Mods have for decades been a way for fans to create content for their favourite games, and for decades have been seen as a community pursuit, something free, something people do for the love of it. Over the last few years, though, that stance has begun to change.
From Skyrim to Grand Theft Auto, an increasing number of prominent mod creators have begun to lock their work behind third-party paywalls, most commonly on crowdfunding sites like Patreon. This is a thorny issue! On the one hand, if people are putting in work that others are enjoying they deserve to get paid. On the other, mods have traditionally been free, and a lot of mods are built on the work of other mods—not to mention the work of the game’s developers themselves—so where do those charging get to draw the line?
There’s no clear right or wrong here, which might explain why a lot of companies—at least those who haven’t tried to bring this stuff into the fold officially—have been content to let this simmer along. One studio that has come out with an opinion, though, is Iron Gate, developers of Valheim.
In a statement released yesterday, they say:
Lately we have been getting a lot of questions regarding mods, and what we as a company approve of – as well as what we don’t approve of. Therefore we thought we’d try and clear things up a little bit.
First of all, while we don’t have any official mod support, we are definitely happy to see that people are engaging with our game and creating their own mods for it. It’s definitely flattering that you want to be creative and add your own ideas! Iron Gate not having any official mod support essentially means that any creating and using of mods is done at your own risk, and that we can’t guarantee that mods will be compatible with newer versions of the game.
The thing that we’ve been getting the most questions about, however, is the phenomenon where mods cost money. We definitely understand that you spend a lot of your time on creating a mod, and that you might want financial compensation for that, but Iron Gate does not condone locking modded content behind a paywall.
We feel that charging money for a mod is against the creative and open spirit of modding itself, and therefore we urge all mod authors to make their mods freely available to all who want to play them. This should include the whole mod, and not just have part of the mod available for free while another part of it costs money. If you want to show your appreciation for a mod author you can of course still support them with a voluntary donation, but we do not want payment to be a requirement to access a mod.
Additionally, we would also greatly appreciate it if mods made it clear that they are unofficial mods, both in game and on any website where the mod is available. Sometimes joining a modded dedicated server will automatically trigger a download of a mod, and we simply want to avoid confusion for players so that they can know whether or not they are playing a modded game. Valheim already has a feature for this, where you can simply have your mod trigger a popup in game, which will inform the player that their game is running with a mod.
Thank you all for taking our wishes into consideration!
The Iron Gate team
Seems fair! Their compromise solution, where a modder’s individual works are released for free but they’re supported generally on Patreon, seems the most workable in this situation, not just from a community standpoint but also a legal one: like Iron Gate say here, a lot of games don’t officially support mods, and so folks diving into the code of someone else’s game and making money off it sure seems like its fraught with peril when money starts changing hands.
Like I said, though, this question is going to have different answers for each game, depending on how mods are made available and how they’re supported, not to mention the views of the developers themselves. But in Valheim’s case, at least, their stance is clear! It’s not binding—all they can do is ask players to take “our wishes into consideration”—but it’s clear.