Last week, Valve tried to launch a program that would see mod makers compensated for their work on popular games like Bethesda Softworks' Skyrim. However, a combination of logistical concerns and community feedback quickly convinced the company to pull the plug on the idea, at least for the time being.
In the window of time the program was running, GamesIndustry.biz reached out to Quake director John Romero to see what someone who helped inspire an explosion of mod communities thought about the idea of monetizing mods. As Romero revealed, Valve wasn't the first company to consider compensating community creators for their work.
"I've always believed that mod makers should be able to make money from their creations," Romero said. "In 1995, while we were making Quake, we had the idea to start a company called id Net. This company would be the portal that players would connect to and play other mod maker's creations. It was to be a curated site, levels and mods chosen by us at id, and if we put your content on our network we would pay you an amount equal to the traffic that your content drove to the site. The idea was that players would log in and be in a big level that felt like a castle with lots of doorway portals and signage that explained where you were going and what was there."
According to Romero, the studio didn't pursue the idea because it needed all hands on deck simply to get Quake out the door. Even if the decision was a pragmatic one, Romero insisted the principle behind id Net is one he continues to hold.
"I still believe that creators should be rewarded for their hard work," Romero said. "That's what we do in our game companies, why would it be so different for outsiders?"
[UPDATE]: Romero later noted that id ultimately found ways to compensate modders. Final Doom included content from the mods Plutonia and TNT: Evilution, and id paid the creators for the use of their work. Additionally, Master Levels for Doom II included the work of a handful of independent level designers who were also compensated (and later hired by Romero).