Monetizing mods


#1

I’d like to start a discussion with regards to how or even if mods created for Stonehearth can be monetized? What this means is that if somebody puts in a whole bunch of effort to create a mod, they can get a few bucks back for their effort. The idea here is that mod developers might have a little bit of an incentive to either developer or at least fix bugs and maintain their mods if they are earning a few bucks along the way.

This can be either just some “pizza money” (aka enough to afford an extra pizza or to dump some money into another Kickstarter project) all the way to perhaps a mod developer “quitting their day job” and making it a full time job. Assuming that this game is successful enough, it is possible for literally millions of players to be participating… and certainly a few cents from a good portion of each of those players can add up to a pretty good pile of money.

I want to emphasize that there will be people making money off of the game anyway other than Radient… unless Tom and Tony want to squash this flat right now. An example of this is YouTube game playthrough players… some of which I know are playing games like Minecraft and SimCity, posting them as videos, and literally earning a full-time income doing just that. Others will likely be offering hosting services for the multi-player servers (an already announced feature), and Curse is definitely going to be making money off of the wiki. Mod developers are definitely going to be adding value to the game… especially some of the better mods, so what might be justification for keeping them from getting a cut of the money that other people are definitely going to be earning off of their work?

I know there is a certain hacker ethos that is strongly against monetizing mods, and I don’t want to shut you out of this conversation either. I am also not against mods that are released with free software/open source licenses like the GPL or CC-by-SA suite. Those have their place and undoubtedly will be developed for Stonehearth and I think should be encouraged as well. There still might be some expenses for hosting the mod content, and the need for things like a wiki or discussion forum for the mod development group if it is larger and more complicated mod (as exists for some Minecraft mods… to give an example). Regardless, there will be “free” mods in various flavors and monetizing mods should be optional for the mod developer in all circumstances. If a developer wants to give it away, nothing should stop them.

Ways of monetizing a mod generally come in these flavors:

Tip Jar - Basically it is a way to ask for donations to the developers, if you think it is a good idea. While not a bad idea, and certainly many projects do collect some money from donations to deal with necessary expenses, it seems to do poorly with mod developers in general. Comment to this thread if you have any experience (good or bad) about tip jars on projects you have been involved with or that you have been a major fan (aka followed the mod developer for more than six months or so and have seen how donations have or have not come into the project).

Banner advertisements - This can range from setting up your own web page with Google ads or some other advertisement service all of the way to sites like AdFly, where you can post links in forum posts and get a couple of cents off of each click when people try to download your mod content. This is an issue for the people running the forum where the links are being used… as some forum operators may not like those kind of links and others don’t mind. I really don’t know how Radient feels about this right now… especially on this Discourse forum even though such links can be used right now. Banner ads do work and can earn some money (I’ve done it for Minecraft mods and earned pizza money amounts), and for the most part players don’t really object too strongly to stomach some advertising in exchange for a quality mod.

If you can’t stomach AdFly, it might be fun to try and set up a similar service for Stonehearth players that could include banner ads for servers or other services related to the game. A warning on that though as I’ve seen people try to do that and fail miserably.

Mod Store - This would likely be the most controversial approach as you would directly need to pay for the mod in a fashion similar to the Apple App Store. A variety of payment systems could be employed, and the amount of money a player would need to pay could still be minimal (just a few cents to a couple of bucks) for a mod, but it would be perhaps the most reliable kind of income for a mod developer. This could be done independently with a 3rd party running the “exchange”, or be done by Radient directly with Radient taking a small cut of the money (between 5% to 50%) being paid for the mod. If it was integrated directly into the game through a menu of some sort, even people who wouldn’t frequent the forums might be inclined to download the mods. Included with the listing of mods could include links to forum posts about the mod and reviews of that mod to help you decide if they are something worth getting or to avoid malware.

I should point out that a “mod store” might still be a useful idea even without monetization. You could still have “free” mods in such a mod store where developers don’t want anything in return… listed adjacent to mods charging money.

If there are any other ideas on how to promote and provide incentives for mod developers to keep doing their work, I’d like to hear them as well. Money speaks quite well as an incentive and at least it gives you an indication your work means something to other people.


Stonehearth Modding Dedicated Site
#2

Any mods I make will be fully funded by tip jars. I hate adf.ly and it’s ilk, and while some mods are painstaking, you are always going to have one customer who won’t pay, will demand it’s finished, will bitch about bugs, and who will generally be a pain in your arse.

That customer? Yourself.

Because of that the mod would exist regardless. all you are doing is sharing it with the world. Voluntary forms of payment are just icing on the awesomecake.

Charging for the mod outright, that leads to problems with IP, with theft, bittorrent etc. and we don’t need angsty ‘artistes’ who care more about the money than the game suing other players or putting DRM in mods (I’m looking at you, Forge).

Anyhow. Becomes a pancake.

-Bits


#3

I think I do not like the idea of charging for mods. I would love to see a Stonehearth with a great community which is willing to share knowledge and where people get recognition for their work. But not one where you have to buy mods… that just does not feel good to me.

Of course, if someone makes great mods, people are always free to support them if they feel like. However, someone who is really into modding for money, might find other ways to earn some bucks (as you’ve mentioned via YouTube or their website might be an idea).

P.S. On the “Mod Store”… the developers mentioned that they like the idea of having kind of a “repository” for mods, so you do not have to search for them all over the web.


#4

Mod store is just bad idea… I know that ppl create great content, but look at minecraft bukkit project. All authors make that for free with option to support him. If you create something good, you will get support from fans.


#5

Continuing the discussion from Monetizing mods:

You have made a claim here that mod developers might be chasing each other with lawyers. I could see that happening I suppose. I’d like to see some examples of that happening. Copyright law can be real tricky in terms of “derivative rights”, and mod developers are always on a blade edge as the original developers of the game can yank the rug out from under the mod developers in a hurry… pushing mod development into a black market kind of activity.

From my experience, most people in the game mod community have a slightly different view of copyright than what intellectual property lawyers would think of the same concept. Making yet another cute woodland creature is likely to be ignored, but somebody copying the ideas of another mod usually can cause problems.

Abandonware among mod developers is a common problem, where often after a mod has been left stagnant for some significant period of time (say about a year or 4-5 versions of the main software later) it is picked up by another developer and “made current”. While nice in theory, a hard examination of copyright law would likely find this a blatant violation of copyright and illegal even if everybody in the mod community thinks it is an excellent idea.

I know of one game, Alpha World, that ended up having the mod developer buy out the original developers of the game and took over all of the assets of the company in a strange twist of events… in part because the original developers struggled to monetize the game themselves.

Ultimately, if money is to be made off of a mod, money will be made off of the mod. It may not be given to the mod developers, but somebody will get that money. The issues of IP problems will be present regardless of the payment system, and copyright still exists for mod developers. As for bit torrents… that is hardly a new problem as well.


#6

Well one thing is for sure, money is not needed as motivation to MAKE mods.
Right now people would already be making mods if they would have any specs on what to make them on… jeez look at that norse pixel art guy, bet he would already create whole campaigns if the details on how modding would work would be known.

I believe monetizing could happen with servers… like people were happy to donate for CS servers with certain maps for example.
So maybe themed or special servers with tailor made mods making them unique game environments.


#7

cough Kingdom has a repository endcough


#8

If @Tom and @Ponder provided hosting, (which would be expensive in the long run without ad revenue or some form of continuing maintenance income), there wouldn’t really be a need for even tip jars. In the beginning of the minecraft mod scene, adf.ly was strictly to offset hosting costs. Now major mods are making way more than that. It hasn’t become nasty yet really, because often times the people with the technical knowhow to make these things aren’t the most greedy, and the most greedy aren’t the most savvy Java developers.

@KingKorihor, It’s starting to happen right now. People are becoming picky about their mods being including in modpacks (i.e. Thaumcraft, Millenaire) because some modpacks started putting all of these other people’s files behind paywalls, monetizing the work of others. To simplify my argument, I believe we should learn from the issues Minecraft is starting to face and nip them in the bud immediately by centralizing within a repository, implementing an IP disclaimer transferring overall rights for mods to radiant (which could be automatic as a stipulation of using their engine) and, since radiant would be hosting and own rights, banning monetary compensation except through radiant approved channels (tip jars, donate buttons, radiant takes 5% for hosting) if any.


#9

I guess I can add to this by saying that adf.ly is not allowed on Kingdom and the only way to share a mod is if you upload it on our servers and download it off of our servers


#10

@Warstories,

You have not yet met your daily quota of at least one post that doesn’t plug Kingdoms. Please retry. xD

-Bits


#11

I meet all my daily quotas over at Kingdom, now I’m just messing with ya :stuck_out_tongue: But I do post over there alot, maybe you will join us someday at the Kingdom :heart:


#12

I’ve never been a mod developer, but I would hope that anyone developing a mod is doing it for the fun of making new content for a game they love. That said, I can certainly understand modders wanting to get something more “legal tender” for their work. One problem with monetizing mods with Stonehearth in particular is that so much of the core game is supposed to be moddable with most aspects written by the developers using the modding software available to modders. So how much new game content needs to be created before you can justify selling something that is Radiant’s brainchild (and bread-and-butter).

Those considerations aside, I would put forward the Pay-What-You-Want model popularized by the Humble Bundle. In function, it is the same as a tip jar, but it is different in buyer mentality. I as a buyer can pay what I think the content is worth. Sure some people will pay nothing and get the content, but many people will pay more because their amount is an evaluation of the content.

Monetizing mods also complicates the multiplayer, since everyone accessing the server will need to have the same mods. And what will be used to verify that a given mod has been paid for? I definitely want to keep DRM out of the game as much as possible.

There are probably ways of addressing each of these issues. Personally, I’m probably more willing to support (either through money or free advertising as in “Hey, you should check out this mod”) someone who makes a mod because they want to see those features in the game, they offer it to the public, and let the public pay what they think the content is worth.

Things I could see asking actual money for (with some portion going to Radiant)

  • A bundle of story modules - If you write 200 story modules with custom AI scripts, massive amounts of original game lore, and new NPC models. (200 may be an exaggeration, but it should be more than 1. I’m thinking like taking Dungeons and Dragons and creating the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, etc.)
  • complete game rewrite - If you re-build the game to be a StarWars/Sci-fi game with interplanetary travel, etc. (i.e. more than reskinning models)
  • building a new game - I’m thinking of the DotA mod for Warcraft III

Things I could see accepting donations for (maybe with portion going to Radiant)

  • small collection of story modules (10+)
  • probably anything that adds a significant amount of content (Yeah this one is pretty vague. Here is a measure. Much as I love all the content that the Qubicle creators have made, I don’t think anyone has yet produced significant content.)

#13

^ I like that idea. That way, it puts the purchase right in front of the buyer and people who might not have originally given anything may now chip in a few bucks and people who would have downloaded the mod without the dev in mind still are required to give a penny, in which case, the dev still gets a tiny bit of compensation and it makes it so its not worth it to pirate it. This would also result in an accurate download count, and those pennies add up.

Although, I’m sure there will be a few people who will still pirate the mod, I think would be limited a lot this way cause it really isn’t worth it…

Also, Humble Bundle allows you to choose where your funds go, so maybe that could be an option.


#14

there have been some great responses here already, and this could easily become a heated debate… my response is short and sweet: i view mods as a voluntary effort, where the modder is working on a labor of love (first and foremost because its something they want to use themselves)…

if a modder provides the option for accepting donations towards their work, and folks decide to donate, that is entirely OK in my book (assuming of course radiant is ok with the concept to begin with)…

i draw the line where folks require donations for their work though…


#15

You’ve misunderstood me a little. I’m not sure I would use the Humble Store widget (I considered it) since the Humble people charge a small premium for each transaction and modders are unlikely to make much anyway. Having another group take a cut is just diluting things more.

My thought is to have a donation button, but label it “Pay What You Want.” I know it is semantic, but it also changes the mentality of people looking to use your mod. You are offering them a service and are asking them to evaluate (with their wallet) the worth of that service. I think it makes people think a little more about paying.

@SteveAdamo What is your opinion of someone asking money to support continued development after creating something like DotA where they have made a completely new game using the original game as more of an engine than as a traditional mod would? (I think the guy who created DotA continues to update content even now and provides it free, But I think something like this could justify asking for money to support development with some royalty or licensing being paid to the original game makers. I’m curious of your opinion.)

I personally hope that most modders create good mods because they love making those mods, and offer them free to the community with the option of voluntary donations to support continued development of the mod.


#16

pretty much the same stance to be honest… the reason being, folks will pay for something that they feel is worth the money, right? very similar to the approach for Kickstarter…

so, if someone makes a massive overhaul to SH, incorporating entirely new gameplay mechanics, models, AI routines (the whole gambit), and i feel its worth a $10 donation to keep the project moving along, so be it… its a win win… :smiley:

as long as the players have the choice of donating, i really dont have a problem with it (be it a large or small project)… and while i can sympathize with the modder, having spent so much of his or her spare time on the project, at the end of the day, it was voluntary… and so should be the means of donations… in my humble opinion… :wink:


#17

I don’t think it’s a bad idea to make money from the mods you make. Of course Radiant Entertainment will have to take their cut. But I think all mods will have to go through quality control or some kind of review. To make sure, that the mods won’t crash CPUs or avoid any other negative issues the mods may cause.

The problem I see is people may unknowingly or purposefully steal other modders hard work. By copying their mods and changing a few things here and there. That’s why I think we need some kind of review system to avoid things like that from happening.

It could be a good way for some us to make some extra cash. But very few of us will make it to the top of the charts. If a system for monetizing mods ever started. You will see some very talented modders from other games making mods for this game. Cause a greater talent divide from the amateur modder to the professional modder. Which would mean less people looking or wanting the amateur mods. It may cause some people to leave in frustration.

It’s best we wait and see what Radiant Entertainment as to say about this. And see what their plans are for their community and Stonehearth’s Mod Scene.


#18

It should be pointed out that copyright will still apply to any mods that are created… regardless of the status if somebody is being paid for creating the mod or not. It will be something to deal with in any distribution system of mods, where some moderator or reviewer will need to cull blatant copies of mods.

Going slightly off topic, I do think Radiant ought to establishing a licensing model for permission to make a mod (as an EULA or End-User License Agreement) that would give Radiant the ability to take content they like which has been made into a mod and be able to incorporate that mod into the general release… or be able to copy concepts and ideas from the mod. Depending on the legal structure of such an EULA, other conditions of mod development could be spelled out very clearly including working with abandonware, what sorts of monetization are considered acceptable, and how the mods can be distributed.

I’m hoping that Radiant keeps this real simple and in plain language so everybody can understand what it is that they want out of the modding community.

For myself, I don’t have a problem with somebody charging anything they can get for a mod they develop. I really don’t think they would ever realistically charge any substantial amounts of money and for the most part they will be free to anybody. If you don’t want to pay for the mod, you don’t need to get it. There should be some sanity in terms of how it is done though.

I really don’t know how this is going to work out. Most mod development takes place in a quasi-legal environment anyway where the companies whose programs are being modded has not really set up an environment for modding explicitly. Mojang is one example of a company who openly accepts that modding is taking place and is trying to move to a model of open support for modding (not easy) yet retain their intellectual property rights. Electronic Arts, on the other hand, openly kills any modding attempt through even technological means… even though it still exists and is mildly tolerated if you keep it off the official forums and don’t make a big stink of it. Modding stuff for software written by Jagex (the creators or Runescape) is so black that you need to perform a virus scan of your computer simply by visiting the modding forums and so full of malware that you must inspect by hand every line of code before you compile the mod software. Jagex has also been vicious about shutting down websites of modders and even taking further legal action by bringing mod developers to the judicial system for copyright infringement.

Radiant seems to be very open to the concept of mod development, and indeed that was one of the things I fell in love with in terms of why I supported them on Kickstarter. This issue of monetizing mods is something that does need to be nailed down early and not fester as an issue that continues to haunt the community. If something like AdFly is permitted, it should be explicitly so and not something where some developers simply add it into their posts and then have to hope the post doesn’t get deleted… but not sure about it.


#19

While I am still 100% against adf.ly (it’s just an ugly, unprofessional delay), I second everything else @KingKorihor has said there.

Donations should be optional, and Radiant should be on top of the legality from square one.

-bits


#20

I didn’t use to allow adf.ly links on my MCSchematics.com website either but then decided that as long as the schematic remains available on the MCS site then users can also post adf.ly links so that those users that want to support the creator can do so by downloading the schematic file from the adf.ly link if they should choose to do so.

It’s worked out fine for both users that wish to support creators and those that hate adf.ly links.
I fully support it as long as there is a repository where a user does is not forced to go through an adf.ly link to get the content.