Monthly Archives: August 2008

Why copyright will survive

August 31, 2008 | Filed under: Uncategorized

I hear people occasionally calling for the abolition of copyright. Often they use the phrase ‘imaginary property’ to show their contempt for the idea. I have often debated with these people, and found it very frustrating. Many times, I am lectured on economics by them, and have them explain marginal cost to me, on the (false) assumption that price should equal marginal cost in the long term. (It doesn’t, because fixed costs must be repaid to make the enterprise worthwhile, and normal proft must be factored in as a reward for entrepreneurial risk). Anyway…. when debating it recently a great example struck me as to why copyright not only makes sense, but will continue to work even without scarcity.

MONEY

Money is the answer. Money is (just like copyright) a totally artificial construct. It’s a relatively recent invention in human terms, if you count early stone age man., and not all tribal societies even have it. It is a product of our technological society. Once you live in a grouping where you don’t know bob from dave, you need a way of knowing who has done what and who owes who what. Enter money!

A long time ago, we used precious metals as money, gold and silver and bronze coins. And even after we started to introduce paper money, we still had the money ‘backed by gold‘. You could, at any point, exchange the pieces of paper for gold. The transition was pretty smooth, and people soon went from valuing the pieces of paper just like they did the finite precious gold.

Now the obvious problem is that it is possible to just print money. And that’s what we do. It’s how it’s made. We don’t mine for gold any more, we just switch on the printing press. And very very naive governments sometimes try and do exactly that to solve problems. Now and school kid will tell you that printing money is a disaster because it leads to inflation (the money itself becomes valueless). And any idiot will realise that for a society with money to function, we have to have incredibly strong penalties against forgery, and go to great lengths to make it impossible. If tomorrow, someone found a way to print perfect, usable $100 bills, The economy would quickly fall apart.

Now of course, the government doesn’t let that happen. The notes are made using special paper from a restricted supply, the inks are also special. Holograms are embedded into the notes, and a magnetic strip is added. Special combinations of characters are added that photocopiers refuse to print…

You can see where I’m going by now. These are all methods of DRM. They are ways to ensure that you can’t make copies of your money. And they work, no doubt after huge expense and careful policing. Now think about the implications of this… Being able to copy adobe photoshop is worth a few hundred dollars. Being able to copy all music and games in their entirety is worth maybe a few thousand dollars a month from the advertising on your torrent site. A million dollars a year at most. Being able to copy dollar bills is worth billions, maybe tens of billions, maybe hundreds.

And yet we are constantly told that the battle that the pro-copyright lobby fights is unwinnable and doomed, despite the fact that their situation is a thousand times easier than the battle governments fight to control the integrity of their money supply. The DRM on money works, and works practically 100%, because of two reasons:

1) The DRM on a dollar bill does not vaguely inconvenience the user of the money in any way at all. and

2) Everyone understands and accepts that the government has to stop people being able to copy money.

Now one day, maybe, 1) will get fixed, I have no idea how, and right now its definitely not fixed, which is why I agree with the pirates and the anti-DRM lobby that DRM is more trouble than it’s worth. However, I do believe that we need to address 2) at some stage. I cannot see the reason why digital goods IP and money are not equal in this regard. They both are ways of ensuring value is fixed for something that in technical terms can be produced at almost zero cost (printing presses are pretty cheap, even secure ones).

I think this is a pretty strong argument, but never see it mentioned anywhere. Am I missing something really obvious?

(For anyone thinking this is a very different POV to earlier posts, I still stand by all my piracy response decisions regarding demos, pricing and DRM, but am still a firm believer in copyright. I understand the frustrations and justifications behind piracy, but I believe 100% that the producers o digital goods must be fairly compensated for their work.)

last two big design changes?

August 30, 2008 | Filed under: game design | kudos

After doing a few longer than usual play-throughs, I have decided to make two fairly big design changes ‘under the hood’ of Kudos 2.

The first one is a change to the way the ‘attributes’ such as tiredness, muscles etc get calculated. Right now, when you add say ‘+5′ to tiredness, it doesn’t just change a value, but its makes a note of the ‘+5′ modifier, and the rate at which that effect degrades. This means that some effects can be long lasting (slow degraed) and some more transient (fast degrade) which is more accurate and realistic. The down side is, this allows you to store up values beyond 0 and 100%. So although your cleanliness may seem to be 100%, it is actually 156%, and just being capped to 100% for display. This is unrealistic, as surley some times, you are as clean (or as dirty) as you can get, and going beyond it makes no sense.

I wanted to keep the vraibale degrade rates though, and also the seperate list for debugging purposes, so what I’ve changed is to ensure you can never stockpile effects beyond 100% or below 0. So if your cleanliness is already 95% , and you dop something that adds 10%, that effect gets altered to be just 5% instead. This will make for a far more understandable system, although obviously it now radically changes game balance (bah!).

That was one change. the other one was game length. 10 years is just TOO LONG. I know some people (5%?) get annoyed when Kudos 1 ends, and want to keep going (and this will be an option), but feedback from friends trying it suggests it goes on for too long. Better a shorter, fun-packed game than a longer, stretched one. So I’ve reduced the days per month from 7 to 5. There are still 7 days in a wek and 12 months in a year, so you don’t really notice the change as much as you might assume.

I now have set aside two weeks for nothing but play balancing. I’m going to try and add no new features, just tweak and adjust and balance the code that exists. There is a LOT to play through, many careers, huge numbers of choices etc, so two weeks, even 10 hours a day is conservative to do this. I have to make sure I put the hours in to do it though.

Asset Effects for Kudos 2

August 27, 2008 | Filed under: game design | kudos

Some of the things you buy in Kudos 2 have ongoing effects that happen every day (like the newspaper its assumed you read, or owning a fast car or a pet). Some have effects that happen only when you use them (like weights or a chess set). And some have one-off purchase-time effects (like a fashionable outfit).

The problem with the ongoing daily effects is the player had no way of knowing what they are, so I’ve spent a big chunk of this morning coding this sort of thing so they can see them:

It’s amazing how long it takes to code something like that and ensure it a) works, b) looks nice and c) is bug free. It also exposes a efw other minor niggles that then needed fixing. Oh well, slow but steady progress!

Yet another podcast interview thing

August 25, 2008 | Filed under: kudos

Tonight at 7PM GMT. it’s here:

http://www.wcradio.com/

diggable here:

http://digg.com/gaming_news/Cliff_Harris_interview_on_WoW_Radio_Aug_25th

Blurb:

The show will air on Monday at 7pm British time (2pm Eastern US). Listeners
can visit http://www.wcradio.com and tune in from the frontpage.
Alternatively, loading http://www.wcradio.com/listen.pls into most popular
media players will tune automatically into the stream. The show will be
available after airing in the form of a podcast, via itunes, all popular
podcast aggregators and on our website in the TB’s Show about Videogames
archive – http://www.wcradio.com/shows.php?selectShow=96

I’m actually getting some work done on Kudos 2 today (yes I know it’s a bank holiday). Just some minor improvements such as getting people to phone you when you get back from an event and complain about you not accepting their offer, etc.

There are no comments yet

Dropping More Prices

August 24, 2008 | Filed under: business | kudos

I just dropped Democracy 1 (the original game) down to just under ten dollars. As of right now you can get the game for $9.99.

This is partly because it’s an old game, and partly because it’s a response to all those piracy comments about the price of games. I think the game is pretty good value at ten dollars. The basic game design is the same as Democracy 2, although the way it simulates stuff is a bit simpler, and the interface and presentation isn’t as slick as the newer one. However, if none of that bothers you, you can get a pretty decent stratgey game for under ten dollars now!

My companies year-end is at the end of September, so yesterday I entered all the data to see how I was doing in the run up to the business year-end. It’s not as good as I would ahve liked, definitely making less money than last year. Tbh, most of the profit of last year was selling Kudos and My other games on portals. Democracy 2 sold well, but Rock Legend didn’t. I didn’t really make any money worth getting excited about from retail at all. This is all a bit worrying, although I guess you could blame the ‘credit crunch’, but that just sounds unlikely to me. I’ve possibly spent too long making Kudos 2 (and it’s not done yet), and I really need to get my ass in gear now.

Here’s hoping Kudos 2 sells as well as Democracy 2 did (or better!). That would keep things ticking along.