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Valve boss responds on game 'mod' row

Screenshot from Skyrim Image copyright Bethesda
Image caption Many gamers are angry about Valve letting coders charge for mods

Valve boss Gabe Newell has defended the company's decision to let developers of some game modifications or 'mods' charge for their creations.

The decision provoked strong criticism on social media and in the forums of Valve's Steam game service.

Mr Newell said Valve was keeping an eye on the early days of the system to make sure it worked well.

One early change would give mod makers more control over what they charge for their code.

'Idiotic' change

Mods add all kinds of extras to games, including weapons, armour and pets. The most ambitious add new enemies and even entire levels.

"Our goal is to make modding better for the authors and gamers," wrote Mr Newell in the Reddit Q&A. "If something doesn't help with that, it will get dumped."

He said one of the first changes would be the introduction of an option that lets mod authors put a donate button on their code. In addition, Valve would also stop deleting discussions about the issue on Steam forums.

Prior to the change introduced last week, most of the mods made for games on Steam were free. Creators could only get paid if their mod was included in official features for a Valve game.

The new system, introduced via the Steam Workshop, gives mod makers the opportunity to get paid by people who download and install their creation. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was the first game for which paid mods were available. Other games are expected to follow.

Many people criticised Valve for putting a price tag on something that had traditionally been free. Some said Valve's move was "completely idiotic" and would "poison" the modding world.

In his defence, Mr Newell pointed out that Valve had a long history of supporting mods. For instance, he said, many of the company's core developers started out making extras and add-ons for earlier games. In addition, some of Valve's most popular titles started as mods to existing titles.

"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," he said.

"As a baseline, Valve loves mods (see Team Fortress, Counter-Strike, and Dota)," wrote Mr Newell. "The open nature of PC gaming is why Valve exists, and is critical to the current and future success of PC gaming."

Many contributors to the Reddit thread were unhappy with the way cash for Skyrim mods was being split between makers, Valve and studio Bethesda who created the original game. Currently, 75% of the cash goes to Valve and Bethesda, with the last quarter going to the developer.

Mr Newell said the revenue split ratio was set by the original maker of a game, not Valve. The split could be different on other games.

Other issues to do with quality control, content theft and refunds were not tackled by Mr Newell. He also did not comment on claims that some modders had lost access to other tools they relied on because those add-ons had become paid-for extensions.

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