26 April 2015

Paying for mods

You've probably read that Skyrim modders can now charge for their mods when they upload them on Steam Workshop. Modders can use between a fixed amount or allow the end-user to pay as much as they want. Free of payment is still an option.

Let me start by saying I would most likely not pay for a map or mod, including simple mutators (extension mod as they are called in Starcraft 2). For a mod to make me want to pay for it it would have to so much content and  so many changes that it would be labelled a total conversion. So it basically just uses the old engine, but changes everything else.

The Dark Mod is a total conversion that transforms Doom 3 into Thief, one of my favourite games. Black Mesa is a remake of Half-Life 1 that uses the Source engine. It looks as good as Half-Life 2 and has some level design changes that improve the experience in my opinion. As you play these total conversions you can feel the love that has gone into them, but both of them share the same problem: They feel unfinished. The Dark Mod has no original campaign, it is more like a toolset to create your own levels. Many levels have been created, some of really high quality but rarely any maps are connected with one another. Black Mesa is also great, but it stops right before the Xen levels, missing around 2 hours of content from the original Half-Life. In many aspects, these total conversions aren't as polished as professionally produced games. There are plenty of bugs, visual or audio material at low quality or simply a lack of content. And this goes for basically every mod you'll find out there. But you know what? It's fine. That's what a mod is. It's a fan creation that can be messy at times, but was made out of love for a game to increase it's replay value, and is given out to other people who have the same love for the same game. And if you know a little bit about love (or you have read about it), then you know you can't give it away for money (not talking about that kind of love).

Since video games were invented they have become more and more complex, requiring more and more funding to meet modern standards. The same goes for user made content. I remember making a simple Starcraft 1 map took about two weeks. In Warcraft 3 it took at least 4 weeks. You had to take care of so much more stuff: More details in the level design/landscape, take advantage of new gameplay mechanics (heroes, levels, creeps), AI, add new art, skills, use new triggers and so on. It has only gotten more complicated with the Starcraft 2 editor. You can create entirely different genres, like 3rd person shooters, card games, or turn based games. There is so much more detail you can add to the environment and there are plenty more triggers and systems you want to take advantage of to make your map feel up-to-date. I would say on an average it takes 2 months to produce a high quality Starcraft 2 map (when you still have a fulltime job).

Let's say there weren't any full-time obligations like school or a job and I was able to work on a Starcraft 2 campaign 40-60 hours a week. It would take me around 6 months to finish. Relative to the amount of money I would earn from a fulltime job during those months, I would lose around 10.000$. So as a map-maker I can understand anyone who feels like they spent so much time working on their project, that it would be nice to get something more in return than just a thank you.

With that in mind I just added a donation button at the top right of this blog (which fit the niche very nicely that used to be there :P). You don't need to pay anything, so you can still get all maps and the latest updated for free. But in case you think it's a good idea to support my work on future maps or updates, or simply as a show of appreciation, the button is there.


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