[MUD-Dev] Intellectual property

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Wed Jun 11 16:01:13 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

Dr. Cat wrote:
> 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.  

I think there's one thing that a lot of the 'intellectual property'
in the world overlook, which is that nothing happens in a vacuum. Every 
pioneer in every industry, with very few exceptions, has built on the
put forth by other people. Richard Garriott, to add an observation, was
heralded as brilliant for his work on the Ultima series using tile-based
This wasn't a new idea; mosaics and the like were being built thousands
of years 
ago. It was the notion that this was an appropriate and efficient way of
computer graphics which was the real idea; and even this wasn't new.
After all, 
what is ASCII art if it isn't the use of a limited (and generally
unsuitable) set 
of small graphics placed into a coherent whole? It wasn't *entirely* his
idea. He
had inspiration. We all get our inspirations from somewhere; we have to.
It's what
inductive leaps of reasoning are all about. And lots of people turned
around and
used this concept, but he never seemed to complain that it was unfair.
Because it
wasn't. As long as they didn't have to worry about how to implement that
part of it,
they could work on more important things like storyline and plot
development. In
the end, it made those games better; those ideas, in turn, came back to
other people,
and made other games better. 

Myst had a revolutionary concept, didn't it? The general idea was "Let's
throw the 
player into an incredibly frustrating puzzle environment and not give
him any 
instructions or directions; he has to figure everything out himself".
And people 
loved it; but it wasn't new. It just wasn't popular anymore, because way
back when 
it was first done the majority of people hated being stuck in a
situation like this.
Many of them still do. But to top it off, the game was *beautiful* --
the graphics 
alone were stunning, and even *that* wasn't really new. But it was
something that you
had lots of options with; you could just play around with it and gawk at
the images,
or you could wander around playing with parts of the environment to see
what they did,
or you could actually try to solve it. It wasn't that the interactive
environment, the
rendered graphics, or the no-hints structure were new on their own -- it
was that they
worked well in combination, and the combination offered a wider group of
people some
way to enjoy it. People hated this in text-based games. They hated it
with cartoony
graphics. And they hated it when given some sort of control-panel type
interface. But
when you added in the graphics, the interactive operation, and the
visual nature of
the game... it was fantastic. The ambient sounds alone are wonderful,
and that's pure

When you stick them next to each other, you see that Myst and The
Seventh Guest bear a
significant resemblance to one another. But the people who created Myst
aren't wailing
and crying about The Seventh Guest using their ideas. It's just not
worth moaning about.
They're not new ideas, anyway. Look at Harvester, which is much like a
strange spinoff
of King's Quest. Phantasmagoria, likewise (From the same designer, no
less). Games these
days are very much alike, within their respective categories. Id
Software, much as I 
love them, has been doing the same game over and over ever since
Wolfenstein 3D... with a
few particulars changed, yeah, and much more capable graphics and sound
engines, but it's
still just wandering around and shooting things in first-person
perspective. Most of what
Id Software designs, however, is provided to the world at large -- file
formats, various
algorithms, source code, etc. Strangely, even though they give away an
awful lot of what
they make, they still seem to make a lot of money and sell a lot of

If you try to keep your ideas secret, they won't grow or flourish.
They're like 
flowers; they need to be placed in the right soil, watered
appropriately, and given 
the right amount of sunlight. When you do this, you'll find that the
flower grows
best around other flowers, and it looks better too. Nobody just has one
flower in 
his garden. It looks so much better when you put it in the right
setting, with other
complementary plant growth, so other people can enjoy it. When you keep
a flower in 
your pocket, it generally just rots. Ideas are the same way; when you
share them, you
find that they sound much better and end up becoming much more efficient
and useful.
You combine the skills and opinions of several people to create the
whole idea, and 
it shores up some of your weaknesses as well as theirs. In other words,
you end up
with a bouquet of sweet-smelling and lovely ideas, instead of a little
greasy spot
that smells vaguely of fungus and may at one time have been something
you wanted to
look at, but not anymore.

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