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Author Topic: Community good practices: some thoughts regarding mods in Outerra  (Read 3975 times)

Acetone

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Wall of text  :)

Outerra is still a work in progress engine, and there is a long road before it can be labeled as 1.0 version. Yet, from the start, some users have experimented with the engine and released content for it.
Before we start, some points everybody agree on (I guess):
  • Outerra attracts modders (content creators) despite the on-development alpha status.
  • Outerra devs have provided tools and documentation to create content for the engine, and continue to do so.
  • Outerra devs have added features requested by modders, including API elements and continue to do so when they can.
  • Outerra devs have directly helped some modders on their projects.
Modding and content creation in general is a big part of the engine life, and I’m also sure it’s one of the reasons why most of us stay interested by the development. Even if things are slow, content can be created/added, and fun can already be had with it !
 
In this post, I would like to list some thoughts I had regarding the user created content side of Outerra. These are several propositions to lay down a future healthy community around the engine. I will use a large amount of comparisons with the Kerbal Space Program modding community, because it’s probably one of the most healthy and creative groups around.
 
A word about copyright and respect for an original creators work
 
This issue has already been discussed before, but I think it’s important to mention it again. You have the right to have fun with the engine, and nobody will blame you for that. Using some existing games assets to learn how to use the importer for example. But don’t share these other than pictures or videos. Distributing code, textures, models you have not created and without the authorization of the original creator is not a good practice, especially if you do it in this forum.
It’s important to keep this kind of limit in mind (again, experimenting is not a problem, redistributing is), because respect is really important if we want to attract experienced content creators in Outerra. Most people will give you the right to use their assets if you ask them directly (and if it’s not a payware content), so sending a mail or a personal message if no license is indicated for a model you found never hurts. And it’s a good way to give some promotion to Outerra !
 
Some additional warning: there are several websites distributing models, but be very cautious with those, as some of them redistribute content without really checking the license or contacting the original creator. A quick google search always helps to find him/her.
Most free models still use a license, please respect the terms of it (license redistribution, credit, share alike conditions, …)
 
Oh yeah, and of course, try to always give credit to the original creator, if possible with a direct link to his/her page, and mention if he/her has a donation page. It never hurts.
 
Source sharing
 
Some old mods are no longer working, and there is no way to fix those because the source is not available. It’s a big problem, and will be even bigger in the future. As a good practice, I would suggest to add the source files (especially for the 3D models) in the mod post. Right now, most of the code can be read directly, but some .dll may appear in the future. It could be good to have the source of these too. Github is a fairly common hosting solution for this kind of content, but you should set up several hosting links, things disappear fast on internet…
 
Most of the code licenses presented above will require you to provide the source code of your application.
 
Mods Licensing
 
Licensing is how you are going to define what you let other users to do with the content you created. Some may think it’s not important, but it is. The legal aspect is not really what matters; it’s more about giving some clear instructions of what one can do with your creation without him having to contact you for an authorization. And trust me, when things go large, it can be way simple to have this license checklist

For example, when I started releasing full package for sceneries (including buildings made by other developers), I had to directly PM them. If you release a building under CC BY, for example, I just need to give you credit, things are simple and clear.
 
This small guide is mainly inspired by Majiir's KSP mods license guide. First, it’s important to separate two families of licenses: content licenses and code licenses. Code can generally be split, need more modifications and sometimes require complex dependencies. As a result, code licenses are generally more modification friendly (GPL, GNU, MIT, BSD). Art assets (textures, models, sounds, and probably sceneries) are more “static” and can be placed under a Creative Commons license, covering a very large range of cases, but not really recommended for code. The main reason is that Creative Commons doesn’t cover the redistribution of source code and is not really compatible with most software licenses (CC BY being compatible with GPL). For simple (and open) Javascript files it’s not a problem, but it’s absolutely mandatory to avoid using a Non-Derivative license on code (but the same could be said for assets), or your code will be “dead”.
 
Some possibilities:
 
You can distribute/re-use/do whatever you want with my mod without crediting me:
Assets: CC0
Code: Public Domain (« I release this work in the public domain »)

You can distribute/re-use my mod but you must give me credit:

Assets:
 
  • CC BY, (give credit only, best practice is to mention the original creator in the forum post and in a readme file).
  • CC BY SA, if you want them to share the content with the same conditions of license.
  • CC BY ND, for redistribution only (very restrictive in this case, no modification is allowed, I do not recommend it if you want to ensure your mod will have a life after you stop working on it).
Code:
You can distribute/re-use my assets but you must give me credit, and I don’t want you to use my mod or portions of it to generate profits:
This is a tricky question, as it is generally the main concern with free licensing for many people. In reality, licensed content steal exists but is not that important in an healthy community.
Assets can be protected using the CC BY NC license. Please note that this license is not fully restrictive, you can still authorize the use of your assets in a commercial package (or sell it), it’s just not legally possible to do it without your direct authorization.
 
You can distribute/re-use my code but you must give me credit, but I don’t want you to use my mod or portions of it to generate profits:
Code can’t be commercially protected with the most popular free licenses (for obvious dependency reasons), but you can still ensure it won’t be used to create a closed software/code (and as a result not being very valid as a commercial product if you can yourself (or anyone) re-uses this code. That’s a way to ensure your code will stay open and, as a virus, propagate it’s license to software using it. You then have two solutions :
  • GPL: you can modify, redistribute and even sell the derivatives of my work, but these and their derivate must use the GPL license in the exact same conditions, especially by providing their source code.
  • LGPL: same conditions, but only your code has to be redistributed in the same license. It’s a good compromise between GPL and MIT/BSD.


 
Some words about commercial addons and modding ecosystems
 
 
This is not something I see happening in the next few years, but I thought it could be a good idea to discuss it now. Outerra attracts many sim enthusiasts, and I’ve noticed some sort of market trend in these communities, something I’m worried about. If you look at the state of the civilian flight sim community, it’s very clear the whole thing is slowly crumbling into itself. One of the main reasons is the big dependency on payware content, as it’s the only thing that can continue to enhance the experience. To be clear, if you want to have a full sim, the entry price is going higher and higher with the amount of add-ons required, resulting in a more and more niche market (and consequent high prices). At one point, maybe in several years, the whole thing will reach a limit and you will see the whole genre disappear (compared to it’s current state, at least), because these users were locked in their very expensive setup, and the thing was no longer attractive for new users (and technically dead).
 
To be clear, I don’t see payware addons or content as a bad thing at all, they push the limits of user created content, but they also have a very bad consequence: community development is scattered and talent locked.
 
When the paid mods for Skyrim were announced (and resulted in a large backslash), one modder commented something like :
Quote
“it’s not that I’m against being paid or paying for mods or addons, but right now I’m collaborating with several individuals and some other mods are also using my work. If I had the opportunity to be paid for that, for my content, suddenly the people I’m working with won’t be my friends but my competitors. And I wouldn’t have any interest in helping other users work and they wouldn’t have any interest in helping me”.

An open modding platform has this very deep advantage of being more liquid. A mod creator is taking a step back because of personal life? Someone else can maintain the mod, someone else can fork the mod, … With this level of collaboration, you can expect more progress, as not everyone has to reinvent the wheel. It’s easier to make a very nice detailed aircraft, when you can integrate a cool library of instruments made by someone else, for example. You can expect a larger amount of bugs and barely useful content, but good stuff always find it’s way to the top.
 
It’s obvious big projects cannot be done without money, but I believe creator oriented funding (with solutions like Patreon) will be more efficient in most cases than a classic commercial scheme, because the work is rewarded, not the product, and said product is now open (at least I hope it will be) for anyone to experiment with it, learn with it and create with it.
 
These were a couple of thoughts I wanted to drop on paper (well, virtual paper), for what it’s worth. I would be very curious to have everyone opinion about that, if you have some time to think about it and see if you have some ideas, guidelines about all that stuff.

Thanks HiFlyer for the misspelling corrections and Uriah for some suggestions!
« Last Edit: April 26, 2016, 05:12:14 am by Acetone »
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Uriah

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Re: Community good practices: some thoughts regarding mods in Outerra
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2016, 04:45:27 pm »

Thanks for making this awesome post Ace! This will be really helpful as we move forward.

You've definitely inspired me to determine what type of license(s) I'll be including with my work. I think the distinction between code and 3d content is very important, because code is more fluid, as you have mentioned it can be easily improved and reused by others if the license allows, while 3d content is somewhat more fixed because you can't reuse a helicopter model or textures to make a jet liner, while on the other hand you can use the code from a helo to build a jet.

You mention distributing the 3d source files, and while that is up to each individual, I'm not sure how I feel about it for my content. I would be much more willing to have one license that grants free use and distribution of my code, and another license that covers my 3d content which is much more limited, possibly releasing the code completely separately with documentation on GitHub. I believe PytonPago has always released his 3d and texture files.

A comment about paid content. Firstly, I do not think just because something is profitable that necessitates direct competition with other content creators even if that may occur, but in fact it could be the spark for even greater collaboration by incentivizing to form groups for focused development projects where there is a demand, such as in flight simulation, and while those groups may compete, this has proven to increase the quality and reduce the price, such as in DCS. However, I agree that the trend for add-ons and DLC isolates the market and divides the existing user base. There needs to be some kind of balance in my opinion, where content creators can find a way to make their hobby a full time job by making it lucrative, but not make each individual "item" an exclusive product, but rather the whole of their work.

Myself, I want to help pave the road for future content creators in Outerra by sharing certain things I am building, specifically code, however once I reach a certain personal stage in my projects, I will have no choice but to either continue at the current slow development pace, or find a way to make some income in order to work full time on such projects, which is really what I want to do. I like the idea of using Patreon or similar crowd funding, because it keeps the work open/free while also making this work lucrative. However, doing some rough calculations, the Outerra community on its own probably isn't big enough yet to support anyone making a living from building mods since people must have an Outerra license to use mods in the first place. I think this means that content creators would need to cultivate their own market, which would bring in people from outside of the community.

Very much looking forward to seeing where this discussion goes and hearing the thoughts of others, thanks again for posting this Acetone!

Best regards,
Uriah
« Last Edit: April 25, 2016, 04:48:35 pm by Uriah »
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Acetone

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Re: Community good practices: some thoughts regarding mods in Outerra
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2016, 05:54:57 am »

You mention distributing the 3d source files, and while that is up to each individual, I'm not sure how I feel about it for my content. I would be much more willing to have one license that grants free use and distribution of my code, and another license that covers my 3d content which is much more limited, possibly releasing the code completely separately with documentation on GitHub. I believe PytonPago has always released his 3d and texture files.

Yep, that's something that is pretty much everyone's choice. Releasing 3D sources can be a tricky choice for creators, because it's probably one of the most easiest content to "steal" and port to something else (when I was talking about content creators respect). One alternative would be to simply give access to the source to a trusted dev if you ever have to stop working on a project. That said, OT will became more stable at some point and we will see less models don't work anymore because there was a change in the package type or pivot point handling. So this is probably only on temporary problem, and releasing source model will only be less important.

There needs to be some kind of balance in my opinion, where content creators can find a way to make their hobby a full time job by making it lucrative, but not make each individual "item" an exclusive product, but rather the whole of their work.

I think a good balance would be something like 85% modders, 10% Patreon backed modders (producing free content but supported with some exclusive bonus for backers) and 5% payware dev team (for the whole community). What I would be afraid is an environment where everyone race to payware content, that would harm the whole thing. DCS is a going in a good direction yep, but it's also really special, very focused and unique, probably because that's the orientation the dev gave with the A-10 :). I guess every platform will have it's environment ! One good thing payware project could bring is to add a paywall for content but add some level of API/open code in order for smaller modding project to have some access to it. The contrary is also possible and payware content would be easier to produce if some mods have already open a path in some direction, and hopefully the payware content will share the same attitude concerning source code (or be forced, if said mods are under GPL).
 
However, doing some rough calculations, the Outerra community on its own probably isn't big enough yet to support anyone making a living from building mods since people must have an Outerra license to use mods in the first place.
Yep, that's why it was labeled as "future", right now there is no way a payware content would make profit, or even a Patreon user make a decent living. We are not in this situation yet, but it's better to think about it soon rather than looking at things when they are already happening :)
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