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Ever since Valve announced their curated Workshops update for Steam Workshop back at the end of January and Bethesda announced an update to their Skyrim Workshop to remove the 100MB file size limit I've been meaning to write one of my long-winded, often nonsensical blog pieces that goes off on extreme tangents rife with radical speculation. It's been quite a while since I've done one of these, so excuse me if I'm rusty.
I'm going to begin by clarifying that I still stand by the fact I think Steam Workshop has been great for modding, great for bringing modding to the forefront of showcasing the qualities of PC gaming and great for introducing otherwise sceptical people to the merits of modding your game. My one and only gripe remains the same; that because you need to own the game on Steam in order to use Steam Workshop it essentially DRMifies modding, limiting it to just Steam's platform. Saying you can only get mods from a platform if you've bought the game from their platform is a bit like saying you can only get mods from the Nexus if you've become a Premium Member and use NMM. It makes more sense if the game is a Steamworks game; the user has already had to buy the game through Steam, or at least verify it through Steam so limiting mods to Steam makes more sense. But doing the same to games that aren't Steam exclusive? No, I'm not a fan of that.
With that said, I raised an eyebrow when Valve announced that they were expanding the remit of Steam Workshop to allow what they call "Curated Workshops". Up until that point the only games where mod authors could upload their mods and, if accepted by the developers, sell their mods were Valve games; TF2, DotA 2 and CS:GO. As far as I know, the system works by allowing mod authors to upload their mods to the site. The mod is then placed into a queue of unaccepted mods that users can vote on to be accepted. If the file gets enough votes, and the developer agrees that the mod is good, then the mod is added to the game and the catalogue of others mods available to purchase. The mod may or may not be accepted, but if it is, the mod author will receive a 25% cut (Valve take 75%) of any revenue generated from the sale of the mod. Curated Workshops follow on from this concept coined with Valve's games, but opened up for other developers and publishers on Steam to make use of.
The first two games announced to be making use of these Curated Workshops were Dungeon Defenders: Eternity and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare with the promise of more to come. Valve were also happy to announce at the same time that mod authors for TF2, DotA 2 and CS:GO had been paid over $57 million between them thus far, an impressive number, and with a bit of maths voodoo on a napkin based on the 25/75 revenue share deal you can work out that roughly $228m has been spent on mods for these three games alone over the past few years, of which Valve took a $171m cut (note: these are not official figures and I'm just simply going off estimations based on the figures provided by Valve of a 25% revenue share and $57m paid out to modders).
What 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. What UGC does is open up an entirely "new" previously untapped revenue stream for developers and publishers with crazy potential. UGC can not only make a ridiculous amount of money, as Valve's figures show, but also radically increase user engagement and user satisfaction in their game and community while expanding the longevity of those games way beyond their original scope. And all this comes from something the users put most of the work in to (sure, the developers still need to create the tools, but still). Of course, this is something we've all known for a long, long time, and I'm sure a lot of you are sat there wondering why it took so long for developers and publishers to work it out. But they have! And once again Valve are at the forefront of this spearhead in to UGC, pioneering and shaping the direction of modding like they did game sales platforms before this.
Now this is where the community gets divided. I'm sure a lot of you are sat there feeling slightly uncomfortable with the direction modding is being taken by Valve, while I'm sure others among you are chomping at the bit, desperate for this to come out for more games. I think it's safe to say that, no matter which side of the fence you sit on this issue, change is coming to modding.
My eyebrow raised a little higher at the start of this month, just a little over a month after Steam announced their Curated Steam Workshops, when Bethesda announced they were updating the Creation Kit for Skyrim and removing the 100MB file size limit on mods uploaded to the Skyrim Workshop. The timing, to me, seems curious considering they haven't touched Skyrim in years, and I'm looking for a motive. Are they simply doing it because they've found the time to do it? Considering they haven't announced the new game they've no doubt been working on for over 3 years now and will still be working away at that, I find it hard to believe they found the time out of the goodness of their hearts. But they might have! Which would be awesome. Is 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. Or could this be Bethesda doing some preemptive testing ready for the announcement of their next game, which everyone is strongly speculating will be during their first ever E3 conference on June 14th? Announcing a game followed by Curated Steam Workshop support where you can sell mods straight from the get go? I honestly don't know, but I'd be remiss if I didn't say all those possibilities seem plausible to me.
I 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.
Up until this point modding has been a hobby. As a modder, starting on your first mod, you know you're doing it because you have some spare time and you want to give it a go. You enjoy doing it. You want to do it more. You're not doing it for money, you're doing it for the fun of it. You join communities and share your thoughts and ideas with others, you contact and converse with other mod authors on forums to see how they've done things, ask them for permission to use their work in your work, you begin to become part of a like-minded community of people who are all enjoying the things you're doing or enjoy doing the same things you're doing. That's how I've seen modding for the past 20 years.
While the introduction of money doesn't change this entirely; you could still happily mod for the fun of it with the added bonus of actually earning money from it, I think we'd all be lying to ourselves if we said paying for mods, and earning money from mods, wouldn't change things. And I mean fundamentally change things at the core of the modding communities out there.
Even right now, in the world of open and free modding, things are competitive. Lots of mod authors like to fight for that hot file, for that file of the month vote, they want more views, more downloads, more endorsements. I wouldn't say it's an unhealthy obsession, not yet anyway, but it's always been there, that stark contrast between those mod authors who don't care about such "trivial" things, and those mod authors who really do, who really want their mods out there as much as possible. And sure, we have to sort out some squabbles every now and again, but such rivalries and competitions don't turn sour often because the thing being sought after is not some sort of finite resource with only so much to go around. A download, an endorsement; users can download and endorse more than one mod. They can do that for a lot of mods. Money, however, is finite. When you're competing to make your mod the top mod, the most bought mod, when you're trying to earn more money than your peers are you telling me that things don't change? You're now competing over a finite resource. Users only have so much money, after all. How does this change and affect other areas of the community?
How many mods on the Nexus use assets made by other mod authors? How many are made better by this? Such assets are used with the express permission of the creators of those assets. If a mod author came to you and asked if he could use some of your work in their mod that they were planning to sell for $5, would you feel more or less inclined to give him that permission? Would you, perhaps rightly, ask for a cut of the proceeds, a revenue share of your own? If you're one of those great authors who releases your mods freely for others to make use of in their mods, or a modder's resource developer, are you going to think about revisiting all your permissions in light of money entering the modding community? Are you still thinking about being so generous with your work?
How many mods have been developed by a team of mod authors? Lots of people working together to develop something amazing. Look 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? But how are you going to sort out who gets what from selling such mods? We get lots of drama now, without any money changing hands, over permissions and credits, I don't even want to think how horrible it would be to try and sort out such issues when money is involved. That's a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Curated Workshops have worked great for TF2, DotA 2 and CS:GO not just because they're extremely popular games, but also because the type of mods sold are "simple" in the grand scheme of things. Skins and hats. Things that typically only one person works on, which means the issues mentioned above aren't as relevant. Will it work as great for RPGs like Skyrim and Fallout? Well, it could, but there's a hell of a lot of hurdles to overcome. A hell of a lot of complications. And I hope Valve (and Bethesda, if they do pursue this) know what they're getting themselves in to.
I try hard not to say that many mod authors "deserve" money for their work. Modding is tough. Modding is a skill, a talent, and one that is getting more difficult as the technology in games becomes more complicated. And many modders are paying money out of their own pocket so they can buy and use more sophisticated and powerful software just so they can make better mods. Some of the mods people make are astonishing, some can even be better than what the original game developers could do. But modding is, and has been up to now, a hobby. Something done for the fun of it, and mod authors have entered in to this tradition knowing full well that they won't make money from it. So I think the word "deserve" isn't right, as being paid for mods shouldn't be and isn't expected.
And so, up to now, I've likened modding to Sunday League football. I don't know if you have the same traditions over the pond or with your national sports in other countries, but here in the UK Sunday League football is when a group of friends get together, form a football team, and play against other teams in the region in amateur leagues, sharing their love (and hate) of the game. Some take it more seriously than others. They do this for the fun of it, not because they think they'll become the new Messi or Ronaldo (or Brady, for our American fans), but because they're big fans of the sport and they want to play and be a part of it. They do this at their own expense, buying their own kit, their own boots, paying a fee to play in the league and sorting out travelling expenses to and from games. They don't get that money back. And modding, to me, is very similar, you mod and improve your games because you love what the game developers, your Messis, Ronaldos and Bradys, have already done and we want to be a part of it. You pay money to buy software that can make you mod better like you buy new and expensive boots to help you kick footballs better. And you do it knowing full well you won't get paid for it.
Just 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.
The 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.
And 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.
Just a quick update to let you all know that we've added a new full-time paid position to the site that's immediately available to be filled. We are looking for a dedicated community manager and development lead who will become a public facing ambassador for the sites both domestically, on the Nexus, and abroad, within official game communities. Improving the community for those of us already here while helping to spread the word about the Nexus to other (official) game communities.
I alluded to this role in my State of the Union post back at the start of the year. A few people showed concern that I'd stop writing my bi-annual banal twitterings that go off on wild tangents. Never fear, I'll still be writing these articles and carrying on with my responsibilities as normal.
If you're interested in the role and fit the requirements then please send in a CV.
A quick update today to let you know about a few new features we've added to the sites over the past few weeks.
First up we've implemented the ability to block user's files, images and videos from showing on the site at all for you, much like how our tag blocking system works. If you block an author you will no longer see any new files, images or videos they add on the site whether it's in the hot files, file searches or otherwise.
A lot of our Nexus sites have a lot of files in them now and we're happy to implement any functionality that lets you get more control over the type of content you really want to see and remove the types of content you have absolutely no interest in. As far as I'm concerned, mod authors get upset when users post on their files when it's clear the user has no interest in their work, and users complain at having to see content they have no interest in so, right now, there's absolutely no reason to complain at all.
To block an author simply go to their profile and select the blocking option at the top. To unblock an author go back to their profile to unblock them. We've also created a page for you to quickly see what authors you're blocking and manage your blocked authors from there.
Site news notifications and remove all notifications option
We've added a new notification preference for site news. If you keep it on then the notification system will notify you any time site news, like this one, is posted.
We've added an option in the notifications drop-down to quickly clear and remove all your notifications. You can find it in the bottom-right hand corner of the notifications window.
User area tweaks to account for Premium Membership
We've made some small tweaks to your user area to have a specific section just for Premium and Supporter membership information. At least 50% of the time I spend on support for the site is taken up by Premium Members who message me about things to do with their payments. For example, a lot of it is Premium Members asking me to cancel their recurring payments when they haven't paid via the recurring payment method. By default all Premium Membership payments are non-recurring, as in you pay once and when your Premium Membership expires that's it, no more money is taken and no more Premium Membership time is given unless you choose to pay again. You can choose to set up a recurring payment to the sites that will continually renew your membership as it's about to expire but this is not the default payment option. This is all explained on the Premium page and when paying but I guess some users just forget.
We've added a new section to tell you whether you're Premium, whether you're a Supporter, whether your payment is recurring and how much Premium time you've got left. If your payment is recurring we've provided a Wiki page explaining how you can cancel your recurring payment (it's very easy!). Hopefully this should reduce some support time for me. I doubt it, but you never know!
For the first time ever, Bethesda will be hosting an E3 showcase! June 14th is the date to plot into your calendar.
They will be sharing details on how to register in the coming months, so keep an eye out for any news on BethBlog.
And should you not be able to attend E3, they will also be streaming the entire showcase on Twitch (http://www.twitch.tv/bethesda). Remember to tune in on the 14th of June!
Nexus Mod Manager 0.60 is now available in alpha, but it does things a little differently and the update process is more involved. In this video I show you how I updated to 0.60 using Fallout: New Vegas as a test dummy, and I show you how to restore a backup of 0.53 if you need to.
The basic principals should be the same for games such as Fallout 3 and Skyrim.
You can download Nexus Mod Manager 0.60 Alpha here.
We've made lots of updates to the sites recently. Because quite a few of the changes we make these days are subtle, rather than obvious, here's a run-down.
This is the least subtle of the changes we've made recently. We've completely revamped the notifications system on the sites to be much more powerful and useful, especially for mod authors. Notifications are still located in the top bar of the site. If you have notifications you will see a globe symbol with a number next to it which indicates how many new notifications you have.
The new notification system follows a similar style and system more in-line with the way Facebook notifications work, so users of Facebook should recognise the changes easily.
Your site preferences page now contains options that will allow you to customise exactly what you'd like the site to notify you about, or even if you'd like to have the system on at all. These options include:
- Game specific notifications - whether you'd like notifications to only show for the game you're looking at, or whether you'd like to, for example, receive notifications for updates made to Fallout 3 files while you're browsing the Skyrim Nexus section.
- The ability to track and receive notifications when other users of the site upload new files or images.
- Notifications for comments on your files, images and videos.
- Notifications for files you're tracking, including a separate option to enable or disable notifications for comments made on tracked files.
- Notifications for new images or videos that people add for your files.
- Notifications of changes made to your files by other members of your team, or by members of staff
If you would like to track a user you like then there is a new option to do that on user profile pages.
Notifications will now remain on your account even after you've viewed them (new or unread notifications have a lighter grey background to indicate their unread status). They can be removed by clicking the red cross symbol. You can have a maximum of 50 read notifications at any one time, and new notifications will delete the oldest read notifications in the list if you go over 50.
We are open to hearing feedback and ways we can improve this new system, including if there should be any more options to track other sorts of things you could be notified about on the site. What we won't be doing is going back to the old system or running both systems side-by-side so if you're resilient to change I'd save yourself the typing time if you want to suggest that.
Specify your main NMM file
You've probably noticed during your time using a site that has NMM support that some files have a green "Download (NMM)" button in the top section of the file page while some don't have that button and only have the green "Download (Manual)" button. This doesn't necessarily mean that the file doesn't support NMM, more often than not it means that the author has uploaded more than one "main file" and so the option to download through NMM isn't presented as we don't know which file is the main file NMM is supposed to download, and authors often provide multiple main file options (e.g. texture replacers of varying sizes).
We've added a new option for mod authors when managing their uploaded files labelled "Set as main NMM file". If you click this NMM will now know which is the main (MAIN!) file and will show the "Download (NMM)" button on your file page.
Over the past couple of months we've had a few glitches with the automated VirusTotal virus scanning system. If it took too long or VirusTotal were doing some maintenance then newly uploaded files wouldn't be downloadable until the issue was resolved.
We've now changed the system so that you can download all new files straight away, before the virus scan is complete, but you do so completely at your own risk and the system tells you as such.
Arrow keys on Images
We've update the image gallery on file pages so you can use the arrow keys again.
We are currently rolling out 8 new static content servers to try and resolve the issues with images loading slowly for people.
Spoiler tags in file comments
A long requested feature, the spoiler bbcode tag will now work like it does in the forums. These tags can be used in file/image descriptions as well as file comments.
Action log shows user
File pages contain two action logs. One is a tab, which shows all the actions performed on a file, including things like endorsements. The other is accessible by clicking the little cog icon in the actions bar labelled "logs". This will tell you all the actions performed by just the authors on the file page.
We've made a slight update to this second log that will also tell you who made this edit. This might be helpful for mod teams who all have access to the same file page. If you don't like an edit or want to keep track of the edits being made you can now see exactly who has edited what and when.
We've also fixed some minor bugs on the site. These include:
- Fixed several issues with the "Manage other files" system, including the sorting system on that page, issues when you hide the mod, and uploaded images going to the "From users" tab rather than the "From author" tab. Also added a link to "Manage other files" to the "Files" drop-down on the main site navigation.
- Fixed the pagination on the news archive page and added pagination to the top as well as the bottom of the page.
- Fixed a few bugs with donating Premium Membership to other users as a gift.
- Fixed an issue with ordering files by "file size, descending" not working properly.
- Fixed an issue with certain search terms not returning the correct results when searching in the "mod description" search field e.g. searching for skyrim.ini.
Current To-Do List
Work we've earmarked for the immediate future:
- Roll out 8 new static content servers (mainly images) to replace the 4 current static content servers. Links should be preserved so if you directly link to one of the current static servers they should still work after this change.
- The ability to block files/images added by specific authors. If there's an author whose work you're really not a fan of and would rather not see, you can block their work from showing while you browse the site, like tag blocking.
- The ability to disable emoticons from showing in file comments, for those times when you're referencing code or file paths and emoticons annoyingly replace what you've written.
- A "remove all" option in the notifications drop-down.
- A complex bug reporting system for file pages to make use of.
It's been a year in the making but we're finally ready to release what we think will be our final build for the next major step in NMM functionality, profiling. The download link for this build is at the bottom of this article, however, before you rush off, I highly recommend you read this article as it contains important information about this version of NMM.
What is profiling?
Profiling is the ability to create and switch between multiple different mod setups within NMM to facilitate different playthroughs of your game. One profile might be for your axe wielding Nord with mods specific to that character while another might be for your Argonian thief with active mods that you wouldn't need in your Nord playthrough. Or, you might just want to test a new setup without worrying about breaking your stable, current setup. That's fine, just make a new profile and do what you want; if it doesn't work all you have to do is switch to your Stable profile. With profiling, you can pick and choose what mods you have active, in what order, for the specific playthrough of the game you want.
While this functionality in itself is powerful, it's the added things that the Nexus as a site can do with it that excites me. We want to build on this functionality (note the future tense here, we haven't done this yet...) so that people can share their mod profiles with others, including their entire mod list and load order. Having an issue with your mod build or load order? Publish it via NMM and make it public on the site and others can take a look and see where the issue might be. Have a favourite mod reviewer on YouTube but you're tired of asking what mods they have installed to get your game looking like theirs? Ask them to publish their NMM profile on the site and you can then use this functionality to setup your game just like theirs. Want to back up your profiles so if your computer explodes all your mods and load orders are saved on the site, ready to be used by you should the worst happen? It's all possible. It's quite an exciting prospect, which is why we're putting in the time with this major update to NMM.
Why is it an Alpha? If it doesn't work for me can I go back easily?
This version of NMM makes such major changes to the way in which your mods interact with the game folders and we're such a small team here (2 programmers and me testing...) we cannot properly test this version of NMM enough to release it even under the "beta" moniker which we hide behind when there are bugs in the versions we release. As such, we are releasing this version of NMM as an Alpha release. That means it is not an automatic update that everyone can get when they start up NMM and see there's a new version and the only way you can get this version of NMM is by downloading it from the link in this news article. It will remain in alpha until we've had enough feedback from people using the alpha to confidently release it as a beta.
If you are one of those people who doesn't agree with NMM still being a beta and only wants to update to the latest version when it's confirmed as completely stable then I'd recommend not updating to this version. Additionally, If you're the type to moan about this, please, save yourself the time and don't bother (unless you want to donate a couple of hundred thousand pounds to the Nexus coffers so we can get some full-time bug testers using a myriad of different computer setups).
If you do upgrade to this version please do it with the knowledge that it's likely to have some bugs, but also with the knowledge that we here on the NMM team are extremely thankful to you for taking the risk and offering to help us out. It's people like you who help us to make NMM better.
To help you out, and to make sure you don't destroy your carefully tuned current NMM setup, when you install version 0.60 of NMM it will automatically create a backup of your current NMM setup in your NMM folder. If anything at all goes wrong with 0.60 for you and you get so fed up you no longer want to help us out all you need to do is reinstall version 0.53.x to the same folders and use the "Restore backup" functionality. You're then back to exactly where you were before you installed 0.60. No fuss. We've slapped up a quick wiki tutorial on how to do that, just in case.
With the backup functionality just mentioned it's my hope we can convince plenty of you to help us to test this version. The more people we have testing and reporting bugs the sooner we can get this rolled out and move on to some of that other cool functionality I mentioned.
Installing NMM 0.60 and the migration procedure
As per usual, to install this update of NMM simply run the installer executable and ensure you point NMM to the same folders as your current NMM setup. If you install 0.60 and no mods are showing, you've directed NMM to the wrong folders (and yes, that's your fault and not NMM's).
This version of NMM is a major update which completely changes the way in which NMM installs and interacts with files in your game folders. Because of this, 0.60 has a migration tool that will upgrade you from your current version to 0.60. The migration tool will automatically install any mods you have active in your current version of NMM and set it up as before. This can take a long time, depending on how many mods you have installed. However...
Unfortunately, because of the way scripted installers work (the mods you download where they have different options you select in NMM while installing the mod), NMM has no way of knowing what options you have picked once you've installed a mod. So while the migration tool can install any mods that don't use scripted installers easily, during the migration process you will have to interact with any and all mods that have scripted installers again. I understand, for some, that's quite a big ask. I will say this though, once 0.60 is out of Alpha, it will become the only version of NMM that continues to be updated. We will not be maintaining a profile version of NMM and a non-profile version of NMM, so the sooner you get it out the way and upgrade to version 0.60 of NMM, the sooner you can get on and continue to enjoy the bug fixes and new functionality we're releasing each month.
Reporting bugs and hot fixing
Considering the major changes in this version of NMM it would be unrealistic to assume it's completely bug free. We think it's bug free right now as we can't find any bugs, but 3 people testing something on specific setups can't test every possible variation. Hence why we need you.
As always, bug reports should be directed to our bug tracker on the forums. We've setup a specific category for this alpha version, away from the normal NMM bug tracker category, to make this easier for everyone. You can find it here.
We will be fixing bugs as fast as possible as soon as we find out about them and can replicate them. Remember that the more information you can provide us about the bug, what is causing it and how we can replicate it, the faster we can fix it for you. Keep an eye out in the site news or on the Alpha file page for information about bug fixes.
Please note: version 0.53, which we released recently, added a new "mod activation queue" system. Version 0.60.0a is not using this mod activation queue functionality as we are still considering version 0.53 as "in testing" rather than stable and we didn't want to complicate things by adding two relatively major changes into one big update.
We've decided to release this version of NMM via a Skyrim Nexus file page. In doing so, we can actively track the number of users who have downloaded this version of NMM, so we know how much help we're getting, and also quickly release hot fixes via the same mechanism.
NMM still works on all games listed on the NMM download page. The Nexus does not have cross-game functionality (one file page for multiple games) and we chose Skyrim Nexus as it is the most familiar and most used Nexus site.
To download this version simply head to the file page and download the file as normal.
All that's left for me to say is a big thank you, once again, to all those who choose to help us out and run the risk with installing this new version. While the risk is mitigated with the back-up functionality, we still appreciate you taking the plunge early with this alpha.
We released NMM version 0.53.0 at the beginning of the week which includes a new mod activation queue window. The idea is to allow you to queue up multiple installations or uninstallations of your mods as well as not locking out the other functions of NMM while your mod actions are being processed.
This update also enables you to select multiple mods and decide whether to install them or uninstall them, potentially saving a lot of clicking if you're doing a fresh install of hundreds of mods. Where before you would have to select each mod individually and either double-click it or press the activate button on the side, you can now select all the mods you want to install at once using standard Windows drag and drop, shift+click or ctrl+click controls.
Version 0.53.0 and the hotfix version 0.53.1 showed some performance issues for a minority of users and also lacked a progress column that accurately showed how far along the mod installation or uninstallation was for each mod in the queue. We believe we have remedied both these issues in version 0.53.2 and ask that users update to this latest version and let us know if they're getting any more issues in this regard.
Version 0.60, complete with mod profiling, is just around the corner and version 0.53 is a necessary stepping stone on the way to this release as it also has a "load backup" functionality. When/if you install version 0.60 it will automatically create a backup of your NMM directory (not its entire contents, for the hard-drive space conscious among you). If, for whatever reason, you need to revert back to version 0.53 from 0.60 this backup file can be used, by version 0.53, to quickly restore your NMM to exactly how it was. Such functionality is extremely important as version 0.60 presents a massive overhaul to the way NMM stores and processes mods. Something that is going to be a bit of a pain if you are someone who has hundreds of mods installed as all your scripted mods will need to be reinstalled and interacted with again. We didn't want people to be afraid about trying version 0.60 for fear that it might break their NMM setup, and thus, we needed to release version 0.53 for this purpose to provide a fail safe backup option for those users who are struggling with 0.60 or come across bugs that prevent NMM from working entirely.
NMM Version 0.53.2 is up now and available for download.
As far as I'm concerned I'm dubbing 2014 "The Year of Stability and Sleep" for the Nexus. The first year where we finally grappled with and beat the recurring downtime issues that have plagued the site ever since its inception back in 2001, and, once we finally stabilised our new cloud and cluster setup around about the middle of the year, myself and the staff have had practically 5 months of uninterrupted sleep. No more text messages or phone calls at 3am telling us the sites are down again. That, in itself, makes 2014 a success for me.
Indeed, the sites have been so stable that it enabled me to take a bit of a hiatus from the Nexus over the final few months of 2014 to focus on some other businesses, to travel more and see more of my friends across the UK. While I've been away the programmers have been working on some long term projects for the Nexus and the moderation staff have continued to do an excellent job. Before I talk about that and what we've got in store for 2015, lets look at the year of 2014 in figures, because statistics tend to speak louder than words.
New members: 1,788,372 (26% increase)
New NMM users: 1,392,499 (50% increase)
New files: 18,640 (20% increase)
New file authors: 6,912 (18% increase)
Total downloads: 268,197,960 (39% increase)
New Image Share images: 126,775 (32% increase)
The percentage increases are based on statistics from April 2005 up until December 2013.
In the recent Steam sale we saw traffic reach 8,000 concurrent users at any one time generating 100 page views a second. Both traffic and new registrations exceeded that of last December and during the sale we were gaining a new member to the network every 10 seconds. You wouldn't have known it from using the sites though, where load times remained normal and the sites were fine to browse and download from. The only down-time we've had since July has been caused by issues unrelated to traffic, or us, and have been beyond our control.
I couldn't be happier. I freaking love sleep.
Back at the start of September we changed our download serving mechanism away from the original system, which involved running and maintaining 24 individual, dedicated, high-capacity, physical servers located in the USA and Europe to a new CDN system, a distributed system of thousands of shared servers across the globe that we rent from a high profile company.
This change has cut down maintenance time, increased redundancy, reduced reliability issues and increased our flexibility to allow us to go from serving 4GBit/second of downloads to 10GBit/second of downloads within seconds (which happened in the recent Steam sale...), something that we would never have been able to do before. If we wanted to increase our capacity before we had to buy more servers, set them up and transfer all the files over to them. This takes time. About 2 weeks to be exact, by which point the burst in traffic has past and you're now paying for additional servers that aren't being used. You see the dilemma? Now, if demand increases, we do nothing, the CDN simply allocates more bandwidth to us, logs the amount of bandwidth being used and bills us at the end of the month depending on how much we've used. It couldn't be simpler.
For the vast majority this change brought improved download speeds (many users are now maxing out their 1MB/second normal member limits where before they were not), yet for a small minority this change was negative, either decreasing speeds or preventing downloads from working altogether. One of our programmers has been working on this issue full-time and the reports from the Download Diagnoser have been invaluable in helping him to better find and fix issues with the downloading system. We've helped out lots of people who were having issues already and we're continue to work on the system to improve it for as many people as possible. We haven't forgotten about it and we are still working on it.
Nexus Mod Manager
Feature updates for NMM were relatively mild in 2014. We've continued to squash as many bugs as possible but for most of the second half of 2014 programmer time has been spent on the much overdue profiling system.
The profiling system completely changes the way NMM installs mods on your system and enables you to choose between different profiles for your games/mods quickly and easily. With one install of NMM you can have different profiles for different users in your house, or different profiles for different playthroughs of your game.
It's taken a long time to get right because we didn't want to do any game/engine specific .DLL hacks. This profiling system has to work for every game that NMM supports, current and future, and not just for Bethesda games.
The profiling build, version 0.60.0, is currently in internal testing and due out this month.
Version 0.60 takes us one step closer to a full 1.0 release for NMM. On my roadmap, the only thing after profiling is a UI overhaul, smartening up, good documentation and a final round of bug squashing, which will likely take us in to 2016.
Site and file statistics
We completed a major update to the site back in November that now tracks, stores and presents statistics to mod authors in graph format so they can easily see how their files are doing on the site. We haven't launched this functionality yet as the script we're running to go through all the past 930 million downloads is taking quite a long time, as you can imagine, but once it's ready I'll put a news post up about it.
For an idea of how it'll work/look you can check out our network statistics page which has been up for a while now. Rather than hide how the network is doing I've chosen to show, in plain sight, how active and busy it is. I don't have any shareholders to impress or reasons to hide the data, so take a look if you're interested. It's also great to direct Nexus haters to when they say, year after year, the Nexus is slowly dying. Sorry guys, but it isn't! ;)
Mod authors will be able to choose whether to make their file statistics public for all to see or just keep it to themselves.
The end of 2014 also marked the end of the first year of the Nexus supporting mods for all games. We now support mods for 147 games, up from 27 at the end of 2013, with 3,400 mods being provided for games we never would have supported had we not moved to our centralised system.
In March of 2014 I started a thread in the private moderator forums titled "Consistency, transparency and strict guidelines on warnings, restrictions and bans". In it I laid out a set of formal guidelines for moderators, with their consultation, on specific, regularly seen infractions and the actions that all moderators should take in these circumstances.
While it might sound crazy, up until that point there were no hard set guidelines (there was plenty of informal documentation) on moderating the Nexus that meant there were often inconsistencies in the way the Nexus was moderated depending on the member of the moderation team who was performing the action. Some moderators took a more rehabilitative approach, others a more hard-line approach, compounded by the fact I simply did not have the time to sit down, consult and draw up an extensive and exhaustive moderation document.
With the introduction of the warning system back in 2013 the moderators were given more tools in tackling infractions of our TOS including, most importantly, the warning system. With this system in place, and with the moderators up to speed with using it, it was possible to formalise documentation to help consolidate and bring all the moderation team under a single doctrine on how to manage the most common infractions on the site.
I'm very pleased with how this has panned out. Direct reports to me of moderator "abuse" dropped substantially in 2014. And I mean substantially. The warning system is being used for all but the worst of infractions on the site where before users were often simply banned outright.
I'm aware that there are still some actions that might seem arbitrary and confuse some members as to why one member was warned and another one was outrighted banned. It's often down to the subtle differences. For example, in the case of uploading another mod authors work without permission, if the user seemingly isn't aware they're breaking the rules when doing this, and they still get everything else right (like proper accreditation) they'll receive a warning (despite the glaringly obvious terms they agree to when uploading their files...). If the user has uploaded the file and is knowingly aware they've broken our TOS in doing so (e.g. by saying "I know I'm not meant to do this but if someone doesn't like it then they can just take it down) they'll receive an outright ban. Because doing that is just plain stupid. And it still happens. Really.
While there's still room for improvement, especially in the transparency department which I can't seem to get through to some moderators about for some reason, I'm pleased with the direction the moderation is going on the sites.
Plans for 2015
The major site update being worked on at the moment is a Facebook-style notification system that will completely replace the current notifications system. We want to make it as easy as possible for mod authors to be able to keep up-to-date with what's going on with their files, but it will also be usable by all users of the site, mod author or not, as the system will track a whole range of things on the site including new comments, new images, someone linking a video to your files, comments on your articles, replies to your comments, actions a member of your team performs on your files (someone you've given editing access to), actions moderators perform on your files or images, friendship requests, new uploads, versions or articles for files you're tracking as well as the return of author tracking that notifies you when your favourite authors upload new files, images or videos. Work continues on this functionality.
I will also be commissioning some web design work on the sites to change certain visual aspects on the Nexus. I am not looking for a major overhaul of the sites like back in 2011, but many areas of the site could do with some smartening up, better UI functionality and sharper visuals. On top of that I would like to increase the usable content width on the sites from the current 960px to 1200px, which should allow more content to fit on to the user's visible page at any one time while increasing spacing. It'd be really nice if I could find a professional from within the community to do the work, as the people who know what the site needs the most are obviously the people who use it the most. When I'm ready I'll get a news post up about it, but if you're one such professional and you're interested in a side-job then by all means, let me know. Only professional web-designers though, please.
Lastly, it is my intention to hire a full-time community manager for the Nexus. While typically this has been my role over the past 13 years I think anyone who's used this site for any length of time and has read my news posts and/or comments in response to them will know that I have public relation skills not too far off Christian Bale on the set of Terminator Salvation. It's simply not my forté. It'd be great to have someone with a happy-go-lucky attitude fronting the sites, representing the community among official game communities and interacting with mod authors from across the internet, not just on Nexus. Someone who's better than I am. Shouldn't be hard. The community manager will liaise between the users of the site, the mod authors, the site programmers and site moderation team to produce new features and ideas to be built for the site and NMM, in conjunction with me, and talk about issues that are directly affecting the community. On top of that they will also represent the Nexus abroad, among other communities, especially official game communities to discuss their needs and see if we can provide support for more games within the Nexus and help new mod authors get their mods on to the site. Once again, this job will go to someone within the community, who knows the community well. Preferably someone with a bit of experience in such things.
While it sounds like I am shirking responsibilities I merely see it as a logical progression for the Nexus, one that involves a devolution of power and responsibilities away from me so as to reduce the reliance and bottleneck produced when one person is needed to manage all aspects of a business. I've always said it, I'm a jack of all trades, and most certainly master of none. Much like I began hiring on full-time programmers back in 2011 to take over those responsibilities and improve that aspect of the sites, it's very clear to me that this side of the sites needs to improve too, and I'm not good enough for it. I'll still be around, don't you worry, I'll just be around in the shadows, pulling on strings, doing the accounts, sorting out deals with ISPs and hosts, annoying the staff, confusing mod authors. You know, where I belong. What I'm good at.
We're still here. We're still working away. The Nexus is getting bigger. The Nexus pretty much works now. I'm happy with the way things are going. I'm now able to sleep.
Happy new year.
Back in August we moved to a new CDN server setup for serving our downloads. For many, download speeds have stayed the same or improved with this move but for some, download speeds have gotten worse.
We're continuing to work on the download setup within the CDN as we continue to learn all the little intricacies involved in such a complex setup but we're struggling to troubleshoot a lot of people's download speed issues, a lot of the time, because we're not getting the right sort of feedback. For example, simply saying "I'm getting bad download speeds" isn't useful at all for us!
As such, we've coded a small piece of stand-alone software which we've dubbed the Nexus Download Diagnoser. It's a very simple piece of software that will run a download speed test against our CDN server and generate a report for you to post for us to see which will provide us with a lot of information. Hopefully useful information that will help us to understand what is happening and why your download speeds are slow. You do not need to install the software in order to run it and you can download it here. Remember, only download it from a nexusmods.com domain, never from anywhere else.
In the interests of security and privacy we've kept things very simple for you. The Nexus Download Diagnoser will obviously need to be able to connect to the internet so it can run the download speed test (so update your firewall as necessary) but it will not send or report any information automatically to us. If you want to share the information, you'll have to willingly post it to us, and you can see all the information in the report so you know exactly what you're sending us. On top of that we've signed the software with our "Black Tree Gaming Ltd." key, just like NMM, so you know the software is legitimately from us and not from someone malicious and we're releasing the source code of the software with the executable just for your own peace of mind. If you really really don't trust us for whatever reason, you can check the source code yourself!
Hopefully with enough reports we will be able to form a decent picture of what's going on and work towards sorting it out.
For more information about the Nexus Download Diagnoser and where to post your reports please head to the specially setup forum thread here.
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