Experienced Points: Remembering Spore

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Aug 25, 2015

Filed under: Column 198 comments

My column this week is a look back at Spore.

At the end of the column I say that (spoiler) I’d like to see Spore get another chance. I should qualify that by saying that I’d like to see Spore get another chance at being made by Will Wright and the creative team at Maxis. Which isn’t actually in the cards. Wright has moved on, and other important names are gone as well. EA unloaded a bunch of people at Maxis, and my guess is that EA has shed all of the creative people in charge of coming up with new gameplay mechanics and systems to simulate, and has retained the content-producing people for the purposes of cranking out Sims titles and DLC. If this were a car company, then they’ve fired all the engineers and held onto the assembly-line workers.

So Spore II simply isn’t in the cards. There’s a lot of fancy tech you need to make Spore work, and the people who invented that tech have moved on.

The EA plan is pretty simple: If a game makes above threshold X, then it’s a success and you begin pumping out sequels and DLC and mobile version.

But Shamus! That’s what executives do! They’re just doing their job, which is to make money!

Once you’re paying someone millions of dollars, they ought to be offering leadership. They need to have some kind of knack for perceiving or predicting trends, or discovering previously unknown customer demand. Steve Jobs was reportedly a massive jackass, but I have to give the guy credit that he was good at doing exactly this. His team didn’t just copy products, they invented them. EA leadership is nothing of the sort. They have no understanding of their audience and their entire decision-making process could be boiled down to about 100 lines of computer code.

Remember when EA bought Playfish? They didn’t see the rise of the casual market until it had come, rolled over them, and left. They didn’t get around to entering the casual market until it had basically peaked, and ended up paying a premium (over 300 million dollars) for a small-fry studio when it was clear they weren’t sure what they needed or wanted. (Technology? User base? IP? Talent?) They closed the studio just a few years later. It was a reactionary move by people who had no vision or insight.

This happens sometimes in business. Sometimes losers run things because they’re insulated from their mistakes. Sometimes a complete moron will have a good run at the blackjack table. If I put a monkey in the driver’s seat of a tank and turn him loose on the freeway, eventually people will start to say, “Man, that monkey is unstoppable. He must be a great driver!” EA gobbled up a lot of valuable IP and talent around the turn of the century, and the leadership has been coasting on that inertia for over a decade now. The combined income of FIFA, Madden, and Battlefield means that their tank keeps rolling no matter how clueless they are, or how many opportunities they blow up.

There’s nothing to be done about it, of course. But it’s worth pointing out the emperor’s lack of clothes every now and again.


From The Archives:

198 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Remembering Spore

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Im not sure spore was innovative.It introduced one new thing,and while that thing still is awesome to behold when used,its not something that can hold up a whole aaa game.

    1. Considering that most games don’t even manage to have ONE new thing, I’d say that makes them pretty innovative in general consumption terms.

      Innovative is not the same as good. It just means that it’s going to have some interest to people who are into the theory behind games. You can have a completely non-innovative game that is nevertheless a lot of fun. In fact, a good number of games are being put out these days on precisely this principle. They may be quite fun to play but there isn’t much interesting to say about them that hasn’t already been said about earlier incarnations.

      Likewise it’s quite easy to put out an innovation that is dreadful–in fact, generally this is easier than putting out one that is good. It is much easier to make a heap of nonsensical crap and slap a pretentious explanation on it than it is to come up with something new AND cool.

    2. evileeyore says:

      What ‘one new thing’ was that? I didn’t recognize anything new in Spore.

      1. Christopher says:

        What was your first weird 3D customizable body part-creature-character creator?

        1. mhoff12358 says:

          Although the names escape me, there were actually a couple games like that on the gamecube or N64 or something. They were much more restrictive and the animations weren’t as good, so Spore’s real innovation was the technology to make the preexisting concept work fluidly.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Superman 64?

          2. Adam says:

            You may be thinking of Cubivore, which was a gamecube game. Similar functionality on a smaller scale. Only played it once on a rental, so I couldn’t tell you if it had the same procedural world ideas.

          3. MadTinkerer says:

            We too remember the slightly underrated Amazing Island.

            Like Spore, it’s not a great game. It’s the first version of something that could have been great around number 2 or 3.

            Donkey Kong sucked has terrible jumping (and you know it). Akalabeth was weak. Catacomb was shallow, and Catacomb 3D was just a pseudo-3D Catacomb. The Elder Scrolls: Arena was a fancier Akalabeth. A significantly complete version of Half Life was thrown away and started from scratch. Minecraft was terrible for almost a year before Notch discovered the magic formula we now think of when we think of vanilla Minecraft gameplay. No first draft is ever good, especially with games.

            Sometimes we don’t get to see the first drafts (Blizzard never lets us see the first drafts, Valve lets us see the early drafts only once they’re done the final draft), and sometimes the developers can’t afford to not publish the first complete thing they do.

            EDIT: The technology behind Amazing Island was used in another title as well, but evidently it was a completely different developer. I couldn’t recall the name of the game, so I can’t find info on it right now.

        2. Timelady says:


          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Thats like saying doom was doing the same thing as super mario,because both involve moving through levels using controls.

            1. Felblood says:

              –and hucking fireballs at anything that gets between you and the exit.

              I think a lot more subtle innovations tend to be sneered at in hindsight because we forget how big of a deal this was at the time.

              For example, Spore was the progenitor of the modern hype machine. Sure we had hype before, but this was the first time that a developer managed to make the impossible seem quite so achievable.

        3. The Seed Bismuth says:

          Um … Amazing Island for Gamecube or Graffiti Kingdom for Playstation 2 both game I played before spore. In fact I was hoping spore was going to give me more than what they had , not as it turned out less sence both were more fun to play.

        4. Atle says:

          Not meant as an argument in “was Spore innovative”, but as a curiosity. Eco had something similar back in 1988: http://hol.abime.net/2824

          It featured mixing genes and creating different sized and shaped figures. Some herbivores, and some carnivores, if I remember correctly. Young me could never figure out if the game had any goal, though.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        IMHO the whole concept of guiding the entire history of a species from a single-cell organism to a starspanning dominion was a pretty new thing. I honestly can’t think of a game that would shift in scale to this extent as the gameplay progresses.

        Of course with the way Spore was executed most of the stages were boring minigames and the choices largely meaningless down the road.

        1. evileeyore says:

          It’s simply a modification to tech trees. Albeit with pruned branching paths where ‘choice matters’.

          I’m not saying it wasn’t interesting, I’m saying there was really nothing “new” in Spore.

          1. Felblood says:

            –but that was the trick.

            They didn’t really innovate anything mechanically. Chris’ description of “a series of kinda shitty minigames” is pretty perfect, but the metaphor that tied these crappy mechanics to their underdeveloped story was actually revolutionary.

    3. Felblood says:

      Another point here is actually the best (and sadly least usable) feature idea in Spore: The ability to share your custom creations into other player’s games.

      As post City of Heroes humans, it’s beyond our cultural perspective to imagine how cool this was at the time.

      Too bad EA ruined it with all of the EAness.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I would love it if somehow firaxis would get their hands on spore,then turn it into a tbs where you go from a single cell to a space empire.Sadly,that is impossible,because ea owns spore,and when the team behind civilization had the chance to do something really weird and far out with the game,they declined.

  3. Bropocalypse says:

    I’ve heard the phrase “you know you’re doing your job right when nobody can tell that you’re doing it at all.” I don’t think that’s true at all, at least in this case.

    I mean, are we even certain that EA HAS officers? I guess someone must be collecting the income, but if your effect is that of passively maintaining the status quo, can you even be said to exist?

    1. venatus says:

      I hear that phrase a lot. but I’ve never seen anyone who thought it was a universial thing.
      it usually applies to necessary stuff that’s not very flashy and often occurs in the background. or to people who work special effects in movies were the goal is create an effect so convincing that people don’t process it as an effect till long after the movie is over.

      1. psivamp says:

        I had a job that fit this bill.

        I worked in an engine room and kept the lights on and the ship moving. If I did my job, the lights didn’t flicker, you could watch TV and the screws kept turning.

        1. MadTinkerer says:

          If I do my job right, your check is deposited in the correct account and no one acknowledges anything actually happened. If I make one mistake (out of hundreds of thousands per month), I get a lot of acknowledgement.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    But Shamus! That's what executives do! They're just doing their job, which is to make money!

    Fictional person,that is a stupid argument,and if you believe it you are a stupid fictional person as well.

    If a game has $X budget,and it makes $10X money,then its sequel with $2X budget that also makes $10X money is not a success and should not encourage you to put more moneys into making clones that would all bring in just $10X money.Its a downhill slope leading into stagnation and ruin.

    A really smart exec knows to when to stop this nonsense and focuses on stuff that could can bring the same profit as the first game.A smart exec doesnt just blindly follow the trend of THIS IS SELLING LIKE CRAZY NOW,they see what trend will arise in the future and pursue that.

    Ea is not led by smart people now,but by sheep who just follow current trends,and the only reason they are still afloat is because someone early on was smart enough to snatch them the sports deals.That person was a genius,and they are all now just riding his success.

    1. Alderman says:

      Also, and I know this is an opinion that is kinda blind to what the world actually looks like but fuck it, I don’t think the goal of a corporation should be to make as much money as possible. Certainly you need to have someone with a solid eye for finances keeping you afloat, but your GOAL should be producing quality [whatever it is you do].

      1. Orillion says:

        This was the original goal when the concept of corporations was founded. It, like everything, was ruined the second suits got involved.

        1. Mistwraithe says:

          Arguably it actually got ruined when shareholders got short-sighted (where shareholders often means fund managers focused on monthly bonuses these days). A large part of capitalism is now driven by short term bonuses for people who aren’t even really adding anything to the system.

          I’m not even sure you can blame the suits (at least certainly not all of them), they are driven by the system. It’s like games putting graphics above having meaningful and interesting stories – if more people are buying the games because they have good graphics than because they have good stories then it all makes sense. The inputs into the system will influence the outputs, even if the long term result is pretty awful.

          Apologies if my post verges on politics.

          1. Felblood says:

            Yeah, mutual funds designed to capitalize on all the baby boomers with retirement worries are basically the doom of western civilization.

            Talking about why so many baby boomers are worried about retirement would be getting into politics.

      2. Chauzuvoy says:

        I mean, the idea as I understand it is to try to structure things so that the best way to make maximum money is to be really good at [whatever you do]. But for reasons beyond my ken (and that are the subject of much debate among those far more learned in such things, I’m sure) it doesn’t work out that way very often.

        1. Trix2000 says:

          I suspect it has a lot to do with shortsightedness (and a bit of ‘taking the easy route’). Why put tons of effort into developing infrastructure and rapport with customers to generate a solid market for the future when you can cut those costs and bump up prices for a quick short-term gain? Why put time and money into researching trends and what customers REALLY want when you can just go with what works now (whether it’s something you’re doing already or something someone else has done which you can copy)?

          This is, of course, generalizing things… since I suspect even a company like EA isn’t putting NO effort into innovation or something. But it’s clear that, on the whole, they don’t recognize how important these things can be to long-term success… to them, they’re still surviving in a ‘troubled market’ when they could be cementing their place in people’s minds as a company people want to keep around (as opposed to one they either hate or deal with begrudgingly).

  5. I’m not sure about how Will Wright would feel about it, but if anyone compared me to Thomas Edison I would be incredibly offended and likely punch them square in the face. And then I would throw an angry cat at them.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      True.But he did work for ea for a while,so he kind of deserved it.

    2. Shamus says:

      Yeah. This whole “Edison was an evil bastard” thing is kinda new to me. For 3/4 of my life, he was this awesome genius. It’s only been in the last ~15 years that people have begun demonizing him. (Fairly, as far as I can tell.) So he’s still my go-to guy when I think “who invented a lot of shit?”

      Also, he fits the example: Edison invented dozens of things, and most of them were useless / short-lived, but the ones that endured are still with us today.

      1. Bropocalypse says:

        That makes me wonder who the video game Tesla is. John Carmack?

        1. Primogenitor says:

          Citizen Kane is the Nikolai Tesla of video games.

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            My brain is tripping over itself trying to process that.

        2. ehlijen says:

          I’m suggest Peter Moulineaux for that equivalent. He thinks he’ll deliver world shaking wonders and the intentions are visible in his games, but his attempts lack the coherent process needed to succeed.

          1. Alexander The 1st says:

            I would actually suggest Cliff Bleszinski, or perhaps Shigeru Miyamoto.

            Acutally, Cliff Blenszinski or whoever was in charge of the Unreal engine.

            Mostly because of the massive benefits that brought about to a lot of FPS standards – be it the level editor being better in the same way AC is better than DC was (In the sense that most other editors are better on the local retail builds where Unreal was better at the internal developer builds), the use of Unrealscript to separate game logic from engine logic, both of which are separated from map scripting logic in Kismet, and it ends up in widespread use – he’s also only popularly well-known for a few of the things he made, as opposed to all the things he made.

            Actually, having looked him up on Wikipedia, that even fits more – apparently the original Unreal was part of an idea by James Schmalz, so there’s some element of having his most well-known stuff build off of someone else’s idea, like with Tesla.

            He also left his original company to work on something else, that ends up being in direct competition to the company he used to work for.

            In this case though, Tim Sweeny would be the Edision stand-in for recruiting him, but a lot less on the vindictive side so far.

          2. Wide And Nerdy says:

            That’s cruel. Say what you will about Edison, he actually accomplished things. If Edison was the Molyneaux of his day, he’d promise the light bulb and what we’d get is a snazzy looking candle who’s wick is sparked by a filament when you flip a switch and sits in a vaguely bulb shaped enclosure.

            Then he’d say he learned a lot from that and vow to invent a color changing light bulb.

            . . . Which would end up involving switching out different color for the bulb shaped enclosure of the filament candle.

            1. Alexander The 1st says:

              He was referring to Tesla, not Edison. Just for confirmation.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Still applies though.

                1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  Yeah, that just makes it worse.

          3. Andrew_C says:

            Molyneux is definately the Tesla. Brilliant once, full of wacky ideas now but can never deliver on them and always claims that it was someone else’s fault when people try to call him out.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Um,Tesla delivered on everything he said,and we use more than just one of his inventions.Dont confuse “being known for” with “managed to actually accomplish”.

              Also,he never claimed that anyone held him down.Its post fact that other people started doing so.

              So completely unlike Molyneux.

              1. Peter Coffin says:

                Oh, Tesla delivered on everything? Because the bladeless turbine, the oscillating steam-powered electrical generator, wireless power transmission, tilt-rotor biplanes and wiring classrooms with electric field coils to make students smarter have all changed our society?

                (Not even going to go into the “Teleforce weapon” that was supposed to shoot particles at airplanes and destroy them from 200 miles away.)

                1. Alec says:

                  Actually, yes. Anything someone paid him to create, he created and it delivered or exceeded his promises.
                  No one ever paid him to make space lasers. If they actually did, well…I for one am not going to doubt hypothetical Manhattan Project Tesla till he failed.

      2. I don’t think Edison was an “evil bastard”. He did some ugly carnival-style PR stunts to try and discredit Tesla, and Tesla didn’t have the type of personality that could fight back effectively. Did you know that incubators for premature infants also started as a carnival stunt?

        Getting people to cotton on to new ideas was an entirely different prospect in those days than now. Completely new markets generally look like the Wild West for a while.

        Also a lot of people share the belief that if you Make Cool Stuff then the Grateful Technology Gods should just shower money on you–and if they don’t, it’s because somebody, somewhere, prevented them from doing so. It doesn’t work like that. You can be the coolest thing in the world but if you don’t know how to monetize your ideas you’re going to be a hobbiest all your life.

        1. Nimas says:

          I think Edison was an “evil bastard”. However he was *really* good at marketing and selling things. I honestly think his closest counter part today would have been Steve Jobs.

          Not the most inventive, but very very good at adapting things so that people actually want to buy them. This is actually one of the *most* important steps, mainly because actually inventing things from the majority of people is mostly iterating on previous ideas, combining things with other things and slowly moving technology forward (“We stand on the shoulder’s of giants” is the best quote for humanity I think).

          But every so often you get those rare few (fewer even then history actually credits them, as some just iterated at the right time with a minor idea) who singlehandedly change technology and understanding. These are your Teslas, your Leonardo da Vincis. What happened to Tesla was a tradgedy, it was basically what would have happened if everyone thought Leonardo da Vinci was crazy, as to venerating the hell out of him which they did.

          So hate Edison (as I do :D), but remember all he really was was a modern day CEO. Evil yes, but only the banal kind of evil.

          1. Joe Informatico says:

            It takes time for the present to catch up with history sometimes. Leonardo Da Vinci has continually been praised as an artistic genius since his lifetime up to the present day, but for centuries no one really acknowledged him as an inventor or engineer until his notebooks became better known in the 19th century.

            Likewise, Tesla might not have had the level of success he deserved in his own lifetime, but he had a lot more than some others (poor Charles Goodyear), and his legacy’s definitely secure now.

          2. tmtvl says:

            If Steve Jobs is Edison, then Linus Torvalds is Tesla.

            1. Andrew_C says:

              Torvalds is more than a one trick pony. As well as the Linux kernel he’s also
              produced Git, a pretty decent distributed version control system that is rather popular at the moment.

            2. alfa says:

              Nah, Linus never really invented anything _new_. He’s known for two things:

              – His “git” version control software, which is influenced by other things like bitkeeper (which Linus previously used on the kernel), and which isn’t that remarkable idea-wise – there are equivalent systems (such as mercurial, which started at almost exactly the same time)

              – The linux kernel – which has/had a monolithic design which at the time was deemed outdated from those in academia (like Andrew Tennenbaum, with which there’s been a well-publicised debate) – of course, at the time, people still believed pure microkernels were not just desirable but also doable.

              So Linus is just one more adapter, not much of an inventor (and I haven’t even mentioned his diving software “subsurface”).

              1. Zak McKracken says:

                I’d say that Jobs is not an inventor either. He represented Apple while it released its most successful products, and afaik he did make some of the top-level design decisions for those, but mostly he “just”* made very successful strategical decisions. In those terms, he’d be closer to Edison.

                * Dear Apple fans: Of course making successful strategical decisions is no small ability, and I wish I had that too. But he did neither invent the MP3-player nor the smartphone. He just knew what they would need to look and behave like in order to appeal to his target audience, and how to make the most money out of it. The actual designs were done by other people, and those didn’t invent anything in the classical sense, either. They polished existing products until Steve approved.

        2. kurt says:

          Regarding the incubator comment, NPR just did a story on that. I think the guy is still around or perhaps one of the original babies (now very much grown up) was still alive to talk about it. He couldn’t get any hospitals to buy into the idea, so the incubators (with the children in them) toured the carnivals. The admission fee to see them helped pay for the equipment. Can’t imagine that being allowed to happen now. Crazy/great story.

        3. boz says:

          “ugly carnival-style PR stunts”

          Can we not downplay “publicly electrocuting animals for personal gain” to whitewash an asshole?

          He made shows out of torturing animals and he sold those shows.

          1. Bubble181 says:

            Cultural relativism and all that jazz. It wasn’t all that much out of the ordinary for its day, with “poking bears in a pit”, bull hazing, and so forth perfectly acceptable passtimes. What he didn’t wasn’t very good, and would *now* be considered brutality and cruelty to animals. I’m no fan at all, honestly. But looking at it with today’s morals and standards is just as wrogn as claiming Washington was a dick for having owned slaves, or that Columbus was dirty because he only bathed once a week. Cultures change, and hopefully imprive. We can look back and shake our heads at our ancestors’ idiosyncracies and misconceptions, their prejudices and their discriminations, but we shouldn’t judge them *from our point of view*. It’s a recipe for disaster.

            1. guy says:

              Given that he did it to demonize alternating current, it must have been considered unpleasant by the standards of the day. Otherwise it would have been a pro-AC demonstration.

              It was also deliberately deceptive, because it implied that AC was dangerous while DC was safe, when they’re both dangerous.

              1. Bubble181 says:

                Killing (or wounding) an elephant wasn’t really considered a problem. It was to be used as a clear object lesson in the dangers of AC, because this is the amount of volts running through your body” doesn’t really carry any strength if people don’t know what it is.
                Be happy, 50 years earlier he’d have been perfectly allowed to use a person of African descent for the same purpose. As I said, ethics and morals evolve, luckily.

              2. Wide And Nerdy says:

                He did it to show that it had the power to kill an elephant, not because killing an elephant was disgusting per se but because something that could kill an elephant had to be powerful and therefore dangerous.

                If you look at the footage, his demonstration killed the elephant more quickly and effectively than probably the firearms of the day could have (though he had the advantage of being able to walk right up and tag the elephant). That’s what he expected people to take notice of.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  No,he didnt to it show that it had the power to,he did it specifically because “Look what this guy invented!It kills elephants!Do you want to put your faith into that?!”It was just a slander technique.A very effective one.

                  1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                    That’s what I mean. I mean “power” in a dangerous sense. “If it can kill an elephant, it can kill you.”

                    I wasn’t defending what Edison did.

                    An earlier poster had said that the fact that Edison killed an elephant shows that even people back then thought killing animals was on some level morally wrong. I was countering by saying that the choice of an elephant was less about moral disgust and more about taking an animal who is hard to kill with physical force, and killing him with the “power” of electricity (I’m sure I’m using the term “power” wrong in a technical sense given that we’re talking about electricity. I can’t exactly keep all that straight.)

                    1. Power= work/time, and Work=Force*distance, or at least those are the mechanical equations. Power=voltage*current aka P=IV is the electrical one I remember. I liked analytical mechanics way more than electromagnetism, can you tell?

                    2. Wide And Nerdy says:


                      Thanks. So I guess it kind of is “power” that kills the elephant?

                  2. Andrew_C says:

                    Not really, people basically went “cool it can kill elephants! We want it!” Which was kinda the opposite effect of what he wanted.

        4. Alec says:

          Not an evil bastard, who really thinks that?
          Just a bastard.

      3. Soylent Dave says:

        People don’t like their heroes to have feet of clay or their villains to have feet of stone. The internet is spectacular at coalescing stuff like this until it becomes outright Balkanisation…

        So we creep towards this rather risible entrenchment wherein Edison is ‘evil’ and Tesla was ‘good’, when the reality was just that Edison was successful, and Tesla wasn’t.

        Many of Tesla’s ideas would never have come to fruition even if he had had proper backing. And some of the stuff Edison achieved manifestly improved the world (even if to do so he employed the Dark Arts of marketing).

        They were both just men. Flawed, brilliant, men.

        (I’d be thrilled to be compared to either, personally)

        1. MadTinkerer says:

          Yeah, Edison was egotistical and definitely an intellectual rival of Tesla, but Edison wasn’t generally outright despicable. Edison certainly didn’t steal all of Tesla’s ideas (and if you think he did, you might have been listening to crackpots).

          Edison was a fantastic engineer and product developer. And an okay inventor. And really good at taking other people’s designs and usually making them better.

          Tesla was a brilliant inventor, and worked with Edison for a while. Tesla was right about some things where Edison was wrong (AC vs. DC power being probably the most important). Tesla was also extremely eccentric and completely the wrong person to put in charge of making business decisions under any circumstances.

          Edison made affordable and functional light bulbs. Tesla made death rays. (That’s not an exaggeration, it’s the reason why Tesla is romanticized as a “real life mad scientist”.) At one point they worked together, and Tesla was proved right about some matters on which they disagreed. But Edison is no credit-stealing monster, and Tesla was no naive saint.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            The difference is that when Tesla made death rays,he did everything he could so that no one could use them,while Edison publicly displayed his electrocutions of animals,because “Hey look at what a freakish thing this guy made that I am now applying,but he is totally the one to be blamed!”.Its dick moves like that that make people think of him as the villain.

            1. 4th Dimension says:

              It was the way of the age. The use of the animals was incidental. He needed something shocking, like watching a large animal die, to burn his message into the mind of the populace. And he wasn’t the only business man of his age that used such tactics.
              What makes him evil is the way he treated people whose patent’s he coopted. Like the guy whose patent was essential for the development of a marketable lightbulb. He waited for the man to die, while not letting him sell his invention elsewhere, so he could pocket all the cash. That kind of behavious makes him a dipshit, ableit one that was common among the “businessmen” of the age.

          2. Wide And Nerdy says:

            I’m with you, but you can easily see how, especially given the zeitgeist of the last decade (the age of the geek, also a time when the big businessman is as demonized as they’ve ever been even if that hardly makes us unique) Tesla looks like a saint, and Edison a monster by our standards.

            Its easy to make them fit those specific archetypes as we currently define them.

      4. I think the whole demonization thing stems from people, after hearing nothing bad and only good about him (‘he invented the light-bulb, and gave us electricity! Electricity is awesome, right?’) from their schoolbooks, then go on to find out that he did some pretty despicable things (and wasn’t quite as responsible for those good things as you thought). All of which leads to the negative reaction being stronger than it would if you just read about ‘this jerk who did some good science stuff back then’.

        It’s sort of like how everything you know about Christopher Columbus is a complete lie. It kind of pissed me off to find that out.

        And admittedly, I’m not an expert on Edison. He could be the perfect example for this situation.

        But there are a few conflicting sources for what exactly (if anything) he personally had a hand in creating. (As opposed to the research and development team he funded, the work he stole, and the work he payed for)

        Excellent business man? Sure.

        Innovator? I have some doubts.

        If anyone has a trustworthy source on this (by say, a history professor that doesn’t teach below the college-level), I’d be interested in seeing it.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          I wonder about that sometimes. It would be nice to have heroes like the mythological Columbus who was passionately committed to discovering the new world for us. But there is that backfire effect.

          There’s a corollary to that. When we discover new unsung heroes, we want to build them up to saint status because other historical figures have been treated as saints . . . even as we’re busy tearing those other historical figures down because they shouldn’t be treated as saints.

          I think this plays into our treatment of Tesla and Edison to a degree. Edison was treated well for a long time so we want Tesla treated at least as good as that but Edison has been elevated above what he deserves so we have Tesla propped up and have torn Edison down.

          EDIT: Its like the Hype Cycle applies not just to technologies but also to historical figures. Also celebrities now that I think about it (exception, your Kardashian types who build their careers essentially by turning hate directed at them into attention.)

        2. 4th Dimension says:

          Popular conception of Christopher Columbus is wrong. Nobody doubted the Earth was round back then, at least nobody with any education did that. The reason other courts turned Columbus down was that Columbus’s calculations of how far away the Japan was differend greatly from those of his contemporaries. He belived that the EuroAsia was much longer than it really was, thus it was possible to sail for Japan. He was WRONG. I think his contemporaries probably hed it pretty close to the truth. But he managed to cinvince the Spanish to bankroll him in an attempt to undercut Portugese. Fortunatelly for him there was a continent between Spain and Nippon.

      5. Kylroy says:

        Edison corporatized innovation, and a lot of people hate him for that. A bunch of drones in an office making minor improvements to existing tech and ideas isn’t half as interesting as the gentleman scientist unveiling world-shaking revelations borne of his singular genius.

        Never mind that the drones are *way* better at actually moving scientific knowledge forward…

      6. Retsam says:

        Personally, I blame this Oatmeal comic for the current popularity of the “Edison was evil, Tesla was a saint” idea. I’m sure they’re not the first to say it, but I do suspect they’ve popularized it.

        1. Andrew_C says:

          The idea has been around for a while, at least as long as steampunk, I’d say. But I’d never seen someone fetishes him so much before.

      7. 4th Dimension says:

        Today’s internet does sing praises to Tesla and Demonizes Edison a bit too much, but there is quite a bit of truth behind all that.

        Edison wasn’t pure evil, but he was a savvy business man and an passable inventor. It’s his business side that people revile now. He was the kind of guy that would find a promising new tech by an inventor, tie him to himself with loopsided contracts which would make Edison milions and the initial inventor would never see a dime of it. Allthough let’s not completly forget Edison’s contribution. Most of those inventions wouldn’t have been usefull products in the state Edison found them. He was briliant at turning a tech into a product. He was the kind of guy who woul take Oculus Rift and make a product that would sell thousands. And in the end his dickishness would advance the technology and engineering because these products would be seen and used and thus inspire the next generation. But as I said his business practices were despicable, allthough on par for other business men of his age.

        Tesla on the other hand was briliant. In my opinion people actually muddy him by focusing on some of his more impracticall reasearch areas, and forget other things he designed WAAAAYYY ahead of time. And that was his biggest problem. Dude (similary to Tsiolkovsky the prophet os space age) was simply born couple of decades before his time, and at that time most of his inventions were simply impractical from engineering standpoint. And there is his biggest weakness his obsesion with wireless transmision of power, which wasn’t likely ever to work properly due to disipation of power with range. All in all if there is anything in today’s world that can be tied to electricity Tesla tinkered with this tech in his day.
        Of all the claims about people stealing things from Tesla, the one that Marconi stole his tech probably is least likely. Mostly because Marconi didn’t so much as invent the tech for the radio, but modified allready existing sending and recieving expipment so it could be used to transmit telegraphy. And when I say slightly modified I’m not joking. Back then the idea of wireless transmition wasn’t really considered. The coherer (reciever) Marconi used was previosly used as a lightning detector. When Tesla was working with similar tech he wasn’t thinking about sending telegraphy but sending electric power. It was simply a different age.

        As to why does Internet venerate Tesla so much, I think it’s rather simple. The romantical viewing of Tesla speaks to geeks. He wasn’t a business person, but a geek obsesed with technology and science. He was asocial*. He was missunderstood in his day. He was a master of his field. They see themselves in Tesla. On the other hand Edison seems to be his opposite and the epitome of modern mind consuming tech company that consumes it’s workforce. As such this romantical outlook speaks to the geeks.

        * Tesla wasn’t asocial. He had many wierd habbits, people that knew him liked him and he could be quite a showman doing tricks with electricity to amaze people.

  6. Joshua says:

    Well, regarding the gameplay, how can you make a really fun game out of “random chance that you develop a mutation that will make you more successful in your current or future environment”? Even getting to pick mutations for your creature, you could easily have the wrong skills for a random environmental change.

    It’s not like a game such as Civilization, where your people are consciously developing technologies based upon need and wants. Although some evolution will occur within people as an adaptation due to prolonged exposure to an environment, it’s also Species X had this characteristic and thrived in the changes caused by Z environmental event, whereas Species Y didn’t, and thus went extinct. How do you make a game out of that?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      FTL already made a fun gameplay out of something like that.So did a bunch of other roguelikes.Its possible,though difficult.

    2. =David says:

      I could see a couple of ways, but you’d have to abstract it pretty far out. Probably the most effective and realistic way would be to just bang your species against whatever problem you wanted them to solve over and over until they evolved past it, but that would have the side effect of being unbelievably boring. (And super frustrating if your species goes extinct before they do)

      Could be better to have a skill-tree-style advancement with “evolution points” or something, gained in the same way as XP (killing things, landing on new worlds, etc). An open-world emergent RTS with RPG-like advancement for an entire species? I don’t know that it would be any good, but I like the sound of it.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I have proposed solution this in one of the sporeler topics:
        Have the environment constantly shift over time,so you have to adapt by adding or removing parts.Every part you add or remove advances the time a bit.So the more you change your creature,the more time passes,and the more the environment changes.So the optimal way would be to slowly advance,adding those part that would not only be useful currently,but that have the potential to help later as well.The better creature you design,the more of it will populate the world.Until you finally reach the critical mass of creatures in the world with the right amount of brain power for you to advance to the tribal stage.

        1. =David says:

          That is actually super interesting. I would play that game.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Its also super tricky to actually make and balance,so you probably never will.

            1. =David says:

              Well, sure, but if you could get it right, it would rival Minecraft in terms of addiction level.

          2. Ericf says:

            On it.

            Disclaimer: I have no resources to do this with.

            1. MichaelGC says:

              Kickstarter? We can just link to the top of this comment thread. Coupla mil. Sorted.

        2. MrGuy says:

          This is sort of how SimCity (now known as Cities:Skylines) works, and it can be frustrating.

          The problem in C:S is that you can control how fast time flows. The “fun stuff” in the game (earning money, people moving into town, levelling up) happens when time is moving along at a reasonable pace. But you don’t want to change (“adapt”) your city while it’s flowing along – you want to pause everything while you make changes.

          While there’s no mechanism linking these things like you’re proposing (an analog would be making changes to the city while paused FORCES time to advance…), the similarity is that careful adaptation is best done at slow speeds, but real progress happens at fast speeds.

          My concern with what you’re proposing would be forcing people to play at a speed that’s slower than “fun stuff happens” so that they can more efficiently micromanage the adaptation.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Yeah,it would need to translate what you actually do with your made creature into something both fun and important.A set of goals would be needed.Something like:survive encounter with predator(s),satisfy hunger,protect number of offsprings.Then based on your performance the game would calculate the survivability during the periods you dont control.

            Again,extremely fiddly and tough to balance.And would probably lead into a bunch of unwinnable scenarios.So just like real life evolution!(kickstarter tagline)

            1. Mephane says:

              How about something like it is done in Gratuitous Space Battles? You design it, but then it has to work on its own. So you would never control what the creatures do, but could influence their physiology and behaviour by adding, removing or modifying traits, and then you watch them succeed or fail.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Wouldnt that be sim earth 2 however,and not spore 2?

                1. Mephane says:

                  No idea, I have never played an of the SimEarth games.

          2. Richard H says:

            Harebrained SimCity design idea: have a build queue of sorts. You can plan roads and zoning and stuff while paused, but it takes time to execute. For full simulationism, you could call it a “hearing” phase, and then, after that, it takes effect. (In reality, sometimes things get shot down, but we want to have fun here, and randomly having the game prevent you from doing things doesn’t sound like fun. I also played with disasters turned off.)

            1. guy says:

              There’s actually a lot of city sims that have things take time to build. Actually, in SimCity, it takes time for things to be built after being zoned, though buildings specifically placed will appear instantly.

    3. Abnaxis says:

      Easy. Make the environment change first, then let the player choose evolutions, instead of the other way around.

      You have your creature, doing good and having fun. then something changes, and now it’s a struggle. Oh! But now the game is letting you pick a new evolution, from a fixed/random list, based on what you picked previously. Now you’re back on top! But wait, something else is changing…

      Tuned right, that could be a really compelling game.

      EDIT: Annnnd Daemian ninja!

      1. Aitch says:

        Reminds me of E.V.O. on the SNES. Man, that game was amazing for it’s time. Even though it tended towards a bit of grinding (to really top tier your creature, or become human… becoming human was a serious investment of time, though nothing compared to the stuff nowadays like WoW and that Final Fantasy WoW. I have no idea how people complain about old RPG grinding when those kinds of games roam the earth…)

        But so many one-offs like that with these fantastic concepts that never got properly marketed or got to be a hit, and then people act like the mechanics and ideas are poison. Such chagrin. All these great ideas out there with slightly flawed executions, just dropped like a bag of hot dirt. Meanwhile, 80 versions of Slender. I just… come on, devs.

    4. Xeorm says:

      I’d think it’d be something similar to other sim games, where you have complex behavior coming from simple rules.

      Such as, your creature needs food, amongst other needs. As gameplay progresses, new options for obtaining food come available through some means, that the player can pick and choose from. Hopefully with some buyback system setup to limit too much change. Set it to a difficulty level or option for people that don’t want to be held back.

      As long as the environment changes as you go, your creatures should change organically.

      To give an example: you start out eating leafy green things. Then you get the option to (amongst others) eat fruit or get more out of eating leafy green plants. Size of your creature determines how much you need to eat, etc.

    5. Nidokoenig says:

      A somewhat boring option would be to have a “learn by doing” experience system to unlock abilities. How you act determines the behaviour of your species, so the challenges you throw yourself at will be what your species throws itself at and the successful ones breed. Unlock longer legs and neck by reaching for fruit, learn to fly by jumping off things, increase combat or social abilities through use, evolve thick armour by taking beatings. Placement, design etc are in the player’s hands.

    6. Zak McKracken says:

      The “learn by doing” thing, and the “pick features after the change happened” ideas were mentioned, and I agree with those.

      On top of that: I played SimEarth way more than SimCity. That was an incredibly simple ruleset applied to a complex thing, an entire planet. And it did have evolution.
      At the time, I dreamt of a SimEarth where the cities that eventually appear would be managed in SimCity (by other players), and what those cities did would feed back into SimEarth, and it would affect the flora and fauna of the planet, including how all species evolve.

      So: Sure! Why wouldn’t your Spore creature evolve to a: become good at whatever it is that the player chooses to do (you run away from enemies: you become faster. You decide to counter-attack: you become stronger…), while also slowly adapting to changes in the environment (the water over there is warmer and has more food but your organism can’t deal with too much heat, so you need to get used to it slowly), and limiting the amount of change that can happen to the creature per time (so the player needs to choose which kinds of abilities they want to improve). The entire planet is a SimEarth-like simulation which just runs on autopilot in the beginning but if the player species is successful enough, it can start to influence the parameters at some point (greenhouse gases, eradicating/domesticating species…). There would certainly still need to be some scripted events when you get to the stage of having technology, and some things to keep your planet’s biosphere from becoming unstable before you’re able to do anything about it but I think that should be entirely doable!

  7. It’s a crime that more wasn’t done with Spore. That creature design system, with all the procedural animation stuff was amazing. I think you are right that the gameplay itself could have been iterated on and saved as well, but the existing tech on it’s own could have been used for so many things.

    Using the creature creator and animation system to make tones of novel creatures could have powered tonnes of awesome games. Honestly, even something like Dark Spore would probably have done well if it hadn’t been obviously in lieu of another attempt at fulfilling the promise of Spore. Or even it if it actually let the player really take advantage of the creature creation stuff.

    Imagine something like NeverWinter Nights with the DM tools, combined with this to make your own custom monsters for each module.

    The game doesn’t even look that bad now. They could just pick it up, dust it off a bit, maybe up some resolutions, and start using the tech again.

    1. AileTheAlien says:

      Agreed. EA basically shut down everything from Spore, but they could have at least sold off the engine / software modules to other developers, or continued developing them in-house.

      Shit, EA is the publisher behind the Mass Effect games. This is the perfect IP to take advantage of the tech from Spore – successful, and set in a big outer-space setting. Imagine Mass Effect, with ten times the number of unique types of alien. As-is, you’ve got like 5 models for the sapient races, which are all just humanoids, the Thresher Maw, Thorian, and like, a couple quadrupeds in the games. You could easily have all the background/non-sapient species in the games be procedurally-produced content, since nobody would be paying as much attention to them while playing.

  8. Zombie says:

    I think the one of the biggest reasons we’ll never get a Spore 2 (or a spiritual sequel or whatever) is it would take a lot of time, money, effort and creativity to produce something that has a very good chance of being a failure.

    Like, a great Spore would have had a much better Cell Stage, the Creature Stage would have had more things to do besides kill and dance; the Tribal Stage would have needed to be a much better RTS, the Civilization Stage would have to basically turn into Civilization, and the Space Stage would need to play like an open world game.

    And that would be the second reason no one would want to remake Spore. You essentially are smashing together 5 different games that really don’t connect together all that well.

    1. AileTheAlien says:

      I think the best course of action, would be to focus the (spiritual) sequel on the areas of the game that highlighted Spore’s biggest strength – the procedural animation/texturing/creatures. So basically, focus on the cell stage (2D overhead), creature stage (2.5D 3rd-person), and maybe put the ocean stage (3D 3rd-person) back into the game. If it was up to me, I’d even just focus on a single one of those, like the ocean stage, and just get that working very well, so the game can actually make money, and fund the further development of the tech.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Indeed – and it seems to be those earlier stages which people focus on when they’re lamenting what might have been, or suggesting improvements. In the main, of course! – I’m sure there are complaints about and laments for the later stages too. But then, well, barely anyone got as far as the later stages, did they…

        1. Ivan says:

          Honestly, I stopped playing shortly after reaching the tribal stage, so I really can’t speak for what civ and space stages did right or wrong. But I will say that the creatures I wanted to create were based on specific behaviors that would never form a society no matter how smart they were (basically the sarlacc (pit) from starwars). The requirements for making a creature capable of creating society and technology are so strict that to try and go in that direction is super detrimental to the creative process.

          Though I guess I played spore because I wanted to explore the life histories of many different creatures, not to make something cute that also rules the universe.

        2. Decius says:

          I don’t think the Galactic Stage is salvageable.

          Tool-using stage might be, if we want to say “Now we are no longer seeing changes over a genetic evolution scale, the creature is locked physically, and now you are directing the evolution of the tools that are being used.

          In the cell and ocean stage you were directing evolution of the organism, presumably in order to make it better at some of the various things it can do, like eat, not get eaten, breed, and play. In the tool stage you would evolve the tools to be better at the various kinds of things that tool-using creatures do: Hunt, Gather, war, peace, breed, and play.

          The step after tool use is a little bit abstract, but I’d call it ‘society’, and the Sporelike thing to do would be to control aspects of society on a timescale where tool development is mostly irrelevant. That’s pretty much in our future, but it seems to me like near future rather than distant future; our player would have just pivoted to information and cooperation tools after realizing that warfare and domination tools work like maximally toothy fixed-jaw mouths: You can eat only everything smaller than you, and any encounter with something of equal size needs to be resolved with something other than chomp attempts.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Galactic stage was at least interesting,because it allowed you to do a bunch of stuff,from creating atmosphere,to smashing asteroids into planets.The tribal and civilization stages were lacking because you really couldnt do anything neat like in previous or later stages.Sure,you could customize buildings and vehicles,but it was all cosmetic(not that customization in creature stage meant much,but at least it meant a little).And the simulation of a tribe/civilization was done waaaay better in other games.

            Now if you had the ability to do something weird with your tribe/civ,domesticate some weird creatures that exist in the world,use them as mounts,anything,then those would have potential.But this way,they are just boring,formulaic,and pointless(you use them just to get one of the red/green/blue bonuses).

            1. Decius says:

              You can do a lot of stuff in Galactic stage, but none of it is interesting after the first time, and it becomes a grind without the Skinner Box rewarding you for terraforming 11/15 planets.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                That is true for the creature stage as well,and in the cell stage,only much shorter.But at least the cool stuff in those exists for at least once,which is more than in tribal/civilization.You can do something with those to turn them into something good.

    2. Decius says:

      I’d like the decision about when and how to go multicellular to be one that is actually significant. I’m not entirely opposed to the Spore or Galactic Civilizations model of “have a cosmetic frame with abstractly functional attachments”; perhaps there could be restrictions, like “Grasping appendages must be able to reach the ground, the mouth, and the attack hitbox”?

  9. Abnaxis says:

    Yay! I get to bang on my pot again!

    We don’t get innovative titles any more because there is little incentive for publishers to fund innovative titles. The road to success is paved with exclusive rights to pump out sequels, and publishers are insulated against failure because fans and developers have no other choice than to do business with them.

    I’m of the strong opinion that success among investors should be earned through being a smart business-person, not because people have no other choice than to buy from you. I’m also of the strong opinion that someone who works hard to bring a creation into being should–by default–own their creation.

    Publishers should not get to own IP. They should get control through choosing who they fund, and they should have to fight each other to get a piece of the pie when new IP emerges as successful.

    If I had my wish, the following reforms would happen:

    – Copyrights can either be “bound” or “transient.” “Bound” means that the rights can not be transferred or sold to a party other than the creators by any normal means. Transient pretty much means the same as copyright does now–rights can be bought, sold or traded to any party
    – Copyrights become bound to the creator whenever a non-infringing work is created. They only become transient through death, bankruptcy of the creator, or as part of a legal reprisal granted by a judge.
    – Any work created by a subsidiary is considered infringing. This won’t result in legal repercussions if nobody else owns the rights, however it does mean that essentially anyone can make a knockoff–and the first parent company to do so gets the rights to it. Basically, only independent, not-owned-by-corporate-overlords entities can make new works and expect a profit.
    – Copyright holders may trade a portion of the revenues collected through a copyrighted work, but they must always receive a majority share of those revenues after they’ve been divvied up. Further, all such deals must be limited in scope–no entity other than the copyright holder can receive commission for a work for all time
    – However, a caveat to the above is that in order to trade partial ownership of a copyrighted work to a third party, that work must currently be in development. No-one can buy or sell rights to a work that is not currently being created

    The idea is, to make so that creators ALWAYS OWN their creations, forever, unless they die, go out of business, or are convicted of a crime. I think this is appropriate because the nature of creation has changed–publishers used to be the manufacturers, the ones who ran the heavy equipment to print the paper and record the tapes. Today, there more like glorified investors. Since the only reason we invented transferable copyrights to begin with is to help publishers run their factories, we don’t need rights to be transferable any more.

    Some objections I have gathered so far:

    Publishers won’t be able to make any money: Why not? Every day, investors in small business take bigger risks than publishers and still make money. They do so by hedging their bets on the failure and making the most of the successes. Publishers should be doing the same thing, but the current model encourages acquiring properties with maximum sequel potential and leveraging monopoly powers
    Developers suck at managing schedules: Publishers suck at managing schedules too. How many games have been ruined by a rush to release before they were ready, because of a schedule driven by accounting instead of best software practices? Plus, the publisher will still have power to steer development schedules–if publishers find proposed schedules from developers lacking, those devs won’t get the funding they want.
    All we will get is trashy shovel-ware because no publisher will go for it: For one, how is this different? Publishers turned freaking Spore into a damn MOBA! For two, do you really think EA, Ubisoft, etc. won’t be frothing at the mouth to get a piece of CoD money? Or DOTA 3 money? Or the Sims 5? Devs will get money correspondent to how well they can convince a publisher they’ll be profitable, and publishers will be pressured at getting better at figuring out how to evaluate dev plans or they will lose out to their competitors. As long as there is demand for a game, a smart publisher will come along eventually and have the good sense to fund it accordingly.

    Any-who, there’s my Grand Idea To Fix Everything. It has issues to hash out, but that’s why I keep banging on my drum here in the comments–so people can argue with me and I can refine my idea :D

    1. Shamus says:

      Several people work at a comic book publisher.

      * Writer Ann invents an idea for a superhero “Mite-Boy” who is a teenager who gets bit by a radioactive mite and gets super-powers.
      * Artist Bob designs the costume, which eventually becomes one of the most copied and imitated designs in the genre.
      * Copy editor Carl renames the character “Mitey-Man”. Geddit?
      * The character runs for a couple of years with very limited success and is nearly canceled a couple of times. Then Denise takes over as writer and pens an issue where Mitey-Man’s uncle is killed by the Green Gobbler. This story resonates with fans and makes Mitey-Man one of the most successful and iconic heroes in comic history.

      Under your system, who owns this character?

      1. Kylroy says:

        I think the point is that as long as it’s not the publisher, everything will be better.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Because every real world problem has exactly one rotten thing in it that does only bad and never good.

          1. Kylroy says:

            That appears to be the operating theory here, yes.

            1. Abnaxis says:

              I’m not sure where you got that idea from, and don’t like my words being twisted to mean “there’s exactly one rotten thing that does only bad and never good.” :-/

        2. If this were the case, then the creators wouldn’t be willing to sell the rights to publishers in the first place. This “model” would do nothing but inhibit the right of the creator to do what they like with their work–including sell it to a publisher, should they so desire.

          The assumption that anybody is “forced” to deal with a company is hilarious, too. Nobody’s “forced” to play video games in the first place. This is literally taking a situation that people voluntarily prefer to any other option (except the people who don’t, who have already done something about it), declaring it prima facie evil, and trying to “fix” it, an attempt always guaranteed to end in hilarious failure.

          The primary disincentive against “innovation” (which is a disingenuous term, anyway–just because something is new doesn’t make it better than anything that came before, after all) is that innovation is expensive and thus risky. If you’re a big AAA game company, people don’t have a lot of patience with you putting out small unfinished trial games, and there are already indies in that space, anyway. They want a big, bold, expensive AAA experience. Look at what happened with SWTOR. Most expensive MMO ever made. Something like $200 MILLION dollars, wasn’t it? And it was innovative . . . first MMO with voice-acted story and RPG-style dialog options. Did it make heapo money? Not really. Best I’ve heard was that it wasn’t an outright failure. Heck, my housemate plays it and he’s frankly baffled by what they keep doing with the expansions and so forth. His guild is bleeding people.

          EA’s strategy is “give the people what they want”. Then they come up against the necessary follow-up question, which is “what do people want?” and their only answer is “dunno”. So they trundle along with no clear direction, trying to get someone, somewhere, to tell them what the people want so they can make it.

          But, see, they *got to where they are by playing it safe and following the trends*. They didn’t get big by finding and backing interesting indies. They got big on big, popular licenses. They will continue to utilize this model until they really do lose their shirts doing it–at which point they’ll become irrelevant to the industry. It’s easy to say that the stuff they make “could be” better. In what hypothetical universe? The one in which they lost their shirt years ago and got broken up and bought out piecemeal by other equally big companies?

          1. Abnaxis says:

            *Sigh.* Saying that no one is compelled to deal with publishers because they can always quit playing video games, is like saying no one is compelled to go to war when they are drafted, because they can always flee the country. By that logic, compulsion is exceptionally rare–after all suicide is virtually always an option no matter what your obligations are.

            Insofar as anyone can compel you to do anything, publishers can compel you to buy from them exclusively if you want access to any particular property–regardless of their business practices–because they have a slip of paper that says you can’t buy from anyone else. That’s how copyright works.

            And by the same token, developers are compelled to sell their rights to publishers, because that is the only way their game will ever get made. Given the choices of “lose your rights” or “quit,” what other reasonable option could they take?

            My hypothetical universe is one where EA either lost their shirts years ago, or were compelled to actually learn how to do their jobs right instead of standing around saying “dunno.”

            The best way I know of to make that happen, is to make publishers constantly compete for successful properties, rather than having them acquire exclusive rights to properties as a prerequisite for those properties being successful.

            1. Kylroy says:

              “The best way I know of to make that happen, is to make publishers constantly compete for successful properties…”

              Except your mechanism for doing so involves placing restrictions on how creators can sell their creation. What happens to the IP rights publishers currently have?

              1. Abnaxis says:

                What happens to the IP rights publishers currently have?

                “Transient” rights is basically rights as we have them now, so any current right would start off transient.

                Publishers could leverage these transient rights, sell them to a developer as part of a package financing deal that carries a higher price tag than normal, and that developer owns the rights from then on.

                Or, the rights go to one of the subsidiary developers that would be split off from the publisher as part of the change in the law.

                This wouldn’t be the first time we have split up monopolies.

                1. guy says:

                  They won’t be able to sell them as part of a package deal if people can’t sell IPs.

                  Anyway, the most likely outcome of doing this is the total destruction of developers. Publishers will become like Marvel and make most of their stuff in-house. If you try to forbid that they’ll reorganize to qualify as developers.

                2. Kylroy says:

                  It would be the first time we have split up monopolies engaged in purely creative endeavors. It would be the first time we dictate how people are allowed to license their own IP.

                  And you keep on relying on “publishers” and “developers” being separate and easily distinguishable entities. They are *currently*, because there is no legal distinction between the two. The instant you bar “publishers” but not “developers” from certain actions, there will suddenly be no “publishers” in the field.

                  ETA: Oh, and (AAA) video gaming isn’t a monopoly, it’s an oligopoly. There’s only a small handful of major game publishers for the same reason that there’s only a handful of major car companies: the economies of scale at work mean there’s very few groups that can front the money necessary to make the enterprise operate. Which made me realize that the implications of an auto manufacturer needing to consult *every* designer *every* time they alter *anything* on a model are downright business-paralyzing.

                  1. Abnaxis says:

                    It’s kind of a given, that if you’re going to make a law that stipulates that only creators may own copyrights, you will have to legally define what a creator is.

                    This is not impossible, nor would it even be out of the ordinary. Businesses are regularly categorized for the purpose of regulations, we would just have to be careful to define “developer” in such a way that it advances the ultimate goal–namely, promotion of the arts.

                    For example, we could say that a company can only define itself as a “developer” if the executive officers have personally generated $X worth of IP. Or, that only owners of X% of a company may generate IP on the company’s behalf. Or, we can say that a company that has defined itself may not spend more than $X on investments other than games originating within the company itself. Heck, at the minimum if the publishers want to say “OK we’re developers now,” at a minimum that means the publisher themselves are employing their own artists instead of structuring them into a subsidiary–do you know how much more expensive and difficult it is to lay off an internal employee and replace them if they aren’t in a subsidiary?

                    The entire point of my idea is to structure the market in such a way as to make the profitable thing coincide with the goal of making more, better art. Clearly, that won’t work if you leave holes in the law big enough to drive a truck through, but that just means you have to plug the hole…

                    1. Abnaxis says:

                      Also, before people come after me for the explicit details I listed for defining a “developer,” I would like to pre-emptively state that I’m just spit-balling ideas here, and might not find them at all reasonable after I’ve slept on it :P

                3. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  Ok fine.

                  “We at EA today are proud to announce that we’re no longer publishers. We’re developers. We promise to continue developing the games you love all nice and development-like.”

                  EDIT: Awe dang, I should have read Kylroy’s post.

            2. Wide And Nerdy says:

              Lets put it another way them. There are thousands of indies, probably hundred of other studios. You don’t like what EA is selling, all you have to do is go elsewhere. Yes they bought your favorite game franchise and made it suck. You still have the installments that don’t suck right? So play those and go find other franchises that EA hasn’t ruined.

              So its not just “nobody is making you play video games” its “nobody is making you play the specific video games that EA publishes.” And before you say “they’re all like that” that would indicate you aren’t paying attention. There are companies like CD Project Red and Obsidian that are more responsive to fans and even among the big evil greedy guys, they aren’t all making the exact same games. Buy the games from the big greedy evil guys who are making the games you want. You aren’t on the hook if they decide their next game is going to have some stupid evil money hooks in it or something.

              At some point, your complaint becomes “nobody is making the game I want the way I want it made” which is a fine complaint but not one to upheave copyright law over.

              1. Abnaxis says:

                At some point, your complaint becomes “nobody is making the game I want the way I want it made” which is a fine complaint but not one to upheave copyright law over.

                My primary complaint is actually “a hell of a lot of money is being spent on games that isn’t justified by how many people want them.”

                Full disclosure: the set of people not buying (recent) AAA games includes me. It also includes tons of other people besides me.

                It is–literally–publishers’ jobs to fund games according to their market viability. Despite this, how many breakout titles in the last few years actually came from a publisher-backed game? How many times have publishers spent hundreds of millions of dollars on software, only to come back later and say it “didn’t meet expectations?”

                Publishers aren’t doing their job, but they get away with it because they have a monopoly on the markets they established through their previous successes, in the bygone days of yesteryear when they managed to make a shrewd decision. I want that safety net gone.

                I want incentives to force publishers to adapt, and the best way I know to do that is to force them into a competition where the only way to “win” is to do the job they are meant to do better than their competition.

          2. Zak McKracken says:

            In order to work with a publisher you don’t have to sell your copyright.
            In fact, in Germany there are two separate concepts: One is the right to publish something and sell it for money, the other is the right to be identified as the creator of a piece of work. The latter one cannot be sold. Full stop.

            So, you can still have a publisher (and the publisher can still screw you over) but at least they don’t get all the rights, the bargain is about the right to publish, not ownership of the idea.

            The only reason why publishers insist to be assigned as sole proprietors of all “intellectual property” rights is because they have more power over it then, and they get it because they have extremely good bargaining power (you either submit to a publisher’s conditions or you go try to sell the stuff yourself…) If copyright was not sellable, they’d very much continue to make money, despite declarations to the contrary.

      2. Orillion says:

        Ann owns the character; the concept, ideas, and personality are hers to do with as she pleases.
        Bob owns the design. Should he and Ann have a falling out, she may no longer be able to use that design, but that doesn’t entirely matter for the character, since even Batman has had more individual distinct suits than there have been other characters on DC’s roster over the years. And many of those could easily be considered legally distinct from the others, especially if you factor in the design from Batman Beyond and compare it to, say, the 1960s Adam West costume.
        Carl owns nothing, because you can’t claim legal credit for something you came up with during a water cooler conversation.

        By this metric, the situation with Denise would never happen unless Ann specifically allows it. Denise might own the stories, but never the character. At least, that’s my interpretation, and it’s by far better than what we have going on now.

        1. guy says:

          Three people co-write an episode of Star Trek that introduces a new character. Who owns the copyright on that character?

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          How is it better than it is now when:
          “By this metric, the situation with Denise would never happen unless Ann specifically allows it.”

          Have you any idea how many petty creators exist that would never allow someone else to touch their creation,despite their skill?In fact,sometimes precisely because their skill?Or do you think this behavior is reserved only for the publishers?

          1. Orillion says:

            It should be the right of the original creator to prevent the creation of works that bastardize and profane their vision. I fail to see a problem.

            Maybe the work Denise would make would be superior, but only because it interprets the character in a way completely counter Ann’s original vision. Maybe Super-man types are in–strong, perfect defenders of justice, but Ann made Mitey-Man as a character based off of someone close to her. Someone potentially deceased.

            Should Ann not have the right to stop further Mitey-Man comics if they soil the original vision she had for the character? Or should a creator’s most basic rights be lost (as they are now) the second they need to involve another person in the creative process?

            1. Kylroy says:

              “Or should a creator's most basic rights be lost (as they are now) the second they need to involve another person in the creative process?”

              This is patently untrue. You can self-publish, crowd-fund, go the Kevin Smith route and max out your credit cards to fund your project – options exist. Options that limit what you can do, but there’s a lot of gray area between “not producing” and “had to sell all my ideas”.

              But if you decide you want to do something that involves a great deal of other people’s time and money…yeah, you need to make some compromises.

              1. Orillion says:

                Compromises to the work itself, sure, but why should you be making compromises on all future works featuring the same intellectual property?

                And I’m not saying you don’t have options, but the default state of affairs when dealing with a publisher is to immediately sign over any control over your IP to the publisher. It is virtually impossible in movies, video games, and comics to have it any other way.

                1. Kylroy says:

                  “It is virtually impossible in movies, video games, and comics to have it any other way.”

                  Kevin Smith, Todd McFarlane, and…whoever it is that made Five Nights at Freddy’s beg to differ. Yes, they’re unusual cases, but *any* success in a creative field is an unusual case.

                  If you want someone to increase your possibilities by orders of magnitude, they’re going to want a say in what they’re putting their money toward.

            2. Daemian Lucifer says:

              You dont see a problem with not having mister freeze as a sympathetic villain,deep space 9,batman who doesnt kill and superman who flies?Because those would all be lost if we allowed for sole control of a single person over a work of multiple people.

              1. Orillion says:

                No, because we’d still have a sympathetic villain scientist, a neat sci-fi show about a space station, and a broody but disciplined vigilante detective. They would just be called different things and made successful (or not) on their own merits rather than on the success of the previous work (or in the case of Freeze, I guess the previous character).

                And again, we already give the sole control over these properties to a single entity. The difference here is that the person actually responsible for the ideas would be given greater control than the people bankrolling it, which is fine, because people invest in things they have little actual control over all the time! That’s how the stock market works.

                Oh, and Superman jumped the shark when he gained the ability to fly over it. Fuck Superman flight.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  You mean just how we have a no one lives forever analogue today?Just how we have an isometric fallout 3 analogue today?Yup,without someone hiring those people to make those brand named stuff we sure would have their analogues under different names.

                  The difference here is that the person actually responsible for the ideas would be given greater control than the people bankrolling it, which is fine,

                  Indeed,it would be fine if Rob Liefeld had more control over deadpool.Im sure the character would be even more popular,with even more issues if that were the case.

        3. Decius says:

          The concept, personality, and ideas are all non-copyrightable. The name and likeness are copyrightable.

          I can come out with my character idea of an evil scientist who grew six legs after being bit by a radioactive hexopod, but if I call him Ant Man I’ve infringed on a Marvel likeness, even though the concept, personality, and ideas are all distinct. Likewise I can come up with an idea for a hero that shrinks and returns to full size, and easily not infringe on Marvel at all (such as Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage).

          1. Orillion says:

            I’m not sure that’s entirely correct. ManDressedLikeABat Guy probably wouldn’t fly with Time Warner’s lawyers. I mean, sure you can go vague–dark broody vigilante with animal motif–but even if you can’t copyright the concepts and ideas, that will never stop giant conglomerates from destroying you if you try to copy their concepts and ideas in the same package.

            1. Decius says:

              That’s not how copyright works, that’s how it’s broken.

        4. Kylroy says:

          Renaming a character as part of the copy editing process is far more verifiable and concrete than “something you came up with during a water cooler conversation.”

          So that’s three people who need to be consulted every time the character is used. And any disagreement between them means the character needs to be reinvented.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Under the current state of affairs, the character is re-invented every time a new work is released, because it gets passed on to a different creator by the publishers. I don’t really see re-invention every time the original creators disagree as a step down.

            1. Kylroy says:

              I do, because the re-invention is currently a creative decision. Under this system, re-invention would be a legally mediated process where lawyers would need to review every story to make sure they didn’t use any aspect of the character they don’t currently own. The new Thor can be female because a new creator decided to do that, but they are not currently obligated to either ignore everything that happened before or seek the prior creator’s permission every time they reference anything that creator wrote.

            2. Daemian Lucifer says:

              the character is re-invented every time a new work is released

              No they arent.Small changes do happen,but major stuff are rare.Thats why the dark knight is still batman,despite the changes in acting,speech,etc.

          2. Orillion says:

            Alright, let me put it this way then: If all you come up with is the name, you do not have a right to the creation in its entirety. Editing is like plumbing: integral work, absolutely an important piece of the creation process, but the plumber does not own a share of your toilet after he fixes it.

            And it wouldn’t be three (in this case two) people who need to be consulted every time the character is used. It would be “those two people are allowed to use that character.” If Ann and Bob had a falling out, Ann could still use the character’s name and exact personality profile but not necessarily the character design. Bob would be able to re-use the design if he wished on another character, or just adapt it to suit the new character as he wished. Either one of them COULD give consent for the character to be used (say, adapted to film or video game) but only the part they own.

            Note also that this assumes a copyright system that has otherwise been fixed; thus, Ann and Bob have approximately sixteen years to make their money off of Mitey-Man before he’s in the public domain, because that’s the optimal amount of time before a work is no longer covered under copyright to not prevent creators from creating.

            1. Decius says:

              As a point of fact, if the plumber doesn’t get paid, he does own the toilet. It’s called a contractor’s lien.

              It’s better to have a corporation own everything and keep the people on a work-for-hire basis. Anybody who objects to that is welcome to self-publish.

              1. Abnaxis says:

                Point of fact: Orillion didn’t say the plumber installed the toilet, he said the plumber fixed the toilet. Toilet repair is service, no lien required–the plumber doesn’t get to own it if you don’t pay him for clearing the drain. He didn’t supply any materials, only labor.

                Also, I would note that a contractor’s lien only takes effect if you don’t pay the contractor. Which is to say, you own your toilet as long as you pay back what you owe

                Contrast this with publishers, who by this metaphor are apparently entitled to own the toilet because they supplied the materials so the toilet wouldn’t have existed without them.

            2. guy says:

              So if Carl doesn’t own the name, who does own the name?

        5. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Batman has tons of suits but loads of them are similar enough that the person who owns one of them could sue the pants off the designers of the others.

          We’d have way less Batman if all the things that fall under the Batman IP fell to their original creators. Just look at the Superboy debacle. Siegel and Shuster managed to hang onto claims of owning the idea of Superboy because they once pitched it in a meeting even though DC owned the rights to Superman.

          So even though DC owned Superman, they couldn’t tell stories for a long time about this same character being Superman as a teenager and calling himself Superboy. They were able to own the rights to a Superboy who was a teenage clone of Superman with kind of different powers and costume.

          It would get a lot crazier if the Weisinger estate owned the design we think of as the tradition Superman costume, or if John Byrne owned the post crisis design of the Kryptonian costumes. Or if Richard Donner owned the idea of the Fortress of Solitude being a crystal palace.

      3. Tollorin says:

        The situation you describe is mostly see in the US comic book industry, french-belgian comics and manga industry are differents and the works are generally made by only one or two peoples. (Putting aside the operations necessary for publishing obviously.)

        1. guy says:

          While other countries don’t necessarily have comic writers and artists moving from project to project like the US comics industry, there’s plenty of other media that do, or that simply have very large teams. Heck, if you watch anime credits they’ll often end with crediting six different companies, or the “[show name] committee”.

      4. Abnaxis says:

        Bearing in mind that I’m still thinking about this…

        To me, there’s two sides of “owning” a copyright–one side deals with who is entitled to control the creation of more content with regards to the copyrighted material, and one side deals with who actually gets paid when I go out and buy a Mitey Man comic.

        For the legal, “who gets to make more Mitey Man” side, I would agree with Orillion–rights to the name and likeness are respectively split between Ann and Bob.

        For the “who gets paid when I buy a Mitey Man comic” side, I would say the revenues would have to be split between Ann, Bob, and Carl according to a previously agreed-upon contract negotiated between the three of them. After all, Carl is contributing to the creation of Mitey Man, even if he can’t lay claim to a distinct portion of the work.

        If the trio neglected to establish such a contract before creating the work, the process for rewarding each a share of revenues would work a lot like splitting an estate does when someone dies without a will–which is to say, it will be messy, unfair, and full of lawyers.

        Denise can’t take over as writer without the explicit permission of Ann, Bob, and/or Carl.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          I thought copyright law fell under “discussing politics”! Are we doing the IP discussion now?
          I request release of Level Zero Seal.

        2. Kylroy says:

          “If the trio neglected to establish such a contract before creating the work, the process for rewarding each a share of revenues would work a lot like splitting an estate does when someone dies without a will”“which is to say, it will be messy, unfair, and full of lawyers.”

          So what happens to all the existing copyrights made under current law?

          1. Decius says:

            Their royalties accrue directly to the lawyers in perpetuity.

        3. Daemian Lucifer says:

          So you think that the current system of one owner that gets to dictate who gets to do what with the property,its better to have multiple owners who will more often than not disagree about everything in a messy and heated argument.

          Basically,instead of assassins creed,you prefer that every game gets turned into no one lives forever.Better to have all the games die without a chance at revival than becoming bland with occasional bouts of brilliance?I think thats a terrible goal to strive towards.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            I don’t think it’s a given, that if the creators disagree we get nothing. Rather, we get each of the creators taking their piece and finding someone they can work with to supplement those piece the lost when they split off.

            On Shoot Guy 4, Jim does the 3D-models, Bob, does the engine, and Sue does the sound. In the process Jim and Bob determine they can’t stand working with Sue. Now, they go work with Mary Beth instead when they release Shoot Guy 5–with a new sounds designed from scratch by Mary Beth. Sue still gets any proceeds from Shoot Guy 4, but now needs to find someone else to peddle her sweet beats.

            Subcontracting is not new to game development (or any other large enterprise, for that matter)

            1. guy says:

              No, when creators disagree we get nothing. That is what has historically happened when multiple people have copyrights to parts of a whole. Sometimes the group with the larger chunk can invent something new to fill the hole, but often they cannot.

            2. Kylroy says:

              “…with a new sounds designed from scratch by Mary Beth. Sue still gets any proceeds from Shoot Guy 4, but now needs to find someone else to peddle her sweet beats.”

              So wait. They didn’t actually use any of Sue’s work (“from scratch”), but she gets paid for it anyway? Does Mary Beth get paid too? Does every person who’s attached to the project get paid, generating a new “share” each time? If so, what incentive do people have to come into a project that’s already cycled through multiple people and is obligated to pay them after their departure?

              It’s really hard to determine who deserves credit for what in a collaborative enterprise. When you dictate that this determination MUST be made to decide how people get paid, and that NO OTHER arrangement is permissible, you’re creating a legal thicket that people will either circumvent (“everybody agree Larry gets credit for this”) or ignore (“we stopped producing games after the legal bills to determine who gets paid outpaced development costs”).

            3. Decius says:

              But Sarah did the concept art for Shoot Guy 4 in exchange for 1%, and that means that if we use the same concept art for Shoot Guy 5 we have to pay her, but she retired and we need more concept art for Shoot Guy 5, which means we have to find another concept artist and he needs a 1% cut (or whatever industry standard is for the concept artist).

              At some point we end up in The Producers, where we cannot afford to have a hit.

              1. guy says:

                And there’s also the scenario where you have thirty concept artists because you’re making an AAA game.

              2. Abnaxis says:

                So make another hit?

                There’s nothing that says every work has to be passed down through generations of authors, until it is run into the ground…

    2. guy says:

      Um, you’re proposing that publishers front most of the development costs and then get less than fifty percent of the revenue. Meaning any game that doesn’t earn at least double its budget is an outright loss. That’s not going to make them more inclined to take risks than they are under the system where they make money as long as the revenue equals the initial expenditure.

      But actually, here is how I would respond to this set of laws if I ran a publishing company: I would go back to the sf/fantasy shorts I wrote once upon a time, hand them to developers, and tell them I’ll fund games in these settings. If I can’t buy copyrights and they’re hugely valuable, I’ll just have to make some.

      1. Kylroy says:

        Yeah, this whole idea is predicated on there being a clear dividing line between creatives and money people that doesn’t really exist.

        1. guy says:

          And the money people don’t even have to be particularly good creatives, just able to make enough to claim setting copyright before getting a developer to flesh it out.

    3. MrGuy says:

      Since the only reason we invented transferable copyrights to begin with is to help publishers run their factories, we don't need rights to be transferable any more.

      Um, no. That’s not the reason why we “invented” transferable copyrights. In fact, we didn’t “invent” the idea of copyrights being transferable. You’re trying to invent the idea of them NOT being transferable.

      Copyright is a property right. Like most property, it’s always been able to be leased, assigned, or sold, as the owner sees fit.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        I apologize if it seems like I meant “invent” in a negative connotation. When I say copyrights were “invented,” I mean that they are concepts conceived and designed to fulfill a specific purpose in society, with no basis outside of social constructs.

        People invented copyright law the same way we invented marriage law, traffic law, property law, and criminal law. There’s no law of physics that says copyright has to work like physical property, any more than there is any empirical justification for mandating that all automobiles must drive on the left side or the right side of the road. The laws are just on the books because some people, many years ago, decided that they would invent them to shape society in a way they found favorable.

        I am trying to invent the idea of rights being non-transferable, because I don’t think the same underlying factors that went into treating intellectual property as physical property apply today.

        When you require a manufacturing supply chain to distribute ideas from artists to audiences, it makes sense to treat intellectual property the same as physical property. It makes less sense to do so when peer-to-peer networks can do a better job of distributing than a factory ever could, so I think it’s time to re-invent copyrights.

        1. Kylroy says:

          “When you require a manufacturing supply chain to distribute ideas from artists to audiences, it makes sense to treat intellectual property the same as physical property. It makes less sense to do so when peer-to-peer networks can do a better job of distributing than a factory ever could, so I think it's time to re-invent copyrights.”

          Thing is, it still takes a large investment to produce works like video games and movies. No amount of peer to peer networks will generate a AAA game or summer action blockbuster without some company fronting millions of dollars to get it made. I do not see why the money being spent on development rather than distribution necessitates a sea change in copyright law.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            The way distribution worked before necessitated the old model of intellectual property.

            Money being spent on production instead of distribution doesn’t necessitate the sea change, but it releases us from obligations to give rights to the people who used to run the factories (the publishers). This, in turn, gives us a chance to clear out some of the cruft that has grown as a result of giving publishers exclusive rights.

            In other words, it permits a sea change that was impossible before.

            Publishers don’t need those rights anymore to distribute works. Regardless of how much money they are spending, if they don’t need the rights they shouldn’t be getting them by default.

            1. Kylroy says:

              “Money being spent on production instead of distribution doesn't necessitate the sea change, but it releases us from obligations to give rights to the people who used to run the factories (the publishers).”

              Why? They were spending buckets of money to print disks and boxes and feelies and ship them out, now they’re paying buckets of money to fund programming teams that are an order of magnitude larger than they were in the 1990s. I do not need outright ownership of a work to print it any more than I need it to fund it’s development; I don’t see why this change in what the publisher pays for changes things.

              1. Abnaxis says:

                You need outright ownership to go after second-rate counterfeits and infringers. The people running the factories are in the best position to catch that–if a book is on a shelf that the publisher didn’t print, it’s the publisher with the factories that can supply the technical expertise and inventory documentation to prove it.

                For physical media it is virtually impossible for a counterfeiter/knock-off artist to work on a large scale when the publisher owns the rights. The publisher is the one who directs all of the legal avenues for distribution–if any work appears on any avenue for distribution the publisher did not explicitly set-up, they can sic lawyers on both the distributor and the producer of the infringing work.

                This is important, because it ensures the people selling the artists’ work get paid, which in turn makes sure the artists get paid, which in turn promotes the creation and distribution of art. Without copyright set up that way, artists would have to constantly be competing against their own works. Any time they release a popular character, musical score, or whatever, it would subsequently be very easy to mimic, and the originator of the idea would never see the fruit of their labor.

                That’s not how most infringing works today. For one thing, bloated production costs make it extremely hard to make a knock-off. If I want to make my own Batman Arkham game without the rights-holders’ permission, I have to put down millions of dollars to produce anything sellable, as opposed to spending a few thousand bucks tops and sending it to the printers. For another thing, it is impossible to trace how many games have been “manufactured”–they’re digital, there’s no hard limit on how many copies are out there. Today, we call counterfeiting “piracy,” and publishers have had no success combating it, partly because it’s near impossible to combat, but also partly because publishers aren’t really so ideally suited to combat infringement any more.

                The nature of distribution and counterfeiting has changed significantly since copyrights were first conceived. Since the entire point of the way we originally wrote the law was to make sure artists get paid for the work that is distributed on their behalf, I think the laws are due for re-examination. Publishers aren’t upholding the responsibilities we gave them power for

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  For physical media it is virtually impossible for a counterfeiter/knock-off artist to work on a large scale when the publisher owns the rights.

                  Seems like you arent that familiar with china.Here,a small glimpse of their HUGE scale counterfit toys industry.And thats nothing compared to their clothing and shoes counterfeit industry.Also,china is not the only country where this is happening.

                  Any time they release a popular character, musical score, or whatever, it would subsequently be very easy to mimic, and the originator of the idea would never see the fruit of their labor.

                  Actually,as steam(also app store to somewhat lesser extent) was so graceful to show,this is not a copyright issue,its a review issue.The sheer amount of drek and copies of copies of copies that flooded greenlight,and even the main page,showed how easy it is for the original to get drowned by its copies,even when there is no infringement(best case of this is the threes vs 2048 thing).

                  The nature of distribution and counterfeiting has changed significantly since copyrights were first conceived.

                  But the means to combat it have remained the same:Availability and marketing.If your product is available to anyone,at a reasonable price,and you are well aware of the difference,you wont have much of a problem with counterfeit goods.If your price is too high,or your shipping costs for a region are huge,or if you dont have a presence on that market,you will have a serious issue with counterfeit goods there.

                  Thats not to say that current laws are perfect.They do need to change.But not because the situation with digital art is so drastically different.

                  1. Abnaxis says:

                    Seems like you arent that familiar with china.Here,a small glimpse of their HUGE scale counterfit toys industry.And thats nothing compared to their clothing and shoes counterfeit industry.Also,china is not the only country where this is happening.

                    (Modern) China wasn’t even a blip on the radar before the 80s, and wasn’t a major economic force until a couple decades later. The country does not honor the IP laws of other nations, so the owners of those infringed works you referenced have no jurisdiction to enforce their rights. The specific site you referred to sells things on the internet–which only caught on a couple decades ago–bypassing the brick and mortar stores that copyright enforcement was built around.

                    You realize the laws we are talking about are centuries old, right? The fact that right now, the current economic climate makes it easy for people in foreign countries to bypass old copyright laws and infringe without retribution is only support for my argument that copyright no longer serves it’s purpose of protecting artists’ interests against infringement. China is just a whole ‘nother can of worms when it comes to this discussion.

                    Actually,as steam(also app store to somewhat lesser extent) was so graceful to show,this is not a copyright issue,its a review issue.The sheer amount of drek and copies of copies of copies that flooded greenlight,and even the main page,showed how easy it is for the original to get drowned by its copies,even when there is no infringement(best case of this is the threes vs 2048 thing).

                    There is an important distinction, between drek that apes a successful concept, and outright counterfeits that seek to pose as the original property. Yes, I can go on the app store to buy Candy Cruise Saga, Candy Crush Story, Candy Whatever (though I’m not actually sure if those would even fly) but I won’t find fifty copies of Candy Crush Saga that weren’t published by King.com. That’s what copyright does.

                    Drek is going to be around no matter what you do. The only thing Steam, Greenlight, et. al. did was expose the drek to the public instead of letting it languish in some executive’s inbox.

                    If your price is too high,or your shipping costs for a region are huge,or if you dont have a presence on that market,you will have a serious issue with counterfeit goods there.

                    That’s patently untrue. How many books have gone out of print, that are virtually impossible to buy any more? Where are the counterfeiters seeking to take advantage of their lack of availability? What about No One Lives Forever, as you have brought up multiple times? Why hasn’t anyone taken up the opportunity to make a new NOLF game and distribute it, since there are apparently plenty of people to buy it (given the stink raised)?

                    For that matter, why does the App store have such a problem with “drek,” as you put it, when that same drek is not any cheaper than the titles they’re trying to draft off of? Shouldn’t the availability of the quality title at a reasonable price discourage copy-cats?

                    Failing to meet high demand certainly encourages counterfeiting, but it does not guarantee counterfeiting. “Availability and marketing” is nowhere near enough to combat copying–hell, it’s not even that effective at it. Legal protections for works have always been integral to stopping infringement.

    4. Decius says:

      So, wouldn’t this abolish work-for-hire as a thing? Wouldn’t that obliterate just about all large-scale creative work?

      1. Kylroy says:

        …more or less. Abnaxus is basically trying to abolish the admittedly squishy concept of a “producer” and replace it with the much more clearly defined “investor”. But the problem is that many creative fields (theatre, movies, video games) have had producers for years, and trying to separate the investment and creative aspects of producing with as blunt a tool as copyright law will just generate endless confusion.

    5. MadTinkerer says:

      “creators ALWAYS OWN their creations, forever,”

      That’s a super, super horrifying proposal. I hope you’re merely overlooking the idea of public domain and not ignoring it?

      I also hope you’re overlooking the horrific implications of copyright ending at a creator’s death and what that rule could encourage?

      I admire your intentions, but never mind the consequences for publishers, that’s a pretty bad proposal for creators as you’ve written it.

      1. Orillion says:

        Disney murdered the public domain entirely, so I’m not surprised people forget it exists.

      2. Abnaxis says:

        Like I’ve said, I’m still working my own way through this idea…

        Something I’m munching on right now, is that ownership of copyright doesn’t necessarily HAVE to be exclusive. It’s not like copyright is some physical object, that has to obey the First Law of Thermodynamics–they can be created and destroyed as needed to fulfill their purpose.

        So maybe when a creator creates, they own their creation forever, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t share?

        I dunno. I have to think about that.

        1. Kylroy says:

          What can they share, though? Right now they can share as much or as little as they want, although sharing less limits the number of people who will fund their efforts. Any attempt to restrict what rights creators are allowed to give up (which is ultimately the core of this idea) will ultimately result in people with money and influence playing shell games to ensure they are the “creators” of the property they funnel millions of dollars into developing.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Owning something forever is actually one of the big problems for video games today.Ea released spore 7 years ago,and they dont care about it anymore.But no one else can take a shot at it now because ea doesnt want to sell the rights,even though they arent interested in doing it.Same problem would arise if it were people owning stuff instead of companies.

          Imagine if someone creates adventure guy,shoot guy and ball guy,and decides to focus only on the ball guy now.But they dont want to give up rights on the other two.So now fans of adventure guy and shoot guy will be left in the ditch,because no one would be able to make sequels to it,despite a bunch of people working for the same company.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            I would agree with your point, and would very much like seeing a workable alternative to permanent intellectual property rights.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Something akin to some movie rights(if you dont use it,you lose it,only instead of reverting to someone,they would become public domain)can work,as long as you dont get some spiteful dickhead to release whatever crap they can just so they can keep the rights.

              1. Kylroy says:

                Putting expiration dates on IP rights is an existing process that has plenty of legal precedent (like drug patents). So changing that is just a matter of getting laws changed, rather than generating new legal approaches from scratch.

                “Use it or lose it” has appeared as a matter of contract law for a long time with regards to movies. I am hesitant to enshrine it in civil law before contract law settles what it would mean for video games: does Konami releasing a mobile Castlevania game let them keep the IP? How about a pachinko machine?

                And as much as I hate Disney disemboweling the public domain, you have to admit that they have absolutely used their characters continuously since the 1930s; I can’t really accuse them of sitting on IP they aren’t actively employing.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Putting expiration dates on IP rights is an existing process that has plenty of legal precedent (like drug patents)

                  But why isnt it a thing for video games?How come abandonware isnt a real legal thing?Why are publishers still in control of one off titles that havent been sold for literally decades now?Why is gog unable to restore old games like no one lives forever?

                  1. guy says:

                    Technically they do expire; Disney’s lawyers have spent a while making the expiration period be “longer than it’s been since Steamboat Willie” so they retain copyright on Mickey Mouse.

  10. Aitch says:

    That analogy of the monkey driving a tank was so spot on. Stuff like that is why I always find myself back here. Such casual profundity sprinkled through, like that “Better to get a dumb answer than to ignore the question” – it sounds like mundane platitudes until you realize you’ve heard nothing but people saying “Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer (so don’t bother or waste my time)” etc, etc…

    All the respect. And since I have the chance, Happy Birthday! Thanks for keeping up with it all, this place is a precious thing to a lot of people.

  11. MichaelGC says:

    Blimey, the Hamburglar’s seen better days, hasn’t he? I did like the line about being “incapable of adapting to their environment.” Good show! :D

  12. tmtvl says:

    Reading about Dark Spore reminds me of the news about the new Mirror’s Edge. And that makes me sad, I want a -good- Mirror’s Edge game, not a Titanfall ripoff.

  13. Primogenitor says:

    To put the odds of a sequel off even more, EA owns the patent on “Video game with simulated evolution” which is more about automatically distributing user-generated content than evolution.



    Is it legal and valid? Probably not, but who wants to fight EA’s lawyers to find out?

    1. Liechtenauer says:

      Videogame patents make me thank the stars for Alice v. CLS.

    2. Decius says:

      That patent is for automatic sharing. Easy to work around, plus EA can’t afford the negative press of going after an indie developer, and it would be too expensive to win that lawsuit.

      1. Kylroy says:

        When has negative press vis a vis other companies ever deterred EA before?

        1. Decius says:

          It’s kept them from trying to kill InExile.

  14. Scerro says:

    The article didn’t mention DRM for so long that I was concerned about whether I was really reading an article you wrote.

    Spore may have gotten a sequel, if not for the horrendous DRM. The 1-star rating on amazon before the game even released at the very least hampered sales.

  15. Bubble181 says:

    I know this isn’t the perfect post to put this info, but it links up to the articles being put up at the moment and here it might still be seen: GOG has just released most of the older TES games DRM-free; Arena and Daggerfall free with purchase of any of the others; working on new systems.
    For anyone who wants to play along…. :-) Might want to throw that info somewhere in the next installment of the series :-)

  16. Kalil says:

    Spore is like a version of Sim City where it doesn’t matter where you put your buildings in relation to one another.

    They actually did this. It was called SimCity Societies. It was awful, boring, childish, but very pretty and full of failed promise. In other words, more a true prequel to Spore than SimEarth or SimLife.

  17. Mark says:

    Hopefully this isn’t too late to be seen – just wanted to say I really enjoyed Sporeler Warning. It was absolutely hilarious. I hope you guys come back to it later, perhaps in the same short-subject way you did Half-Life 2.

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