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Jun 09, 2004

Comments

1.

A short time ago /. ran an EQ is Doomed piece (http://games.slashdot.org/games/04/05/28/0022224.shtml?tid=127&tid=186&tid=206&tid=209) I wonder if this event is a reaction to the kind of disquiet that was being talked about there - though I don't follow EQ that closely so I'm not sure if the issues are 'real' or 'journalism'.

2.

One of the questions Julian was asked after his presentation is pertinent to this discussion: Will EULAs continue to assign more rights to game publishers, or will the tide turn so that players become more able to negotiate content ownership rights in game license agreements?

That's directly relevant to the sense of ownership felt by players of "deep" MMOGs, because those are the games that require the largest investment of a player's time and energy. It's actually reassuring to see organizations like SOE recognizing the contributions that expert players would offer... if they could.

The EQ summit is a good sign, but to that I would also point out that SOE's online forum for SWG has consistently seen a significant amount of interaction between developers and users, continuing a policy in effect since at least a year before the game was even released. The forum even taps motivated players to serve as communication intermediaries between the developers and players. Even if this isn't always productive, it still helps to support the perception among the forum population that players with good ideas will be heard by the developers, and may even see their ideas incorporated into the game.

So while I got a chuckle out of Julian's "Raph as Ben Franklin" slide :-), and I think I can see some cracks in SOE's Iron Curtain, I also see EULAs continuing to become increasingly restrictive. This suggests that we're still a long way from MMOGs being democratic environments in which players truly have a meaningful "vote" on the rules governing the structures of their game worlds.

3.

There has always been a fight between marketing and legal departments regarding the benefits and costs of letting your users extend your brand and letting your brand out of your control.

There are many strategies to manage this, so let me do a wild speculation:

Let's come with the view that SOE is an imperialist. Thus, SOE is negotiating with leaders of smaller nations as possible client states. Guild leaders offer raw resources which allow SOE to build a comparative might to force other leaders of smaller nations onto to the negotiating table.

Perhaps we should juxtapose the developers as England and the guildleaders as the founding fathers :)

Just an thought,

Frank


4.

Frank>Perhaps we should juxtapose the developers as England and the guildleaders as the founding fathers :)

I think that might be a bit of a stretch. IMO, part of the 'ownership problem' is that most players and player-organizations haven't recognized it as an issue.

Much like the bulk of intellectual property law, consumers don't seem to recognize its importance, even though the law is regularly modified in a very consumer-unfriendly fashion.

If anyone is going to hold a virtual continental congress, it will most certainly be a group of lawyers who understand the issues and know how to frame the argument, even though they don't necessarily represent the population.

A proposal made, Guild leaders will turn to them, and with popular support behind the struggle the revolution might begin -- in a more apt analogy.

But guild leaders themselves... well when's the last time a guild board ran an op-ed piece railing against draconian EULAs or The Rights of Avatars?

5.

weasel> "when's the last time a guild board ran an op-ed piece railing against draconian EULAs or The Rights of Avatars?"

I would suggest that you don't see such manifestos because most players embrace the notion of publishers as Evil Big Corporations as an unspoken but widely shared assumption. Players don't feel a need to try to convince their peers of this (and the subsequent need for "emancipation") because they assume that everyone already agrees with them.

OTOH, that does suggest the existence of a certain critical mass of players which, given some charismatic leadership, could indeed become a kind of democratizing force for player rights.

Strange and unlikely, but mobs are unpredictable.

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