The Stonehearth Collective - Discussing Community Outsourcing

 So today during the Livestream I posed the question to Tom if the Stonehearth team would consider outsourcing the models or animations of some of the game assets. His answer was a more than likely but they have no idea how to implement such a system and made a remark about a "hit list" for certain assets. While it is clear that no community outsourced items will be monetized (which is fine in my opinion) you may be eligible to be credited. This community sourcing aspect is not unheard of and has been used in a few Valve titles. I think this could help Radiant vastly improve the speed at which they patch and improve involvement of the community. While I haven't touched Qubicle in quite some time this certainly rekindles interest. Seeing assets made "official" could be a huge boost for community morale. Anybody have any opinions on the subject? What items should be considered community source-able and which should be off limits? I personally think classes should be Radiant assets while perhaps critters and objects could be community sourced quite successfully. In addition if one of your projects were sourced (with your acknowledgement) would you be upset if they changed it a bit?

I think models and animations could be crowd-sourced well. I agree critters and objects could be too. I also think bug fixes could be, but maybe a community programmer’s style might be different than Radiant’s and it could clash, but I’m all for contributing to the game with models and animations

It’s not as black-and-white as it might seems to be. You can have community creations that are adapted by the developers while still having a thriving community.

If we take Valve as example, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress and Portal were all independent projects (well, in the first two cases, mods for HL - but still, not related to Valve) that were later “assimilated” by Valve. There are dozens of mods that are not added into the game or added as own franchise, but still exist thanks to Source’s API and a few dedicated core modders.

It’s possible to have something like the Steam Workshop where Radiant can select entries and “take them over” into the main game. However, I’m quite sure there’s (a lot) of legal mumbo jumbo involved in this, as the author effectively has to give up his rights (or at least grant Radiant a pretty all-inclusive right to do with his content whatever they please - Steam Workshop is an example of that too, section 6B).

Personally, the way I would do it (and like to see it done) is that if the developer (I’ll just call them “developer” from now on) of a game sees, likes and approves content for their game, they seek out the original author (“modder”) and negotiate something. This could be, for example, a payment or a credit entry.

If they’ve come to an agreement, the content (“mod”) is (after some modifications which might be required) added to the game. At this point, the modder is not really in charge anymore - for updates whatsoever, the developer would be in charge, as they are the main distributor.

Although even here are exceptions, this time from GMod if I’m not mistaken. Trouble in Terrorist Town started as independent game mode and was included into GMod itself at some point - however, it is still maintained by the original developer. Garry simply pulls changes from them and merges them into the current GMod.

There’s tons of ways to implement that, but I think that

is an important bit, because you won’t be able to care about that anymore. The content has (necessarily) changed its owner and while you are, of course, still entitled to develop and distribute your own version of your content, you can’t expect (or even demand) anything about the version shipped with the game. It’s simply not “yours” anymore.

In this context, I think allowing the community to wildly upload things to have them included in the game would be a bad idea. There absolutely needs to be some sort of greenlighting process and the final decision by Radiant.

With an increasingly open modding API (and/or crowbars such as my stuff), it’s possible that people add their own content without any intervention from Radiant too. The only thing that is really required for smooth operation would be an easy to use update tool for both content creators and users - something like Steam Workshop again.

Also, there’s only so much parallelism that can go on. The community should not try to create (final) game content (i.e. stuff that will definitely be in the game, but isn’t right now), because that’s likely going to fail - either because of the legal mumbo jumbo mentioned before or because they simply do not know/have access to the internal workflow. It’s much better to focus on things that are not going to be in the game rather than re-create stuff that will have to be re-done by the “real” developer at some point.

I’m already working on that.

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Right, but that can also be avoided with an art asset list or “hit list” that the team would like and people can submit to. This would focus efforts and all who contribute would know terms before submitting. Seems like an easy/efficient way to build a library if it all goes smoothly.

Eh, sure you can do some sort of “wish list” and have the community build it. I see a few issues here:

  • The legal mumbo jumbo persists. Contributors still have to acknowledge (by contract) that they allow Radiant to distribute (and effectively sell) their stuff.
  • I can guarantee that people won’t be happy about that. People have paid for this game so they expect the developer to create it. Having the community create these assets for free would seem rather bad (“I paid for this game and now they have users make mediocre models for free? WTF”)
  • It’s not necessarily relieving them of work but creating more. Setting up this list, reviewing submissions, negotiate/get users to sign the contracts, add the content to the game - it’s a lot of things that they currently do not have to deal with. Even if you community outsource this even more by, for example, have community moderators that filter out the worst and best applications, it is still an additional task. Seeing as how fast the guys are with some content, you have to wonder if this would bring any speed improvement at all.

perfectly valid point… however, there are some extraordinary voxel artists in the community… and given enough time/money/interest, a method for collecting the cream of the crop could certainly be devised…

still, the “legal mumbo jumbo” would tend to muddy the process…

I do in no way want to say that we do not have very capable people in this community, but this is the internet after all, we shouldn’t forget that. There’s bound to be that kind of people and they are usually those with the loudest voice.

If this should ever come to some solution, however, I could probably wrap up some sort of Steam Workshop-like website that would allow exactly this kind of filtering/submission stuff. I probably could integrate it directly into the Kitchen.

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heck… if given enough time, you could probably code rainbow unicorns that literally fly out of my screen…

and i didnt mean to say this was a brilliant idea by any stretch…

just that if something did some out of this, we certainly wouldnt find ourselves with a shortage of fantastic models… :smile:

Except that it’s more than likely they would polish the models themselves. Take a base and refine it.

This is all eliminated with a disclaimer, Any and all models posted here are subject for use by Radiant Entertainment however they should see fit.

Mods are very much legally grey. Very much how Valve “acquiesced” Counter-Strike. No property was sold yet Valve was allowed to take license.

Contracts are eliminated with disclaimer. They’ve already gone on record stating that they can’t pay for these models. I know for a fact choosing from a pool is easier than starting from scratch because I have to do something similar at my job. If you know where to look and what you need it’s easier to grab a framework than start ground up. I have to push out quotes for marine equipment all day long. Using our system I can easily clone old quotes that are similar and clean them up, it saves tons of time in the long run, if you know where to look. A system where they state what they need and people contribute gives a pool. It takes all of 2 minutes to run down a list and pick a model well on its way, then polish it rather than start from ground zero. It’s exactly why the carpenter is based off the worker model and the raccoon is a modified bunny. Just saying it could make things easier and give the community something to do while not bug testing. Only so much Stonehearth you can play without a save feature.

So they need to invest even more work into something that is supposed to reduce their workload?

What makes you think that they did not acquire the intellectual property? I’m very sure that Valve has done that legally (in addition to hiring all the developers that were involved in the making) and not just taken a license. In CS’ example, they own the trademark which I don’t think they could if they didn’t hold the actual rights.

Mods are only as grey as you want them to be. Usually, the engine developers (i.e. Valve) give you the right to create things using their software. That means that things like TF and CS are fine, but if you try to create a Star Wars mod with Source, you’re in trouble - not from Valve’s side, however.

I doubt that will hold up in court. “But they’ve read the disclaimer that said that we can do whatever we want with their stuff without their explicit consent!”

Not necessarily true. This depends a lot on what your pool looks like. If you only have “trusted” sources (say, experienced artists and programmers, external contractors) then sure, you can be sure that the pool is small and filled to the brim with usable pieces.

If you’re as open as we are discussing here, however, you have to sort out a lot. Again, you need to gain the agreement (a simple disclaimer is, I will believe until somebody can prove it otherwise, not enough) from X different users all around the world (which probably means that you have to respect their country’s laws too, for example Germany cannot give away their copyright if I remember correctly) instead of only a few from sources that have already procedures for that.

You need to create a system for that. You need to maintain it. You need to have support (“Why can’t I upload stuff?!”, “Why was my nuke denied??”) the platform and their users. It’s not some sort of magical factory where you get stuff for free. It’s not going to be a “two minute run down” on a list. This is not a single person decision, it’s a company decision. As far as I can tell, they are somewhat democratic in the design process, where ideas are not decided by one person in charge but rather discussed in the team as a whole.

That means that there can’t be one person going “Oh I like that, oh I want that, ohhh a blue eyed white dragon bunny” and ding, it’s in the next release. This needs to be discussed in the team. Things to consider could be, for example, how well done it is, how well it fits into the final game / the art style of the game, how it differs from the idea that was already there (if any), if there is any “competition” that would better fit…

One of the most important laws in programming, game design and maths is that if you can, always fall back to existing resources. An airplane is something like a bus that can fly, a bus is something like a car with more seats, and a car is something like a fast pedestrian. That should not be interpreted as “lack of time” or anything against them, it’s a clever use of resources. You can’t expect to have everything done from scratch and let’s be honest, if you didn’t know that the raccoon was a reskinned bunny, would you have noticed that on the first glance?

But the community can and does stuff already. Those are just a few exempts of things that are already working, there’s lots more that is currently going on in the background.

We can already do a lot and since the communication started getting better and better, we can do more stuff every week - even without saving. Let me just ask this: How exactly would more content improve your game quality if everything you have would be lost when the game crashes or you have to restart it? I don’t want to make saving more important than it is, but when we get right down to it, you can play the pessimist card and claim that “the whole game is pretty pointless right now” - no matter how much content there possibly is.

I should correct myself you are right they legally acquired the IP but only because CS was published and copyrighted by that point. No models have been copyrighted as far as I know by the community. Moreover the TF2 example doesn’t work because the contract is for purchase. It has already been stated Radiant can’t pay for models. Free model use is VERY different from paying for a model. Yes a simple disclaimer or message stating it’s ok is enough in this case. All Radiant would have to prove is, “Yeah we had permission”. Done. This has been going on in “free” music that is published by composers to be picked up, one example is a couple pieces in the KSP soundtrack. They’re heard throughout the net because it’s free music and all the composer asks is for a credit.

Agreed but I don’t believe anyone has filed a copyright for their mods/models. If so they have an awful lot of money to burn. (That is a visual arts copyright claim form, necessary for proof of ownership of the model)

Actually it does. The burden of proof falls on the person claiming copyright. So unless you have a copyright Radiant wouldn’t have to anything. Even if you do have copyright once you submitted to a space that clearly marks submissions to be treated as Radiant Property you forfeit the license.

It’s not different at all. Paid or not, it’s about the same deal: Re-distribution and, in this case, selling of third party content. Yes, they may not sell it independently and just bundle it in the game but as that game content is only available to customers, they would effectively sell third party content. And for that they need consent - not just simply a “Yeah, you can have my stuff” PM but something formal.

I’m not a lawyer, again, so this whole discussion is really (I assume) between somebody who assumes the worst case when it comes to IP and somebody who thinks it’s okay to write in a forum that you can do whatever you please with someone’s content.

The basics - to my understanding - would be that they need an, let me quote the bits from Valve, the irrevocable, unlimited right to modify, distribute, copy and sell your content without your acknowledge, agreement or consent (after you have agreed to that part) and, because of Steam and Humble Bundle, grant these rights to third parties as well. I don’t think in any court a HTTP POST request would hold up, neither would a forum post or something similar.

KSP’s soundtrack is made by Kevin McLeod, who you have certainly heard at least one piece of work if you’ve been on the internet in the last ten years (especially if you saw one of those really badly made Windows Movie Maker videos that did not have “He’s a pirate” as music). He makes free music under CC-by if I remember correctly. You’re free to include (and change) his music and re-distribute it as long as you mention his name - that’s the license he’s releasing it under.

This would be the opposite, however. Whoever uploads stuff to this database would need to do so under a license that allows this - which means you have to understand the license, otherwise we’re in a whole different level of bad. For CC-by, we have the human readable version and the lawyer gibberish. In a court case, Radiant would need to prove that the uploader understood and agreed to publish his content under this license - which could prove more difficult than a customized one.

Maybe not the individual models themselves but I can imagine that there’s a dark corner somewhere in trademark/copyright law that allows mass-protecting “stuff that looks like this”, for example themes (races, building styles, what not). Also, if King’s Candy Crush is anything to go by, people do have money to do ridiculous things with copyright. Maybe not your average player, admittedly.

They need to prove that they have created the content, which should not prove too difficult. Radiant on the other hand needs to prove that they have the permission to modify, redistribute et cetera et cetera. Everything somebody needs to say is “They violated my copyright, see: This download contains pieces of my work.” All they need to do is to show that they have permission to do that.

You don’t have to apply for a copyright (at the very least, in some countries not - I would say most of Europe and the US fall under that). As soon as you make something, it’s yours - without the need to apply for anything (for example, I heavily doubt that every single book that is published is copyrighted somewhere).