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Thread: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

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    Member clydefrog's Avatar
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    Default Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    Hi,

    I am somewhat intermediat when it comes to java programming, but as im learning java i am also slowly programming a game. While im very far from completing it i do intend on perhaps releasing it as a game that can be purchased (through steam or through my own website).

    Now my real quesion:

    when i get my game into a semi playable state, i would like to release it to the public for free so that it can be alpha/beta tested; essentially the "Minecraft" approach if you will. However, how can i be assured that my code/ideas are safe from people would want to capitalize on it?

    Do i need to go through legal channels or is a disclaimer enough? Does anyone have any experience in this? if i do need to get legal protection who would i contact and how much does it generally cost for indie devs (im in California, Los Angeles if you want to give me a specific agency )

    My question is more out of curiousity at the moment rather than urgency, as i just want to get a general idea of what to expect.

    Thank you

    BTW: i just recently joined this website to get help on some projects, and this has to be the MOST helpful community i have every seenl i get a reply in about 5min! I really like how you guys dont just give me the answer and instead guide me through the right path; in just these last few days i have learned A LOT! I really want to thank you guys and of course the guy who made this website


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    Default Re: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    I'd suggest a google search of "indie game copyright", which came up with a few promising links, including this one: What an Indie Needs to Know About Copyright | GBGames - Thoughts on Indie Game Development

    But, a harsh reality is that most indie developers will never need to really worry about anybody stealing their games. I think you'll find it challenging enough getting any amount of people to play your games, let alone go through the trouble of stealing them.

    But I'd be interested to hear what you find on the subject anyway.
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    Default Re: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    Quote Originally Posted by clydefrog View Post
    BTW: i just recently joined this website to get help on some projects, and this has to be the MOST helpful community i have every seenl i get a reply in about 5min! I really like how you guys dont just give me the answer and instead guide me through the right path; in just these last few days i have learned A LOT! I really want to thank you guys and of course the guy who made this website
    Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you like the forums. Tell a friend
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    Member clydefrog's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWorkman View Post
    But, a harsh reality is that most indie developers will never need to really worry about anybody stealing their games. I think you'll find it challenging enough getting any amount of people to play your games, let alone go through the trouble of stealing them.

    But I'd be interested to hear what you find on the subject anyway.
    well thats pretty sad lol. I am going to be researching this in the coming days, and i will definitly post what i find here.

    In the mean time, if anyone else has some info or experience i'd be very pleased to hear it.

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaPF View Post
    Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you like the forums. Tell a friend
    no problem! and i will definitly be telling more people about this site (and by more people i mean my entire university course lol)

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    Crazy Cat Lady KevinWorkman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    Quote Originally Posted by clydefrog View Post
    well thats pretty sad lol. I am going to be researching this in the coming days, and i will definitly post what i find here.

    In the mean time, if anyone else has some info or experience i'd be very pleased to hear it.
    I didn't mean to discourage you, but a common mistake for a beginner (or non-beginner) programmer is to put the cart before the horse. A lot of people waste time thinking about DRM or restricting access to their games or countering piracy before they even have a game in mind! For some games, this is a necessary approach, but for most indie game developers, the first problem is getting an audience in the first place, let alone preventing anybody from playing the game!

    There are a few business models that address these issues. You could make the game free, but embed it in a website that contains advertisements. You could release version 1.0 for free, and then charge for version 2.0. Or you could have some subscription type service. But step 1 is to build up an audience. You might not even want to think about this for your first game- wait until you have a few games under your belt, then try charging. Minecraft wasn't Notch's first game, by far.

    Minecraft did generate a lot of interest in indie game development, especially for Java, but it also gave a lot of people unrealistic expectations. Notch had been an indie game developer for years before he released Minecraft. He took the time to build up an audience. Now that people know that stuff he releases is worthwhile, he's able to charge for his games. But that was not an easy process.

    The good news is, from the research I've done, that copyright law seems to be in our favor. If you release a game, you own the copyright to it. So even if you release a game for free, that doesn't mean that people can just distribute your game without your consent (unless you give them permission to do so). How to enforce that is a different question, but to be honest, it's not one I would worry too much about. Worry more about getting more experience with programming first.
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    Member clydefrog's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    haha no worries, i know the road ahead is tough.

    that was a pretty insightful post, thank you; I had never thought of it that way. I had always been focused on creating the game, but i never once stopped to figure out where i would be getting the audience. i figured, if i made a unique and competent game, people would come but i suppose thats not the case.

    I think you're right though. Instead of focusing on this massive project i have, maybe i should release a few free games on the smaller scale in an attempt to build a community before undertaking the project i'm working on. perhaps in that way i could get more experience when it comes to dealing with a community as well.

    too bad i dont have millions of dollars to spend for advertising like the AAA publishers lol

    Anyway, just for the sake of curiosity i'm still going to research these copyright laws, i'll be posting them here if i find anything useful. Any game devs want to chime in lol?

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    Default Re: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    Oh yeah, I would definitely recommend you get a few small games under your belt before you even start thinking about most of this stuff. Even a small game like pong has a mess of problems. Writing the game itself isn't too hard, but then add a title screen, options menu, sound, etc (not to mention making it look good, making it fun to play, or adding your own twists, like powerups), and you'll quickly realize that writing a game is a cascade of "but what if I add this". So it's really important to start small and not get ahead of yourself, or you'll just end up becoming discouraged.

    Even when you have a game, then creating a website, figuring out hosting, deployment, and platform discrepancies is another can of worms. And all of this before a single person has played your game, let alone paid for it!

    I don't like to self-advertise too much, but I'm actually in the process of creating a website that addresses some of these issues. The site is going to help indie game developers with deployment- just upload a jar and a thumbnail, and the site will handle the rest for you. I'm in the process of figuring out how to implement ad revenue sharing, so I could put ads on the site and split the profit with developers, so you'd get paid for people playing your games. I'm hoping to have the site go live within a month or so, and I'd be eager to get some alpha testers to try it out.

    The idea is not new- sites like kongregate work like that for flash, and sites like GameJolt even have some Java options. But new games tend to be buried in obscurity, and their focus is not on learning (my site has tutorials, and developers can include the source of their games for others to learn from). GameJolt might be worth checking out, but don't expect to make money, and most of the community there are kids using game maker (sometimes they use it well, but more often than not, the production levels are pretty low).

    That got a little more ranty than I meant, but this is something I'm pretty passionate about.
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  8. The Following User Says Thank You to KevinWorkman For This Useful Post:

    ChristopherLowe (March 16th, 2012)

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    Member clydefrog's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    that is really cool!

    I'm not a very good programmer, otherwise i would have loved to be a part of your alpha testing; i assume by testing you mean people putting up their projects. That is a fantastic idea, because we really need to get more indie developers into the gaming community.

    Gaming as a whole is really starting to stagnate in terms of creativity and quality; indie developers are the solution in my opinion. most indie games are very unique and almost always worth the money.

    regardless, if your website does go live, i would love to hear about it

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    Default Re: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    Quote Originally Posted by clydefrog View Post
    that is really cool!
    Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by clydefrog View Post
    I'm not a very good programmer, otherwise i would have loved to be a part of your alpha testing; i assume by testing you mean people putting up their projects. That is a fantastic idea, because we really need to get more indie developers into the gaming community.
    Yeah, I pretty much just need people to kick the tires, make sure things work how they should, etc. You don't have to be a great programmer (actually it might even be best if you aren't), just willing to tell me what doesn't look right, what breaks, whatever. I'm not quite ready yet, and there's definitely no pressure, but I'll keep you posted.

    Quote Originally Posted by clydefrog View Post
    Gaming as a whole is really starting to stagnate in terms of creativity and quality; indie developers are the solution in my opinion. most indie games are very unique and almost always worth the money.
    I don't know. I might argue that indie gaming is in the process of reclaiming a big portion of the gaming market. Games like Minecraft and Angry Birds show people that games don't have to come from a well-known game company to be popular, successful, or profitable. And with more and more people playing downloadable games on Playstation Network and XBL (does wii have a similar service?), even the console market is opening up to indie developers. And maybe most importantly, mobile indie game development is becoming hugely popular (and Java works on Android!), so even people who "don't play video games" are playing indie games on their phone. I would say it's a pretty exciting time to be an indie game developer!


    Quote Originally Posted by clydefrog View Post
    regardless, if your website does go live, i would love to hear about it
    Cool, I'll let you know. Actually, I made a ton of progress this weekend, so a pre-alpha version is already live. I should have something presentable in the next couple weeks.
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    Default Re: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    nice cant wait to see your website! I'd also love to give feedback.

    perhaps when i make a few of those smaller games (im actually working on one now) ill put it up on your site

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    Default Re: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWorkman View Post
    ... I'm actually in the process of creating a website that addresses some of these issues....
    Oh snap! Let me know if/when you get it operational. I will definitely want to be on board. Are you only targeting java games? I ask because I write most of my games in C++/Direct3D.

    Back on topic I agree with nearly everything KevinWorkman is saying although I would argue that console development is still a long way of being viable for the average indie developer. The PS3 for example won't even let you purchase their very expensive SDK until you pass their harsh requirements of company success.

    But what you said about DRM is spot on. There is no point in trying to secure your intellectual property with complex anti-theft systems until it becomes a problem. Think about it like this, imagine you own a retail store. It is inevitable that things are going to get stolen from time to time and this represents lost revenue. Installing a security camera system or those things that beep at you when you leave the store with stolen goods cost a lot of money and only reduce the thievery, not eliminate it. You would only install such a device when you can be reasonably sure that the reduction in stolen goods can overcome the costs of the anti-theft mechanisms.

    What I am trying to say is that you need to consider costs, effectiveness and returns before you bother with the whole 'protect my intellectual property' bit. For the time being I would just stick with a copy-write notice and a license. (In saying this, I have used a simple logic bomb to prevent theft of one of my applications and it was not hard to implement).

    Quote Originally Posted by clydefrog
    Gaming as a whole is really starting to stagnate in terms of creativity and quality; indie developers are the solution in my opinion. most indie games are very unique and almost always worth the money."
    I've been playing computer games for nearly 20 years and personally, I think some of the AAA games coming out in the last few years have been absolutely brilliant so I disagree with this statement.

    The whole point of AAA games is quality. The big companies put up millions of dollars developing these titles and they need to be reasonably sure that people are going to buy them and when they do, they are going to enjoy them in a reasonably bug free environment. When it is just a kid hacking away in a basement there are not any consequences of failure and as such they don't put as much effort into QoS.

    I can only generalize here; but the typical indie game is going to be of low-average quality compared to AAA titles. But that is okay because they are priced low-average and are able to take more risks as far as game mechanics go. Trust me when I say this but there are PLENTY of indie games out there that you will feel ripped off paying for. It's just you won't ever hear about them.

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    Default Re: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    Quote Originally Posted by ChristopherLowe View Post
    Oh snap! Let me know if/when you get it operational. I will definitely want to be on board. Are you only targeting java games? I ask because I write most of my games in C++/Direct3D.
    I'll definitely let you know. My original plan was to have everything up and running by Monday (my birthday), but unfortunately some pesky midterms got in the way and set me back a couple weeks. At least at first, only Java and Processing games will be supported, sorry! I believe that GameJolt (Free Online Video Games | Game Jolt) supports C++, but I haven't actually tried it.

    Quote Originally Posted by ChristopherLowe View Post
    Back on topic I agree with nearly everything KevinWorkman is saying although I would argue that console development is still a long way of being viable for the average indie developer. The PS3 for example won't even let you purchase their very expensive SDK until you pass their harsh requirements of company success.
    That's fair enough. Although more indie games are available as downloads, they are typically from companies with more resources than your average basement programmer. Hopefully this trend changes in the next few years.

    Quote Originally Posted by ChristopherLowe View Post
    I can only generalize here; but the typical indie game is going to be of low-average quality compared to AAA titles. But that is okay because they are priced low-average and are able to take more risks as far as game mechanics go. Trust me when I say this but there are PLENTY of indie games out there that you will feel ripped off paying for. It's just you won't ever hear about them.
    I agree. Plus that gives indie developers the ability and incentive to be more creative with their games. The Featured Games board at JGO is full of amazing things people have done: Featured Games - Java-Gaming.org
    Last edited by KevinWorkman; March 27th, 2012 at 08:40 PM.
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    Default Re: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    [QUOTE=ChristopherLowe;61084
    I've been playing computer games for nearly 20 years and personally, I think some of the AAA games coming out in the last few years have been absolutely brilliant so I disagree with this statement.

    The whole point of AAA games is quality. The big companies put up millions of dollars developing these titles and they need to be reasonably sure that people are going to buy them and when they do, they are going to enjoy them in a reasonably bug free environment. When it is just a kid hacking away in a basement there are not any consequences of failure and as such they don't put as much effort into QoS.

    I can only generalize here; but the typical indie game is going to be of low-average quality compared to AAA titles. But that is okay because they are priced low-average and are able to take more risks as far as game mechanics go. Trust me when I say this but there are PLENTY of indie games out there that you will feel ripped off paying for. It's just you won't ever hear about them.[/QUOTE]

    great post.

    I agree in terms of quality, but i havent played any games in the recent years thats made me gone "Wow! Amazing! This game will surely influence the genre and set a new standard!" Most AAA games are competent at best, they deliver what they promise and nothing more; they are played and then soon forgotten. I dont regret buying them, but they dont land in my "Best Games Ever" list.

    I was actually referring more to the creative aspect of games. Maybe i've just been playing the wrong games, i dont know...

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    Default Re: Some legal questions about programming (intellectual property)

    For anybody interested, I'm now soliciting alpha testers to help try out the site, a couple people mentioned they'd like to be notified when it became available: Static Void Games
    I also made a post explaining it in slightly more detail: Alpha Testers Wanted: Static Void Games
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