I don’t think that OSE and 505 have reached an official position on modding so far. They may never bother: we may end up in the same bucket of “neither officially condoned nor forbidden” as other fan-works, like fan-art and fan-fiction.
In the meantime, I think it would be useful for us all to come up with a set of self-policing standards that encourage people not to screw OSE and the UA community over.
How’s about the following?
1) Mods should behave.
Rationale: “no malware” should be obvious and go without saying :D We can all review each other’s code. Malicious code feels like the most serious sin we could do as modders.
2) Modders should behave: don’t make modders or OSE look bad.
Rationale: If we release a mod filled with hate speech, copyright violations, or other immoral/illegal stuff, then OSE will almost certainly feel forced to drop the banhammer on mods, and we’ll kill modding for all players, and for future games.
3) Mods should be free.
Rationale: Modding is a hobby, not a job. To protect their IP, and the game’s various license agreements, OSE and 505 would have to get lawyers involved if money came into the picture.
4) Don’t steal from OSE: no unmodified code or assets.
Rationale: In order to modify something, we often need to copy some of it: to give Aelita a nose-piercing, we’d need to copy her face mesh and add that ring. So her face-mesh would need to be part of the mod. But it should be unnecessary to duplicate code or assets verbatim from the base game and distribute them with our mods.
Obvious corollary: a standalone game using OSE code or assets is not OK.
5) Don’t steal from others: only use free or licensed assets.
Rationale: Don’t steal from anyone, it makes us look bad. In particular, we can’t extract resources from another game for use in our mods. The exception would be where we don’t distribute those mods, but rather distribute the script to let someone with both games see assets from both. So, if we wanted to import UW1 & 2 textures, we wouldn’t distribute those textures in our mod, we’d distribute an extractor instead.
6) No means no.
Rationale: OSE or 505 may eventually get advice from their legal team that I dunno copyright or trademarks or whatever means they have to ask us to stop modding. If so, I’ll accept that and take all my stuff down if they ask, and I recommend everyone else does too. Same if they ask that a specific one of my mods be taken down. This willingness will get us goodwill, which will go a long way towards letting us mod future games. Otherwise, they may feel it worth investing in code-scrambling and other pains which just make our job harder. Play the long game!
Note that, if they say “we’d rather you didn’t do X”, that doesn’t mean “all modding is OK so long as we don’t do X”: just that they’ll probably have to drop the ban-hammer if we continue to do X. So we should probably not do X, even if they never reach an official position beyond that.
G1) Share freely.
Rationale: OSE holds copyright over the code we’re modifying: we cannot lay claim to it. For the parts we add, it’s pointless trying to claim a license, since it’s useless without OSE code. I’ll use the CC0 license, and recommend we all do, so all mods can be reused and reworked, building on each other’s work to make the game better.
This only applies to our own work. If we license a resource for our mod, maybe from the Unity Store, then we obviously can only share it under the license we bought it with.
G2) Give credit.
Rationale: Plagiarism’s a moral, not a legal thing. Credit is not a replacement for having permission to reuse. But even when we have permission to reuse, such as when using public domain resources, credit should be given because it’s the right thing to do. Plus, pointing people to where we got that asset from gives them a pointer on where to get similar stuff!
G2) Avoid critical systems.
Rationale: No matter how careful we are, we can’t guarantee that if we touch a system, we won’t break it. A significant example is savegames. When our mod is removed, the player must still be able to load, without problems, the last savegame where the user had our mod turned on. We hope to make this easier by providing wrappers for safe saving and loading.
As a community, we don’t have any power to enforce, I think. But we can all:
- encourage people to do the right thing;
- frown at those who push the boundaries;
- refuse to help those who exceed the boundaries;
- withhold code-review acceptance to rule-breaking mods.
Do you agree with these ideas? What changes would you make?
If we can reach consensus on what a “good-citizen modder” looks like, how do we encourage that behavior? How can we self-police, so OSE doesn’t have to?