We’ve come a long way from last year’s paid mods fiasco on Steam. For those who can’t remember, Valve added paid mods to the Steam Workshop for Skyrim seemingly out of the blue, though various tweets from modders revealed that it had been in the works for some time. It took less than a week for Valve to backtrack on their decision, saying in a community posting that they clearly “didn’t understand exactly what we were doing.” Now, almost a year after the community outcry, they have returned, albeit in a different form.
Starting with Roshpit Champions, players will be able to purchase a pass that unlocks “premium content” for various custom games in Dota 2. This was announced by way of a blog post, and an interview with PC Gamer, where they attempt to assuage any fears that people might have about buying premium access to custom games. The pass itself earns you a number of increased drop rates for Roshpit Champions, in addition to more character and item storage slots. It is worth noting that the pass is not a one-time purchase, and must be repurchased monthly if you wish to continue access to the premium content.
Curiously, the FAQ does not answer the question of what happens to the extra characters and items in those slots after the pass expires, nor is this topic brought up in the interview. The interview does touch on the topic of Valve learning from the paid mods fiasco that was tied to Skyrim last fall. Valve does understand that members of the community demand and expect quality if they’re going to pay for something, which is why Valve has taken steps to personally vet every custom game that passes will be added for. In addition, the ongoing renewal means that people who are dissatisfied with the progression of the custom game can effectively withdraw their support. This also ensures that creators will continue to support their game, as many users wouldn’t likely support a dead game mode.
Could this support of “paid” custom games be a continuation of the philosophy found with Skyrim’s paid mods? Certainly so, as it’s a much more optional way for the community to support content creators in a way they choose. Valve doing quality control on every custom game that applies for a pass is one way to separate the wheat from the chaff, something Skyrim mods certainly do not do. Not only that, the passes are optional, whereas certain mods on Steam Workshop added functionality to Skyrim that wasn’t present otherwise. Revenue sharing is still occurring, where Valve still takes the same cut that they would for a full-priced game on the Steam Store, but for the ability to sell to a userbase as wide as Steam’s, I think many content creators would gladly take that opportunity.
There is still some work that needs to be done on Valve’s quality control end yet. Less than a week after the announcement of the monetized custom games, users on Reddit noticed that a number of the item and otherwise art assets were taken from other locations, whether that was copyrighted art assets, or custom item sets. Roshpit Champions’ creator, ChalkyBrush, responded very graciously, saying that the offending art assets would be removed, and that he would be contacting the artists in question to offer an apology, and the option to work with him in the future.
These actions, while now obviously unacceptable in the wake of paying to access features of a custom game, seem to be a holdover from the Warcraft 3 days of modded custom games taking art from wherever they could. Modding was at a different point some ten years ago, with countless forums having sprung up to support Pudge Wars, DotA, Vampirism (or many of its variants), and numerous other custom games. Here, creators scraped together whatever art they could in a likely attempt to give some legitimacy to their product, but as it seems as though more and more game developers are moving towards supporting people who give their product legs.
Ultimately, this means good things for content creators and modders alike. The large takeaway from the “paid mods fiasco” was that community members didn’t mind paying for mods, so long as they could do it on their terms, and these passes seem to be the middle ground. Clearly there needs to be more work on the quality control department, but as there hasn’t been a volcanic explosion of community rage, it’s safe to say that for now, paid custom games are here to stay.