also.

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DerekWarner Author
DerekWarner Feb 27 2006 says:

Quote:If you sell a mod, you will be expected to have servers running for people to play on.

That is assuming the game has multiplayer. Though, some developers and publishers don't ever ensure that they will have servers running the game.

Quote:You also have income and that open you up to lawsuits and so many other fun experiences like taxes.

Taxes aren’t an issue. Most freelance workers have filed taxes exactly how you would if you sold your mod. Get a 1080 form?? I think... it’s been a while :) As for the lawsuits, you can distribute a mod without breaking any legal boundaries as long as what your selling and distributing doesn't contain ANY information distributed from the original game. Programs like Patch, can take the differences from the game and your mod, and per byte include only what you have changed, thus, what you would be selling would be down to the byte, your own work.

Quote:You would also need to secure your mod and assets, which is not easy to do since most mods don't have an executable required to run the mod content.

You know, the mod community spends tons and tons of time arguing about this, and some have valid issues, but most of the arguments come from mods that never release anyway. Someone asked me to use my models and textures, and I told them that I wouldn't allow that, and this group then said they'd use it anyway. I still haven’t seen anyone use my stuff to this day. I just figured it was canceled.

Fact of the matter is, if you sell your mod, you have many more legal rights to protect your work than if you give it away for free.

Quote: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.

Though I see your point, there are other reasons at play as to why counter-strike and day of defeat went to retail, which could be another article on the subject. WON comes to mind, and the fact that at a time Vivendi owned all the servers, and didn't want to pay for something they were not receiving money for. (IE the counter-strike servers) I Havn't seen a Natural Selection retail box.

Press is great, but any blogger knows, internet press is easy to get. I don't think press and being able to build your community really makes for a better mod. (not that i'm doggin' my community) :)

My question on this Mr. Fileplanet (joking) is as you’re telling us we should not sell our mods, but you are charging people 7 dollars a month to download them! :) How fair is that! ( I could charge 7 bucks for a download of my mod, write it off as bandwidth as well :) ) I don't see the difference in my opinion.

So my final question is what is the difference between a high quality mod, and Sin episodes?
Still paying for a short game based on the engine of (in Sin's case) the last episode.

I sense a follow up article coming along sometime soon, especially after some of these "episodic" games start coming into the mainstream.

Thanks for reading!

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methy Feb 28 2006 says:

Sin Epsisodes is essentially a mod. They call their engine "modified" source, but I'm pretty sure that the Dreamscape team modified Source more than they have.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how Sin: Epsilodes works out. I'm currently working on a pulp-noir episodic HL2 mod, and of course there is the awesome MINERVA, of which we all look forward to the next episode. If you are keeping tabs on Steam update news, then you will find out that they are going to exapand of the Half-Life storyline in "short 4-6 hour episodes".

It seems the way everyone is going these days. I look forward on your article on "episodic" games, Derek. If you want any information on the pros and cons of epsiodic development from a mod point of view. Just PM me.

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Undying_Zombie Mar 2 2006 says:

Well take a look at it this way, people sold CS to Vaulve, Vaulve made a bit of a profit but only by the morons that dont realise that you can download it for free. However DOD: S on the other hand. It was sold to Vaulve and came to be a complete flop. Not menny players and not menny servers.

People generaly dont want to pay for a mod. Its not a full game and thats why people tend to go "WTF why am I paying for something thats not even a full game?" Thats the problem Vaulve is starting to face. And its begining to hurt them a bit. Not as much though as it would have if they didint sell it via steam. ( If they sold it in stores instead of via steam it would hurt them more due to cost of different things )

Besides that Hegamon is correct. If anything can be found that you can be sued on, good chance, it will happen.

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methy Mar 2 2006 says:

The above statement is total ********. I'm sorry that I got rude, but that sort of thing just ****** me off. For one, Counter-Strike was not avaliable for download after it was adopted by VALVe. In fact, the completed release of counter-strike was never avalaliable for free legal download. Only betas ever were, and they were removed from internet circulation after the aquisition.

Also, Day of Defeat: Source (for some reason you neglect to mention the massive popularity of the original Day of Defeat; also a mod bought by VALVe and made into a commercial product) gets over 126 million player minutes a month, more than Half-Life 2 Deathmatch, Natural Selection and Garrys Mod combined. I don't think anyone can call this a complete flop.

It is also mentioned that no-one wants to pay for a mod because it isn't a full game. For a start, mods that are sold generally (true in the case of Day of Defeat) have a higher quality than many other mods and provide an (almost always) cheap additon to the fun and replayuablitlity gained from a game. Thus, value for money, because it saves one having to spend US$50 on a new game instead of US$10 on an addition to that game that will garner as much fun as a complete new game.

The last point is that if "anything can be found that you can be sued on, good chance, it will happen." This may be true, but in general game development, good chance is that nothing will be found that you can be sued on. If you don't violate any EULAs, don't use stolen content and generally do everything by the law, chances (good at that!) are that you wont be sued. Also, a lawsuit doesn't atomatically mean that you will lose. Many developers have won legal battles and actually come out better for it.

No-one is saying you should steal an engine, make crappy product, rip off other peoples work and sell it for twice the price of a "full game". I'm so ****** off I've forgotten my stance on the issue. I guess my point is that in many cases, it can be done; in most however, no. Just not for the reasons you gave.

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Dome41 Mar 2 2006 says:

Someone made the comment to me that Mod Companies have come and gone with the promise of supporting the Mod Community. Please ask yourself why that is? Was it because the company was poorly funded, or they were bad businessmen. I really don't think it was either. My theory is that the Mod Companies were not supported by the Mod Development Teams. The Mod Teams must give up something of $$$ value to the Mod Companies in order for them to stay in business and continue to support the Mod Development teams. Servers to run the games and for development cost money and time, they are not free. Promoting a Mod takes effort and money in order to get the word out. Money has to be built into the equation in order to keep the cycle going. I'll bet if you look really close you can find a company that fits the bill and has the right attitude to make it happen.

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