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AdAstraGames

Why OGL causes problems.

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Both my company and Jerry Grayson's have D6 licenses that predate Eric Gibson buying WEG. We have BOTH gotten emails from Eric during his tenure saying our licenses are grandfathered in with no changes.

 

What this means is that we both get to use the D6 trade mark, whether or not Eric releases the STL.

 

I was also around in the industry during the beginning of the d20 OGL experiment, saw the bubble of 'fan produced' products, and saw how it collapsed the RPG market to lower sales volumes after the three tier model basically said 'fuck it; if it's not from a publisher I've heard of before, I'm not touching it.".

 

I've been the developer of two OGL product lines with other publishers.

 

I've run multiple OGL d20 games, I've played in more.

 

I understand ENTIRELY why WoTC scrapped the OGL on D&D 4th. (Well, they couldn't invalidate it, but they could say, in essence, "If you want to do licensed products for D&D 4th, you must also renounce the OGL".) It's something I saw coming in 2004.

 

So, I'm going to discuss the OGL, the GPL and Open Source Licenses.

 

The Promise:

 

The basic premise of the GPL license is that it's a license that ensures your right to tinker and modify the code of any project you download; that license also means any changes you release can be folded back into the project. In software development, where there doesn't have to be a physical distribution of CDs, this means that the cost to physically produce a product for sale is as close to zero as can be imagined.

 

In software development, this means that 'with enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow' - you say "I am trying to solve a problem with parameters X, Y and Z" on your dev list, and good odds are, someone with a clever idea will send something to you that can be massaged in to fit; they may also send you a patch - you then integrate this into a distributed build, and there's an upstream improvement.

 

There is a HELL of a lot of work on making SVN style version control repositories work for distributed software development.

 

The Failure:

 

Open Source software development is a great way to make bullet proof servers. To date, it has been a poor way to make customer-facing software geared to end users, in large part because the fun part of the project is writing the code. The part of the project that's like pulling your teeth with red hot pliers is quality assurance testing, usability testing and documentation - let alone chrome that makes things look pretty to the person who isn't a programmer.

 

Those parts also cost money.

 

The Perils of Publishing

 

Writing a game engine, and even putting into beta testing, is the fun part. There's this buzz of shared creative energy, and it's a blast. Turning that game engine into a playable, salable product that doesn't require the designer to be there to explain stuff to you, that's where the *work* in RPG design comes in, and why publishing houses charge for games. Most projects have an 80/15/5 split. 85% of the work is fun, 15% of the work is tedious, 5% of the work is "Aaaaaairgh!" and gives you fantasies about killing people...and the time involved usually splits out to 30/30/40. That last 5% involves about as much time as the first 30%.

 

Larger game publishers can spread the workload over multiple people, but in a 2-3 person company? It leads to burnout (as we saw with Eric.)

 

Even worse, selling games USUALLY means selling a physical object; this means that upstream revisions don't automatically get folded back into the project. They get folded back in when the first print run has sold out, if there's time, and if the game developer wants to spend that last grotty 5% again.

 

The Intersection of Open Development and Publishing

 

Writing games is, fundamentally, writing procedures manuals that people read for fun. There are usually development cycles, open playtesting, closed playtesting and blind testing cycles to try and poke holes in all of the rules and get them fixed. More eyes in a development process are generally good.

 

So that part of Open Development is beneficial to publishers.

 

The problem is that the distribution costs of new versions for publishers are quite high. Shipping physical books costs more than shipping elegantly arranged electrons. Some publishers are basically abandoning the physical print book except as special case items - notice how SJ Games has basically turned GURPS into a two tier product line: Stuff you buy in stores, more stuff you buy from e23.

 

Market Fragmentation and Trademark Dilution

 

WoTC tried to have its cake and eat it with the OGL - they kept third party publishers from saying their products were D&D branded, but said they were d20 'compatible. This was meant to put their market in a pre-eminent position, and it was meant to hand off making a bunch of low-sales, high effort support products (like adventures) to third party publishers.

 

Where it bit them in the ass was that there was no central gate keeper to ensure compatibility. There were specifications, and it would be stupid to make your 'd20' compatible game add 7 more stats and change the skill list - but that ultimately what happened was a lot of 3.5 splatbooks of Ever Increasing Power; it got to the point very quickly where the GMs of d20 games I was playing said "If it's not a WoTC product, I'm not considering it. Even if it IS a WoTC product, if it's not in the PHB or DMG, I reserve the right to say 'no' and make you rebuild your character."

 

This also caused problems on the sales level; the first book on Gnomes could sell passably - the second (from a different publisher) would sell like crap - even if it was better designed. There was a huge incentive to push things to market as quickly as possible. Some companies thrived on that.

 

Now that I've pointed out the perils of the swamp, my next post will cover my attempts to fix the problems with respect to D6.

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Having explained my concerns with the OGL in general, I'm going to cover OGL-like concepts for D6 in general and D6 Dramatics.

 

Trademarks and Licenses

 

Jerry Grayson and I can both use the D6 logo. Until Eric releases the STL, nobody else can. This means that Jerry and I have something of value. It's not quite as valuable as it was in 2004-2005, but it is valuable.

 

In some ways, an Open D6 License and the STL diminishes something we paid money for. Not saying either of us will be dicks about it (and I'm very careful not to put words in Jerry's mouth here). I doubt either of us really wants to fight it - but be aware that we are also being asked to give something up here.

 

Eric's OGL posting strikes me as a case of "I'm abandoning D6 as a commercial venture, you guys do what you want with it." This seems to be followed through by the, well, lack of follow through. I like Eric, he's a good guy - but I don't think he ever really understood what he was getting into.

 

What we're going to see with OGL D6, unless something develops a 'competitive advantage', is that the D6 market is going to fragment - there will be the people who just use SW2ER as their core book, those who use the D6 System Book as their core, and those who use the 2004 Triplets as their core, and a lot of people striking out on their own way. Plus, without access to the trademarks, you can't even call it D6.

 

Downstream Licensing

 

I categorize the license I'll be releasing D6 Dramatics under as two tiers, based on how closely you'll hew to my compatibility mandate.

 

Universal Compatibility: This means that you are agreeing to use the D6 Dramatics rules 'as is' for your products with attribution - anyone who buys your product should be able to use it with one of our products and not have to do major conversions.

 

Changes Disallowed:

 

Adding or deleting Attributes

Adding subsystems (For example, a GURPS style advantage/disadvantage system)

Variant combat rules

 

Changes Allowed:

Adding or renaming skills, adding or renaming equipment.

 

The goal of this license is to protect my interests and avoid customer base fragmentation.

 

Systemically Compatible: This means that you are agreeing to use certain core D6 Dramatics concepts, with attribution.

 

Changes Disallowed

Adding generalized subsystems.

 

Changes Allowed:

Adding, removing, or renaming attributes

Adding or renaming skills

Adding setting specific subsystems and variant rules

 

Upstream Licensing:

 

Any rule or skill you add as a licensor is available for me to fold back into the core game rules, with attribution, but without recompense. Once added to the core game rules, it becomes available to all licensors.

 

Fees and Royalties:

 

There will be a licensing fee; it will be kept quite reasonable. The licensing fees pay me for my time as system maintainer, and help me pay for people who perform useful services, like answering rules questions on forums, maintaining updated documents and more.

 

There will also be a royalty charged; the royalty will be a fixed fee per book or PDF sold royalty rather than a percentage of gross sales; the Universal Compatibility Royalty will be lower than the Systemic Compatibility Royalty, because they involve less work for me.

 

Rules Text and Approvals:

 

We ask the following

 

1) You attribute us as the owner of D6 Dramatics

2) You publish which version of D6 Dramatics you're compatible with.

3) You send us all rules text for approval and consideration, ideally 90 days before you do layout.

4) When you publish rules in your product, make them in a separate font from your setting specific material. The full license text may specify what font family we use for this. InDesign templates may be made available to you.

 

We are specifically NOT doing approvals on settings, artwork, character templates and the like.

 

Comp Copies:

 

We get three copies of every product you make under this license for our reference shelf. After that, we reserve the right to buy additional copies at half cover price.

 

Ad Placement and Web Shop Sales

 

If you license the rules, we will give you an ad page to put in the back of your book. We will ask for an ad in return for us to put in our flyers going out to customers. We will ask to buy copies of your product at half cover price to sell off of our web shop. We may be able to offer printing services.

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I appreciate your concerns. Truly I do. With regards to the OpenD6 OGL devaluing something you (and Jerry) paid money for, please let me make a couple statements. Though I acknowledge that publicizing business details is a faux pas, it is appropriate to level a formal defense for such a (mild) accusation and to address your "licensing plan."

 

First -- To be clear, Scott signed a license to produce D6 material for Final Sword Productions. Ad Astra, specifically, has never had a formal license as such. I have allowed, do to the close relationship between Final Sword and Ad Astra for Al Astra to claim licensure, but there is no legal provision for it. Second, I (personally) have never collected a single cent of royalties. The advance was paid to Humanoids prior to my purchasing it. In proceeding years, I've never made a single claim to additional royalties (based on yearly sales minimums). Third, Failure to publish game material for years means you (and Jerry) are both in full violation of your respective licenses, and I would be within my full and complete rights to revoke the D6 System license from every single previous signor. The fact that I have not done so is out of courtesy -- though I have been strongly tempted since I strongly desire all new material published for D6 to be published under the OpenD6 license. Again, I have not done so out of kindness and consideration. Jerry did pay a royalty advance directly to Purgatory Publishing several years ago, but again, I've made no claims to additional royalties since that time or requested an audit of sales records -- what would be the point since my entire purpose to to get new D6 material out to the fans and NOT use the license as a revenue stream? Moreover, all monies paid by Jerry for the D6 license was reimbursed after Jerry paid equal sums for advertising HIS OWN products. So, while Jerry paid a grand total of $500 for the D6 license for the last 5ish years, I have, essentially, provided Khepera Publishing with $500 worth of third party advertising for his own products. So, my net proceeds for Jerry's license was $0 and my net proceeds for the Final Sword Productions/Ad Astra Games D6 license was another $0.

 

To be clear, the OpenD6 license will be to ONLY new D6 License going forward. Final Sword/Ad Astra Games does NOT have the legal right to sub-license D6. Any attempts to do so (ESPECIALLY for a fee structure of any kind will result in the revocation for Final Sword Productions license. Please, do not have doubts of my resolve.

 

As for the criticisms of the OGL as being a source of dilution of the brand, I understand and will acknowledge the concerns as valid. However, It is my opinion that for "glut" to become a problem, you need a quantity of game material published akin to that of D&D. In people's most optimistic fantasies, I doubt any rational person thinks that OpenD6 will have close to as much material published as did D20 v3.5. Moreover, as D&D was a bit more rigid a system than D6, there is a technical limit to the amount of new material that can be produced and still be relatively novel. As a result, after a period, most new material produced was redundant and often very bad. D6 is more open than D20 -- more adaptable. Additionally, there is far LESS material available for that more adaptable system currently, meaning there is still TREMENDOUS opportunities for new, novel material for D6. Remember -- before there was a D20 glut, a LOT of publishers made a good deal of money filling the needs of the D20 market. I'm not suggesting that OpenD6 will be as close to a profit maker as the early days of D20 had been, but with a proper amount of support and backing, as I know the fans and publishers are capable of, I would not discount the impact that OpenD6 could yet have.

 

Lastly, regarding the STL, I already noted that there will no longer be a need for it. I know I have dragged my feet on revising the OGL, but I trust with the help of the fans, we can correct that shortly.

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To be clear, the OpenD6 license will be to ONLY new D6 License going forward. Final Sword/Ad Astra Games does NOT have the legal right to sub-license D6. Any attempts to do so (ESPECIALLY for a fee structure of any kind will result in the revocation for Final Sword Productions license. Please, do not have doubts of my resolve.

 

Hi Eric - thanks for replying. I do hope that the Open D6 License actually comes to pass. While I disagree with the implementation of the OGL as a general concept (it tends to result in brand fracturing and dilution), it IS your choice to license.

 

To be clear: You have been generous, and quite clear in your communication. To anyone who pops in and reads this and wants to talk about what sort of a jerk you (or I) were, it's not the case. Thank you.

 

There will be no D6 Dramatics license fee separate from OpenD6.

 

Is there anything in your proposed license structure to allow the two tiers of coordination I'm looking for?

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Hi Eric - thanks for replying. I do hope that the Open D6 License actually comes to pass. While I disagree with the implementation of the OGL as a general concept (it tends to result in brand fracturing and dilution), it IS your choice to license.

 

To be clear: You have been generous, and quite clear in your communication. To anyone who pops in and reads this and wants to talk about what sort of a jerk you (or I) were, it's not the case. Thank you.

 

There will be no D6 Dramatics license fee separate from OpenD6.

 

Is there anything in your proposed license structure to allow the two tiers of coordination I'm looking for?

 

Within the OpenD6 OGL itself, this is no restriction against establishing an add-on branding such as D6 Dramatics, nor would there be any problem with providing additional B2B value adds for a fee, but that is with OpenD6 and if you published a rebrand of OpenD6 as D6 Dramatics (using the structure you mentioned), that doesn't change or override the fact that it is still OpenD6 and OGL.

 

If you republished OpenD6 as D6 Dramatics, you label your whole suite of material and value adds as Product Identity under which you create the D6 Dramatic rebrand, and issue a wholly separate license for D6 Dramatics for a fee. This is fine as well (and example of doing just that is the way Green Ronin created a separate fee-based license for True20). The only consideration is, that you should really make certain yuo are adding sort sort of value that will motivate publishers to pay for what they could not get freely (from OpenD6).

 

All these allowances are provided for by the nature of the OGL which (for all it past issues and wording ambiguity) is a really powerful and meaty license. This, which I mention previously, is not provided for under the commercial license.

 

As an aside, I am uploading a REVISED copy to D6 Adventure to RPGnow. This revision includes the OpenD6 Logo on the front cover and the OGL has been modified to remove any need for an STL to use the OpenD6 trademark and logo. I'll be modifying the other files in turn as I have time. So officially, as of now, Open D6 logo is usable without any additional license.

 

Technically, I don't really HAVE to modify the other books. the OpenD6 trademarks are on in the OGL (via D6 Adventure) and all the copyrights have already been in the OGL, the trademarks are fair game for all.

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Thank you Eric, for these posts. It cleared up a few things in my mind, which is nice. I hope schooling is going well for you, and wish you the best.

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Thank you. School is out after the Spring term, but I start a Summer term on May 24th, so I'm using this next week to try and start catching up on work. Here's to good intentions. :rolleyes:

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