Skyrim Together modders apologise for using Skyrim Script Extender code

Update: The Skyrim Together team has used its March 2019 report to apologise for using code from the Skyrim Script Extender, clarify how it happened and detail what it's done to fix the issue. It's an unusually comprehensive, formal apology that's been split up into different sections. It could be given as a presentation. There are probably slides. 

Like the original developer response on March 1, this one confirms that SKSE was used previously, but after a falling out between the teams, it was removed. Some of the code could have remained, however, and further investigation by the Skyrim Together team, along with assistance from SKSE's creator, showed that it was using a loader similar to an older version of the SKSE loader, which the team claims was grandfathered in from the Skyrim Online mod. 

"There is no excuse as to why this code has remained in the codebase for this long and was distributed without credit or acknowledgement," the apology reads. "Going forward we will do our utmost best to respect the SKSE team and their work and ensure the license request is maintained in the long run."

All "dependencies, associated content or related code" have been removed from Skyrim Together, the report claims, and SKSE's creator has been invited to confirm this when next update is ready. 

Original story: The Skyrim Together mod, which allows up to eight players to play Skyrim in co-op mode, has been in the works for years, and it recently inched a bit closer to the finish line with a playable closed beta. This week, however, drama erupted as the developers of Skyrim Script Extender accused the makers of Skyrim Together of using SKSE code without permission or attribution.

"Skyrim Together is stealing [Skyrim Script Extender] code, uncredited, without permission, with an explicit term in the license restricting one of the authors from having anything to do with the code," a SKSE developer posted on Reddit. "The proof is pretty clear when you look at the loader and dll in a disassembler. They're using a hacked-up version of 1.7.3 classic presumably with some preprocessor macros to switch structure types around as needed between the x64 and x86 versions."

The SKSE developer also points to a Reddit message from a Skyrim Together dev a year ago, which states: "We aren't using SKSE at all but the mod will be able to be loaded by SKSE's loader." 

The Skyrim Script Extender , if you're not familiar with it, is an important and highly regarded mod in the Skyrim modding community as it expands Skyrim's scripting capabilities and allows for more complexity from other Skyrim mods that use the SKSE.

A Skyrim Together developer posted a response yesterday, admitting that SKSE code was in fact used earlier in Skyrim Together's development, and that there may be leftover code that wasn't entirely removed:

"We have had disagreements with the SKSE folks in the past, I have tried to communicate with them but they have never replied, so we stopped using their code. There might be some leftover code from them in there that was overlooked when we removed it, it isn't as simple as just deleting a folder, mainly our fault because we rushed some parts of the code. Anyway we are going to make sure to remove what might have slipped through the cracks for the next patch."

Mod controversies get murkier and more heated when there's money involved, and there's quite a bit of money involved in Skyrim Together. The Skyrim Together team has a Patreon, and the closed beta of Skyrim Together required a contribution of at least $1 to access it. A buck to beta test a mod doesn't sound unreasonable—any number of modders have Patreons and some, like GTA modder JulioNIB, give supporters early access to the mods they create

The Skyrim Together Patreon, however, is massive, with over 28,000 subscribers contributing over $33,000 a month for the Skyrim Together modders. This leads some in the community to consider it a 'paid mod.' It's not entirely inaccurate: the only way to get into the Skyrim Together closed beta was by subscribing for at least one dollar. But, as the Skyrim Together modders point out, the mod, when it is completed, will be free to use for everyone.

"If you don't think we deserve your money we are not forcing you at all, you are free not to use our mod while in closed beta or even when it's released," the modder posted. "I have been working on this for 8 years, and we are 10 people working on it right now, 35k after taxes for 10 people and years of work is less than minimum wage."

On the other hand, if Skyrim Together is indeed using code lifted without permission from SKSE, and then earning thousands of dollars per month, they'd be profiting from the work of the SKSE developers without permission or attribution.

I've contacted the developers of Skyrim Together and the Skyrim Script Extender for any comments they'd like to give beyond what has been posted publicly, and will update this article if I receive a reply.