Mod Community Funding

24th February 2012

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

My first thought after I heard “Dear Esther” had recouped its investment in the initial 6 hours after release was “so what? Bully for them”.

Not that I don’t wish the authors success – I do. I’m certainly not a fan of mods that turn retail mid development but that doesn’t mean I want them to fail. If there are enough potential buyers then that’s great.

I just got the feeling that somebody was almost rubbing our noses in the fact it was a success. Almost as if the feeling of “being cheated” was wrong. Just because a bunch of people bought it doesn’t mean I don’t feel cheated.

Now, I have not played the retail version and the extra content may justify the cost. I would be very intersted to see some sort of meta scores for both mod and retail versions by players who have finished both.

Where do we go from here?

As somebody a bit older than 90% of my readers, it’s a little easier for me to think and work long term. What interests me more about this “mod-to-retail” phenomena is not the success of the first title but what happens next.

If you are a good modder or game maker then you won’t have just one good idea but many. What will they announce next and how will it be recieved?

They have more than likely burnt their bridges with the mod community. Not in a bad sense, but they couldn’t announce a mod and be trusted. Sure, the mod community makes up a significant proportion of the retail community – every modder buys games but not everybody who buys games mods.

By turning mod-to-retail, I don’t think it will be easy for them to go back to modding. I certainly wouldn’t support a mod in the same way I might have before.

I recognize my views might not match most players though. After the end of The Sopranos I vowed never to watch another TV show created by David Chase. The ending ruined the whole series for me. Yes, I’m an extreme, but I feel that my sentiments will be mirrored, albeit in weaker form, but others in the modding community.

Capitalism at work

Last year I discovered a way for end users to support the people who provide them with content. You might be thinking “buying the games” does that, and you’d be right, but who gets the thing started?

Why should fat cats sitting in offices reap the benefits?

I’m certainly not suggesting anything radical, it’s been going on for a while in gaming and in other areas but I propose that any mod that plans to go retail give the community the chance to be the financial backers and in addition not just get the game and any other fringe benefits, but actually make money too, same as the authors.

I would be prepared to put money into a fund that was used soley for the development of mods into retail games. That fund could be administered either by an industry expert or on an indiviual basis i.e. I mange my own money within the fund.

See support in action

Luminesca was featured on this site last year and since then the total has crept up, but nothing worth noting. This game may not be that interesting for me and I am not suggesting that this game deserves more attention than any other, it just happens to be being made by a game designer I know that made a great mod.

Why couldn’t we create a fund that would allow one or two chosen modders the chance to turn their dream into reality?

And here is the kicker. I’ll support mods turned retail with all my heart under the following circumstances:

1. There is a proof of concept mod I can play. Not a mod that later turns retail. I want to know it’s aiming for retail from the beginning, otherwise I will feel cheated. Sure, most mods would love to go retail but let’s be honest 99% don’t deserve to be.

2. I get the opportunity to invest and reap the financial rewards that would normally go outside the community and into somebody else’s pocket. Just like running the site, any money I would earn would go back into making more retails conversions.

I have no doubt that some of you think I am naive and you could be right, but I like to think of it as helping the community that gives us players so much free content.

Helping ourselves AND others

This is the way capitalism works but co-operatives do survive and in some cases flourish under the right circumstances. Why couldn’t we help our own AND help ourselves.

Desura or ModDB, as is so often the case due to their market reach, would be the prefect leader of a mod-community based funding project.

Will it happen? Probably not. Why? For the same reason that most things don’t happen within our communiry:
Apathy and pettiness.

Still, maybe I am being too negative and somebody, not me, will take up the cause and start the fund.

It would be difficult managing the money and making sure the cut of profits was fairly distributed, but perhaps that’s the easy part. Simple percentages etc.

Maybe the hard part would be selecting the mods or modders. But again, maybe a simple voting system would be enough. The fund adminsitrator carefully selects mods to vote on and the community selects.

The fund sets out strict guidlines for POC demos and ensures they are seen by as many players as possible. Two votes could take place; investors and players.

Of course, those applying for funding would need to be known within our community and some sort of checks carried out to ensure they don’t just take the money and run but all the issues are solvable.

Our gaming community must work together so we all benefit.



  1. I’d invest! It sounds like a great idea, Philip!

  2. What they did for Cry of Fear – donations for some exclusive content – is the right way to do it, IMHO.

    I’m More interested in being free to pay than -suddenly with mod-going-straight-to-retail- forced to pay.

    I don’t want a “general” fund – this would lead to some misuses, and the downfall of the mod world.

    For example, the good way would be a team showing us WIP images, trailers to tease us, and if it’s good, ask for some donations, reward being exclusive content.

    This could work for Grey, Canvas, or the HL SS mod’s.

    And come on – lf PP manages each year to get his 500 $ money just by donations for running his website, good mod’s could also raise a good amount of donations.

  3. I have seen many mods that I feel people would have been happy to pay for as expansion packs to original content. Consider mods like Mission Improbable, Research & Development or Rexaura.

    To me these present production quality gaming (or better if you look at releases like Lost Coast) and people will always be willing to pay for good additional content for Valve games.

    The only drawback of course is that we’re not allowed to charge for our mods. If you want to charge for it you have to pay Valve money to license the Source engine.

    So while the initial freeware beta version could be created in source, we would need to move the content to one of the freeware 3D games engines which are all pretty rubbish unfortunately and very poorly supported. Just think of all that coding that would be required in order to bring the game engine in line with the Source engine. Nasty…

    I still love the idea though of a collective that invest in a game thought.

    One other thought I’d like to add though is that there is only one point in a game going retail.

    To make profit. If that’s not your primary goal then there’s no point in going retail with a game.

  4. What about running a massive poll on what would be your dream mod, and then the winner of the contest would be then developed by a team of the most talented modders, and at this point they would get paid by the collective funding?


  5. 2muchvideogames

    It sounds here like a mod has become a potential company, with investors buying ‘shares” of the mod’s potential success… then it won’t be modding that we are talking about here, we are talking about business investments, stocks, and etc. Then I wonder what kind of a modding community would exist in that kind of situation. A Dow Jones chart for developing mods? Heh, I have no idea what that would be like.

  6. while the concept really sounds terrific, doing whats right for the gamer community, Helping our own as it were I don’t think it could work. even as a co-op type setup. Reason being (as PP noted) “Fat cats sitting in offices reaping the benefits” is because there are a lot of issues in going retail and they are expensive. There is a large overhead involved including but certainly not limited to legal issues, copyright infringement issues, marketing etc etc.

    Just off the top of my head I can recall some comments made on maps/mods posted here on PP that refer to things like “oh that level reminds me of Doom” or “i think i’ve played a level similar to this in Wolfenstien” (just as an example). Now if that was to happen on a mod that went retail the issues involving liability could have any “investors” certainly held responsible.
    Again, I think on paper the concept is wonderful but I just don’t believe it could really get off the ground IMO

  7. Mr. Walrus

    I think it’s a brilliant idea, if done right. It could end up rather disastrously though, and I can just imagine people demanding their money back if their donations were placed into a mod they didnt vote on. There’d probably have to be some VERY specific points listed as to what happens to the money if one did donate.

    Though once again, if executed correctly, it could be brilliant. A mod we fund with an idea we like. The “Modding Grand Fund” is somethind I’d definitely be willing to donate to if someone organized it.

  8. lambda


    I love the concept of investments and captialism (I am a big supporter of that) and you know I would be the first one lining up to run a “hedge” fund for modders. This could actually be established fairly easily and I want to see if anyone would go with this idea.

    Start up a group fund.
    Have a basic buy in of maybe $100 to join that goes to the “fund.”

    The fund then communicates with mods raising enough money to hopefully support them
    get a source license (Since its under NDA and after doing a bit of research, I am going to say it cost a few thousand maybe 2-5)

    The mod team would then sign an agreement with the fund that the fund would give them the money for the license (and some maybe extra for expenses) and the developers would have to give them a certain percentage of sales (possibly all future sales if investing in the company, possibly just sales for that game if that is the group’s only investment).

    Each person starts at the same level; however, if someone donates more into the fund then they own more based on their proportion compared to everyone else. Every vote would be done on percentage, up to 100%. For example, 10 people in the fund, everyone has $100 except one guy has 200 and another 150. The $200 guy has 17% and the $150 has 13% and each other person has 9%.

    I would be more than happy to run it. I think you could get over 20 people involved and make it profitable.

    1. I think there are plenty of options for how it could work.

      I’m not sure I would go the Source Licence route but that would be perfect if you could pull that off. I suspect it’s significantly more than 5,000 Dollars.

      Perhaps once enough funds have been collected, mods teams are invited to send in a “Pitch”, with the best being chosen. It could happen at the same time each year and be similar to ModDB’s Mod of the year, it could even be tied to that.

      1. lambda

        Very good idea… we need to skype chat one of these days. Anyway, yeah I am not sure at all the “closest” engine I could find was unity at $1,500 so yeah). The unreal engine apparently goes for $750,000 circa 2006 and an unreliable source but still. Probably in the upper hundreds of thousands.

  9. RS

    Great Post… btw.. How much they pay(Dear Esther team) for use the Source Engine?

    1. Thank you. It’s very difficult to find the price for using the Source engine as people all sign Non Disclosure Agreements.

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