Vacation was nice, thank you for asking. Coming home from vacation is always a bad experience. The plane feels a bit more cramped and the voicemail and email inboxes are a lot more full. I actually tried working through my vacation, dilligently keeping up on my inbox every morning. IHASLAW #1 – for every email you send you get five back. Lesson learned.
Blizzard recently announced a big change to their UI/Addon policy, banning people from making money off off of their hard work created upon Blizzard’s hard work. While hardly a surprise, WoW has a gigantic Mod community. That community, for all intensive purposes, has made and shaped the game – usually for the better. “Must have” community mods become part of the vanilla UI over time. I have long been of the thought that mods shouldn’t exist in an MMO space – players shouldn’t have the ability or the right to change the basic UI (apart from cosmetic). It creates extra work for the typical player who “needs” those mods to be competitive (hello, Arena mods) or even beat unbalanced and rediculous encounters (hello, Decursive pre-Burning Crusade). Simply put – if your game requires players to provide changes to your code to make the game playable – or more enjoyable – then it is a failure of code. More after the break.
I am not blaming the modders themselves – they do incredible work. So incredible, that if they put together something great they *should* get paid for their efforts. Or at bare minimum, hired. Of course, I will blame blizzard here. (emphasis on “of course”, as it surely comes as no suprise!). Instead of building a great UI, they built a great UI framework for players to work with. Players make the UI great, and often create mods that the developers deem “unintended” for use, so the devs break the mod. The circle of life (death?). You literally have 1000’s of people redesigning the UI to make the game better – and it worked. So why take away that programmers ability to profit from 100’s of hours work?
I am going to guess the lawyers, even with their ultra powerful TOS and EULA, are starting to get nervous. Even though players click through in full agreement, reading each paragraph and line oh so carefully, at the end of the day the argument would look like this.
- Player A makes a mod. All players “need” this mod to play the game
- Player A spends hundreds of hours perfecting mod
- Player A starts charging for the mod. Other players gladly pay as it makes their experience so much better in game
- Developer sees the need for the mod, and integrates it into the UI in a patch, with their own version
- Player A stops making mod, and loses thousands of dollars, as Developer took their idea and made it their own
The EULA/TOS would clearly show that the developer owns it anyway, so why the worry? Is Player A going to even bother to take on the legal behemoth and sue for lost income? How does intellectual property play into all of this – a form and function created by a player, and later obviously ripped off by a developer, when made in the context of a game under an all encompassing EULA/TOS – is there a leg to stand on? What if that developer takes that idea and puts it into one of their new releases – with the form, history, and update list of the individual programmer clearly showing who came up with the idea, and when – is there a danger to a company there?
Doubtful. The mods are created with tools and instructions from the developer under a big umbrella. I don’t see the worry.
I have two competing thoughts here on how I feel about the matter.
- UI’s should be locked down, besides cosmetics, so everyone gets the same experience
- UI’s should be open, and encouraged and supported by developers so the game can evolve – and the developer will pay (and thereby encourage even more) for any mod that gets enveloped into the vanilla mold as a standard feature.
While those thoughts are on exact opposite sides of the fence, I see merits in both. Which side of the fence are you on?