[MUD-Dev] Genuinely brief intro

Dr. Cat cat at eden.com
Wed Jun 11 09:12:55 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

> There is also the other side of the coin to consider. If you learn
> something from this list (or from a newsgroup, for that matter), whether
> it is a technique or just the glimmer of an idea, it would be proper to
> not use it in your commercial products without the permission of the
> originator of the idea.

This kind of attitude is why movie studios (and these days, most computer 
game companies) absolutely will not look at unsolicited scripts, and will 
generally return the mail unopened if they realize that's what is in it.  
If someone suggests an idea you'd already thought of, they're not likely 
to believe that and will assume you "stole" it from them.  This sometimes 
leads to lawsuits, which are the last thing they want to have to deal with.

It's worse than just that, though.  I'm still fairly young, barring any 
sudden accidents (or an excessively lazy early retirement) I probably have 
decades of productive work ahead of me.  I don't think that I've thought 
up all the ideas that I'm going to, I expect I have many more ahead of 
me.  If I foolishly spend part of those years talking and listening to 
other people, and hear hundreds of ideas, some of which are ideas I would 
have thought up on my own at some point in the future had they not been 
suggested to me, do those then become off-limits to me, or require me to 
pay someone for their use?  Surely out of hundreds of ideas, some of them 
are ones I would have dreamed up on my own at some future date.  Am I 
supposed to somehow magically predict my future trains of thought in a 
hypothetical universe where I hadn't heard those things, and only use the 
ones I would have independently conceived?  Maybe waiting until the date 
when I would have conceived them rather than using them now, to be fair?  
That's clearly impossible.  Maybe I should deliberately refuse all 
contact with others to ensure that any idea I have can be used without 
any fear of impropriety.

Ideas are cheap.  You go to any game company, and the game designers have 
ideas, the programmers have ideas, the producers have ideas, the artists 
have idea, the playtesters have ideas, EVERYONE wants the company to use 
THEIR ideas.  They generally have little interest in looking at outside 
ideas for any reason, having more ideas than they could possibly cram 
into the few games per year that they can develop, and NO interest in 
actually using any outside ideas for anything.  I remember Richard 
Garriott going around telling people how foolish it was for Virgin to 
have shown a demo of The Seventh Guest a year before it was done, because 
Origin looked at that and thought "Hey, we could whip out a game like 
this with the resources we have, and get it on the market before this one 
ships."  Of course they thought about that and concluded "Well all those 
resources are tied up in our next Ultima and Wing Commander sequels, and 
we want and need to keep them there", so there WAS no Seventh Guest clone 
made.  So where exactly is the loss to Virgin?  I also remember some 
bitching about having shown off Strike Commander publically and then 
seeing other flight sims come out from other companies that had goraud 
shading before Strike Commander came out, because people saw the Strike 
demo and "stole" the idea.  Wake-up call...  Goraud shading is in who 
knows how many computer graphics textbooks, eh?  Origin didn't invent it, 
they simply realized "hey, home computers are getting fast enough that we 
can start using more of these well-known techniques in real-time without 
slowing the game down too much".  Does anybody really want to believe 
that other programmers at other companies wouldn't have followed that 
same line of reasoning to some of the same conclusions, or that they 
weren't already before they saw that demo?

Ideas are cheap.  N months of hard work IMPLEMENTING an idea has value, 
especially if it's done well.  Any idea I've ever mentioned anywhere 
publically, or ever do in the future, is absolutely free for anyone to 
use anywhere in any way, commercially or non-commercially, with or 
without credit.  If I didn't feel that way about some given idea, I 
simply wouldn't tell people about it in public.  I do appreciate credit 
when it's given to me, by the way, but I don't feel that it's my place to 
insist upon it or that I have any moral entitlement to receive it, unless 
there was an agreement that I'd receive credit between me and the person 
I'm talking to, which was put into place BEFORE I told them the idea(s).  
If they choose to take on an obligation to give me credit AFTER they hear 
the idea I would expect them to honor that as well, but once I give them 
the idea without having first received such a commitment, it is entirely 
their choice whether they wish to take on such an obligation.

If this sort of thing is a problem for a lot of the people on the list, I 
could just leave.  I have more than enough ideas to keep me busy 
implementing stuff for the next few years just trying to implement them 
all in code, and I always think up new ones faster than I can get the old 
ones done.

I guess the trick is in picking which ones to do first.

        -- Dr. Cat

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