The other day we talked about some technical solutions to implement an Alternative Mod Database similar to the late rFactorCentral. While the technology is important and makes or breaks a projects, there are other aspects, which to have be kept in mind when considering such a project. I’d call it the philosophy or the spirit behind the project.
Groups of interest
A Modding Database actually tries to get together three very different interest groups, each group can be very heterogeneous.
- The Drivers/Players of the game who are looking for content to enhance their game.
- The Modders, which invest their freetime to produce high quality game content for free and welcome effective ways to distribute their creations.
- The Website owner, who wants as many satisfied visitors as possible and who wants a website that runs as autonomously as possible.
Each group has certain interests. Drivers don’t really want to be bothered with community politics and most of the time don’t care about the authors of a mod. Quantity and topicality is more important than quality and legality. This is the black mass, those 90% who barely comment on mods, but download and are happy driving. A Mod Database would be a central place for them to browse and search for mods.
Modders like to be autonomous. Here I can speak of myself, I expect a Mod Database to give the Modder access to the website to add, edit and delete his own creations every time. I don’t like it, if other people edit my mods profiles. This was one gripe I had with rFc, which actually prohibited the author from updating his own profiles.
The site owner has to keep everything clean and running. He has the responsibility on the site and is basically running a service for Drivers and Modders. His aim would be to have as little continuing development effort as necessary and as much as required. Steady maintenance is required, regular updates recommended and planless expansion discouraged.
Have a cost plan
Getting webspace is easy, having a server doesn’t need to cost much. You should know how to finance it before you start creating it. Based on the effort you put in the site and the professionalism you want to convey you have to calculate with certain costs. Depending on the system you decide on you are going to need hosted webspace webspace or even a root server, yet even a simple domain costs money. You have to calculate the traffic you may get on the website and the decision, whether you actually want to host downloads or if you only provide download links influences the traffic and the costs majorly. You have 3 choices:
- Cover the money yourself.
- Try to cover the costs with donations or ads.
- Think further on how to monetarize your idea.
Paying the costs yourself is an option for the beginning and as long as the site is small. However this probably won’t work forever. Provided your service is good, with rising visitors will increase traffic and increase costs. This increase is not linear, you can go a long way with hosted services before having to look for special solutions to counter the traffic.
If you don’t want to pay everything yourself, you have a few options. Be aware any of them will be criticized. Probably the most accepted is advertisement, even tough selling your users to GoogleAds or other user tracking Ad-Services may not be regarded nice. You can try to find sponsors, who are placed prominently on the site. Commercial virtual racing teams find sponsors, so for your cause of building a central community platform a sponsor may be an interesting option. It is important for this thought, that the sponsor is integrated in a smart and not distracting way. Of course he wants his exposure, but you can do it bland and you can do it smart. At last of course, you also have the option of building a fully business plan like a premium service like SRW does.
Commercialism in the community
Point 3 is actually what the whole SimRaceWay-debate started, because they planed to make the new site commercially, without communicating with the Modders what this would mean for their work. Being commercial has lots of risk, I can’t cover all here. If you go business you have to be aware about legal ramifications when you try to make it commercial. It is important to see the legal situation of mods. Mods are mostly based on real series. Game companies pay lots of money to obtain the rights. Modders release their mods for free, without legal base. The legal situation is not totally clear and can differ in each country. The general consensus is that there are no problem for Modders as long as their Mods are strictly non-commercial and only as long as commercial Game Developers don’t feel threatened in their profits. It’s a question of exposure. Therefore running a commercial website who’s contents are based on Modder’s work is problematic for two reasons: the free work of Modders is exploited by making profit of work by people who may not make profit with their work and you endanger the Modders if you don’t draw a clean line between your commercial efforts and their non-commercial work. By illicitly modifying Mods with the 1-Click-Installer, SimRaceWay crossed this line, by modifying Mod-contents without permission.
At this point I’d like to address the notion, that there is a divergence in opinion in the community between who is allowed to ask for money and how much. Everybody can run commercial projects if he acknowledges the law. However Website-owners in the community have a better situation to find support for commercial endeavors. It is more recognized that they need money to finance their projects and so finding ways for covering costs are accepted and it is not expected to work with your own money. However for Modders this need of refinancing projects is seldom discussed. As Modders can not make money, they cover their costs themselves silently. If they DO create a commercial product the response in the community is often negative, falling short in expectations or generally criticized for bad prizing. The community demands Mods to be free, in this regards, you as a service provider for a web portal get more leeway.
The interactivity such a platform should allow is debatable. It has potential to be a central hub for mod distribution and therefore comments or integrated forums are possible. However they are not necessary and I discourage to make it too interactively so it looks empty at the beginning. Possible interaction can also include mod reviews and rating. The buzzword user generated content comes up, but I wouldn’t stress it.
Interaction possibilities can be kept in mind, but remain a minimum until the necessity or the public demand requires it. This is my stand. Another point of view is that this Mod Platform doesn’t need community functions at all and can act as a download platform only. This prohibits, the exploitation of the comment-function, as been seen on rFc several times.
Obviously, we encourage interaction for Modders. For the the platform serves as a golden way to present and distribute their mod. This should definitely include that they can manage their Mod profiles on their own. No Modder wants to ask a Website owner to update their Mod profiles on a regular basis!
Summarizing, depending how much you include user communication into the platform, you need to become more responsible for what is published. Comments need to be moderated and if you don’t do it, better don’t allow comments at all.
So much for the philosophical considerations you should have when planing a Modding Database. Tomorrow we have a look at a basic concept, I developed over a weekend last year.