Bungie, creators of the hit game Destiny, is going through a bit of a rough stretch. Whereas Witcher 3 creators CD Projekt Red have been showing the gaming industry how to do everything right in regards to DRM, DLC and consumer interaction, Bungie apparently decided to give a master class over the last few weeks on how to do everything very, very wrong.
Bungie's first misstep came when it unveiled the latest Destiny expansion pack, The Taken King. To access all of the content in this new expansion, gamers need to buy the new $80 Collector's Editon, forcing fans to shell out some notable cash to buy a slew of content they already owned (the base game and previous DLC), just to nab some new DLC doo dads. Destiny's creative director, Luke Smith, then did an epically shitty job of not-really-trying to quell fan outrage over at Eurogamer, where he repeatedly dodged the question of why consumers should pay for content they already own:
"Eurogamer: Can you see that some fans are confused that you're asking them to buy stuff they already own?
Luke Smith: Yeah, I can totally empathise with those people. But the Collector's Edition is a pretty cool package for people who want to pursue that stuff. Otherwise, surely what you're saying is that you would want to buy them separately, right?
Eurogamer: Well, yeah. I would rather do that - pay a few pounds or dollars or whatever - than spend money on things I already own.
Luke Smith: [Laughs] Well, we have nothing more to talk about regarding your opportunity to spend extra money in Destiny, other than The Taken King and the three versions we've announced"
Talk about non-answers. Smith essentially laughs off concerns about Bungie double dipping, arguing that users just haven't seen the full awesome scope of what Bungie has planned. When pressed by Eurogamer, Smith would only elaborate that the company is "really comfortable with the value" they're offering consumers. That of course completely ignored the fact that most Destiny fans were making it very clear they were not seeing said value whatsoever. Not too surprisingly, based on Smith's seemingly-flippant tone in the article, many Destiny fans felt they were at best being ignored, and at worst being laughed at.
The Eurogamer interview was published Monday, and by yesterday Bungie had been forced to do a complete 180, not only announcing they'd let fans buy the new DLC piecemeal, but also having Smith apologize for being an "asshat":
"Reading my interview with Eurogamer and imagining it came from some random developer of a game I love - that random developer looks like an Asshat. But that Asshat was me - and those words rightfully anger you. I'm sorry.
My words made it sound as if Bungie doesn't care about their most loyal fans. We do care. We are listening. And we will make it right."
Of course, Bungie wouldn't have to "make it right" if it hadn't tried to aggressively nickel-and-dime its loyal fans in the first place. And Bungie, like many companies, wouldn't be trying to aggressively nickel-and-dime loyal fans if gamers didn't perpetually reward this kind of behavior by lapping up garbage pricing and content whenever it's shoveled in their general direction. At the end of the day, the way to stop this kind of pricing isn't to raise hell after the fact (though obviously that helps), it's to avoid paying companies that exhibit this kind of behavior in the first place.
The recording is old news. Last century. Dead. The Access versus Ownership debate should have finished 10 years ago, but we're still bickering. Access models (eg. streaming) are not supposed to replace Ownership models. They're supposed to power a new reality, a new age for the Music business, in which the record industry possibly has no place.
"The Music industry" has become synonymous for the recording industry, just as it was synonymous for sheet music publishers prior to the rise of the recording companies. With new technology, come new companies, and the old companies move into the background. The new Music industry will likely not consist of those that depend on the recording (eg. major labels, or even Spotify), but those that apply technology to change what it means to listen to or interact with Music, just as the recording did in the 20th century.
Even the creative process will have to change.
Prior to the invention of the record, Music was far more participative than it has become throughout the age of mass media and mass consumption. Back then, if you wanted to hear your favourite song, you better know how to play an instrument, or have a member of the household who sings well, or you're simply not going to hear it. That sounds extremely restrictive given our current reality, but it also gave Music certain characteristics that made it richer:
Music was participative
Music was mostly a social experience
Music was more intimate
Music sounded a little bit different every time
Music belonged to everyone
I believe these are natural characteristics of Music, that got temporarily pushed into the background in the age of Mass Media and Western individualism. Entertainment and Culture became passive, and the ownership of Culture became less ambiguous, economically. A Creating Class arose, and a Consuming Class. The companies selling the output of the Creating Class benefited from the passiveness of the Consuming Class, because you couldn't consume high margin products while you create.
The KLF's Bill Drummond about Recorded Music
The KLF's Bill Drummond about what the recording took away from Music. From 1:23. Quote below.
"As the technology to record music evolved through the twentieth century, it sucked in and seduced every form of music around the world. They all wanted to become recorded music. They all wanted to become this thing that could be bought and sold. And that narrowed the parameters of what music could do and be. And it took away from music a big part of what can make music powerful, which is about music being about time, place, and occasion."
"Until 100 years ago, every musical event was unique: music was ephemeral and unrepeatable and even classical scoring couldn't guarantee precise duplication. Then came the gramophone record, which captured particular performances and made it possible to hear them identically over and over again. […] I think it's possible that our grandchildren will look at us in wonder and say: "You mean you used to listen to exactly the same thing over and over again?""
The recording is not the end of the line for Music. Every medium is a transition to the next medium.
Most people call performed music "live music" —
some people call recorded music "dead music"
The Media evolved and spawned Computers, the Internet, Video Games. The latter a highly Interactive example of Culture that went on to give birth to MMORPGs, where large Communities of players Interact and define their own Meaning, participatively. A particularly good example of the aforementioned elements coming together is Minecraft, a world-creating game where players work together to build whatever they can dream of. Deadmau5 uses this to enter a digital world of fan art and interact with his fanbase. Imagine what that's going to look like with the unstoppable momentum Virtual Reality currently seems to have. The Consuming Class has become the Creating Class: Consumption and Creation are becoming, in part, synonymous.
Why is Music still static by default?
Why am I not being offered more ways to interact with Music?
Look at the gaming industry. It's a 1,000 times easier to get someone to pay to unlock a 'special ability' than it is to sell them a piece of content.
Intimacy and Immediacy
The old Music industry is not interested in creating Intimacy. It's hard to scale. The dominance of the recording industry's model depends on hundreds of thousands of well-timed sales, and a long-tail that provides income until 70 years after the death of the Creator.
Yet the fact that we carry computers in our pockets that are more powerful than the PCs on our desks a few years ago, and always connected to the Internet, offers amazing opportunities for Intimacy and Immediacy, ones that fans are happy to pay for. It means that Kevin Kelly's theory of a 1,000 True Fans will become increasingly easy to apply for a growing number of Creators.
The rise of Intimacy and Immediacy will benefit those Creators who work with small teams, who are open about their creative process, and involve their fanbase early on in this process. This enables them to secure funds through crowdfunding, as opposed to trying to secure investment from large corporations, whether recording companies or brands.
One can create dynamics of social competition within a fanbase. Who can recruit the most new fans, or active members? Who are the most valuable contributors to the Creator's wiki? Who spend the most money on merch and who have the most complete collection? The ones that rank highest, get access to perks. A weekly 1 hour video chat with the top 10, weekly 10 minute preview of what you're working on for the top 50, 20% discount on merchandise for the top 200, etc.
An app that has a great idea for how to get people to actively discover new Music, engage with it, and feel part of the artist's success is Tradiio. It gamifies Music discovery and lets users invest virtual coins in songs they believe in. This helps artists rise to prominence on the platform and earn rewards. If this platform evolves from a reward-based game, to a real economy where users can purchase coins and artists can cash out, it would be a good example of the type of company the new Music industry will be made up of. Just to mention some other exemplary companies for music's future: look at Smule and Sonic Emotion.
More on Games
The Gaming industry got into the same mess, at the same time, that the Music industry got into, brought about by the fact that what they thought was their product could suddenly be communicated through networks at zero cost. A whole new Gaming industry emerged with the arrival of connected devices: smartphones. Instead of charging money for the game, they made the game free to play and highly social, and instead charged for a limited set of actions.
Treat money-poor, time-rich fans as well as the money-rich, time-poor, because it's the former that provide value for the latter.
Music needs a new format that's feature-oriented, rather than content-focused. The content remains central to the experience, but the interaction around the content is what brings in the money. Likewise, playback of recorded music will remain important in the future, but perhaps not as the part of the industry that rakes in the most important part of Creators' incomes.
There are countless examples of companies pioneering the future of Music. From aforementioned Tradiio, to ones started by game developers, Music business serial entrepreneurs, and artists themselves. First let's start with an example from another part of the entertainment industry.
"The software will read your emotional reactions to the show in real time. Should your mouth turn down a second too long or your eyes squeeze shut in fright, the plot will speed along. But if they grow large and hold your interest, the program will draw out the suspense."
Imagine applying that to music… Some companies are already closing in on that.
Example: Inception, by Hans Zimmer and RjDj
Music producer and film composer Hans Zimmer collaborated on an app for the Inception movie, with RjDj, a company that specializes in Context Aware Music and Augmented music, founded by one of the co-founders of last.fm, Michael Breidenbruecker. Hans Zimmer on the project:
"There's a thing I've been searching for and I've been working on forever now, is a way to get beyond recorded music. To get beyond 'you just download a piece of music and it's just always the same'."
The application they made draws information from the world around the user, and transforms it into fantastic music. It seems as if you're being immersed in dreamlike worlds, as happens in the movie.
They continued their collaboration and made another app for The Dark Knight Rises. RjDj also created a Reactive Music game called Dimensions, which owes its name to the trippy effects of the Augmented Music that make it feel like you've just crossed into another dimension. The game is free-to-play, and offers in-app purchases to unlock new experiences or further augment existing ones.
I asked two of the people behind RjDj whether people are ready for adaptive music. This is what they had to say.
"I think many of them are ready. Apps like Inception or Dark Night Rises show that people are really into this sonic experience. The problem is how this is presented packaged. I can tell you from experience that not many people hear the difference between 5 hours of generative music and 5 hours recorded music. So really... no one cares if your music changes all the time through an algorithm and never sounds the same or if [it] is a preproduced track. Music has to have a reason why it is dynamic and not linear... that's why we sync it to real life."
"I think Inception especially proved that if the experience is delivered in a way that makes sense, perhaps within a bigger conceptual framework, then millions of people can understand it and really like it.
As for people understanding the depths and details of how reactive music changes. It is very very easy to lose a huge part of the audience here. I think its fair to say that only musicologists and very serious music listeners could pick out the ways in which detailed generative music is changing for instance. Making a reactive music experience meaningful requires that the listener can tangibly feel that the change in the music is linked to his / her activity or life in some direct and hopefully emotionally powerful way.
Often making linear music is about manipulating the emotional state of the listener into particular states of mind over time for dramatic effect. Reactive music poses a different set of possibilities - what if the music is manipulated by them / their emotional state? As a composer this is totally different - its like using a sniper rifle instead of a shotgun - you can make your music hit exactly the right spot for the moment."
Adaptive soundtracks are actually quite common in games, where the Music transforms depending on the player's absolute and relative position (it's called Dynamic Music). Some developers are chucking all the other game elements aside to focus fully on that.
Proteus has been described as a non-game. The game (or 'game') was developed by one developer and one sound designer, and places you on a mystical island. There's nothing there to kill, no need to score points, and you can't die. All you have to do is to wander around the island to discover new areas and to enjoy the way objects around you influence the soundtrack. This is the literal embodiment of the phrase 'soundscape'. The changing seasons, different weather conditions, time of day, and varying ecosystems all have an impact on the Music.
I asked David Kanaga, the game's sound designer, whether this is something anyone could do, in order to understand whether this could become a more mainstream medium for Music:
"Yes, anyone could do it. It's maybe even more natural than writing static music in a way. That said, very few people are doing it, and maybe it takes years of UNLEARNING, which maybe means everything needs to be played again, to stop fixating on what's successful and beautiful in recorded music, in Sgt. Peppers and Pet Sounds, to find the play aspect of those and to move on, to stop admiring recordings.. improvise only, this is the tactic that i've been practicing myself to try this unlearning.. no serious learning is needed, really, but the UNLEARNING is totally necessary."
Example: Biophilia, by Björk
In recent years many artists have taken to releasing albums as apps. Björk had a particularly interesting take on it, releasing her album as a 3 dimensional galaxy that can be navigated and interacted with. The app even became part of MoMa’s collection.
Through the use of in-app purchases, the user can unlock new parts of the galaxy, which provide new Music to Interact with.
Example: Don't Be Scared LP, by DJ Vadim
Ninja Tune veteran DJ Vadim released an 'immersive album', which allows users to interact with different elements of the song, recomposing it according to their own wishes. What better way to create a sense of Intimacy between your fans and your Music.
Example: Central Park (Listen to the Light), by BLUEBRAIN
Then there's Bluebrain, a musical duo that produced their own apps, location-aware albums, one of which can only be used in New York's Central Park. In a way it's similar to Proteus, except in this case, the soundscape is mapped to physical locations rather than virtual.
Recently a new music startup by one of the creators of Google Maps started making waves: Weav. Weav's aim is to simply make music elastic. Unlike Spotify's new feature which picks songs that match your tempo while running, songs on Weav's platform will actually adjust to your pace. The team created tools for musicians to create dynamic music: you don't just write the song, you also program rules for it to recompose itself and adjust to different tempos. Co-founder Lars Rasmussen:
"We believe that as our lives become increasingly digital, and as our increasingly powerful mobile devices play greater and greater roles in our lives, having a song that can change and adapt -- in real time -- to what you are doing will become increasingly important. And delightful. This is why we built Weav."
If you're waiting for disruption in the music industry, don't look at the big platforms like iTunes or Spotify. They belong in the Age of the Recording.
Look at platforms that offer actual Interactivity, Immediacy, Intimacy, and Involvement. Now more than ever can Creators help give shape to future formats of Music, and to new ways to connect the listener to the Music.
Imagine Music in the Age of the Internet of Things.
Music may be static, but it doesn't have to be. And the relation between Creator and Fan certainly shouldn't be.
Peruse the history of fan-film posts we've done in the past and you'll be met with depressing results. Too often the makers of movies and video games prefer a restrictive approach to fans using any form of their content. The approach tends to be of the blanket variety, where a default to protectionism often ties up fan-work that is either usefully creative in and of itself, or else beneficial to the original content producers if only it would be allowed to breathe. Nintendo has become famous for this kind of restrictive practice in YouTube recently, but it is hardly alone.
Rockstar, as it has so often before, breaks the mold on this kind of thing. Back when Grand Theft Auto 4 was the latest iteration in the GTA series, some enterprising fans had used video editing equipment, along with the game itself, to create their own brand of fan-film, using game footage as the vehicle for an admittedly simple but impressive story line. The whole thing was 2 hours long and has been viewed on YouTube over half a million times. Rockstar, for its part, not only didn't take the video down, but it went so far as to provide its own video editing software for fans in the latest PC version of the series, Grand Theft Auto 5.
When Grand Theft Auto V launches tomorrow, it will come complete with a video editing suite that will allow you to make movies from Story Mode and GTA Online footage you capture. The software, the Rockstar Editor, lets you do a number of things [like] record and edit footage and share them with the community. The editor features special camera modes, filters, depth of field and audio customization options, and a Director Mode feature that allows you to create movie-making sequences from a cast of characters from Story Mode.
This, quite simply, is how it's done. Rockstar/GTA fans expressed an interest organically in something they wanted to do with Rockstar's product, an emergent use that Rockstar may never have even considered, and, rather than getting butthurt over the use of the content and sending out the threat-letters, the company enabled its fans' behavior instead.
And why wouldn't they? After all, far from harm, it would be an absolute boon to Rockstar to see YouTube pages filled with fan-creations in the form of short or monstrously-long creative works, all done within GTA itself. It's just one more way to have fun within the game, one more way to be expressive with fellow fans of the game, and one more way for the GTA name to be etched into gaming history. This is pure CwF+RtB calculus at its finest.
In the world of pop starlets, apparently Taylor Swift and Katie Perry hate each other. And, now, it appears that both of them are trying to one-up each other in having their lawyers issue legal threats to fans for no good reason. We've already written about Katy Perry's lawyers' threatening letter over a 3D-printable plan for "the left shark" from her Super Bowl routine (an argument that is legally dubious).
We originally made the item for fun, we love Taylor and we had friends that love Taylor. We never intended for it to be a profit making item. The cost of the item covered shipping costs, and production costs with very little left over.
When we got the e-mail that the trademark infringement occurred, we were pretty shocked because while our item was popular we didn’t feel as if it had become popular enough to cause harm to Taylor Swift’s empire. We were shocked. And we were scared. We didn’t even make enough money for a lawyer and this had seemed like such a harmless and fun idea.
The Buzzfeed article also notes that it appears that Swift has hired MarkMonitor, the big player in sending takedown threat letters over copyright and trademark issues, to send such takedown letters.
Depending on the specific products, there may be some legitimate trademark or copyright claims here, but it's hard to see how any of these actually create any real benefit for Swift, other than pissing off her fans, and angering people who actually wanted to celebrate their fandom of Swift and her music. Yes, these days popstars like Swift are "big businesses" who want to capture every possible penny that they can get from fans, but these kinds of products aren't doing any real damage to Swift or her brand. The takedowns, however, might be the opposite -- creating a real distaste among some fans for daring to try to display their fandom in a unique and creative way.
I've never hidden my perhaps strange fascination with video game music. Everything from soundtracks to fan-made remixes, it's something that I love. But, for some reason, video game music for many people isn't so much a lark as a point of major industry contention. Recently we discussed how one composer's union turned into his enemy when he was simply working on a video game. The latest example, however, details how apparently professional musicians and/or their representatives got a game developer to shut down a fan-music contest out of what seems to be pure spite.
Some background is in order. Several years ago, developer Red Thread Games produced two insanely good point-and-click adventure games, The Longest Journey and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. For the third installment, the team decided to turn to Kickstarter for funding, asking for $850k to produce the game and instead getting over one and a half million dollars in funding from fans. It's everything you want out of a Kickstarter story, with a great team organizing their rabid fan-base to both make money and produce another awesome game. And, while Red Thread Games already had a music composer on staff to create the larger soundtrack composition, the team wanted to give a nod to their dedicated fans and set up a contest by which fans could compose background/ambient music for small sections of the game, with the winners of the contest having their compositions included in the eventual release.
Supposedly professionals within the music arena felt as if the contest was designed to exploit fans and get a hold of royalty-free music for the game, a similar argument that originally caused The Fine Young Capitalists campaign to get shutdown.An update on the official Kickstarter page for Dreamfall: Chapters The Longest Journey details that the contest had been cancelled due to the conflict surrounding the event. As noted on the update, the decision is final and the contest won't be returning.
“We do understand the different points of view and the reasons behind some of the backlash, even though we also feel our intentions were perhaps misrepresented and misunderstood. This was not an attempt on our part to commission free music for the game — we already have a fantastic score, a professional composer and some diegetic music — but rather a response to the community asking for a chance to get their music into the game. We felt this competition could benefit both the game and our fans.”
And so concludes the attempt by Red Thread Games to connect with their fans in possibly the most meaningful way: inclusion within the project. A fan contest for small amounts of music was done in by industry musicians with no skin in the game. The backlash in the comments on the project, as well as on Twitter and other social media, made the developers out to be greedy robber barons looking to avoid paying a professional musician, which is an interesting theory considering the game already has a professional composer on staff. This was all about letting the fans have some fun, but the industry shouted it down until the project was shut down.
The sad reality here is that someone who could have been thoroughly talented, and just needed an opportunity to get their music out there, had a potential avenue to a career in music cut short. This isn't to say that anyone who submitted music to the contest could have become the next Jesper Kyd or Marty O'Donnell, but killing these kind of opportunities to bridge the connection between developers and gamers only hurts game culture. Could you imagine if the same thing extended to the games arena and game jam contests came under the same fire? It's like killing off the potentiality of future artists before they even have a chance to shine.
That last bit is of extreme importance, because it's the correct rebuttal to anyone involved in blasting this contest who also says they were doing so to protect the music industry. No, you weren't. You were just being dicks. As a result, a great game is a little less fun and none of you are any more hired for the project today than you were yesterday. Bang up job all around.
Kevin Carson points us to a fascinating story in The Atlantic about fans trying to recreate the "original" version of Star Wars ("Episode IV -- A New Hope for the folks who feel like being pedantic) from 1977. As various fans have pointed out repeatedly (mainly each time Lucas went back and "edited" Star Wars again), back in 1988 Lucas spoke to Congress about the importance of preserving original versions of movies, and avoiding the constant attempts to update and modernize them in ways that might erase the original versions. Key quote:
Today, engineers with their computers can add color to black-and-white movies, change the soundtrack, speed up the pace, and add or subtract material to the philosophical tastes of the copyright holder. Tomorrow, more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with "fresher faces," or alter dialogue and change the movement of the actor's lips to match. It will soon be possible to create a new "original" negative with whatever changes or alterations the copyright holder of the moment desires. The copyright holders, so far, have not been completely diligent in preserving the original negatives of films they control. In order to reconstruct old negatives, many archivists have had to go to Eastern bloc countries where American films have been better preserved.
In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be "replaced" by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten.
This was part of his attempt to create so-called moral rights for content creators, but the wording seems kind of strange considering how Lucas himself later did pretty much everything he described above as being heinous and troubling. The Atlantic article highlights just a few of the more famous changes (though there are many, many more):
In the original versions of the films, for example, it’s clear that Han Solo pulled out his gun and shot the bounty hunter Greedo. In the 1997 version, Greedo shoots first. In the 2004 version, they shoot at the same time. With the release of the later films, later versions of the original trilogy were edited to add in appearances from Jar Jar Binks and Hayden Christensen. Lucas even replaced the voice of Jason Wingreen—the original Boba Fett—with the voice of Temuera Morrison who played Jango Fett in Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
Even worse, Lucas has actively resisted attempts to make the original copy available. When pressed about it a decade ago Lucas claimed that the original was "half completed" and he wants people to see the "finished" product instead:
The special edition, that’s the one I wanted out there. The other movie, it’s on VHS, if anybody wants it. ... I’m not going to spend the, we’re talking millions of dollars here, the money and the time to refurbish that, because to me, it doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s like this is the movie I wanted it to be, and I’m sorry you saw half a completed film and fell in love with it. But I want it to be the way I want it to be. I’m the one who has to take responsibility for it. I’m the one who has to have everybody throw rocks at me all the time, so at least if they’re going to throw rocks at me, they’re going to throw rocks at me for something I love rather than something I think is not very good, or at least something I think is not finished.
That's all well and good, but it's yet another example of the sense of entitlement some creators have in which they believe they not only hold the copyright on the original work (which they may), but also ownership over the experience of fans who watched/heard/experienced the content. And that's where things get tricky. When the artists start to muck with that experience.
And that's what led to the result here, whereby fans are painstakingly recreating the 1977 version of the film.
There's an incredible video highlighting how one of the main people involved in this project, a 25-year-old in the Czech Republic who goes by the name Harmy, goes about fixing things. It's fascinating:
The "new" version is amusingly called the "despecialized" version, and uses bits and pieces from the many, many releases to reconstruct the original. While some point out that there was a DVD release of "the original" film, the video notes that the techniques used to transfer the film to DVD were very problematic, leading to a variety of problems, including "motion smearing," faded colors and aliasing.
The lengths these fans go to in order to recreate the original is quite incredible, going through all the different versions, picking up pieces from one and inserting them in the other, doing careful color corrections, "upscaling" low res versions to make them HD. It's really quite incredible, and it appears Lucas would rather they disappear entirely. He even rejected a request from the National Film Registry when it requested a copy of the original to preserve.
Curators at the National Film Registry picked the 1977 version of Star Wars to preserve for history’s sake, but they still don’t have a copy in the registry. When they asked for a copy, Lucas refused, saying that he would no longer authorize the release of the original version.
While Lucas' changes and updates to his film bother some, I've never been that concerned about those attempts to re-imagine his own work, but it does seem particularly silly to try to block people from even having the choice to view the original. It's great that fans are putting in so much effort to reconstruct it by themselves, but it seems like Lucas could just speed that whole process along by making the original available.
Eventually, video game companies are going to have to come to terms with the fact that their biggest fans can also be immensely creative and that they often want to channel that creativity towards adding to the game franchises they love. Thus far, the vast majority of fan-driven projects having anything to do with video game franchises are met with stonewall takedowns and cease and desist letters. The most frustrating of these are when mixed signals are sent to the fans engaged in these projects, where the people doing the work are under the impression that their efforts have been cleared for takeoff only to be grounded late in development. To treat creative folks who can be amongst a company's greatest fans that way is to bite the hand that feeds them in a very real way.
And now it's happened again. A group of dedicated Metal Gear fans endeavoring to remake the original 1987 NES title in Valve's Source engine and had been in contact with a Konami rep the entire time. After month's of work, Konami apparently just informed them that they no longer had permission and forced them to shut it all down.
"The project has been shut down by Konami," an email sent to the site read. "Seems that they all couldn't agree on the project going ahead."
The mod team also revealed that David Hayter was on board to voice Snake, and had even recorded some lines for it. It posted a work-in-progress trailer showing a rough cut of scenes yet to be animated, complete with Hayter's dialogue.
In correspondence elsewhere, remake organizer Ian Ratcliffe indicated that he had been in regular contact with a Konami representative in the UK about the project and that he'd been given the all clear, with the stipulation that the game not be sold commercially. The carpet was then pulled out from underneath the team by Konami's legal department in Japan. Ratcliffe was far more understanding than many people might have been.
The agreement was made verbally, we first got approval a couple of months back after being told to take the moddb page down. Following that Jay Boor from Konami UK, told me that the agreement was getting written up by Japans legal team. (We were contacted by a couple of guys from Japan initially but since it's all been through Jay.) We were told to keep the page down as they wanted to make the announcement once E3 was out of the way. I'm not really sure what happened to be honest, we had a lot of back and forth with Jay and he was in full support of the project. It seems that the whole of Konami was divided on whether we should go ahead or not but I think ultimately it was Japans decision.
I totally understand their reason in doing so, not matter how disheartened the team is, we thank them from the bottom of our hearts for all that they've done, Jay especially. Not to forget the huge amount of support we got from the fans, to which we're more than grateful for. We got to work alongside industry professionals, it's been really inspiring and I feel privileged to have been a part of it. We aren't gonna be sour about the whole thing it's the experience that counts.
We're now in the planning stages of making our own IP, in the words of Liquid Snake - "It's not over yet!"
It's an amazingly gracious and politic reaction to what was essentially the dicking over of the effort of a dedicated group of fans by Konami's legal team. To spend months working on a title, organizing labor, getting some impressive voice talent on board, all in good faith under the notion that a Konami rep had given the green light, and to then have all that work torn away by the very company whose work you love so much must be a hell of a feeling. Sure, Ratcliffe's team should have gotten the correspondence and the 'okay' in writing, but there's still no reason for Konami to dump on their fans like this. There was no commercial interest here, just the love of the game, so to speak. All in the name of copyright.
from the because-the-premier-league-is-stupid dept
There's a line of thought that appears sometimes in copyright debates that simply leaves me completely... flabbergasted. It's the idea that you have to go after and stop infringement because it's infringement, period. Even if you point out that stopping the infringement is costly and probably counterproductive, there's this belief that "infringement must be stopped at all costs." I've even had explanations where people insist that even if stopping piracy harms a market, it still must be stopped "because it's piracy." People who fear that infringement hurts markets -- I can understand, even if the evidence doesn't always support it. But people who insist that it must be stopped, no matter what the cost, are simply people I cannot understand at all.
And yet that seems to be happening with the English Premier League. No doubt, the Premier League has something of a history of ridiculous overreaction to intellectual property issues, including suing YouTube because people had uploaded clips of games. This was a few years after threatening to sue the fans themselves.
In an interview with Newsbeat, Dan Johnson, director of communications at the Premier League, said: "You can understand that fans see something, they can capture it, they can share it, but ultimately it is against the law."
"It's a breach of copyright and we would discourage fans from doing it, we're developing technologies like gif crawlers, Vine crawlers, working with Twitter to look to curtail this kind of activity."
As for the fact that this might piss off fans? The Premier League doesn't care. At all.
He added: "I know it sounds as if we're killjoys but we have to protect our intellectual property."
Actually, no, you don't "have to protect" your intellectual property. In fact, if it's stupid to do so -- pissing off fans and angering the very people who pay the bills, it seems like a bad idea. But the Premier League doesn't seem to care about that at all. It's just taking the "we must protect our IP" view of it all. Because.
Of course, there's a strong argument that, here in the US, the use of such things would be clearly fair use. Unfortunately, however, the UK doesn't have fair use, and the entertainment industry has fought hard against allowing it, saying it would harm innovation.
So, the end result is the Premier League "protects" its intellectual property, pisses off fans, and basically misses out on pretty much any chance for remaining fans to bring other non-fans to the sport. It doesn't make any sense, but, again, it seems to come from a mindset that just is incomprehensible to me.
When it comes to the title holder for shooting down anything interesting made by fans that in any way involves their IP, Square Enix probably takes the trophy. The company that insists that DRM is forever also insists that fan-made games, films, and even weapon replicas shall not exist. Part of the reason Square Enix is found doing this is that it has created and/or owned some truly beloved franchises in the video game medium, including the Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy franchises. The fans of these properties are exceptionally devoted and passionate to and about them, which naturally leads to the wish to expand the universes even further through their own creation. That Square Enix wields a level 99 copyright hammer at all of these efforts is an unfortunate slap in the face to some of its biggest fans and best customers. It's a crappy situation all around.
But it's when the company does this kind of bullying with the timing of a CIA extraordinary rendition agent that we have to wonder if Square Enix is run by masochists. The latest example of this concerns Final Fantasy Type-O, an RPG released for the PSP, a handheld console barely holding on to any relevance in the industry. See, the game came out three years ago, in 2011, but only in Japan and with no English-language version having ever been released. A group of Final Fantasy fans, spearheaded by someone going by the handle SkyBladeCloud, began working on an English translation. That was over two years ago. The proposed patch and its development amassed a decent following.
If Square Enix wasn't going to release the game in English, well, hey, at least we could all still play it. Over the next two years, Square stayed silent about the fate of Type-0 in the west. Though Square's executives would occasionally drop vague hints about the game in interviews, there was no concrete news, and the few times I did ask Square about the game, they sent over non-answers like "we have nothing to announce at this time." Meanwhile, the fan translation team kept plugging away, and at the time, project lead SkyBladeCloud said he wasn't concerned about legal repercussions.
"I'm not worried since I live in Spain and different laws apply," Sky told me in an e-mail earlier this year.
Fast forward to mid-2014 when this entire thing turns into the kind of shit-show that leaves everyone looking dirty. In March of this year, the translators announced the patch would be ready in August. Despite the fact that the project had received a decent amount of attention, it was only then that Square Enix's lawyers reached out to SkyBladeCloud and informed him that their efforts would be fought by the company. They also made some mention of finding some common ground that would keep everyone happy and on the level, though Square Enix has in the past been known to be a turncoat when it comes to those kinds of efforts. Still, non-disclosure agreements were signed and talks went on. People contributing to the translation project discussed internally not releasing their patch if Square Enix actually announced an English release of Type-O, the theorized reason for their lawyers finally reaching out. All of that discussion ceased, however, when SkyBladeCloud suddenly announced the patch would release in early June instead, despite it being incomplete and not ready for prime-time. It was downloaded roughly 100,000 times. Two days later, Square Enix dropped the other shoe.
On Tuesday, June 10, Square dropped a bombshell of their own: Type-0 would be coming west, not for handheld systems but as a high-definition remake for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. (A consequent Vita announcement flub left a bad taste in some fans' mouths, and led many of them back toward the fan translation patch.)
Despite denials from SkyBladeCloud, pretty much everyone who knows this story is speculating that he knew the Square Enix announcement was coming and released the patch early out of spite, given a speculated ugly turn of tenor in talks with Square Enix and its lawyers. The timing certainly fits like a jigsaw puzzle piece. As does the sudden legal flurry set forth by Square Enix's lawyers which, despite SkyBladeCloud's earlier theory, caused him to take down the patch and all related online content referring to it. In its place he put up an announcement:
Unfortunately I'm forced to remove my posts and pages related to the popular Final Fantasy Type-0 fan translation project. That's right, certain game company thinks that threats and false accusations are the way to treat its biggest fans. For the time being I can't answer questions related to this matter, but I'll write a more comprehensive post about all this once I get the chance. I hope you understand, and as always I appreciate your support (that I might need more that ever in the near future). Thank you very much:
While SkyBladeCloud's antics might be shady, and they certainly fractured his translation team in a serious way, he isn't wrong: this is all unnecessary. The simple fact is that Square Enix now clearly has no intention of releasing an English version of a 3-plus year old game on the console for which the team was translating. Sure, they're releasing it on some of the newer consoles, but many PSP owners may not have those consoles. The end result is going to be a whole lot of Final Fantasy fans being unable to play the game at all, simply because Square Enix decided to use its copyright hammer.
That certainly won't win Square Enix any fans, even if some of the folks doing the translation handled themselves poorly.
It seems like a bunch of folks collectively rolled their eyes at the news that superstar singer Taylor Swift (or the people she hires to do these kinds of things) had penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the "future of music." Of course, there are few artists out there that inspire rolling eyes like Swift does these days -- and there are some nutty claims in her opinion piece (and the writing is... stilted, at best). The main problem with the article is highlighted nicely by Nilay Patel over at Vox, who points out that she doesn't understand basic economics. And that's clear from this bit:
In my opinion, the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace. Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently.
In recent years, you've probably read the articles about major recording artists who have decided to practically give their music away, for this promotion or that exclusive deal. My hope for the future, not just in the music industry, but in every young girl I meet…is that they all realize their worth and ask for it.
Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It's my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album's price point is. I hope they don't underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.
This is, as Patel notes (and I've been discussing for over a decade), a very, very naive view of economics. Based on this, the more you spend putting into the album, the higher you should price it, and the world should reward you for that. That, of course, is not even close to how the world works. You don't get rewarded based on effort. You get rewarded by providing a product that people want at a price they're willing to pay. Sometimes, perhaps, pouring more "heart an soul" into the product may help, but plenty of artists put their heart and soul into lots of works and get basically nothing for it. Sometimes it's because that heart and soul isn't enough and the product sucks. Sometimes it's because no one hears the music. Swift is lucky that she has the core of the traditional recording industry and all its marketing muscle behind her. I would imagine that the singer sitting at home in his or her garage pouring their heart and soul into a new recording and hoping to have it heard might find that they'd actually do much better giving the work away for free to get some attention for it.
That said, most of the rest of Swift's piece is actually a pretty good look into where the music world is these days, in which the focus needs to be on connecting with fans and giving them a unique experience that isn't easily copied. On connecting with fans, she notes:
There are always going to be those artists who break through on an emotional level and end up in people's lives forever. The way I see it, fans view music the way they view their relationships. Some music is just for fun, a passing fling (the ones they dance to at clubs and parties for a month while the song is a huge radio hit, that they will soon forget they ever danced to). Some songs and albums represent seasons of our lives, like relationships that we hold dear in our memories but had their time and place in the past.
However, some artists will be like finding "the one." We will cherish every album they put out until they retire and we will play their music for our children and grandchildren. As an artist, this is the dream bond we hope to establish with our fans. I think the future still holds the possibility for this kind of bond, the one my father has with the Beach Boys and the one my mother has with Carly Simon.
This is like Kevin Kelly's concept of "true fans." Of course, it's weird that Swift would mock the idea of giving away works for free -- when it's possible that giving away such works might actually help artists build those bonds, enabling those true fans to look for ways to support them later.
From there, Swift discusses how giving unique experiences is key to the future of music:
I think forming a bond with fans in the future will come in the form of constantly providing them with the element of surprise. No, I did not say "shock"; I said "surprise." I believe couples can stay in love for decades if they just continue to surprise each other, so why can't this love affair exist between an artist and their fans?
In the YouTube generation we live in, I walked out onstage every night of my stadium tour last year knowing almost every fan had already seen the show online. To continue to show them something they had never seen before, I brought out dozens of special guest performers to sing their hits with me. My generation was raised being able to flip channels if we got bored, and we read the last page of the book when we got impatient. We want to be caught off guard, delighted, left in awe. I hope the next generation's artists will continue to think of inventive ways of keeping their audiences on their toes, as challenging as that might be.
Exactly. There, she's recognizing the value of a unique experience that can't be copied or "pirated," and which people have to pay to experience. And, once again, it seems odd that she'd knock the concept of free music, when that very same free music can help drive a lot more fans to want to go to these unique and special shows in which she "surprises" her fans.
The op-ed comes off a little silly in places, but the overall view of where the future of music is actually is pretty much spot on. Connecting with fans and giving them a unique and valuable experience. It's almost like something some of us have been saying for many years now. Yeah, the part about free music is a bit off, but the overall vision seems very much in line with reality.