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Modding Incentive

A topic by mut created 26 days ago Views: 170 Replies: 14
Viewing posts 1 to 3

Recently I have been thinking a lot about free software, forks, modding and remixing, and recently I found a game on itch that was very interesting, and I had an idea I wanted to test on the game. Luckily I knew the creator, messaged him and he was ok with me making a modification. What I thought afterwards was that if I made a mod for his game and post it on itch, I would definitely have a link of his game on my page somehow to say that it was a mod.

After that I saw this thread: https://itch.io/t/608043/big-question-and-i-cant-think-of-a-title#post-1047858

And it all got me thinking, modding is a great way of getting people that don't have time/knowledge/resources to implement a whole game, and it is a very hard thing to properly support in your game (say something like a steam workshop). I really feel that incentivizing people to want to have their game modded and people to mod other games might be in line with what I understand is a value of itch.io.

I want to open a discussion on how and what can be added to itch in order to incentivize modding. The basic idea I had is being able to have a checkbox on your game publishing page saying that you are ok with your game being modded, with some basic instructions on how to do so (eg.: fork this git repo). This could make your game page have some kind of button like "mod this game", which would then open the said instructions and could even create an unpublished itch page of the game mod, which you could then update with your own version, and that would have a link to the original author.

This all seems very utopic, but I really think is an interesting conversation to have =)

What I think is significant part of the itch culture, is that it is pretty dense with creators and creativity, for example with the game jams movement. It clearly addresses people who are developers or active participants, not just passive consumers. That is quite awesome. It feels very different to simply waiting until you can buy something. Creators and artists, have some fondness for the open source technology, I think, because it simply makes it easier for them to bring forth their ideas.  I respect open source culture, but again, if someone wants to make money, this is not going to be their place. Understandably, there is also very limited amount of time and effort an activist can invest in non-profit activities, therefore, open source developers need to work smart.

Modding is nice, but to be done right, it is not easy to arrange. Here is a quotation of a comment by @boranrobert, on the Mindustry game:

1) Modding idea is fantastic, but it can create large problems for future versions [of the game[ if not carefully designed.
2) Really good modding must have a very well organized structure, documentation and functionality (one external robust tool to create mods is a good start).
3) Modding is really fun until everyone decides to make their own external tool to create mods (this creates chaos and problems for future mod developers).
4) Modding distribution and creation must have from the beginning a simple dedicated web page (here you have everything - how to make mods , sharing mods, mods library).
5) Modding should include clear and robust API used by all modders (this is hard and complex to handle but it is essential).
6) Making mods should be easy to get into and hard for changing gameplay feeling.

To summarize, modding is both an opportunity and a danger - opportunity to expand the game and danger, for making it chaos and possibly falling into conflict with the status quo, in particular where some mods would claim supremacy over basic version of the game, thus splitting the community between those playing the "proper" version of the game and those playing the "vanilla".

Awesome answer, although I have some strong disagreement with the following
> I respect open source culture, but again, if someone wants to make money, this is not going to be their place.
I don't feel like explaining why would be productive to this conversation, but explaining why I think it's not productive might be.

What I'm proposing is not any kind of enforcement of "free software standards" (whatever this means) on itch.io games. I am also coming from this idea about itch.io's culture of having a more blurry distinction between creators and consumers. Also I am not even sure if this is feature worth implementing, and most likely itch.io developers have higher priorities things to develop right now (if only it was open source... but I digress).

I'll try to talk about what I think when I think about this feature by trying to answer to the points brought up in your quotation. I am also super interested in the possibility of a response from @Anuke himself, given that he has the most successful moddable and free software game on itch.io (thank you for that reference, I had not realized that when I first played it a while ago)

1) This point is the one I understand the least. What I interpreted is a case where a future update of the game breaks the API or just breaks the mod in some form. What I think of this is since the game is open source, if you really care about your mod and want to keep it alive, you can basically create your own fork of the game that doesn't have the said changes. I'm pretty sure a mindful dev in a well modded game could also be thoughtful of this and create something like a "Classic" version of their game pre breaking changes.

2) Yes I agree with the case for really good modding, but I am not suggesting really good modding, just incentive for it in order to in the future have a better oportunity and a community surrounding modding to have more samples of really good modding. I'm thinking more of a "fork me on github" than in a full blown steam workshop-like feature.

3) I don't really understand why it stops to be fun when there are multiple external tools. There are multiple external tools for pretty much any activity I do on my computer nowadays, at least in the case of the mod they are most likely not competing with each other but collaborating, so I don't see how this is a problem (I want to "real meritocracy" but that's a paradox)

4) I think it should always be a clear line on which game is modding which, having a tree like structure would be very interesting, but getting to a point where this much modding is happening is basically utopia. It could even be expanded as being it's own itch.io page for a game and it's mods, and, since itch already has the idea of serving them, tools. Specific features that point out that a game is moddable can help out with this point.

5) This is similar to number 2, so I'll add to it. I think the complexity of the moddable API comes with the complexity of the game itself. The game that made me bring up this whole idea was a very simple game, simple enough that I thought I might be able to quickly understand it's source code and make changes to it. If you have the source code available, you can kind of consider it's API the whole thing? I still think for more complex games supporting mods means a better distinction between API and source code, but again, all I am suggesting is creating features so this could happen more often and we can learn more about how to proper handle those cases.

6) Making them easier to get into is the biggest motivation behind this, knowing that I can make my game publicly moddable while being in some way incentivized by itch.io to do it would increase my chances to try to explain the source code to people, and even write documentations for my own projects. It could create an ecossystem of not easily moddable games, but people interested enough in them to want to help out. All of this with a choice made by the original game to make it moddable.

Again this is all very dreamy and I am sure might not even be a high priority on things itch.io could be working on right now. I don't see danger in games that explicitly chose to be moddable of falling in conflict with the status quo.  Mods claiming "supremacy" over the original game has been a constant trend in successful games that I don't think are considered bad things for video game history in general: counter strike, dota, pubg and autochess, to name the obvious examples.

(3 edits)

I do not think centralizing anything is the way to go, unless you want to make the thing a business. Free, simple to use and efficient engines help a lot, like 'Bitsy'. People using it can express themselves and their ideas swiftly, without putting the creativity on pause, due to overt technological obstacles. It is simple, it is fast and it is free. We need more tools like that, tools that would turn consumers into developers.

EDIT:

For the open source, I know the mantra of earning on product related services rather than the product sales, as well as I do realize the terms of self promotion, but riding the horse of socialism, open source is not destined to function well in the capitalist environment.

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> I don't feel like explaining why would be productive to this conversation [about modding]. 

So I feel a bit sad that your answer was basically being the counterproductivity I feared, but I also feel commited to answer it, hoping to bring back your attention to the actual modding discussion. There's a lot of interesting discussion out there regarding open source as a profitable thing, especially within the discussion between free software and open source (this movement coming out explicitly as a way of free software serving some demands of capitalistic institutions, like when github posts that  "open source has won").

(2 edits)

Perhaps the only way to reasonably summarize my input in this thread is to state that balance is important in every aspect of life, be it also modding or approach to software availability in general. Any type of extremity typically asks for the principles of it to be tested, as if proposing a challenge, thus fueling not only competition, but plainly son-of-a-bitch behaviours that are a pain in the ass to deal with.

EDIT:

But y'know, since I have no programming or artistic skills whatsoever, maybe I just do not understand the charm of joyful commune aimed at sharing, rather than achieving any particular goal on the basis of organized teamwork. Perhaps I am being overly theoretical.

PS.

Open source technology has proven to work best as a springboard, meaning, someone will cash on your work eventually. I see the desire to make the world a better place, but in the end, you cannot negate the major ecosystem in charge.

I don't know, either you didn't understand my original point or you are being purposefully disruptful and counterproductive to it. I'll assume no malice, thus the former, and would ask you to kindly read all of which I have already written and think (as in no need to reply) how does that relate to any kind of extremity. For some reason you seem to holding very tightly to this argument that open source is not profitable, when profitability has never even been my point. I am really glad that you are engaged in this conversation with me, but I really think diving into the profitability and "extremety of open source" is missing the point and wasting away our precious thinking time. I would really thank you if you engaged with the actual proposals I've been making and telling how and why they could or could not work, instead of just insisting in "open source is not profitable" "open source has proven to be just a spring board", especially when I am even addressing those specific points in some way or another.

So if you answer this with just more meta discussion I'll just assume malice and give up on maintainig this dialogue with you. And please, if you want to talk about your thoughts on how bad open source is, please create a thread about it somewhere, and let's have fruitful arguments about it somewhere else, but again, it's not the point I am trying to make with this specific post.

Yes, forgive me, I am simply being theoretical for the sake of dispute, I will disengage now.

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I am not suggesting profitable ways of modding games, even less suggesting itch.io to have specific mechanisms in place to help moddable games profit (eg.: steam marketplace). I think it is up to the game developers to make this choice and balance out if it's worth it or not.

The specific case where I though about this being a possible feature was when playing a small broken free game (which I could say amount for most of itch's library), that I felt compelled to "fix", and though itch could have interesting ways of incentivizing that behaviour, instead of me having to DM the game's author. It's a very tough conversation to have, and I think with certain incentives, itch can "educate" people to even start thinking of the possibility of opening up their free broken games they expect nothing with. Would be almost like promoting a game specific "licensing" idea and helping users out with it, by say, asking some additional questions about how you think your game can be modded/shared. (kind of like the CC questionaire you answer to know the best CC license to choose for your assets)

I think it is up to the game developers to make this choice and balance out if it's worth it or not.

I guess that is right, the developers should make a decision whether they want to invest in creating modding tools for their projects and keep it organized, therefore, it is up to developers in each case. By the way, even with GNU license, I believe it is fair to e-mail the original developer and establish basic agreement over any actions to be taken on own behalf upon their work. Communication, in general, is recommendable.

Hmmmm, idk, I don't usually call the developers of whatever new library I am working on and need fixing for permission to do so, there are very streamlined internal ways of doing that. And that's a bit of the beauty of the git ecossystem, and what I wanted to see in some extent in games (especially small and broken ones), it's not about all games being "forkable" or moddable, but again, for the developer to have the option to think about it. Just having a checkbox to add the game repository would already show that itch cares about this, and might make developers that haven't even thought about the possibility of open sourcing their games of doing so, or even reminding a developer that has this in mind, but forgets to add the github link on the game's description. So once again I'll say, it's not about having a beautiful modding ecossystem with a systemwide API with in app purchases and profits to the modders, it's about making the conversation more open, just incentivizing game developers to think about modding in a more loose sense (wow, I can just add my repository here and there might come a day someone plays this and report a bug or even makes upgrades?)

Idk, I can't really see any real drawbacks on this incentive other than additional work for itch.io developers, and talking around it surely is making me believe even more in this.

Could you streamline your proposal for the itch in two very brief sentences?

There are 2 parts to it: incentivizing developers to make their games "moddable" and incentivizing players to become modders. So I'll do one sentence each.

Developers: Having a clear choice of sharing the game source code and/or modding tools on the game submission page, and some feature to receive proper attribution (I like the simplicity of something like Creative Commons, take a look at that experience).

Players/Modders: Having a clear way of knowing whether the developer of a game is open to their game being modded and a streamlined way of making, publishing and attributing mods.

Note that when I say mods, again, it doesn't need to be the steam workshop experience, it can be as " simple" as forking the source code and making a modification.

(1 edit)

There's already a dedicated "source code" file type when submitting files to a project, so the "developer" side of things is essentially already covered. License information can be added through Dashboard --> Project page --> Metadata tab --> Release Info sidebar menu item. Not the most obvious place to look, but it's there, and it's displayed on the project page for players/modders/consumers if set.

For player/modders, though, there currently doesn't appear to be a way to filter search results by license (need to manually check the page). Only thing I could find is an "Open Source" tag. However, "Game Mods" is one of the categories you can upload a project as (there's currently 909 results at the time of writing), so I'd say there's already a streamlined way of making, publishing and attributing them...


I suppose your suggestion boils down to "make the things that already exist easier to find, and add an official tool to mark your project as modding-friendly"?

I only actually knew about the "source code"  file type, so thanks a lot for this info. I loved that the license information actually gives a brief description for each license and helps out choosing them, and I think that is basically my point, I only found out about this stuff after posting in the forums about it.

What I wish is that it was more incentivized in some way, even just sharing the source code as a file is a weird choice, when most likely the source code is already being hosted somewhere and could be easier to update. I see how it being already used by some people (and hopefully I'll start doing it myself now) but I think it should be more explicit to users, I can't even agree it's a streamlined process now, it's a bunch of different hidden processes.

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