Poll Question 326 – Would you support a donation system for mods?

22nd October 2015

I haven’t checked, but I am sure we have talked about monetizing mods before, in polls and general discussions on the site. And it seems that Valve is still interested in paid mods and I have to say that I am in general support of the idea.

But there seems to be other possibilities for ensuring that modders get a chance to make money and one of those is donations.

Imagine, and I must stress, I am not actively pursuing the idea, if RTSL created a system for users to donate money to some modders would you support it? Of course currently , you could contact the modder directly and ask for his or her details and send money that way, but if there was a proper system, that might make it easier for everybody.

Once Half-Life 3 releases and people start making mods for that, I’m sure Valve will instigate paid mods, but this idea is more about non-HL3 mods.

So, let’s talk about it, and see what happens.

Time to Vote


  1. Why not?
    Why pay for an App and not a support a Mapper?

    Any philosophical problems with RTSL getting a small percentage as “handling fees”?

  2. Yes.

    I mean, look at all the hideous crap on Steam Greenlight that people like Jim Sterling cover. It’s junk that people crank out in just a couple hours in Unity, and yet they ask $10 for it without flinching. I don’t think it’s a defensible position to argue that modders shouldn’t have the opportunity to get paid for their work while those people can, legalities notwithstanding. Right now, Valve doesn’t allow modders to do this, but I’m sure if Half-Life 3 or some other Valve game with mod support releases, they will revisit this idea.

    People didn’t like the Skyrim approach because it screwed up an existing community and the payout to Bethesda, not to mention the minimum sales quota before you’d see a cent, was blatantly unfair to the people doing the work. Bethesda and Valve would reap something like $200 in free profit before you saw a dime.

  3. AI

    At almost 70, I still enjoy the many mods/maps and I wouldn’t mind paying/contribute to well made ones. I don’t mod/map, but wished that I had learned(I’ll leave that up to the younger folks!) I just bought “Soma” from Steam, and absolutely loved it!!!! The current one “Black Mesa” I won’t buy because it’s not complete yet! If Phillip started a donation system, I might try it. I realize it’s a lot of work to make these games!! I feel that Phillip has a good reputation and runs a quality site!! 😉

  4. Zekiran

    I conditionally support the idea, and have discussed this to death over on the Steam forum at times.

    I think that we should have the OPTION to donate – not pay for, but *donate* – to mod makers for their efforts. Mods have almost always been ‘free because’ x and y. ‘Oh but don’t you think that just because it’s always been that way doesn’t mean they have to stay free!’ Yes, yes I do believe that.

    My guesstimate is that 80-85% of the modding community, from start to finish (people who do reskins to add to the realism or change visuals in a game, config mods to help tweak systems to work their best, on up through those who offer conversions and sophisticated level designs to play) are people who are doing this not only in their spare time, but *don’t* expect it to be ‘for money’. They do it because they LIKE to, because they have fun with it.

    Black Mesa’s team suffered greatly in the long run from burnout and anger issues – because they already HAD day jobs and many of them in the industry already. Their hard work, yes, got its time in the sun and people have paid for their mod, which to my knowledge is *still unfinished even though they’ve gone paid*.

    Payment is no guarantee of quality, and quality is no guarantee that people will feel obliged to pay.

    But I’m certain that there are people out there who have great skills and release something fun and cute, and they deserve the buck or two that could easily be tossed into their virtual hat. I’d pay a couple bucks to have one or more of my characters skinned onto models, certainly. I’d want to reward good work – but by the same token I would want those skins to be *mine*, and thus there’s another complication.

    Allowing people to get money for modding is opening a massive can of worms for copyright and trademark infringements. I’m honestly surprised that Gmod hasn’t been shut down entirely, given how much effort and time modders have dedicated to swiping everyone else’s materials and sticking them into that game. It takes talent and effort – but they still don’t actually own the characters or images, textures or models. Porting is a very shaky surface.

    I played City of Heroes, the superhero mmo, for many years and early on in its history and development they were sued by Marvel for *potential* infringements. Most of that suit was thrown out, and settled for the rest, because they found that self-patrolling was working for helping maintain the ‘you aren’t going to play Spider Man here’ logic.

    The worry I would have, then, is that when someone DOES make money off of their port, rip, skin, or tweak… Are they using someone else’s materials legally? The answer is *no*, unless they have a written agreement with the original maker.

    So… Original materials, original work, based in game engines that DO have extensive modding support, I am all for folks being allowed to accept *donations*.

    Ports, unoriginal work moved from engine to engine, things which are obviously (or less obviously) infringing, no, they should never be allowed to accept donations for those things, because they legally can’t in the first place.

  5. Salamancer

    I think that there’s a small difference functionally between a pay service and a tip jar, but it feels like a really big one.
    I was firmly against paid mods for a number of reasons. Not one of those reasons was because I though modders should never be paid as principle.

    I’d support the heck out of a tip jar.

  6. I don’t mind, if you do good work, you should deserve some kind of pay. (That pay percentage for modders has to be upped, though)

    I’m just kind of peeved that Valve never setup a workshop for Half-Life 2.

    1. Like Zekiran said though, Steam Workshop is a cesspool of illegal content. It is a wonder that Valve hasn’t been sued over it.

      I thought Black Mesa’s workshop was a step in the right direction, but even in that small community, the workshop is completely overrun by low-effort content. And because there’s no good way to tag stuff, anything that’s worthwhile gets buried instantly. App stores have the same problem. There’s so much junk out there.

      It also doesn’t help that Valve’s rating system is bonkers. It makes no sense. You are stuck with a 3/5 Star ranking because it’s not based on upvotes, but the total number of upvotes. So even if you have 100 upvotes and 1 negative, you’ll still be at 3/5 Stars.

      I like the idea of the Workshop. I like that I can see statistics and graphs-over-time, and that I can issue updates and know that everyone will get them. But the way Valve implemented it is a hot mess.

  7. I’m kind of hesitant to do it for in-progress mods. But I would definitely consider it for a finished mod where I could read some 3rd-party reviews first. Above all though I would need it to be a secure payment platform.

  8. wesp5

    I have nothing against a donation system that is optional and where 100% of the donation goes to the modder. On the other hand the system Valve and Bethesda tried to implement was something else because 1) it was obviously created so they would get free money from the work of modders and not for the benefit of the modders themselves (the $200 rule pretty much showed that) and 2) as already stated here, it would open doors to freeloaders by stealing assets or offering junk just to get money.

  9. Korozive

    Several times in this thread Half Life 3 was mentioned. Is their any confirmation it may become a reality?

    1. Hell No, but my faith and heart is bigger than my head, so I continue to believe.

    2. There isn’t confirmation, but last week, Valve “leaked” some files in a DOTA2 update, which included an entirely new HL3.FGD file (a definition file for Hammer) which – aside from the provocative name – had a few peculiar entities in it, like npc_citizen_quest and a special Combine turret. It was the first time Valve itself had hinted at HL3 in at least a year or two, as opposed to the community hyping itself up over nothing.

      Given that dropping references to things in random files has been Valve’s M.O. for a while, you can read into that however you want.

      Also, AFAIK, Valve hasn’t taken back the file either.

      1. Unq

        I only heard about hl3.txt, which I didn’t really investigate – I didn’t know there was an fgd file which in my opinion is more ‘meaty’. Still not going to get excited yet.

    3. bolec

      “I have nothing against a donation system that is optional and where 100% of the donation goes to the modder.”
      Modder uses someone’s game to get money. Modder uses someone’s distribution channel to get money. He is using someone’s hard work and won’t share anything?
      Nope. That’s not fair. Modder should get at least 50%, but not 100%. Without the game (here is developer’s cut) and exposure (Steam’s dominant position on the market – Valve’s cut) his creation is buried as very few users will bother to use Nexus or other similar sites (compared to Steam workshop).
      Modder must get a big cut, but not everything.

      1. It takes dozens, if not hundreds of hours to make quality mods.

        The developers already made their money by selling the game. They will continue to make money off people who buy the game to experience the mods. Valve’s expense for letting you set up a Steam Workshop page is what exactly? 0.0000001% of their bandwidth?

        We are adding value to their content, investing a lot of time and work. No one asked us to do this – we do it because we like the game and respect the developer. We shouldn’t be fleeced and taken for granted. We want the same respect.

        I’m not saying they shouldn’t get anything, but the 70% helping that Valve and Bethesda insisted on was a joke. Worse than that, you had to make them a substantial amount of money before they’d share any of it with you. If you didn’t make them $200 in profit, you didn’t get anything. You. The one who invested the time to add value to their product, have to pay them $200 for the “privilege” of getting something in return? That’s absurd.

        I would also assert that the Steam Workshop, in general, is a disaster when it comes to organization and finding quality content. Exposure is very difficult to achieve in reality. Anything good is quickly buried under tons of low-effort content, much of which is illegally ripped from movies and other games. Valve doesn’t bother with curation at all. I’m not against them setting their rate at 30%, which is the standard Steam fee, but I don’t see what would justify them earning more, relative to the amount of work they put into it, which is minimal.

  10. As long as no content is being withheld by not donating, there’s absolutely no reason why not.

    1. Zekiran

      That’s a really important reason and part of why I won’t buy Black Mesa. After how many years of “no no really it’ll be free!” to be jilted and told “lol just kidding you have to pay to actually get the finished mod because reasons” was… well, more insulting than the mod was worth.

      I’d said all along though – if I had the OPTION to provide voluntary donations to them while they were in progress, I certainly would have done that, and likely gone above and beyond the 20 bucks they demand for a still-unfinished piece.

    2. Unq

      Why is that, though? Why not have the authors offer a small in-game reward for donators? Is that considered withheld content?

      1. Zekiran

        Because that very rapidly devolves into the same schema as “pay to win” games. Particularly if you’re in a multiplayer environment, though many mods aren’t mp.

        At what point do they withhold the ‘vital’ gun, or the ‘most important scene’, or the ‘ability to actually progress’? Because all of those things ARE done for pay by many existing actual companies. And they’re universally reviled.

        Again as an example of how it was done right, for a time at least; City of Heroes went for ‘cosmetic only’ mini-purchases. This was at the very early stages of microtransactions and they’d hardly gotten around to other games yet. For 5 or 10 bucks you get a selection of costume options and maybe an emote to do in the game. This made it possible for the developers to get paid the overtime they needed, to finish putting out more major actual in-game things like stories and zones, texture improvements and powers.

        Unfortunately, due to the nature of that beast, and the kind of company which owned the game, this rapidly progressed into ‘pay for actual powersets’ that other people, even paying subscribers, didn’t get. This has gotten worse over time, and compounded by app-based mobile games using it as their *main* money maker.

        The option to donate for a finished product is one that I absolutely support. The option to ‘donate’ to ‘get something that someone else doesn’t’ is completely against that idea.

  11. I happily paid for Black-Mesa and The Stanley Parable (even thoe i played them both when they where mods) so why wouldnt i Donate for some smaller Mods? As long as the Modders themselves get the Money (unlike in the whole Skyrim paid mods thing where they only got a minor cut) i would probably donate a couple of leftover Bucks on some Paysafe card.

    But i guess its hard to draw the line between a mod and a Game (Like the CS 1.6, The Stanley Parable or Black Mesa). At which point is it okay to lock it behind a paywall?

  12. I would have no problem donating especially if it was an established mapper/modder

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