Did you know Black Bears don't roar? In fact they rarely ever growl. There are a lot of films and TV shows that depict a giant Black Bear towering over someone/something, roaring like a lion. That's because they dub over a bear with its mouth open, typically with a sound made up from a Brown Bear's roar and a Lion's. So if you're worried you're going to get eaten, at least you won't hear it bearing down on you.
So now that every gaming news outlet has either supported or decried Steam's paid-for-mod workshop idea with intense fervour, I think it's about time we had our opinion on it. Specifically, you only really truly come here for my biased and subjective ideas on everything, and now that Steam has finally buried the shovel on this mess, it's time for an overlook. Why? Because it's easier to complain about somebody's mistakes after they've made them. It's fun to do, and gets people riled up for baring teeth.
A long time ago, in a Nexus far far away
Mods have rarely been monetarily incentivised. In fact, since the dawn of the very first mods, they've always been free. There are people that do the big-big mods, like Skywind, Faalskar, and general overhauls for graphics systems, and yet they've never even charged money. Sure, they dropped a donation button on their official pages, but never outright demanded money for their work. This has been like this for the best part of a decade. No modder or group of modders has ever specifically charged for a mod with a price tag comparable to that of an official Q&A'd DLC. Why?
Because it's completely stupid.
If I jump back to Warcraft III (c'mon, it wasn't that long ago was it?), I recall the WC3 Editor. Now there are still websites to this day that host thousands of fan made maps. As a matter of fact, DotA was a mod, and quite rightly, even that was free. I remember making a tonne of maps, though only the final two I made were actually quality made and bug tested (we made it to Ver 1.3.7). Why did we make those mods? Why did we spend the best part of a month working solidly on maps that only a few thousand people ever played? Because we loved the game, we wanted to make ourselves feel like we were adding content to the game, and because we were very bored but inquisitive teenagers. We enjoyed the challenge, there was a massive community behind it, and that community was built on sharing and just having fun with people's wild ideas. You modded and built and edited out of sheer love. You can still download our maps, along with tens of thousands of others to this day, and all for free. This is "the way of things", and that is how it always should be.
When does a mod become a job?
I noticed the only people that supported these paid-for-mods were the ones that were now working in the industry. GabeN and Gary Newman. Why do they both support it? It sounded like a good idea, and they both currently get paid for doing/hosting it. I think they took it way out of context, especially when you consider some of the mods on sale at the time. Sure, it's nice to be paid for your time and effort. You look across the room, see a stupid hat or knife on TF2 selling for a hundred bucks a pop and wonder why you're overhauling the mesh for rope textures or designing an entire continent with 10 hours of gameplay for free. You're making a AAA title that cost millions of dollars to make better, and receiving very little thanks for it. Sure there are the odd people on SteamWorks that say thanks and appreciate it, and that's nice. But it's not as good as getting something worthwhile. I can understand that to a certain degree.
However, people have been making mods for so damn long without any expectation of profit, and that's why Steam gamers got so enraged about it all. People have modded things for years, big things, like the Dark Souls mod that fixes half of the game. Then some guy comes along and starts selling a sword that bugs out the game for $2 a download, because he feels entitled to a gain of some sort after the work he's put in. It's like an unwritten etiquette in the modding world, one that has been followed for years and years, and then some big company *cough* Bethesda *cough* decided to drop a paywall in front of it all because they wanted more profits, and herein lies the problem.
Mr. John "Bethesda" Moneybags
It was quickly iterated by GabeN that the 75% cut off of mods was not going to Steam, and that's a fact that is very easily lost in this outcry. Bethesda were the ones that decreed 75% of a modder's profits go to them and Valve. In other words - "We made this game years ago, and the only reason it's sold so well is because of mods. Sales have slowed, so now we need to monetize further."
So the people that did 100% of the legwork (granted, with a lot of Bethesda's assets), only saw a quarter of the profits. Now that was a slap in the face. The other issue that arises from this is support. Now Bethesda have to support their game and any bugs, which costs money. Mods however, they don't have to do anything. Once the mod is sold and not refunded within 24 hours, Bethesda has their money and that's it. The modder could due to unforeseen circumstances, disappear off the face of the earth, and leave behind a super buggy, entirely broken mod that a few hundred people have paid for. They're not required to fix anything, they're not even required to put forward a decent mod in the first place. There's no accountability, and that as a whole is the sole reasoning why this "bright idea" was a terrible one. You could not in full conscience sell a car that cuts out every 5 miles without being held accountable. You could not sell an antivirus that only protects you half of the time without being slandered across the internet. You could not sell a toilet that has it's pipes directly siphoned into nothing but wall without being sued (well you could, and it might just be a little bit funny before the smell sets in (and the rats)).
Ain't no thing
It's all alright though. Steam stopped paid-for-mods a short while ago. So everything's cool. But it kinda isn't. Modders got death threats, and a lot of general hate. Now the modding community has been borked hard after this ordeal, just because a bunch of people got greedy. It's always the case that the vocal minority ends up representing the peaceful majority. The Petition got 133,011 supporters by the end of this, and that's awesome. The media covered it a lot, and that's good too. The morons on the SteamWorks mod pages saying that the modders with paid mods were the scum of the earth and needed to die etc etc, however, they are the scum of the earth. Regardless of how stupid the idea, nobody deserved that.
If you're a modder, and you want money, simply making a shiny sword is not the way to people's wallets. A donate button is more than enough, and you'd be surprised how generous people can be for something they enjoy. Either that, or work so hard you end up making one of the highest selling mods ever. Alternatively, carry on doing what modders have been doing for a decade. Mod for the love of it.