Poll Question 312 – How do you feel about the concept of paid mods?

1st May 2015

WOW, what an interesting time we live in.

I’m not going to go into all the detail of the recent “paid Mods” event because I am sure you have been following it and probably know more about it than I do. However, I am going to talk about how it could affect me and this site.

If it is new for you, then I would suggest LambdaGenerations three excellent articles: 1, 2 & 3 and INtense!’s ModDB post as good summaries of different points of view.

Where I stand

Personally, I support the concept but like many I was unhappy with the way Valve announced and planned it.

However, there was a time when I became very worried about the Steam Workshop believing it would force the closure of sites like mine.

Now I feel a well-managed, community-support paid mods programme would actually be fantastic for RTSL.

Could actually make this site stronger

What better need for a site than when there are hundreds (maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you never know) of mods that you have to pay for but need help choosing. The recommendation system here would become incredibly useful to potential purchasers of mods. Being able to see independent, honest and fair reviews of paid content would be essential.

Yes, I know that the Steam workshop itself has a rating and comment system, but let’s be honest the comments and ratings can be very strange.

Recently, I suggested adding a new set of MetaData details to a small group of RTSL testers. One of the points would be how much you would have paid for a mod. It was decided that this information might not be useful, but maybe if paid mods are eventually released, then this would be perfect.

It’s not as if this idea is new. Back in 2007, I asked the same question: Poll Question 20: Would you actually pay for a mod? The results are quite interesting.

Between 2 and 4

I’ll leave you with one final thought before you vote. Valve’s wording in the statement they made when announcing the change of mind was clear. This is definitely coming. It’s a case of WHEN and for what GAME. It’s seems obvious now that for it to work it needs to be introduced with a new game, not one that already has lots of community content.

What game do you think will have hundreds of maps and mods made for it? Yes, the one between 2 and 4.

I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Valve have this option when they release the game, although I don’t think it will be the first game to have it.

What do you think?

Before you vote

You will notice that the poll contains 3 choices, split into three sections; Developer, Player Anonymous. I created it like this because I feel it would be useful to see how the two different types of people in the gaming community vote. Some may prefer to not affiliate themselves with any one group and for those people I created the Anonymous.

Of course, all Developers are also Players, but once you become a Developer you view things differently to people who ONLY play games.

Time to vote


  1. Personally I don’t see the problem. If a modder wants to sell their work and people are willing to pay for it then good luck to them.

    The steam model wouldn’t have worked for what we do as all our mods can be played in a few hours. The 24 hour trial period would have allowed people to play the mod and then ask for a refund.

    What annoyed me more was the reaction to the suggestion. That modders don’t deserve to get paid. In most other creative forms (music / art / film) people can create things and charge money for them. Given the amount of time and work it takes to create a solid mod I think there is value there that players don’t appreciate.

    If you’re given something for nothing you don’t place any value on it.

    1. Agreed. The 24 hour money back seems like a crazy idea.

      I also agree that people feel modders shouldn’t get paid for their work.

      Yes, most people make mods because they love but so did writers and film makers at the beginning. Modding has come a long way since the early years of simple maps.

    2. Hec

      Personally I don’t see the problem. If a modder wants to sell their work and people are willing to pay for it then good luck to them.

      Agree, but JP, what do you think about quality??

      Doesn’t that mod which is willing to charge money in order to get it, would really need to pass some hard line beta testing process???

      I mean its great you create something and you’re free to sell it. But if the creation is poor in quality terms that can be a doom for the creator itself.

      1. I think the community is reliable enough to provide good ratings as to whether something is value for money or not.

  2. As a concept, it’s good, but the way it was executed was pretty bad, like Greenlight. The workshop was filled with troll mods that hardly took an hour to develop, and charged you around 10$ for it. I think quality mods like Falskaar deserve to cost money, since the dev put around 2,000 hours in development. Instead, we get some Lord Gaben mod which adds little to no content. Also, the system of 75% Valve, 25% Dev was really bad.

    1. It seems that the system of 50% to the game developer, 25% to Valve and 25% to the modder is industry standard, but that doesn’t mean it’s fair in this case. The game developer should get a small percentage, although you could argue that by having mods available more people would buy their game. Isn’t that what happened with Counter-Strike at the beginning?

      Valve should also get a percentage because they host the files etc. But there is little doubt that the modder should get a higher percentage.

      1. JG

        Lambda Generation said it was 30% to Valve (apparently, their cut for everything sold on Steam) with the rest divided between the publisher and the modder at the publisher’s discretion. In this case, Bethesda chose to go with a really high number, 45%.

        I believe Bethesda had an ulterior motive for choosing that number as well. Valve’s policy states that modders don’t get paid until they make $100 in profit. That’s after Valve and Bethesda take their cut. So, you’d need to move 400 copies of your $1 mod before you saw anything from it. The two would make, at a minimum, $300 off your work before they chose to share any of it with you.

        I don’t feel that division is fair in the slightest. Let’s be honest, market dilution would make that a very difficult threshold to clear for most mods, which means the vast majority of the revenue would go straight to Valve and the publisher, not the modders. Bethesda probably chose the 45% cut because the higher their percentage, the less likely they’ll reach the threshold where they have to share it with modders.

        That’s why when Valve unveiled this program with the expressed purpose of helping modders, it came across as disingenuous. Considering that modders play a big role in keeping their respective games active and in the public eye, which helps sales, the proposed policy was a slap in the face.

        In the past, I was strongly against the idea of charging for mods. But, over time, as we’ve seen people get paid for far lesser things (case in point, the “I whipped this up in an hour in Unity” indie game that makes the rounds on YouTube, or the “I cloned a popular game and I’m selling it in the app store” game), it is no longer possible to justify that view. The problem rests solely with how Valve chose to implement it, which struck me as exploitative.

        It used to be that the reward for being a great modder was eventual employment in the video game industry. Indeed, this still happens, as we’ve seen Gearbox extend an olive branch to the fellow who built Transmissions: Element 120. But today, I don’t think many see that as an enviable goal, either because they don’t want to do it as a career, or because they dislike the way the “triple A” game industry is currently going, or because they prefer doing it all themselves. So, it stands to reason that for hobbyist projects, we could have a payment system that appeals to them.

        Other concerns I have include how monetization of mods could lead to a restricted flow of information between modders, who will start to see each other as competitors rather than fellow hobbyists, as well as what happens when an unscrupulous user downloads mods from a site like RTSL and attempts to monetize them, unbeknownst to the actual author.

  3. I would pay for a high quality mod, but only if the mod creator(s) receive(s) most of the money.

    1. Would you buy a book only if the author got most of the money? Don’t misunderstand, I am not disagreeing with you, I’m just saying that if the standard way it works in gaming and other industries is the same, then our feelings about modders should be consistent.

      1. I’m not saying the mod host should not get any money, but it certainly should not get the most of it. Ideally, the buyer should choose how his cash should be distributed: just like with HumbleBundle. I liked that system very much …

      2. JG

        If I had the option? I’d want the author to get as much from it as they possibly can.

        The publisher/syndicate system had its time and place when mass communication took effort. But now, anyone can showcase their talents on YouTube or a myriad of other web sites. And that’s how it should be. I personally feel that the traditional system can be an archaic business model that ends up suppressing creativity and innovation in favor of mediocrity.

        The music industry is a good example of this. It tries to tell us that Justin Bieber is a fantastic singer who deserves millions for his talents, but YouTube proves that he’s nothing special. A lot of people have superior talent, but we’d never know about them because the syndicates ignore them.

        Myself, I welcome this upheaval among creatives. If we can all have a direct link to our respective audiences, then a democracy decides, not some executive.

    2. I think this is a good position.. the 25% gave me pause for thought too…

  4. I’m against it.

    Now, before I get flamed by some rich kids with enough money to buy every crap, let me explain. People who come to modding don’t usually think about money. They mod because it’s their passion. They do it for fun, because they like it. You might ask “And what if they don’t?” Well, that’s pretty simple. Get the hell away from modding if you don’t like creating. Nobody’s forcing you.

    It doesn’t have to be that way for modders though. They can make a small team of enthusiasts and make something from scratch. Then they can be selling it on Steam as an indie game. Let’s be honest, many indie games on Steam suck and show some serious lack of effort. Easy money.

    Even though I’m saying no to paid mods, there exist some mods that I’d be willing to pay for. But we have to keep in mind that those are really huge mods with lots of effort. Great examples are Black Mesa (for Half-Life 2) and Lost Alpha (S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl). Lost Alpha even went standalone. Both of these mods are outstanding.

    To sum it up, I strongly disagree with paying for mods. That is unless something large and impressive, something that could easily be a new game, gets made. Then I might consider paying a few bucks for it.

    1. Hec

      You might ask “And what if they don’t?” Well, that’s pretty simple. Get the hell away from modding if you don’t like creating. Nobody’s forcing you.

      Absolutely agree with this…

    2. Don’t worry, nobody gets flamed here – I won’t allow it.

      However, I have to say I am unclear on what you are saying. In one sentence you say you are against and in another you would pay if the mod were good enough.

      It seems to me that you are actually saying you support the idea, but personally you would only buy the bigger and well-received mods, which is perfectly fine. In fact, I think that’s how most people would be and it’s why RTSL could be really useful.

      I don’t see why both free and paid concepts can’;t work at the same time. It does with games, so why not mods.

      If I could run my site and make a living from it, I would but I can’t. It’s no different from modding. If the mods are good enough people will buy them, if they aren’t then people won’t.

      Thousands of people write short stories and novels every year and make them available for free. The better writers might make it as professionals. It’s a natural selection sort of situation.

      1. Hec

        I have to say I am unclear on what you are saying

        Well Phillip I’m unclear too. That’s why I’m undecided, I insist my biggest fear is to have some lousy mods which dare to charge for them. Though I don’t think that’s really a problem, I also think the recommendation system in your site could be a perfect way to help decide which things to try and pay for, and which not.

        Also another fear I have is: that if true modding free spirit dies (modders realizing they can charge and became indie developers, instead of HL passionate creators), and as time goes by, we have less and less free mods. If that one day, AND I TRULY HOPE NOT, happens I’ll probably lost all my motivation to play mods again.

        1. I was replying to Larry.

      2. Well, the truth is I’m not against it entirely. I’m against paying for EVERY mod. Actually, to be honest, I consider most mods not worth paying for. Those I’d pay for are scarce and it’s pretty much just an exception. Not that I’m thinking the mods would be bad. It’s just that I don’t think they took THAT much time and effort to make. The problem we’re facing here is rating. How can we judge what’s worth paying for and what is not? Where is the line? Should there be some specific quality requirements? I say every mod should be rated individually. But even then we’d still find two groups of people – those who say “let’s pay” and those who like it but still aren’t convinced it’s worth paying for. Then again, we see this everywhere – movies, books, games…

        The way to solve this might be via public voting. Every mod (let’s say on Steam) that would be suggested by its author to be put to Store (and paid for) would first have to be judged by users. If it received huge support, it could become a paid mod on Steam Store. Pretty much the way Greenlight works.

        But yeah, I agree that there are SOME mods I’d be willing to pay for. And other mods? Well, donations have worked well so far.

    3. So basically you don’t want to start paying for something that you currently get for free?
      I can understand that position and why it seems unjust.

      I’m sure there will be many many free mods still available. All valve did was make it possible for some modders to charge for their work.

      The community will sort out what is worth paying for and what isn’t. If a mod isn’t worth paying for then people won’t download it.

      1. The community will sort out what is worth paying for

        Yes, probably, but a lot of people will have to buy and play it first. We maybe need a system of curators.

        1. Or the mods could have some sort of demo versions, like games. People would be able to try it instead of buying the whole mod without knowing what to expect. And trying it yourself is better than reading about it because everybody’s got different style of playing, different taste, different requierements and overall different preferences.

          1. That’s an excellent suggestion, but would only work for the larger mods.

  5. Hec

    As a player I’m undecided. Because this can be a double-edged sword: in one hand we can actually and most likely have 100% quality mods which are actually worthy to buy them, i mean I’d probably would have paid for Black Mesa Source if that project would’ve released commercially… ON THE OTHER HAND!! and here it comes my biggest fear about this; we may have terrible-suck-lousy quality mods that dare to charge you for its download!!!! I’m afraid Steam Workshop Market, becomes like a bad version of the Google Play Store where you can find pretty cool Independent high quality games for sale. BUT!! you can also find some pretty lousy ones which dare to charge for them!!!! I only hope in case this happen, with an Steam for charge mod, at least, I as a gamer can have a way to get a refund IF I DON’T LIKE the quality of a poor mod which is for sale.

    I’m also pretty excited because this could be a pretty SERIOUS HINT for an upcoming HL3. I only hope many mods for HL3 would be free, and if they charge for them, I also hope, and better be it, that they will be very good high quality mods, that I can actually feel encouraged to paid for….

    1. and here it comes my biggest fear about this; we may have terrible-suck-lousy quality mods that dare to charge you for its download!!!!

      That’s exactly why RTSL would be your solution. I would buy every map and mod available and post reviews for people to read. You wouldn’t be forced to buy anything and hope you like it.

      That said, it happens with games. I would happily get my money back on 80% of the games I bought and they were way more expensive than some of the mods would be.

      1. Hec

        Yeah that will be very, very helpful.

      2. You have terrible taste in mods Phillip!!!

        1. I’m not sure how to respond to that.

          1. I take it back…

            You have an optomistic outlook when reviewing mods…

            You don’t have bad taste… you’re just a nicer person than me!


            1. I know that I am “soft” compared to other people, but I see it as passionate – I’m prepared to forgive a lot.

  6. Something that I haven’t mentioned is the concept of RTSL selling mods. WHy would this be any different from Steam Selling them?

    I would take a small percentage for the promotion and hosting costs and the rest would go to the modder. Would people support that?


    I’m just using this as an example.

    What about a donation button with the same idea? Would you support that?

    Finally, and I’m not sure anybody has suggested this, but what about a donation to a registered charity? This could be a great way for gamers to help other people AND get some good publicity at the same time.

    Yes, I am aware that gamers raise a lot of money for charities, but this is about raising money THROUGH mods.


    1. Humble RTSL Mod Bundle :).
      If the buyer could choose the amount and how the cash would be distributed I really don’t see any objections to this idea.

  7. I’m against paying for EVERY mod

    I think this is one of the most important points.

    At the beginning, it’s possible, maybe even likely, that everything released will be put up to “sell”.

    In the term, I’m sure there will be plenty of free content, just like in movies, art, books etc.

  8. Lets say I like a game so much that I want to buy DLCs for it. The DLC will be equal or around the same quality as the main game since its by the same developers.

    Now lets say I want to play more so I decide I wanna download some mods. I download “Epic Gameplay Overhaul” by some guy named epiczninkawarriro110. I don’t know who he is or if he is any good at modding.

    Its a hit and miss. Very few mods are without problems. They intefere with other mods. Lets say (again) buy a really cool mod only to notice a week later that it conflicts with my very favourite mod that I would never disable. No refunds on that. Throw the money in the trash.

    Donations, fine. Pay for free content that may or may not be worth my time? No thanks.

    One thing I do think is that the internet went a bit too crazy about this and I feel sorry for Valve and Bethesda. At least they try new things and listens to us.

  9. Jim Schuster

    I have no problem with paying for quality mods. Quality being the operative word here. How do I define quality mods? Black Mesa Source, Offshore, Minerva, Mission Improbable, Research & Development, Deep Down. Mods that get a Personal Favorite rating here on RTSL, and rightly so. These I would gladly and fairly compensate the authors of. Not the authors of the sort of dreck that has been cropping up as of late.

    Back in the mid 90’s, when you had to actually go to the software store and buy games on CD-ROM’s, there was a proliferation of “Doom collections” of maps for the game Doom. There was some wheat mixed in with the chaff, but there was a LOT of chaff. Out of the 3 or 4 of those CD’s that I actually bought, I estimate that there were enough memorable maps to fit on two floppy disks.

    That being said, if the authors of the above mentioned mods were offering new mods for sale, I would be much more likely to reach for my credit card than I would be if someone were selling a “best HL/HL2 mod collection ever” package.

  10. Wesp5

    I’m against buyable mods for two reasons that were already mentioned here: 1) Many mods are not worth paying for, especially when people start exloiting the system (and yes Phillip, you are much too soft with your ratings, I have played a lot of junk here that you rated okay 😉 and 2) Valve is the one who really benefits from this and again gets money for free just because of their quasi-Steam-monopoly!

    The correct solution would be a donation system were good mods can get all of the money if the players think they are worth it. And guess what? I read that when Valve and Bethesda announced their effort they started to remove donation buttons for mods that went to be sold on Steam, to me clearly an indication that they never really cared about rewards for the modders, but only wanted their share!

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