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Author Topic: Is Indieness a Property of People, Games, Books, or Lines?  (Read 3840 times)
Tav_Behemoth
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« on: August 24, 2004, 04:56:43 AM »

I'm splitting this off from the Open Licenses and Indie Games thread:

Quote from: Michael Hopcroft
From my perspective., the question I got when i saw the topic is whether someone who uses an open or semi-=open system such as M&M Suerlink or FUDGE can qualify as indie... Am i an indie anymore?


Independent has a rigorous definition, which Ron re-posted recently & which I'll link to if I get a moment. As I understand it, it applies to games rather than to people, and can be better stated as "creator-owned". Seems to me that creators are indie insofar as they share a loose set of ideals and participate in indie communities; part of that participation is releasing indie games, but I don't it makes sense to disqualify someone would be disqualified for writing some non-indie games for others as well as some for yourself.

The issue raised by your question that I'm unclear on, Michael, is how a game is defined within the definition of independence. Masters and Minions is owned by its creators, but it doesn't make sense to say that people who are playing a game that uses twenty-sided dice and the core D&D rulebooks start playing a different game if they incorporate material from Masters and Minions.

Is the unit of analysis the book (or PDF or other product)? Or is it the product line -- would every volume in the Masters and Minions series become non-indie if we invited someone else to write an ecology for the gelatinous cube, but didn't make them a co-owner of Behemoth3?
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Masters and Minions: "Immediate, concrete, gameable" - Ken Hite.
Get yours from the creators or finer retail stores everywhere.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2004, 05:41:17 AM »

Hello,

Fundamentals first: using an open license does not "threaten" one's game's independent status. That's been clear at the Forge from day one.

Qualification #1: some open licenses may threaten it, however, especially if it permits executive control over the product's management in some way by the source-company.

Note that this point does not apply to content restrictions, which I consider to be imposed constraints that the independent publisher simply chooses to accept (which is normal; constraints on content come from all sorts of places).

Qualification #2: using a paid license, rather than an open one, is quite likely grounds for closely examining the independence of the game. Although it is a case-by-case issue, I suggest that in many cases fthat taking this route is simply becoming an advertiser, who pays for the "privilege" (i.e. a moron). But this is a bit off-topic and might be the subject of a later discussion in a differen thread.

Now for your really hard question, Tav. I deal with this all the time, and I really have to stress that it takes a lot of research, on a case by case basis, to arrive at a decision regarding a given game.

Whoa, sidebar. Gotta vent. Most of the games people cite to criticize my definition of independence have been deeply researched by me - it's not a snap judgment. GURPS is not independent. HeroQuest is. If anyone wants to wants to wail about how "arbitrary" I'm being about that, then kiss off.

Deep breath. Sorry Tav, back to it. Clearly there is a sliding scale here. For example, Issaries Inc not only relied on design work from a non-company person, but also currently relies greatly on a small staff's editorial and submission process. How is that different from Steve Jackson Games?

Well, it is. Issaries is a creative patriarchy which welcomes massive contributions to Greg's game, relying on an extraordinary degree of filtering and modification by him. SJG - and this is not a value judgment - is an encyclopedia mill, which Steve oversees and manages; the people doing the research and putting it together are all work-for-hire.

But SJG does indeed represent the key point you raise! Because it began fully independent, and over time it has changed. That doesn't mean I think Steve "sold out" or did anything bad at all. The business model changed, that's all.

Let's take Behemoth3. I just met the three of you, and without qualification, it is absolutely clear that you, Sang, and Nat are the creators of these three books.

But let's say in the fullness of time, years and years, although the three of you remain in charge of Behemoth3 in your current capacities - that a line of thirty-odd books after the first 3-5 or so was/is actively conceived, developed, managed, and developed-for-print by people in your employ who do not have the policy-authority in Behemoth3 that you guys have.

In this imaginary example, where'd the line get established, exactly? I dunno. But it definitely got established and then crossed eventually.

For those who are interested, I recently contacted Greg Stafford and asked him lots of questions, because I was concerned that Issaries had crossed that line with its post-HeroQuest publications. By "concerned," I mean for the Forge's Issaries forum, not for Issaries (he can do what he wants, it's his). Greg characteristically was gracious, professional, and savvy, and explained all sorts of things about how the company operates - and it's independent, period.

Oh yeah, Tavis, you mentioned a bit about play itself, and I should also state for the record that the term "independent" means nothing in terms of actual play. It definitely and only applies to product/presentation.

Best,
Ron
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Tav_Behemoth
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« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2004, 06:01:28 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Let's take Behemoth3. I just met the three of you, and without qualification, it is absolutely clear that you, Sang, and Nat are the creators of these three books.


I should point out that, just as there are four Three Musketeers, there are four Behemoth3 creators: the ones you mention as well as Brian Stith, who wrote the minotaur book and compiled charts & NPC stats for the others. No worries, though, Ron.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Oh yeah, Tavis, you mentioned a bit about play itself, and I should also state for the record that the term "independent" means nothing in terms of actual play. It definitely and only applies to product/presentation.


The reason I mentioned play is to underscore the difference between a game per se and a supplement, which is another way of looking at Michael's original question: the issue is, can a creator-owned book that is played with a non-creator-owned game-system (like Mutants and Masterminds or D&D) be considered indie? The open license is, in this case, just the mechanism by which a creator can work within that framework that he doesn't own.

I see that your issues about product management and cash flow relate to this, but (since HeroQuest and GURPS are games in a way that systems-within-d20 like Mutants and Masterminds are not exactly). some expansion would be appreciated.
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Masters and Minions: "Immediate, concrete, gameable" - Ken Hite.
Get yours from the creators or finer retail stores everywhere.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2004, 06:22:25 AM »

Hiya,

Quote
can a creator-owned book that is played with a non-creator-owned game-system (like Mutants and Masterminds or D&D) be considered indie? The open license is, in this case, just the mechanism by which a creator can work within that framework that he doesn't own.


H'm. I thought I'd answered this, but let's see what I missed ...

The basic answer is Yes. If the creator of the book is the publisher, and exercises full control over policy over that book/property, then it's independent. If the legal standards for using the source-game's content are followed, then all is well for everyone.

Charnel Gods would seem to be a good example. It's a mini-supplement for Sorcerer, written by Scott Knipe and sold by him. [The arrangement for Sorcerer based mini-supplements is a constrained OGL-type thing: you have to pass my inspection and include a buy button at the Sorcerer site.] I didn't spend a dime in producing this book, it was all Scott, and he gets all the money for selling it. It's independent.

Off topic a bit, but again, just for people who might not be immersed in this issues - Let's say a proposed mini-supplement didn't pass my inspection. Could it still be published? Sure, but anything in it that reproduced my stuff or utilized it as my stuff is copyright infringement and would draw my legal wrath. If there isn't anything in there of that sort, then no problem.

Best,
Ron
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Luke
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« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2004, 10:25:08 AM »

Interesting that this should come up.

I encountered two noticeable moments of hostility toward Forge-like "independents" at GenCon.

I'm not going to name names, but two middle-tier game company owners complained that this site had co-opted the term "independent" in an industry of independent companies.

I did get a chance to offer and explanation to one of them: Games written, published and owned by the author. To which he indignantly replied, "Well that's us!" To which I replied, "Great!" (or something).

The other incident involved more of a mob sentiment, as well as a direct complaint against the tagline for this site. I heard the typical derisive chorus call of "Yeah, written, designed, printed, bound and edited by one guy."

Personally, I find the "independent" term a little contentious, but I've used it in the past to describe my game and will continue to use it in the future. (Though I confess that I also use "small press" almost interchangeably). I very much plan on remaining in complete control of my IP (which to me, is the mark of independence -- no freelancers, no boards, no selling it off.)

My reason for posting this was to point out that there is indeed a wide-reaching reaction to what Ron and Clinton have done here at this site and at the booth -- both favorable and unfavorable. Something to be considered as we go forward.

-L

PS that first conversation was had with said game designer as he was purchasing stuff from our booth.  Hee!!
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Keith Senkowski
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« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2004, 10:36:15 AM »

Hey,

Maybe this is the wrong thread to post this too, but the negative reaction Luke described really bugs me.  I firstly don't understand the hostility because when indie writters expand the market in directions large companies can't they expand it for everyone, not just the indie crowd.  It works the same with music and I don't think I've ever witnessed this kind of hostility.

I guess my question is how do you respond to the hostility?  I don't mean like on the spot say Screw yourself buddy but rather how do we as a community work to turn that negativity around?

Keith
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Conspiracy of Shadows: Revised Edition
Everything about the game, from the mechanics, to the artwork, to the layout just screams creepy, creepy, creepy at me. I love it.
~ Paul Tevis, Have Games, Will Travel
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2004, 11:38:08 AM »

Hiya,

Fairly bluntly, no one can control a kneejerk reaction on another's part.

I don't care what we call what we're doing. As long as it's not a totally made-up word like Ylogoib or Setarbetrev, then people are responsible for distinguishing between their own immediate reactions to it and what they are prepared to express as fellow human beings.

Said reactions include

1. You must be distinguishing yourself from everyone else. This is what the one guy was saying, "Hey, that's us!"

Right. It is him. And?

In other words, the only person responsible for making him "feel excluded" by the term was himself.

2. You must be praising yourself at the expense of everyone else. This reaction is only demonstrated from people who feel bad about themselves. It is literally psychologically impossible to react this way otherwise, without any evidence to support it.

Do I think that self-publishing is a better option? Yes. So? That doesn't mean anyone else has to do it or be considered stupid or wrong by me if they don't.

Now here is the main point, and I hope folks listen up.

The Forge has no meaningful audience outside itself. As a site, it doesn't have to please anybody, accord with anyone's expectations, or provide any service at all to anyone - outside of participants.

Now, your game indeed has a wider and meaningful audience, i.e., commerce. The Forge itself is something you may or may not want to utilize relative to your game.

Some folks consider it a selling point or an opportunity to develop their game here and utilize the resources, including the Forge booth and the "indie" thing. This is what Paul Czege has done.

Some folks think that being associated with the Forge is not a selling point or opportunity (or not the way they want), so they take what they need and move on. This is what Jared Sorensen has done.

Paul and Jared are free agents in this regard. The Forge is what it is, which includes all of its changes past and future, and a given game publisher can choose what he or she needs from it. But the Forge does not have to accord with anyone's expectations. It is not a paid service, an organization, a company, or political platform. It makes no policy outside of its internal mechanisms, and does not levy fees.

It doesn't have to account for itself.

It doesn't have to provide a service someone else would like it to.

It doesn't have to "look and feel" any particular way.

It doesn't have to meet any kind of quota for membership or to make any special effort to attract anyone.

There is no earthly reason that any reaction to its content, image, procedures, standards, or anything else is anyone's business except for someone who posts here with a good will.

It is crystal clear what sort of publishing will be supported through Forge resources. It is also clear what sort of discourse is expected here. That is all. If a person adds any other reactions or snap judgments to the situation, that is no skin off the Forge nose.

It would be if the Forge were a company, an organization, a policy-making body, or any else similar. But it's not, so there ya go.

Best,
Ron
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eyebeams
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« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2004, 03:43:16 PM »

*deleted, since everything else related to this line of conversation was moved.*
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Malcolm Sheppard
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2004, 03:57:39 PM »

Sorry man, I was splitting n' all.

Best,
Ron
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