Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Why Bethesda should reveal Paid Mods 2.0 soon

Since the death of Bethesda and Valve's "paid mods" system in April 2015, there has been persistent speculation on modding forums that Bethesda intends to re-introduce paid mods at some point in the future.

Fuelling this speculation in April 2016, Todd Howard (Bethesda’s Creative Director) made some comments about the scrapped paid mods system in an interview with Newsweek:

“I think we went right to the ultimate, just totally open and whatever goes, goes. But it's like blasting someone into the vacuum of space without astronaut training…”

He then added:

“If something doesn't go well we'll keep at it.”

These comments suggest that Bethesda may make another attempt at a paid mods system, this time one that isn’t “totally open”. In other words, while Bethesda made the original system "uncurated" (meaning that anybody could sell anything for any price), in the future it may look to make a "curated" system in which it could place limits on who can sell mods, what can be sold, and/or for how much they could be sold. Let's call this Paid Mods 2.0.

Adding further fuel to speculation about Paid Mods 2.0 is the recent launch of Bethesda's own platform for sharing mods, Bethesda.net. This platform has allowed Bethesda to make modding cross-platform, massively increasing the audience for mods. In fact, Newsweek reported in April 2016 that nearly 20 million Xbox One gamers had downloaded mods from Bethesda.net since its launch. Support for mods PS4 is on its way, we're told. While Bethesda may simply have created this platform selflessly to bring the joy of modding to console users, this platform also puts Bethesda in a position where - if it launches Paid Mods 2.0 – it now stands to take a much greater share of revenue than it would have under the original paid mods system, because Valve is no longer involved. All of this means that Bethesda now has a much more compelling business case to launch a paid mods system than it did in 2015.

Bethesda has already hosed down speculation that paid mods will return along with the launch of Skyrim Special Edition on 28 October 2016, with Pete Hines (Bethesda's VP of PR and Marketing) tweeting "we won't do paid mods." What that means is: Bethesda doesn't intend to reintroduce paid mods yet.

This begs the question: what is Bethesda waiting for? It may be that Bethesda wants to entice console users into the world of modding - allowing them to see the value of mods - before it reveals Paid Mods 2.0. It may also be that Bethesda is waiting for animosity toward paid mods to die down, although the volume of ongoing speculation and internet chatter suggests this many not happen any time soon.

What is clear is that if Bethesda wants to launch Paid Mods 2.0, and get the timing right, it will need to understand the root causes of opposition to paid mods.

What follows is a critical evaluation of the arguments for and against paid mods. It is not an opinion piece, nor is it a fence-sitting editorial which pretends that all views have equal merit (sometimes called "the bias toward fairness").

The arguments for paid mods

1. Bethesda is entitled to introduce paid mods.

From a rights-based perspective, Bethesda is entitled to sell intellectual property which it and modders agree to sell. On the other hand, the role of mod users, as prospective purchasers, is limited to either buying a mod, or not buying it. They have no automatic right to mods, nor are they entitled to decide whether mods should be available for sale.

2. It’s inherently fair for people to expect payment for their work.

This should be self-explanatory, but here’s an illustration: Imagine your neighbor is an amateur handy-man and has done some alterations to your house for free because he enjoys it. Now imagine one days he says he’s started his own business and is going to start charging a (modest) fee for his services from now on. If you want his services, your options are either (a) pay for his services, if they’re valuable to you, or (b) decline his services. No reasonable person could deny his right to charge for his services. This is because it’s inherently fair for people to expect payment for their work.

3. The current system benefits everyone except modders.

Under the current system:

  • Bethesda benefits commercially from mods (even when they're free) because its games attract a strong following thanks in part to the mods that are available.
  • Mod users get to enjoy a massive amount of additional content.
  • Robin Scott, owner of the Nexus mod hosting site, derives a profit from advertising on his site.
  • Streamers, who broadcast themselves playing Bethesda games loaded up with mods, often receive advertising revenue and donations/subscriptions.
  • Modders lose money. This is because making mods tends to take a lot of time, and time has a monetary value. To illustrate the point, modder Jonx0r wrote that making celebrated Skyrim mod Wyrmstooth took him approximately 2,000 hours. He subsequently told me he had decided to quit modding because of the heavy toll his hobby had taken on his career. 

4. A paid mods system will result in better mods.

Economics 101 tells us that giving modders a chance to profit from their work would help attract and retain talented modders, and keep them motivated to do their best work. In a competitive marketplace, mod users would collectively reward modders for offering good quality mods, and penalize them for offering bad ones. Over time these market forces would create an abundance of good quality mods, while competition between modders would keep downward pressure on prices.
This system might even also allow some modders to generate enough income that they could work on modding full time, producing content much more efficiently than they could working only in their spare time.

The arguments against paid mods

1. The market will be flooded with bad or overpriced mods.

Economics 101 tells us that in competitive markets, bad or overpriced content generally doesn’t sell.

In the case of bad content (buggy or “not as advertised” mods), consumers would be able to leave negative ratings and reviews, warning others of the problem, and obtain refunds. These features were present in the original paid mods system, and would presumably be present in Paid Mods 2.0. Further, because of these features, modders would have a very strong (financial) incentive to improve the quality of their work, which would result in a general increase in quality across the board.

In the case of overpriced content, very few mod users would buy it. Creators of that content would quickly lower their prices. Realistically, in a paid mods system, the pricing “sweet spot” for each type of mod would eventually be determined by the amount of money most people are comfortable spending. Consumers could collectively exert downward pressure on prices by refusing to pay for content until it came into an acceptable range. In the case of major, high-quality content mods I would expect the sweet spot to be around $5, and for mods that make minor changes to textures or gameplay, I would expect prices to be either a fraction of a dollar, or free.

Further, competitive online marketplaces tend to make it easy to browse for content by category, as well as promoting popular content on special lists (such as Steam’s “Popular new releases” and “Top sellers” list). Such features ensure that popular mods receive extra attention, while bad content disappears into obscurity.

2. Modders will all try to make low effort / high reward mods.

In a competitive market, an oversupply of a particular type of content tends to drive the price down. This means that if, for example, large numbers of individual modders were to create texture mods because production is quick and easy and they fetch a reasonable price, there would be such fierce competition that they would all have to lower their prices in the medium to long term, making this practice unsustainable.

Similarly, an undersupply of a particular type of content would incentivize modders to create that content. For example, if there is gap in the market for quest mods, then enterprising modders would eventually fill that gap.

In other words, market forces would naturally correct any problems with oversupply or undersupply, as over time, modders would respond to the demands of mod users.

3. Mods aren’t worth paying for.

Valve announced that as of January 2015, sales of mods for its games had generated $57 million shared between 1500 modders, so clearly there is a market for paid mods, and a large audience of people willing to pay for mods.
This argument appears to be an attempt to devalue the work of modders in order to ensure access to mods remains free. Since mod users want mods, it follows that mods have some value. In fact, mod users were so determined to retain access to free mods that in April 2015 they ran a protest campaign against the original paid mods system, in which over 130,000 people signed a petition on Change.org. Clearly this is a sign many people value mods very highly.

4. A better system would be a donations system.

This is one of the more curious arguments made against a paid mods system, for two reasons:

First, this argument is usually presented as though a donations system would be a compromise between the current system, and a paid mods system. In fact, there is already a donations system in place on the Nexus and it has been in place since before the paid mods system was introduced. The fact that many opponents of paid mods seem to be oblivious to the existing donation system suggests very strongly they have never made a donation.

Second, no matter how good a mod is, the number of people who donate will be negligible. I made a mod which drew critical acclaim, being described by Skyrim Mods Weekly as one of the two best Skyrim mods of all time, and yet fewer than 0.02% of players donated. In other words, continuing with the current “donation system” simply means that, in practice, over 99.98% of people will access the content for free.


5. Modders who want to sell their mods are just greedy.

In the “modding community” there are two groups of people:
Modders: a small group of people who create content in their spare time (and who also use mods); and
Mod users: a large group of people who create no content, but use mods created by modders.

In my experience, the overwhelming majority of mod users who download a mod do not acknowledge its author. Of the 220,000 people who downloaded my mod, The Forgotten City, as of July 2016:

  • 7% of players returned to the mod platform site to “endorse” or rate the mod
  • 0.8% left a comment; and
  • 0.02% made a donation.


Hence, the idea that it is modders here who are "greedy", and not those mod users who seek to deny modders the opportunity to generate income from their largely thankless work, is a curious one.

In many cases, mods take hundreds or thousands of hours to create, as in the case of Wyrmstooth (2000 hours) and The Forgotten City (1700 hours). As above, this time has a monetary value. Allowing modders to set a price for their work would give them a chance to recover some or all of the time/money they invested in their mods. Further, it would allow them to pay the often-talented artists who contribute to their work, such as composers and voice actors.

6. Bethesda is just being greedy.

Under the original paid mods system, Bethesda proposed to take a cut of revenue generated from mods. Some people argued that this was a “cash grab” by Bethesda.

In a paid mods system, it’s arguably reasonable that Bethesda should expect some cut of the revenue. After all, it was Bethesda who made modding possible by creating successful games and modding tools and online resources (wikis and video tutorials) to support those tools. Further, setting up and operating a secure multi-platform online marketplace for mods necessarily involves overheads, like software engineers and servers and admin staff.

Further, it is generally accepted that with online marketplaces, the owner of the marketplace takes a cut. In the PC Games market, Valve takes a 30 – 35% cut from all games sold on Steam. Bethesda taking a cut from the selling of mods on its platform would be fundamentally no different.

7. It’s not fair that modders only get 25% of the revenue.

It’s true that under the original paid mods system, the modder would only receive a 25% cut, whereas the remainder would be divided between Bethesda (45%) and Valve (30%). Some people argued the modder should get a bigger cut.

It’s not worth debating the merits of that particular split, because if Bethesda reintroduced a paid mods system on Bethesda.net, Valve would not be involved and so the revenue would be split between Bethesda and the modder only. Hence, Bethesda would be able to introduce a split that was more palatable to modders, such as 50/50.

However, whatever share Bethesda decided to apportion to modders would be better than 0%. Think of it this way: In a negotiation, if you’re offered 25% and push for a higher cut, then end up with nothing: you’ve lost everything. Hence, the alleged unfairness of the split really is not a compelling reason to oppose a paid mods system.

8. Some people will steal mods made by others and sell them as their own.

A thriving paid mods system would generate sufficient revenue that Bethesda could afford to pay full-time admin staff to monitor complaints about stolen content. It would be very easy for the admin staff to verify complaints that content has been stolen, because the original content would generally have been uploaded before the stolen content. Further, it would be very easy for modders to secretly insert their names or other messages into the files comprising their mods, so that in the event of a dispute they could prove ownership. Hence, provided Bethesda committed to the efficient administration of Bethesda.net, this is not a compelling reason to oppose paid mods.

9. People will just pirate mods.

Some piracy is inevitable in the PC games market. And yet, the PC games market continues to thrive. Clearly, piracy is not a reason to shut down the market altogether. Hence, the risk of mod piracy has no relevance to whether or not modders should have the right to set a price for their work.

In any event, even if piracy became rampant on PC, it would be rare if not impossible on consoles, which would be a much bigger market in any case. So modders could still profit from selling mods on those other platforms. Hence, potential piracy is not a reason to oppose paid mods.

10. Paid mods will kill collaboration.

This argument is based on the premise that there is a lot of collaboration and sharing of information between modders, and the fear that introducing commercial competition may kill that collaborative dynamic. To see whether commercial competition kills collaboration and information sharing, we need only look at the indie games industry, where developers form extensive networks and exchange information regularly, even though they are technically competitors. Sharing information is a valid way of increasing one’s profile and extending one’s network. Clearly, a profit motive hasn’t stopped this exchange of information in other communities, so there’s no reason to think it will do so in a paid mods system.

In fact, I would expect to see new forms of collaboration emerge: the potential for profit would drive enterprising modders to band together into teams. Since collaboration and the division of labor makes projects more efficient, teams of professional modders would be able to create more content, more often than they could working as individuals.

11. Modders who want to make money should just get a job in game development or make an indie game.

At best, this statement is an attempt to dissuade enterprising modders from participating in a paid mods system by suggesting an alternative path. Unfortunately, that suggestion is somewhat naïve and impractical. This is because for many modders, a career in game development is simply not a viable option. Reasons for this depend on the individual, but some common ones include:

  • very few studios make the kind of games modders are interested in (and Bethesda doesn’t appear to have hired a modder in over a decade);
  • game development companies are renowned for offering unstable and exploitative working conditions;
  • many modders live in countries (ie. outside the US) where game development industries are not well developed, and can’t or don’t want to relocate; and
  • indie game development is a notoriously speculative way to make a living.


At worst, this statement could be taken as an attempt to ostracize enterprising modders from the modding community (“If you don’t like the status quo, go somewhere else.”). Of course, this position is not well thought out, because if (hypothetically) all enterprising modders did find employment in the game development industry, that exodus would take a serious toll on mod users' supply of free content.

12. Modders should just mod for fun.

The reality is that modders make mods for their own reasons – whether it’s fun, or learning, or a creative outlet, or an intellectual challenge, or to create a folio piece that might land them a job one day. Nobody is entitled to dictate to other people what should motivate their work. In any case, if you find modding fun, and you can make money out of it too, why wouldn’t you? Isn't that the dream?

13. I’m a modder and I don’t want to charge for my work.

Under a paid mods system, nobody is forced to charge for their work, and there are valid reasons why you might want to make your mods freely available. In fact, there is a movement within the modding community called "Forever Free" in which some modders have pledged to make their mods available for free indefinitely. A certain number of modders offering their mods for free would be one way of ensuring prices for comparable mods remain low. Free mods and paid mods are entirely compatible. A desire not to charge for your mods is not a reason to oppose the right of others to charge for theirs.

14. Modders may not provide tech support for their mods.

Mods, like games, inevitably have bugs. When those bugs arise, mod users can seek technical support. Bethesda’s paid mods system was set up so that mod users would be able to request refunds where they were dissatisfied with the mod’s performance. That being the case, a paid mods system would give modders a strong incentive to fix bugs and provide technical support – certainly a much stronger incentive than exists at present.

15. Some mods require other mods/software to work.

Some mods depend on other mods to work. In a scenario where both mods are for sale, mod users would need to either buy both mods, or neither. Modders would quickly discover the wisdom of minimising dependencies.

However, in some cases, mods are dependent on software which is technically not a mod and/or not for sale, for example, the Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE). The common argument goes that it’s unfair for modders to make money from their mods when the makers of SKSE don’t make anything. This concern is baseless because the creators of SKSE have stated they were comfortable with paid mods using SKSE. However, since SKSE (or its equivalent for other games) will reportedly not run on consoles, it would be wise for modders who wish to sell their mods on all platforms to simply eliminate any dependencies on such software. It is entirely possible to make high quality, complex mods that do not depend on SKSE.

Evaluation


As we have seen, there are many compelling arguments in favor of a paid mods system: it's inherently fair for people to expect payment for their work, the current system benefits everyone except modders, and Paid Mods 2.0 would result in high quality, low-cost mods.

On the other hand, it appears none of the common arguments against paid mods stand up to critical evaluation. Why, then, do these arguments persist? The simplest explanation is proponents of these arguments are "clutching at straws" in an effort to retain access to free mods. It is understandable that PC mod users, many of whom have enjoyed the privilege of access to free mods since as far back as 2002, would want it to continue. It appears that many of them have become so accustomed to this privilege that they now perceive it as an entitlement. Accordingly, they see the introduction of a paid mods system as an attempt to take away that entitlement.

The truth is, of course, that nobody is entitled to free access to the work of other people. Bethesda and modders are, and should be, entitled to decide what happens with the content they create.

Bethesda's window of opportunity

Bethesda has a right – and an increasingly compelling business case – to reintroduce a paid mods system. The main obstacle in its way is the sense of entitlement to free mods that caused a vocal minority of PC mod users to protest against paid mods in 2015. That sense of entitlement has not yet spread to console gamers, who make up the vast majority of Bethesda's customer base. Hence, there is a window of opportunity in which Bethesda can launch Paid Mods 2.0 without encountering a larger version of the 2015 backlash. If Bethesda waits so long that console gamers develop the same sense of entitlement to free mods, its business case for Paid Mods 2.0 will disappear.




Monday, 19 October 2015

Praise for the Forgotten City

The Forgotten City launched on 3 October 2015. The teaser trailer and launch trailer are here:




Since then it has been downloaded over 240,000 times (on Skyrim Nexus, Steam Workshop and ModDB), and has received critical acclaim and various accolades:

Accolades:



News sources

“The production values, for a mod, are completely ridiculous... The Forgotten City is a pretty big deal.” Kotaku Australia

“An undeniably impressive undertaking.” PC Gamer

"It's ambitious enough to be its own game." Kotaku


Reviews


"The story here is, no doubt, the best of any Skyrim mod. It's so good, that it really reminds me of Blockbuster movies like Inception, Interstellar, and especially Edge of Tomorrow, and it's so cinematic as well, especially the custom composed soundtrack." Skyrim Mods Wekly by MxR

"Amazing... it's a super dynamic story... how the mod utilizes paradoxes and time loops is fantastic... one of the most thrilling quests we've ever played..." Brodual

“This mod is the best quest and new land mod I’ve downloaded since I started covering Skyrim mods. I mean it." theDeModcracy, Skyrim weekly mods

"Finishing the game was a bittersweet moment... brought true joy to my heart. I’ll even go as far as saying I teared up a bit." Giga Geek Magazine

“It's better than anything you've ever made.” Nich Richardson, Good Game Pocket



Industry personalities

“Looks pretty sweet!” BioWare Creative Director, Mike Laidlaw

“An incredibly polished & insanely well done Skyrim mod. You owe it to yourself to check it out.” ShoddyCast


Players

Skyrim Nexus:

“Absolutely brilliant! This is, without question, the "mod-by-which-all-mods-will-be-judged!" You really are TheModernStoryteller, as your dialog and screenplay are just riveting! Every hour you and your crew have invested shows up in spades! I would like to add my sincere thank you for all of your hard work, dedication and talent. I stand to applaud all of you for this superb creation! I say it's easily a 100 out of 10! BRAVO!” noparts

“Definitely the best quest mod for Skyrim from a design perspective. Seriously, this mod feels like it was designed by a professional and the story is amazing! A mod can't have a story this good!” NROO

“I just want to say this is an amazing mod! In fact, it is one of the best world/quest mods I've played, if not the best... This mod was the first mod to really make me care about the characters and think about the decisions I made in the game...” Immortal600

"AN ABSOLUTE MASTERPIECE!!!! ... after the first 6 hours I knew I wouldn't be getting any sleep that night... All in all this mod is a masterful work of suspense, intrigue, and the costs and rewards of a perceived perfect society. One thing that really got to me was Dooley ... he was the reason I couldn't walk away from the story. I felt a tragic sense of urgency for justice for him, it really made the game... human. It was truly a humbling experience." Head213

“One word: astonishing. Simply the best story, background and atmosphere of any big mod I tried so far.” Brontus

“This wonderful city gave me the most heart warming, exciting and honestly a truly beautiful experience from beginning to end. My son and I played your city for six hours and are still astonished at how it has filled our hearts with joy, anxiety, laughter, thrills and how it just left us in awe. I thank you from the depth of my soul for you and your team for bringing such a wonderful adventure to Skyrim. This Mod IS FLAWLESS!” Tzarbaby000

“Thank you for creating this wonderful story and breathing new life into my Skyrim experience. The quality of the voice acting and music in the trailer as well as the well thought out dialogue convinced me that this would be a special experience and you have not disappointed. Mods like this could keep Skyrim viable for years to come …your story and scenery is second to none. Brilliant.” ThD17gj692

“Wow. This was an absolutely brilliant surprise. It deserves so much more fame than it's already getting. Thanks for a solid 6 hours of fun and fantastic storytelling! This was DLC quality.” IrritableGamer

“This is absolutely a DLC quality/level mod in my opinion. Actually, in many ways I think it actually exceeds that if I am being entirely honest as I have had major issues with the story lines of Dawnguard and Dragonborn, but with this... I have none.” TheObstinateNoviceSmith

“I want to offer my firstborn child to Nick. This story was a really intense experience and the most awesome I ever played in Skyrim.” Bakseth

“The mod is superb. Very well designed. The story has sucked me in, the characters got me engaged - I was angry at some and sympathetic to others.” Velgar13

“this by far is one of the best mods a ever played had 0 bugs and the story was amazing hat off to every one who put there time and effort into this mod!!” dvd1497

“This is the one. In many aspects, this mod performs beyond Skyrim itself.” Bernka

“Wow, what an experience. I've always loved new quest/content mods for the way they can breathe new life into the game, but unfortunately many of them either aren't story driven or else suffer from weak/ESL writing. The content here is objectively better than Bethesda's own story, and I've never felt so engaged to NPCs. I adore Dooley, I loved Vernon's story and how it panned out. Having to listen to the pleas of a certain plighted character and then leave them behind for the greater good was the most difficult choice I've ever made in a videogame. This mod kept me engaged start to finish, and did so almost entirely without combat or action mechanics.” JohnnyG118

“Just finished it and omg words cannot describe! I loved the story line and the time traveling. Really makes you think about actions. Perfect MOD which I'd consider a must have DLC.” Silicah

“Most favorite mod i've ever used. I enjoyed the characters and story line greatly! I can't wait to see if you do more mods like this later.” Telmios

“One of the best Quest Mods I have ever played. The story and different outcomes were outstanding.” RodrasKizaru

“Probably the best quest mod I've ever played” Thexxzealotxx

“Most immersive quest "line" in the whole game. Voice acting mostly at and above vanilla level. Beautiful city, dungeons and insides. Almost wished I could live in a small community like that. More frightening than horror mods. That "P.S. Don't look back" had me crying for my sweet Lydia.” Samaritan978

“This should have been a DLC, holy cr*p. awesome to play through (Albeit a tiny bit confusing at first) … everything about this was much better than what Bethesda has done.”  Dragonuser76

“That was one of the best DLCs I've played so far. Seriously, an awesome achievement.” Ckoehn

“HOLY BALLS, This was a blast to play through!” Clarkco

“Exquisite.” Pihwht

“This is a fantastic, well-crafted quest. Very engaging and interesting … thanks for the incredible amount of effort you put into this, and keep up the good work.” Lued123

“This has to be best surprise to date playing quest mods. Amazing job! I particularly like how you've tied all the loose strings at the end. Karma at work” jaymate140

“Hands down, best quest mod ever!” SillyQuack

“Well done! This quest is thoughtfully put together with an emphasis on exploration, adventure and problem solving. The mod was very stable for me (not true for many 3rd party quest mods...). The voice acting, music and stability were on par with any DLC. A pleasure to play - thank you!” Bazahadro

“What an amazing mod. This is probably the best quest line I've ever played, it beats the vanilla quest lines with ease.” Ryanrobby2

“I find it awesome how you could persuade the end boss.” Derwan

“Fantastic mod. Lovely plot! This is one of the few quest mods I enjoyed every single bit of. No CTDs and noticeable bugs either, so that's always a major bonus … gave me the jumpscare of my life. For real.” Azulyn

“This mod is my favorite after putting thousands of hours into Skyrim play modded and un-modded. The voice acting is on par or better than the Original voice actors. The versatility of alternate endings has me keeping my character with main save at the Lakehouse. The audio tracks for background music is excellent especially when you commit a crime and the hammer of justice is dropped on the civilian population. The mystery of how to save this city is well developed. I am really hopeful this team stays the course with Skyrim and makes even more awesome mods. Best Quest Ever!!!” Wiscranger

"1. Fully voiced, A+ acting and dialog.
2. Immersive feel, I really felt like I was getting into the heart of things in the city.
3. Alternative endings, makes for a dynamic story line. 
4. Very little lag, even with such a massive level of detail and area.” Flame132

"Its one of the most impressive mods ever.” DrAwesome122


“I need to say that this mod is awesome. Very interesting story, music and characters.” Marcychildknight

“Simply put. This mod is AMAZING!!” lexx005


“The immersion of being able to investigate and do nearly anything you want was executed very well, especially with informing of "threats" then leading to the plot twist. Being able to communicate thoroughly with the citizens through helping them and asking simple questions was great! You can reaaally get lost in the side quests, which helps tie the feeling of a city together.” liambutt

“THANK YOU. "OH MY GOD"… i said these exactly words when i finished this quest and in all the playthrough. After all these years you show us that is possible to make a REAL quest. Thank you dude. Best quest ever played. Period.” FEDERICOOO

“This mod was absolutely fantastic” TheBlackKnight3000

“Very polished & engaging story. You really want to keep playing just to unravel the mystery.” Elkston

“Fantastic Mod!” HibernicusAetius

“best mod I have installed so far good work!!!!” adrienmiller

“Well done. This goes down as my number one mod that I have downloaded. Good job on voice acting and story. Very creative and really keeps this old game alive. I hope you continue to do something like this again in the future.” Wiscranger

“This is by far the best quest mod I have played for Skyrim. I appreciate the hard work and thoroughly enjoyed my playthrough. I was extremely impressed with the lack of bugs considering the scripting involved to make this. Thank you for such a fantastic mod.” The1yunico

“I've got to say this was by far the best mod i played.” Shawnhowe

“One of the best quest mods ever. 10/10” NightMiu

“Absolutely amazing mod that's just as good if not better than the official DLCs, and (for me) 100% less buggy. I wish I could endorse this 10,000 times. It felt almost weird going back to Skyrim after this mod because it's got such a different feel from the rest of the game, but that's in no way a bad thing. Loved the voice acting and the story.” Reddazrael

“Literally brilliant. I've spent quite a few hours thoroughly exhausting this mod and enjoyed it as much or more than the official DLC. Everyone involved did an outstanding job. Thank you!” stacygibbs

“Simply incredible! I feel like I just played through one of the better episodes of Doctor Who. Don't know how many endings this thing has, but I found at least two of them -- one of which was unexpected. I succeeded just when I thought I had failed. Nicely done indeed. Smart, well acted, well written and very entertaining all around. Best mod I've played all year.” Cathoris

“This mod is fabulous!” Modstaker

“This is by far the best quest on skyrim I've played in the 4 years of owning it, let alone just out of the mods. The script is well thought through, the game mechanics are brilliant, the atmosphere created is incredible and the overall feel of the mod is better than anything created by Bethesda. I can't recommend this mod enough… this is an absolutely fantastic mod!” TXRob

“this is the greatest quest mod I've ever played! Great work very creative!” Jayer117

“BEST MOD EVA.This bring back the feeling of oblivion, if it were a game i would rate it 40000/10.

“I loved this mod from when i got the letter to the very end! Awesome twists and turns to keep it interesting, and very few static sounding npcs. It still sits with me sometimes. 10/10. Best mod I've downloaded in my 4 years of playing Skyrim. Well done!” hikingglint

“This is a fantastic mod! The story line is a lot of fun, the characters are unique (some really likable, others not so much! it doesn't "hold your hand the whole way through (which is a huge plus for me), its challenging, and the voice acting is amazing! Thank you so much for all the work that went into this.” JohnLXXIV

“Very impressive mod. I genuinely enjoyed playing through it… this mod is a marvel of scripting. I don't think I've seen a Skyrim mod that has more complex scripting than this! Absolutely amazing that through all the timelines practically everything keeps functioning correctly.” Eolath

“Hands down the best quest mod I ever played. No game-breaking bugs, great voice acting and dialogs, innovative ideas and multiple endings.” Isvenah

“One of the best quest mods I have ever downloaded” Burnthebooks

“The new zone looked great and there were a perfect amount of characters to meet without being too overwhelming… There were some moments that were pretty special, [for example] when you first try and steal something. Yeah I was like "Oh no I am so sorry!". And when I read that book telling me to turn around, I mean.. I knew what was coming but I still jumped.” Tygrinsprite

“Absolutely amazingly well-done… I had loads of fun with it; the unexpectedly spooky atmosphere in some spots gave it a lot of depth and the consequences of your actions were a level of intense that you don't usually see.” nefferpittou

“I'm speechless. I played almost all the quest mods presented here on Nexus and some from Steam, and this one is undoubtedly one of the best. This is how Rpg's should be, every action have consequences and changes to the end.” sergiobor

“Awesome, truly awesome. I have been playing Skyrim since its initial release. i have modded it till it broke (smile), and played many, many adventures. The Forgotten City is the best, bar none, I have ventured. Intriguing concept, excellent voice acting and NPC behavior. Well designed setting. Plot -really cool. And the deductive aspect is well executed.” UpstateElana

“Wow... Just- Wow! Great story-line, great voice acting, awesome job you guys! The city was remarkable! Definitely kept me interested… kept me immersed. I felt like I was actually there! Afraid to steal or do anything wrong to upset the dwarves! … It is AWESOME! Let's just say I will be playing it again to see all the other possible endings! And what are you doing on Nexus? You should be getting paid t make games at an actual studio or something!” venablekj21

“This is probably one of, if not THE best Skyrim expansion mods I have ever encountered in my four years of playing Skyrim. It is just the right length of time so that it is not overwhelming or underwhelming, it adds new areas to explore that are carefully pieced together, the voice-acting is absolutely fantastic, and one thing that this mod has that most of these expansion mods forget to include, a great story line. I had a amazing time playing through this mod and this certainly is one of my most favorite mods.” Invaderchaos

“I knew this must be a very good quest mod, but I didn't expect it to be that good. The dark and mysterious vibe made me feel like I was playing Amnesia. The new music is even better than some of the vanilla ones. The story is going to torture me all day after I've gone to work (since I haven't finished it last night).” Fireblossom

“Epic, loved it.” Paddi2

“Holy s*** this is so amazing.” Narna

“It has a Lost/Bioshock vibe to it. So good.” Greencase

“Impressive. So f***ing well done. All of it.” Kybercran

“Thank you so much for this trip man,. this is a real head buster, a work of art to be honest” Kiwi-Hawk

“Amazing Content. Smooth feel, easy handle, good pacing, and great variety to the personalities. As far as mods go? This is an 11/10.” Darkshan

“Awesome, no other word to say, just Awesome!” Dreivor

“Probably the best DLC like mod I ever tried... and the city itself is amazing! 10/10” eliodor85

“This is an amazing mod! The music, the atmosphere is amazing. The ending was shocking!” Kredkiin

“very addictive, spent my whole night trying to figure out the best ending and there I am! probably one of the best mods I've ever downloaded” zymeth62

“Definitely blew my mind.” EnclaveOverlord1

“I've played through this three times now, and I absolutely love it. You've done a spectacular job on this…” GurglingArc

“Just finished it...um...i have no words on how epic....it's just...yeah just bravo man bravo, That's not even doing you enough credit like for real! The Best Quest mod EVAH!!!” PyroDarknessPanda

“Wow! This mod sets the bar a lot higher for other quest mods for sure. The wide variety of lore-friendly concepts, visuals and voice-acting made for an incredibly fun experience overall… it is an excellent addition to any playthrough and could be sold as a separate DLC that was made by Bethesda themselves.” wxjkilljoy

“The quality of workmanship in this mod is of the highest standard - sound vision and content. Throw in the complexities of time travel, and a multi-faceted mystery, and there's hours of careful work to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Us mod consumers could not ask for more. Extraordinarily good work.” Davoshannon

“Some of those decisions that had to be made was gut wrenching. Going into the jarls locked room and not doing what my heart compelled me to do was horrible. This was beautifully done and made me think more than any other mod I've played before.” Gunslinger6792

“Quite simply one of the best mods i've played for Skyrim since its release, it truly has the feel as if it was made by a large team of extremely talented writers, programmers and actors. If Bethesda had made this, they would be raking in a lot of money selling it alongside Dawnguard and Dragonborn as a perfect expansion for Skyrim, it really is that good.” Alventiothy

“Being able to talk my way out of the final encounter was great; in fact, the overall focus of story rather than combat was a wonderful change of pace. Talking to all of the NPCs, learning their stories, investigated and helping... it really made me feel connected and interested with all of the characters, and being able to ask each of them how things were 7 years later was the perfect send off… The story was great and I'm especially impressed that you managed to pull off a time-travel plot without it feeling muddled or ridiculous. It worked surprisingly well and was explained sufficiently enough that my suspension of disbelief was never shattered.” PixelPrinny

“The story was brilliant with multiple endings… Atmospheric design and lighting & music.The Npcs were Very well written which made them such interesting characters” optical1967

“Great Mod...Excellent Script...Top Notch Voice Actors. Very few quest lines or mods get you emotionally attached to the characters. This does!” vanhoy5

“Wow excellent mod! The setting, the story, the architecture, the multiple endings, the acting, the way to solve quests, I enjoyed playing this mod more that I enjoyed playing the main game. Game developers can learn from this mod how to make a really exciting game!” Medtech

“Incredibly good mod, Mass Effect could learn how to do endings proper right here!” Makka193

“I have to say that it really got me a sleepless night as I could not stop playing.” Crazylion

“I cannot overstate how absolutely incredible this mod is! The voice acting, the design of the city, the ambiance - everything is just so well done!” theDeModcracy

“Definitely one of the best mods I've ever played.” SuperTin

“FREAKIN AMAZING MOD!!!!! Dammit that was awesome...” Bandit1232

“Quite an amazing mod… certainly blew my mind...” bjornvaldr

"This is the one.In many aspects, this mod performs beyond the Skyrim itself." Bernka

"The Forgotten City is by far, and I mean this, the best quest for Skyrim vanilla ór modded." The Siqn

"Greatest mod ever made thanks for sharing this incredible story with us." Modthis212224

"This mod is genius." Synchsuds

"This is the best quest mod I've played, and I hope you keep up the good work!" Swiftpelt13

"Got so taken by the quest that I actually began thinking about clues, characters, endings and creepy stuff before sleeping. Best quest mod I ever downloaded!" Sappho06

"Best mod ever! The quest was... creepy, interesting, fascinating, exciting and just overall wonderful!... I swear you really know how to make an atmosphere creepy as s***... I nearly c***ped myself..." victnes32

"I can't believe how epic this is. You all have created a masterpiece." lordhelmos

"A remarkable achievement in Skyrim modding! It's the best story telling I've yet seen in a quest mod. The suspense, surprises, and "subject matter compatible to the gun-control controversy" was worthy of a feature-length movie." MrDrProfessor4

"Yeah BABY now that's what I'm talking about! Excellent voice acting incredible creative story..." RadoGamer

"It is an Excellent adventure and a job well done." Dirmyg

"This is an absolutely amazing experience. Probably the best experience I've had in Skyrim in quite a while. Amazingly well done... the story was superb and full of the grey-and-grey morality I like to see around, in a tale whose meaning can be interpreted in many ways." EddySc

"This was amazing; playing another game with the Skyrim engine, practically ... Amazing, splendind work. Thank you, for the astounding experience..." Gevi

"Brilliant writing/scripting/voice acting - loved it!" KurganSPK

"I am astonished. This is the best gaming experience i've had in such a long time, a ton of emotions, mystery, fun, i'm just amazed. This is the awesomest mod ever, and it's simply perfect." legolast45

"I really, really enjoyed this mod: there was a "thrilling" atmosphere, due to an amazing story. It's the first time that I really feel like "Ok, I must find a solution for this"." Maverick6

"The design, story, characters, voice acting, and gameplay are incredible." BalethSajenson

"HOLY s***!!! this mod blew me away..." dacoldone

"Holy c***. This is the most interesting quest I have ever seen in Skyrim..." Markdobrasil

"Never thought i could feel new feelings at 25 years old but this mod made me feel desperate and confused at an all new level. What a trip it's been. Thank you so much for this incredible mod!" Gerheardt

"Wonderful mod! ... the writing is top-notch, intricate and left me with a great feeling of accomplishment in the end..." Spilledmilk1

"Voicing is perfect, music is perfect, ambient feeling is perfect, really really good work. The story kept me intrigated from the start till the end. No predictable ending, real importance given to the player's choices... all was perfect!" tidemon

"this mod is an awsome accomplishment" figulus01

"This is by far the best dlc-like-mod ever created, you kick Falskaar's butt..." Minoxss

"It would make a brilliant novel or movie. It was seamlessly executed. I enjoyed every minute of it." sideshowstew

"best quest mod I've ever played 10/10 would recommend!" gmanmodz

"Hands down the best questline mod imo!" DaShooter


Steam Workshop

“Seriously this mod has the best story of all the mods for skyrim. Awesome work!” Unliving Human

“Incredible. Somehow, when I was done, I felt such an intimate connection with the town and all the people in it. When they spoke to me, telling me thank you, how grateful they were, how much they loved me... I welled up with tears. It felt like I actually helped people. It felt like I had real friends. I felt... Happy. It was a great breath of fresh air, less killing and more of an investigative mod, which was beautifully executed and brought about an amazing story. 10/10 would play again.” Easter

“Simply amazing, A very emotional and satisfying quest. I absolutely loved it! Dooleys story was especialy amazing, good job at pulling heartstrings.” Spicy-T

“I was fully engaged in the story and was happy with the ending I received. The mod offered fresh ways of looking at problems and really makes you question your decisions… In my opinion, this is one of the best mods of all time as it's the type of mod that has high replay value. A brilliant accomplishment and well worth playing.” Speedygun1

“HOLY SH*T THAT IS THE BEST STORY LINE I HAVE EVER SEEN!!!!!!! make this into a movie” MIGIT-ZILLA

“This has to be one of the best quest mods I've played for skyrim. Voice acting is great, the level design feels like it belongs in the game. The story is amazing. I can't recommend this enough.” Bishopbringsdeath

“Loved it!! Just finished the story line. This mod drew on my emotions and I felt reluctance and sadness leaving behind my old "friends" … this mod is hands down the best mod I've played!” Mandckotsakos

“This is the best mod and best story ever.” Biscuitinator

“this is one of the best - if not THE best - story mods yet… It's cleverly designed and allows for multiple ways to complete various objectives.” BigBoss

“Hands down the best story mod I have ever played. Superb work!” WolfeSpeider

“This was by far more than i could have asked for this was better than any actual quest in the original or any of its dlc.” Bittles793

“It is better than the skyrim storyline and by far the greatest skyrim experience i have ever played” Sparkle

“Excellent mod! Great immersion and story of the best quality.” Nephthar

“100000/10. I have never been so emotionally conflicted from playing a game. Finishing the quest just- Wow. Well done, I could hardly tell this was a mod. Please, make more mods like this.” _M.urderous.alachite__

“one of the best expansions i've ever played! The story is massively immersive, the enemies are a challenge and the expansion itself is very difficult! there is nothing in the Skyrim Mod community that has quests like this. it should be classed as one of the official expansions of the game!” Lemons

“…my favorite mod. Why? Because I felt such a sense of immersion in it. The storytelling is extremely well done, and makes you think beyond "go to this location, kill that guy, get that thing, return". Any wrong action and boom: game over, back to the beginning. There are many different choices to make, all with different outcomes. The "true" ending is difficult to achieve, and requires you to make all the right choices in everything else. The charactors were diverse and interesting… And when you do get that ending, there is such a glorious sense of completion I've never felt while playing Skyrim. This mod is a work of art, and I cannot stress that enough.” J-Beast

“Omg thank you so much is this the best mod i have ever played EVER…” Heavys Pootis

“Really awesome questline! I loved how there was so much variety in this so you were never stuck doing just one thing... Feels just like it was meant to be in the game in the first place!” LaurenCrowns

“What a fantastic Mod. Great flow to the storyline and frustrating at times, which is good to keep you hooked.” Gphudspith

“Amazing. 11/10” Aralic

“This mod is absoluetely phenomenal.” Nyodrax

“10/10. one of the greatest mods i've ever played!!!” HydeRa

“This is quite incredible. Thank you for this, it really freshened up my love for the game.” Amroth

“I really enjoyed this mod. Solid architecture and landscaping, great voice acting, great plot, and GREAT questline. 100% Positive feedback.” Jadeniscool

“Outstanding work! I hope this is used as a showcase to prove you can stand toe to toe with Bethesda and deliver amazing mods” fozzie24

“The Forgotten City is a challenging, thought-provoking, cleverly scripted mod… leagues better than many a vanilla/DLC quest from Bethesda. Outstanding work. The memories from this mod will stick with me for a long time.” Joker961

“Honestly, Out of the 3 DLC MODS… this is my favorite. Sure, Wyrmstooth was fun, The other one which name escapes me had lots of quests, but this is by far one of those mods that some might say would be "Better than Bethesda" And that is a legendary achievement! Also, Get ready to be hired by Bethesda!” Logantheman007

“I was too dumb for this mod but I liked it” revilosomas

“Just the best quest mod I've ever played. Hours of fun and interest with such attention to detail it's just amazing. Love this mod 10/10” DownH * Nyquil

“Are you for real? This was like the best thing I've ever played. God bless your entire existence for making this 10/10 mod” Thalmor Soldier

“100000/10 no joking great mod”

“Oh, my God…Never have I had such enjoyment from a single mod” DrNightstone

“just looking at the comments and reviews shows that this is where payed mods would work...” Fault in our Engies

“This was the best mod I have ever played, it was so rich in detail and depth I was actually sad when it ended. Please make some more.” Nywolfspirit05

“Excellent work here. A thinking man's mod that requires far more brains than braun. Which is refereshing… I believe we have an author here who if he continues along this vein...will push into the rarified region that only a handful have established...” Lwj5573

“I simple cannot put into words how amazing this mod is! Why have Bethesda not hired you yet?!” Jaeger Bombastic

“Best mod I have ever played. Enough said, really.” am_cruiser

“wow, just wow. This is an amazing mod.” Civilized Rock

“What a great mod, I can't wait to play it again and archieve a different ending! This was so much fun!” Tom

“This mod is absolutely incredible.” Ninja Guinea Pig

“BEST. MOD. EVER.” Commander Shepard

“Wow. That was incredible.” Pootie Wienerfish

“It is absolutely awesome!” SeanDasSchaf

“Best mod I've ever played”  Jegqamas

“Absolutely amazing.” Nope

“I just completed the mod it's just outstanding it's like bethesada made a new DLC out of thin air.” Blast Lord

“Best Mod ever. This makes you see your options on how to change the future.” Roxanne1740

“Forgot I had this downloaded and played it thinking it was put in there by Bethesda...100/10” ¬°A|Sir Jolly

“It is a thrilling mystery to be discovered. Everything is put together so perfectly it is like a DLC that Bethesda itself would make.” GamerMDC

“Wow this mod was amazing, great job. I wish AAA games could get DLC's with this quality.” Wicked

“This is a triple A quality DLC right here.” Kdodds

“Superb Mod! Clearly one of, if not the best” Green Slimeball

“I only have one word to describe this mod: Wow! This mod was so excellently done! It truly feels like part of the game (just like Bethesda themselves made it).” Spencer.doak

“i grew a connection with everyone i felt so special for getting the [best] ending” The Divine Potato

“Dooley broke my heart.” Masskiller

“This is one of the most beautifully crafted mods ever made for Skyrim.” Expand

“Whoever made this mod should work for Bethesda because this is the most AMAZING expansion mod ever to be on a game. You have my enternal thanks” The Pink Guy

“Multiple endings, very effective atmospheric music and visuals, a unique gameplay mechanic, comprehensive & quality voice acting. Amazing mod, well worth the download and your playtime.” Bashprompt_$

“Wow this is beyond anything I would have thought mods would be capable of.” ExcaliburZA

"Fabulous" Melford_colegate

"This is an amazing mod! ... Amazing voice acting, amazing story, amazing all around. I can't say enough good things about this mod." TheSilverTongue

"this has be the best quest mod ever nice voice acting on everything wow just wow" redstone939

"I don't always bother to write a review , but when i do. Its because its aweseome. This is where Skyrim meets Edge of Tomorrow, It almost feels it could be Official DLC by the quality of it (in some aspects even better)..." BlackMagikz

"This is THE mod to have for Skyrim! Absolutely stunning and extremely well done!" Cosmic Chaos

"Behold The Forgotten City, also know and The Ultimate Time Paradox, The Mother Of All Mods, or simply The Mod. All praise Nick James Pearce, the God of the modding community!" Jamma77

"Absolutely fantastic mod! By far the best mod I have played. The whole athmosphere, the city and all the citizens and tasks/quests they have for you, marvelous. So addicting, I went through all the endings in one sitting. My tailbone didn't thank me, but the euphoria after it was just dope." Comis

"Amazing mod. Loved the fact that there were so many ways to finish the story. Also really enjoyed the story line itself." Carpecorpus
"And so ..after 8 h i finally finished this ... the result of this is fantastic a really incredible adventure ... 12/10 a must have definitely" Kain Faylar

"Seriously amazing mod" eagällLällä

"a thoroughly entertaining and challenging mod... the characters are very will done. story line? excellent. Very Well Designed. It deserves much more that a single "thumbs up" from me. again: thank you for making this!" GrumpyGrizzley907

"Just finished playing this...I have no words to describe how beautifully this mod was designed. Never will another quest mod make me feel like such a hero." odeared


YouTube

"If Bethesda had made this as a DLC, it would be the best one of the lot. Simply fantastic." tonebonetones

"I've never been so emotionally moved by anything from the world of Skyrim. I didn't want it to end. Beautiful mod. Also just to add in the dialogue was some of my favorite from any mod. Sounded like it came from Bethesda." Quinn McCoy

Tweets

"This guy knows Story Telling! The Forgotten City is AMAZING!" Razor105

"wow! Honestly my favorite story line in the game (including vanilla)." James D Zacher

“I would say "this is the best quest of the game" if I didn't know it was not Bethesda's” rvjeanney

“...the best Skyrim experience I had in 500 hours playing” Merit Seto

“INCREDIBLE. Great work!” zkevek

“Streamed your mod for two nights - I loved it and the viewers did too. Great work. Thank you for the high quality story” EndgameBlues

“[The Forgotten City is] better than anything you’ve ever made.” NichBoy

"Holy cow! The Forgotten City is by far the best quest/new lands mod I have ever played! Keep up the amazing work" Vaz

"Better than Bethesda." Ralph L Santovenia

"the term "mod" doesn't do that justice, the sheer scope and quality levels is mind blowing" Tom

"such an amazing mod!!!"' Dave MG

Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Forgotten City on ModDB

The Forgotten City is now on a curated list of top upcoming Skyrim mods over at ModDB!


Check it out for more info, screenshots, and features!
http://www.moddb.com/mods/the-forgotten-city

Sunday, 12 July 2015

New promotional trailer

Today I launched this trailer to announce the Forgotten City will be coming to Skyrim Nexus and Steam Workshop in October 2015!


The trailer outlines some key features:

  • A haunting, non-linear story with several different endings
  • An epic mystery to be solved using time travel
  • Challenging moral dilemmas with consequences
  • A cast of 30 characters
  • 1200+ lines of dialogue from talented voice actors
After an overwhelming response and well over 100 auditions, all roles have been cast.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Release date: October 2015

The Forgotten City is scheduled for release by October 2015!

Background: The Forgotten City is a large expansion to Skyrim with a dark, non-linear story in which you'll discover and explore an ancient underground city. At its core is an epic murder mystery, requiring you to explore, interrogate suspects, fight new enemies, and even travel back and forwards in time. It has about 1200 lines of dialogue and 30 interactive characters, and 3 very different endings depending on the decisions you make.



Inline image 1

Inline image 3


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The evolving art of storytelling

The computer game is the latest evolution of the art of storytelling.

At its best, a game can do anything a movie, TV show, or novel can do. But a game can go further. It can engage its audience like no other genre of literature. It can call its audience out of the darkened stalls and up onto the stage. A game can challenge its audience, demand that they think and decide and act. A game can show the consequences of those actions. A game can tell a unique story for each player, one which resonates and evokes surprising emotion.

For all of these reasons, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the greatest games ever made. Amazingly, the developers of Skyrim, Bethesda Game Studios, have shared the tools they used to make their game.

I've set for myself the goal of telling a story - an epic story about the human condition - by using Bethesda's tools to modify, and expand upon, Skyrim.

This blog is about telling stories. My first story is called "The Forgotten City." It is a story that is very dear to me, and I hope you enjoy it.