This thread will be about investigating and discussing the viability of integrating Mod Picker into STEP processes and maintaining a STEP mod list on Mod Picker. Maintaining a mod list for STEP on Mod Picker does not preclude using any current systems in place here on the STEP wiki/forums. In the long term, it may be possible for STEP to replace parts of their process with functionality if that is determined to be desirable by the STEP staff.
A work-in-progress thread about Mod Picker already exists in the Mator's Utilities Support subforum with 5 pages of discussion. There's a lot of other discussion that has occurred regarding Mod Picker across the internet, which you should be able to track down with a google search if interested.
I have been discussing the possibility of maintaining a STEP mod list on Mod Picker with TechAngel85 on and off for a few months now. The purpose of this thread is to clearly lay out the advantages and disadvantages of using Mod Picker to maintain a STEP mod list and to centralize discussion on the topic. I realize that this post is a bit on the long side, please bear with me.
STEP Mod List
You can view an under construction version of the STEP mod list on Mod Picker as put together by TechAngel85 here:
Mod Picker Features
Below is an overview of what Mod Picker offers. Unless otherwise stated, all links provided below are to screenshots to illustrate the features being described.
Mod Picker has mod pages which display information about a mod as well as reviews, compatibility notes, install order notes, load order notes, and a mod analysis.
- Mods can have a single thumbnail image.
- Mods can have one or two categories.
- Mods can have up to 10 tags. This limit could be increased to 15 or 20 if we find mods needing more than 10 tags.
- Mods can have custom sources. Currently only Mod Picker site staff can submit mods with custom sources.
- Mod Picker site staff, mod authors, and curators can manage the mod page.
- The mod analysis includes a full asset map (including assets inside BSA archives) and plugin dumps. Plugin dumps include metadata on the plugin, an overview of their record composition, the FormIDs and signatures of override records, and a list of plugin errors.
Mods can be submitted to Mod Picker by anyone. Mod submission is done through a form which requires specifying one or more sources, a mod analysis, mod requirements, mod categories, and mod tags.
Mod Picker allows registered users to build mod lists using mods available on the platform. A mod list has a name, a markdown description, a status, a visibility, tags, an ordered list of tools, an order list of mods, mod options specified per mod, an ordered list of plugins, one or more config files, and comments.
- Tools, mods, and plugins can be sorted into groups for ease of viewing.
- Mods and tools can be viewed in both grid and list view. List view allows users to customize the information that is displayed.
- Mod Picker offers automated install order and load order sorting algorithms which the user can use with the click of a button.
- Tools, mods, or plugins which are not yet submitted to Mod Picker can be added to mod lists as custom entries. Custom entries will be automatically substituted with proper entries when the mod they correspond to is submitted.
- Plugins can be marked as merged or cleaned.
- Mod Picker advises users on missing requirements, compatibility issues, install order issues, and load order issues with their mod list. Users can resolve issues manually or by clicking one of the automatic resolution options. Users can also batch resolve issues using the Resolve All button. Issues can be ignored if determined invalid or inconsequential.
- Mod lists currently offer three basic export options. modlist.text is a mod install order document as should be provided to Mod Organizer. plugins.txt is the plugin load order file. links.txt is a list of links for downloading the mods.
- Mod list import options and automated mod list setup are both planned.
- The analysis tab displays mod list statistics, conflicting assets, conflicting override records, and plugin errors.
Mod Picker allows users to create compatibility notes which make a statement about the compatibility between two mods. Compatibility notes are created following a template which keeps the information accurate and useful. Compatibility notes state the mods have one of the following compatibility statuses:
- Incompatible: The mods cannot be used together without major functionality not working properly.
- Partially Incompatible: The mods can be used together, but certain functionality will not work.
- Compatibility Mod: The mods are compatible when using another mod with them ("another mod" is defined as a separate mod page).
- Compatibility Option: The mods are compatible when using an optional download, FOMOD option, BAIN option, or compatibility plugin.
- Make Custom Patch: You can make a custom patch using TES5Edit or another tool to make the mods compatible with each other. Instructions should be provided.
Compatibility notes are used several ways in Mod Picker beyond the obvious:
- Compatibility notes are displayed on Mod Picker mod lists with automatic resolution options.
- Users can opt to filter mods that are incompatible with their active mod list when browsing mods on Mod Picker.
- A message is displayed when a user views a mod which is incompatible with their active mod list.
Install Order Notes
Mod Picker allows users to create install order notes which make a statement about the order in which two mods should be installed. Install order notes are created following a template which keeps the information accurate and useful.
Install order notes are displayed on Mod Picker mod lists with automatic resolution options. Mod Picker's automated install order sorting algorithm takes install order notes into account.
Load Order Notes
Mod Picker allows users to create load order notes which make a statement about the order in which two plugins should be loaded. Load order notes are created following a template which keeps the information accurate and useful.
Load order notes are displayed on Mod Picker mod lists with automatic resolution options. Mod Picker's automated load order sorting algorithm takes load order notes into account.
Mod Picker allows users to review mods. Reviews contribute the reputation of mods and the reputation of the author of the mod. Users can specify what sections they want to review a mod on, and provide scores for each section they choose. Reviews are created following a template which guides users to address different parts of a mod.
The STEP Process
Before we investigate how Mod Picker works for STEP, I'm going to do a quick evaluation of the STEP process. This evaluation will serve to guide the discussion about Mod Picker. If I make any mistakes or miss any critical details, please let me know.
Step 1: Mod Suggestion
Before mods are added to STEP they go through a process where they are suggested and discussed by the community. This usually involves creating a thread in the Republic of STEP -> Mods subforum. In the thread, users discuss the mod, evaluating its necessity, quality, stability, and compatibility. Based on the discussion and other criteria (such as the STEP Mandate) decisions are reached on whether or not the mod should be part of STEP Core, STEP Extended, or a STEP Pack.
When a mod is accepted a forum topic is created in the Republic of STEP -> Mods -> STEP Mod Anthology subforum and tagged "Accepted". If a mod is later integrated into the STEP compilation, it becomes tagged as "Compilation", and if it is dropped from STEP it becomes tagged as "Dropped".
Step 2: Mod Page Creation
Note: This often happens at the same time as step 1. This involves creating a page on the STEP wiki for the mod. The STEP wiki page is created by and can be edited via a form. The STEP mod page displays the following information:
- Full name of the mod
- Author(s) of the mod
- STEP section
- Mod source (Nexus Mods, Steam, or Other)
- One or more external URLs
- STEP Forum Thread
- DLC Requirements
- DLC Supported
- Resource packaging details (Loose, BSA, None, or Undefined)
- Documentation Flags
- Content Flags
- STEP Flags
- A gallery of screenshots (optional)
- Detailed instructions for download & installation
Step 3: List Compilation
Semantic MediaWiki is used to pull mods into the STEP Guide based on the section they are categorized in. The mods are then displayed in tables on the STEP Guide using the ModTable template to pull from MediaWiki categories. Table rows display the following information:
- The mod name
- A link to the mod's source page
- A link to the wiki page about the mod
- A baseline mod option
- Quality options
- DLC requirements
- Notes/a link to detail instructions on installing the mod.
Step 4: User Experience
Users follow the STEP Guide wiki page to download and setup the mods. The guide page provides a step-by-step process which a user can follow to set the STEP mod list up. STEP Packs function in a similar fashion.
Airbreather currently has a project for automating the setup of STEP mod lists. His software requires the manual compilation of an XML file.
The Mod Picker Process
This section will describe a STEP process involving Mod Picker analogous to the process described above.
Step 1: Mod Suggestion
Discussion about a mod being included in STEP can and should still happen on the STEP forums. Mod Picker doesn't really have a good place for this kind of discussion anyways. A few things can be added to this step:
- In addition to linking the STEP wiki page for the mod, the user could link the Mod Picker page for the mod. If the mod isn't already on Mod Picker and the OP doesn't want to submit it, another user could submit the mod to Mod Picker and reply to the thread with a link.
- Results of research on compatibility, install order, and load order could be added to Mod Picker. This allows the entire community to more directly benefit from the efforts of the STEP project and allows STEP to better organize this information on a single page about the mod.
- Well formulated opinions about the mod can be made into reviews on Mod Picker.
- Issues with the mod's stability, or the mod becoming obsolete can be submitted as appeals on Mod Picker. (appeals can change a mod's status between Good, Outdated, and Unstable).
Step 2: Mod Page Creation
The STEP mod page could link to the Mod Picker mod page. At some future point in time the Mod Picker mod page could completely replace the STEP mod page. Below is a comparison between the functionality offered by the STEP mod page vs. a Mod Picker mod page. Some of the things I list as being only available on Mod Picker or STEP are debatable, and have explanations.
- The mod name
- The mod author
- A source link
- Custom source links
- Category. STEP has a "section", which is different from Mod Picker categories. STEP can still retain their sections as groups in STEP mod lists. I personally feel the categories for mods on Mod Picker are better than the STEP sections, but I don't expect the structure of the STEP guide to change any time soon.
- Resource packaging details (Loose, BSA, or None)
- Required DLCs
- Content flags and STEP flags. Mod Picker handles these in various ways.
- Installation recommendations. You can do this on a Mod Picker mod list by specifying the mod options for the mod. You cannot indicate a mod option is "optional" currently. This could be added if deemed absolutely necessary, though I personally feel it's not the best idea. The ability to specify custom notes on mods/plugins in your mod list is something that we will be adding to Mod Picker soon.
- Baseline version. Mod Picker does have default mod options, but these aren't exactly the same.
- Resource packaging details. Mod Picker doesn't display this directly, but it does track the asset paths for mods (so it does know whether a mod has mod options with BSA files or loose assets).
- Supported DLCs. Mod Picker can sort of do this through compatibility notes, but there isn't a clean "list" of them. It would be fairly easy for me to make a way to generate/display an overview report on a mod which would list the requirements/compatibility relationships between it and other mods, if that is desirable.
- Screenshot gallery. There are no plans to upload screenshots beyond the mod thumbnail to Mod Picker currently. I don't think this is necessary for Mod Picker to have when all major mod sources (Nexus Mods, Steam, and Lover's Lab) do so in an effective fashion.
- Documentation flags. There is a plan to add a new feature to Mod Picker to allow mod authors to provide a short description, detailed installation instructions, and detailed uninstallation instructions on the Mod Picker mod page.
Only Mod Picker:
- Mod aliases (acronyms). STEP does have a secondary name listing which sometimes specifies acronyms for the mod.
- Multiple primary mod sources
- Required mods (other than official DLCs)
- Open tagging
- Mod Analysis
- Compatibility Notes
- Install Order Notes and Load Order Notes
Step 3: List Compilation
Once Mod Picker's RESTful API has been made public you will be able to pull and list information on Mod Picker mod lists from anywhere. Until then, the Mod Picker mod list page should be sufficient. A lot of the STEP guide content can be put into the mod list description. Some of the STEP guide content which isn't just relevant to STEP (e.g. Guides on tools and INI files) can be made into help pages in the Mod Picker Help Center.
Below is a comparison between the functionality offered by the STEP guide vs. a Mod Picker mod list.
- The STEP guide is made with wiki code, where a Mod Picker mod list's description is in Markdown. I may be able to add some features to Mod Picker's markdown such as tables, but it will be somewhat more limited than wiki syntax. The biggest limiting factor I can see is no way to color text outside of pre-defined styles for code blocks if we add code syntax highlighting.
- The STEP guide page is 49,880 characters, the current limit on the Mod Picker mod list's description is 65,535 characters.
- Mod Picker mod lists can be cloned, converted to various data formats, exported, imported, etc. The data exists in an accessible format in our database - we can develop pretty much any feature you can imagine.
- Both the STEP guide and Mod Picker provide a list of mods with grouping. Mod Picker separates things into tabs which makes the mod list less overwhelming.
- The STEP guide presents mods in tables. Mod Picker mod lists can present mods in grid or list view, and you can customize what columns are displayed while in list view.
- The STEP guide doesn't provide a specific load order - it advises the user to use LOOT instead. Mod Picker lets you specify an explicit load order.
- Mod Picker mod lists display missing requirements, compatibility issues, install order issues, and load order issues. This means that if someone else in the community were to discover an issue between two mods the issue would be immediately presented on the STEP mod list, which allows STEP to benefit from the efforts of the rest of the community without having to go out and discover new information.
- The mod list analysis tab could provide a lot of valuable insights (statistics, conflicting assets and conflicting overrides) to guide STEP in creating the STEP mod list faster and more effectively.
When developing a new version of STEP, I imagine the STEP team would clone the STEP mod list, mark it as unlisted and under construction (so it won't appear in search results) and build it over the span of several weeks or months. Mod Picker does not currently offer a way for a user to allow other users to edit their Mod List, but the functionality could be very easily built.
Step 4: User Experience
We are working on building an automated mod list setup utility leveraging the data stored on Mod Picker mod lists. This utility would function similar to AirBreather's StepperUpper, except no manual data compilation would be required.
Due to the way that Mod Picker works as a data center, we can also potentially automatically compile various information based on mod lists such as installation instructions (once we support them to the platform), FOMOD/BAIN installation instructions, a compatibility report, etc.
I imagine that STEP Core, STEP Extended, the STEP Packs, and any variants on these would be separate mod lists on Mod Picker. Mod Picker users could easily clone STEP Core to make their own personalized STEP mod list which they can publish and share with their friends. If STEP Extended and the STEP Packs are flagged as Mod Collections on Mod Picker users could add them to their STEP mod list by clicking a single button.
I've already covered a lot of the advantages to maintaining a STEP mod list on Mod Picker, but here's an overview as well as some that I haven't mentioned yet.
Maintaining STEP mod lists on Mod Picker would allow STEP to share benefits with the rest of the modding community. Compatibility, Install Order, and Load Order notes are the biggest and most important shared benefit. There's also the shared database of mod-related information, and overall promotion of modding knowledge. These shared benefits will make both STEP and the modding community better for everyone.
Right now Mod Picker isn't extremely popular (we only just launched), but the addition of STEP to the platform could really help us get more attention. If Mod Picker becomes a big deal in the community, and STEP is the first and most notable mod list on Mod Picker it could really increase the exposure of STEP to the community.
Mod Picker will be offering a full RESTful API for other developers to tap into. This API could be leveraged by STEP in any number of interesting ways, including embedding a Mod Picker Mod List on the STEP website.
Mod Picker enables users to work with mod lists in a way that is incomparable to any other platform. The ability to clone the STEP mod list, customize it, add STEP packs to it, and be guided to resolve any missing requirements, compatibility, install order, or load order issues is something which Mod Picker offers which isn't offered anywhere else. Automated mod list setup will make it even easier. Mod Picker will make STEP more accessible to the community.
Mod Picker is going to become a massive database of mod-related information. The insights Mod Picker will be able to offer in the near future will be incomparable to that of any other platform. We live in an age of big data, and the insights that data can provide can be very valuable. Mod Picker is set to become the "Big Data" of modding through mod analyses and crowd-sourced community contributions. The insights we will be able to provide about mod compatibility, conflicts, install order, load order, and other relationships will greatly benefit STEP and the community as a whole.
Maintaining a STEP mod list on Mod Picker will drive the development of Mod Picker and STEP to new heights. I think the opportunity for growth is very real given my dedication to make Mod Picker an awesome platform for STEP and the modding community combined with STEP's long and well-established experience with maintaining a large mod list.
There are some disadvantages to maintaining a STEP mod list on Mod Picker:
Mod authors can opt out of Mod Picker. We have chosen to respect the wishes of mod authors who do not want their mods to be listed on Mod Picker (remember, we aren't actually hosting their files). We plan on continuing to honor this agreement for the foreseeable future. Opt out is enforced in mod submission - you cannot submit a mod to Mod Picker that was uploaded by an author who has opted out of Mod Picker.
Currently, two mod authors whose mods are in STEP core who have opted out of Mod Picker: Arthmoor and Shurah. You can still list their mods and plugins in a Mod Picker mod list using custom mod/plugin entries. The major disadvantage with mod authors opting out is there is no mod page for the mod on Mod Picker. That also means there is no analysis information (mod option, asset, and plugin information), no requirements, no compatibility notes, no install order notes, no load order notes, and no reviews.
We do hope that we can eventually convince the mod authors who have opted out of Mod Picker to allow their mods to be listed.
Mod List Setup
The current plan for the Mod List Setup Utility is to make it available only to users who pay for premium accounts on Mod Picker. The current plan is for premium accounts to be $5/mo, and giving users premium for life after $30. I think this is a very fair way to set things up, and also very reasonable. We also plan on giving premium away to many users in the community on a regular basis through contests, site contributions, mod authorship, etc.
Currently you have to sign up for a Mod Picker account before you can view the site. Please note that this is only temporary - we will be making the site publicly accessible in the near future.
If you have any questions or concerns please reply and let me know.
Edited by Mator, 27 April 2017 - 03:22 PM.