PC Gamer

[Note! I wrote this column on Wednesday due to having a shortened week. So, this was written before all the recent controversy over paid mods for Skyrim. And, it just so happens, the creator of this mod is Chesko, same creator of the now-removed paid Art of the Catch mod. Do I have great timing or what? Anyway, this is still a neat (and free) mod. You can grab it from the Nexus.]

There's something oddly enjoyable about camping in a game. Walk off into the woods, erect a tent, build a campfire, and sit and gaze at the flames as the world around you slowly grows dark. It's serene, comforting, and a nice change from all the dragon slaying and dungeon crawling.

Skyrim has a few camping mods already, most notably Frostfall, which brings a harsh and challenging survival theme to Skyrim. The Campfire mod, however, is more about simply creating an immersive and enjoyable camping experience.

Through the use of some new survival spells, you begin by gathering materials like deadwood, branches, and stones (bring a woodsman's axe with you). You don't have to manually hunt around for materials—I kinda wish you did, actually—but you select the item you want to gather, and then you're told how much you found. A little time passes each time you search, to represent your gathering efforts.

Once you've done some gathering, you can place your campfire on the ground in front of you. It'll be a fragile campfire, which won't last long, but by adding kindling to it, it'll level up into a better campfire, suitable for a few hours of cooking. Feed some more fuel to the fire and it'll grow bigger, providing a comforting warmth that will give you a bonus to skill gains for the next several hours. Your followers can also join you in sitting by the fire.

In addition to campfires, the mod comes with some camping gear, like tents and tanning racks (these were in Frostfall as well, I believe). Campfire also has backpacks that dynamically represent your camping gear. For instance, if you have a bedroll, cooking pot, and axe, you'll see these items on your back. How cool is that? While Campfire is not currently compatible with Frostfall, it sounds like the next version of Frostfall will support it.

You can use Campfire without SKSE and SkyUI, but as always, those two mods will enhance your experience and allow you to customize your settings. Interestingly, you can also download a devkit for Campfire if you're interested in creating your own custom camping gear. There's even a few tutorials to help you get started.

PC Gamer

In yet another sign that the universe is unfolding as it should, yesterday's announcement that Valve will now allow modders to sell their creations on Steam has led to an influx of "protest mods" with high prices, low content, and some admittedly amusing descriptions.

Take, for instance, the Extra Apple mod, currently priced at $35. It does exactly what it promises: adds an extra apple to the counter in The Bannered Mare. Or the Rubbish Bucket DLC, which provides a bucket for your rubbish—or at least it will, when it's done. Currently it's in Early Access, and instead of a bucket it's just a pile of wood on the floor. But you can put your rubbish on it! As long as you've installed the Rubbish Mod, that is, which will set you back another $3.

And there's the Literally Nothing mod, which speaks for itself.

To clarify, these mods are not actually available for purchase just yet. As Valve explained yesterday, new paid mods must first be posted without a purchase option, in order to give the community time to examine them and call out any abusive or stolen content. And while some of the mods in the queue appear legit—Light Armor Clothing, for instance—the bulk of them seem intended to make a statement; some, like the Micro Transactions mod, even include a link to the petition calling on Valve to drop paid mods altogether.

A few of these mods are funny, but they also have the potential to gum up the works. Some are obviously not meant to be taken seriously, but with others it's much harder to tell: The Chicken Companion, as an example, is literally a chicken wearing a Dragonborn helmet. It looks legit (and awesome!), but... well, it's a chicken in a Dragonborn helmet. You tell me.

The maker of the Rubbish mod said it took him about 30 minutes to learn enough of the Creation Kit to get the job done, then add the items and upload it to Steam. That's not an especially heavy investment of time, which means that if enough users are sufficiently committed to the cause, they'll be able to bury the system with crap in relatively short order. Bethesda stated that neither it nor Valve will be curating the mods for sale on the workshop. While they may be relying on the community to flag objectionable mods, in the end, they may have no choice but to step in and police the mods themselves.

PC Gamer

The creator of Art of the Catch, the paid Skyrim mod that was removed from Steam earlier today, has posted a lengthy message on Reddit in which he says he didn't "steal content" to make the mod. In fact, while he acknowledged that using content from the Fores New Idles in Skyrim mod without permission was "a bit crappy," he claims that Valve told him specifically that creating a mod dependent on another mod's content would not cause any problems.

The mod maker, going by the name "Chesko," wrote in the post that Valve invited him to take part in the rollout of the paid mods program about a month and a half before it went live. He knew there would be backlash, but he also believed that "there was an opportunity to take modding to 'the next level,' where there are more things like Falskaar in the world because the incentive was there to do it." And while he wasn't happy with the 25 percent cut being offered to modders by Valve/Bethesda, he decided to take part because "it was an experiment I was willing to at least try."

The complexities of modding, compressed by the tight deadline, led to "a lot of questions surrounding the use of tools and contributed assets, like FNIS, SKSE, SkyUI, and so on," he wrote. Because of that, he reached out to Valve to determine what was and wasn't permissible, and was told, "I am not a lawyer, so this does not constitute legal advice. If you are unsure, you should contact a lawyer. That said, I spoke with our lawyer and having mod A depend on mod B is fine—it doesn't matter if mod A is for sale and mod B is free, or if mod A is free or mod B is for sale."

That's where things start to get murky. Instead of contacting a lawyer, as it now seems he should have, Chesko went ahead and and built the Art of the Catch mod, which requires a separate, free animation package that contains an FNIS behavior file.

"Was this a risky, perhaps bold, thing to go ahead with? Yes. Was it a bit crappy of me? Also yes," he wrote. "But it was a risk I took, and the outcome was largely dependent on the FNIS author's reaction to the situation. He was not happy, so I took steps to resolve it. I did not 'steal animations' or 'steal content'." He added that he's been in contact with Fore, the maker of FNIS, and that they've smoothed things out.

But he's also been in contact with a lawyer from Valve, who clarified that, in accordance with policies outlined yesterday, the mod, and Chesko's other work, will be marked as unpurchasable but will not actually be removed from the Workshop, despite his demand that it all be taken down completely.

"He stated that they will not remove the content unless 'legally compelled to do so,' and that they will make the file visible only to currently paid users," he wrote. "I am beside myself with anger right now as they try to tell me what I can do with my own content. The copyright situation with Art of the Catch is shades of grey, but in Arissa 2.0's case, it's black and white; that's 100% mine and Griefmyst's work, and I should be able to dictate its distribution if I so choose."

For now, Chesko's work, minus the Art of the Catch, remains available on the Skyrim Nexus.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Would you pay 33p for this?

It used to be that the only way to make money from a mod was a) make a standalone sequel or remake b) use it as a portfolio to get hired by a studio or c) back in the pre-broadband days, shovel it onto a dodgy CD-ROM (and even then, it almost certainly wasn’t the devs who profited). As of last night, that changed. Mod-makers can now charge for their work, via Steam.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Chesko's Fishing Mod is now the holder of a dubious record: it's the first paid-for Skyrim mod to be removed from sale.

An early test for Valve's unique policing methods, the removal came off the back of claims Chesko and aqqh — the fishing mod's creators — were profiting from the work of fellow modder Fore without the latter's permisison.

See, the fishing mod used assets from Fore's New Idles in Skyrim — fine in the world of free mods, but not something that's kosher in the world of for-profit modding.

Screengrabs were, of course, grabbed before things went quiet on the Workshop page:

And since then — well, see for yourself: the mod is gone, and there are just a few confused people milling around, wondering what this brave new world of paid mods holds for them.

We're still in super-early days and teething issues like this are sure to occur, but it does serve as a warning shot to the Old Way of modding. Just make sure you've got permission if you want to sell the thing, okay?

[images from Destructoid]

PC Gamer
Gifts of Akatosh, a Skyrim mod that now costs $1.49.

Today, Valve announced that modders can sell their mods on the Steam Workshop. The program requires participation from the game's publisher (by default, most don't allow profit from user-created content), and the first to take the leap is Bethesda, which as of today is letting Skyrim mods be sold and purchased on Steam.

The announcement has not been met well. The broad reaction is that Bethesda and Valve have, to summarize, 'killed the modding community.' It's that, or ASCII art of a middle finger.

I don't think modding is dead, but there are a lot of potential problems with selling mods on Steam. As Bethesda notes in its announcement, this open market "will not be curated." Practically, I don't think a company the size of Valve could ever hope to curate Skyrim's modding scene, but I also worry about an entirely hands-off approach. The lack of curation on Steam proper has lead to some ripe garbage—including games with stolen assets—being sold to people who expect at least some baseline level of quality. I expect it to get even worse on the Skyrim Workshop. The modding scene has always shared work—respectfully when credit is given—but now that money's on the line asset theft becomes a more serious kind of theft. Then there are the crappy knock-off mods, the compatibility issues, and the just plain bad stuff. It could become a mess of differently priced versions of the same thing.

At least Steam will offer refunds within 24 hours of purchasing a mod from the Workshop. I think that time limit should be extended, though. It isn't always immediately apparent that a mod has done what you want it to do, and experimenting with them, or combinations of them, now becomes a race against your refund.

But none of this is why the early outrage has been so hot. The complaint is more philosophical than that: exchanging money feels to many like it runs counter to the culture of modding. Modding feels like it isn't supposed to be about money. Until now, it's been about passionate fans making stuff that makes games more fun, and then sharing those things so we can all have more fun. It's about taking control away from publishers and developers and making their products our canvases. It's passion, not capitalism that drives modders. And now Bethesda and Valve are inviting the rebels into the boardroom—come in here, dear boy, have a cigar—and a lot of PC gamers are looking on in disgust.

I'm also uneasy about all that, but before I raise my own ASCII finger, I want to give this a chance. First of all, we're not stopped from finding free mods elsewhere. For Skyrim especially, Steam Workshop has been about convenience more than anything. Skyrim Nexus is not gone, and having the choice to instead throw as little as 99 cents at a pay-what-you-want mod on Workshop doesn't distress me (unless, as I fear above, the original creator isn't earning from it). It also isn't unprecedented. Team Fortress 2, for instance, has not killed modding. Many of its player-made additions are fantastic, and they cost money, and the great PC gaming fortress has not crumbled and collapsed.

By paying for mods, we can directly offer an incentive to talented modders—people who have jobs and families and all kinds of things they could be doing other than making mods for us—and potentially help encourage ever more talented groups to undertake massive projects such as Endral. And, if we assume that Valve and the game's publisher take a cut (exact details are unconfirmed, but we're investigating), it could add incentive for publishers to include mod support. One of the biggest things stopping them, I think, is that the people in charge of making money can't assign a profit figure to mod tools. Perhaps now developers will be able to make a stronger case. Instead of banking on DLC, they can allow the selling of mods, and make that money with the community instead of just from it. Daybreak has taken an approach like that with its PlayerStudio.

I'm concerned with Valve's execution of this, and I don't want the Steam Marketplace to become host to a thousand 99 cent Skyrim Flappy Bird mods. I also don't want modders to get screwed, to have their free work stolen and sold, or to make so little on mod sales that the whole thing only benefits publishers. But I don't outright reject it. 

It doesn't feel right to celebrate when great modders get job offers from developers, but then balk at the idea of supporting them directly. I love a good success story, in which great talent leads to a good living, but should I be content always letting someone else provide the living while I ride for free? Now that I have the option to support modders directly, I have trouble taking the stance that I shouldn't—at best, it makes me feel like a tightwad, and at worst, unappreciative and disingenuous. So, if a paid mod is good enough, I'll pay for it, and I hope that works out in everyone's favor. And if it doesn't work, it won't take off and we'll be back to where we were yesterday. Modding doesn't need Valve to live, so Valve can't kill it.

Community Announcements - gstaffBethesda
We’ve had a long and excellent relationship with our good friends at Valve. We worked together to make the Workshop a huge part of Skyrim, and we’re excited that something we’ve been working together on for a long time is finally happening. You can now charge for the mods you create.

Unlike other curated games on Steam that allow users to sell their creations, this will be the first game with an open market. It will not be curated by us or Valve. It was essential to us that our fans decide what they want to create, what they want to download, and what they want to charge.

Many of our fans have been modding our games since Morrowind, for over 10 years. They now have the opportunity to earn money doing what they love – and all fans have a new way to support their favorite mod authors. We’ve also updated Skyrim and the Creation Kit with new features to help support paid mods including the ability to upload master files, adding more categories and removing filesize limit restrictions.

What does this mean for you?

As a modder, you now have the option of listing your creations at a price determined by you. Or, you can continue to share your projects for free. For those shopping for new mods, Valve is making sure you can try any mod risk free. See Refund Policy.

For full details on these changes to the Skyrim Workshop, check out Steam’s announcement page and FAQ.

Modding has been important to all our games for such a long time. We try to create worlds that come alive and you can make your own, but it’s in modding where it truly does. Thanks again for all your incredible support over the years. We hope steps like this breathe new life into Skyrim for everyone.

Bethesda Game Studios
Product Release - Valve
Play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for FREE starting now through Sunday April 26th at 1PM Pacific Time. You can also pickup The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim at 75% off the regular price!*

If you already have Steam installed, click here to install or play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. If you don't have Steam, you can download it here.

*Offer ends Monday at 10AM Pacific Time

Press Release - Valve
Open Marketplace for Paid Mod Support Debuts Today on the Skyrim Workshop

April 23, 2015 - Steam now offers new functionality in the Steam Workshop, allowing community mod makers the opportunity to earn money doing what they love. With this update, community-made Workshop content such as mods, items, or maps can now be made available for sale directly via the Steam Workshop for titles that have enabled this feature.

Workshop is now putting mod authors in business via a new streamlined process for listing, selling and managing their creations. Creators contributing to the Steam Workshop have the choice of listing their new creations for sale at a price of their choosing, or to continue to make their work available to players for free. Mods purchased from the Steam Workshop are available immediately for play.

"We think this is a great opportunity to help support the incredible creative work being done by mod makers in the Steam Workshop," says Tom Bui at Valve. "User generated content is an increasingly significant component of many games, and opening new avenues to help financially support those contributors via Steam Workshop will help drive the level of UGC to new heights."

Direct mod sales via the Steam Workshop debuts today with Bethesda Softworks'® award-winning title, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim®, and additional titles will become available across the Steam Workshop in the coming weeks.

Mods on the Skryim Workshop have received more than170 million downloads to date. The thousands of free mods, items, weapons, and quests will continue to be available at the discretion of the players who made them.

Support for mod sales via Steam Workshop is the latest expansion of Workshop in recent weeks. In late January, support was added for third party games to sell in game items created by members of the community. Valve alsoannounced over $57 mil has been paid to community content creators since Workshop debuted in October 2011.

For more information, please visit: www.steamcommunity.com/workshop/aboutpaidcontent.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim® 2011-2013 Bethesda Softworks LLC, a ZeniMax Media company.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

but which mountains are best?

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. I celebrated if one of the bands I like got a single in the top 10; I took it very personally if they failed to. Because enough of my peers had also not loved whichever band of posturing men-with-guitars it was, society was in ruins. Is that, perhaps, how some Skyrim fans feel at news their beloved RPG has been toppled by GTA V as the game with most concurrent users ever on Steam, if you exclude Valve’s own games? And are GTA fans celebrating that their prized cars’n’murder game has claimed another scalp? … [visit site to read more]

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