What "community standards" should modders abide by?


#7

Skimming through what I can find on the creative commons license, it waives ALL rights to the work you do? Are there ways you can add exceptions to this rule?

I think I would want to at least accredit the people who do the mod work, and perhaps the bare minimum is a line somewhere within the mod or program that acknowledges the name or link from where it came from. I’m imagining even if OSE adopted community-driven work, it would be great to at least credit where that came from.

Speaking of which, would, for example, a VR-mod version of UA be hosted separately from the PC version? Or are all of the examples implied to be works that would be directly modded onto the UA-PC version?

Also thinking about how mod work wouldn’t necessarily be able to be advertised unless it was officially adopted by the company, which could be troublesome if we wanted to port something officially. (I’m imagining, for example, a VR mod works and is polished up by a combination of the community and the dev team, and then we are asked to host it on Oculus or something; money would be tough to sort out, even if the mod waived your rights, there’s the moral standpoint of giving justice to those who worked on the mod, right?)


#8

The CC licenses are versatile, and you can pick a license other than CC0 if you want to retain more than zero rights.

So for example, there’s “CC-BY” which makes crediting the author a legal requirement if you wish to reuse any part of their work. After CC0, that’d be my second-favorite license, but I can see some arguments against it.

I’d personally like to keep credit as a moral requirement, separate from legality, if possible. CC0 wouldn’t forbid anyone from crediting: it would just prevent them from getting in legal trouble if they missed someone out because of a copy-paste error.

As well as unnecessary legality, I also worry that otherwise, people might be tempted to only credit those they’re legally required to, and not credit those who release on public domain, on CC0, or whose stuff they feel they only took less than some legal mimimum from.

And I just don’t like putting terms and conditions on my stuff that I don’t have to :D If someone wants to use my code, that makes me happy. I get to see my code-child growing up and going out into the world!

So personally, I’d rather make it a moral constraint that we as a community frown upon plagiarism regardless of legality, and that we smile on credit because it shows respect and shows that you’ve done your research and know where your stuff comes from. Like with science papers, there’s no law saying not to plagiarize, but anyone publishing without appropriate credit is excoriated by the science community.

But I agree I am in the minority. There are many perfectly good motivations to do things, over and above my own (which seem to be “the need to feel useful and helpful”). We’re nixing (as I argue we should) any financial motivation. But we probably want to maximize as many other motivations as we can, to encourage people to do the work. “Recognition” and “acclaim” are valid and worthy motivations, in that light. So maybe we should make crediting a rule rather than a guideline, and maybe we should go for CC-BY rather than CC0?

I’d be basically happy either way, but what does everyone else prefer?

For context, as well as being a hobby, all this stuff (mods for existing software, code review, juggling open source licenses, etc etc) has basically been my day job at Magento (now an Adobe company) for a few years now. My department is responsible for reviewing mods written by third parties for the Magento shopping cart system. The rules I’ve listed above are largely based on the pain points I see in that community, as well as in fan-mod communities for games.

Conflicting licenses are one of the main pain points I see in all these communities. I’d argue it’d definitely benefit the community to settle on a license early on; and that the more open the license is, the less drama and friction there’ll be around reuse. Incompatible licenses would open the whole “code review for plagiarism detection” can of worms that we just don’t want to open if we can avoid it: that was my task for about my first year in Magento.

If it becomes an issue, I might write up an overview of avoiding open source license conflicts, to help people avoid gotchas like, say, using some GPL-licensed code in their mod, causing their whole mod to become GPL-licensed by default, unless they are very careful and jump through the correct hoops.

One thing I should probably do at a minimum, is to make it easy for people to default to crediting well - so, make it hard for them to avoid giving credit in the submission process, as the credits file is part of the default modding template, that kinda thing.

Exactly the latter, yes :) A VR mod would be just like a reskin, etc: you’d download a mod that would modify your existing game that you had installed from Steam or whatever, to allow it to work with VR headsets.

The point of modding is that we DON’T need to redistribute the game :D Mods are just… add-ons. Fan-DLCs, in effect.

Which is why I want to be very careful not to tread on OSE’s toes for any DLCs you might be planning.

As an example, I’d like to add pets, but I won’t touch them with a 10ft pole unless I get confirmation that there were no pet-DLC planned by OSE, and even then I’d be careful to make any of my pets “less cool” than the ones the Kickstarter backers got. So I wouldn’t just “enable the kickstarter pets”, they’d have to be different.

I get what you’re saying, but… I disagree. I’m interested in hearing arguments either way from others, but here’s mine.

First, consider three scenarios:

Scenario 1: If I make a standalone program, or an artwork, or a story, not a mod, and I chose to release it for free to the public domain, then I’ve got what I wanted out of it if people download and enjoy it. From the way I released it, I explicitly showed the world I wanted no money from it.

If a random someone takes that program, and in compliance with the CC0 license, reuses it to make money, I have lost nothing, and if they are successful, I have gained something by being part of something bigger.

Scenario 2: If, instead of a standalone program, it was a game mod, the same surely applies, except that I would be worried that, by charging money for their mod, they were detracting from the work of the makers of the original game.

Scenario 3: If, instead of a random someone, it was the person who made the game upon which I built my mod, and without which my mod would have been impossible, and who invested millions of dollars of actual money in making that game, and who I would very much like to see making additional games… and they are opening up those mods to a wider audience on platforms I could not possibly have reached… why should I expect to be rewarded over and above being overjoyed to see that happen, and maybe even getting public acclaim for it?

But I get it. My motivations are not other people’s motivations. There’s a huge movement against artists working “for exposure”, and I can see the clear and obvious parallels between that situation and this one.

I’d argue the difference is that, in doing something for free, for the community, and releasing it to the community… we don’t even expect exposure. We’re just sharing something we made that’s cool, with people who might like it. If you help us share it, even better!

Setting an expectation of reward if OSE reuses the work sets a very dangerous precedent, since it means that any time OSE makes a patch or change that is similar to something a modder ever did, that modder might pipe up and say “Hey! Pay me!”

And it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of anyone whose mod doesn’t get chosen.

And it also opens the whole legal can o’ worms around payment. Because, if you pay, then you have to pay a legally reasonable price. And minimum wage laws and taxes and all kinds of bullshit rear their ugly heads.

If I remember right, I think this was a hard lesson learned by Ultima Online. They had some volunteer helpers. One day, they gave them some money (or something worth money) in thanks. And then there was a court case, demanding that the reward be raised to minimum wage. Which was found in favor of the volunteers: by paying them, they became employees.

So I very strongly indeed argue against ever letting money get involved in the UA modding community.

And further (and this is an opinion I’ve gathered in discussion with Furcadia’s Community Manager): I’d argue that rewarding people for work they gladly did for free is always a bad thing. Say you recognize and celebrate this month’s “best volunteer”, then you make one person happy, but the rest of the community slightly regretful. Say they get motivated, though, by that regret. Say they work as hard as they can in order to have a shot at it next time, but still didn’t get it… where is their motivation now? Rewards are divisive, splitting us into haves and have-nots.

I totally get what you’re saying, though: it’s absolutely against the grain for me not to reward someone for a wonderful job done. But if they didn’t do it for reward, then any reward will only be a punishment: would you pay someone for giving you a birthday present? Of course not! And even if you did… what’s a fair price for that? How can you pay them an amount for that gift that is not either too little, or too much?

Instead, I’d say: if OSE wanted to reuse someone’s work that they’ve released freely for anyone to reuse, then OSE is going above and beyond if they:

  • contact that person and ask if it’s OK;
  • give credit to the person (if the person consents to getting credit, some people are weird about it);
  • thank the person.

That’s three steps more than the person will get from almost any other user or reuser of their work.


#9

Wonderful follow up discussions, thank you Dewi.

Good points about paying volunteers and how that would complicate things; I suppose based on this information, the safest thing for both parties is to pursue the CC0 with a moral promise between the company and the modding community to try to credit each other as consistently as possible for any work done.


#10

Just super-quick, CC0 feels right to me as well.

Disallowing charging for mods (a position I agree with) already makes developing them a labor of love, rather than an economic activity, so I see little reason to enforce other restrictions on use by others. And infecting mods with the GNU Public Virus seems excessive.

I also agree with giving development credit as a moral good, rather than a legal requirement. That leaves some room for abuse… but I imagine a UA community being tight enough (especially if hosting/review is centralized) to know who’s giving proper credit and who’s not.


#11

I think CC0 works too. I wouldn’t support anyone charging for mods. It also isn’t something the Digital Lycaeum is set up to support.

We can host assets, code, and packaged mods. We can also do reviews of each, and post updates when they get new features and such.

I agree with your overall post, Dewi. That spells out the type of modding community that we want to be.


#12

It’s heartening that we all seem entirely on the same page. We want modding to be a positive thing for the game, its players, modders and community, and for OSE’s devs and management. And we’re optimistic that it can be :D

Though I worry how long this consensus will last after we get it all open to the public, and out of just our little gang of friendly insiders.

I’m optimistic that once we have a few mods out, it’ll be accepted as standard behavior without much argument.

I imagine that, like every community, people will push the envelope of acceptability, so we’ll have to gradually accrete a protective nacre of additional rules to patch each weakness they expose. So long as we can keep them commonsense and reasonable, I think we should be good :)


#13

I’d expect the modding community for this game to be rather small and tightknit. After all, we are a fairly small group of players.

If modding makes the game explode in popularity… Well, I would be happy to live with those consequences. lol


#14

I agree :) Dealing with plenty of modders would be a lovely problem to have, and I’m really just hoping it’s not just me!

@jtr7 raised a good point over in the “what mods do you want” thread - savegames.
Technically it’s covered under “Mods should behave.” I guess, but I think it’s worth adding in as a guideline, so I’ve thrown that in as G3 - let me know how you think that should be changed!

I’ve also rephrased the language to use less “you” and more “we” throughout. Makes it sound less draconian, at the cost of sounding a little “modder manifesto”-ish :D

I also removed the paragraph about “commissions might be OK” - while it’s probably true, just like fan-art, I felt it kinda muddies the water around the whole “no payment, seriously!” issue.


#15

As has been said, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” (Hey, if Raph Koster can call players the enemy, as in, “The client is in the hands of the enemy – never forget this,” why can’t I? :smile: )

If, once the ideas being bashed out here are organized, you want to subject them to some contumely before jumping into fullbore implementation, there’s always the OtherSide Discord channel. Even the “lol ur obviously wrong about X” crowd occasionally have useful criticisms that more cooperative folks wouldn’t come up with.


#16

Good point. Though, since this doesn’t (yet?) seem as contentious as I’d feared, I’m moving it to the general UA forum, to open up wider discussion.

Even if it comes to be that we’re not allowed to mod UA, it feels worthwhile discussing how we’d like the Ultima community to handle modding other projects in the future - though this may well be a discussion that’s already been done to death in the 38 years the Ultimas have been around.


What fan-mods would you like to see?
#17

Ongoing curation is a must, and heroes need to be available to take over if the primary individual(s) have to step away for whatever reason, especially indefinitely. That specialized corner of the community should have a network established for getting word out, so there are less headless chickens (do Headless raise chickens?). If the mods make enough people happy, then there will be volunteers, so quality and intent matter outside the game.


#18

User Markie on Discord (possibly @The_Markie here?) made some cogent arguments against the whole “community standards” thing. To keep this short, I’ve removed my own words, and apologize if that removes context: I think what he had to say is the important but :slight_smile:

@Dewi Morgan modding is modding my man, have you ever been to a modding community before? it’s anything goes and that’s kinda as it should be, not like you can ever control or govern a modding community anyway

i mean i would pay to see you try to gatekeep or sustain any order, standard or etiquette in a modding community
but personally i would pay to see you try to build one first with what you believe in
as we’re speaking

i mean i would pay to see you try to gatekeep or sustain any order, standard or etiquette in a modding community
but personally i would pay to see you try to build one first with what you believe in
as we’re speaking

we don’t have one
the consensus wishes of the rest of the community
we’re lucky to have a community
let the people do whatever they want my man
you just sit back and contribute

I said: Yes - please do chip in on that forum post, so that your voice is heard :)

meh
my voice is heard when i make a mod, if i never make one, i’m happy with being mute

i don’t know, i think it’s arrogant to declare that there should be “community standards” for a community that doesn’t even exist yet
i mean i can get that you’re enthusiastic, about nothing, but you know
come on

i disagree with the concept of modding community standards

and absolutely disagree with trying to declaring standards before it even exists

i mean in a situation where they’re applied, which is ridiculous, i would easily try my best to violate every single one of them out of principle

it doesn’t matter whether i agree with them or not

i’ve never been approached by any modder, or anybody from any modding community that says i’ve violated either a standard, an unspoken rule or morality
so you can say that
by evidence, i agree with them all

we should try having a community first, that you should quote

[Markie please do post, or let me know somehow, if I’ve misrepresented you here, or if I do so later in this discussion. It’s really hard not to accidentally strawman people, so please do keep me honest!]


#19

The most central line, if I understand his arguments correctly (please correct me if I’m wrong!) was in the line “it’s arrogant to declare that there should be “community standards” for a community that doesn’t even exist yet”. When I asked if I could quote him, he replied “we should try having a community first, that you should quote”.

So I think this is the central point.

And I kinda agree with that.

Arrogant I think might be overstating it: I don’t think seeking consensus before we start work is arrogant, if anything it’s just a sign of decades of experience.

But is it hubris? That’s a sin I’m often guilty of, I admit.

My rationale for making this list (and my to-do list elsewhere) was:

  1. To let OSE know what they’re in for.
  2. To let newbie modders know what they’re in for.
  3. Make sure I’m going in a direction everyone’s OK with.

Markie’s dissent is the first sign I’ve seen against that direction, so I want to take it seriously.

It’s easy to say “well, I’m literally wearing the UDIC 25th anniversary T-shirt right now. And there’s the SotA group, and the Wiki group, etc etc. So the community already exists, is large and mature…” But while I argued that at the time, I’m not sure it’s a sound argument. At least as OSE-modders, we’re just starting out, at the very beginning.


#20

Not to throw cold water buy I’d be careful that not everything turns into a meta-argument, about-the-about etc

There’s nothing really wrong with detailed cogent guidelines, but I think it’s generally more useful to wait until you get a critical mass - until there’s a there, there - and then start moulding things as needed. Of course, you can’t leave this too late, or you’re playing whack-a-mole with too much material.

In other words, worry about stuff a bit more when there’s more to worry about :slight_smile:

Of course, that’s different from actual game design first time round, where you want as much clarity as possible early on.

Regarding Sam’s and Flatfinger’s respective points about moral promises, and charging/free models…these should not written in stone at the outset because they may well need to change depending on the nature of the end result. This may put some off, who want things bolted down from the beginning, but that’s the nature of development, even on a small scale. Of course, it’s not a chance to change things willy-nilly.

Another point. It’s human nature to start out sometimes with the idea of ‘free’. Then, perhaps you get drawn-in, it takes over, and you think ‘hold on…’. I’ve see this happen, especially when a receptive community likes what you do, but has been conditioned form the outset to expect incremental improvements for free…


#21

Transparency about the need to change things, and the why, as the decisions are being committed to for the current iteration, is much better than surprise changes that break expectations set up from never being told otherwise, except in annoying catch-all legalese.


#22

To me, the financial one is the main issue that needs to be made crystal clear right from the get-go. Everything else is gravy.

Anyone getting money involved will be screwing over the community. They will almost certainly lose us OSE and 505 support entirely.

That seemed Markie’s point, I think. But as we wait for Update 4 to come out, we have time to spend on planning and discussing, and it doesn’t seem harmful to me to do that. What’s gained by avoiding talking about this stuff?

Feels like, the worst time for a modding newbie to find out that it’s not OK to distribute stuff from another game in their mod without permission, is after they finish and release their mod. It’d be reasonable for them to feel upset and defensive about all the work they put in, and to say “screw you, I’ll distribute it anyway”.

If they know from the start that the problem exists, they can plan their approach and work with everyone to figure out how best to tackle making the mod they want.

So it seems sensible to make newbies aware of the culture and the laws the craft involves, rather than smack them down after the fact for “unspoken rules” they had no way of knowing.


#23

My philosophy for building functional human systems is pretty simple:

  1. Define clear rules at the very start, and enforce them consistently.

  2. Make sure at least one of the rules describes how to change the rules.

In other words, starting off with some simple rules that you can change if necessary has a better chance of yielding the organizational products you want than if your strategy is to hope that the emergent rules of an unfocused group will produce the desired outcomes.

I also suspect OtherSide would have some guidelines for acceptable fan modifications to their game. If so, then that’s already a few rules; most additional constraints from the fan side would IMO just be some practical considerations for achieving a working technical structure and dev/integ process that satisfy the Official Rules.

Simple, consistently enforced, and improvable seems to me like a reasonable model for a new group.


#24

All I’m saying is don’t set everything in stone before you have a stone…you might cut off some avenues of interest without ever knowing about them. Also, be proportionate - it’s all very well evolving a huge memoranda, but you need to gauge the true scale of the interest first, not go off the initial ground swell and count-me-ins.

Flatfinger’s ‘improvable’ is good, in theory…

Money…personally I agree…but to some this is a byword for lack of quality/accountability.

Btw, what exactly could OE be ‘in for?’ . And at what level are they taking notice? There seems to be two distinct tiers of comms with OE…


#25

For what it’s worth, Walter and I are both keeping tabs on these discussions. It’s good for us to have an idea of where the community stands on these, and can give people pre-emptive warning about any legal measures if we see discussions about certain mods we wouldn’t be as comfortable with. Hope this helps a bit.


#26

Yep, we’re tuned in. As a former modder (anyone remember Action Quake 2 / Reaction Quake 3?), I’m very interested in what you guys are thinking.