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Am I "using" people?


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#1 GameCreator   Members   -  Reputation: 771

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 12:16 PM

Pretend I release a public beta of my game and it includes a level editor. Pretend I get level submissions from people and I use them in the game I release for sale. If this possibility is specified in the agreement for the beta (which I'd guess many people don't read), is it in any way wrong?

For those that think it is, how about if I release the game for free and only sell the expansion pack, which doesn't have any user-created levels?

I think both of these would be fine but was wondering what others think.

Edited by GameCreator, 10 July 2012 - 12:17 PM.


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#2 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 01:32 PM

Pretend I release a public beta of my game and it includes a level editor. Pretend I get level submissions from people and I use them in the game I release for sale. If this possibility is specified in the agreement for the beta (which I'd guess many people don't read), is it in any way wrong?

I'd say it depends on how much you obfuscate your rights to their content. I believe it's legal, but ethical might be different. Personally if I were made fully aware (separate from but in addition to the EULA) of the rights before creating anything I would probably be fine with you using it, but I probably also would be less inclined to actually make anything.

#3 HappyCoder   Members   -  Reputation: 2821

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 05:30 PM

I made a game once that allowed users to build levels and the result was very few people actually built levels and quality was generally low.

Users don't know what direction you want to take the flow of the levels as you progress though the game. They aren't going to work together to have a gradual difficulty curve. They aren't going to be worried about what order and how often you introduce new concepts into your game. In other words a collective group of people aren't going to be interested in ensuring your game has good design.

That being said I don't think you should rely on user made levels to make up the bulk of your levels. As tedious as it may be if you want a high quality game you will need to take the wheel in level design and do them all yourself or coordinate a group of people to build them.

To answer your original question I don't see anything wrong with using their levels in your game. I think most people would be happy to see their level released with the game. I am not a lawyer but you should be fine if you just state that the levels they make may become part of the game and you take ownership of the level when they submit them. You also might want to consider giving credit to the person who made the level.

#4 Bacterius   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 9056

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 08:17 PM

I made a game once that allowed users to build levels and the result was very few people actually built levels and quality was generally low.

Yeah, there was this old game (SubTerra) which had a level editor included and the game's developer would release 50-level packs and you could submit your own levels, the result was that it was always the same dude producing all the levels because almost nobody else bothered to and those who actually did usually produced unimaginative or unchallenging stuff. For what it's worth, only one user-made level pack exists to this day and it was produced by a grand total of two people. As for credit the level had a "by <submitter's chosen name>" at the top of the screen and the beginning of the level.

Pretend I release a public beta of my game and it includes a level editor. Pretend I get level submissions from people and I use them in the game I release for sale. If this possibility is specified in the agreement for the beta (which I'd guess many people don't read), is it in any way wrong?

I'm not a lawyer, but I think it depends. Are you selling the game and the user-made levels together, or are you only selling the game, which happens to be bundled with free level packs? How about just selling the game binaries, and offering a separate, free download to the level packs, to clear any misunderstanding? For this to work you should just need to state that submitted levels are placed in the public domain or something (and they still retain their original author = credit given) to prevent having people claim that you are giving away their hard work for free (I'm not even sure this is accurate considering levels are made using your level editor and thus may be subject to copyright anyway?)

If you wish to actually sell the level packs, then I think you should try asking in Business and Law, because it's a bit more complicated I think (stupid example, but for instance, if somebody wants to purchase a level pack of which he made half the levels, should he be charged half price or full price?)

Edited by Bacterius, 10 July 2012 - 08:17 PM.

The slowsort algorithm is a perfect illustration of the multiply and surrender paradigm, which is perhaps the single most important paradigm in the development of reluctant algorithms. The basic multiply and surrender strategy consists in replacing the problem at hand by two or more subproblems, each slightly simpler than the original, and continue multiplying subproblems and subsubproblems recursively in this fashion as long as possible. At some point the subproblems will all become so simple that their solution can no longer be postponed, and we will have to surrender. Experience shows that, in most cases, by the time this point is reached the total work will be substantially higher than what could have been wasted by a more direct approach.

 

- Pessimal Algorithms and Simplexity Analysis


#5 Drew_Benton   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1716

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:57 PM

I am not a lawyer and not trying to provide the following as legal advice, but here's something to think about. Ultimately, I don't think it's an issue that boils down to morals or ethnics, but rather simply legal. If you try to hide what you will be doing with user contributions, you are more likely to be viewed negatively in the eyes of the community, so I would suggest being more upfront with your plans rather than hiding them away in a legal document. I digress though.

Pretend I get level submissions from people and I use them in the game I release for sale. If this possibility is specified in the agreement for the beta (which I'd guess many people don't read), is it in any way wrong?


You should also need specific terms that apply to the process of "content submission" in addition to the normal terms applied to the game/tools themselves.

In regards to the latter, your terms should say what people can or can't do with the content they create with your tools. E.g., if you provide people with a level editor, clearly specify if they can only use it for non-commercial purposes, if they are allowed to re-distribute the content, and so on. There's a lot to consider there and it's handled a number of different ways in different scenarios.

In regards to the former, you open up another can of worms when it comes to accepting user content, especially if you plan on publishing it or redistributing it in any form. For example, and I'll use an excerpt from the GameDev.net Terms of Service:

c) Customer warrants to Provider that Customer has all necessary rights to store, reproduce, license access to, and otherwise use the data contained in each of the Customer posted content for which Customer utilizes Provider's Software and Services.

d) Customer acknowledges that Provider's software stores customer data, personalization settings, and other Customer posted content. Customer hereby grants to Provider a fully paid up, non-exclusive license to store and maintain such data for the limited purpose of providing a public forum.


'c' is vital in terms of ensuring users have the necessary rights to provide the material and 'd' is vital in establishing what that material can be used for once GameDev.net has it. If you look up the ToS for any game publishing platforms or application stores, you will see similar. Some sites reserve the right to feature or use your stuff for purposes of promoting their site and so on. It should be noted though, you are still ultimately responsible for the content, even if someone breaks your ToS to provide you with it.

In other words, since you are accepting user created content, even though it is done with your tools, there are still "rights" issues that have to be considered. If your levels allow people to supply their own textures or models, then you would need to ensure those textures and models are not being used from a rights violations. Perhaps specific level designs are made that would infringe on trademarks or one thing or another. There's a lot of considerations.

In either case, you are setting yourself up for a lot of potential legal problems if you simply use user contributed content directly in your game. You would have to verify and ensure you have all the necessary rights to use the content first, which in itself, might be too much work to be worth it, to avoid issues down the line when someone sees their stuff in your game. People obtaining and using content that contains rights violations is a totally different issue, out of your control (from a non-technical standpoint, e.g., not having DRM mechanics built in).

If I were you, and you were worried about these things, you simply don't bundle any user contributed content with your game. You create a website that allows for people to share and download maps, taking into consideration DMCA provisions and the steps necessary for addressing copyright complaints so you are fulfilling your legal obligations. Here is one such page (random, no affiliations) that will give you an idea about that: Reducing Company Website Liability - Steps to Verify DMCA Safe Harbor Compliance.

That way, if anyone has any copyright claims, they need to follow the process and give you the appropriate time to respond vs. just sending out a C&D or filing a lawsuit for the violations. Here is another page (random, no affiliations) that cover this as well: How to send Cease & Desist and DMCA Takedown letters to sites infringing your copyright.

Of course, a lot of these things depend on how your actual level editing pipeline works. If you are talking about a 2D game with a fixed number of sprites to use, and it's a matter of a map format that uses only numbers to represent the tiles and users cannot add any custom images or sounds, then you won't have to worry about hardly any of these things. In that case, it's simply a matter of establishing the terms of what you can do with the content once a user submits it to you.

On a side note, and I'm sure you are familiar with the game, StarCraft 2 took quite an interesting path when it comes to content creation by keeping everything server sided. Even with that model though, they still have to maintain a clear copyright infringement policy consistent with what was previously mentioned.

And as always, you should consult a lawyer!

"But I, being poor, have only my dreams. I have spread my dreams under your feet; tread softly, because you tread on my dreams." - William Butler Yeats

#6 mdwh   Members   -  Reputation: 890

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 08:07 AM

Why not be explicit about it? If someone sends you a level, ask for permission to distribute it according to whatever licence seems best. Or if say you had a website for people to upload, state it clearly on the upload site.

(It is indeed a good thing to think about these issues. It's a pet hate of mine that whilst there are many talented people creating mods for commercial games, and seem happy for their work to be distributed, they hardly ever explicitly state what terms or licence this can be done under - meaning that whilst they might upload it to a website, it's not possible for say the original game creators to package these mods into a "mod pack" unless they track down every single author and get permission; it also means that all this freely available content is useless for being reused in say open source games, because none of it has licences.)
http://erebusrpg.sourceforge.net/ - Erebus, Open Source RPG for Windows/Linux/Android
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mark.harman/conquests.html - Conquests, Open Source Civ-like Game for Windows/Linux

#7 GameCreator   Members   -  Reputation: 771

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 01:09 PM

My original post explored a more extreme case than what I was thinking about doing. I understand I need to tread carefully on the legal side but I was more concerned about how people felt about it.

I'm also not worried about the type of content submitted or even if I get any. I'm not making 2 levels and counting on everyone else to make 98 for me. It's more the reverse... but it would be nice if others wanted to share theirs as well. And yes, I'll give full credit and clear warning to anyone contributing, including that I reserve the right to modify their level, use any or none of it, including even just the idea. I can also place the levels anywhere in the chain I'd like so I can put harder levels near the end and easy ones up front, so the difficulty of the content isn't an issue at all.

Thanks for the feedback everyone!

#8 Arthur Souza   Members   -  Reputation: 1419

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 02:26 PM

You can go even as far as making it like a contest, some people would be happy to create something knowing that their creation was so good that it was included on the released game. Don't try to trick people, make it clear.

A.

Lotus - Action RPG In development http://www.gamedev.n...die-rpg-engine/ |
Personal blog In Portuguese: lotuzgames.wordpress.com |


#9 FableFox   Members   -  Reputation: 512

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 01:10 AM

You can go even as far as making it like a contest, some people would be happy to create something knowing that their creation was so good that it was included on the released game. Don't try to trick people, make it clear.


Yeah, I agree with this. And to be frank, you CAN make money out of other people content. Advertising on free blog that your provide the hosting is one of the example. Just make things clear.
Fable Fox is Stronger <--- Fable Fox is Stronger Project

#10 GninjaGnome   Members   -  Reputation: 182

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 05:54 AM

Just be sure to give credit where it'd due.

#11 Acotoz   Members   -  Reputation: 73

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 10:17 AM

Yes you are

Good luck

#12 GameCreator   Members   -  Reputation: 771

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 03:51 PM

Just be sure to give credit where it'd due.

While it's not legally required, of course I would.




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