If you need a case study in the chaos Valve has unleashed on the Skyrim modding scene with its new payment system, ‘Art of the Catch’ by users Chesko and Aqqh is a prime example.
A lengthy (but detailed) Reddit post from Chesko himself (though his Reddit account is now deleted) provides some background information to the decision to pull the Art of the Catch mod, as well as interesting snippets about Valve’s near total lack of oversight.
Some background: Art of the Catch is a fishing-based mod for Skyrim, with scripting by Chesko and animation by Aqqh. It also makes use of aspects of the popular FNIS mod (Fore’s New Idles in Skyrim.)
This, of course, is how problems arose. Many Skyrim mods make use of other mods as part of their functionality (in the case of Art of the Catch, FNIS doesn’t seem to have been crucial, but, in Chesko’s words, “a major component of it’s enjoyment required FNIS.”) Effectively, Art of the Catch was being sold, and FNIS wasn’t going to see any of that money.
Chesko’s defense in his post is that Valve and Bethesda’s NDA kept him from speaking with anybody (“During this time, we were required to not speak to anyone about this program,”) and that discussions with Valve during this time garnered some unofficial and pretty dubious-looking legal advice. He cites an apparent discussion with a Valve representative, who states the following: “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.”
Yikes. I mean that could be severely out of context, but … yikes.
Ultimately, the situation with Art of the Catch led to Chesko and FNIS creator Fore having a discussion and Chesko taking the decision to pull said mod from the Workshop.
Except … that’s not that easy, because people have paid for it now and Valve don’t fancy removing it from those people’s libraries. “I was just contacted by Valve’s lawyer. 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,” Chesko writes in an update to his post.
“What I need to happen, right now, is for modding to return to its place in my life where it’s a fun side hobby, instead of taking over my life,” he concludes.
Reminder: all of this legal, copyright, ownership and profit wrangling is over a Skyrim fishing mod that, until yesterday, would have been entirely without controversy. Valve’s half-arsed implementation of this system has resulted in widespread animosity, confusion, and greed. Right now, it’s doing far more damage than good to the Skyrim modding scene.