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Arcen's position on AI War IP?

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Okay, this is going to sound really, really weird, and I'm not prepared to release full details at the moment (for that matter, odds are very good I won't be releasing any game at all). Bear with me for a bit.

I've been doing some things as a hobby project, and I have some questions that I'd appreciate if Chris or someone else could answer:

1) Would it be permissible for someone (let's call him "Histidine") to make a fangame based on AI War? Specifically, the Arcen IP that would be used would include:

* Game lore, including the Zenith, Neinzul and Spire races
* 3D representations of some ships from the game (base + all current expansions)
* Soundtracks - I understand Pablo retains the rights to these?All credit will be given in the manner requested. The game itself will be completely free, and all code/assets that don't belong to you (or someone else) would be open source.

2) Does the answer to (1) change if the fangame in question is a crossover?

3) Do the answers to (1) and (2) change if the crossover is with a bishoujo anime?

Before anyone asks: no, this isn't about the Spire dating sim

Aw, it was starting to sound like the Spire dating sim until you mentioned that. :)

Where I'm coming from:
The first four games I ever fully programmed were:
- A text-based adventure game of no significance in QBASIC.
- A music player that played back the Final Fantasy VI music on the old internal PC speakers (beeps and boops), again in QBASIC.
- A "Mario Adventure" fangame that basically used lots of Mario assets in a completely new engine and with a focus on Castlevania-style adventuring with Mario-style gameplay.
- A refined and rewritten-from-the-ground-up version of my first Mario adventure.  Man I still want to make that game.

I was also known for making (ahem) some rather copyright-breaking mods for a lot of older games.  It was a really big part of my teenage years, and one of the key ways that I learned about game design before starting off on my own games in later life.

So, therefore:
I think I'd be more than a bit of a hypocrite if I didn't say yes to your kind request.

That said, in the interest of having an actual honest discussion rather than just hiding things, I do have to say that this makes me rather uncomfortable on several fronts. 

What if a fangame starts siphoning off our players?  That's the main fear, because AI War is still more than a third of our income even after four years.  All of the games that I was doing mods or remakes of were 10-15 years old at the time I was doing said mods, and none of them had been actively sold by the publisher (Nintendo) for at best 8 years at the time of my mods and clones.  And I wasn't selling these, either.  But still, I was in some respects competing with their flagship products via mods of their older stuff (Mario, Metroid, Zelda, and so on).  I kind of expected a Cease and Desist from them at any time for the years I was doing that (maybe three years in all), but frankly I was just too small to be noticed by them, and my mods in particular were ultra-hard and thus only for a super niche audience in the first place.  With AI War, it's a current game, and so on and so forth. 

My second worry is that I also really don't want to run into any brand confusion.  With Nintendo, they only sell their products on their own consoles, so my mods and remakes were not going to be in any way confused with theirs.  And mine were not for their current games at the time.  With AI War, it's sold on the PC and very active, and presumably any fan games made about it would also be on the PC.  The worry that I have is that if there is someone looking for AI War stuff, and they find something that doesn't represent the IP the way that I would choose to do so (Spire Dating Sim is obvious, but beyond that it would even go to things like writing/story or style of AI or what have you).

But on the other hand:
Fanart, fanfic, mods, fangames, cosplay, etc... those are something I really get.  I wrote fanfic for FF6 as well, and I still really would like to personally make a true sequel to Chrono Trigger if Square would let me. ;)

All of the above are something born out of love for the source material, and I think that the companies that go after fanfic in particular are not being very smart (or kind to their fans).  From a purely selfish point of view, those sorts of fan creations are almost like free advertising for the thing that the fan creations are about.  So from that angle, it would be stupid for me to turn you down just from a selfish point of view, not even just from a hypocritical one.

Also, even if I said no to your request, it's not like you couldn't make the same game but just strip out all references to AI War.  If I'm worried about your game siphoning off players from AI War, that worry would be the same if it was a different IP but still a game that appealed to our same playerbase.  And I obviously can't stop you from making a completely-independent game (nor would I ever dream of doing so).  So from that sort of standpoint, worrying about whether or not your hobbyist game will suck away fans from AI War is kind of pointless, because it either will or it won't, and using the AI War IP isn't going to change that much either way.  If anything, if your thing was super popular, then having the AI War IP attached would at least give some cross-promotion.

I take the whole sort of "hobbyist" game kind of with a grain of salt, mainly because AI War started out as a hobbyist game, too.  Obviously that gives me the impression that any hobby game could become a full-blown product that someone decides to sell, etc.

So, therefore:
I'll say yes to your request, but under two conditions.

1. So long as this is a free hobby project, feel free to use our IP.  If this ever turns into something you're selling, then either you'd have to drop the AI War IP references, or we'd have to talk about some form of royalties, as there is substantial value in the IP.  Not something like Mario or Chrono Trigger in terms of level of value, but if Square were ever to let me make that CT sequel I'd expect to basically pay them royalties and otherwise just do my own thing (probably with some creative oversight on their part, in that case).  Someday, baby.

2. Please also do make sure that this is clearly labeled as a fangame, so that there isn't any confusion about this being a product released by Arcen or sublicensed by us, etc.  Unless it becomes eventually sublicensed (per #1), in which case we'd talk about that then.

Hopefully those come across as reasonable requests.  It's consistent with how I've handled the IP of things I made fanfic, mods, and fangames of, so I don't think it's unreasonable.

To your specific questions in the OP:
- The game lore and so on is fine.
- The use of the art is also fine, as we release that for free to everyone already, anyway.
- Doing 3D representations of our stuff is always fine, as that's an original work of fanart anyway.
- Using the soundtracks are something you'd have to take up with Pablo.  I'm not sure how he'd feel about that, but he is the one with the rights to it, yes.  He is PVega8 on the forums if you want to PM him.
- If you want to do a crossover or not, that's fine with me.
- Same with doing it in whatever visual or thematic style, anime or whatever.


Thank you, Chris.  :)

Agreed on all points. Concerning the competition issue: aside from the points you've brought up, it is not my intent to make an imitation of AI War or any other current Arcen title, nor do I expect to be successful if I made the attempt. As for your conditions: Absolutely, those are very fair requests. I wouldn't dream of taking money for your work, or of passing my humble derivative off as an official product.

If you ever change your mind at any time, let me know. I'll pull the plug right away, no questions asked.

L.J. "Histidine" Lim

sticky this thread, or a similar post?

No problem. :)

--- Quote from: Histidine on August 02, 2013, 11:14:45 am ---Concerning the competition issue: aside from the points you've brought up, it is not my intent to make an imitation of AI War or any other current Arcen title
--- End quote ---

I know that.  It's one of those things that always worries people that have some existing IP, though, naturally.  So it's one of those things that pops up bigtime in the reasoning about that, and I wanted to walk you through my reasoning.

--- Quote from: Histidine on August 02, 2013, 11:14:45 am ---As for your conditions: Absolutely, those are very fair requests.
--- End quote ---

Thanks, I appreciate it.

--- Quote from: Histidine on August 02, 2013, 11:14:45 am ---If you ever change your mind at any time, let me know. I'll pull the plug right away, no questions asked.
--- End quote ---

This is one of those things where I feel like a "takeback" is really not fair to someone who is working hard on a project.  So thanks for the offer, but I wouldn't do that to you.

--- Quote from: Histidine on August 02, 2013, 11:14:45 am ---sticky this thread, or a similar post?
--- End quote ---

Good idea -- I moved this to the mods and modding subsection and stickied it there.


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