Raph Koster on the ESA’s DMCA battle: ‘Preservation matters’

Remember last week when we covered how the Entertainment Software Association is fighting a proposal to amend the DMCA that would help preserve online games, including MMOs, for future generations? MMORPG developer Raph Koster has since thumbed his virtual nose at the ESA’s jerk move.

“Speaking as a designer, I’d rather my game be played for free than never be able to be played ever again,” the Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies designer wrote on Twitter. “Much of my work is basically gone and what survives is all altered. Preservation matters.”

He points out that the ESA’s claim that putting sunsetted games back online would create a “loophole to let the public flood” in is absurd, since the lack of a flood is generally why the game closed down to begin with.

“When Metaplace shuttered, we were basically obliged to not release any of the code because it was a very valuable asset with owners (and it was in fact sold, and used in other games). Now it’s not used and nobody cares, but there’s no way to get it out. A HUGE regret of mine. […] In the end the legacy of online worlds lies in the players — many of the creators on Metaplace are now working in the industry! And really, it’s more like founding a city and watching it grow (and decline). But it’d still be nice to be able to visit tho I know it’d be empty.”

Source: Twitter
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Jack Pipsam

Should be a time thing maybe if they wish to make it somewhat fair.

Say a publisher has about five years to either bring the game back online or else it’s free game to be brought back by anyone.

flatline4400
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flatline4400

In my mind, many of these devs should basically be classified as artists. Raph included. It doesn’t matter if nobody notices or cares at the time of release… someone, somewhen may find it interesting or inspiring.

I don’t see who benefits from “protecting” age old assets besides copyright holders who will never, ever actually do anything with the properties they “hold”.

Polyanna
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Polyanna

This makes me think of the post from a couple days ago about how Saga of Lucimia won’t have an endgame, but it will end, which reported that developers already have in mind a “retirement plan” for the game under which it either will close down or be turned over to the community to run after three expansions.

Whether that game does well or not, it’s nice to see a developer for a change thinking about what will happen to their art — and these games basically are huge, living, interactive works of art — after they are done being compensated as much as they deserve or hope or want to be for making it. If you don’t make a plan like this up front, it probably won’t be made at all, because by the time it’s needed nobody will have the money (or the job) to do it any more.

The real fear of the industry isn’t that people will “flood in” to titles that aren’t going gangbusters any more — else why were they shuttered in the first place. It’s that if people have the choice to keep playing an older game they love, they won’t be so inclined to buy into the latest newest loot box conduit / wallet siphon that they’re flogging this month.

There is a lesson in here somewhere about WHY people want to play older games. But I don’t count on the ESA to learn it any time soon.

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Armsbend

Raph do you think ESA (developers) consider releasing the games an opportunity cost? If 10,000 people choose to play SWG for the rest of time those 10,000 are not paying another developer money to be playing something else. I’d think they’d rather have a player playing anything, and paying, rather than happy on an older game.

I agree with you – as an artist you’d rather have someone enjoying your work for nothing rather than it forgotten for eternity. Like a passed down book or a painting.

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Cosmic Cleric

I’m not Raph, but I gotta think that the ESA realize that people don’t just play one game 24/7, so we gamers would also buy and play their being sold games as well.

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Dividion

I’d say “most people” don’t just play one game… but there are times when a single game hits all the right buttons, and other games may as well not exist (for that person anyway). There are plenty of Skyrim, Minecraft and WoW players out there that probably don’t bother with anything else.

Personally, I think that if a company wants to sunset an MMO, there should be legislation that allows it to be hosted by a third party, or it should be released to the players, for historical reasons. Sunsetting an MMO is equivalent to burning books in my opinion.

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Armsbend

While true I do think most players get absorbed in one thing, or they want to, for a good deal of their time and money. But if something was awesome and always free they might be even less inclined to pick up any new game.

Gosh on this site I’d think if they released SWG or City of Heroes for free with no strings attached – I think a good deal of the readers here might play just that for years.

I put it out into the ether knowing Raph posts here and probably reads the articles about him – especially as he is current;y in development. I’m not putting a moral judgement call on it I’m just asking the guy who asked the question – one who knows the ins and outs of what the ESA really is better than any of us.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

I think a major part of what he was saying was that they are already out there to play for free, just with altered and patched together code made by fans instead of seeing the actual real back end software.

You can basically go find most shut down MMORPGs being run by fans already. They’re not flooded with people, they’re not taking away from current commercial games. And yet you’re not seeing the actual art as it was but an altered version. It’s like if you had the subjects of an old painting surrounded by fan painted backgrounds instead of the official backgrounds that were painted at the time.

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Ashley Bau

I wouldn’t consider that to be ethical business and find it to be a reason I cannot respect. If you, as a company, have to make money by denying people what they really want in order to funnel them into something they don’t want then there is something wrong with your business. If they want what you offer they will get it, even if they have other games they like accessible. Make what you’re selling better such that people want to be playing it or get out.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Normal games are already covered by this, so the question is why should MMORPGs specifically not be covered?

Have new games been abandoned by a deluge of players playing old abandoned titles?

I don’t think there would be that many people happy to settle down on an old MMORPG with no ongoing development other than to check out what they were once like.

Not only that, but the servers would not be optimal for actual playing conditions. Someone is going to have to pay for servers and bandwidth out of their own pocket to have the servers up for others to experience for free. The connections won’t be much more than minimal and wouldn’t be enjoyable for most people.

These games shut down because of lack of players and not enough profit to even keep them running, this would be negative money for someone else to try to keep them up for others to look at. There would be small pockets of communities around small servers but basically not that many people on them.

Nostalgia in our minds is normally far better than the actual experience was. For most of these games there was a reason they shut down and they’re not going to be flooded with players (and if they were, again, the servers couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to handle it unless a very rich person decided to pay for it out of their pocket and I’m unsure how long they’d enjoy doing that).

I don’t see that this really would have much of an impact at all on running MMORPGs. You have to remember we’re talking about a law that covers other types of games already and it’s not a debate about if this law should exist but if it should cover MMORPGs as well. It hasn’t had much of an impact on normal games, why should MMORPGs specifically be exempt from this law?

One other thing – a great many of these games *are* up right now that we’re talking about. Star Wars Galaxies servers *do* exist. If people want to go play old SWG on some fan server and are happy with that, they can already do that. They’re just being done with altered code instead of the old official code. They are not having a real impact on current commercial MMORPGs at all.