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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 22 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Work in progress publication question  (Read 1101 times)
Cedric
Member

Posts: 28


« on: October 03, 2011, 08:43:12 AM »

Dear Forgies,

I've been making progress on a RPG since a couple of years. Now that it truly begins to take form, I've started exchanging ideas on this very forum.
Lately I've been brainstorming about a system for the game. I now have a first version ready and... I'm kinda stuck, because I'm not sure how much I'm willing to publish it on the web 'as is'.

I never really thought about making profit with this game, but a little voice at the back of my head tells me 'you never know'.
So I'm wondering about the best way to release the content on the web; can a Creative Commons license do it?

One of my questions is namely: what are the self-imposed restrictions if I go for such a license? Let's say I'm going for a BY-NC-ND license, will this prevent myself from later-on trying another license model?
I'm interested by the analogy with free software, where the authors invite people who like the software to make a donation. What would be then the best way (or, let's say, a working way) towards this goal?

Thanks for your lights

  Cédric
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 2775


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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2011, 11:35:21 AM »

This is actually a really simple issue. You'll be glad to know that the Creative Commons licenses never limit your own actions, as there are no commitments from you in the language of the license regarding your own use of your own IP; those licenses are solely about what others may do with your stuff. There is nothing stopping you from releasing your game for free under a non-commercial CC license and asking for voluntary donations. Check out Ben Lehman's work for an example of how an experienced indie publisher might implement donation-based publication.

Of course the fact that you do not create a legal liability for yourself by publishing your work does not mean that it's automatically a good idea. Theoretically you might lessen the value of your IP by exposing it to the public - in some culture industries first publication rights are a quite serious matter. In practice and almost without exception an unproven gaming IP will rather increase in value from exposure, but it's still a risk you should understand in context to your artistic and commercial goals.

Also, because you asked it:

Quote
So I'm wondering about the best way to release the content on the web; can a Creative Commons license do it?

You don't particularly need the CC license to release your stuff in the Internet. If you just put your game up somewhere, it's still under your control the same it always was (legally speaking, I mean - obviously enough you can't prevent others from copying digital files around nilly-willy). You can stop distribution if you want, and you don't actually need a specific fancy license text to give away rights regarding the work. Creative Commons licenses do not protect your rights, their purpose is rather to give others some limited rights regarding your work in an unambiguous way.
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Cedric
Member

Posts: 28


« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2011, 11:45:35 PM »

Thanks for the clarification !
So, to sum it up:

- IP is in essence mine, but of course, by publishing on the web I can't guarantee that everybody will behave in an ethical manner with respect to the material
- CC is a mean to regulate what people can do with the material, but has no impact on said IP

I have a couple of extra questions.

- You said: "In practice and almost without exception an unproven gaming IP will rather increase in value from exposure" - I'm not sure I get the sentence right? What means 'unproven' here?

- About Ben Lehman's work: I understood that his material is not available as free-to-download and that his approach is to allow a 0$ donation. I'm just wondering here about the 'business model'. Do you (or would anyone on this forum) have experience in another model, which would basically consist in letting free direct download in parallel? I understand that there is some psychological factor here, just wondering. 0$ donation will look mean and encourage to pay for more, but direct download will let you judge of the quality and maybe encourage you to pay more that what you'd have initially thought?

- About your own work, out of curiosity: it seems that your game works on Fudge, and I see you are selling it for 0,5$. Is it the system you're proposing here or the adaptation to your game? And did you need an authorization from the author in the first place? (sorry for the stupid questions, I am not familiar with OGL...)

Last, and coming back to one of my initial points: I would like to open my current work to the readers of The Forge, for comments. But doing this means exactly publishing on the web. Would you have any alternatives to this wide open publication? I'm afraid the alternative is to send separate copies to a small number of people, which will in turn reduce the quality and exhaustiveness of said comments...

Thanks again for your answers

  Cédric
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 2775


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« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2011, 09:28:23 AM »

- You said: "In practice and almost without exception an unproven gaming IP will rather increase in value from exposure" - I'm not sure I get the sentence right? What means 'unproven' here?

Culture industry works by churning through enormous amounts of ideas and products. The undergrowth in all medias is massive. This is true for gaming as well, and it means that a new game with no track record has a very low initial value, commercially speaking. With static art forms like literature or especially cinema there's a bit of a problem here, as you can increase the exposure of your work by distributing it for free in the Internet, but you're simultaneously also consuming the potential audience of a further commercial product based on the same work. (Of course it's not quite this simple, and there are ways around this, and it's possible to argue that no such dilution of value is happening - let's move on anyway for now.)

With a game (especially a roleplaying game or other real games as opposed to multimedia art) the situation is a bit different, as you're usually not so much selling content as you're selling a process; exposure will gain you new practitioners for this thing you're selling, but it does not reduce your potential future audience for the same thing, as hopefully those new practitioners will simply continue to practice, and become increasingly receptive to new products that support their new practice. Because of this difference in how consumption of games vs. static art forms works it makes more sense to be very aggressive about pushing your gaming stuff to the attention of other people, free or not. With a novel you've given away the thing they might have paid for, while with a game you've just whetted their appetite for the forthcoming commercial version.

That's the theory, anyway. I'm not particularly married to this myself, just explaining some ideas that have made the rounds. The outcome of this model is that for games especially, and potentially for other forms of art as well, exposure is more valuable for an unproven property and unproven author than for those who already have established markets. Basically, the worth of an unknown game from a no-name author is already so close to zero that there's not much for you to lose by putting it out and hoping that it catches on. Even if it becomes insanely popular, you're still the only one legally allowed to make a profit off it (technically you're legally the one who can tell the Internet to stop copying the work now that it's popular, but good luck with that), and more importantly, you're now in a position to expect the most valuable commodity of all - attention - from people for your next project. Whether that next project is "that same thing you love now on real paper with art and you pay money for it" or something completely different, you've gained an enormous amount of value for your work by letting it go free.

Quote
- About Ben Lehman's work: I understood that his material is not available as free-to-download and that his approach is to allow a 0$ donation. I'm just wondering here about the 'business model'. Do you (or would anyone on this forum) have experience in another model, which would basically consist in letting free direct download in parallel? I understand that there is some psychological factor here, just wondering. 0$ donation will look mean and encourage to pay for more, but direct download will let you judge of the quality and maybe encourage you to pay more that what you'd have initially thought?

Well, one might say that I do the same thing myself to a degree with The Shadow of Yesterday: it's a Creative Commons -licensed game (originally created by Clinton R. Nixon) that I'm currently publishing, and it's available for free in the Internet. I technically take donations (can't remember that I'd ever gotten more than maybe one, though), but even the sales are really donations when you get down to it - I'm quite happy with the number of people who have bought the Solar System from me even when it's quite available for free as well. So it's a sort of parallel model, the same game is being distributed both for free and for money.

As for how to specifically set up your donation model, that's an interesting question to be sure. Ben has an interesting thing going in that he's leveraging social pressure in his model: he's not really giving out his game for free, as it's a small minority of people who have the grit to specifically set down $0 as the amount they're willing to pay. The opposite approach is my own off-hand mention in a minor spot on my site that hey, I take donations if you like my stuff, but what I'm really interested in is selling this stuff to you, and if you don't want to buy you can get the crippleware version (oh noes, no art) from the Internet. Obviously enough one of those approaches gets more donation money than the other.

Quote
- About your own work, out of curiosity: it seems that your game works on Fudge, and I see you are selling it for 0,5$. Is it the system you're proposing here or the adaptation to your game? And did you need an authorization from the author in the first place? (sorry for the stupid questions, I am not familiar with OGL...)

Actually, The Shadow of Yesterday does not use Fudge as a base. The two rules systems are somewhat similar, but they're independent of each other. What you saw in my site was probably the Fudge dice we're selling for 0.5 € a piece; those are specialty dice used in both Fudge and TSoY/SS, which is why I'm selling them. Sometimes they're a bit difficult to get from game stores, you see.

I don't remember off-hand, but my impression is that Fudge is available under some sort of open license that allows using it for game development. My TSoY work, however, relies on the licencing structure of The Shadow of Yesterday - Clinton published it under the Creative Commons Attribution license originally, which enabled me to take his work and re-edit it for the third edition, which I published split into two books, Solar System and World of Near. You can find an open Internet example of Clinton's original game text here if you're interested in what a CC-licensed Internet publication of a roleplaying game might look like. In fact, that's such an useful thing to see that here are some other examples of nicely published free games in the Internet: Legends of Alyria (under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs) and FATE (under OGL).

Quote
Last, and coming back to one of my initial points: I would like to open my current work to the readers of The Forge, for comments. But doing this means exactly publishing on the web. Would you have any alternatives to this wide open publication? I'm afraid the alternative is to send separate copies to a small number of people, which will in turn reduce the quality and exhaustiveness of said comments...

Regarding "what should I do", my practical instruction for you as an independent rpg developer at this point in time is to just forget worrying about the supposed dangers of publishing your work in its early stages. This is a question that comes up on this forum all the damn time (power word for emphasis, not being angry here), you can read long explanations about it in older threads. The nutshell of it is that other people are not going to steal your ideas because ideas are dime a dozen, anybody who could actually do something with your ideas already has their own, and doing it, while probably not technically illegal, would ruin their reputation in the scene beyond all recognition. On the other hand, by being as open as you can about your design process you gain substantial benefits:
  • You establish your project in a marketing sense long before it's finished, which is good, as you're a small player trying to penetrate an immense market. It will be difficult enough to get noticed when your work is ready even without being in stealth mode from the start.
  • By being open you maximize the chances that somebody who gets your work and appreciates it will stumble on it. This is a process that can't be artificially induced, the only way to get it is by exposing as many people as possible to as good a work as possible. The benefits are immense: people excited about your project will be able to give intelligent feedback, they will market the project to other people for you, and they will buy if you decide to ask money for it. Get me to like it and I'll buy a dozen when it comes out on paper (not kidding, I do retail as a hobby). I'd love to be able to be useful to other people when they come to me with their games, but often I have to admit that I simply don't get excited by the same things they do, and being in a creatively different place means that I don't really have anything useful to say. To get over this basic issue in seeking friends and colleagues you will do best by exposing your work wide and far.
  • If somebody does steal your work, congratulations! You're apparently one of the dozen or so rpg designers in the world who have ideas worth stealing. I'd love to be you in that situation, and the fact that some stupid person stole one of your ongoing projects is such a minor problem next to your brilliance that there's no reason whatsoever to care. Game design is a practice, you are not your project; the point of doing design is to finish the project and then start another one, building on top of the skills and reputation you develop. If you could make a good enough game to steal once, you can do it twice.

In practice I have never encountered a situation where forgetting to put the right licensing text on something you publish in the Internet would have ruined anything for a game in development. What I said earlier is true, it's technically possible to cause adverse results in the unforeseen future by doing it, and you need to carry the responsibility for your choice if that happens, but this is basically a "Texas oil millionaire wants to license my game but he's not happy with it being available for free in the Internet" -scenario - total daydream, in other words. In the real world the benefits far outweight the speculative risks, I think.

(I'm discussing games in development here. When you have a finished project it's a bit more possible to harm your creative and particularly financial interests by uncontrolled publication. For example, it is possible that you might suffer from lower sales due to also having your game available for free. This is a highly uncertain question that's under constant and intensive scrutiny from many people, but we're unlikely to get any certain answers as long as we're living through the sort of changing times we are here on the brink of the information age. Still, all this is not relevant for works that are still under development; the Internet is full to the brim of completely free culture products created by the greatest masters who ever lived, there's no reason whatsoever for anybody to settle on some unfinished project of yours or mine.)

Finally, as an example of how I roll myself, here's a game in development (or a game in a desk drawer, anyway) that I wrote one day and put up in the Internet: Valravnar for Ásagrimmr is real game design done by a real person in the real field conditions of battlefield Earth, and this particular indie designer, who has a pretty good sense for how things work, apparently felt like he could just post the game he thought up there in his blog without any special licenses or anything. You don't have the exact same goals and situation I do, so perhaps there is some angle that pertains to you that would prevent you from doing the same, but I can't think of one right this moment. Perhaps you can.
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Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Thriff
Member

Posts: 68


« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2011, 01:20:47 PM »

Eero,

Well phrased and very useful. Thanks for writing up your response for Cedric (and others, like me)!

Btw, I remember first finding TSoY and my sheer excitement as I learned more and more about the SS. They were very inspiring for me and have helped me focus my game design efforts-- so thanks for that too!

T
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Cedric
Member

Posts: 28


« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2011, 04:47:01 AM »

Yeah, very insightful. Many thanks for having taken the time to write this comprehensive answer !

  Cédric
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