Companies Request LittleBigPlanet IP Whitelisting

7 01 2009

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)

Nickelodeon Increases Game Production

20 03 2008


Yet more big media pushing into games: Nickelodeon plans to make a further 600 original flash games this year, and get 1000 more from other publishers. They’ve also reiterated a commitment to virtual worlds, and announced game development tools aimed at users rather than game developers:

— is a completely new vertical launch for the Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group. Launching in third quarter, will provide users with various tools to build new Nick-branded or original games and levels within existing games.

— AddictingGames Toolkits and Shockwave Gamebuilder: AddictingGame Toolkits and Shockwave Gamebuilder lets users create and upload their own versions of games and game levels using simple drag and drop editing tools, and a selection of art assets. AddictingGames has already seen huge success with the first of these games, Pencil Racer, launched in February.

— Role Player: users have spent years creating their own role-playing games on the site’s message boards. Groups of friends craft rich, collaborative stories, some of which have gone on for years. Role Player, launching in June, gives users new tools to create games, expanding and enriching these stories outside of the confines of the message boards. Users can invent their own worlds and characters, audition players, and customize different versions of their avatars to fit each game they’re playing.

They already have around 5000 games, and claim 80% of their audience play games. Yahoo have a copy of the full press release.

Free 360 Development Tools

7 03 2008

360 controller

Excellent move from Microsoft; XNA attracted quite a lot of flak for its subscription models last year. Now they’ve announced free development tools for students under a new programme called Dreamspark:

The Microsoft DreamSpark student program ( makes available, at no charge, a broad range of development and design software for download. The program is now available to more than 35 million college students in Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S. Broad global coverage, as well as an expansion of the program to high school students around the world, potentially reaching up to 1 billion students worldwide, will continue throughout the next year.

After this rolls out globally, they just have to open it up to the kind of auteurs who turn to modding…

(CC image from louder)

Areae Reveals Plans

19 09 2007


Raph Koster and co. at Area have been keeping quiet about what they’re doing, though the logo and Raph’s general talk of “game meets web” has been pretty revealing. Today, they announced Metaplace, which allows many virtual worlds to be connected up. From CNet:

“We are re-inventing virtual worlds that stop working like AOL,” Koster said, “and start working the way the Web does….You can build a massive multiplayer game in minutes there are style sheets to make building easier.

Koster said that Metaplace would allow users to employ Web 2.0 tools like tags, wikis and forums in the pursuit of quickly and easily making usable, fun virtual worlds.

It’s 2D only so far, but they’re working on a 3D client too.

Viewed from the games industry, it’s an incredible idea. Viewed from the web, it just seems sensible.

(via Wonderland)

UGC Filters

9 08 2007

UGC is becoming a huge games buzzword thanks to startups like Areae and projects like Spore. Tadhg Kelly talks about it at Particle Blog. This point in particular:

at some point novelty itself must give way to depth.

is one I heard made at Develop in relation to new platforms (Richard Garriot’s keynote, IIRC): New technology drives games developers back to basic gameplay, and with familiarity comes innovation. Tadhg applies it to UGC though:

The backlash against user-generated content is gathering pace from all quarters, but what’s missing from it is the understanding that it’s not the whole thing that’s borked, it’s the essential lack of editing/vetting that makes it so. Editing is what weeds out novelty with no purpose from novelty that is an actual font for creativity.

Turning to games, what this means is that the content vetting still matters. Casual portals perform this function automatically by ranking on popularity, but the games sites and news arenas are much more important as both seeds of discussion and vetting that which is not. Yet they have the problem of being so wrapped up in the industry’s press whorl that they really often become mouthpieces.

As a result, the thing that the industry actually needs is not more indie games or more access for developers or whatever (well it does, but that’s a separate gig). What it actually needs is a site/magazine blog that focuses its energies on being the vetting force behind indie. There is more than enough reportage on the activities of the main industry with its boom and bust, its half a thousand cliche’s and its endless wranging over meaningless theories of game design. What there isn’t is an indie media mag that effectively tunes all this out and spends its entire time finding the cool stuff.

Certainly some fair points. As someone who comes from the UT mod community, both as player of and a project lead for third party work, I’m used to wading through lots of crap to find the good stuff. It’s not exactly an issues new and unique to UGC though; exactly the same goes if you’re considering exhibition proposals for an art gallery.

I can’t help but think Tadhg is a little bit behind UGC and media in general, since plenty of blogs are doing exactly that kind of filtering for other niches, but it’s a well made point: Games are expanding to the point where they’re going to need good filters. As consumers of games and extra content, we’re going to need something to winnow down what’s available. That could represent a bigger transition than it first seems, from push to pull media.

Second life gets a voice

28 02 2007

As PC’s and consoles grow ever closer:

it was announced that Linden Lab will integrate the Vivox voice services into the fabric of Second Life. Second Life Residents will be able to speak with one another simply by walking up to other Residents and talking. There will be no need for a separate application, download, or login. Much like the experience of the Million Minutes program run this past fall by Vivox in-world when several Residents gathered around the microphones for group conversations. But now, no need to download a separate application. Spatial audio is also a feature and will allow residents to hear each other based on their positions – on their left, right, far away or nearby. Other capabilities will include controls for both Residents and land owners to manage participation in conversations, friends lists, presence, speaking indicators and tools that will allow people to stay connected in and out of world.

Second Life plans to start a private Beta in the next couple of weeks.

This is a tremendous step for Second Life and for Vivox. Real time communication gives users a lot of choice and opportunities to connect.

EA Acquires Music Community, Networking Site SingShot

13 02 2007

EA Acquires Music Community, Networking Site SingShot Electronic Arts has announced the acquisition of San Francisco-based online karaoke community SingShot Media, which the company says will “accelerate EA’s efforts in community-building and promoting user-generated content.”

The web-based social networking platform, the product of a year of work between CEO Ranah Edelin and CTO Niranjan Nagar, allowed SingShot members to “record their own renditions of famous songs, share their recordings with friends, rate and comment on other members’ tracks, customize recordings with photos and videos, and compete in a variety of contests.”

Though EA’s plans for the SingShot technology and platform were not immediately made clear, company officials said the five person SingShot team would be brought in to EA’s Sims division, suggesting that franchise of games would be the first to see the fruits of the merger.

Under the terms of the agreement, Edelin and Nagar, who formerly were core members of the team that completed what is now RealNetworks’ Rhapsody music subscription service, will join EA as vice presidents.

Said EA executive vice president and group general manager Nancy Smith, “We are thrilled to bring the SingShot team into EA. They are tremendously talented, technically adept and true experts in developing user-generated communities through music. We see a bright future for the technology and each of these individuals within EA.”