Gabe Newell responds to paid mods controversy

"You need a more robust Valve-is-evil hypothesis."

Valve boss Gabe Newell has addressed concerns over the company's move to allow paid-for mods on Steam.

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Skyrim's graphics mod Purity, now priced at 1.99.

Responding to the initial glut of negative feedback in a Reddit AMA, Newell firstly explained why the company had acted now.

"Our view of Steam is that it's a collection of useful tools for customers and content developers," he wrote. "With the Steam workshop, we've already reached the point where the community is paying their favourite contributors more than they would make if they worked at a traditional game developer.

"We see this as a really good step. The option of mod developers getting paid seemed like a good extension of that."

But complaints aimed at Valve have included suggestions that the system had already been working fine, and that modders benefited from their work in a number of ways already - without Steam earning a cut.

"We are adding a pay-what-you-want button where the mod author can set the starting amount wherever they want," Newell responded.

But commenters also questioned whether paid-for mods would come under increased copyright scrutiny or block collaborative development now that money was involved - such as in the now-pulled Skyrim fishing mod that used another modder's animations without permission.

Others pointed to the potential problems of mod creators now having to be held to account if they walked away from a paid project - especially if a mod stops working with a newer version of the game.

"Skyrim is a great example of a game that has benefited enormously from the mods," Newell countered. "The option for paid mods is supposed to increase the investment in quality modding, not hurt it."

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Gabe Newell.

"About half of Valve came straight out of the MOD world. John Cook and Robin Walker made Team Fortress as a Quake mod. Icefrog made DOTA as a Warcraft 3 mod. Dave Riller and Dario Casali were Doom and Quake mappers. John Guthrie and Steve Bond came to Valve because John Carmack thought they were doing the best Quake development. All of them were liberated to just do game development once they started getting paid. Working at Waffle House does not help you make a better game."

Finally, Newell swatted away suggestion that Valve had made the decision for "evil" or purely monetary reasons.

"A lot of comments are about Valve's motivations and intentions. The only way to credibly demonstrate those are through long-run actions towards the community. There is no shortcut to not being evil.

"Let's assume for a second that we are stupidly greedy. So far the paid mods have generated $10k total. That's like 1 per cent of the cost of the incremental email the program has generated for Valve employees (yes, I mean pissing off the Internet costs you a million bucks in just a couple of days).

"That's not stupidly greedy, that's stupidly stupid. You need a more robust Valve-is-evil hypothesis."

Valve will continue to monitor the roll-out of paid mods and adjust things as neccessary, Newell concluded.

"Our goal is to make modding better for the authors and gamers. If something doesn't help with that, it will get dumped. Right now I'm more optimistic that this will be a win for authors and gamers, but we are always going to be data driven."

Watch Bertie and Donlan discuss the move in more detail below in the latest Eurogamer Show:

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About the author

Tom Phillips

Tom Phillips

News Editor

Tom is Eurogamer's news editor. He writes lots of news, some of the puns and all the stealth Destiny articles.

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