Poll Question 296 – How do you feel about mods you have to buy?

23rd July 2014

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

MisterAddy brought this topic up in the July 2014 General Chat post and I feel it’s worth discussing more.

Aperture Tag was greenlit (is that right?) and released on Steam. It’s a mod, set in the Portal universe, where you have a paint gun, which you use to reach the end. I watched some of it on Maxtasy’s YouTube Channel and it looked Okay. But only Okay.

In fact, the idea of paying for mods is not new and this is not the first poll question about it. Back in March 2007, I asked Would you actually pay for a mod? and the voting was pretty close.

The thing is that times have changed a lot and back in the early 2000s people modded for fun, but now it’s seen as a legitimate way of getting into the gaming industry. I think that if I do buy a mod it has to be soemthing very, very special. Not only that but a minimum of 6 hours long.

How do you feel?

Feel free to either vote or just discuss it if you feel my vote options are not suitable.

Time to vote


  1. JG

    I’m open to the idea, but it has to be something really special or exceptionally well done. We’re talking about the elite level of Half-Life 2 mods here, like Research & Development or Mission Improbable. Not the junk that usually infests Greenlight.

    I’m also not going to say authors can’t do it. It’s not my place to make that call. Ultimately, it’s up to the gamers to decide what is or isn’t worth their money. What people should keep in mind is that the amount of work that goes into a mod surely exceeds the work that gets put into a lame Flappy Bird knock-off which people actually charge money for.

  2. I really thought that would be a dumb idea. When people hear the word “mod”, they think of something that can change the game so much, it feels like getting a whole new game for FREE and legally. Modders are supposed to make the mods for their liking, and hearing the community’s voice about them, not for how much money they will make if they think “what if I make this mod purchasable?”

    This is my own personal opinion and I hope you respect it.

  3. Tudor Ionel

    Contagion, Insurgency, Chivalry, Natural Selection 2 are good examples of proper games that came from mods. For those I’m willing to pay, but for half assed mods or good but not new in any way, no thanks.

  4. As long as both companies are okay with it, I’m open to the idea. However, I think the companies should PLAY the mods first (I haven’t played Chernobyl, but I’ve heard it’s absolutely horrid).

  5. For me there’s little difference between a good mod and a good game as long as the price is reasonable and they’re selling it legally I don’t really mind though I’m less likely to play something if I have to pay for it.

  6. Ade

    I think the mistake started with that eye candy map with just a story and no gameplay, I can’t remember the name for it.
    For a single player installment, definitely not. If a multiplayer mod arises with a potential of thousands of hours of replayability, sure. But so far I haven’t seen anything to top R&D, which was highly enjoyable and rewarding, pure awesomeness packed up so tight in a gem of a mod that no words will do it justice. And it was free. And like Phillip said, it has to be quite a few hours long to be worth anything. So no.
    I am all for donating during the development, if I feel they deserve a beer for their awesome work, or they wish to bring in professional help. But that’s it. The final product is still a mod. Mods should be free. The game is already paid, tyvm.

    1. JG

      Probably Dear Esther.

    2. Unq

      I find it a little absurd that you label Dear Esther a mistake, which directly implies that it had negative consequences. For the developer, Dear Esther sold very well and helped cement The Chinese Room as a successful small indie game studio. Were there any negative consequences for the community? I can’t think of any. The original mod is still playable for free.

      I find it similarly absurd that you set the bar at thousands of hours of playtime when you’d consider paying for a mod, and that you automatically eliminate single player mods. Not even a SP mod of high quality like Research & Development, if there was a small cost, would convince you that it might be OK for authors to charge for mods if they wanted? You wouldn’t feel that your money was well spent?

      Maybe I just have more of an open mind about this. I think it’s fine, and the consumers will decide whether the idea holds any water when they vote with their money.

      1. Ade

        You’re reading my opinion in the wrong way. In another thread I already stated that I would understand if they went the commercial path, it wouldn’t be a crime
        I’m just saying why I wouldn’t buy one. I would happily donate during the development. And to add to what I said in that post, it would also be an idea to pay if you feel the mod deserves it. I like bandcamp as it lets you listen a track fully and have the option to not buy it. If you like the track and feel the need to support the artist, then you move on to actually purchase that track, or the entire album if you feel generous.

        It did have negative consequences, I feel I was prived from then on from playing certain mods. And I was probably not the only one. And there’s a possibility that The Chinese Room might’ve been formed anyway, just through other means or slower.
        Yes the original mod is still there, which is another reason I chose not to buy the paid one, but that doesn’t go for all the other paid mods out there. There is no demo version for each paid mod. In a way, I did pay for a mod for a game, as that’s how I view Quantum Conundrum, a Portal mod, and I was disappointed. I bought it after the demo made me curious if the actual game would bring in more and better things, but it felt like it was made for 10 year olds and lost interest rather quickly. From that moment on, I began to me more weary about spending money on games as I have some in my lib that have never even been installed.
        I set my bar to thousands because HL2: DM is the only good MP investment I made so far. I have so many games in my lib that I just never play. SP AND MP. We all do. And mind you these are games, not mods, and to expect a mod to do better is simply unrealistic. And to expect an SP mod to give me more playable hours than an MP mod is preposterous. My bar is set through MY experience and math, it is not absurd, but realistic.

        1. Unq

          What do you mean by ‘prived’? Prevented? I don’t recognize the word, and if it’s just a typo I can’t figure out what you meant.

          And which mods are you talking about? Despite how you view it and despite having a few things in common, Quantum Conundrum is certainly not a Portal mod. Yes, you don’t have demos for paid mods but you don’t have demos for the majority of games these days either. But with the rise of Let’s Play videos and Twitch, you have another decent avenue to judge quality before purchasing any game these days.

          I think I’m just at odds with you and most of the world who place number of playable hours above everything when it comes to judging value of games. That’s what I find absurd.

          1. JG

            Maybe “deprived.”

            Also, wholeheartedly agree with Let’s Plays and Twitch. Much of their rising popularity is due to people being able to see the game in action with their own eyes and assess whether or not they may like it, rather than relying on the words of a reviewer.

            I don’t recall if it was on the Aperture Tag or Estranged Steam page, but someone had said – we’re arguing for “free” on behalf of tradition. That’s what it really boils down to: an old tradition. A tradition that fails to acknowledge the sea change the gaming industry is undergoing and the shift toward small scale, indie development. Not to mention the hundreds, if not thousands of hours it takes to develop a professional quality mod, stock assets or not.

            If you have a great 2-3 hour mod and you find it’s every bit as fun, if not better, than a retail game, then isn’t that worth something more than a “thanks?”

            1. Ade

              Yup. Googling reveals this etymology: “From deprived, by shortening.”

  7. Whilst I, of course, am entirely grateful to every good mod that’s released, I don’t think paid mods are the way to go.
    It might just be the purist in me that’s saying this, but modding communities are there to create content for the communal enjoyment of them.

    I fear that paid mods would simply drive modding communities to place all the effort behind a paywall. Would a person who spent months on a project really not put it on the steam store if given the option?
    I feel as though as a community, whether it be on ModDB, Interlopers or Planetphillip, we’re all in this together as content creators and content consumers. We make stuff because we live for the praise and thanks of the others in this little society we have. We don’t make it for the paycheck.
    Would it be ridiculous to say paid half life 2 maps would ruin the spirit of this modding community? I’m not sure.

    As presented in other people’s statements, multiplayer mods are a toss-up.
    Mods that use the source engine as a springboard to create something entirely new (a good example might be Dear Esther or Killing Floor (Unreal Tournament)) are also fine. I guess there’s a lot of grey area here.

    It would kill me inside to see productions like Underhell or Mission Improbable become paid. Set up a donation box, I’ll send you $10 if I like it, I’m down for that. I’m always awestruck by the effort still put into modding a 7 year old game, and asking for nothing in return but kind words.

    Just… wrapping something so expressive and free of corporate bindings behind a paying model really doesn’t sit right with me. There will always be exceptions, but as with many things, I fear the slippery slope of a free modding community being eroded by locking content behind monetary transactions.

  8. 2muchvideogames

    Werent they planning to make black mesa a pay to play mod? In the end it comes down to whether the team wants the community to enjoy their work or whether they want money. Because charging a price on a mod is the easiest way to drastically decrease the amount of players.

    Also, given that mods have unknown quality, asking for payment is like a gamble, given how we all know that some mods are of…questionable… quality. Whether its filled with bugs or crashes or have a ridiculous difficulty, having to pay money and find out you have a mod with these kind of problems is a big no-no.

    Some mods, like cry of fear and sven coop simply asks for donations while remaining free for the community, and they do get a whole list of donators. I think that any modder that wants EVERYONE to pay to play is just wanting some money rather than wanting to share their work.

  9. Unq

    Phillip, why 6 hours long? That seems to be an arbitrary number, especially since we pretty much agree on the quality over quantity idea of maps and mods on your site. You wouldn’t even consider paying for a high quality mod that was only maybe an hour long?

    For me, I guess it boils down to keeping an open mind. Would I pay for a mod? Sure! Would I encourage authors to charge for their mod? If they feel it’s worth it, yes. And ultimately that’s decided by the potential consumer – we ask ourselves every day: “Is what I’m about to buy worth the cost?” Why eliminate a mod from the list of potential things to enjoy just because there’s a cost to it? Even if you don’t want to buy it, other people might and might find it well worth their money.

    I don’t think asking money for a mod inherently changes the modding community, or provides a slippery slope that leads to paying for the majority of mods. I simply think that it’s just fine that it’s an avenue that a modder can take if he/she wants.

    Ultimately the consumers will choose whether it was a good decision or not; if nobody buys it, it wasn’t the right decision for that particular mod.

    That all said, I wouldn’t buy a mod unless I was pretty sure it was worth it. But I’m all for paying for a quality experience. Recent examples: Dear Esther, The Stanley Parable, and you can probably include 30 Flights of Loving (built on the Quake 2 engine). All were fantastic experiences and well worth the money. 30 Flights was only about 20 minutes long but it oozed style and cleverness. I’m glad I bought and played it, and would again for a similar experience, mods included.

    1. You are right. 6 hours is an arbitrary number but my point was that if I am going to pay for something it needs to be something substantial. New gameplay or models etc, just doesn’t cut it for me. I want quantity AND quality if I have to pay.

      That “30 Flights of Loving” looks very interesting.

      1. JG

        Since Unq mentioned it, I wonder what you think of The Stanley Parable. For me, it was an incredibly amusing game, bordering on absurd, about the nature of choice (or lack thereof) in video games.

        1. I haven’t played it, but I’ll try and add it to the site before I leave for my holiday next week.

          1. Unq

            The mod is good, but the game is great. They are actually different enough to easily warrant a purchase if you liked the mod.

            1. JG


              Who would’ve thought you could have a legitimate excuse to use Half-Life 2 dev textures in a retail product? 😀

    2. Ade

      “Ultimately the consumers will choose whether it was a good decision or not; if nobody buys it, it wasn’t the right decision for that particular mod.”
      Not when all of us are guilty in different percentages of being a collector and Steam gives badges for this particular vice. Anything out for sale on Steam will find at least a few buyers that simply have to own everything, and not necessarily play everything. So 0 buyers is a wrong threshold to set when concluding whether the right decision was taken for the mod.

      1. Unq

        Pfft, I didn’t literally mean zero buyers and you know it. 😛

  10. ikar

    I do not against having to pay for the modification, but there are many nuances:
    1 Modifications, worthy to pay for them – unfortunately, not very much
    2 The question of quality and translation into other languages
    Few modifications have become separate games and preserving quality:
    for example, I’m translating the game, which was formerly Source modification – the developer refused to integrate full translation, he was too lazy-busy – if it was a modification, it would be enough for me to put the subtitle file to a specific location.[/spoiler]
    3 I think it would be great if it were possible to centrally distribute, translate, via special hub on STS, and collect donations for the mods – like Steam Workshop, but with a button “Donate” like Humble Bundle

  11. Thanks for making the topic into a poll question.

    I mostly share Salamancer’s view as I worry that more modders could decide to charge for what would have previously been released for free. Maybe it’s naive of me but I would like to think that in this community mods are made for the joy of creating and sharing and are largely free from commercial interests. I’m sure it wouldn’t “destroy modding” or anything drastic like that, but seeing a lot of paid mods seems to go against the spirit of modding.

    Then again, looking at my Steam games list one “mod” that I have paid for is The Stanley Parable, and I felt completely happy to do so. I think where the line is drawn has something to do with how much a mod relies on its original game. Aperture Tag is very clearly based on Portal 2 and uses all of its assets, whereas the paid version of The Stanley Parable has almost nothing tying it to either Half-Life or Portal. I think that’s the point where it becomes not a mod but a game in its own right, which is okay to pay for. Even so it’s not entirely clear at what point you can make that distinction.

  12. I’m open to the idea but the quality level needs to be extremely high before I consider spending money. I put it in the same basket as dlc and expansion packs, most of which today are quite laughable considering the asking price for what is offered.

    If you consider adding a new model or skin a mod like the Skyrim modding community, then it is already happening with games like TF2, CS:GO and DOTA 2 and has been very successfully for quite some time now. The quality level is vetted by Valve but all the content is community made and the creators get a percentage of the sale of each item sold.

    I’m assuming that Valve has vetted the quality of the mod Aperture Tag before allowing it to be released because there would be licensing issues in selling a mod. I actually think it is closer to an expansion pack like Opposing Force or Blue Shift, neither of which were made by Valve.

    In the end, there will always be people who mod for the love of modding and others that are looking to make money, either by creating portfolio pieces and being hired or making something to sell directly.

    I don’t see free mods dying. I believe that mods are just playing a proportionally smaller part in the growing gaming ecosystem.

  13. Rabid_moustache

    I will only say a mod should be put on sale if it has custom content or is well made, what many people seem to forget is that quite alot of valve’s IPs are based on mods (Team Fortress, Dota, Counter Strike, Day of Defeat) and the games that spawned from these mods have become some of the most well known and cherished games out there.

    1. Ade

      Yes, but those are MP mods 🙂

    2. JG

      Half-Life itself was, in some sense, a Quake mod.

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