Guest Article: Our Mods Are Disappearing

Veteran modder ethone has written a very interesting article on one of the mod community’s biggest problems – Mods disappearing due to non-working mirrors.

By: ethone

The Problem

At the beginning of the year I re-installed GTR 2 and went hunting for mods. I was saddened to find that even some more recently released mods like the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR/Porsche 911 GT1 for GTR 2 are not available from the initial download links anymore. We are talking about mods that have been released as recently as a mere six months ago. We need to fix this.

There are a number of angles from which this is a problem. From my own perspective, the perspective of a modder, it is a horrible thought to pour endless hours into a product of passion and to imagine that people who look for it can not access it anymore. Anyone who did not pick up a mod at release will have to go to extraordinary lengths to locate a still-working mirror on some league’s website or ask around on forums for someone who still has the files.

>From a user’s perspective it is a problem that you would need to pick up mods at or close to release or risk not being able to easily get to them anymore just a few months down the line. If we consider newcomers to our hobby and community it is even more of an issue. If someone picked up rFactor or GTR 2 now and is mildly interested in what this modding business can make of these somewhat aged titles I wonder how long they will stick with hunting down links without calling it a day and return to their Call of Battlefield instead.

This is also an issue that applies to all games, not just GTR 2. After a quick check I found that even our own Virtua_LM tracks like the classic Fuji for rFactor are not available anymore from their initial download links.

One-Click Hosters

The biggest contributing factor to this development has been the very nature of the One-Click Hosters like the now-dead Megaupload, Rapidshare or Mediafire. They are easy to use and upload to with no cost involved for the uploader. They also come with a hefty downside however: As a general rule they delete any files that have not been downloaded (at all or not enough) for a given amount of time, usually somewhere around 90 days. This makes them inherently unsuitable to long-term storage.

So what are they good for? They are good for offering some additional buffer for the initial release, if you, the modder, expect heavy traffic. Usually the hosters are stable enough to handle even heavy traffic, however they also limit the bandwidth available to non-paying users leading to slower downloads. Due to the limited window of availability you should never solely rely on them however.

Torrents

About nine months ago a user called Abriel Nei on the ISI forums for rFactor 2 started a project where he collects all released tracks in a torrent file (for use with the Peer-to-Peer network BitTorrent). This approach does not rely on any servers hosting the files but instead relies on the users who downloaded the files to keep them available for others. The way a Peer-to-Peer network works is that files are transferred from one user’s PC to another user’s PC, with any intermediary servers only being used for establishing the connection but not the actual hosting of the files.

While this is a great way for distributing load and does not come with the definite time limit on file availability, it too severe downsides. While the time limit is not definite, it still exists. As soon as a certain file falls below a certain threshold (if too few users still have the file shared) it becomes practically impossible to get the file. It also has an uncertain download speed which might put off the new and impatient. Both availability and speed also depend heavily on popularity. Like One-Click Hosters it can be useful and it is great to see hosting expanded into newer models. But it too can not provide long-term availability for our files.

The Way Forward

At the point where we now stand we have taken a few steps forward but may have accidentally walked off the branch we were balancing on. We have newer forms of file distribution like One-Click Hoster and Torrents but we gave up the long-term availability of web hosting. We need to get back some of that web hosting to provide the basis of out modding community with long-term availability of our work. Such hosting is fairly cheap (I pay about 8 Euros/month for 25GB of webspace and unlimited traffic) and does not require as much technical skills as modding itself does.If you want to stand up and help this is a great way to do it. Rent some webspace with unlimited traffic and offer to host files for new mods or mirror already released ones. Write up a simple HTML website with the download links if you wish, or start a small blog and start posting the files you just uploaded (I can recommend WordPress here which is fairly easy to use).

Modders need to be aware of the issues with the different hosting methods and be willing to let other people host their files. If you only put your files on a single web server you run an immense risk of your mod becoming homeless if that website is unavailable or terminates service. An additional mirror is always an improvement. It eases initial load. It gives an additional fallback options. If you think you will update the mod again soon, let the hoster know about it if you wish but do not use it as an excuse to not let them host it at all.

We all need to stop relying on the false sense of security we get from seeing several links at release when they all are hosted on One-Click Hosters that will be gone after a short while. We need to get the basics working again here so that our community and the websites serving us like VirtualR can function properly.

VirtualR is always happy to publish guest articles & reviews. Please visit the contact page to get in touch.

GTOmegaRacing.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/RedApex Ryan M J Callan

    http://rfactor.no-ip.info:100/ has been around for a while now. Huge repository. Link not working great, include the 100.

    • pez2k .

      ftp://www.hsw.hu/hsw/ tends to have a lot of stuff too, although it’s not exhaustive it can be handy for finding older stuff sometimes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Considine/1530677670 Chris Considine

    Wouldn’t Dropbox work for this? It’s 2GB to start out and 500MB added for each referral. I would think that the community could help each other out with referrals.

  • Anonymous

    Hahahah i read this as “our mods are disappointing” !

    But yer, a lot of mods, particularly small ones have been lost over the years, particularly with the closure of megaupload and things like race sim central.

    Mind you, it’s not just mods, it’s also fansites with crucial information. So many gpl related sites that had cool content are gone now for example.

  • Anonymous

    Yes this is an issue. And it’s not limited to simracing mods, it’s the same situation with any content on the internet that is old and no longer downloaded on a regular basis, in high volumes. Everyone has various stuff on their harddrives which could be useful to others at some distant point in the future and they won’t be able to find it, not easily at least because it won’t be shared. All those sites like mega, rapidshare, even mediafire, are totally unreliable in the really-longterm. We should rely on them a little, only make them the last resort, not the main one, I agree.

    I had double backups on local harddrives, all were in my house. (For reasons I don’t want to get into) I lost all of my data since I started using computer 15 years ago, just 2 months ago. So I had to go lurking the internet and get everything again and some mods, small updates and such things were really pain in the a*s to find again.

    The biggest help BY FAR was this http://rfactor.no-ip.info:100/ server. Not sure though if it’s a great to idea to advertise it here as this place stores a lot of stuff, like ehm, conversions of x to y. But this kind of dedicated storage needs to be setup for everything, make it specialized for one type of files – like simracing stuff. Using general services that store everything, like mediafire, really isn’t good. Not blaming just other people than myself, I tend to use them too.

    Right now I don’t want to go throught the hassle to setup my own server and pay entirely for it, but if anyone feels like setting a service exactly like the link above, I would 100% kindly make paypal donation so it can work. Bandwidth isn’t usually free of course..

    Not to mention sometimes it would be cool to have access to certain version of some mod, even though the modders wish people only used the latest. Like I was searching for a really, really old version of TVStyle plugin for rFactor and after several hours of searching I just gave up. It has just disappeared, but for me it would have been better than the lastest version because it had a feature that was removed in later version. I’m out of luck, it was released sometime in early 2006.

    This is whole another issue though, who is willing to host so much mostly not useful stuff just in case someone needs version other than the latest, I know, but that would be ideal.

    • Tripp Team

      I am the hoster to that download server ossela talk about and it only have simracing related game files NOT full games movies or music.

      Now when it grow a lot around 550 GB i add 6 TB HD more so i do same as you osella.
      I had double backups on local harddrives in case one disk crash.
      So i not lost it all.
      The program i use to share with crash when it is many people download.
      http://www.rejetto.com/

      Then i must manually close and restart share program. ;(

      Because off that i have a dc++ hub server with same share still NO full games movies or music!

      So if server crash dc server always works or if Http Site is slow DC Adress is.
      dchub://trippteam.servegame.com:411
      Program you need is DC++ http://dcplusplus.sourceforge.net/
      Then add trippteam.servegame.com:411 no pw to enter the hub ;)

      Normal download in TB is 2 TB per week and growing.

      P.S: I hate donations so this service shall never cost anything

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Ventura/1781152850 Alex Ventura

        Man I haven’t heard about DC++ in like 6 or 7 years!!

      • Anonymous

        And I never even heard of it before *blush*
        Amazing sharing tool, thanks a lot for everything, Tripp !

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003169127512 Roberto Rossi
  • Anonymous

    Google Drive could be a solution? 5GB of free storage. Don’t know of any limitations there and you can make as many account as needed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/wesley.modderkolk Wesley Modderkolk

      The limitation is that you’ll need a google account for that, same as for dropbox, skydrive or whatever.

  • kiki84

    http://opk-liga.eu/index.php/prenosi/prenosi.html

    Here you have allso some good mods

  • Velocipede

    Drivingitalia.net offer free and fast hosting for the files; here the downloads area http://www.drivingitalia.net/forum/index.php?app=downloads

  • Anonymous

    Reading some of the posts here and the links posted to Sim Race download sites remember these sites need your support to continue their operation so Donate and help keep these sites alive. Oh that reminds me time to re-up my No Grip account.
    Cheers

    • Anonymous

      Exactly. Web hosting with downloads isn’t free. No grip is like $500/month right now, I believe.

  • Arie Beuker, de

    Try to find gp79 again.

  • XR

    We try to host a lot of simracing mods in our website : http://xtremeracers.info/web/index.php?option=com_jdownloads&Itemid=63
    Free registering is needed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sewnshuteyes Tomasz Zabłocki

      Database Error: Unable to connect to the database:Could not connect to MySQL

      no pun intentions, it’s just a bit ironic in a way it validates major point of the article

      • XR

        We was changing our server last days. The link is functional

  • http://www.facebook.com/mario.peixoto.7 Mário Peixoto

    Very interesting article, and I totally agree with the author. That’s one of the reasons I keep every mod I download for sim-racing, because sooner or later those links will be dead and it will be a really hard task to get the mod again. For instance, my Race 07 folder has more than +31 GB in tracks and cars that I’ve downloaded. I don’t use them all the time, nor I have them installed them all at the moment, but they are in my HDD to make sure I can access them at anytime. I do that not only for sim-racing, but for other games as well. I even keep patches and updates because at one point in the time, it will be quite hard, if not impossible, to get those files from the Internet. ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/alless84 Ales Ogrinc

    There is something else that is happening lately and that was the case with Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR/Porsche 911 GT1 for GTR 2-http://www.nogripracing.com/forum/showthread.php?t=304643

    • celticfang

      One false DMCA takedown if you read that link. And it didn’t only happen to mods. the same thing happened to a security researcher. However you do raise a good point there with DMCA, if it is that easy to get a file removed (and it is, risk of perjury or not), then what is to, in a worst case scenario, stop somebody falling out with a mod team then going around sending takedown notices to hosters to get that team’s files removed? (See again, IDLeak, see Google’s DMCA reports on what they were requested to take down)

  • KareBox

    Torrents are the way to go!

    Get yourself a server that allows p2p and use it to host torrents instead of download links.
    I would recommend OVH as I have used them for torrents before, £9/500GB or £13 for 1TB of space… With that space you could maybe team up with other modders and share.

    Having a dedicated server behind your torrents guarantees their speed and long term life!

    • celticfang

      As long as people are seeding, yes.

      Plus, if torrents are used, it’s nigh impossible to get things taken down

      • KareBox

        The idea behind the server is that it can be used as a seedbox, So it could always be seeding torrents on a 100mb line. This would keep torrents seeded, even if downloaders didn’t keep seeding.

        I’ve used servers like this for torrents before, they work great.

      • Anonymous

        Now, a seedbox sounds nteresting.

        Should the torrent need active seeders, torrents are useless for less popular stuff, but a seedbox is worth looking into

      • Tripp Team

        Seedbox ? i use a torrent sites where i have upload some torrents before i get better upload speed and start host files on my 2 PC HD instead ..http://www.gameupdates.org a ok torrent site not so wide spread around

  • http://www.facebook.com/MAKCorp Petros Mak

    I had posted several months ago a campaign on a software similar to steam that would provide a means for modders and content creators to post their work and provide constant active links. This software would have been for both free mods and payware mods like the T5 mod. It would have been a free service, but the community decided to berate the idea stating they don’t need to be told where to get their mods from.

    In all honesty. I’m sick and tired of having to travel to over 10 different sites to find mods, or having to find a mod groups site which has long since changed or gone down without it being updated in places that showcase the mod.

    This is a serious issue and mods are definitely being lost because the original modders simply don’t care anymore and no one else does either. The problem also stems that when someone decides to do something about it, the community either misunderstands or knocks them back flaming the hell out of them and making them not want to do it.

    For me, the software is still on the go. The aim is to develop a software the provides a home for modders to post their mods for various games, and for gamers to be able to find them with active links. Modders will be able to add additional mirror links, but if they all go down, the software server links will always remain so the mod will not be lost.

    I feel this digital method is the way of the future for keeping mods alive. It is up to us, the community to support each other to build the infrastructure that can help us not lose such great content due to neglect from original authors or file hosts.

    I don’t see what the big deal is to support something like this. rFCentral was a great place, but it was for just one game, and so many mods there are dead and not working, even they cannot find the original authors to get them. So why not have such a software? will it kill the community? no, is this software only talking about payware? no, the idea behind it is primarily the free mods. The community needs to change and get behind people who want to do good for the community. Driving people away with the shitty attitude many in this community have is what is breaking the modding world apart. That’s my two cents.

    • http://twitter.com/StarFoXySxv550 StarFoXySxv550

      My comment didn’t make it though moderation? it didn’t contain foul language like the above, just the truth IMO. Oh well lol

      • http://racingrenders.com/ F1Racer

        will check it…

      • http://twitter.com/StarFoXySxv550 StarFoXySxv550

        thanks

  • http://twitter.com/StarFoXySxv550 StarFoXySxv550

    I think a good sharing forum/site could work IMHO. I think this community is good/big enough to make it work. A section for each game, a thread for each mod, people asking (bumping) and people downloading as necessary.

    The problem is there isn’t one single place that we can go to if we need help finding things, many times on RFC if a link was down, people would post a new link in the comments section, and if people that had the mod didn’t go back to that specific page they would never know people needed help finding what they had.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MAKCorp Petros Mak

    Hello StarFoXy. You seem to have a smart head on your shoulders as you claim all of you have. So I suggest you take the time to understand why I said everyone misunderstands because clearly you have just proven me right. Our shop announcement and our software campaign are two completely different things and you have completely misunderstood the two. You are referring to my post about our new shop opening, which I can tell you has been scrapped. I’ve decided after seeing the community response to not support it through our shop.

    Our software campaign is a completely different matter and I guess you have not seen the article’s relating to that. The software campaign was about developing a software similar to steam where people could register, login, search for mods for any game listed in a similar way you search for games and DLC in steam. It would provide an easier client to search and download the mods as well install them with one click (except for rF2 which would just place the file in the package folder and then you’d have to do the rest through mod manager yourself). This software was intended for free mods specifically that always seem to go down, it was my answer personal answer to saving mods that die out with time. The software was also thought to include payware things, but that wasn’t meant necessarily for vehicle or track mods in particular, but even tools etc. Utilities, add ons, tools like bobs track builder and other custom things that the community made and sold through their websites would be supported to be added to the system if they wanted to reach a wider audience that visits the one home, for this particular service of allowance to sell their products on the system, the system owners would acquire a fee, just like steam acquires a fee from the developers that post on their software, just like ebay acquires a fee from everything you sell on it, just like paypal acquires a fee every time you receive money. Seeing that you are a smart person, I presume you understand that I too would be enclined to asking for a fee from those who would be selling products through the software (not from the free content contributors). Why do people think I will provide something like this for free to the money earners when other companies like I’ve mentioned above don’t? Its a bit silly to think that.

    So, please understand the differences of the two. The shop and the software were two totally different things. In the shop area, the system was called a vendor system, which would allow other vendors (contributors) to sell their stuff through our shop if they so chose, a little service for others who wanted it. Its not compulsary, no one is putting a gun to their head saying they have to. But if they chose to, such would be the terms and conditions and I am more then right in developing such terms and conditions when I provide such a service since I’m the one paying for the servers, for the hosting, for the software, for the management of all the accounts, etc etc etc. Thinking that such stuff can be provided for free is naive (not saying you think that, just generally speaking). This community believes they can have everything for free regardless of the costs to the person providing the great content or the added methods for their work to get known. This is not right and needs to change. I have NEVER talked about charging free content creators and NEVER will. In fact, NONE of our mods are payware mods, we have no payware mods in development, we don’t plan any payware mods in the foreseeable future, we have never announced the development of a payware mod. Why? because 1) We understand very well what a payware mod requires licensing wise. 2) We don’t need to go payware with our mods since we’re developing our game and 3) Modding is our hobby, its something we do in our spare time to provide content for people to enjoy, it is not a business model for us.

    I hope I’ve cleared things up.

    • http://twitter.com/StarFoXySxv550 StarFoXySxv550

      I went back 70 pages (back to April ’12) here as I love to be proven wrong in these cases, but couldn’t find the article, maybe I missed it, maybe it was on page 71. Do you have a link?

      Maybe it is naive to think these things can just run on thin air and not money, but it is kinda wrong to expect to profit from things people have provided for free and to be seen or even wrongly mistaken of doing that.

      There are many sites in this community hosting stuff for free already, asking for donations to keep things afloat, this doesn’t come across to people as a money grab except to the most sceptical person. This imo is the way this “free mod” community has to run, because we’ve all seen what happens when your try to monetise it, you lose community faith and essentially go down anyway through lack of funding

      Anyhow, it’s all well and good having all these ideas, but sometimes you need to just go ahead and put your money where you mouth is. Nobody really likes all-talk and no-action, sometimes the very people who initially thought “that is/was a bad idea” are the same who are the first to sign up

  • http://www.facebook.com/sewnshuteyes Tomasz Zabłocki

    I’m not much into details or limitations, but wouldn’t something like Desura fit here ?

  • http://twitter.com/Pandamasque Pandamasque

    The article is somewhat misleading. There are so-called one-click hosting websites that will keep your files indefinitely if the uploader makes an effort to create a free account (albeit with limited allocated space). The files I hosted years ago at mediafire are still available!

  • http://twitter.com/xoseestrada Xosé Estrada

    Well, i don’t want to be polemic or accusative but this in some way reflects the scattering and the fragmentation of the Sim Racing community all over the years, where we just don’t collaborate and want to keep things always separated, so the work of some people is hosted in one of this download websites and advertised in two or three small communities, then it gets lost after one month.

    Meanwhile, it never gets uploaded to places like the mentioned NoGrip, or ours:

    http://www.racedepartment.com

    (we just released a new downloads system by the way)

    I think this two places are hosting mods for long and for free since they exist and improving the service when possible. The only issue with some mods is the legality control, and sometimes that’s a powerful reason for people that instead of building mods just rips content to host them in a random downloads service.

    To sumarize, all the tools to preserve the mods and the content we love it’s there, but are the modders and the simracers the ones that can change the situation the author points out by using them.

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