When Valve launched its paid-for mod scheme last week, the developer could never have expected the level of backlash it received. The program, which would have seen Skyrim modders receive payment for their fan-made content, was pulled almost immediately amidst almost entirely negative feedback. PC gamers critical of the scheme cited issues with a lack of quality control, and were proved right when one of the earliest mods available had to be removed due to stolen assets.
Unfortunately, the cancellation of the program means that the positive of hardworking modders receiving structured rewards for their creations will not see the light of day, at least until Valve irons out the substantial kinks in its scheme. It’s certainly fair to suggest that some modders deserve compensation for the content they create, which can offer players an entirely new experience or fix severe bugs with the vanilla build of a title. Fan-made content is sometimes worthy of some kind of financial reward, and those modders who did sign up for Valve’s scheme were not deserving of the abuse and death threats that some received.
Now, it appears as though creators desiring payment have at least one more champion in the industry. In a recent interview with GamesIndustry, former id Software designer and Quake director John Romero also backed the idea of compensation for gaming community creators. “Creators should be rewarded for their hard work,” said Romero. “That’s what we do in our game companies, why would it be so different for outsiders?”
Romero is certainly someone who saw the mod scene expand significantly, and titles such as Doom and Quake caused a huge influence on the growth of modding as a gaming phenomenon. The Doom guru even revealed that Valve is far from the first company to have the idea of monetizing mods. In fact, id Software toyed with creating a scheme of its own to have paid-for mods for its titles, under a separate entity known as id Net.
The developer discussed the plan during the production of Quake in 1995. According to Romero, id Net would have provided a “portal that players would connect to and play other mod maker’s creations.” The developer itself would have curated the site, and the creators of any chosen maps and mods would have been paid an amount equal to the traffic driven to id Net.
Unfortunately for Romero, the mod curation initiative would never see the light of day. The developer dropped plans for id Net because of the time constraints surrounding the creation and release of Quake, and the idea was never reviewed after the game’s launch. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see that the idea of financial rewards for modders has such an early start point, and it will be intriguing to see whether mod creators will eventually see a payment structure outside of the current donation model.