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Re: (TFT) Appropriate use of copyrighted material

Michael Taylor at MichaelTaylor1@compuserve.com on 12/30/98 8:24 PM said:

Guy McLimore said:

>>But my real question is, why would you WANT to appropriate Melee (or any 
>>game by another designer) for a computer-based game by filing theserial 
>>numbers off, even if it was legal to do so?
>>#1: Profiting from someone else's work and putting your name on it,
>>even if you can get away with it, is morally reprehensible.

Michael Taylor replied:

>As a computer programmer I felt I had to respond to this statement. Your
>statement seems to imply that writing a computer game from someone else's
>written -- non-computer rules - is no work at all. This misconception about
>the amount of effort involved in writing computer programs is pretty
>self-evident when you look at the quality of computer software out there.
>Even computer games, which are in fact the cutting edge, have abysmal
>'rules' largely because the effort it takes to create them is severly
>underappreciated - and therefore underfunded.

Whoa! I *never* said anything of the sort. Writing a computer program is 
a TREMENDOUS amount of work! (Hey, I admire good programmers! *I* can't 
do it, and I'd love to be able to!)

But it would be a tremendous amount of work to film a good version of 
"Stranger in a Strange Land", too. Everyone would LOVE to see that 
happen, and it's not something the author himself could have done alone. 
But doing so without legally obtaining the rights to the original work on 
which it is based from the Robert Heinlein estate would still be WRONG! 
(And illegal.)

>If Steve Jackson is going to profit from writing the rules to Melee
>(for example), then why shouldn't I profit from the amount of work it took
>to write a computer program 'version' of it? The final form is entirely
>different and his contribution to 'my' software - while very great and
>valuable - does not diminish the work that I've done in programming it. 

Nope, it doesn't diminish the work. And if you do it within the rules, as 
it were, you SHOULD profit. But Steve (or in this case the current 
copyright holder) should profit as well, AND have a say in who does it 
and when. The original belongs to the copyright holder. If you want to do 
a completely original creation, no one will say you nay! But if it's 
based on and profits from another person's work, and that work is not in 
the public domain, they have rights that supercede yours.

>So the answer to your question is 1. Because it would be fun. 2. Because it
>would be better than 99% of the computer games out there, and 3. Because
>the amount work it would take should be profitable. 
>As far as the morality of it - again - that only makes sense if you assume
>that writing a computer program takes as little effort as say....running
>off xerox copies.

Incorrect. Chiseling the rules to Melee on stone tablets thirty feet high 
would be an enourmous amount of work, and take great craftsmanship to do 
well. But it would still be a violation of copyright and WRONG!

Guy McLimore also said:
>>#2: A good computer game should be more than a translation of a board
>>game. It should take advantage of what a computer does well (number 
>>crunching, remembering things, fast calculation, graphic display) to 
>>enhance the experience. 

Michael Taylor replied:
>First of all, while I agree that a good computer game should be more than
>the translation of a board game...exactly what constitutes taking advantage
>of what the computer does well is a lot more complex than you've made it
>out to be. 
>Maybe those things would enhance YOUR experience, but maybe MY experience
>would be enhanced by the ability to save and restore games, play over
>e-mail, calculate the probabilities of beating certain opponents with
>certain combinations of weapons and statistics. In other words, the
>implicit assumption that a translation of a board game would NOT enhance
>the experience is completely subjective. In other words, just because you
>like "DOOM" means a computerized version of Melee would be useless? Hardly.

Again, that's not what I said at all. My point was that a computer game 
that does nothing more than move pieces around a board on the screen 
using an algorithm that duplicates exactly the rules of a board game is 
just a translation of that board game to another medium and is not a good 
use of the computer's capabilities. (And, personally, I dislike 
DOOM...and I'd rather play a GOOD computer version of Melee any day.) But 
a GOOD computer game intended to reproduce man-to-man sword and shield 
combat would be best designed to do what we CAN'T easily do with 
cardboard counters on a paper map. I'd like to see more detailed and 
realistic damage assessment, better strategic play, and hiding the 
"numbers" (stats, damage, etc.) and instead feeding back to the player 
info as subjective data (your arm bleeds when you're hit, your combat 
ability suffers when you pick up a weapon too heavy for you, your figure 
crumples to the ground when it goes unconscious, etc.).

If the idea is to just facilitate the play of the board game without the 
use of the board and counters, or to play over the internet, etc. -- 
that's just a translation of the game to another medium, not an original 
work. And that's protected by copyright.

>>Why computerize the roll of three six-sided dice 
>>to resolve combat when you can let the computer instantly figure inany 
>>number of factors and create a more detailed and responsive result (with 
>>some appropriate randomization for unpredictablity and flavor) that is 
>>invisible to the user and just as easy to play? 

>Well, how about because those 'numbers of factors' are completely
>unimportant to my playing experience - and most other game players as well.
>Let's face it - if it's 'invisible to the user' then it might as WELL be
>3d6 rolls! Because you as a player WANT those invisible factors to be there
>does not mean that any other type of game would be pointless. 

So if it doesn't make any difference to your playing experience, why not 
use a different set of rules and factors than the ones in Melee? Why not 
use another set of ruels and factors that is designed by you especially 
for your game? Then it would be YOUR game, not someone else's game?

>>>>>It would make SENSE if 
>>>>>you were using the computer game engine to play off of the reputation and 
>>>>>enhance the play value of a popular game system you already owned. 

>Bingo! I do already own Melee!

No. You have purchased a copy of the game for your use. That's like 
saying you bought a copy of Tom Clancy's novel "Rainbow Six", and so you 
should have the right to create and market a computer game based on it.

>And a computerized version WOULD enhance the
>play value is several ways (in addition to anything else I might add to the
>program, but even a raw 'translation' would have some value). As far as the
>reputation - I dont think anyone on this board would want to write or buy a
>Melee computer program because of it's reputation. I think we all just like
>the game!

But YOU DON'T OWN THE RIGHTS! I'm not questioning the VALUE of being able 
to play a Melee-based computer game. But it's VALUE belongs to someone 

>>what's the point? Why not just create an ORIGINAL computer game that uses 
>>the strengths of the medium?

>And this is the most offensive statement of all. Because there are a
>MILLION 'points' to writing a computerized version of Melee (or TFT or
>character creation or any other Microgame). If someone writes a
>computerized version of Melee that WILL be ORIGINAL! It's never been done
>Mostly because it would be FUN and why shouldn't someone else who WANTS the
>program be able to get it from someone who was willing to put in the effort
>of writing it! And if someone put in the effort of writing it, then why
>shouldnt they get PAID for it - even if they dont get paid as much as if
>they wrote the whole thing (rules and all) themself.
>My point is that you can 'use the strengths of the medium' and STILL write
>a computerized version of Melee! That the two are mutually exclusive just
>presumes that it somehow takes "less" effort to write a computer program
>than game! What if you want to write a computer program that takes
>advantage of the medium and yet has the logic and playability (and in fact,
>will run much faster, and in less memory) of Melee!? To say this is
>pointless just means that you might not like it , but not that its
>completely invalid for someone else. 

Michael, you have missed the point ENTIRELY! You should not be able to 
profit from a game when it is essentially a translation of a copyrighted 
work, no matter how much work and effort you put into it, or how much 
everyone likes what you do. I have no doubt that a competent programmer 
with a good feel for what the strengths of Melee are could indeed create 
a computer game that would be both a good computer game, using the 
strengths of the medium, ad a recognizable version of the original. But 
if the game is still essentially Melee and created and marketed without 
the copyright owner's permission, it's still wrong. And no amount of 
semantic debate is going to make it right.

Use the CONCEPT of Melee -- a man-to-man board-based combat game with 
tactical maneuvers, attacks and defenses, etc. That's fine! No one owns a 
concept or a method unless it is patented, and even then there are 
limitations. But if you just do a "computer version of Melee" that is no 
more than translation of the exact rules and language of the game to 
another medium, it's not a wholly original work.

Guy McLimore - guymc@evansville.net
MicroTactix Games - http://welcome.to/microtactix
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