Starfield’s upscaling controversy on PC continues. The person responsible for the open-world sci-fi RPG’s most popular mod offering DLSS2 support has now created one for DLSS3 as well. It’s locked behind a Patreon paywall though, angering some in the mod community and leading a few to circumvent the project’s DRM and pirate it for free instead.
If all that sounds like a confusing mess, that’s because it is. To briefly recap: Bethesda Game Studios and AMD announced an exclusive partnership for Starfield. This meant it would only support AMD’s upscaling technology for better resolution and framerate performance, FSR2, rather than competing tools like Nvidia’s DLSS2 and Intel’s XeSS. AMD claimed nothing was stopping Bethesda from supporting the rival upscaling technologies. Nevertheless, Starfield launched without options to turn them on in the settings menu.
Enter modder PureDark and “Starfield Upscaler,” which is currently the most popular mod for Starfield on NexusMods and replaces FSR2 support with DLSS and XeSS. It’s free and has been downloaded by over 150,000 players so far, improving their experience with the game thanks to PureDark’s simple workarounds. “Yep, DLSS2 was too easy, Bethesda exported all the FSR2 functions,” they wrote. “It’s like I can just reuse 95% of the code from Elden Ring or Jedi Survivor.”
That would have been the end of the story, except that PureDark proceeded to release a test build of a second mod on September 2 that supports DLSS3, the latest version of the tool for improved framerates released by Nvidia in September 2022 (via The Verge). Instead of being free, that mod was locked behind PureDark’s paywall, reigniting an age-old debate about the ethics of profiting off mods vs. giving them away. The kicker was that PureDark even added DRM to the mod in the form of an authenticator to prevent players from accessing the tool without a one-time, active $5 Patreon subscription.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, some in the PC gaming community responded by “cracking” the mod just like they would a new release in order to pirate it. “STARFIELD DLSS 3 FG Mod by PureDark Has Been CRACKED Already,” tweeted the account PC_Focus on September 3 (via IGN). “Paid mods get what deserved [sic] for having DRM implemented.”
Others in the modding community, meanwhile, have attempted to release free mods that support DLSS3. One of them is by LukeFZ564. Uploaded to NexusMods, users initially reported a number of bugs and crashes with it, but some of those seem to be resolved. The latest comments are all thanking LukeFZ564 for the free alternative to paid mods.