Companies Request LittleBigPlanet IP Whitelisting

7 01 2009

http://flickr.com/photos/sillygwailo/348769786/

LittleBigPlanetoid brought this very interesting nugget to my attention on Monday: Companies have been asking Media Molecule to add their IP to a whitelist for LittleBigPlanet, meaning that rather than being treated as copyright infringement, works based on their things will be treated as fan art or free marketing, and allowed to stay in place.

Sony have taken a very cautious approach so far: that nuking things from orbit is the only way to be sure. At first there were complaints of overly zealous moderation, and lack of explanation for it, but MM/Sony have worked with the fan community to improve this immeasurably. It’s very pleasing that they seem to be just as amenable with companies too; LittleBigPlanet is so polished that people want their IP to be in it.

Merely squashing copyright infringing user generated content is often a terrible step to take, as it’s generally non-profit making, and those who put their time and skill (of any level) into creating it tend to be the fans who care the most.

There’s a story from the Unreal modding scene I often use when talking about these things, but it seems like pretty much all of the blog, forum and news posts about it have rotted away as it was about 8 years ago (Blimey. Link rot could get a lot worse than we expect…). A modder named Patrick “BadKarma” Fitzimmons was making a Star Wars map pack for Unreal Tournament, and repeatedly got cease and desist letters from Lucasarts’ lawyers. After (IIRC) several years of justifying it as non-profit making, sophisticated fan art, and getting people to sign petitions on his behalf, Lucasarts eventually stopped with the threats and started tacitly backing them, with it going on to become a fully fledged mod.

The entire struggle threw the issues into very stark relief, with a protracted fight between Lucasarts and BadKarma that led to a lot of head scratching. At the time, Twentieth Century Fox had also gained a reputation for threatening and generally stamping on all mod makers who infringed their copyrights, to the extent that the verb “foxing” was invented to describe it. Conditions laid down on an Aliens mod for Half Life were basically: “Cease work, hand over all assets and copyright to us, delete all of your own copies of your work, and we reserve the right to still sue you even if you comply”. The problem with this is that the fans have put a lot of time, effort and love into their creations, and the companies are engendering disillusion by attacking their strongest devotees.

LittleBigPlanet is actually quite a nice compromise, acting as a sandbox that, hopefully, will keep the lawyers happy too. The news of whitelisting is excellent, and it seems likely that EA are on the list given some of the levels that have been permitted to exist there. Impressive, for a company that used to be regarded by many as the evil empire of the games industry.

(CC image by sillygwailo)

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Gaming Data

17 11 2008

http://flickr.com/photos/isriya/1786868715/

I find most press releases very ignorable, but according to this one on MCV today, Everton Football Club have licensed the football manager database from Sports Interactive, apparently allowing them to search through 340,000 or so players.

This is a very intersting by-product of such a popular game, and strikes me as related to a couple of interesting finds from the past few weeks: Aftershock, a game about earthquake preparedness based on a USGS report, and the fact that Google search results for certain terms strongly parallel flu outbreaks.

How many data sources are there out there that would readily plug into entertaining and useful game mechanics? While it’s by no means ubiquitous yet, games driven by data are going to become more common.

(CC image by isyria)





Third Party 360s?

27 06 2008

http://flickr.com/photos/shaymus22/113418923/

Normally, I wouldn’t bother posting something on the basis of a rumour, but this is the most interesting one I’ve heard in a long time:

We’ll tell you what’s up with Microsoft: new hardware options. It may sound totally insane — trust us, we did a double-take the first time Qmann whispered it in our ears — but word has it that Microsoft may begin allowing third-party manufacturers to create Xbox 360 hardware. And we’re not talking about peripherals, people; we mean hardware that runs 360 game discs created by someone other than Microsoft. It’s a novel way of dealing with that red ring issue, don’t you think?

I think this would quite literally be a stroke of genius.

It would greater enable hardware to adapt to the end of five year cycles through convergence with other devices, e.g. a Blu-Ray 360, or whatever is around in 2 – 4 years time. It seems like a next step from the multiple SKUs that Microsoft has been offering, from the Core to the Elite. TVs, set-top boxes etc could be sold as “360 capable”, sneaking the hardware into all kinds of other sales.

In this respect it’d be the opposite approach to Sony with the PS3: Instead of a high end console that does many other things, licensed 360s could be whatever people primarily wanted, with the capability to play games also in there.

It would mitigate problems like the Red Ring Of Death, while also offloading a lot of Microsoft’s customer support to licensees of the technology. It would allow all kinds of platform tweaks and revisions, ala firmware upgrades for Blu-Ray players. If Microsoft were getting license fees and even royalties, much of the worry about attach rates and marketing would be passed on to third party manufacturers.

It would further help to shed any residual nerdy image gaming has, because manufacturers are likely to try all manner of convergence and aesthetics. This would be especially apt for Microsoft, who have a “men-in-suits” image themselves while many customers for the Xbox are still imagined to be fanboys and stereotypical teenage gamers.

It was an open yet standardised specification coupled with some proprietary technology that allowed the PC to be launched and become such a dominant platform (Though the legal cloning of IBM’s proprietary BIOS probably helped to propel it even further).

Licensing of 360 technology seems a little too good, and too lacking in conservatism, to even possibly be true. Microsoft own the chips this time round though, and could do it. On the downside, the opening of such a platform would probably work in favour of piracy. Nonetheless, Apple, Microsoft and Sony, among others, have all been talking about the convergent future, and money is following. Multiple SKUs and interchangable faceplates seem like a mere stepping stone on the way there.

(CC image: 360 in the fridge by shaymus022)





Brand Assumptions

3 06 2008

Beauty and The Beast

News about UK developer discontent rumbles on, and for now hardly seems worth blogging about, but I did see this intersting piece on Gamesindustry this morning: Disney games are hampered by preconceptions, says Black Rock boss.

Black Rock Studio’s general manager, Tony Beckwith, has said the studio’s greatest challenge will be overcoming stereotypes associated with the Disney brand.

The Brighton-based developer, previously known as Climax Racing, said that it would have to fight preconceptions around the Disney name if it is to make its upcoming arcade racer Pure a success.

An increasing amount of large brand owners are entering games by buying up studios or starting their own, but as the marketplace for games grows and splinters, brand owners may find it difficult to make a convincing offering. This isn’t just Sony trying to shed the “games are for kids” preconception, nor is it Microsoft trying to shed the “Men in suits” image. It’s lots of companies simultaneously trying to either grow their brand in a new direction, or harmonise games with it.





Game Republic: License to Kill

25 03 2008

Goldeneye

Game Republic are holding an event on game licensing on April the 15th. From the site:

Speakers confirmed so far include Aaron Ludlow from Mastertronic. Keep an eye on this page for further updates. The session will be chaired by Northern games industry legend, Charles Cecil, Managing Director of Revolution Software.

(CC Image of the N64 in our office).





Eurocom to make Beijing 2008 Game

14 01 2008

beijing2.jpg

Derby, UK based developer Eurocom have been signed up by Sega to develop a game to go alongside the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. Sega’s press release is up on the Eurocom website.

Flickr photo of the Forbidden City CC licensed from Molas.