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BlizzCon 09:  StarCraft II  Will Allow Modders To Sell Custom Maps
BlizzCon 09: StarCraft II Will Allow Modders To Sell Custom Maps
August 21, 2009 | By Chris Remo

August 21, 2009 | By Chris Remo

Acknowledging the considerable effect mods like Defense of the Ancients have had on the Blizzard community, Blizzard design head Rob Pardo has revealed that mod-makers will be able to sell the custom maps they create for the upcoming StarCraft II through an official marketplace.

At launch, the marketplace will immediately allow free distribution of mods, but commerce functionality will be added in later. Still, Pardo said, it is under active development at Blizzard.

"Imagine what could happen if you could hire a small dev team and use StarCraft II almost as an engine," he said. "This is an opportunity for [modders] to share in the rewards of our success."

After all, Pardo said, Defense of the Ancients has a measurable impact on the game industry as a whole -- "The tower defense [genre] came out of the WarCraft III mod community, and now you see tower defense [games] on the PlayStation Store, and in [PopCap's] Plants vs. Zombies."

He pointed to mods for Valve-developed games, such as Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat, as further examples of the possibility of the mod space -- but was sure to add, "We want to make sure the best amateur game designers out there are making content for StarCraft II, and not for Kongregate or Steam or anything like that."

As such, the company is building in mod functionality that goes beyond what StarCraft II designers themselves use in the official game.

For example, Pardo said, "We don't need an item system in StarCraft II, but we wanted to make sure that's in there for people to use" in custom games.

The exec gave no indication of when the paid marketplace would surface -- and the game itself was recently pushed back to 2010 -- but he said prospective designer should start jotting down ideas now.

"Anyone here who wants to do it, please start getting prepared to make some awesome maps," he said. "We want to give you the head start to start thinking about ideas and get teams together. It takes a while to make awesome games, so here's your head start."

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Rocket Man
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Wow, Blizzard keeps showing that they have their priorities totally confused.

Joshua McDonald
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Priorities confused? I think that this is long overdue. Think of how much more polished and balanced a mod like DoTA would be if the creators brought in enough money to quit their jobs and work on it (and other mods) full-time instead of ramming it in on evenings and weekends.

Sellable mods offers indie designers who aren't artists and have limited programming skill another possible road to success. Heck, this might be enough to make up for the absence of LAN play (at least as far as my purchasing decisions are concerned)

Wolf Wozniak
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AHHHHH yes Josh, because I should pay for all the maps that become even slightly popular.

the DOTA people make enough off of the mod to eat, and pay for some bills, and that should be enough.

I don't support this, I don't want to pay for all the TDs.

Carl Chavez
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Wolf, Blizzard is not saying that all maps would cost money. They are saying developers have the option of charging for mods (which may include maps) if they choose. Developers can still distribute maps or mods for free if they choose as well.

Certainly, many maps and mods will still be free for the simple reason that consumers have little reason to trust an unknown developer or team. Those developers and teams may have to make a name for themselves and get some experience with free releases before they make better mods and maps. But I don't think it's unreasonable that if a team spends hundreds of hours making a high-end, pro-quality mod, that they shouldn't get a few bucks back.

Joseph Cook
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I think it's a flipping awesome idea. Why are you guys assuming you'll suddenly have to pay for stuff that is free right now? No one will buy that shit, no mod maker in his right mind will charge for that shit.

Say what you will about DotA now, but in order to stay viable, they had to take all their work and port it to a completely stand-alone game. Imagine if they could have kept focusing only on DotA, and charged for a version of DotA that was far and away better than the DotA of today?

Look at Garry's Mod for another example - it started free, and there is still a free version out there that you can play. But after putting so much time and effort into it, Garry started charging $10 for it, made it COMPLETELY different from the free version, and one of the best mods ever created.

Garry has now sold more than 100,000 copies of Garry's Mod, getting his due, much deserved reward for all his hard work. But hey, if you don't want to pay that $10, you definitely don't have to if you want to play Garry's Mod.

Ross Dutton
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What is to stop everyone charging for maps and such that would for all intents and purposes just be badly designed money sinks? Every 16yo who discovers they can charge for their l33t maps they just learnt how to make would saturate the market place leading to alot of annoyed people ending up purchasing maps to play on, then realising its a steaming pile crap.

Sure they'd have a review system in place, but some chump has to fork out first. Why should someone have to take a hit in their wallet to save everyone else on what should have initially been free?

I feel they definitely need to follow the Steam route for this, and have strict controls on what mods/maps go from free to "premium" content. Gary's Mod started free but then was offered to go to a paid model by Valve. I know if a mod goes from free to premium it must generally be doing something right (see Counterstrike as another thing that went from free to paid).

DJ Kehoe
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IMO this is fantastic. This will give small and indy developers a new venue to showcase their work. Like flash and the iPhone, this has the potential to be a great opportunity for developers.

@Ross. The same thing that stops iPhone users from buying a terrible apps. Reviews and ranking sites. Sure, some people might make impulse purchases, but after the first terrible map they won't be inclined to do it again. I just hope there is some mechanism for demo or lite version of maps with the option to buy.

Logan Foster
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I agree with Ross here. With absolutely no control you will get stuck with a crappy Appstore like result where the market is flooded with crap, even a review system for the app and app review sites still do not prevent people from buying crap. The only difference being that I doubt Blizzard is going to have numerous staff members reviewing submitted content to ensure that it works and follows the rules. Just look at the guy that got finally banned for having 999 Apps that were all based on stolen copyright images, his apps had no content but some stolen pictures of hot girls and he made a cool $1000/day.

Joshua McDonald
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My guess is that the only successful for-sale maps will also have a free version. Using DoTA as an example again, they could release a free version with a quarter the heroes and lots of items removed. Everybody who liked it could spend a few bucks and get the full version. I'm not sure if they'll have a built-in demo mechanism, but anyone map maker can go in, pull some stuff from his map, and release the trimmed down version free to act as a demo.

To me, that resolves any concerns of crappy paid-for maps. People who make maps that are truly good will probably go through the extra tiny effort of making a demo version, not to mention that these people are likely to have already made a name for themselves with high-quality free maps.

Timur Anoshechkin
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I just look at it from other perspective. First of all anytype of modding is amateur activity, when suddenly you charge for you amateur activity one becomes a professional, be you an artist, level designer, programmer. By turning pro comes certain responsibility such as paying taxes, using license products for your production etc. As far as my experience tells me general modding community doesn't give a damn about any of these things and rightfully so. When you put a system in place which moneterize this activity the company needs to put a system in place which addresses it. Generally in game business responsible party is a publisher who makes sure that developer has all his tools license. So when somebody said Gary's Mod made money, I am pretty sure Valve before allowing the dude to sell his mode through steam made sure that he can account how he produced it in the mode. They probably advance him some money to take care of it. So in my book it is not mod but stand alone video game. It is used to be a mode, but now it is not. I am pretty sure that SC2 editor is quiet advance and allows importing of objects, texture, models from other software packages or allows for development of plug-ins which take care of it. Of course legally modder will be responsible for his map and assets in it and blizzard will act only as a shop which distributes it and no software developer will sue any modder for using pirated tools, so in Activision book everything is kosher. The big "but" is that we will hear so much "blah, blah" from Activison on people pirating SC2, where at the same time they financially envourage piracy of other software, knowing that tool developers will say nothing because activision studios are big customer. Overall bad idea.

Mike Boxleiter
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People comparing this to the app store are really underestimating the awareness and cheapness of starcraft players. Nobody is going to buy a map that hasn't already been proven through a free version, that would be considered lunacy. People will pay for an improvement on an already well-loved game like DoTA, but, unless the editor allows for importing images, there will be no way to just release a map with pics of hot girls to entice stupid users.

This is an awesome idea, so awesome in fact I'm excited to start working with the tools myself. The mod scene has been really dying in the past few years, and the ability to charge for epic quality mods is an amazing idea. It could totally revitalize modding. Just thinking about it is really distracting me...

Carl Chavez
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@Ross & @Foz: Are Starcraft II players the type of people to pay for an unknown map or mod from an unknown developer? I doubt it. They are much more likely to pay proven developers who have consistently demonstrated that they know what they're doing. Here's a simple way to make a careful purchase: don't ever buy a map or mod from anyone unless they've already released a high-quality free map or mod.

Let the buyer beware... but also let the buyer exercise some brain cells.

Joseph Cook
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Have you guys bitching about "everything being for pay" actually read the article you're responding to? I have to ask, because:

"At launch, the marketplace will immediately allow free distribution of mods, but commerce functionality will be added in later"

For god knows how many months - a hell of a lot, knowing Blizzard, the ecosystem will be flooded with tons of free maps. It's the only possible way to distribute them for that time. Great maps, average maps, terrible maps - everything will be free.

By the time Blizzard actually gets the marketplace functionality integrated, there will be a shitload of content to compete with if someone wants to charge for their stuff. You'll have to have something pretty amazing to get people to actually pay for it.

Louis Varilias
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"With absolutely no control you will get stuck with a crappy Appstore like result where the market is flooded with crap, even a review system for the app and app review sites still do not prevent people from buying crap."

Um, you do realize that there are plenty of terrible custom maps already? You do realize that amount of maps available won't magically make other maps worse? The only difference now is that you CAN choose to sell a map instead.

Ross Dutton
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@Carl- I fully understand the reasoning, I'm not one to go buy a random unproven mod...but you do need to take into account the stupidity factor of some people. Also the fact that as soon as it goes paid, SOMEONE is bound to exploit it in some way.

Then again, I guess thats the only way some people are going to learn...

John Bain
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I just had to post to hilight how disgustingly moronic this comment is

"the DOTA people make enough off of the mod to eat, and pay for some bills, and that should be enough."

Yes, naturally, we wouldn't want talented developers making money off their product now would we, especially when they're being permitted, nay encouraged to do so by the company who developed the engine they're using? This form of micro-licensing is a smart move and a welcome departure from their current philosophy of 'make money off anything that's even touched our intellectual property and expect to be drowned in Cease and Desists'.

But no, that would be ridiculous wouldn't it, much better to pursue a totally unrealistic utopian ideal of development solely for the love of it, just as long as it doesn't involve you opening your wallet hmm?

Luis Guimaraes
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Somehow I feel most of the complaints here are said by developers and not gamers... If you're a good "real" game developer, why whould you fear the modding market?

Kattrix B
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Guys please stop lol it痴 very simple.

You login with your E-mail Right?! So I知 sure that when people create Maps or Mods, you will be able to play them for free for the first 5 times let's say, and then you will have the choice to buy it no? I知 sure they will come up with an intelligent system where they'll make sure you "PAY" for something you are satisfied with.

Also, on Bnet, I知 sure they will have a rating system on Maps from everyone who have played them for "free" for the first 5 time <--- (again just an example) where you'll know from millions of people if it's worth it or not. You will also see how many users have tried it. If it's popular or not Etc...

As I知 writing this I知 getting more and more ideas how to control this! And this is just me! One person.

Here's another idea! After soo many negative feedback on a certain Mod or Map, it will probably get deleted from the system on the Bnet so it's always the good ones that stay.

So from then on I知 sure some developers will or will not charge they're work but if they do, you could be sure it will be worth it.