September 5th, 2017

Gabe Newell answers questions about Steam paid mods

Gabe says Valve “pissed off the Internet” and decides to answer questions and explain what they are doing now with the Steam paid mods feature.

The paid Skyrim mods feature that went live on the Steam Workshop this week did really piss off the modding community so Gabe has taken time out to answer questions on Reddit and explain what’s going on. There’s a lot of questions but we’ve sifted through them to find the ones of interest and that actually have a response. You don’t really want to know what coffee Gabe was drinking do you?

From what we can tell, based on Gabe’s responses, is that there will be little change to the current system apart from a feature Valve will be adding which is a “pay what you want” button as well as a fixed price option which are by the mod author.

When asked whether the “pay what you want” feature could be set to zero, there was no response . Allowing a zero option would solve the whole problem because it effectively becomes a donation system, and based on everything we have seen, this would satisfy the majority of the modding community. (Update: Gabe has now confirmed that you can pay zero).

Here’s how the conversation panned out and it may continue if Gabe decides to jump back in at any point.

Gabe: On Thursday I was flying back from LA. When I landed, I had 3,500 new messages. Hmmm. Looks like we did something to piss off the Internet.

Can you make a pledge that Valve are going to do everything to prevent, and never allow, the “DRMification” of modding, either by Valve or developers using Steam’s tools, and prevent the concept of mods ONLY being allowed to be uploaded to Steam Workshop and no where else, like ModDB, Nexus, etc.? For example, if Bethesda wanted to make modding for Fallout 4/TES 6 limited to just Steam Workshop, or even worse, just the paid Workshop, would Valve veto this and prevent it from happening?

Gabe: In general we are pretty reluctant to tell any developer that they have to do something or they can’t do something. It just goes against our philosophy to be dictatorial. With that caveat, we’d be happy to tell developers that we think they are being dumb, and that will sometimes help them reflect on it a bit.

Valve’s never, in 10 years, required exclusivity of games or DLC on Steam. Why would they require it for mods?

Exclusivity is a bad idea for everyone. It’s basically a financial leveraging strategy that creates short term market distortion and long term crying.

Isn’t the 75% cut seen as a bit high?

The pay-outs are set by the owner of the game that is being modded. As I said elsewhere, if we are censoring, it’s dumb, ineffective, and will stop.

Is 25% profit a normal amount for content creators in comparable situations? I see a lot of people complaining about the cut Valve and Bethesda receive.

Gabe: Each game sets its own share.

As I said elsewhere, if we are censoring, it’s dumb, ineffective, and will stop.

What’s up with all the banning and censoring of people complaining about this feature? How can you consider this to be ‘open’?

Gabe: Well, if we are censoring people, that’s stupid. I’ll get that to stop. On top of it being stupid, it doesn’t work (see Top Gear forums on Jeremy Clarkson).

Just to correct a lot of misinformation out there, can you please confirm:

Free mods still exist on the Workshop.

Modders can continue to release their content for free on the Workshop

Gabe: Correct.

Coming from someone who has modded games including skyrim… Modding is something that should continue to be a free community driven structure. Adding money into the equation makes it a business not a community. With all the drama that has happened it is clear that this will poison modding in general and will have the opposite effect on modding communities than intended.

Gabe: Our goal is to make modding better for the authors and gamers. If something doesn’t help with that, it will get dumped. Right now I’m more optimistic that this will be a win for authors and gamers, but we are always going to be data driven. Think of money as information. The community directing money flows works for the same reason that prediction markets crush pundits.

What was the thought behind monetizing mods? Was to help the mod creators or to get a bit more money for things that used to be free?

Gabe: The goal is to increase the total investment the community makes in extending its games. We thought we were missing some plumbing that was hampering that.

Please Gabe please don’t turn the core of pc into an EA dream project. You of all people should know how much this means to us .

Gabe: Yep. We are the same people we’ve been for the last 19 years.

I think that this whole debacle has created a split in the Skyrim community with modders angry at each other for “selling out” and the players mad at the modders because we see it as a cash grab, and everybody’s pissed at you and Bethesda. The community plus the mods have kept this game alive for four years and now we’re all mad at each other and I feel this will be a clusterfuck to the end. Whenever that will be. However you end this, I hope you do it for the right reasons.

Gabe: Sky rim is a great example of a game that has benefitted enormously from the MODs. The option for paid MODs is supposed to increase the investment in quality modding, not hurt it.

About half of Valve came straight out of the MOD world. John Cook and Robin Walker made Team Fortress as a Quake mod. Ice frog made DOTA as a Warcraft 3 mod. Dave Riller and Dario Casali we Doom and Quake mappers. John Guthrie and Steve Bond came to Valve because John Carmack thought they were doing the best Quake C development. All of them were liberated to just do game development once they started getting paid. Working at Waffle House does not help you make a better game.

This…this whole thing is just a mess.

Gabe: I need something more concrete if you want me to improve it.

Any plans on reviewing the system?

Gabe: Sure. We review stuff all the time. I’m here as part of that process.

Gabe, what is Valve doing to address the issues of people ripping mods from places like Nexus and putting them up on the Steam Workshop, even though they didn’t make the mod?

Gabe:  This is a straight-forward problem. Between ours and the community’s policing, I’m confident that the authors will have control over their creations, not someone trying to rip them off.

You just cannot be for real. You talk about an ‘open nature’, but you want to monetize this? It’s absolutely disgusting. Why not just add a donate button to mods? It would solve everything. This system is just the beginning of the end.

We’re already seeing stolen mods, early access mods, all sorts of crap. This is a poorly implemented feature system that is meant to generate revenue for Valve and its partners, nothing more. If they cared, they’d curate and moderate the store rigorously, and they’d also not be removing donation links. There’d be a “pay what you want” option. There are many ways to do this better, and in a way that’s more beneficial for the modders and the consumers.

Instead, we get another IV drip of money hooked up to Valve and we’re all supposed to smile about it.

Gabe: Let’s assume for a second that we are stupidly greedy. So far the paid mods have generated $10K total. That’s like 1% of the cost of the incremental email the program has generated for Valve employees (yes, I mean pissing off the Internet costs you a million bucks in just a couple of days). That’s not stupidly greedy, that’s stupidly stupid.

You need a more robust Valve-is-evil hypothesis.

If you want to keep heading that way with mods, are you planing to do anything about stolen content ? What about quality tests ? The thing with mods is that they can fail and crash and you usually install them at your own risks. Plus, some mods are not compatible with each other. Will you do anything about it ? Quality test for everything uploaded ? What about pricing ?

Gabe: I don’t think these issues are specific to MODs, and they are all worth solving.

For example, two areas where people have legitimate beefs against us are support and Greenlight. We have short term hacks and longer term solutions coming, but the longer term good solutions involve writing a bunch of code. In the interim, it’s going to be a sore point. Both these problems boil down to building scalable solutions that are robust in the face of exponential growth.

Why do you capitalize MOD?

Gabe: Old habit. Circa 1997.

Considering valve is a company that owes many of its early games to mods, do you think that if you had to pay 5 dollars for the original Counter Strike, or Dota mod, would they have ever taken off?

Edit: Also, whos decision was it to start this system? Bethesda, valve, or the mod makers themselves?

Have you approached any other companies regarding this?

Gabe: No, they wouldn’t. Which is one of the reasons that we didn’t charge for them after they stopped being MODs (at least part of the time). Free to play is an extension of that and is based on the aggregate incremental value of another player to all the other players.

Our view of Steam is that it’s a collection of useful tools for customers and content developers.

With the Steam workshop, we’ve already reached the point where the community is paying their favorite contributors more than they would make if they worked at a traditional game developer. We see this as a really good step.

The option of MOD developers getting paid seemed like a good extension of that.

What do you think about a donate button for mods?

Gabe: We are adding a pay what you want button where the mod author can set the starting amount wherever they want.

UPDATE: Gabe returned a bit later to answer a couple of things, most importantly the fact that the pay what you ant can be set to zero.

Can they set it to $0?

Gabe: Yes.

Related to this article
  • Steam Surges With More Than 30 Million Users In China
  • Related to this article
  • Fury Unleashed – Early Access Impressions
  • Related to this article
  • Xbox 360 Top Controller On Steam, Reports Valve

  • Paul Younger

    Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

    • User

      The spirit of modding has always been give and take with no monetary gain to be expected. The sooner it goes back to that strictly (save for people donating money to the mod devs, which I’m totally cool with) the better.

      • Asgard

        Yes and Valve giving 5% cut to “service providers” like Nexus is a good way to shut them up. They were totally against this from the start but after they made the deal for the cut, there was a 5-page rant about how good this is for modding.

        • ThePuzzlingCentaur

          Greed destroys everything. I knew that the site was ran by unlikeable hypocrites, but I guess I was foolish enough to believe that they have principles. It seems that a promise of extra profit was enough for them to abandon all principles.

      • mrhertz

        the most important is to keep people deluded that somebody spends 500 hours trying to master something just to give it for free, while on backgrounds things start to change.

        people just need to be fooled for everything continues to work, its the course of life.

    • Andrew

      What the heck is wrong with the moderators here at incgamers? I post a link so people can actually see Gabe’s comments (because of the downvoting) and you remove it? Why?

      • Paul Younger

        It has not been removed. I’ll check. The link is in the story Andrew. We always add the links. Also at the time of writing, Gabe had not confirmed it could be set to zero, otherwise it would have been included a the time. He must have wanted another coffee 🙂

        • Andrew

          Ah I see. It happened to a couple of my posts (saying in moderation) then disappeared. All good.

          • Paul Younger

            Yeh, it’s a pain but we have to keep that spammage down 🙂

    • Andrew

      Also apparently it is taboo to mention that the pay what you want button can be set to $0 according to Gabe. Omitted by your article I might add.

    • Johnny Spartacus

      sorry but this time go fuck yourself valve and bethesda

    • ThePuzzlingCentaur

      This is why I rarely play games anymore and while I do it’s mostly old,
      modded games like Medieval 2 Total War or games made with love like No
      More Room In Hell (and it’s free). And it is very rare. Nowadays I
      will choose a well written book over a game.
      I don’t mind the gaming
      industry turning mainstream, I don’t mind gaming becoming far more than
      a nerdish, asocial hobby (old stereotype), but I do mind and utterly
      despise the state of the gaming industry today. Today, the gaming
      industry is led and filled with people with no love for games, only
      profit. Every famous gaming company is throwing art away in favor of
      appeasing as many people as possible and generating extra profit. So
      many publishers and developers are trying to milk their consumers dry
      and a good example of this are many cases when a large portion of the
      game are cut and sold as DLCs. Ignorant gamers buying mentioned DLCs and
      defending 100+ dollars overall price were bad enough but pad mods will
      worsen the state of gaming further.
      Gaming communitiy is filled with
      ignorant people with too much money who will defend this practice.
      That’s why this will not go away….otherwise, overpriced DLCs that are
      actually a cut part of the original game instead of a totally new
      content would be long dead.
      And let’s not forget how corrupted the
      whole industry is. How vile most gaming sites are. Anyone who paid
      attention knew how corrupted most gaming sites are way before 2014, but
      the true extent of corruption and hidden agendas only came to light in
      late 2014 where pretty much most media came out of their hiding places
      and reveled their true selves. Where they all revealed how connected
      they really are and how far the corruption goes. The extent of it is
      shocking, something that would came out of typical conspiracy theorist
      wet dream or nightmare…or George Orwell’s mind. Sometimes, the reality
      is strange, unbelievable…but evidences are there.
      But that is the state of gaming journalism now. And cash-grabbers in the gaming industry love the situation and encourage it.
      2014 was final nail in the coffin for me…..I don’t even feel comfortable
      calling myself a gamer anymore. Gaming was ruined for me. RUINED.
      Thanks, liberal gaming media.

      Incgamers is the only gaming site I still read because I trust you and I want to stay updated on gaming, in case something changes for the better. But it seems that it will only get worse 🙁

    • whatthespork

      I think Robin, creator of the Nexus, deserves much appreciation for his transparancy, insight and integrity throughout this whole mess. It’s too bad Newell’s responses are dripping with PR doublespeak.