20 July Update: Based on feedback we've received from mod authors who would like to have some but not all of their mod files deleted, we're now offering partial deletion requests based on this form, subject to the 5 August deadline.
If you would like to hear the whole story behind why this change is necessary and what our plans for the future are, keep on reading.
The long, but thorough tell-all
This is a long one, so brew up some coffee, put on some chill-out music, and strap yourselves in your seats before reading - you have been warned!
A while ago, as announced in 2019, our team started work on a project with the goal of making it easier and far less time-consuming for the average person to set up a thoroughly and well-modded game. Internally, we’ve been referring to this project as “collections” and as you are reading this we are edging closer towards external testing with a small number of people.
As you all may know, depending on the games you are modding, it can at times be quite difficult to set up a large mod load order, find the right mods that work well together, look for patches, resolve conflicts, establish the right load order, test for any issues, and so on. Many of us have gone through this “baptism of fire” as we have grown up with modding being a hobby for the more tech-savvy. However, we understand and know from decades of experience as well as user feedback, that it is this - at times grueling - process that deters many people from even trying to mod their games. This means that many people miss out on enriching their experience with fantastic mods, they don’t get to enjoy being part of our community, and they don’t get to become part of what we all love.
It is our conviction and vision that modding should be as easy as possible, so more people can enjoy this hobby that has brought us all together and that laid the foundation for the very existence of our site and community 20 years ago.
What are collections and how does it all work?
The project our team is working on has the goal of making modding easier so the average user can spend less time worrying about mod conflicts, and more time playing a modded game.
How it would work is, using Vortex, someone could build a mod list/mod setup locally on their machine, then export a meta file with all the information about the mods/files/conflict resolution etc. and upload that file to the site. We refer to this list on the site and in Vortex as a "collection". Another user can now add this meta file/this collection from the site to Vortex and Vortex will then fetch all the download links for the mods, download them, and install them in the same way the original user (the “curator” of that mod list) has them installed on their PC - complete with conflict resolution data and all.
The outcome is the replication of a whole mod setup without much hassle and without entire packs of mods zipped up into an archive being redistributed. This way, we can guarantee that the mod authors of these mods still get the downloads and they also still get the donation points from those downloads.
Great care is also being taken that the mods in a collection are previewed while they're downloaded. Users are still shown the images and summaries of the mods they're downloading and they can also view the original mod page if they so choose.
While we allow for some files to be bundled with a collection (this is intended for tool-generated output files like e.g. LOD generated by DynDOLOD for Skyrim), a collection does not “contain” any mods, instead it acts more like a reference list for Vortex to know which file from a mod page it needs to download, what installer options to choose, how to resolve mod conflicts, and how to arrange your load order.
Are collections a “Premium feature”?
Much like speeding up the download process on our site in general, Premium membership is going to speed up the process of downloading a mod collection. This is because Premium members, through their purchase of membership, are actively contributing to the upkeep of our site be it server costs, 18 employees, a content delivery network (CDN) spanning across the globe, giving back to mod authors via the Donation Points system, insurance, an office in the heart of Exeter, and so on. Therefore, we can and want to offer them the best possible service including added convenience when using the new collections feature, which we believe will help make modding much easier.
That being said, we do not want to and we will not lock this feature off and make it “Premium only”. On the contrary: collections will be available to everyone, including free users. However, truth be told, it will be more convenient for Premium users, and less convenient for free users. Premium users will be able to essentially queue the download and installation of an entire collection of mods - an experience we could describe as “as close to a one-click installation as possible”. Free users on the other hand will also have full access to collections, but they will need to click and open the download page for every mod in a collection they want to download manually. That way, free users are not simply bypassing the mod author’s page along with our entire revenue stream, as we’re still able to serve them ads via the file download page. The free user experience is therefore going to be a bit like downloading mods in a traditional mod list, with the added convenience of being directed to the exact file, as well as still getting all the automatic conflict resolution benefits through Vortex. The download and installation process can be paused/resumed at pretty much any time, so while less convenient than the “Premium journey”, free users will end up with the same exact result as Premium users - the same collection of mods with the same conflict resolution data as the collection curator intended.
To back this up with a concrete example from testing: using our collections system, just the other day I downloaded and installed an entire collection for Valheim consisting of 50 mods in just under 11 minutes when testing as a free user; as a Premium user the same collection took me 3 minutes to set up.
When the system is ready to go public, both types of membership, Premium and free, will have access to creating/managing/downloading collections, so every user on our site will be able to benefit from this new feature, be it to overhaul their whole game in one swoop, to conveniently share a modest list of their favourite mods with their friends, or to back up their own, personal mod list (without actually reuploading any mods).
Addressing speculation about collections
This system at this moment is still very much in development and we’re looking at giving it to a first set of trusted users for further testing soon. This means two things: on one hand, we’re not yet ready to show and tell everything about it to everyone as it may very well change in some aspects, and on the other hand, not everything about it is set in stone yet - that is why we are actively looking for feedback from testers in the first place.
Let me say it loud and clear: at this point, and before this news post, no one outside of Nexus Mods had even seen or heard anything about how our collections system actually works or what it looks like, let alone does anyone (and this includes us as well of course) know how exactly everything is going to pan out once collections are released to all of you. Naturally, however, with collections being anticipated as a “big thing” in the modding world, a lot of people have been speculating - but please don’t lose track of the fact that at this point much of what you have been reading, assuming, hypothesising is just that - speculation.
So far, our stance has been not to talk about our plans for collections publicly at all until the system was ready - the idea behind this approach being that the system should speak for itself. We understand that this stance has been dissatisfying to some, especially to those who speculate that collections will have a negative impact on the community and who thought that our silence meant that we are not seeing or hearing their concerns.
The truth is we are very well aware of the concerns some mod authors have voiced on our forums or when answering our mod author focused survey we ran a while ago (you can find some of the data collected from that survey in anonymised form here).
One concern we’ve heard from mod authors is the worry over collection curators receiving donations or donation points, and thus taking away from donations for mod authors. To address this I can say that we understand where you’re coming from and, realising the delicate nature of this issue, our plans for the initial public release of collections are not to integrate collections with the Donation Points/mod rewards system. That means that while the mod authors of the mods in a collection are going to receive donation points for every unique download generated through the collection, the collection curators are not going to receive any donation points per download. For the sake of transparency, however, and to be perfectly honest with you: we believe that, much like we do not interfere with mod authors receiving donations for their contributions and work (unless our guidelines are violated), we should not interfere with users donating their money to collection curators. If you have seen some of the more involved mod lists out there - mod lists that sometimes include over 500 mods - you might be able to see that curating those can be a lot of work. Knowing how to put the mods together, what patches to install, which installer options to choose, how to resolve file conflicts, how to arrange custom rules for the plugin order, writing up instructions for the users etc. is not exactly an easy task when a big mod list is concerned. We think that mod list/collection curators are and will be adding to the community, so we do not believe we should be stopping people from donating to them, if they happen to like what they do.
To give you another example of a concern we’re aware of: some authors are worried that collections will lead to more users complaining to them when they’re running into issues caused by the interaction with other mods in a collection that user downloaded. This is just another example of a valid concern and one that plays a role when we are designing the system, drafting our terms of service for collections, or when we are planning our future moderation approach. Identifying these possible issues and then taking active measures to prevent/alleviate them is always part of our development process. This is why we’ve invited mod authors to partake in our first external testing cycle, why we did a survey asking mod authors for their input, and why Mike (that’s Pickysaurus) and I spend our days testing, questioning and viewing the system from the mod author perspective to make sure your concerns are heard and addressed as much as possible.
That being said, this is a project that is still in development and we’re likely not going to get everything right immediately. However, let me assure you that we are aware of the concerns that have been raised so far, we’re actively working on catering for them and we will be working with testers to help us iron out as many niggles as possible before it is released to the public.
Where we want to go from here
At this moment we have already committed close to two years of development time, blood, sweat and tears to creating this collections system. As a team we went through many, many meetings and had long, heartfelt discussions about the ins and outs to make sure we get this right for mod authors, users, and collection curators alike. We would not have done that if we were not strongly convinced that collections will be the key to achieving our goal of making modding easier for everyone. Over almost two decades now, we have come to learn that this is a strongly desired feature by many, many people in the gaming world. We know from first-hand experience that this is a feature people have been asking for, not just to completely overhaul their games in a more convenient fashion, but to be able to share cool mod setups with their friends, or the mod list that they’re using on their particular gaming server.
Much like the way that we are listening to the concerns of those worried voices in the mod author community, we are paying equal attention to ensuring that our collection system will be simple to use and convenient - as close as possible to the vision of “modding made easy” many people have been sharing with us for so long.
If we can pull this off - and this is our core conviction - everyone will win:
- Existing mod users stand to gain added convenience. They will be able to explore entirely different mod setups much, much more easily.
- New mod users will appear and start modding their games, now that modding is more accessible.
- Mod authors will benefit from a larger audience and accumulate more downloads and donation points (mod rewards).
- Growth of the entire “modding ecosystem” meaning more mod users, more mod authors, and more mods.
The last two points bring us to something Robin (aka Dark0ne, the site owner) has been aiming for ever since our Donation Points system went live: mod authors being able to make a living from sharing their creations on Nexus Mods.
Just in case you were not aware: in 2018 we established a system that allows mod authors to earn “donation points” based on the number of downloads they accumulate with their mods. These points can then be redeemed in our DP store either against a PayPal payout, to buy game keys, or to donate to charity.
The money to fund this pool comes from two sources: users who contribute to the Mod Author Donation Fund on Patreon which accounts for a small percentage of the total funds (4.1%), and us - Nexus Mods (95.9%). To this day, we have contributed over $750,000 to this fund. You can view all relevant stats and breakdowns on the dedicated Donation Points page.
This Donation Points system and our ongoing contribution to it is evidence of our commitment to giving back to the mod authors who make all of this possible in the first place. None of us would be here if it wasn’t for mod authors creating amazing mods and choosing to share them on our site. Not only are we fully aware of that, with the implementation of a tool suite for mod uploads/management, the DP system, and the way we moderate the site enforcing our rules, we have always taken a very author-centric approach to honour this fact.
We have heard the speculations and worries of those who believe the collections system will only serve to disadvantage mod authors, but we believe that, if done right, not only will we be able to alleviate many concerns, but moreover mod authors will massively gain from it with some even being able to finally earn a living through mod rewards.
Of course it is too early to tell or make promises, but as Robin (Dark0ne) has previously pointed out and stated publicly in his last year in review post: the dream behind the DP system has always been that at one point we could feed a seven figure sum into it per year. That’s at least a “1” with six zeros, in other words at least 1 million US dollars - for mod authors, every year.
It is without a doubt an extremely ambitious goal, but we believe that together we can achieve it, and this is the way to do just that: make modding easier for everyone and grow the modding community as a whole, with the engine of change being a powerful, feature rich, easy-to-use collections system.
A change to file deletions and an important notice in light of collections
If you have come this far in reading this massive wall of text then you will hopefully recall two key points I am trying to convey: our goal is to make modding easier for everyone, and we believe a powerful collection system is the way to achieve this goal. It is important to understand those two points because it now leads us to a technical change we have to roll out in anticipation of collections.
To ensure that the collections system can function properly and be as solid a feature as it can be, we have to address the problem that mod/file deletions pose - in general for the site, and for collections in particular.
This year, we’re celebrating our 20 year anniversary and suffice to say that two decades ago no one could have imagined that at one point we’d be the world's largest modding community with over 27 million members and our database growing, on average, by 2TB of new mods/files every month with roughly one thousand new files being uploaded every day. While this is a fantastic development, it is also posing a massive challenge on the technical side of things. Back in the days we did not have a full team of developers as we do now and as a result, the site’s legacy code and framework are unfortunately not set up in a way that makes it easy to absorb this sort of tremendous growth we have seen. Some technical decisions that were made years or even a decade ago, are now causing us problems down the line and are affecting our service and your user experience. Back then we only had the best of intentions, but we did not have the foresight to anticipate what the implementation of a given feature for mod authors or mod users would mean for a future when Nexus Mods had suddenly grown to be twice, three times, or ten times its size.
The result of this is a lot of technical debt that is at times slowing down progress and the implementation of new features for all of you, because - if we want to keep growing but also just to ensure the site is working as intended - we have to address this debt first. In the recent past and at this moment we have been and we are working on just that. We have hired an entire team of developers (in fact we’re looking for another to join our team) and implemented a myriad of backend changes to bring the site’s foundation up to speed. While the backend optimisations we have implemented are significant, unfortunately for most of you, me, and the not so technical minded, they are mostly of the “boring” variety - things that make a huge difference behind the scenes, but that are practically invisible to the average user - due to their backend nature. Nonetheless for this tell-all post, I wanted to give an overview of just some of the backend work that we have done in the last years, with the goal of laying a solid foundation for future development:
- We have totally redeveloped login and registration for the website, removing the integration with the forum and creating a modern authentication system that can support the addition of new features.
- The notification system has been rebuilt from the ground up to support many different types of notifications. The old notification system was a huge strain on our primary database and this new one is built with scalability in mind.
- We have totally rebuilt the upload system and the way we store and serve files. The upload system now deals with around 1,000 files per day that are uploaded in chunks and have to be rebuilt, virus scanned, content previewed, and uploaded to multiple different content delivery networks.
- We have implemented a new ‘layer’ of search that the website uses to attempt to return results more quickly without hitting our primary database. Before, whenever site traffic peaked, the website used to be much slower, but with this new system the average page load times are now 3x quicker.
As we are now the biggest modding site on the planet, it’s no surprise that all the data surrounding mods and files acts as the absolute centrepoint for everything on the site. How good our service is and how solid our future foundation for building upon can possibly be all depends on having all of our ducks in a row - and in our case that means millions of “ducks” (= files). Unfortunately, due to decisions made in the past, this is not always the case and we’re now all paying the price for that. When files are deleted for good, the result is at best a loss of information, at worst it can be the cause for confusion on a database level. Deleted files can reappear when uploaded with a different name, or disappear entirely without a trace of metainformation. If you look at this issue knowing that we are receiving 1,000 new files every day, 2 TB worth of files every month, then you might be able to see that what sounds like a niche problem for deleted files, can easily scale to become a significant problem that is eroding the integrity of our database. What this means for you reading this is that because this database is very tricky to work with, developers working on improvements for the site as well as community tool-creators will have a much more difficult time trying to make sense of it and as a result take much longer, or be completely unable to improve the site/their tools for the benefit of users.
For our collections system this means that no matter how much care and effort has been put into curating a collection of dozens or hundreds of mods, as soon as one or several files in that collection are deleted by a mod author - for whatever reason - the collection is essentially and immediately “dead in the water” until the curator can replace or remove the particular file. Of course, if that mod file was an integral building block for the collection, then fixing it will become a much more difficult task, potentially impossible. As a result every user who has since downloaded this collection may run into issues when trying to update it, or - if they hadn’t downloaded the collection fully yet - when setting it up in the first place. As some, but not all, collections may consist of hundreds of well-curated mods, the likelihood of a random mod file deletion affecting it increases, and the potential for collection users being left with the broken pieces is significant. It is therefore crucial to understand that the current “Wild West” situation of file deletions and missing data has serious implications for the immediate future of collections, a feature that we are convinced will be pivotal for achieving our goal of making modding more accessible.
That being said, please note that the general technical reasons for why file deletions are a concern is not merely a figleaf to hide the fact that this is mostly a problem for collections. Let me stress that even without collections in the picture, file deletions and disappearing data constitute a problem and create a development environment that cannot serve as a strong foundation for the future of our platform.
Recognising these problems, we made the difficult decision to change how file deletions work. Instead of permanently removing a file, mod authors can now choose to archive it which will move it into a file archive and make it impossible to download directly unless specifically requested e.g. via the API. What this means is that when an author archives a file, for most intents and purposes, it is now gone and removed from the files tab, but it can still be downloaded via a collection and the metadata (information) about the file is still in the database. This change therefore addresses both technical problems laid out above, while leaving mod authors with the ability to remove files from view into a “file archive” that serves as a point of reference.
We recently announced this change as it went live on our development Discord server - a place for community tool-creators serving as direct line of communication to our webteam - to give a heads up just in case the change was breaking API related functionality for their tools. We then announced and explained the reasoning behind this change in our mod author forums - a semi-private subforum only accessible to mod authors (you can now read that announcement here). In the wake of these announcements, we have received feedback and suggestions from mod authors and tool-creators alike. In the announcement thread, several mod authors have voiced concerns that I’d like to address:
First of all, several mod authors explained they’re worried about regular users being able to see the “file archive” with all the archived files, as it is viewable via a button at the bottom of the files tab. Their worry was that users might view those files and then ask for them to be made available, or otherwise request support for files the author has essentially discarded.
We listened to this feedback and as a result of that implemented the option for authors to hide the file archive from regular users. While there is a bit of a tradeoff here as some information will be lost for the user if a mod author decides to hide the file archive, we understand why this was something mod authors requested and we were happy to reach this compromise.
Some mod authors brought up the necessity of deleting files that are plain broken and thus useless to the end-user. We do think there is merit to the argument that completely broken files should be deleted, and, at the present moment, we’re open to considering deletion requests based on this on a case by case basis. Down the line, however, we are planning to completely revamp mod and file data management into a much more powerful system that will offer authors better integration with other mods/files. In such a system as we envision it, there will be tools to deal with files that are utterly broken. Our goal ultimately is not to prevent deletions of files that are broken, it is to prevent arbitrary deletions eroding the integrity of the database on one hand, and undermining the collections system on the other. When we’re ready to move closer towards this system, we’ll be more than happy to reach out for feedback from mod authors to make sure they get the toolsuite that would be most useful to them. That being said, let us be clear about the fact that we’re not going to bring back support for random file deletions, due to the problems they cause.
Another concern that was voiced is that this change marks a loss of control for mod authors, as they are no longer able to fully delete their files. Let me start by saying that for most users and in most cases, a file that is archived is no longer easily accessible as the request needs to be specific and the requesting user will need both the mod id as well as the file id - meta information that is not easily obtained by the averagely tech-minded user. Secondly, let me be very clear that we (that is admins and moderators) are still permanently deleting any and all files that are violating our rules, for example in cases where someone has been using assets from another author without their express permission. Once deleted by an admin or moderator, a file will no longer be served, and thus no longer be available in any form. That being said, for those mod authors who want to maintain a level of control where they can hard delete any file, at any point in time, for any reason - yes, this is a change you are not going to like, and we’ve heard you loud and clear.
The mod author in me can empathise with this position, and, truth be told, back in the days when I was actively making mods I was firmly in the camp of “maintaining control” as well. We do believe that we have very good reasons for why this change is necessary though: We as a team have had many discussions about this particular change, and it was not lost on us that a contingent of mod authors is not going to like it. Bringing our approach to file deletions/archiving more in line with what is standard for comparable services, however, as we are strongly convinced, is absolutely crucial in achieving our goals of both removing more and more of the technical debt by sorting out database level issues, as well as making modding easier through a robust, feature-rich, collections system.
Unfortunately, unlike with the compromise we were able to reach with several mod authors in regards to the option to hide the file archive, there is just no way to square these two positions. We believe that this is a necessary change in order to make modding more accessible, grow our community, and get into a position where we can fuel the Donation Points system/mod rewards with enough funds to enable mod authors to earn a living salary through modding. If you do not share our conviction, don’t want to participate, don’t care about collections or any of this then that is fine - no hard feelings - you are entitled to your own opinion and we will not censor discourse on that, if it’s respectful and taking place in the proper channels. However, then we really need to be honest with ourselves and accept the fact that you and us are simply not on the same page.
This brings us to another hot topic surrounding collections: the question of opting out of the collections system. Ever since the news broke that we are working on a collections system, a small contingent of mod authors (and we know this from the data we collected) have expressed concerns and asked for the option to opt their mods out of the system. In other words, they’d like to have the ability to prevent collection curators from putting their mods into their lists. There are two layers to this request:
First of all, we believe that much like you couldn’t reasonably ask for someone not to put your mod in a traditional mod list they curated for, let’s say, the best possible modded wizard playthrough for Skyrim, the same request does not make sense for collections either: Collections are, as explained above, essentially mere reference lists for Vortex to know what files to download for you. When you host your mods on Nexus Mods you are making them accessible to users regardless of what way they choose to download them. As much as we do not think anyone but the user should control whether they download a file with Google Chrome or Firefox, we do not believe mod authors should control whether their files are being downloaded manually, with a download or mod manager, or through our collections system. Secondly, for similar reasons as file deletions, if we did provide an opt out option then any mod author opting any mod/file out for any reason could essentially torpedo the whole system, undermining collections from the very beginning. Because of these two reasons, this is simply not an option that we can reasonably provide.
Lastly, let me address the voices in the modding/mod author community who are opposed to the whole concept of collections, who believe it is a terrible idea that will only have negative effects. Above all, I sincerely hope that I could reach at least some of you by explaining all of the above and maybe, even if we still don’t see eye to eye on everything, you can now better understand where we’re coming from. For those of you, however, who are still staunchly and vehemently against all of this and/or believe that they “learned modding the hard way, and so can they!”: we’ve heard you, believe me, we did. We tried our best (and this essay is evidence of that) to provide our reasoning, to collect feedback, and to work with your concerns in mind when going through the internal development process. However, we’ve now reached an impasse and we have to accept that there might be a gap between us that cannot be bridged. We simply do not believe that modding should remain inaccessible to the less tech-savvy, just because that is how it has always been. We are actively trying to work towards making it easier for people to mod their games and to become part of our community. Let me say that it is ok to have completely different opinions, but when your views are simply antithetical to our goals and convictions then we’re at a point where we simply cannot continue our journey together, as there is no compromise to be reached.
What we can do, however - and we’re doing this in the spirit of honouring your conviction that you should maintain control over your content being hosted or deleted - is to give you the choice.
This is why with this news post and with an accompanying email being sent out to all mod authors on our site (which should go out in the next few days), we’re letting you know that over the next 30 days you can now request all of your files currently hosted on Nexus Mods to be deleted by sending an email to [email protected] Once you have formalised the request, we will delete all of your files the same way we would have before implementing the file archiving change - no questions asked. The deleted files will no longer be served by us in any way, shape, or form, including via the API/collections.
Here’s an overview of the deletion requesting process:
- Until 5 August 2021 (10:00 AM BST), you may request all of your files to be deleted permanently from our services. Requests received until that date will be processed even after the deadline has expired.
- In order to streamline the process you may only request to have all of your files deleted (all or nothing). If you'd like some, but not all of your files deleted please fill out and send in this form, which will act as your one-off deletion request.
- We will only be processing deletion requests based on the form for partial deletion requests linked above as well as this template sent to [email protected].
- We can only honour deletion requests sent from the email attached to your account.
- To fully process the deletion: after receiving your email, we will send you a personal message on our site/forums to confirm the deletion and you will need to respond to it before the deadline expires.
- The announced changes to file deletions i.e. the introduction of file archiving remain active.
- Should you not request a full deletion of your files until the designated deadline, you accept that going forward your files will only be deleted at the discretion of staff.
- You accept that new files uploaded to our services after the designated deadline will only be deleted at the discretion of staff.
- The option to archive your files at any time is not affected by this.
- The status of your Nexus Mods account will not be affected either way i.e. your account is not going to be deleted or suspended whether you request a deletion of your files or not, unless you specifically request it.
We understand that some of you will not like this, but I sincerely hope we’ve managed to explain why we’re convinced that this is the way to move forward from here on. It might not be what we all wanted, but we think this way is fair, as you get to make your choice.
In any event, should you choose to have your files deleted or not, there aren’t any hard feelings from our side. If anything, this was a tough choice for us to make, but one that we believe is ultimately in our joint best interest as a community.
If you are still reading this...
I think after 20 years of the site’s existence this post is a strong contender for the longest news post in Nexus Mods history! If you have actually read all of this, you honestly deserve a medal!
In all seriousness though: when I joined Nexus Mods as a user in 2005, I never could have anticipated the levels of growth this community would experience - but here we are at well over 27 million members, hosting more than 300,000 mods for almost 1,337 games. It is absolutely mindblowing and I can only assure you that we, the Nexus Mods team in our offices in Exeter (or working from home thanks to the pandemic), are spending our days working hard on ensuring that this journey is far from over. We believe making modding easier is the way to go, and we are buzzing with excitement knowing that it will hopefully not be too much longer before we can share what we’ve been working on for so long with all of you.
So, from everyone at Nexus Mods, thank you for reading, thank you for (hopefully) understanding, and thank you for your continued support over the years, nay, the last two decades.
- The Nexus Mods Team
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