What is fair?

Hi all,

Please help me out here. I am specifically writing to you here because of Fatsharks way of embracing the modding community. This stands in contrast to other studios that I know of, say Bethesda and Valve.
So, here is my question:
What do you think about these relationship(s) between studios/publishers and modders?

There have been a few controversies over the recent years about mods and how companies either try to take an unfair cut when they offer modders to sell their mods through the studio’s platform or prohibit it completely.
What do you think is a fair solution? - Is Fatshark the right solution?

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I don’t think there is A good solution for mods, it all falls down to the game economy and mods type (QoL, skins, content,…)
Fatshark definitively use the good solution for their game.

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The question is… complex, to say the least. There are a lot of variables to consider, and a lot of it is a question of morality and copyright.

First off is the amount of modification to a game that’s allowed. FS has deemed that while on the Modded realm, anything goes (which is okay; it’s strictly opt-in, and when going there you know anything goes), while on the Official Realm, the used mods can only affect yourself, and not by a huge amount at that, so as to not cause compatibility problems or throw someone in a game they don’t expect (though the latter one still has a few problems even in the vanilla game). For a multiplayer game of any kind that allows mods at all, I think this is about the best solution that can be done, even if it causes some more work for all involved. If the attitude was “anything goes” overall, it would immediately lead to blatant cheating (as was already seen in the beginning of VT2, even without any official mod support). If everything was denied, we would be completely at the mercy of the devs to gain any improvements in the game, and their resources are limited. If the effects of mods were to be strictly limited, it would make things harder for the modders (particularly the ones who want to test things and figure out some wilder things) and partially defeat the point of modding.

The developer or publisher selling mods is iffy in my mind. I don’t know the specifics of any particular game, though, so bear that in mind. While the thought that the modders could gain some recognition and even money for their efforts sounds nice, a lot of that money goes to the publisher - likely more than to the modder, which feels wrong to me. It can also limit the players’ access to the mod, depending on how it’s handled. That one can be nasty too, as (mostly, at least) mods are made with free distribution in mind. Taking into consideration what the mods can do, it can also turn to a pay-to-win situation.

On the other hand, the publisher taking some mods and packing them (with or without payment) is by far the easiest and often the only way the mods can make their way to console releases. This creates an inequality between the platforms, even more than there is inherently with the different default controls. In VT2, the PC players have access to a lot of QoL changes that the consoles cannot use, making the game on PC vastly more comfortable to play for some aspects.

There’s also always the question of ownership: the code for a mod is technically the property of the modder, as it’s their work. If the company were to implement that code into the game (inherently or as an “official” mod) there’s likely legal stuff to work out - and it may well strip the modder of the ownership of their work, which is always a questionable decision in my mind. That one has been a consideration for implementing a few features into the base game for FS, although I haven’t seen anything more about it than a few random comments, and afaik both sides have been friendly enough to get it done easily. This one could use some word of confirmation, though, as the comments I remember seeing are probably buried pretty deep in Reddit or Steam threads.

As I said, it’s a complex issue, and I probably didn’t touch even half of it, even with my wall of text.

To me, it is simple: If you are like Zenimax/Bethesda and have long since relied on modders to fix your broken mess of a release, to balance your game for you and to add QoL stuff to it that any reasonable player and customer would expect to be there to begin with, you don’t get to monetize mods or to rule your moddign policies with an iron thumb - for your own interest. How’s that working out for you, Todd?

Anything else is a matter of reason and consent. If you take a mod and implement its features into your main game because you think “wow, this is awesome”, at least give credit to the guy who came up with it. If you implement mods into your game via a transaction system, you have to reimburse them for their intellecutal property. TF2 has struck a reasonable balance with that modders whose weapons made into the game get their share.
I don’t have anything against “payed mods”, but I think it is a stupid idea from a business perspective, because a.) you take something people were used to having for free and monetize it (which is always bad PR), b.) you take someone else’s workforce you have to pay for AND make a profit of if because you provide it as a service (hosting and making sure it is compatible cost money), so pricing might become unreasonable (again, look at the sometimes outrageous prices for “official” Skyrim or FO4 mods and you’ll see what I mean) and c.) officially supporting a mod means you have it under warranty - people buy it from your store with real money for one of your products, so you have to make sure it works. If you just let modders to their thing, you don’t have much control over it, but you don’t have to care if it works, either.

FS seems to be reasonable when it comes to sanctioning mods, but honestly, most of the sanctioned mods do stuff that should be in the game to begin with. For some reason, FS seems to be really enjoying their game being tedious, for what reason I cannot even begin to imagine. It somehow strikes them as being essential to their vision of the game that people have to sit through lootbars at the end of the game, or cutscenes in the beginning of each mission, or watching their company logo swimming towards us, not having numerical interfaces. But these are minor things one can look over. There are alot less reasonable companies out there.

Then again, one of the paragons in this regard is ConcernedApe, the guy that made Stardew Valley. He listens to people when they have concernes with their game, he is honest and open in his communication (I remember that before the release, he said he had to postpone it because he just didn’t feel it was ready yet. He was apologetic, he was honest, he communicated, and there was no noticable shitstorm about it. People were understanding and supportive), he takes almos no political stance in his game or outside of it and lets people do their modding, even though there are some WEIRD mods for SV, and I mean WEIRD. He doesn’t support them, but his position is: People are going to mod it and do stuff with it, anyway, as long as nobody is forcing their own vision of the game on others, just let’em have their fun.
It’s a weird day and age when a single developer has more professional integrity than AAA companies.

I think FS should talk to the Modders and port some of them to the PS4 and Xbox. Some of the mods should be in the base game already. I think they’ve done a good job with the mods overall. And I’m looking forward to a few more being added in the next wave.

  • First no game dev should ever sell or be involved with selling mods.

  • Allowing and even helping modders by making your game easier to mod is admirable.

  • The sanctioned system is good (but slow) as it fends off exploitative mods (cheats) that could affect the experience of others.

Improvements:

  • Mapping tool (they are already on it)

  • Matchmaking and Access
    Currently you have to select at launch if you want to play modded (beyond QoL). I don’t think this is the best system, while matchmaking is accesable in modded realm hardly anybody ever goes there to see if others are active.
    The best way in my opinion would be not to split modded games at launch but in game. Making it possible to select a modded game from the browser or even a separate qp.

Now I know this is pretty much impossible to get as I’m sure that Verimntide mods need to load with the game to work properly but if they ever consider to make another moddable multiplayer game maybe consider it.

Interesting to see the different takes. Very thorough arguments. The overall focus seems to be on whether mods should be a monetized part of games, which is super interesting on its own. I agree it is a very complex topic, but I keep wondering what kind of relationship this is? and would you even consider it a relationship? In the case of FS, I get the impression that the sanction process is what constitute the actual relationship of filtering out the weed and packing the good stuff for others to use, or is there actually a forth and back communication of two parts listening and adjusting to one another?

Can you elaborate on what you mean with morality? How does that play out, is it different depending on the communities, and do you think studios have moral within this context?

The open-source and free user created content is quite interesting part of modding, does that sum up the moral within modding communities? I imagine that might not be the case in the FS/Vermintide modding community, since by allowing a “editorial board” you effectively limit the free flow.

What is good moral when it comes to studios giving credit for work in the modding community? Just a brief mention in the credit list? Or are there other ways?

I see this point, but aren’t most companies forced to do that considered emerging monetization models of DLC’s and microtransactions? I mean, mods in some way disrupt these revenue models right?

Maybe they perceive their game as a collaborative project? Collaboration with modders, isn’t that what modders want at the end of the day?

Can you please elaborate on this: why is it bad to sell mods? Or how should it be instead? are you a modder yourself?

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I’m a very minor modder (mostly edits for my self).

Developers have basically complete control over modding in their games. The ability to sell stuff without having to work or being held to usual standards is tempting.
This monopoly will allow them to favor their own creations over others. This is in fundamental conflict with what makes the community great as well as destabilize basically all mods and will destroy their modding community over time. It also might pathe the way for many other publishers to attempt this money grab damaging the international modding community forever.

There are ways for devs to do basically the same thing like Valve does with TF2 and Dota 2 where creators can submit things and release them together with the devs. This makes mainly the company accountable and separates it from “real” mods.
Also there is such a thing as DLC or in game cosmetic shop in case they want to sell smaller stuff which comes with it’s own “baggage”.

About 3rd party payed mods, well that’s completely up to the devs if they want to allow that. There are a few good ones like the one for Portal 2.

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It’s not as easy to describe but in my view modding is something devs do to appease to customers, to further establish a fan base and let the community lengthen the game time with any thing they please.

Modding can be very unstable but it is generally accepted because it’s free and it’s done by amateurs, nothing costs anything so you’re free to test things out.
This is a paradise for any greedy company if it can monetize it but it only seems like it is because these actually low standards cannot be accepted once you payed for it, once you bought it. Testing usually isn’t really possible unless you pay first.
This usually causes people to loose interest in the mods, less people interested -> less modders create especially ambitions mods -> even less people interested -> less modders -> it’s a downwards spiral.

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What is it you think makes the modding community great? Is there some specific values that the game studios seem to be missing?

How could it damage the modding community? I assume they will just go on making their own free mods for older titles, and not care about studios attempt to control?

So you think Valve is doing it the right way?

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It is hard to say what is directly right or wrong when it comes to modding, as it’s something developed by the community, not the owner of the product being modified.

I realize now that I’ve written one hell of an essay on the topic and I hope I don’t bore anyone! Sorry ahead of time. If I have any typos things you want addressed, let me know :stuck_out_tongue:

Addressing Prior Points

What makes the modding community great is that they are doing it of their own volition; anything created is (usually) made only to be enjoyed by themselves or others. Most modders create content for joy; there’s no need for money/recognition because they had fun creating it and have even more fun enjoying the results. Game studios tend to react poorly to it but that’s probably got more to do with gameplay reasons than being oppressive in some way.

Bingo. I think what he was addressing was that it will damage the modding community for that game in particular, but I think that a modding community as a whole would just shift their attention to a different title (or, if they enjoy the base game enough, they just won’t care because mods aren’t necessary).

Valve is certainly doing it a way. I can’t tell you whether it is strictly right or wrong, but I certainly enjoy their cosmetic market for Dota2. I think it provides an awesome avenue for graphic designers to output incredible works of art and be recognized for it! This, however, cannot be the way most mods occur… cosmetics and gameplay mods are two entirely different beasts.

Devs are, as I can understand it, likely unable to integrate anyones gameplay mods into their game. They can have an ‘Active Mod List’ where you can turn it on and off, but I don’t believe a dev can say “Okay, we voted for you, now I am going to make your code part of my game” and sell it like they do on the Dota2 cosmetic market. Most non-cosmetic mods don’t just add to core gameplay; they change core gameplay and can also subtract from core gameplay. Can’t integrate things like that into a game unless you intend to make the change permanent… but at that point you aren’t approving a mod for a game, you are patching it.

I think this is a very good point to make! Most games that heavily-lean on community modding tend to have very strong, dedicated groups of gamers. Most games that are like this are also single-player. Players are pleased with access to play the game their way, pleased players get their friends to play with all of the awesome mods, and the life of the game is extended with the only cost being to the players. Seems like a pretty huge benefit to me (cough-cough-Skyrim-cough-cough-Fallout-cough).

However, I do have an issue with @Haxorzist’s statement in the final 5 words. The community of many games that depend on mods for additional content are allowed to do anything, but that doesn’t mean every modding community must be allowed to do anything they please.

Modding Details and Modding Implementation Trends/Styles

In Fallout/Skyrim/TF2/Witcher 3/XCOM/Mass Effect/Subnautica/Darkest Dungeon/Divinity/Dragon Age, we can mod pretty much anything we want (which is amazing). However, that doesn’t mean that every game has to let us do whatever we want; let’s note that every game we see here is single-player (for the most part) and has no heavy-emphasis on multiplayer.

There are many games that are multiplayer, but very few of them allow gameplay mods. Any competitive game that’s played online will likely not allow mods, and if they do the mods are almost always cosmetic. This is because the Development team cannot allow mods to change their online gameplay unless it’s an opt-in scenario… and in almost all of the games where you have mods, there are “Modded Servers.” Rust/Minecraft/Terraria/TF2 all have gameplay mods and modded servers, but they are all opt-in. This should ring a bell, because it’s what Vermintide 2 does.

Luckily for us, FatShark has taken the trend a step further (which is WONDERFUL, by the way) by allowing a list of sanctioned mods. Most of them edit the UI, Menus, or Key-Bindings in some way… which is awesome. We now have additional content in the base-game… and it’s still opt-in. Note that they haven’t integrated any mods that change gameplay… and it’s because it would be an absolute nightmare to do so.

Addressing the Title of the Thread

It is impossible what is to be qualified as right and wrong in the case of mods, but fairness is pretty easy as I see it. Please know I am trying to address this as unbiased as I can, but that I’m also human and flawed.

It is fair for a Studio/Publisher to ignore anyone wanting to mod their game; it is their product and they do not have to approve/encourage anything that anyone does in an attempt to mod the game, for better or for worse.

I think that, depending on the game, it is desirable for a Studio/Publisher to create a game where we can mod it as we please because it doesn’t detract from anyone else’s gameplay experience; if it does detract from anyone’s gameplay experience, it will reverse that desire. I am guessing that this is why most desirable Studios/Publishers who do this are producing single-player oriented games.

I think that, depending on the game, it is desirable for a Studio/Publisher to create a game where we can enjoy modded-gameplay on an opt-in basis because a modded game cannot detract from gameplay; this is only true because anyone playing a modded game has opted-in, otherwise it will reverse that desire. I am guessing that this is why most desirable Studios/Publishers who do this are producing creative/cooperative multiplayer oriented games.

I think that, depending on the game, it is desirable for a Studio/Publisher to create a game where we cannot mod it or edit gameplay; instead, it is up to the studio to deliver the experience we want. If they fail to prevent mods/hackers from damaging my experience, it will reverse that desire. I am guessing that this is why most desirable Studios/Publishers who do this are producing strictly multiplayer, competitive games.

However, I like mods! I think they are fun and cool and I love it when someone replaces the Uzi in CS:GO with a kitten that shoots hearts out of it’s eyeballs because it doesn’t change how the game is played and it’s hilarious! :smiley: I also love cooperative/creative games, because that’s just where my heart lives. With that in mind:

I think my favorite sort of Studio/Publisher is one who creates a cooperative/creative game and allows mods on an opt-in basis.

FatShark has done that and has also allowed sanctioned mods into their game because it doesn’t conflict with what makes a Studio/Publisher less desirable for a cooperative/creative game. Your mods don’t hurt my experience, so FatShark has opened the door. That’s… pretty amazing in my book.

TL;DR: I believe that, for the model of game that FatShark is pursuing, they have one of the best (if not the best) models for allowing mods on their game.

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As a side note, thank you for provoking such thoughtful conversation. It’s cool to see everyone’s take on modding and I appreciate you having taken the time to help us think through it.

It’s hard to verbalize my thoughts on this clearly, and as I haven’t been actively involved in modding (or using mods significantly, for that matter) I cannot really comment on specific instances or studios’ morality. But in general, I think the morality question is about the publishers potentially gaining money (and recognition) for work they or their employees didn’t do, using volunteer fans’ work as an alternative or support to developing their game, and possibly, at worst, potentially even drowning out the modders’ names in favor of the mod itself and its association with their game. I think the people who do work on a game (be it as an employee or a volunteer fan, aka a modder) deserve recognition on it, and if it makes money, a fair part of that. I find these a somewhat grey area, something that needs to be considered by everyone individually and on a case-by-case basis. Some of them may be quite clear-cut (if a company starts making money on mods on PC is downright a bad thing, imo) but others are less so (for example, when a mod brings significant recognition to a game, but the modder stays unrecognised).

Its interesting to see how the debate primarily remains at a state of discussing the pros and cons of modding, and what benefits studios receive from embracing it. I guess that has something to do with the state of modding vs the industry debate, as a user created content that needs to be validated/recognized as good enough.
But if we approach the discussion without having to argue “for” modding, but instead adopt that modding is here to stay and is valid content. Then maybe we can get more focus on how the relationship between studios and modders should be, or at least where the current relationship is not doing well enough (in terms of fairness, moral, respect etc), instead of just establishing that there should be a relationship.

Yzneftamz touch upon this:

and:

Kekmaster touches upon it as well:

Torantolis, by answering what makes the modding community great we might be able to identify some community norms and “code of conduct” that provides answers to how the game studios should approach the matter differently:

You address the title initially but then change the argument to what is considered desirably. Interesting comparison and rationalization of studio genre choices still, maybe it just exemplifies how difficult it is to actually determine fairness. Again, I’d suggest digging deeper into modding community norms around moral and respect between modders and mod-users, then it might be easier to get a clear idea of what would be fair in the case of modders-studios relationship?

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Don’t worry, I’m thinking on it now, but I’m not sure that my response will be coherent if I start writing it before I’m formed some thoughts :smiley:

And good point on my addressing the title. As an explanation for why I didn’t address fairness as opposed to desirability:

My initial thought was to just establish whether or not it was fair for us to be allowed to mod, but you’ve addressed that pretty clearly :stuck_out_tongue: assuming that there is a modding relationship and we are determining things more akin to the “sanctioned mods,” there’s another argument that should be made vastly different than the one I did!

Again, I’m thinking on it. Very fun thought-exercise.

I’ll just repost this part of a previous post, because I think it deserves more attention. And also a friendly reminder for Kekmaster to reply :stuck_out_tongue: Or let us know that hes not interested in participating

I will start by speaking about what I feel as “fair”.

Let’s say that I’m a head of a developer studio and I have a game which is popular and fun to play. But then there are mods which are making it even more popular and fun for people to play it.
I’d gather the modders of the most popular mods and work with them to integrate some of the mods to the game. I’m talking about things that should’ve been in the game from the very start. I’d pay them for that of course and give them credit, even give them further incentive and encourage them to work on new mods - for which I’d offer them a certain amount of :dollar:

Why? Because I believe that in this day and age a developer can earn a decent amount of money and stay fair. I believe that there are still some people who are willing to limit their greed and avoid the trappings of the big money making corporations of the gaming world. Sure, that new Porsche and a third house does sound nice, but you don’t want to sell your soul for it. You can still be happy with a BMW instead of Porsche and “only” 2 houses.

It’s all about embracing modders. You have some ideas which will make my game even better, more popular and extend its lifespan? That’s wonderful, I want to reward you for the hard work and the fact that you will help me to make it better. I will share some revenue with you because I think you deserve it. I might even offer you a position at my company if you are really that good, or consider you for a freelancer who will work on some modules from time to time.

Take Warhammer Total War for example: It’s a great game but it doesn’t have soul. It’s missing a lot of warhammer fluff and flavor (something that Vermintide has a lot). But, the mods that are out there… I tell you, some of them are really brilliant and so close to the lore that I don’t even play the game without the mods any more (and I’m not alone). Fortunatelly, the best modders have a Patreon going on and they are getting rewarded for all the content they are creating. But I find that really unfair because Sega and CA are not rewarding them for all the contribution.

TLDR: Developers should pay modders for their creations, but they should NEVER charge the customers for it.
Fatshark is doing a really good thing by embracing the modding community.

Why not join the Fatshark Discord https://discord.gg/K6gyMpu