…I’ll admit, I’ve been fearing the day that would come to pass. I do not do well with Steam Workshop, and have actually stopped modding every game I was previously doing so for once it moved to the Workshop. It’s a much more intimidating hassle for me than I have ever been willing to deal with.
They fear it will segment the userbase. There is a huge quantity of players not on Steam that would be left out. I mean, I can simple update my mods on both platforms (here and in the workshop) but there is no guarantee that everyone will do that.
It was mentioned that they plan to make their own service sharing for mods, hopefully with build templates too.
I believe they are going to do what Re-Logic did with Steam when they use Terraria with multiplayer. Terraria does have many mods. The mods are not through Steam Workshop. With Steam, you can host with your friends, or you can go through an IP and host that way. You can also join friends and play the game.
The Steam workshop is, generally speaking, a great infrastructure for mod hosting. I’ve seen many games with a large pre-steam community make use of the Workshop without it fracturing their player base or mod community; so in that regard I don’t see a downside in including workshop support.
Where I do see potential issues, though, is in the nature of the Stonehearth mods themselves. Simple additive .smods would work brilliantly on the Workshop, and those are the vast majority of mods being released anyway. However, the potential exists for much more dramatic changes – e.g. mods which remove or replace chunks of the game (for example, we might see a “no conversations” mo, or one which completely overwrites the Ascendancy jobs tree with a new one); and such mods don’t always work so well on the Workshop. It comes down to how they’re installed; again anything which can be packaged up into a single folder will work great but if the mod comes in different parts or requires any manual installation (which, to be fair, shouldn’t actually be required… it does sometimes need to happen if you want to run two “advanced” mods at the same time though, e.g. two different mods which both want to replace the same file rather than just add to it), the workshop doesn’t support that.
For individual mods, I really don’t foresee any issues. But then, who only uses one mod once they start? Unless all the mods are built with compatability in mind (which sometimes isn’t possible – look at @BrunoSupremo’s more experimental terrain mods, for example), any mod which overrides content has the risk of being incompatible with other mods which also override the same content.
And the sad truth is that workshop mods have to be a lot more… I want to say “foolproof”, but I don’t want to go calling the entire Steam community fools at the same time hahah. There are, however, a lot more players on Steam who are less likely to understand the ins and outs of getting their mods to work, and less likely to know where to look for help. The Workshop is all about convenience and one-button installation; whereas people who get their mods from these forums have to at least engage with the creator’s home post and look for the download link themselves. I know many people on Steam who just skip straight to the subscribe button after seeing something they like in the preview images. So mods built for the Steam workshop need to be a bit more user-friendly than what we can get away with here, or at least they do if the creator doesn’t want to risk being bombarded with technical issues.
I think that on the subject of mods being released on Steam but not to the rest of the community, that’s where we as a community can band together to help out – a simple message of “hey, I tried your mod on the workshop and it’s really fun! Have you considered releasing it on the community forums too for non-Steam users to enjoy?” is often all it takes.
Of course, if the devs do end up creating some other service to handle it, this whole post becomes moot anyway hahah. I reckon the ideal solution would be an in-game link to an official mod hosting page, exactly how Don’t Starve does it (with the difference being that the link/button would point to a webpage rather than the Steam workshop).
I hope modding becomes the best of both worlds. One where Steam users can make use of the workshop and the community forums. I forgot the Don’t Starve links. That would be very good idea. Then we can get the best of both worlds with the mods. I have not tried the Don’t Starve mods yet. I still die before winter comes around in that game.
Just so there’s no confusion; I’m not against Steam Workshop, it’s just a matter than I personally have issues uploading to it and am not inclined to push to do so. At which point, I wouldn’t really have any qualms if someone else wanted to take my work from somewhere like here and re-upload it so it’s on the Workshop (particularly if they accredit me for the original work)
You would, unfortunately, have to use mods outside of the Steam workshop – exactly how they work now. Hopefully someone would think to ask modders on the Steam workshop to also consider releasing them on other platforms (whether that means here, moddb, nexusmods, etc.,) but there’s no guarantee they’d agree to. Of course the reverse is true, some of the established modders here might not want to go through the effort of learning to use the Steam workshop, or maintaining different platforms, or just might not like the atmosphere over there.
But that’s why the devs are worried about the modding community being split – any mods which are exclusively uploaded to the workshop can’t be downloaded without Steam.
And that’s why my preferred option would be a central repository easily available from within the game (i.e. link to a webpage) – it would mean the convenience of Workshop support, but without requiring the use of Steam.
On the other hand, the nice thing about Humble Bundle is that if you ever did want to start using Steam you should already have a key for that platform. If not, I’m sure you could contact the Stonehearth support email, explain the situation and that you didn’t have/want a key at the time of purchase, and they’d probably organise one – Humble will keep track of your proof-of-purchase so it’s not that difficult to chase up, and in my experience most game developers are happy to sort out such things since you already own a copy anyway So as a worst-case scenario you would be able to use Steam to download mods from the workshop, retrieve the files, and then use them within the external copy of the game; it just means you would need to set up a Steam account if there was some steam-exclusive mod you wanted to use.
The problem is that the Steam Workshop is a framework for developers. It’s up to them how accessible stuff becomes.
Let’s take Garry’s Mod as an example, where I have some hands-on experience with the workshop. Downloading mods is stupidly simple, you press subscribe (or in-game, just click on the + in the list), it’s downloaded and available immediately (might need a map switch because that’s how Source rolls, but no game restart or other fiddling). Super simple stuff.
As a mod author, however, it gets a bit more complicated. You need to mess around with a command line tool whose documentation was at the time average…ish. Once you figured out how to publish something, and how to update it, you’ll just create a batch file and call it a day. Updating things is fairly easy, but not as easy as it could be.
Space Engineers has a workshop for ships/templates/blueprints. Subscribing in-game wasn’t possible, but uploading was just pressing a button, entering a title, and submitting it. The game does all the heavy lifting behind the scenes, neatly packed into a GUI.
I think Portal 2 had a similar thing with the level editor, where it was a pretty streamlined experience. Just designing your level, pressing save, and that’s it. No fiddling required.
Your mileage varies with how much effort the developers put into the usability of the toolsets.
Terraria is a horrible example, because Terraria does not support modding per se. The mods for Terraria are basically patched executables, similar to Minecraft Forge. Somebody hacked limited modding capabilities into that thing. There are, or were, multiple modding frameworks/launchers too, so this can’t really be taken as an example.
I would argue that this is an issue of too powerful tools, not that it is necessarily a bad thing. You can overwrite and delete things with mods, and this means that compatibility issues with other mods arise. Whether it’s the Steam workshop, or Curse, or some *Nexus, or something you made yourself, those issues will exist and cannot reasonably be prevented.
Advanced mods or stuff like that are own mods, see Factorio for examples. You have your base mod, and then you have flavour X of the mod to add additional features, or take them away. Bob’s stuff and Angel’s grindfest comes to mind, with each a bazillion sub-mods (that balance themselves according to whether other mods are present or not; something that Stonehearth can only do limited or not at all).
As somebody who’s been bugged for the same question every month for the past six years that has been stated in bold in the FAQ on the entry I feel privileged to say yes, yes they are. That’s something you’re talking about too, but is a dilemma of the current era. On one hand, you need a shiny, big, one-click-to-download-and-install button. On the other, maybe getting people to read the description could be a good thing. But then the UX is ruined. Ruined!
Whatever is uploading the mods to the Workshop could also do an upload to a semi-maintained repository done by Radiant. It wouldn’t need to be anything fancy; just a title, description, and a download link I suppose. But this depends on how much they value Steam as their primary platform, compared to the other distribution paths. If Steam isn’t important enough, no amount of workarounds is going to justify using the workshop.
So here’s my two cents on the issue: It’s messed up. The topic of segregation has come up several times, but I would argue this would happen no matter what. With Steam, without Steam, you’ll get at least two download portals/managers, You’ll also have people that just outright refuse to use any kind of portal, and offer the stuff on their own website. I would guess that paid mods could be a thing too, but I doubt Stonehearth will reach enough presence for anything like that.
Making modding portals is hard. Ask the Factorio guys, very recently they’ve released a rewrite of their modding portal because the old one was pretty unusable (in terms of reliability and performance). Of course, Factorio has more players than Stonehearth could ever dream of, but it’s still a thing to consider. In any case, there are so many components that come into play, so many questions that need to be solved. If you’re doing it wrong, your process becomes too complicated and people will just outright download zips/not use mods at all. Just some of the issues I see
Dependencies on other mods: Optional, required. Semi-automatic fetching of dependencies upon installation.
Version management (“I require game vX”, “I require mod A vY”)
Conflicts with other mods (not impossible, but very difficult to achieve on a user-friendly level for both producers and consumers)
Downloading content (in-game client; offline)
Dependency on DLC (technically, unless the plans have changed, the whole Kickstarter rewards could be considered DLC)
The whole social media aspect of it: Sharing, commenting, voting; recommendations, discussions (all of which Steam, as example, excels at - as one of the few portals I know)
Administrator/Moderator tools, including reports/flagging of content
Optional: Providing tools to develop/upload content to the portal; of course available for all supported platforms.
Creating such a system itself would be quite a feat. The parts themselves are rather easy, the system as a whole however is a mighty complex beast that would require a lot of work, if to be done properly.
Personally, I think the question is whether the effort will be worth it. There’s no use for a modding portal if you only have a handful of mods by a few developers anyway. As soon as you have dozens of mods, the need for a portal arises, but until then, even hacky solutions can be considered. For example, a simple auto-mod updater/downloader can be written in a few hundred lines of code. It was more of a proof-of-concept for auto-updating mods, more than anything. But depending on your needs, this might be all you need, for now.
IMHO its rather stubborn to ignore Steams infrastructure (btw. it not only supports modding but also synchronizing savegames on different machines), cause it shouldn’t be that much of a technical effort, as almost every other moddable game shows.
Just take a look at the prospering modding scene for Rimworld.