Another Mod War: Jagex Demands Shutdown Of HD RuneScape Mod, Retracts After Public Backlash

from the mod-squad dept

The gaming industry modding wars continue. We had recently discussed Nintendo’s continued war on anyone who mods its games, including shutting down tournaments for incredibly minor uses of mods that make those tournaments possible. We’ve also been discussing Take-Two’s attack on its modding community for the Grand Theft Auto franchise. On the flip side, companies like CD Projekt Red and Bethesda have so embraced their own modding communities as to have hired some of them onto their teams as salaried employees.

I have no idea why this has suddenly become a thing over the past several months, but these binary stories are coming far more frequently than they previously did. Everyone is in one camp or the other: embrace the modding community of fans or smack them around. There is a correct answer to all of this, of course, and it seems clear that the answer is to treat your greatest fans in a way that is cool and human. Nintendo, giant in the industry as they might be, loses good will and gains little by exerting strict control over how its games are played. Take-Two, same story. Meanwhile, those that embrace their biggest fans get to keep their games relevant for longer through mods, build up good will with their customers, and even get to pull from a talent pool that materializes all on its own.

But some companies just don’t get it and have to be educated in the court of public opinion. Jagex, makers of RuneScape, are just such a company. Just days ago, the company announced a shutdown of a major RuneScape mod that would bring HD graphics to the game, called Runelite HD. It was scheduled to be released on 9/8/21, but then…

In this blog we’d like to clarify our stance on third-party HD clients (and other projects which seek to radically change the visual appearance of the game). We know you’ve got lots of questions about them, and we think this will provide you with all the clarity we need.

Yesterday we contacted the developers of known HD projects and we asked them to stop development of their projects, because this is a project we are directly investigating at Jagex. We look forward to being able to share progress as our own in-house project with Old School’s visuals unfolds.

As Kotaku notes, there are a couple of problems with this. First off, nothing in what Runelite HD offers appears to violate the modding guidelines that Jagex has published. So, mods are allowed under certain rules, and Runelite HD developer 117 appears to have followed those rules, but the project was still shut down the day before its release. Second, based on 117’s own public statements, Jagex’s plan to have a graphical update to RuneScape was still essentially in the exploratory phase, leading 117 to offer a simple solution.

I offered a compromise of removing my project from RuneLite once they are ready to release theirs, in addition to allowing them collaborative control over the visual direction of my project. They declined outright.

So, it appears that this is the end. Approximately 2000 of hours of work over two years. A huge outpouring of support from all of you. I could never have imagined the overwhelmingly positive response I’ve had to this project.

Jagex outright declined… and RuneScape fans absolutely lost their minds. And, as a result of in-game and IRL protests over its actions, Jagex reversed course the very next day.

We hear your feedback loud and clear and we’ve been discussing that feedback all day and, while discussions continue, we absolutely intend to act on it.

Our conversations today have also included 117Scape and Adam from RuneLite and we are actively exploring options on how we can work together to offer 117Scape’s plug-in as a bridge until our own version is ready for release.

The very compromise that 117 offered is now what’s on the table. This whole thing could have been completely avoided if Jagex hadn’t decided that direct profits and control were somehow worth pissing off a major swath of its biggest fans. It’s a complete own-goal, in other words, where the end result is what the community wanted all along, only now they’re absolutely furious with the company.

Again, how is this smart? How is it good business? How does this desire for complete control keep happening, even when it regularly results in public blowback?

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Companies: jagex

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Comments on “Another Mod War: Jagex Demands Shutdown Of HD RuneScape Mod, Retracts After Public Backlash”

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Also context. The main thing to always remember with these things is that they’re niche issues. Most mainstream players of whatever game we talk about in these stories neither know nor care about the problem. Therefore it does not affect how they spend their money, therefore does not affect the company’s bottom line.

It’s possible for that to happen (e.g. the fallout of EA’s loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront 2), but the majority of these stories are not mainstream enough for meaningful action to be taken – which makes it even more commendable when the company in question plays nice.

Apart from that, it’s along the lines of Wal Mart deciding to randomly put mean in its vegan products – disastrous for that community and a loss of business, but the majority of its customers won’t change their purchasing habits enough for them to notice the difference.

TKnarr (profile) says:

How does this desire for complete control keep happening, even when it regularly results in public blowback?

Because it sometimes works and it never results in measurable negative consequences for the company. What it’ll take to end it is, in this case, 117Scape responding to them "No. I already deleted the material and all the backups just like you asked, it’s too late to get them back. Sorry, but you shouldn’t’ve made your original demand if you weren’t absolutely sure you wanted it followed.". Only when companies find themselves with no way to backtrack once they’ve acted will they start thinking before they act.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s not like the devs have any substantial interest in the mod coming back online either, especially in this case when there’s some chance they’ll be making and releasing a paid equivalent.

I doubt they’d consider it a big deal if 117Scape literally said that. Taking back the unconditional demand was public relations damage control, and for public relations making the demand in the first place was already seriously harmful.

So yeah, I don’t think it’s a good idea to threaten game developers who go against mods with that mods they demand to destroy may end up actually destroyed. It might even set an expectation of that their demands are actually carried out even if patently unreasonable, which is probably a good way to get things like "Gamename’s #1 most popular mod erased from existence after a retaliatory DMCA takedown notice sent after mod developer condemned game developer’s internal bigotry on Twitter".

Sabroni says:

"How does this desire for complete control keep happening, even when it regularly results in public blowback?"
Because the "public blowback" is not perceptible on Nintendo’s bottom line. They’re a business, if this becomes even the tiniest of problems to their sales they’ll take notice. Until then it’s just a few internet blowhards making a lot of noise, isn’t it?

Darkness Of Course (profile) says:

Problem is RuneScape is Free to Play

F2P are driven by whales and the 10% of the customer/player base that spends any money at all on the game.

That group tends to buy cosmetics. A mod that gives the cosmetics a bump, for free. Oh baby, oh baby they will be all over that.

To piss those people off, to piss off the people that were thinking about buying the monthly pass. Classic.
Lawyers don’t realize the market they are actually in vs the one the lawyers made up in their pencil necked heads.

What management school did they come from: McDonalds?

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