Our new Indie Games subforum is now open for business in G&T. Go and check it out, you might land a code for a free game. If you're developing an indie game and want to post about it, follow these directions. If you don't, he'll break your legs! Hahaha! Seriously though.
Our rules have been updated and given their own forum. Go and look at them! They are nice, and there may be new ones that you didn't know about! Hooray for rules! Hooray for The System! Hooray for Conforming!
The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that Steam's paid mod scheme is a bad idea, with a bad implementation.
The first problem I have with this is that selling something is a big responsibility. By selling a product, you're responsible for making a fair transaction - the customer is provided complete information about what they're purchasing, that what they received works to their satisfaction, that no other parties have been unfairly miscompensated, and that the customer's expectations of future support are met. As of late, there's been a big push to democratise the marketplace through services such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, or indeed Steam Workshop, with close to zero protection for customers beyond caveat emptor. While Kickstarter has had the very occasional success story (Pillars of Eternity, Star Citizen, etc), it also has a litany of failures which have left many, many people out of money. Giving Random Internet Guy the ability to take people's money without strong buyer protections has turned out to not be the utopia its techno-libertarian advocates have suggested.
We could choose to not take part in that marketplace, as some have suggested. However, leaving aside the customer, this fails to look at the other side of the equation - the existing mod community. There's been a demonstrable chilling effect on people posting mods for free, with people choosing hiding their mods on Nexus over letting others rehost their mod on Workshop and gain money for them. This means that even those who choose not to buy mods are left worse off, to say nothing of those who've essentially lost their hobby thanks to market forces. Valve have not helped this situation at all thanks to their statement that utilising the content of free mods within paid ones is fine, a terrible policy that has rightly spurred the fears of free mod creators.
Valve have, however, stated that those who've had their mod rehosted without permission can apply to Valve support via takedown to have it remo- hahahaha yeah we all know that's a big joke.
This isn't a small problem, though. Valve expect a significant cut (with the creator getting a small minority) for providing a Workshop service that's lacking - automatic updates are good, but there's no versioning, no ability to host large mods, no ability to host anything beyond the most simple assets (so SKSE and such are out), provides no framework for mod management so game developers have to develop their own, has strict censorship, no ability to provide options within mods or different versions, and still have very poor discoverability. This is aside from Steam support being infamous as a total joke to begin with, which is inexcusable given the income that Steam has generated for Valve.
Additionally, their "refund" policy for paid mods is flawed. 24 hours is enough to see if a mod is immediately broken, but not enough to provide a fair trial of the content. The refund itself? Steam wallet funds. Many country's laws say that if a product is defective, store credit is not a substitution for cash, and yet Valve feels this is acceptable. They still get your money, after all. If the mod breaks after 24 hours, which is all the more likely given that you now can't prevent Skyrim (and likely future titles) updating? Their own policy states that you have to ask the mod creator nicely to update their mod. That is downright insulting. There is no other word for it.
Bethesda does not escape blame for this deeply flawed strategy. Despite their promises otherwise, the UI for PC has to date always been a straight port from consoles, with the implicit understanding that modders will be able to fix it. We now see SkyUI being a paid mod. While this is obviously suboptimal from a customer and modder point of view - something that was free is now not, and mods with dependencies on SkyUI are now in a very prickly situation - this is symbolic of a further issue. Moral hazard. Bethesda now has a financial consideration to make; whether the cost of fixing a bug or adding a piece of likely wanted content is worth paying staff to fix/create, or leaving it to modders, the latter of which will mean Bethesda being paid for others fixing their mistakes.
What, as a customer, am I supposed to like about this? What's the pitch to me here, Valve? We're now in a position where, after over a decade of modding Bethesda games for free, we now pay for them. There is no silver lining. A highly visible donation link would have allowed us to support creators we thought were cool, but this not only means we have to pay for something we enjoyed for so long, but tremendously complicates creating mod bundles and compilations that makes TES/Fallout games play happier with large numbers of mods. No amount of handwaving makes this go away - there is no benefit here to the customer. We now live in a world where mods have in-game pop-up ads. Ask anyone three days ago and they would have laughed at the absurdity of the idea.
Valve's handling of this has also been about as bad as it could have been. Rather than providing any information in the leadup to this decision being taken, discussing with the mod commuity what they wanted from a monetisation scheme, or doing a phased rollout of donations or pay-as-you-want before going full shopfront, they instead used a shock doctrine of pushing a full scheme out with no warning and little information. Their subsequent handling of this, from disabling voting, to purging mod pages of external donation links, to heavyhanded moderation of forums, have also belied their incompetence in rolling this out. "Don't buy them", the mantra that keeps being repeated, does not solve the myriad of issues this creates for modders who might have their content taken and sold while Valve support sits on their hands, the customers who now can't enjoy mods hidden for said fear, the legal complications of mod compilations, and ignores the overall damage to the previously highly collaborative modding community.
Is there hysteria in the community? Yes. Are some people reacting entirely inappropriately to this? Yes. This does not absolve Valve or Bethesda of any of these criticisms. They have taken a community which worked, and was a small wonder of the Internet - a huge group of people who created masses of content for two respected game series, giving the TES and Fallout games sales and lifespans far, far beyond what they would have had otherwise. Valve and Bethesda have, overnight, broken this great community out of corporate greed.
You crack me up, man. The "Reds" and the "Red Chinese" seem to be big concerns for you. Are you under the impression it's still 1983, or did the "get under your desk to avoid the nuclear fallout" drills just get to you that badly?
He's right to be concerned. China is one of the biggest national security threats to America today and likely for the next quarter century. Not so much "WOLVERINES!" but there are plenty of valid reasons to be concerned.
It's fine to be at least cautious of increased Chinese influence, given their less than subtle support of dictators as long as they buy their arms (Zimbabwe), total disregard of human rights towards minorities (Tibetans, Uighurs), disregard of IP if it's in their interests, lack of interest in policing local cybersecurity issues, and land/sea grabbing in S-E Asia.
Calling them "Red Chinese", though, is like pissing on an Abrams and feeling good that you've done the world a favour. Resorting to petty namecalling just makes you look childish and petulant, let alone using Cold War era Red Scare rhetoric.