It's taken me several months to decide if and how I would discuss this topic. I know from previous experiences that it's a sensitive subject to touch on, yet I have to as I otherwise cannot decide on how to even setup my schedule. I expect a few disgruntled rants to be directed toward me for bringing this up, but I'm hopeful folks can read everything carefully and judge my stance fairly.
I'd like to begin by saying that I'm not here to convince people to agree with me. I only ask that you read this with an open mind and try to see things from my perspective as well. I have been a part of the TDM community for 3 years now, and this projects is by far one of my top favorite FOSS games in existence, hence why I wish to make good content for it and push the existing base even further!
So let's begin: As many of you may know from random mentions I made in other threads, I'm working on a mod for TheDarkMod which will offer a futuristic cyberpunk theme over the vanilla steampunk setup. It will come as a series of pk4 files, which will run on top of the same code base but feature an entirely unique set of assets and definitions. All of the assets are going to be GPL compatible, similarly to how Xonotic is fully GPL licensed including both the game code and assets. Already I have ported all characters from Xonotic as well as several texture packages as an early experiment.
Unfortunately I have barely been able to work on this mod during the past one year since I've started the whole thing. This is primarily because I'm busy working on other projects, consisting of other open-source games as well as 3D animations, which I make as part of my Patreon. Right now I rely exclusively on Patreon to survive, as it's currently me and my mother's only source of income. As such I need to prioritize projects I can present on it, so that those who support me see that I'm working on something and keep me from ending up on the streets.
TheDarkMod has always been a complicated situation from this perspective, due the fact that most of its assets are licensed under a non-commercial license (CC-BY-NC-SA) as well as the community having a strong non-commercial culture. A while ago I already asked if it's okay to develop missions as part of a Patreon, and have gotten a solid "no" for an answer... despite the question referring strictly to original maps and not in way involving the redistribution of any vanilla assets. As creating fan missions is not such an endeavor that I absolutely need to put them on Patreon, I'm respecting that wish to this day, and continuing to work on fan missions without making any paid posts nor requesting any support on their behalf. With a mod of this proportions however, the situation is a lot more difficult. As such I'm constrained to consider whether a common ground can be found between the non-commercial culture of TDM, and my need to be able to use Patreon to some extent in order to create this project; I really want to make it happen and share with you something I've dreamed of creating for years now, while I explicitly wish to use TDM as a basis since its engine and gamecode are perfect for this... however I can't do it with my hands completely tied behind my back in being able to receive donations for my own original work!
The technical details are finicky: My mod is obviously comprised entirely of assets taken from other free sources, such as Xonotic or BlendSwap or OpenGameArt. Not a single asset that will be included with it is non-commercial, since like I said the mod's assets will be strictly GPL compatible (including CC0 / Public Domain and CC-BY). The idTech 4 engine as well as the original game code of TheDarkMod are themselves GPL licensed, which offers a nice fit and should ideally close the chain in packaging a fully non-proprietary project. So what is the problem? Well at least for a long time, my mod will rely on existing assets from TDM for functionality. None of those assets will ever be redistributed with it, nor are TDM's original assets part of the end goal to begin with... however the mod's original definitions will have to inherit them until replacements can be found for each and every one. This primarily affects entity definitions, character animations, character voices, and potentially a few other things... my mod needs to link to those so that its own original characters can move around and speak. Some people seem to consider that if you create your own character or use a freely licensed one, however that character inherits base character definitions / animations / voices from TDM at runtime, using the character you've created in a commercial fashion counts as breaching the non-commercial terms of the assets bundled with TDM... despite none of TDM's assets actually being included with it and only being referenced by a simple word in your own definition. It's this misunderstanding that I'm hoping can be cleared up.
For clarification: My mod is and always will be publicly available, and is already being hosted on Gitlab where people can try the early items I've finished implementing. It will never be sold nor ever hidden behind a paywall! When I say "using Patreon for my mod", I'm strictly referring to being allowed to make special announcements about it to Patrons of certain tiers, and at most offer sneak previews of what I'm working on to exclusive patrons. It's as simple as that... just announcements and occasional exclusive content, so people know they're also keeping me going so I can work on creating this! It's arguable whether I'm even getting close to doing anything that counts as "using TheDarkMod's assets commercially", as this could only be the case through an arguable chain of causality... yet I know some people care for this sort of thing, and as such I have do discuss it and see how far I can go.
In the end I will have to settle for one of 3 options in how I approach the problem. My possibilities right now are the following:
- I am not allowed to even talk about my works for TheDarkMod on Patreon, to the point where I can't even let my followers know what I'm working on and what progress I have made. As Patreon is also used as a blog (similarly to Tumblr, Livejournal, so on) this would include me having to self-censor on the website over the very subject of TDM. This is a rather silly worst case scenario, and unless the TDM community actively hates me I won't be asked to go this far... it would also keep this mod nearly impossible to develop.
- I am allowed to talk about my works for TheDarkMod on Patreon, but only in free posts and not as an exclusive means of trying to attract new supporters. Basically I'm telling my patrons "I am also working on this project that I'm sharing with the world", while making it clear that it's a free project and I'm not asking them to pay me for it although I am asking them to bare with me dedicating less time to other projects they do pay me for. This option seems very reasonable, and I'm hoping there are no issues in me settling for it as a worst case scenario.
- I am allowed to talk about my works for TheDarkMod on Patreon, as well as offer early sneak peaks or bits of exclusive content (eg: screenshots or unlisted Youtube videos). This is what I do for all my projects, and it allows me to make them a focus without making the project less free or accessible. It's the ideal option, however if the community has a strong opinion against me doing this I can refrain from it... this would however allow me to dedicate much more time to the mod.
Please let me know which of these approaches you'd be most comfortable with me choosing. Like I said, I understand and respect the feelings of the community toward commercial use, but at the same time I ask that you see things from my perspective too and judge fairly before answering; This isn't me trying to be an ass for no reason and expand my Patreon through TDM... heck I've modded so many projects that I have an abundance to pick from if need be. It's about me wanting to create a large and unique project that runs on top of base TDM, which I've dreamed of making for many years and am also certain the TDM community will greatly enjoy once it gets there. I only ask not to be limited more than I need to be, in order to make it easier for me to make this project happen for everyone. Thank you for reading this and offering your insight.