Posts from ‘Business’ Category

Manifesto Games Closes Shop

By: Derek Yu

On: June 24th, 2009

Manifesto Games

After almost four years since its announcement, Greg Costikyan’s Manifesto Games is no more. The online independent games store, which was conceptualized by Costikyan following a particularly heated rant of his at GDC, aimed to provide a distribution channel for indies that was free of the typical publisher/developer bullcrap. (See: The Manifesto Manifesto)

We’ve been generally very critical of Manifesto Games on TIGSource since it went live. Greg’s heart was totally in the right place (and his words most definitely appreciated), but the implementation of his vision was subpar, in my opinion. Ultimately, the site’s selection of games did not reflect its manifesto, and it did not provide what news sites and developers themselves couldn’t do better.

These days there are a variety of distribution channels that take independent games seriously and treat them professionally – Steam, Greenhouse, GamersGate, Direct2Drive, etc. Indie games also receive a lot of promotion from The Independent Games Festival and Summits, which are now mainstays of the Game Developer’s Conference. Some of the developers are making big money from console publishers like Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony, too. (Castle Crashers just reached 1,000,000 players on XBLA!)

And for free games, artsy games, and general indie game news and criticism, you can’t beat TIGS, IndieGames.com, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Destructoid, and Bytejacker. We’re even hitting the gallery scene thanks to guys like messhof and ArtXGame. Not to mention all the popular forums that are indie-curious. And hell, even Kotaku gets a few INDIE EXCLUSIVES every now and then!

Some of this is touched upon in Costik’s farewell post, although I feel like his outlook is, perhaps unsurprisingly, more gloomy and cautionary than it should be. Things are good right now. They can always be better, but… generally, I think the concept that Costik laid out in 2005 (that we ALL laid out in 2005), has been realized, if not by Manifesto specifically, then by the entire community.

Xbox Live Community Games renamed. Now – Xbox Live Indie Games

By: Xander

On: June 11th, 2009

Clco

As well as the XNA Creator’s Club Package being updated to version 3.1, one of the changes being brought about will be how Community Games will no longer be titled as such. Instead they will be headed by the title ‘XBox Live Indie Games’.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this. It does seem to be part of a much wider movement to try and promote the more interesting XNA titles out there with a new User Ratings system which will hopefully give Hexothermic and its kin the recognition they deserve.

However, if this new branding is to include titles like “Clock 24-7” and “Remote Masseuse” then I can’t help but feel conflicted on this, as if this rebranding is simply using the wake of recent indie successes to make the questionable content of the Community Games catalogue somewhat more respectable in the public eye. I don’t mean to suggest any kind of ‘ownership’ of that word specifically, however after all the work from many communities across the world who have given the word such a prestigious weighting behind it, I just want to see it treated respectfully.

So, should we be concerned? Or do you think there could be some other positive to the name change after all?

Tim Langdell and EDGE: Part Two

By: Derek Yu

On: June 9th, 2009

Tim Langdell

Now that Classics Week and E3 are over, I’d like to come back to Tim Langdell for a moment, because I personally consider it to be not only a fascinating topic, but also an important one that raises a lot of issues important to the community, including intellectual property and the role of the IGDA. A lot has come up since my last post, and unfortunately, it’s spread relatively thinly across a number of interesting discussions. I’m going to do my best to summarize and provide links to source material so that people can have a better understanding of what’s going on. I make no pretensions about my personal feelings on the matter, but please consider that anything that I say for which I do not explicitly provide a source are my own opinions. I will try to make it as clear as possible when they are.

Also, apologies to the readers who come here looking for news on new games to play and are uninterested in this story. There will be some very soon, and I’ll hide the rest of the post under a jump so that you can easily and quickly move on.

A Quick Recap:

Edge

1. Fingergaming posts an article revealing that the popular, award-winning iPhone game Edge has been removed due to a legal issue with Langdell. Mobigame’s David Papazian suggests that Langdell was also responsible for Namco’s Soul Edge being renamed to Soul Blade and then Soul Calibur in the United States. (Source)

2. Simon Carless posts an article on GameSetWatch in which he suggests that Langdell has a habit of engaging in lawsuits over his trademark on the word “Edge.” Carless also notes that Langdell’s Wikipedia entry, which is oddly detailed, has been mostly edited by a single user, Cheridavis, who may or may not be Cheri Langdell, Tim’s wife. Cheridavis had denied being related to Langdell, and had insisted that she (he?) was writing an unnamed book on the game industry and was posting information she discovered through her research of the book. Carless mentions at the end of his article that because of Langdell’s history of trademark abuse it’s unfortunate that he has recently been accepted to the board of directors for the IGDA.

3. Simon’s article is removed, for unknown reasons, but has been quoted on various other websites and forums. (Source)

4. Thanks to a tip from mklee, I read Simon’s article, follow his links, and decide to make a post about it myself here on TIGSource.

5. Langdell’s Wikipedia page is cleaned up and is now under neutrality and notability disputes.

6. Both the IGDA and the “Game Attorney,” Tom Buscaglia, respond, with Tom responding on his own behalf. The IGDA claims that it cannot take any action with Langdell regarding the legal dispute. Buscaglia calls Simon’s article a “hatchet job” and implies that Carless has reason to take down Langdell because of a rivalry between Game Developer Magazine and Edge Magazine. He suggests that, in order to keep his trademark, Langdell must actively protect it by pursuing legal action against Mobigame.

(Note: Buscaglia has since apologized for his “snide” remarks about Carless and insists that his implication of a rivalry was intended as a joke. He has also edited his post to remove the latter. In this author’s opinion, there was no indication of a joke in the original post.)

Tim Langdell and David Papazian Speak

Gamasutra

Probably the most important thing that has happened the past week is that Langdell and Papazian have both spoken up regarding the controversy, in the comments section of Stephen Jacobs’s Gamasutra blog. Jacobs has been involved with the IGDA for at least 4 years and once worked with Langdell to try and establish an organization for game educators and researchers.

It’s probably best if you read the entire discussion, starting with Jacobs’s article. But here are the basic claims by both sides:

1. Langdell claims that EDGE Games informed Apple of the trademark violation, whereupon Apple sent a standardized notice to Mobigame. At that point, Langdell claims that Mobigame pulled the app voluntarily.

2. Langdell claims that it is, in fact, Mobigame that is bullying EDGE Games over the trademark. He also asserts that Mobigame started the “flame war” with the intention of causing him embarrassment.

3. Langdell claims that he has never sued anyone over EDGE trademarks, or ever started any litigation over the trademarks. Furthermore, he claims that “EDGE has never engaged in anything other than entirely legitimate practices to protect its trademarks.”

4. Langdell asserts that he has personally produced all of the several hundred games EDGE Games has developed or produced since 1979, and that every other statement he has made regarding his own accomplishments are entirely true.

(Note: Langdell, even when asked directly, has seemingly made no attempt to verify any of this, or even provide a simple list of games he has produced. Update: But if you go to the EDGE Games website and click “Videogames” at the top, you can see a list.)

5. Papazian responds to Langdell by saying that he has not made any comments regarding the dispute since the Fingergaming article and has no prior connection to either Simon Carless or Owen Good (who penned a Kotaku article about Langdell). He regards Langdell’s accusation that Mobigame is trying to cause Langdell embarrassment as a lie.

6. Papazian corroborates Langdell’s claim that Edge was voluntarily pulled.

7. Papazian claims that Mobigame offered to change the name to “EDGY” whereupon Langdell refused the offer and proceeded to register the trademark “EDGY”. Papazian also asserts that Langdell holds the trademarks “MIRROR’S SPORE” and “SOUL SPORE,” suggesting a connection to EA’s games Mirror’s Edge and Spore, and Namco’s Soul Edge.

(Note: Edge Games does indeed own those trademarks. You can look them up yourself here [EDGY] and here [MIRROR’S SPORE AND SOULSPORE].)

8. Papazian claims that Langdell has never given proof of his connection to Edge Magazine, or any proof that he has actively used the mark in recent years. He claims that the only person he has spoken to from EDGE Games has been Langdell.

On Langdell

Mirrors

Although I make no claims about the legality of anything that Langdell has done, it’s obvious to me that there is something very underhanded with the way that he operates. At best, he bends the truth. For one thing, there’s no reason not to believe what David Papazian has said, and, in fact, there is a lot of evidence to corroborate his claims (e.g. the trademarks Langdell has registered and the fact that there really is no evidence of Papazian or his colleagues commenting on the issue between the Fingergaming article and the Gamasutra blog post).

There are also many unproven, yet eyebrow-raising, reasons to be skeptical of what Langdell is saying. For one thing, there’s the whole dispute over his Wikipedia entry and whether he was personally involved. There’s also the “Mirrors a game from Edge” advertisement on the EDGE Games website, which seems purposefully misleading. In fact, if you use the Wayback Machine to look at previous incarnations of Langdell’s site, you’ll see that he’s pulled similar stunts throughout the years. My favorite is the EDGE Games jacket, which has a photo of a jacket with “EDGE Games” written on it in a red font. (Thanks to raiten for pointing this out.)

Plus, as the story has been spread, more personal anecdotes from people who have worked with Langdell have popped up, and they are terrible. Read this, this, and this, if you’re interested. It’s gruesome stuff.

Is anyone defending Langdell? Aside from Buscaglia, there appears to be a single anonymous person calling themselves either “Joe” or “mopius” who claims to be friends with Tim and is posting gems such as this on various blogs and forums:

Not only is Tim an “indie” from the 80’s, but he’s the real deal. He’s not some punk who just made a game in some “Easy Instant Game Maker 2000 Pro Edition” in two minutes and decided to call himself a professional game developer. No, he has actual experience in the field and has more games (actual games, things sold at retail) credited to him than you’ve had hot dinners.

Because of the Wikipedia dispute, there is suspicion that “Joe” is Langdell himself, but this is unfounded.

Plus, this. Seriously.

To date, Langdell has tenuous associations with and/or has claimed creative ownership of the following brands:

1. Edge Magazine
2. Soul Edge
3. Edge (iPhone game)
4. Mirror’s Edge
5. Edge of Extinction (Cybernet Systems v. Edge Games)
6. Edge Computers
7. EdgeGamers (game community)
8. The Edge (movie)
9. Edge (Malibu Comics character)
10. Koala Lumpur: Journey to the Edge

But it’s not obvious (to me, anyway) what Tim Langdell has actually created, aside from trouble for the various people who have had the misfortune of dealing with him and his trademark during its 30-odd years of existence. My hope is that, by helping to bring out the story, real creators can avoid him (and others like him) in the future. I don’t believe Langdell is a smart man, because a lot of his stunts are poorly managed and straight-up bald-faced – the only way he can succeed is if people are not knowledgeable.

So know your legal rights! As far as I know, trademark strength is not dependent on who “calls it” first, but on how you use it. I would love to hear a lawyer (who is not Buscaglia) comment on this matter.

Regarding the IGDA

IGDA

The IGDA has taken the stance of “this is none of our business.” I disagree that it’s none of their business, and I strongly disapprove of their impotence regarding this issue. They are enabling people like Langdell when they should be helping to protect developers from them. Game developer/blogger Craig Stern sums up the situation very well. You can also see that the IGDA does have some rules regarding ethical behavior on the board and what they can do about it (scroll down).

You can sign a petition asking for Langdell to be expelled from the IGDA here.

Update: I’ve collected information regarding Tim Langdell and Edge Games here for easy reference.

Tim Langdell: The EDGE of Insanity?

By: Derek Yu

On: May 29th, 2009

Tim Langdell

Mobigame’s award-winning iPhone game Edge has been removed from the App Store, pending a legal battle with Tim Langdell (pictured at right) over the trademark “Edge.” What’s troubling is that, according to a GameSetWatch article by Simon Carless, Langdell, who founded and owns the company Edge Games, has had a history of using his trademark to cause creators grief and to link himself with various high-profile media projects, including, but not limited to, games.

“We have legal issues with a man named Tim Langdell,” says Mobigame’s David Papazian. “If you already asked why Soul Edge (the Namco game) was called Soul Blade and later Soulcalibur in the US, you have your answer.” (via Fingergaming)

If you look on Tim’s Wikipedia page, you’ll notice that he is associated with Edge Magazine, a Malibu Comics character named Edge, and also the movie The Edge, starring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin. What Tim actually did on any of these projects is questionable, but my guess would be that it’s about as much work as he will do for Edge, the iPhone game, once all the dust settles. Namely, he threatened to sue the living fuck out of anyone in his path (mind you, this is conjecture).

Anonymous Ninja

You may also notice that the Wikipedia entry is oddly detailed and poorly cited for a man who no one has really given a shit about until now… it’s also under a neutrality dispute. And no wonder – the entire page is almost single-handedly the creation of user Cheridavis, who, very coincidentally, shares the name of Tim’s wife, Cheri Davis Langdell. When pressed on the issue of neutrality, Cheridavis wrote: “You are mistaken. I am writing a book on founding members of the game industry and noticed that Tim Langdell was one of the only people missing from Wikipedia. The article I created is based on my research, not on being Tim Langdell or knowing him personally.” That would be Tim Langdell, the husband of Cheri Davis Langdell, the founder of the game industry, the producer of such notable titles as Fairlight and Snoopy: The Case of the Missing Blanket, and the man who participated in these three roundtables at GDC this year:

– Who Controls a Game’s IP and Who Reaps the Financial Benefit?

– How to Design Your Game So That its IP is More Valuable to Hollywood

– How to Sell Your IP to Hollywood (Without Selling Your Soul)

If you’re wondering where Simon’s article for GSW went, it is, for whatever reason (heh), not available anymore. Unless you go to NeoGAF or any of the other places the article has been reposted. And if, after reading this, you’re wondering, like I was, about Mirror’s Edge, you’ll be happy to note that Mr. Langdell’s EDGE Games is currently working on a new game called “Mirrors a game from Edge,” which I’m sure will not conflict in any way with the popular parkour-inspired FPS.

Jokes aside, the most frightening thing about this entire debacle is not how greedy and disingenuous human beings can be (you should be used to it by now), but that Mr. Greedyguts himself is a board member on the IGDA, a non-profit organization created to empower game developers and advocate on their behalf. Which is, in this author’s distinct opinion and should in no way be construed as a fact, somewhat like having Joseph Mengele on the board of the Red Cross. It’s absolutely fucking ridiculous and brings the credibility of the organization to serious question. How does this happen and what are they going to do about it?

Thanks to mklee for pointing this out, via TIGForums. Thanks to John Nesky for pointing out the GDC roundtables.

Update: The IGDA has responded, and so has Tom Buscaglia, the “Game Attorney” (and also an IGDA board member).

Update 2: The follow-up to this article can be found here.

Newgrounds Ad RevShare

By: Derek Yu

On: May 8th, 2009

Newgrounds

Newgrounds creator Tom Fulp announced last month that the site would be extending its ad revenue sharing program to all users. I_smell mentioned this one the forums when it was first announced, but I missed it. He wrote:

If you make browser games, you know the Flash portal Newgrounds. They’ve had their own embedded ads service since about May 2008, but now they’ve kicked it up a notch. Newgrounds now automatically share their ad revenue whether you sign up for the ads or not.
For example- I made a game recently and got it sponsored by a third party. The terms were that I wasn’t allowed to embed any ads in the game. So I didn’t, there are no ads in the game. Now Newgrounds will pay me regardless just because my game’s on their site. Not just games either, ad impressions come from audio submissions, animations and even my damn userpage. I made 3 cents for having a blog. Thanks!

The site has a nice interface for tracking your earnings here. You can see an example of it here. Thanks, I_smell!

It’s cool that Newgrounds (still my favorite Flash portal) is doing this. Since this program’s been up for a month now, has anyone had or heard of any success with it? How does it compare to, say, Kongregate’s service and similar programs?

Introversion’s Difficult 2008

By: Derek Yu

On: April 30th, 2009

Darwinia

Introversion’s Chris Delay posted a rather sobering series of articles reflecting on the team’s difficulties over the past couple of years, including the apparently lackluster reception to Multiwinia. It’s very honest, heartfelt, and revelatory. Thanks for sharing this, Chris.

I’ve always been of two minds towards Introversion. On the one hand, I’m a big fan of Darwinia and grateful for what Introversion has done with their early success to help popularize indie games and pave the way for other developers. On the other hand, the slogans, expensive cars, and general attitude of the marketing and business arm have always rubbed me the wrong way. Everyone’s allowed their fun, of course, but I couldn’t help but feel like there was almost a Romero-ness to it all… like someone I admired was telling me to “Suck It Down™,” or whatever.

So reading Chris’s latest posts, I’m reminded of Ion Storm, the story of which I read once a year as a reminder that things can always go in another direction (and it just so happens that my yearly reading came this past week). I don’t say that with any kind of satisfaction… I’ve met and spoken with Chris before, and it’s obvious he is just a shy and talented guy who enjoys programming and making games. Nor are the lessons to be learned necessarily the same – I just think both tales are really relevant to indie developers and important to keep in perspective as the scene grows ever larger.

Anyway, here’s hoping that the rest of the year is good for Introversion, and for everyone! Time to put the nose to the grindstone (or rather, keep it there) and make some cool games.

(Thanks, Lucaz! Via TIGForums.)

Farbs – A Message for 2K Australia

By: Xander

On: April 28th, 2009

farbsFarbs, who created the VGNG Competition winning ROM CHECK FAIL has released a new game intended to be A message for 2K Australia, his current employers.

All I can say is that it’s good to see more from Farbs, and I somehow get the feeling that we might just see more from him yet.

Somehow…

IGS ’09: The Art of Independent Game Promotion

By: Brandon McCartin (BMcC)

On: March 26th, 2009

Fish & Chips. I mean, Kyle.
Photo by Rebekah Thompson Saltsman, Official TIGS Photographer

Kyle Gabler of 2D Boy and Phil Fish of Polytron gave an excellent presentation at this year’s IGS on marketing and PR for indie developers called The Art of Independent Game Promotion—a top ten list of ways to gain publicity without losing your soul. At least, I heard it was excellent. I had to miss it.

Which is why I’m now linking you to Offworld’s thorough coverage of the talk.

True to point #7, Phil hooked TIGS up with the exclusive very first crack at the new Fez trailer a couple hours later. (Thanks again, Phil!)

BeeWare

By: Derek Yu

On: March 3rd, 2009

2Bad...

The website of the 2BeeGames competition takes a slight dig at the IGF by saying “unlike some events where every judge plays only a few games, our judges will play each and every game to determine the finalists (up to 10).” However, developers that are interested in the compo should be more mindful of this part of the official rules:

5. Ownership/Use of Entries: Entrants retain ownership of the Games they submit, however, by entering you, on behalf of yourself and any Third Party Creators, grant Contest Entities the perpetual, fully-paid, irrevocable, non-exclusive license to reproduce, prepare derivate [sic] works of (including modification to allow game play on different platforms), distribute, display, exhibit, transmit, broadcast, televise, digitize, otherwise use, and permit others to use and perform throughout the world the Games in any manner, form, or format now or hereinafter created, including on the internet, and for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising or promotion of Contest Entities and Contest Entities’ goods and/or services, all without further consent from or payment to you, Third Party Creators or any other third parties.

It goes on to say that the “Contest Entities” do not waive any “rights to use similar or related ideas without any restriction whatsoever.” In other words, if you enter the competition (just enter, not necessarily win), you are giving the casual games publisher Zoo Games a license to not only market and sell your game all over the world, but also make knock-off games using your ideas.

Classy stuff!

(Thanks to the various folks that pointed this out.)

GCDC: Telltale on Episodic Gaming

By: Derek Yu

On: August 19th, 2008

NO LOAFING!

Gamasutra has a nice little write-up of Telltale co-founder and CEO Dan Connors’ GCDC talk on the episodic gaming biz. There’s nothing particularly revelatory there, but it’s a nice summary of what they do. And there are some interesting tidbits like this:

20 percent of players who buy a first episode next buy the whole season altogether, says Connors. Without providing specifics, he also said “most players” buy the whole season at once directly from Telltale, while “retail is the most powerful content-mover out there.”

Telltale recently released the first episode of their Strong Bad game, titled “Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People.”