Bethesda’s ‘Not Pay Mods’

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These days, Bethesda has quite the reputation. They’ve delivered countless hours of exploratory joy with The Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises, and have published a number of successful games besides (such as Doom, Dishonored, The Evil Within, Prey, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and more). When it comes to making games that sell, they’re on top of the world… and they know it. That’s why they’ve recently launched the ‘Creation Club’.

The Creation Club is a way for Bethesda and third-party creators to make new content for games and submit them for internal review. This quality control ensures that whatever you acquire is actually going to work, unlike other mods which have the potential to make your game unstable. Because this takes time and resources for Bethesda to stay on top of, there are fees involved.

And it boils my blood. Not because of the money, but because of how Bethesda are positioning this.

The Creation Club idea may sound innocent enough, but Bethesda, in conjunction with Valve, revealed a non-curated approach to paid mods back in 2015, and the internet, rightfully so, had exploded in anger. You don’t start to sell something that’s been free since the dawn of (gaming) time. Just because Microsoft and Sony have added paywalls to online access, doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all out there.

PC gamers love that particular platform because it gives them endless possibilities which consoles aren’t capable of. Mods have ranged from skins to full blown gameplay expansions, and best of all, it was free. Every bit of it. It’s content that’s been created by and for fans because they’re passionate enough to do so, not because they want to make a quick buck. Some of the more well-known modders have Patreons if you’d like to donate some money out of sheer appreciation, but their content remains free.

But hey, leave it to Bethesda to monetize something that’s free. Because, you know… Bethesda.

Fortunately, the outrage was enough to cause the publisher to cancel their plans a week after announcing them.

And now here comes the Creation Club, a thinly veiled attempt at reintroducing paid mods. And I say thinly veiled because Bethesda are position this as… actually, let me rephrase this. They’ve flat out denied that the Creation Club is a paid mods platform:

“Is Creation Club paid mods?”

No. Mods will remain a free and open system where anyone can create and share what they’d like. Also, we won’t allow any existing mods to be retrofitted into Creation Club, it must all be original content. Most of the Creation Club content is created internally, some with external partners who have worked on our games, and some by external Creators. All the content is approved, curated, and taken through the full internal dev cycle; including localization, polishing, and testing. This also guarantees that all content work together. We’ve looked at many ways to do “paid mods”, and the problems outweigh the benefits. We’ve encountered many of those issues before. But, there’s a constant demand from our fans to add more official high quality content to our games, and while we are able to create a lot of it, we think many in our community have the talent to work directly with us and create some amazing new things.”

Yeah, that all sounds well and good, but it stinks. It stinks because it doesn’t make any damn sense. In the Creation Club, you have to buy virtual currency with real world money, and then use that digital currency to purchase mods.

Sounds an awful lot like paid mods, doesn’t it? I mean, you’re giving them money, and you’re getting mods in return, right? Yeah. That’s because they’re paid mods.

As mentioned earlier, Bethesda tried to pull this nonsense a couple of years ago. Valve asked Bethesda if they’d be open to a paid mods thing, Bethesda said ‘you’re damn right we are’, and fans shut them down. Instead of taking the hint that gamers want nothing to do with paid mods, they shelved the idea for a couple of years so they could come up with a fancy name and some bullshit PR babble, hoping people wouldn’t notice that the paid mods idea didn’t actually go away, but was just retooled.

Lying to fans and customers is about the most despicable thing a company can do. It tells us they have the bravado to say whatever, and do whatever they want because they think we’re too stupid to read between the lines. But we aren’t, and video game journalists haven’t been either. Most headlines in regards to the Creation Club are some iteration of, ‘Bethesda Introduces Paid Mods!’ Say what you will about gaming journalists, but at least they call a spade a spade when crap like this comes up.

Fortunately, Bethesda has made it clear that free mods will still be allowed, but considering how backhanded they’re being with the announcement of their Creation Club, but again, they’re full of crap. They have absolutely screwed over the whole ‘free mods’ thing.

The Creation Club update is mandatory, and when it went live, it changed at least one game’s .exe file, causing F4SE (a script extender which is essential for many mods) to stop working. Script extenders pretty much need to be updated each time the game updates, but assuming the Creation Club files will be updated on a regular basis, that’s going to turn into a full time job for community modders, which may only incentivize them to quit.

And by the way, when I say the Creation Club update is mandatory, that includes all the content available through it. Yep, you’re going to have a lot of useless crap on your hard drive, and there’s not much you can do about it. Some have theorized that Bethesda are doing this to get around Sony’s rules about 3rd party content by wrapping it all into the game itself, but that’s hardly a good solution. In fact, it’s fucking terrible. Why would this affect PC and Xbox One users, then? A 2.1 GB update shouldn’t be forced down anyone’s throat if it’s not vital to run the game.

Furthermore, the Creation Club is breaking people’s free mods… mods which worked perfectly fine before the update. This is because mod load order – which is essential for ensuring everything loads properly and plays nicely with each other – is being affected. Mods are now forced to load in alphabetical order, meaning your free mods aren’t going to work. I’ll assume this is a bug, but you never know.

Last but certainly not least, it seems Pipboy skins refuse to work with any other free mod installed. Once other free mods are removed, the Pipboy skins will work.

I normally don’t condone piracy unless it’s firmly authorized by the devs, but you know what? Go for it. You can use all this new content for free because it’s easily crackable. Unpack the Creation Club .BSA, rename it, and then run the game. Tada! You have all the Creation Club content for free!

Except it’s all boring as piss, and all the free stuff is better.

Another way around this is to, if you haven’t updated through Steam yet, to use F4SE.exe to open the game exclusively, and tell Steam to not update the game unless you launch it (directly from Steam). That way you’ll never have to worry about updating the game when you don’t want to.

I won’t get into the whole ‘slippery slope’ discussion, because I know that’s an anecdotal part of the conversation at best. Still, there is precedence for other companies to follow suit when an idea bears fruit (money) for someone else… and that’ll be the worst if it happens. Just the absolute fucking worst.

After all is said and done, Bethesda probably would have garnered more respect and less outrage if they had just announced this program like this:

“Hello! We’re introducing the Creation Club, a place where you can buy first and third party created mods. These paid mods will mostly come from you, and you can submit them to us for internal review, and as long they pass our qualitative standards, they’ve be available from the Creation Club shop and you can earn a bit of money, too!” That still doesn’t make the whole thing about breaking free mods any better though, especially since they said free mods were still OK.

Telling the truth is groundbreaking shit, I know. But, no, we got two lies here for the price of one. They ARE paid mods and free mods ARE being affected.  Period. Here’s to hoping the backlash online causes Bethesda to once again rethink their position on paid DLC, because this isn’t going to end well for them.

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