Tuesday, February 28, 2006

credits (continued)

A perfect case in point “Two Historians Suing 'Da Vinci' Writer Over Disputed Material.” Now, the obvious reason these guys (and their lawyers) are suing is money: Dan made a bunch of money off his book, and Columbia and Dan are gonna make a lot more money off their movie. If the historians have a pseudo-legitimate claim to the ideas in Dan’s book, why not take a shot at cashing in! (Yes, I’m being intentionally cynical.)

But being less cynical, and coming back to the topic at hand, the real issue may be credit. Authors are notorious for their desire for credit for their work. I suspect that most authors would rather take credit and the prestige associated with it than money, if forced to choose; in some cases, even if it meant starving. And because their work is “their baby” there is no higher crime than stealing their baby. That is: hell hath no fury like an author whose credit has been stolen....

So, although money is the obvious reason for the suit, the real motivation may be that the suit (for the authors) is all about the credit for their work that they feel has been stolen, and is now profiting Dan Brown tremendously. Yes, monetarily, but more importantly, in the commodity that they value most highly: credit for their work.

Just a theory....

Friday, February 24, 2006

blogs and credits

Reading Sree’s blog got me thinking about credits at about the same time that I succumbed (succame?) to the urge to begin blogging.

In my former life, I was a PC game developer... according to
Moby Games, I helped create about 19 PC games (not including CD-ROM versions of early 3.5” releases, compilations, and an Xbox port). Among the experiences associated with building these games were the activities of defining credits, and communicating with the gamer community.

Some folks at
Legend looked at credits as a necessary evil. I, for the most part, always enjoyed them as an opportunity to celebrate all the cool elements of the work we were doing, and all of the ways in which people on the team contributed.

After a working with a brilliant group of developers on an advanced research project in 1988, I decided that my career goal would be to work with a group of incredibly talented developers, who each was expert in a domain that went far beyond my own knowledge, to accomplish something beyond what any of us could accomplish alone. For me, the pinnacle of that effort was
Unreal II.

Aaron Leiby and a few cohorts went absolutely crazy with the implementation of the credits – they’re awesome, and are fun to watch just to see “what’s next.” [editors note - both interpretations apply] In terms of the content, I think it’s fair to say that the credits for Unreal II were more extensive than for any other game in Legend’s history. Extensive, in spite of the fact that were also in the most terse form in Legend’s history.

The down side of credits, a pattern that I witnessed from some of our very first games, is that giving credit to some, implicitly takes credit away form others (i.e., shared credit). In my opinion, a warped way of looking at it… but without going into the gory details, suffice it to say that that is the way that some people at some points in time have seen it.

So, I have mixed emotions about credits. I love the celebration of a job well done, and the teamwork that it took to complete a project that is both a technical and artistic masterpiece. But, I hate the infighting and negativity that is sometimes associated with the desire to hold onto credit, or withhold credit from others.

I have a similar reaction to blogs. I love the opportunity for information sharing, the arbitrary links to esoteric topics, and the insights into the author’s worldview. But, I am extremely wary of the effect the limelight has on egos.

The observation that “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely” must have a counterpart for blogs; something related to the idea that “the larger the audience, the greater the self control required to keep one’s ego in check.”

I mentioned, we maintained .plan files at Legend. On more than one occasion, going public with information that should have been kept private caused major explosions, both within our own teams, and in the companies associated with Legend. I am pleased to say that through the efforts of a variety of people, the periodic explosions were ultimately sufficiently contained that our company / studio and our products survived. But the containment efforts consumed a lot of energy.

Blogs also consume time. During certain projects whose names will go unmentioned (and un-hyperlinked), I’ve been frustrated to no end by the level of effort lavished on the community, while the team was starved of similar attention. It’s a challenge to say something meaningful, and it’s an even bigger challenge to write or create something meaningful, quickly!

So, I’ll close today’s update with
a quote that I think offers food for thought for bloggers (including myself):

“It is unbecoming for young men to utter maxims.” – Aristotle

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Lost Action Figures

So, on the way home from dinner tonight, one of the kids asked if they made Lost Action Figures. A quick google indicates that the answer (for now) is no. But, that didn’t stop us from beginning the design process.

So, our plan to kick things off is for individually packaged action figures, each with two special accessories. A few examples:

Locke with his Bowie knife and 9mm, Jack with his medical supplies and briefcase of guns, Clair with her baby and crib. Or, better yet, pregnant Clair with action tummy.

Now, Charlie is the ultimate Scandal Marketing(TM) ploy with guitar and statue of Mary. It’ll get attention from the religious and the anti-drug folks – two-for-one special! Probably not scandalous enough to get onto the cover of Time, or a Congressional hearing, but there’s time.

How about Artz, the exploding action figure, complete with stick of dynamite and pieces of Artz, or Sayid with radio transmitter and pliers.

Sawyer, with 9mm and hoarded supplies collection, and the one every kid’s gotta have Hurley with jar of ranch dressing and lottery ticket.

I wonder if the cast signed away rights to their action figure royalties....

Everybody’s doing it…

I’ve lived most of my life outside the norm… not particularly far out… but far enough that when “everybody’s doing it”, I probably wasn’t. When it comes to blogs, the past few years have been no exception….

But, now my boss’s boss is doing it, all the cool guys at work are doing it… so, I’m feeling a certain peer pressure to join in. Which is ironic, since most of these guys are younger than me, and most of them are a whole lot smarter… so they’re probably less peer-like than most of the peers I haven’t followed before.

Now to be fair, I was doing blogs before blogs existed. Back in the day, they were called
.plan files, a term I had always understood was coined by id Software’s John Carmack for the plans he maintained for his next big thing(TM). I wasn’t particularly consistent about updating my .plan. But, I updated enough to get my name out there.

Although blogs seem cool, for me, they’re mostly just an excuse to put down random thoughts that don’t seem to fit anywhere else. (That’s not an original thought… just a variation on a theme
already expressed.)

So here I am… everybody’s doing it… and so am I.