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dpandza

Star Trek: Utopia - Fan tribute

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[font="Verdana"]Greetings, everyone!

[size="5"]Introduction

Well, since I've worked on a couple of game projects as an engine/backend programmer, I really felt the need to express myself [/font]through a personal project, something of a tribute to the Star Trek universe (since, like most of you I guess, I'm a big fan). So, I've pulled out my engine/framework I've worked on for a couple of years ( still far from perfect) and started to generate a bridge of a starship in 3ds max which is a cross between a Galaxy and Intrepid bridge, really something unique but still recognizable, something you'd put under the flag of the United Federation of Planets.

Since I'm quite uncertain whether or not may I create references, I am going to restrain myself from showing anything right now, I really mean no infrigement to anyone's IP. I'm just a fan, like thousands of people who have used, for example, LCARS to model UIs and various fan art. This would just be an executable fan art. To understand my question better, here's what I have in the shortest format:

[font="Verdana"][size="5"]Go on...[/font]

One programmer with inclination towards digital art cannot create an entire game, right? I agree. Since I am very peculiar about the level of detail and absolutely love realistic rendering, it was clear to me from the beginning that I'll never finish this, neither I have the time, neither the will to push it out quickly. So, I've decided to make it byte for byte, start with the most iconic stuff of Star Trek, the bridge. And a really detailed one at that. Currently, I have a working bridge on which a blob character (just a stretched sphere) with rudimentary collisions can walk around a pretty detailed scene (normal mapping, dynamic (well, sort of) reflections, a bunch of lights to simulate realistic lighting, even some ambient occlusion which looks great but kills performance, switchable for now until I figure it out). It's a deferred renderer with some hacks for transparency and antialiasing, I'm really working on it hard to make it better though. As you can see, it's a personal trek through a bunch of rendering techniques to satisfy the inner geek which cannot come out during "true" projects since it's time consuming.

See the catch? I cannot create an entire game with this amount of detail, but I can create small iterative stuff which is buggy (but working) and I'd love to share it with other fans, just send out the executable every once in a while for people to check it out, comment, join the community and dream about what could be done. In that direction, I've been working on a website which has the distinct Star Trek feel which could be a problem. Yet again, I've seen so many websites which are basically fan communities doing similar things. But the Sloperama FAQ is true about getting caught if it's not legal, so... Another problem.

[font="Verdana"][size="5"]To the point...[/font]

And there's the question, may I do it? I personally call the project "Star Trek: Utopia" and in it's essence it would really be a Star Trek inspired fan art which I would love to share with others. I have no intent on making even a dime, absolute zero. Actually, I'll be going negative, but that's okay. This is really a relaxation for me, a pleasure to create. I have a bunch of ideas I'm implementing, like a human LCARS interface which is LCARSy but actually makes sense, rather than touchscreen buttons designated with nonsense numbers which blink around. Also, I've been throwing an idea around to replace the current animated textures on the consoles to something that you can actually interact with.

I am sorry for being so broad, but I didn't want to be labeled just like some 14-year-old kid who wants to create his own Grand Theft Auto game and sell it. This is completely a fan tribute project born out of curiosity and fascination. May I designate a domain with a name like www.startrekutopia.com (a fan community portal, you get the gist of the problem, the name Star Trek) and reference various Star Trek stuff in the overall project? I am fully willing to acknowledge that I have no affiliation with CBS or whoever owns the IP and give a full disclaimer... I am more than willing to advertise Star Trek in an explicit way, since the job is getting done implicitly anyways.

I am just a simple fan who wants to give tribute to the show that, well honestly, created the person I am now... I have zero interest in profit, just pure passion which I would love to share with others. So, what do you guys think? I really researched into it, read a lot of legal stuff and everything's a little bit ambiguous for me. Damn it, Jim, I am a programmer, not a lawyer, right?

Thank you for taking the time to read this bunch of text and I am looking forward to your answers! And, once again, I am familiar with Sloperama, it's an awesome website and I actually find it quite fun to read through.

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If you've read the Sloperama FAQ, why are you asking? You cannot use someone's IP without their permission. It doesn't matter if other people have done it. It doesn't matter if you don't plan on making any money. It's not ambiguous. You will be exposing yourself to risk, even if the Star Trek franchise has typically been permissive towards fan tributes. Every single defense that you raised in your post is explicitly covered in the Sloperama FAQ.

Rather than pasting the words "Star Trek" everywhere, could you make up a name and still satisfy your needs? Even if not, surely there's at least one official Star Trek group that allows fan contributions-- you might be on better footing with something like that. Or you can start a Star Trek club or something (I remember something like that in Trekkies, at any rate). Maybe Tom or Obscure will chime in with details about something like that. But making your own Star Trek thing on a website that is Star Trek: Utopia, and filled with explicit Star Trek references along with a disclaimer that states you have no permission to use the IP and are aware of that fact... that sounds to me like exactly what the FAQ strongly advises you not to do.

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Yeah, unfortunately, that's what I've thought... I was actually hoping a little bit leeway in this matter since of the nature of the project, since most of Sloperama was directed towards actual commercial project hijacks of IPs as I've understood it. I'll adjust accordingly. If someone could pitch in with additional thoughts on the matter, I'd be most grateful.

Thanks, Khaiy, for taking the time to answer, I know it's becoming a chore reading through stuff like this. Just wanted to get it clear. Once again, thank you for your input, it's very much appreciated.

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Why don't you contact the IP owners and ask them to what extent (on under which boundaries) you can express your love towards their original work?

EDIT: Also try to analyse this trough this perspective: If you happened to come up with a great original idea of your own that could allow you to make great profit in every media, would you feel comfortable competing against free versions of your own idea in order to get that profit?

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Why don't you contact the IP owners and ask them to what extent (on under which boundaries) you can express your love towards their original work?

EDIT: Also try to analyse this trough this perspective: If you happened to come up with a great original idea of your own that could allow you to make great profit in every media, would you feel comfortable competing against free versions of your own idea in order to get that profit?


I'll try to get in touch, perhaps send some material their way and ask what they think and may I proceed.

Actually, I was contemplating the second notion of your post and I really don't believe I'm that good I could ever "threaten" the Star Trek profitability, on the contrary... But if it were to "catch on fire" (extremely hypothetical scenario possible only in a parallel universe), I'd be more than happy to remove it and relinquish all my assets and the source code to the IP holders for them to do with it as they please. Honestly, it would be a tremendeous honor for me to officially help expand the Star Trek Universe. The only thing I'd ask is if it would be possible for my name to end up somewhere in the credits, I wouldn't need or require any other compensation. But that's a dream, not a reality scenario. But I would be more than willing to comply, I am ready to write it out on paper and sign it.

Honestly, if I ever had the chance to reanimate the glory of Star Trek games/applications (Bridge Commander, Elite Force) since the forsaken Star Trek Online and Legacy, I'd be more than happy to help, free of charge. Just give me a computer, something to eat and a bed. I guess I've watched too much of Star Trek and soaked too much in their non-economic, scientific values. But as the concept of the United Federation of Planets, such a scenario in the real world is far-fetched at best, is it not?

And thinking from a creator's side, if someone were to take a world of mine which inspired them to the point they wished to contribute to the fantasy whilst not making a false pretense for profit, that would make me quite happy actually. I guess it's every game developer's dream to see that level of immersion and interest in their creations. Unfortunately, the game industry today is ran by Ferengi who only have the lobes for business which is why I made this topic in the first place. Better safe than sorry, right?

As the 13th rule of acquisition states: "Anything worth doing is worth doing for money." Can't blame them for being true to their nature, heh. So, the only problem is the legal one... I'll definitely try contacting them and find out how far I can go. I will respect their decisions to the letter, of course.

Thanks for the input, I appreciate it! And I apologize if I rant too much, I feel like I'm preaching to the choir. However, I am really grateful for all the assistance and suggestions, a really nice crowd here on GameDev.

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Human wrote:
1. Yeah, unfortunately, that's what I've thought... I was actually hoping a little bit leeway in this matter since of the nature of the project, since most of Sloperama was directed towards actual commercial project hijacks of IPs as I've understood it...
2. I really don't believe I'm that good I could ever "threaten" the Star Trek profitability, on the contrary... But if it were to "catch on fire" (extremely hypothetical scenario possible only in a parallel universe),
3. I'd be more than happy to remove it and relinquish all my assets and the source code to the IP holders for them to do with it as they please. Honestly, it would be a tremendeous honor for me to officially help expand the Star Trek Universe. The only thing I'd ask is if it would be possible for my name to end up somewhere in the credits, I wouldn't need or require any other compensation. But that's a dream, not a reality scenario. But I would be more than willing to comply, I am ready to write it out on paper and sign it.[/quote]
1. No, my article clearly says that if you make something and go public with it, you take a risk of being hit with litigation.
2. If your project goes public, that's enough to incur a lawsuit. Besides, if other Trekkies/Trekkers visit your site, at some point you'd probably have an opportunity to monetize the thing, and you'd need to, to pay for the cost of maintaining the site, even if it's just Google AdSense and not dedicated ads. Bingo, it's commercial.
3. No. They'd tell you to shut it down, take it offline, shred it, burn the shreds, feed the ashes to a dog, and burn the dog's poop. Utterly destroyed, never to be seen again. And your name would be mud as far as they're concerned.

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Yeah, I guess you are right... But on the second count of the 2. answer, I would never turn to ads, I am fully self-funded and actually own a server. I'll just turn it around into more of a custom project, being inspired by something hopefully is not a crime. I know this is sort of like a newbie question equivalent in the business world, but I am a really not versed too much in it... I apologise for my ignorance in this field.

Anyways, thank you for taking the time to make this absolutely clear, I'm most grateful. And I love the Sloperama, especially the sincere sarcasm! Cracks me up every time. I thought this situation was a bit different, but I appreciate the fact you took the time to set the record straight. No leeway, just black and white, useful lesson!

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