Friday, February 25, 2011

In Defense of FortressCraft

Okay, as the preface to the last post states, I made a bit of a gaff with the last post. I'm going to come out and say that first. I insulted both FortressCraft and its developers based purely on playing Minecraft and watching videos of FortressCraft.
aaaand this is your face on uninformed journalism.
On the games, FortressCraft is not a complete product. Moreover, I have never played FortressCraft. There's the big rub noone's really bashed me on that someone should have. Yeah, we've seen videos, but as a group of people that is so often mislead by pre-release marketing that's something we should know never tells the whole story. Had I not played Nier I would have assumed it was identical to any other samey JRPG, rather than a flawed but eclectic spin on the genre as akin to Darksiders as Final Fantasy. Therefore, I have exactly zero place making any assessment of FortressCraft's actual status. Is it a ripoff or not? I duno - I'll have to wait for the release to find out.

As for the designer, I made some personal jabs that were uncalled for and entirely based in conjecture. Those I entirely retract and apologize for. Bashing indie devs based on the unfinished production they've shown is no better for the industry than the perceived issue I so lambasted previously. Furthermore, the guy had the balls to step up and state his case, which he did in a relatively civil manner. On the internet, that says quite a bit.

In the interest of fairness, I'm not going to retract anything. Online, it comes off as if you're trying to change history and  rewrite what you said. So the last article stays up - with this one as an addendum. Am I backing down? No. Was I totally right? No. Do I seek to align myself better with what is, in fact, right? Yes. Seems to often that people online are completely unwilling to modify their stances in light of debate. You're right - the other guy is wrong. Forever. No matter what. If that's gonna be the case though, what's the point of a debate at all?

So, what mislead me? Well, I made two mistakes.

1) I foolishly assuming that "independent" is always synonymous with "starving artist and dependent on the kindness of strangers" because, after all, some people aren't wannabe devs - but people who've been in and out of the industry for years and have DECIDED to be independent.

You see, I'm aware of the history of Minecraft, how their business model works, and I've played the game to explore its design. These were known quantities to me. I knew of its critical and popular success, but did not really examine its financial success. Now, I know that should not have any bearing on the matter. Steal a dollar from  homeless man or from Richard Brandson, it's all theft. Still, the fact that Mojang apparently turns $350,000 A DAY on their indie project at last count does tend to color the picture somewhat. It lends credence to the developer of FortressCraft's assessment that Minecraft is not so much a beta as a gold release with regular updates. It at least makes my casting of Mojang in the fragile victim position somewhat laughable.

2) I addressed a very specific case, not as an illustration, but as if it were the issue in and of itself. The SHOULD have been an article about how derivative works affect the medium. By focusing one one case, I made my argument here dependent on a subjective assessment: "is game A a ripoff of game B." What I SHOULD have done and will endeavor to correct shortly is spoken about this from a more theoretical perspective.

The basic argument here SHOULD have been that when you copy something directly, without innovation, you get one of two results:
A) You blow the original out of the water, either due to quality, marketing, or market control, and damage the bottom line of the other guy.
B) You don't succeed in beating the big guy at his own game, and produce something inferior with no more worth than what already existed before your efforts. It's just another piece of shovelware only selling to grandmothers who don't know the difference and buy purely by cover art.

My assessment was really that when A happens to an independent developer, it's not only unfortunate but bad for the industry as it discourages creativity and innovation.

That being said, being informed by something is not the same as ripping it off. Darksiders, for example, takes several gameplay mechanics whole hock from other games. They, however, congeal into a wholly original and new whole. Anyone who's played both Portal and Darksiders' "Portal section" will tell you that, though the latter's inspiration is clear, the gameplay mechanics are entirely different.

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