Creation Club – It Grinds My Gears…

 


There’s a quote that I quite like:- “The broadest truths are told by being painfully specific.”

So, the Fallout 4 “Creation Club” is now an actual live thing and by all accounts it’s still as popular as Donald Trump at a DNC convention (ooh, political humour, so edgy!). That it sucks and blows so hard in a simultaneous ballet of total douchebaggery isn’t really a surprise – this is the big-budget games tier and publishers will go fifteen thousand leagues out of their way to actually screw up what should, on paper in any case, be a total no-brainer for the consumer. Hell, WB Interactive have made this an artform.

But the thing that bothers me most of all here is far more rooted at the core of the push of the “Creation Club”, so in order to give the broadest truth – I need to be specific. Painfully, pedantically specific.

For me, it’s the reasoning behind it that stinks to high heaven; Bethesda’s argument is that the whole point of a cultivated paid mods system (it’s a paid mods system Bethesda, stop dressing that turd up) is, and I’m slightly paraphrasing here, “To ensure that players have access to functional mods that work on all platforms.”

… insinuating that mods aren’t reliable on the PC already?

I mean, Bethesda, let’s nail this one down quickly for you. Remember the launch of Skyrim? Fallout 4? Fallout 3? New Vegas? Oblivion? Hell, you chaps even screwed up Hunted: The Demon’s Forge by being utterly unwilling to fix the multiplayer co-op, the main crux of the game, when GameSpy went tits-up. The end result? Yup, your modding community had to fix that on their own. Modders are the people who ultimately ensure that fans of Bethesda’s games can play a functional, decent product within the opening weeks and months whilst Bethesda do their damnedest to make DLC which is technically and functionally worse than the modding community has already achieved.

This is what Bethesda thinks of its modding community – that it needs to be hand-held, because they’re so terrible. That… that’s a special and staggering level of callousness that even bloody Konami couldn’t hope to achieve in its most Carradine-styled choking fantasies.

Bethesda is a terrible developer. Not terrible in the same way many are, but terrible in a very awful and very painful way. They make a game, release it despite it being unfinished and buggy and needing work, let the modding community do all the work… and then they reap the windfall. PC Master Race is starting to look like a subservient class when it comes to Bethesda. They make millions off the backs of hard-working and devoted fans… and then screw them all over when they get even the approximation of a chance to do so.

The thing with non-functional mods, however, is most people can… you know… delete them. Hell, the Steam Workshop makes this almost embarrassingly easy. You simply click a nice big button to ‘subscribe’ to a mod, and have it download, and if it doesn’t work – you click a button to ‘unsubscribe’, effectively deleting it from the system. If a free mod doesn’t work – it’s a few clicks these days. It’s not like mods of old when we had to modify very complex files in order for the game to even read the modded content – it’s a couple of mouse clicks. That’s it. And, as is always the case, the community often polices itself for the most part – rating the good stuff highly and the bad stuff badly, meaning that on Steam Workshop in particular – though this applies to most mod sites and indeed, tools to manage said mods – you can actively select an option to ONLY see the highly-rated stuff.

Meaning that the community is doing for free what Bethesda want to charge you money for.

This is why the “Creation Club” stinks so much. It’s effectively a massive middle-finger to a community that has, in effect, gifted Bethesda with huge portions of its success over the years. It’s a community that never whines or complains when a new title launches with a few bugs or glitches – they’ll take care of that, and more besides. Texture work look a little PS3-era? HD Texture pack, made by the fans. Want some more storylines and quests? The community has you covered. Want to run around looking like Scorpion from Mortal Kombat 9, slicing things open and ramping up the actual gore factor? Yup you sick little puppy, the community has your back.

And with so much choice and such a wide, diverse line-up of mods out there – people can, in essence, find their own balance. Want it to be easier? The community will give you those tools – also a blankie and a pacifier to boot, because they can be that way. Want it to be Bloodborne-level tough? They can offer you that too, whilst complimenting you on your massive kahunas.

It’s not actually that crazy to say the reason Bethesda’s titles are so successful and so widely loved has very little to do with them. If this were true, then The Elder Scrolls Online wouldn’t be a massive pile of buggy crap still. No, it’s the community behind the game which supports and carries their often quite untested and unfinished products across the line, Cool Runnings style. People get into these games and usually stay on the PC side of things because there is a massive pool of creative, talented people willing to put time and effort into making sure that the game in question is as good as it could/should be.

And with the “Creation Club”, Bethesda wants to insinuate the modding community is unreliable? Jesus H. Christ on a Seventies Yamaha, if Bethesda were projecting any harder here they could screen bloody Avatar.

The punchline? Most of the “paid mods” on the “Creation Club” look worse than free mods that offer the same or similar things. New clothes and skins? Yup, modders put in more effort there. Weapons, pets and textures? The modders win there. Armour? The modders strike where it hurts there as well. And the selection of things on the “creation club” is far more limited – the modding community isn’t just doing better mods, but it’s pulling out better game content too. Quests, missions, secret areas, gameplay mechanics and overhauls. Bethesda wants you to pay them money – well, pay for in-game currency to buy said mods (microtransactions?) – for content which is, once again, worse than the modding community at large is offering. Because clearly Bethesda learned jack and squat from the critical mauling of things like Dawnguard.

And whilst I love what the modding scene does for Bethesda – I dabbled with making mods back in the Oblivion days – I’m starting to think this is an abusive relationship that more of us need to break free of. Bethesda doesn’t seem to like us. It doesn’t want us. Well, it does, for a few months whilst we effectively fix its game for them saving them hundreds of thousands of real-world dollars in the process (hell of a thing, that), then it wants money and wants us to go the hell away, saying we’re ‘meaningless’ or ‘unreliable’.

And even there – even if you were to say “oh, it applies to the console releases too!” – fair point, but one; consoles are their own thing, their own self-contained little ecosystems. And two… why would you need them to work on “all platforms” so extingently? It’s not like there’s any cross-play to be worried about here that could potentially conflict. And even then, you could simply offer the best PC mods the opportunity to make a little additional scratch by putting these mods up for a nominal fee on consoles. The PC market can be the breeding ground and Bethesda the owner of the… ahem… puppy farm, finding the cutest and best stuff to go perform on a larger stage and wow that got dark.

This is the specific problem. It’s a staggering level of contempt for a fan base and community that has offered and given to much to the company, allowing it to become rich beyond their wildest dreams. Thanks for your efforts. Now piss off if you’re not on our “approved” list. And then to effectively diss the people who built their success?

Sure, Bethesda, that’s awesome. Let’s see how a game works when you don’t have your fans fixing every aberrant issue with your game – oh yes, The Elder Scrolls Online. The magical fixing fairies couldn’t get past your special little online firewall there, could they? Meant you might – gasp! – have to spend actual dollars fixing the game. Which, you didn’t. I have been back a few times for a laugh in its current free-to-play state. And even to this day, many of the problems, bugs and stupid ideas that we all reported in the original beta? They’re STILL THERE! They’ve just pushed new little bits and pieces without once stopping to fix actively stupid, annoying and in spots game-breaking problems.

This is why I hate the “Creation Club”. Not the paid mods, or the in-game currency, or the glorified micro-transactions. Though they all suck too. It’s that Bethesda still doesn’t get it – without their big, sprawling fan base beavering away improving the product they actually paid real money for in the first place (there’s that PC Master Race for you), Bethesda wouldn’t be worth a fart in a bottle at the bottom of a Jacuzzi.

It’s the absolute contempt they are displaying for us, their customers and fans and modders. The people who gave time and talent willingly. And are now realising Bethesda only wants us to fix its broken car engine… then parades the car around at a show proclaiming not only they fixed it, but that we – the friend who gave time and talent willingly with no demand for recompense – is a jerk who is unreliable.

… if that doesn’t elicit a “FUCK YOU BETHESDA” from the community, then just wait. I get the feeling that “Creation Club” is the tip of a very serious iceberg – and the ultimate aim is to, in effect, cherry-pick the more talented technical modders and utilise their patches and fixes, selling them on and taking a huge chunk of the overall cut of the sale. In short, pay a few people chump change to fix the very same crap Bethesda spent millions of dollars making in the first place.

I’d say that’s the worst thing ever, but WB Interactive is probably looking at this and devising an even more elaborately awful system. It’s a race to the bottom. It’s just kind of funny these companies don’t seem to realise there will be no winners here, not even a participation trophy. Just dark, cold oblivion.

And in truth, let them, because we deserve better.

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