This week Valve launched the Custom Game Pass system for its hugely popular MOBA, Dota 2.
It lets custom game creators monetise their mods by selling access to extra features.
The first Custom Game Pass went on sale this week, priced $1 for 30 days. It's for popular mod Roshpit Champions, and lets users enable additional stash and character slots.
But Roshpit Champions found itself embroiled in controversy when a user on Reddit accused its creators of stealing assets.
Reddit user Darkswordfish accused the developers of taking icons, art and models from other artists and developers without attributing credit.
Among the items under the spotlight are the Crusader Boots. The icon for this item was taken from a low-res version of a piece of World of Warcraft art used for NPCs Darion and Alexandros Mograine.
The issue raised questions about the ownership of Dota 2 Custom Games. There is a dispute here: Darkswordfish points to a couple of emails from Valve employees who say workshop artists retain intellectual property rights. However, the creators of Roshpit Champions claim Valve retain the rights.
For its part, one of the creators of Roshpit Champions has defended the group from the accusations, insisting no malice was intended. However, he did admit to lifting the Crusader Boots image from World of Warcraft, and modifying an existing house model without permission.
Here's the post, from user chalky_brush.
Workshop Art Anything submitted to the workshop is Valve's property and can therefore be used in Valve's game. Roshpit Champions is subject to the same rules, making the game also a property of Valve's. You can use any of the code or concepts of Roshpit Champions within the bubble of Dota 2 as well. If there were a way to add proper credits, maybe that would be a good way to show appreciation.
Crusader Boots OK, I didn't think a low-res screencap of a screencap would be an issue. The picture is awful anyway and probably needs a replacement. Does blizzard care though? In the end, Blizzard is the only one with the right to complain about this low quality image existing in this little sub-realm of Dota 2. If Blizzard or Valve informs me that this is an issue, I will replace this image.
House Model The house model is a modified version of a house that was posted to Hive Workshop where the creator called it a demo map. I messaged the creator of that map months ago saying I thought his map was beautiful and the best in all of Dota 2 modding, but I never received a reply. I think he is extremely talented. Saying that the entire map looks like a rip-off copy paste is not giving fair credit to the hours we've put into hammer building the map. I'm sure you could take pieces out of the map of Roshpit Champions and put it into your game as well.
Music There are 5 custom sounds in this game, and all of them were bought off Audiojungle for $1.
Everything here was put together in the name of making a fun game and there is no shady intent of screwing people out of what's theirs. Moving on, I will be careful in making sure that all assets can fairly be used.
For years modders have tinkered with and in many cases improved upon the work of others - Dota 2 itself is the follow-up to a Warcraft 3 mod called Defense of the Ancients - and in the process avoided running up against rights issues because the mods were free. Credit where credit is due was, usually, all that was needed.
But now Valve has enabled a way for modders to earn money from their creations, the rules have changed, and Dota 2 custom games are throwing up the same kind of intellectual property and copyright issues commercial games battle.
The episode also shines a light on Valve's commitment to curate Custom Game Passes. From the Custom Game FAQ:
The process will be curated by the Dota team. We will be carefully selecting which custom games are able to offer a Custom Game Pass, selecting only games which have already established a sizeable community and are mature enough to offer good value to customers.
Ultimately, players will help determine which games are right for a pass by choosing to play and engage with growing communities, and the Dota team will continue to work with the custom game community to identify good candidates.
Some within the Dota 2 community believe the Valve should be responsible for checking custom games for potential rights issues before giving the thumbs up to monetisation. Others say it's down to custom game creators to do the right thing and police themselves.
As for Roshpit Champions, ChalkyBrush said he will replace the Crusader Boots image in the custom game's next patch.
Valve has yet to comment on this latest development. It'll be interesting to see how it reacts.