Updated 31 October 2016
31 Oct 2016 — The inventory is almost finished. We’re wrapping a few things up, but it will be complete sometime over the next couple of weeks. Note that this does not mean all projects are available for download. It means all projects have been catalogued, and any authors we have been able to track down have been contacted. In most cases, we have been unable to locate authors t make contact, and of those we have contacted, most have not replied.
08 Sept 2016 —As seen in our post on The Future of BioWare Site Content, BioWare has now announced that all player-generated content on BSN will be “phased out” sometime in the near-future. This re-affirms the importance of the inventory effort.
BioWare Social Network was established as, well… a social network. A site centered around encouraging social interactions among fans and developers. Part of this social interaction including providing a home for fan-generated content. Blogs, fan-fiction, artwork, “Projects” (mods). All could be found on the BSN.
By 2014, when the site was placed into read-only status, there were 4170 mods present. Some of these mods have been around since 2009, racking up almost half a million downloads, and continue to be used by thousands of players during their playthroughs of Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II, Mass Effect 1/2/3, and Neverwinter Nights. All will be gone when the BSN closes two months from now.
Many of these projects cannot be found elsewhere on the web, which means preserving this content is one of the major goals of BCN. Currently, most of our efforts are focused in this area, as it’s a monumental task to complete in such a short time. There are also significant… complications.
Inability to Bulk Port
A bulk port would be the easiest way to preserve all Projects. However, despite numerous requests by the community and other 3rd parties, BioWare hasn’t been particularly receptive to doing their part to ease archival efforts. That means we have to do it manually.
Those of you familiar with Nexusmods might be wondering why they couldn’t help out the community out by doing a bulk port (similar to the one they did recently due to the closure of FileFront). Well, here’s why:
- Nexusmods resources aren’t infinite. They’re especially stretched at the moment.
- A decent proportion of BSN Projects already exist on Nexus. These would be replicated in any bulk port, which is problematic.
- Mod author permissions end up disregarded in any bulk port, which makes bulk porting the last resort.
Inventorying the Projects
So, manual it is! The first step in preservation is to create an inventory of what’s present. This record will be very helpful for mod users, and is currently being built in the form of a spreadsheet. In the future, if a player wants to know if a mod from BSN is hosted somewhere else, they can consult the sheet to find out. If so, then a download link to the alternate location will be present.
If the mod isn’t found anywhere else… well, that’s where the rest of the preservation effort comes in 🙂
Lack of Author Permissions
Before any mod can be uploaded to a new host, permissions for the mod need to be assessed. Contrary to popular misconception (or perhaps, purposeful delusion), every mod is the property of its author. In most jurisdictions in the U.S. and elsewhere, a mod is no different than a book, piece of art, or music, and is subject to copyright protection by default as a unique, creative work. This is why it’s technically illegal to re-upload a mod without the author’s explicit permission.
Unfortunately, unlike the extensive list of features offered by specialized mod-hosting sites like Nexusmods, BioWare didn’t include any permission-specific features for Projects. This means that the vast majority of authors failed to specify permissions in their mod description, simply because they weren’t prompted to do so.
When permissions are missing from a description, we have to download each mod manually and check for the presence of a read me file, comb through comments, and sometimes check other sites.
If none of these pan out, then we need to contact the author. First, we ask if they’re aware of the closure, and second, if they’re willing to re-upload their mod to a new host. If they prefer we do it, we will, but it’s less work for us if the author takes responsibility for their own mod.
We will never upload a mod without the author’s explicit permission.
Projects with standing, “open” permissions that allow users to modify/upload the mod, will be uploaded to the appropriate Nexusmods site. Nexusmods is the logical choice as outside of BSN, it hosts the majority of Dragon Age and Mass Effect mods available on the web. The closure is already fracturing the community; we’d like to avoid fracturing of mods as much as possible.
Any mod uploaded to Nexusmods will be fully attributed to the original author. In addition, we’ll attempt to use the original description, and as much of the original content will be retained as possible.
There are lots of ways you can contribute to the work BCN is doing:
- Mod Authors. If you’re a mod author and your mod is on BSN but doesn’t yet exist elsewhere, please get it re-uploaded. Then, inventory the mod yourself on our spreadsheet to save us some work.
- Inventorying. Any player can help with the inventorying process. All it takes is time and a bit of spreadsheet editing. If you’ve never worked with spreadsheets before, it’s not difficult, and there are directions provided. Join the discussion on Nexusmods so we can help you get started 🙂
- Communication. If you don’t have time to inventory, but are in contact with various BSN mod authors, scan through the spreadsheet to see if we’re trying to get in touch with them. Leave us a comment providing their contact information, or, better yet, tell them about the situation and try to get them to re-upload their mod(s)!
- Help spread the word! Link this website around your social media sites so players and modders find out the closure. Lots of folks don’t yet know, as late summer is a popular vacation time.
Thanks for reading and to everyone who takes the time to contribute. We appreciate it!