Monday Tip-Off: Why We Give Credit & Ask Permission When Modding

Charles Barkley & Hakeem Olajuwon on the 1997 Houston Rockets in the Ultimate Base Roster for NBA 2K14

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games.

In the twenty years that the NLSC has been around, we’ve developed our own sense of etiquette in our modding community. For a long time, many of these rules were unwritten, the “done thing” that everyone was expected to know about. That’s not really the best approach however, so in my most recent revision to our Forum Rules, I made sure to include information about procedures and etiquette when it comes to modding. To be honest, those unwritten rules were long overdue to be written, in order to cut down on any ambiguity and ensure new modders know about them.

Two of the most important rules in our modding community are giving credit where it’s due, and asking permission before using work that isn’t open source. Most people seem to agree with the spirit of these rules, but others are occasionally puzzled by our adherence to them, especially if they’ve been a part of other modding communities that have approached the matter differently. Continuing my series of articles on our modding community here at the NLSC, I’d like to explain why we place so much emphasis on asking for permission and giving appropriate credit when using someone else’s work.

While most of the people who question the practice do acknowledge that giving credit and asking permission is a polite thing to do, the question they raise is basically whether it’s actually important in the long run. Since the goal of our modding community is to improve NBA Live and NBA 2K, and create new experiences for the games, isn’t the content itself more important than who made it? Shouldn’t we be all about building on what the community has already made, in order to create new and better mods? Aren’t cooperation and a willingness to share resources beneficial to the modding scene?

Michael Jordan vs. Hersey Hawkins in the Ultimate Jordan Roster for NBA Live 08

These are fair questions, and they make a good point. As I’ve discussed before, ego can be a problem in the modding community. An open source approach to modding has the potential to be beneficial to everyone, and sharing our work with one another has led to the creation of some fantastic projects. If we share resources and techniques, and allow our work to be used in bigger projects, then the modding community is definitely a friendlier and more productive place. Great work can be all too easily stifled if we get too precious and possessive about our creations.

However, given the amount of time and effort that goes into the creation of certain mods, it’s understandable that modders want their hard work to be acknowledged, and only fair that they receive credit accordingly. Most open source projects require certain elements of code or the credits to remain intact, in order to recognise the originators and other contributors. Unless an individual specifies otherwise, we’ve adopted a similar policy in our modding community, in order to recognise the work everyone has done. Asking permission before re-releasing someone’s work or using it in a larger project has always felt like the courteous thing to do.

One of the reasons that our modding community has often been so sensitive about this issue is that we’ve had quite a few people over the years take someone else’s work, and try to pass it off as their own. This is not only dishonest, but also quite disrespectful to the original author, who has not only taken the time to create the mod, but also hone their modding skills in the first place. Within the context of a modding community, it’s basically plagiarism, which is why we’ve always taken a dim view of it. There usually isn’t too much disagreement that taking other people’s work like this isn’t on the level.

It’s a little murkier when someone takes another modder’s work, makes some changes, and uploads a new release while giving appropriate credit, but doesn’t ask first. It’s certainly more honest and respectful than passing someone else’s work off as your own, but it’s also generally been frowned upon here, and I know that confuses some newcomers to our modding community. The point of contention here is if you’ve spent a lot of time on a mod, you may not want to see it re-released in an altered state, especially if you’re not a fan of the results. Bottom line, we encourage everyone to consider open source, but also to respect each other’s wishes in this regard.

Screenshot of the NLSC 2012/2013 Current Roster for NBA Live 08 PC

I can speak from my own experiences making the NLSC roster updates for NBA Live here. Over the years, several people have taken my rosters and released new updates based on them, without acknowledging where they were from or who made them. That always felt like a slap in the face, especially when I was continuing to maintain roster updates for games I was no longer playing. Those are projects you can’t just whip up in a couple of hours, so when you steal a big roster mod, it’s taking credit for a lot of work that you didn’t do. It felt rude enough that those individuals didn’t ask for permission, but the lack of any kind of credit on top of that was quite infuriating.

Even when people did ask me for permission, I was hesitant to grant it. I can’t pretend that there wasn’t a little ego involved here, but it always felt like it was asking a lot. I think I was turned off by the many requests I’d receive to use the NLSC roster as base shortly after releasing a post-Draft update. I got the impression they were waiting for me to do the heavy lifting and all the grunt work, because they fancied the idea of making roster updates, but didn’t really want to put in the time or effort. I was therefore selective in granting permission, though I would hand updates over to other people to maintain, and have since adopted a more open source approach.

Because not everyone is comfortable with other people using their work – whether it’s due to bad experiences, artistic philosophy, or yes, a touch of ego – we do recommend asking permission whenever possible, just to be sure. Credit should also be given to the original modder, although some modders do specify that their work can be used and re-released without permission or credit. All the same, it’s always nice to give a shout-out to the person who made the file you’re using. If the modder in question is no longer around and all attempts to make contact have been unsuccessful, proceed and give full credit, and any issues can be resolved if they ever return.

The goal of the modding community will always be to improve the games and create new experiences, and to do our best work, we must cooperate, collaborate, and not let ego get in the way. However, it is essential that we respect each other’s work and wishes. That means checking to make sure there is no problem using someone else’s work, and acknowledging the use of any work or assets that someone else created. We’ll continue to encourage everyone to share and consider open source approaches, but we also want to ensure that everyone’s hard work and contributions are properly recognised, and their wishes respected.

Ewing vs. Mourning in 1997, in the Ultimate Base Roster for NBA 2K14

Past events and incidents have gone a long way in shaping our attitude towards these issues, so I hope that this article and future columns on modding can help provide some explanations of our community’s rules and culture. If you have any questions, or suggestions of other issues in our modding community that you’d like me to discuss, feel free to hit me up in the comments section below.

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2 Comments on "Monday Tip-Off: Why We Give Credit & Ask Permission When Modding"

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Dee4Three
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Great article!

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