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If you’re reading this and you're wondering who I am then you might want to check out Robin's news post that briefly introduces me. But let me explain a little more about myself. Firstly, a big hello!
Okay, so my name is Paul and I go under the forum name BlindJudge - which comes from one of my favourite looking wakeboard tricks and no, I can’t do it - yet!
I’m a passionate gamer who enjoys pretty much any game going, my Steam collection is pretty vast (1100+ games at present) and contains everything from the latest blockbusters through to some lesser known but amazing gems of indie titles. Currently I’m playing games such as Battleblock Theatre, retreading my way through Skyrim (this time modded to the brim) and some of the old school games like the Homeworld remake.
I've been brought in alongside Robin to work in a Content Director role. It's a wide and very varied role but will initially focus on improving how the staff work behind the scenes and working on a complete redesign of the Nexus Mods site. That might be a little worrying, for a new guy to come in and tell you he's heading up a redesign of the sites, but let me try and put your fears to rest.
The Nexus site design is now a good 4-5 years old and it's starting to show its age. Not only that, but it's also splitting at the seams due to all the functionality that's been "tacked on" since the last site redesign was done. The current design wasn't developed with a lot of the new functionality that's been added since in mind, hence why some places can seem a bit cramped and it's often hard to find exactly what you want.
As has always been the Nexus way, we want this process to be as transparent and open to the community as possible and we would love people to come forward every step of the way to offer their suggestions, thoughts and any input you deem could help us deliver to you the site that you deserve. We're not keeping this a secret and just springing it on you once it's ready. We're not working in private with a couple of "respected users". We want to get everyone's opinion every step of the way through to completion. This is your site and your community and you guys are best placed to tell us what you think is best for it - not us and not a few "carefully selected" individuals. We would like it to not only look nice but be exceptionally easy to navigate and easy to find exactly what you're looking for while highlighting not only the bigger mods but also the hidden gems people may have discovered. Importantly we'd also like to to be future proof for any new functionality we add to the sites in the future to avoid that "tacked on" look.
We’ve already started collecting lots of behind the scenes data over the last month. Heatmaps have shown us where people are clicking and how many people scroll up and down the pages. Analytics are showing us where people are arriving from and which pages they are entering and how they're browsing between the various pages on the site. The next logical step for us is to get some really important information from you guys, the people who use the sites the most, on what you'd like to see from a new Nexus site design. To that end I've set up a quick survey, it only has 15 questions, which are mostly multiple choice and should (honestly!) only take 5 minutes to complete, unless you want to give us really detailed information (which we'd really like to read!).
So if you don’t mind, please take our survey, the information you submit will be used to make the site better for you, after all! As an added incentive we’re going to pick 5 names at random from the completed surveys and each of those people will receive a $50 Steam Gift Card.
I know, they are annoying and no one likes to fill in surveys - but the information that we can capture from you guys would be highly advantageous to all of us when it comes to a site wide redesign. We don’t want to just change things over and spring it on you in a “TA DA” kind of way, we would like it to be user driven and because of this, my posts will more than often be asking for help, input, or informing you where we are in the process - and it’s going to be a long process!
So what is our timeline and when do we start?
Well, as mentioned we’ve already started to collect important data behind the scenes and hope this will give us a good insight into what is currently working and not working on the site. There will be a few more bouts of research, such as the survey, so we predict this could last anywhere up to around 8 weeks. We’ll try and get wireframes drawn up and put out in the public eye to gauge reaction and see if anyone has anything they strongly agree or disagree with. Heck, if you feel that you can come up with any ideas or wireframes or even designs yourself then we would love to see them.
Following the research and initial planning stages we’ll jump into the initial design stages which we will announce on the site. This is where we will be consulting the community and UI/UX experts to come up with design mockups for the site, using wireframes and feedback for the designs. These will once again be scrutinised and discussed, shown to the community and your comments will help further these. This should last around 8-10 weeks.
We would love for the new site (the moment it reaches Beta) to be released alongside the current one like the Nexus did with the previous design. This means that people will be able to switch between the two designs, old and new, finding out what they like about the new site, but more importantly what they don’t. There will be a feedback form for you to report back anything straight to us. Every single one of these will be read by me and put into metrics to facilitate changes to the more disliked features or a bug tracker to get things fixed.
It will be exciting times for us over the next few months as the site is developed and coded. It will be done in parallel with the existing site, so nothing will change on the existing NexusMods.com site and, as we said, we'll consult you guys, the users, throughout the entire process.
Site launch day will be exciting, this will be the day when the site swaps over from what it is now to the new one. It will have been a long labour of love from not only the staff here, but also the community as a whole and something I am exceptionally excited to see happen.
Once the new design is rolled out we are going to make sure that site updates and features are then released quickly, no getting stagnant as we want to evolve at the same pace as (or ahead of!) the gaming industry, quick to react to changes taking place in the gaming world. It will be a part of my job to move the site forward quickly ensuring that we stay ahead of the pack. Through listening to the wants and needs of the community I believe this is very possible.
It’s nice to finally say hello and I’m looking forward to working with each and every one of you.
Back in March we put up a job posting for a Community Manager position at Nexus Mods. I was looking for someone who was a part of the modding community who could be a friendly-face on the sites and would handle a lot of the PR and community side of things on the Nexus which has been lacking in recent years.
Over 400 people applied for the position and over the course of a couple of months I whittled down the applicant list to a "short-list" of 30 people, and then further down to a shorter-list of 4. Before I contacted these remaining 4 individuals, however, I met up with a close gaming friend for lunch one day. His name is Paul.
Paul and I met several years ago at StratLAN, a relatively small 100-150 person LAN event that takes place a few times a year at Stratford-upon-Avon racecourse that is run by Multiplay here in the UK (the same people who run the large Insomnia series of LAN, which I also go to, and who also did this year's Minecon, whose staff I know relatively well). Paul and friends were playing the Game of Thrones board game around a big table and, over the course of many hours and many drinks we all got to know one another. We now all meet up regularly, despite some long travel distances for some of us, to play board games and go to LANs together. When we're not LANning or board gaming we're often online playing games with one another. A good 15-20 of us are close friends now, of which Paul is a part, with a further 10-30 I've come to know and like a lot. Paul and I sit next to each other at the LAN events and he sometimes watches me as I do some Nexus work in between gaming sessions. He regularly offers advice on things he'd change on the Nexus site or asks questions about why I haven't done this or that. He tends to be quite astute!
When we met up recently Paul and I got to talking about our individual situations and, long story short, I saw a place for Paul working at the Nexus. He has a passion and drive for this sort of work with prior experience working on sites and in graphic design with a keen eye for the challenges facing the site and the work necessary to get the Nexus back up to scratch. I say up to scratch because I definitely feel like the Nexus could be doing more than it is right now in almost all areas, and the reason we've dropped the ball a little is because of me. Paul's coming in to streamline our operation and work just below me (no innuendo) to not only help with the decision making process but to help micro-manage the implementation of new functionality both behind the scenes, working on streamlining our work process, and on the front end that users actually see. Basically, he's another me, who will have the time necessary to really do what's best for the sites and this community. It doesn't mean I'm going anywhere, it just means I'm now getting some help on the sites that I really needed. And quite importantly for me, Paul is someone I know, who I can go and visit and who I can trust implicitly (indeed, he's sat a couple of metres away from me right now working away at his desk, migrating our internal bug tracking system over to a much better and more efficient system).
Paul will be making himself known and getting straight down to work in his own news post to follow. In the mean-time, I would still like to hire on a dedicated Community Manager. I held off on finalising any choice of Community Manager based on the applications received while Paul was brought on and acclimatised. we've both decided that a Community Manager is still very necessary and would be very worthwhile to the sites. I'll continue that work soon (tm).
Over the past 24 hours the Nexus sites have gone down 3 times, sometimes for as much as an hour. It's school holiday season which means it's also DDoS season, typically a time when an abnormally high amount of DDoS attacks happen (logical conclusion is...?). We're told by our hosts that we are not the target but unfortunately we're being taken down due to the attacks happening against our host's and main data centre's infrastructure. It's nice to know we're not the target, at least, but obviously it still sucks.
If you're wondering why we don't just "do something" about it. We do. We pay a lot of money (right now about $3200 a month and growing) to help against DDoS attacks, but DDoS mitigation is a bit like that scene at the end of Batman Begins where Jim Gordon is talking to batman and he's talking about escalation. "We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing kevlar, they buy armour piercing rounds. And you're wearing a mask...". You can buy a ridiculously expensive firewall that can scrub 20GB/s of malicious traffic on your upstream, then you'll just get attacked by a bigger botnet that attacks you with 50GB/s of malicious traffic. You buy a firewall that can handle 75GB/s, they attack you with 100GB/s. And so on and so forth. And each time it gets more and more expensive to combat against. And it can get really, really expensive after a certain point.
We and our hosts continue to react to the DDoS attacks as and when they happen. If they happen while I'm at my computer then I'm updating the Nexus Twitter account to let people know about the down-time and that we're aware of it. So if you like to be kept in the loop while the sites are down then you can follow us on Twitter. We don't really use that account for anything else right now so you won't get spammed about crap you don't care about!
While the techheads work to sort this out for all of us (and this DDoS is affecting thousands of sites, so we're not the only victims) please sit tight and be patient. At the end of the day, this is one person ruining it or all of us. Well, one person, and hundreds of thousands of computer illiterate people who haven't secured their PC's/routers/Internet of Things hardware against people using their hardware as botnets. So by all means, take this time to review your own system security!
As you might know we've been struggling with our forum server after the past few weeks and have been working towards getting them on the same Cloud setup that's worked so well for us with the main sites themselves.
However, we'd struggled to understand why, all of a sudden, the load times on the forums went from fine to absolutely awful in little to no time at all. There wasn't any sort of traffic spike and the servers weren't being constantly DDoS'd so there was no real reason for it. We knew it wasn't our database because the forums are running on the same database cluster that the sites are using; so the sites would have been slow as well.
We came to the conclusion that it must be related to how heavily we've integrated our forum software, Invision Board, with the sites themselves. All membership information, profiles, file comments and discussions and bug reports, image comments, video comments and Premium Membership information is handled and called through Invision Board and each time we add a new game to the site we were creating 17 new forum categories to support it, to the point where we had close to 3,000 forum categories on the forums. It seems Invision Board doesn't play nice with growth like that. At all. For the technically minded, Invision Board seems to store things like your read topics for every single forum inside variables before every single page load, so if there's 3,000 forums, that's a lot of server resources being used on each page load.
We've been experimenting with a number of different tweaks and changes to the forum servers over the weekend. Because it was the final weekend of the Steam Summer sale we once again saw record numbers of users on the sites (36,000 new members this weekend alone and 7,500 page views a minute). We were very pleased to see the sites held excellently during this time with page load times well within normal ranges and the traffic helped us to not only benchmark potential issues with the sites in light of a Fallout 4 release that's not too far away but also to analyse what would help relieve the load on the forum servers.
Today we've made some relatively large changes to the forum category structure. Most notably, almost all games on the network now only make use of a single forum for all discussion (with the exception of the big games like Skyrim, Fallout 3 and so on). We've done this not because we particularly want to but because the forum software itself cannot handle having 3,000 categories (and growing each time we add a new game to the network). All file, image, video and article comment topics now take up a single category each (as opposed to a category for each game on the network) and all the old topics and posts for files already uploaded have been moved to these single categories. While you can still access the "forum view" mode for file and image comments you will no longer be able to access the file and image comment forum category directly. Because all the files and image comment topics for all games on the network are now mingled together in a single forum category it seems pointless to open up the category for viewing; you'll never be able to find what you're looking for by browsing through that category anyway.
Making this small change has not only reduced our forum category count from 3,000 to 1,200 categories (and we haven't finished doing spring cleaning yet which will likely drop that figure to below 1,000) but it's drastically (DRASTICALLY) reduced the load times on the forum server. Essentially, the forums are now back to being quick and, in fact, better than ever.
We'll now manually add more forums (like forums for "mod requests") as and when they are needed. As it is, a lot of the games we support have no need for forums here and they're added automatically as a token gesture. They might be used, they might not. Point is, they're there, and we can always add more categories for popular games as and when they're necessary.
We've still got some spring cleaning to do and we're still going to go ahead with moving over to the cloud setup for the forum server. The cloud setup has showed its worth to us many times already, but case-in-point, this weekend the NMM virtual machine that handles logins and retrieving metadata for the Nexus Mod Manager became overloaded due to the sheer number of requests being made of it. As soon as we found out about the issue we were able to double the RAM and CPU cores available to the virtual machine, on the fly, within 5 minutes. Problem gone.
Aaaaaand, as I type this, I've just been informed of a DDoS taking place against our servers. It's being looked in to as we speak and I can't speak highly enough of our friends (well, actually my friends, two of whom I lived with in Reading after university and one of whom is a childhood friend from my early secondary school days) at Krystal.co.uk who handle a lot of our hosting requirements for the sites and are always there for the sites whether it's 3pm or 3am if we're having issues. If you're a Brit who needs hosting or has a crap hosting provider and is looking for reliable hosting with great service you really can't do better than these guys. And I wasn't paid for that little advertisement, they just deserve the exposure for the times they're there for the servers, fighting off the kiddies out there who want to ruin it for everyone else (they were also up at 3am on Friday morning helping us to bring back the forum server that decided it didn't want to wake up from a restart).
We're aware the forums have been largely inaccessible and now down since 11pm (GMT) on the 18th of June. In an unwelcome throwback to the 2013-2014 Nexus years the RAID controller on the forum server has seemingly packed in. Perhaps the forum server wanted to give us one last gift before we (had planned) to transition to the new cloud-based system over the weekend?
Thankfully all our database operations are stored on a 5-server database cluster unrelated to the forum server, so things like the member database, posts, topics, etc. are all fine, dandy and indeed all working from the NexusMods.com site as usual. The forums, including new registrations, are not however.
We're continuing to look in to it, but it's coming up on 3AM now and this might take a while. Just a heads up.
I just wanted to provide a quick update. While I haven't been able to reach a computer at all this weekend I'm aware that the servers have been slower than usual over the past few days.
The root cause of this issue is a database cluster node that got knocked out Saturday afternoon, meaning we've been running on 4 nodes instead of the usual 5. On top of that we're currently seeing higher than usual traffic, about 22% more than a usual Sunday, so not only are we running at 20% less power capacity but we're also serving 22% more users. I'm not entirely sure what the traffic bump is attributed to but it could perhaps just be an influx in people replaying Fallout 3 and New Vegas in response to the announcement of Fallout 4 last week.
We're overdue an update news post on the recent changes we've made to both the site and one of the largest updates to NMM we've ever done, due to my extremely limited time at the moment, but that will come as soon as possible.
Lastly, we're still aware of the slowness on the forum side and we're still working on transitioning the forums over to a new server system that should resolve this issue.
Mods having bugs in them is nothing new. If you've used or released at least a few mods in your time you'll have come across certain "features" in the mod that probably aren't supposed to be and weren't intended to be there.
Up until now if you came across a bug in a mod you'd have to report it either in the file's comments or as a private message to the author of the mod themselves. Very few mod authors have set up their own bug reporting systems on their own hosting solutions for reporting bugs on their files.
Today we've released a first edition of a new bug reporting system on Nexus file pages. This system is opt-in, which means if you want to make use of it on your file pages you need to go to "Edit Attributes" on your files and then set "Allow users to add bug reports about your file" to "Yes" under "User Permissions". The bug reporting system will then be turned on for your file page. You don't need to turn on or use this new system if you don't want to and you can turn it off at any time.
The bug reporting system creates a new tab on your file page and from this tab users can post new bug reports to the system and mod authors can respond to and control the contents of the bug reporting system, which works in a similar way to the commenting system. You can specify the status of the bug (being looked at, known issue, duplicate issue, solved) and the priority of the bug report in relation to all the others (low, medium or high) as well as removing the bug if it isn't relevant.
Either you or the user can decide to set the bug report to "private" if you'd like to keep it just between the two of you, which might be handy if you need to share information about your setup that you don't want other people to be able to see.
Mod authors can also manage and move bug reports made in the file comments into the bug reporting system. This will help to keep your file comment system more tidy while providing obvious signs that you've recognised what the user has commented on is a bug with a link to the bug report in question.
This is our first go at the bug reporting system so we're happy to listen to constructive feedback on ways to improve it for you.
Changes to the file image uploading system
This has been a much requested feature over the past few months. We've now updated the file image uploading system to allow you to upload as many images as you want without having to reload the page every 5 images. We've even set it up so you can drag and drop one or more images straight from your hard-drive to the box on the website to save you some time.
We are still aware of and working on fixing the issue with images displaying as broken for the first 10 minutes or so after you upload new images to the site. It's to do with our caching system on our static content servers. All 8 of them.
Since the announcement of paid modding last week the internet has been awash with discussion on the topic from all angles and extremes. I myself have written over 10,000 words on the topic over the past month.
I have had to remind myself that I had the privilege of having a bit of forewarning about this happening; I had time to go through all the mental states, think of lots of the permutations and think of all the different arguments for and against the system, so when the announcement came, the shock for me was not knowing when it would happen or how they would do it, rather than not knowing it would happen at all.
I want to begin to draw a line under this ordeal. This does not mean I want to forget it ever happened or think that this won't crop up again in the not too distant future. It will. Of course it will. But life on the Nexus must go on, and in order for us to move forward we need to stop talking about the events of the past week so much and continue on where we left off before this all started while trying to pick up the broken pieces in our community.
Ironically (I know), before I sign off on the topic for now, I have taken part in two articles in the public media over the past week. It is my intention to do no more news articles or interviews in the media about this topic unless some new developments occur. I have already respectfully refused to do a few because of this. Of the two articles I took part in, one was a Q&A with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the other was a close to 2 hour discussion with TotalBiscuit and Brumbek, author of SMIM . You can find that interview on Youtube now, and it should be on TotalBiscuit's SoundCloud by the end of the day. The former gives you some insight in to my take on things, and the latter is a very off-the-cuff conversation between the three of us. And a conversation is all it is. It is not a debate, it's not an attempt at an unbiased news article approaching the situation from every angle and it doesn't cover or intend to cover all the angles of this situation. But if you're interested in hearing a few opinions on a few different aspects of the topic, or if you want to hear my voice coming through an £8 Logitech desktop microphone I bought 10 years ago because I hate using headset microphones, then you might be interested.
I will say that, since finding out about this development a month ago, and since the actual launch of it last week, my opinions and views have been swayed massively during this time. I've read some excellent points from mod users, mod authors and game developers and I've read a lot of really, really dumb points too. But the point is, there are some excellent points and arguments to be made from all angles in this topic and, if you're anything like me, you want to try and see it from every angle and come to your own conclusions from as enlightened a perspective as possible. I might look back on what I have said in a day, a week, a month, a year or a decade and think "Heck, I got it wrong there!" or "Nah, I don't agree with that any more". For me, it's not about having principles and stubbornly sticking to them as much as it is approaching the situation with an open mind with the willingness to have my opinion changed by well thought out and reasonable critique. I encourage all of you to try and do the same, no matter what your view on the topic is.
On the topic of donations
The paid modding fiasco has put a spotlight on donations for mod authors. Of course, we've had a donate button on the sites since 2012 but many have said it isn't prominent enough and many didn't even realise we had one.
I like the idea of a donation system and I don't have a problem with a more prominent donation system. What I don't want is a site littered with adfly links, advertisements/demands for donations from mod authors and desperate begging for money. We need to find a system that is tasteful, not insulting to the senses, universal, yet still effective.
Many have brought up payment platforms like Patreon and Flattr. I would love to integrate these platforms, especially if they have a decent API where we can plug it seamlessly into the sites and make it look nice. Unfortunately that's not my choice to make. Legally, and for my piece of mind, this needs to be run by Bethesda to ensure they're OK with the idea. I am aware that at least one mod author is talking with representatives of Bethesda right now on this topic and we will wait to see what they have to say. If they give the go ahead for Patreon then we'll begin work on integrating it however we can. If they say they're not OK with it, we won't.
Change isn't going to come over night and I'm not going to rush out lots of big sweeping changes straight away. If you're a mod author with thoughts on this then you should go to the private mod author forums (a part of our main forums) to make your thoughts known with all the others discussing it. But in the mean-time our rules are the same as they always have been on donations. You can't charge money for your mods, specifically ask for or talk about donations in your descriptions/images/file comments and you can't solicit or advertise other products or services (like adfly links, or a few G2A links I saw crop up recently).
We're in the process of reviewing all the information being given to us on donations, at which point I'm sure some changes will be made, but in the mean-time it's business as usual.
The community manager position
I publicised a paid job opening on the sites a few months ago for a full-time community manager role. A few weeks back we took the listing down as we'd had over 300 applications, some of which were absolutely fantastic. I've read every single application and have created a "short" list of 30 names that I was in the process of whittling that down to a smaller number still when this fiasco hit, which has since taken all of my time.
I know, now more than ever, I really need this role to be filled, but the application process is taking a long time. I'm obviously taking it very seriously and analysing all the candidates for suitability. Because there are many, many really good fits who have applied already I will be sending out emails to people on the "short short" list in the not too distant future to get them to answer a few questions.
I wanted to update you all that the role has not been filled yet, I haven't sent out any emails, and the process is still on-going. And a big thank you to those of you who applied (and a big "what the heck, guys?" to those of you who sent in an application without telling me what your Nexus username is in your application...duh!!!).
Valve and Bethesda have announced that they have removed the payment feature from Steam Workshop effective immediately. Refunds have been sent out to anyone who paid for a mod using the system.
Bethesda's blog piece originally defended the system and was then later updated. However, I think it's an amazingly good read. You may not agree with everything written within it, but it is well written and shares key insights in to Bethesda's thinking when they went in to this endeavour. Frankly, if they had written and released that blog piece when they'd first announced the paid workshop functionality then it would have helped to alleviate some of my fears. It's a shame that it wasn't done. I particularly appreciated their comments on DRM, which I feel might have been slightly pointed at me:QUOTESome are concerned that this whole thing is leading to a world where mods are tied to one system, DRM'd and not allowed to be freely accessed. That is the exact opposite of what we stand for. Not only do we want more mods, easier to access, we're anti-DRM as far as we can be. Most people don't know, but our very own Skyrim DLC has zero DRM. We shipped Oblivion with no DRM because we didn't like how it affected the game.
Excellent words. Thank you, Matt (or whoever wrote it).
I know many people will disagree with me, but I can't help but feel sorry for Bethesda. I understand this was their own doing. But in between all the drama of the past few days it's very easy to lose sight of the fact that this is the developer who released an amazing SDK for Morrowind, when they didn't have to, an amazing SDK for Oblivion, when they didn't have to, an amazing SDK for Fallout 3 (that worked with New Vegas), when they didn't have to, and an amazing SDK for Skyrim, when they didn't have to. In a gaming industry that was and is running further and further away from modding. We shouldn't have had reason to doubt them, but unfortunately a lack of good communication with the community at large prior to releasing the tools has completely bewildered the entire community and contributed in a big part to the resounding amount of resentment towards the new system.
Earlier on today I wrote another 2,500 words for a Q&A interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun. I'm interested to see if they'll still print it considering it's now mostly a moot point, but it raised some interesting questions and answers which are directly related to how I think (or thought) this could have been handled a bit better to avoid what has become this rather terrible PR nightmare for Valve and Bethesda. If they're not planning on releasing it then I'll have a think as to whether it would be worth posting up as a concluding blog piece on the topic. Though it may be better not to beat the dead horse further and draw a line under this extremely damaging incident in the hope that we can move on from it quickly. Would you even like to read more of my banal twitterings? God knows I've waffled on way too much these past few days as it is.
I'm going to preface this news post by telling you to read the entire article, to the bottom before you run off and start quoting things left right and centre out of context. With that said...
Yesterday, Steam's new Paid Workshop had its first casualty as Chesko pulled his mods off the site. He made a post on Reddit explaining his decision, and took a pop at the Nexus at the bottom by saying:QUOTEI am also considering removing my content from the Nexus. Why? The problem is that Robin et al, for perfectly good political reasons, have positioned themselves as essentially the champions of free mods and that they would never implement a for-pay system. However, The Nexus is a listed Service Provider on the curated Workshop, and they are profiting from Workshop sales. They are saying one thing, while simultaneously taking their cut. I'm not sure I'm comfortable supporting that any longer. I may just host my mods on my own site for anyone who is interested.
This obviously sparked some controversy, not least because it omitted some quite pertinent details. People scrambling to see if it's true, wildly speculative wails of betrayal echoing across the internet. Okay, I'm being melodramatic. Basically, people read it, some people justifiably wanted a reasoned explanation, some people went batshit crazy. The internet. I responded to Chesko's post on Reddit pretty quickly and answered people's questions and even humoured a crazy person for a bit. Things died down considerably once people had the facts. By that point it was getting late, around about 8pm in the evening, and I'd been at my desk all day with a few hours sleep the night before. I figured I'd do a bigger news post tomorrow if it was really necessary, else I'd let my response on Reddit do the talking.
However, when I got to bed I decided that no, I would do a news post about it no matter what. In my previous news I'd categorically said "and I'm also not going to bury my head in the sand and pretend like it isn't happening...I think everyone should know everything there is to know about [paid modding]", so it seemed right to explain the situation properly, here, not on Reddit.
Before I explain the concept of the Service Providers, let me finish off Chesko's story by saying that he has since announced the following in his Frostfall file page comments:QUOTEThank you everyone very much for your outpouring of support. It means so much more than you know.
I have taken every mod I have ever published off the Workshop, and it will stay that way. The Nexus files will remain; in the end, this is the community that has supported me every step of the way. Arissa is currently hidden until we decide what to do.
I have deleted many of my accounts and will be leaving the modding community for a time. I don't know how long.
Thank you again.
And at this time, as far as I'm aware, most, if not all of his mods are still available on the Nexus. Class.
Now, Steam Service Providers. In order to explain them, I'll give you my timeline of events, so they're in context. I will be quoting small, relevant snippets from a couple of emails. Please understand, it would be illegal to simply paste or printscreen an entire email and post it up here without permission.
Around about a month ago I was contacted by a representative at Valve. They explained that they were working on a new feature for Steam Workshop, in conjunction with relevant developers, to "allow mod authors to choose if they wish to charge money for their mod or give it away for free". I'd already cottoned on to that by putting two-and-two together when Valve announced Curated Workshops at the same time Bethesda announced they'd removed the 100mb file size limit on Skyrim Workshop. They went on to explain the reason for emailing me:QUOTEWe noticed that many of these games also have significant communities on the Nexus sites, which we think is great. We think the communities you support on Nexus offer a ton of value to mod-makers and customers, and we’d like to figure out how to help support the work you do. One way to do this is to add Nexus as a Steam Workshop Service Provider.
With Service Providers, Workshop authors can select from a pre-approved list of toolmakers and online communities to receive a percentage of Valve's revenue from sale of their items. We think this is really valuable because it gives a good path for rewarding and compensating tool-makers, supportive communities, and occasionally really helpful individuals for the value they provide in the process of creating awesome content. And, mod authors don't give up any of your revenue--this comes from Valve's split.
(In the interest of clarity, they said "one way to do this", and this was the only way mentioned. They haven't suggested anything else).
I was, of course, skeptical about it. I went and did my own research. I read and understood their revenue sharing agreement (which is comparatively small and easy to understand), I looked at how they've implemented the system for TF2, I verified that any money came from Valve's cut and not from the mod author's cut and I did some research in to what the cut was (5% of Valve's cut). Most importantly, I ensured that it was the mod author's complete and utter choice as to whether they wanted the Nexus to receive a cut of Valve's cut in all of this.
The system works by presenting the mod author with a list of "Service Providers" when they go to upload their file. They're informed that they can choose to support none, one or more of these Service Providers and that any cut is taken from Valve's cut, and not from their cut. The cut percentage is 5%. Ergo, if a mod author does not select any Service Providers then the cut remains 25% to the mod author, 40% to Bethesda, 35% to Valve. If the mod author picks one or more Service Providers then the cut changes to 25% to the mod author, 40% to Bethesda, 30% to Valve, 5% shared between one or more Service Providers.
So what we have here is Valve coming to me, in a positive and open exchange, with no strings attached, offering to share some of their split of the profit they receive from specific mod authors who have specifically stated when they upload their mods that they would like the Nexus to receive some of Valve's cut of the profit. Wrap your head around it. Mod authors using the paid workshop system say "I like the Nexus, I feel like the Nexus has helped me or the community at some point, I would like to support the Nexus, I'm going to donate some of Valve's cut to the Nexus". So the Nexus gets a trickle of funds, for free, for no extra work and for no promises of allegiance or support of Steam Workshop. I can still express and already have expressed my misgivings and criticisms of the way things have been implemented and how I think the system can be improved. The only string attached to all this is that I cannot share the revenue details publicly. I have signed away my right to that privilege, as I'm reminded on the revenue page where it says "Reminder: Sales data is provided for your personal use, and you've agreed to keep this data confidential (see: Workshop Legal Agreement).". A small price to pay for a few groans of "that's convenient!" from the conspiracy theorists among you. If you want to see what I agreed to then the Workshop Agreement is open for anyone to view. As I'm not actually contributing anything (and I have had this clarified for me by legal counsel), those terms pertaining to contributions do not apply to the Nexus. So, the off-the-rails person on Reddit who claimed I'd sold my soul to Valve and that they could now commandeer all of the Nexus and twist it to its evil will, making us charge for mods as well are mistaken. Because I'm not stupid. Thanks.
I don't know if it needs to be said, I mean, I've been doing this for 14 years, since 2001 when I was 14, these sites were the first sites I ever made and have formed the third company I ever started in 2007. They obviously mean a lot to me. I've mentioned many times in the past the amount of offers I get to cooperate or sell up and this tiny trickle of additional funds, in the grand scheme of things, is not going to make me flip out and change my views or make me align myself with Valve or Bethesda. If I do that, I do that because I think it's right, not because I'm getting paid a small amount by them. That's just silly. In the same vein, I'm not going to cut off my nose to spite my face.
But this is election season in the UK, so let me pledge to you right now, that any funds that this accumulates will go straight back into supporting these sites. That's the spirit in which they were given, both from Valve and the mod authors who select the Nexus as a service provider, and that's the spirit in which it will be accepted and used.
I already mentioned the forum server needs to be replaced, so that's the first place it's going to go. It's no where near enough to fund the replacement, but every little helps. If this some how explodes and becomes more than a tiny trickle then it will go towards hiring on a new programmer for NMM and the sites. Oh, and I also want to fund a complete redesign of the sites (with full mobile support, maybe even an app). That's really not cheap.
Most importantly, I pledge that any funds the Nexus receives from this will not be funds the Nexus relies on in order to survive. The Nexus has always been self-sustaining, relying on its users to help fund the site through adverts and Premium Membership. I would never jeopardize that by using Service Provider money to expand beyond the sustainable financial limits of these sites without that Service Provider money. What this means is, the Nexus can use the money, but it won't rely on that money in order to survive. As I mentioned in my Reddit response, the Nexus now needs to earn $500,000 a year in order to pay for the servers, the CDN, the bandwidth, the database cluster, the firewalls, the legal counsel, the accountants and the programmers. If we can bring in more money to pay for things that aren't needed but are surely wanted (like mobile support), that won't place a burden on the current financial requirements, without doing anything to further annoy users, like more ads, then hell yes! This is free money to support the Nexus, at the expense of Valve. It's almost poetic.
In total, 3 emails were exchanged on the actual topic of how it worked as a concept. During that time they mentioned they'd read my blog post already which they said "seemed totally appropriate and on-mark". The remaining 4 emails were used to give Valve the information they needed to set me up as a service provider.
I'll bullet a few more pertinent points for even more clarity:
- I was not under an NDA, I was simply told "we haven’t announced this information publicly yet, so we appreciate you keeping this under wraps for now.". If you believe I should have outed them right there and then and completely destroyed my relationship with Valve and Bethesda then I think you're being naive.
- They also asked me if I could suggest any other tools within the community that would deserve to be a Service Provider. They said they'd already be in contact with SKSE, NifTools and TES5Edit. I directed them to wrinklyninja and the BOSS/LOOT team. I do not know if they contacted them or what their response was.
- I did not get to see any of their implementation or how any of it would work before any of you did. All I did know was that free and open modding was not being shut down and, "It will be similar to the path that users have now for posting mods to the Steam Workshop, except that they will be able to pick whether their mod is posted free, for a price, or to enable a pay-what-you-want option."
- I did not know any more than any of you about when this would be announced and/or released. The only people who did are Valve, Bethesda, and the mod authors specifically picked by Valve and Bethesda.
After the email exchange had ended a couple of days later I heard nothing more from Valve (or Bethesda). And I still haven't to this day. So I'll consider any communication with them done and dusted.
I had no idea when this was going to be launched. In fact, I only found out when I was up in my room packing my bags for a holiday I'd booked in 4 months ago, way before Valve got in contact with me. I was busy putting some shirts in to my bag when I received a message on my phone from a friend saying "No more steam workshop for me!". That's when I knew it had been released, that's when I knew I had to cancel my holiday, let down my friends, and spend this weekend making my eyes bleed reading and writing a copious amount of text while watching SSH terminals spew out server statistics like I'm reading The Matrix for any signs of server downtime or overloading. Thursday evening was a mess, cancelling my flight, cancelling my taxi and hotel, informing my friends I could no longer go with them, writing up the news, monitoring the servers, watching the forums explode, and reading...so much reading, and very little sleep. If I have one regret in all of this, it's that in all the mess and stress I didn't manage the release of this information about the Service Providers from the start, and instead letting it come out via a third-party, who kind of threw me under the bus a little. Bearing in mind it's there for anyone to see on the Steam Workshop page. It's hardly top secret!
Some people have expressed dismay, that I'm being two-faced or hypocritical by on the one hand being critical of the way Steam have implemented some of their features while on the other taking some of their money. And to those people I'd ask, have you cut off your nose to spite your face? Have you deleted all your Steam games, deactivated your Steam account, uninstalled Steam and made that financial sacrifice before coming here telling me I should make a financial sacrifice? I imagine a very, very, very tiny percentage of you actually have, but an overwhelming majority of you won't have. I've already covered that in this post, that just because the Nexus is a Service Provider doesn't mean I'm under any obligation to say only nice things about Steam Workshop or that I'm in their pocket. As far as I'm concerned, that money is a gracious donation from those mod authors who pick us when they add their mods to Steam Workshop (and by the way, if you're one of those authors, thank you! I have no way of knowing which authors have done it else I would PM you to say the same). Once again, the money was offered as a gesture of thanks, from Valve, and it is being accepted, respected and used in the way in which it was given. Nothing more.
Indeed, people have taken it further than that, saying that I've positioned myself as the "white knight of the free modding community" and that I can't say I'm against paid for modding and then take the money. And you're right, I can't, and it would be bad if I had. But I haven't. I'm looking over my shoulder, wondering if there's some other Dark0ne in this house or someone here that's ghostwriting for me, because I sure as heck haven't come out against paid for modding. In fact, I've been extremely careful not to do exactly that. I know you want me to. But wanting me to come out against it isn't the same as me actually coming out against it. If people are heralding me, specifically, as their champion in the fight against paid modding then they've done that of their own accord, and I certainly haven't agreed to be that champion.
I've been skeptical of it, worried how it would affect things and I've been critical of the way in which certain elements of it have been implemented. I've also categorically said that as long as I'm in charge of these sites all mods on these sites will be free. That is not the same as saying that I am against paid for modding on other sites.
I had to go back through my blog post and subsequent news posts last night just to make sure. And it turns out, I do know what I said. Thank god. You can see these posts here, here and here. Let me quote some snippets for you.QUOTEWhat these figures show is that modding, or user generated content (UGC) as it seems to be called now, can make some serious bucks. So serious that I think most developers and publishers would be crazy not to be considering it.QUOTEIs there a link between Skyrim Workshop and the new Curated Workshops announced by Valve? As in, would Bethesda be interested in releasing a Curated Workshop for Skyrim and removing the file size limit is a precursor to that? It seems a little late now, but I think it could still work. And based on the earning figures Valve released I think Bethesda would be crazy not to consider it.QUOTEI don't want to be sceptical. I don't want to instantly fight this change without good reason to. I don't want to be one of those people because lets face it, change definitely isn't always bad. What I do want to do is sit down and try to rationalise things, probably in futility considering this is all based on conjecture right now, and point out some of the potential issues that money could bring, the issues that Valve or anyone else seriously contemplating this has to take in to account. We know change is coming, but the worrying thing for me isn't the change itself, it's that we won't know how this change will affect and has affected our communities until the change has happened, by which point we can't go back.QUOTELook at Nehrim or Falskaar, two epic, highly rated mods made by extensive groups of modders. I think a lot of us will have said at one point or another, either about those mods or about others, "I'd definitely pay for this". And my god, there are so many mods out there that are so good, so professional, so well done that yes, I'd pay for them in an instant! I mean, once you get SkyUI you don't ever want to think about going back to the way it was before again, right?QUOTEJust like how amateur football changed and "progressed" back in the late 1800s, we're now seeing the formation of the Premier League/NFL of modding, where the pros go to make their money, in Curated Steam Workshops. And that's really how I see it. Grass roots football has suffered from it, but it has also grown, the Premier League and NFL bring more people into the game that would otherwise never have bothered to play a game of football. In the same way, Curated Steam Workshops can, if done right, bring more people into modding that would otherwise not have given it a second look.QUOTEThe Nexus is for everyone from every background, colour, creed, and political, religious or sexual persuasion. We strive to make this a community where anyone and everyone can enjoy something here away from hate. And that includes mod authors who want to make money. So if you break that peace and attack mod authors here for what they've chosen to do, you'll be gone. By all means debate, but when your debating becomes abusive, it's no longer debating.QUOTETime will only tell how well Valve and Bethesda are going to handle these issues, and I'd say stolen assets being used in paid mods is one of, if not the biggest issue right now. Some of the rumours going around are not nice to hear, but we've got to let the dust settle and see what comes of all of this. It's too early to tell. I appreciate it's ironic to say that after I just had a little rant, but my god, it's already freaking happened, less than a day in, and I've smashed my head in to my desk on more than one occasion today in disbelief because of it. So not a great start from Valve and Bethesda, but yes, it's still to early to tell.QUOTEAnd so, if you're wondering where the Nexus sits in between all of this, then you'll find us sitting where we've always been sitting, right here, without fundamentally changing. We're still going to be about the free and open distribution of mods for everyone and I don't see that changing any time soon. Sure, I've had offers. Lots of offers. And I don't discount anything at all, but right now, for the foreseeable future, there are no plans to shake things up at all. I have absolutely no idea how these changes within the modding community are going to affect the community here at the Nexus, but I think that there's still going to be a market for a site that continues to offer a free and open sharing platform, away from money, where people who want to continue modding as a hobby, not a career, can shine.
Does this sound like a champion of modding being free everywhere? No, it does not. Do not use me as the poster-child for that campaign as I never said I was. What will I champion? I will champion and fight for modding being allowed to remain free and open on any platforms that want to remain free and open, like the Nexus, like ModDB, and all the individual modding communities out there for games. I will fight against the DRMification of modding. I will fight, as I always, always have, for an author's right to choose how and where a mod author distributes their work. And I will most definitely fight against anyone who chooses to persecute, attack or seek "revenge" against mod authors who have chosen to sell their mods. Because that is wrong. It's fucking wrong. And I do not swear in these posts lightly.
My position on paid modding remains exactly the same as it has been the past month. It's too early to tell pretty much anything. I will continue to sit back, read, analyse, consult and form my own opinions on the subject. I will not be forced into making knee jerk reactions, and I most definitely will not support the same individuals who are attacking mod authors. The people attacking mod authors are an absolute disgrace.
Irrespective of whether I end up agreeing with or supporting paid for modding or not, this one simple fact remains the same. The Nexus is free.
The finger pointing has begun. Pointing the finger at Valve, at Bethesda, at modders, at the Nexus, at YouTubers. Have you really not seen this coming, at all? Evolve launching with $100 worth of day zero DLC? Buying games knowing the developers have said they won't release SDK's any more because it's "too hard"? Paying money to beta test games in Early Access? Pre-ordering games based on hype despite the developers and publishers enacting review embargoes? Users spending $220 million plus on mods already for TF2, CSGO and DotA 2? Of course this was coming. Anyone who's done any of these things has been complicit in getting us to this stage! I'll put my hand up and admit I bought DayZ stand-alone. I'm sorry, alright, I didn't realise they were going to be this bad and take this long!
Some of you will be furious, asking "But Dark0ne, how can you sit around while Valve and Bethesda destroy the modding community?". I can sit here and remain calm, collected, and continue to analyse things because I'm aware of the full facts from my side. I'm not reading figures that someone is putting on Reddit, or the forums, or Steam without verifying them myself. The sheer amount of made up facts and figures, and the lying, is ridiculous. And what's even more ridiculous is the amount of silly people who'll read these lies, believe them and not do their own research. Jesus wept. It's been less than 48 hours, guys. As soon as Valve announced the paid workshops I took a count of the number of Skyrim files on Skyrim Nexus. We had 40,567 mods on the site. Right now that count sits at 40,492. We've lost 75 mods, of which, almost all of those "lost" mods have been hidden by mod authors who want to see how this all plays out, many of which contacted me to explain what they're doing. Indeed, there's been an amazing outpouring of amazing mod authors who make amazing mods here on the Nexus who have categorically stated that their mods will remain completely free. That's awesome!! The sky is not falling down!!! And frankly, I think you are insulting the mod authors who have decided to remain free by saying free modding is over. If you believe strongly in this, stick by them, show them your support, endorse their files if you like them, donate to them. That's what this community needs, not a swirling cesspit of vitriolic hatred.
And so, I will say, once again, it is too soon (Too soon, too soon, TOO SOON!) to come to any conclusions on any of this. And I will leave you with my main, primary fear in all of this, which I brought up in my original blog piece.QUOTEThe worry is with the introduction of Curated Workshops that free and open modding will be removed entirely, as in, it just won't be possible to do. You've seen the arguments before with developers like BioWare and DICE no longer supporting modding with their games, they say it's because it's too complicated for modders or because they don't have time to work on the tools, many users argue it's because they don't want mods to cut in to DLC sales. I don't know any more about it than you in that regard, but if you're running a curated modding marketplace and there's a site out there with lots of mods available for free (note: probably not the same mods, as that wouldn't make sense!) will you willingly let that continue or would you try to ensure all your mods were going through your curated marketplace? I guess it would entirely depend on the developer and publisher in question, but if you ask me, my main concern now is the DRMification and closing down of free and open modding, the concept that modding can only take place if it's done through one official platform to the detriment of all others. Because up until now that's definitely not what modding has been about at all.
That is what I will fight. That is what I will champion against.
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