The Halls of Redemption

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Matt Barton's picture

If you were a pirate back in the 80s, or enjoy abandonware titles today, do you ever wish you could in some way repay those designers or developers who made your favorite games? Of course, I've interviewed dozens of these guys, and while most of them were happy enough to get what they did, there's no doubt that they deserved far more rewards for their efforts. I'm also concerned that whereas a musician back then can still make money from his work, most of these old developers see their stuff given away for free on abandonware sites. Most of the ones I've talked to are gracious about this, but I still think something should be done about it.

So what I'm proposing is "The Halls of Redemption," a kind of website where you could donate a set amount of money directly to the people who made our favorite games that are no longer being sold today. You could also leave a thank you message to them. In return, you'd be given a virtual Redemption Token, so you'd never ever have to feel bad about enjoying that person's work again. I'd work with the individuals in question to figure out what they'd consider an appropriate donation to be, and of course if they'd prefer to donate the proceeds to a charity if their choice, I think we'd all be fine with that.

Now I'm not talking about anything currently being sold. These are strictly the abandoned games, like Mail Order Monsters, Syndicate, and so on, that aren't available in commercial form today.

Let me know what you think of the idea. I'll need help putting something like this together, so if you're interested in volunteering, let me know.

Comments

clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
good idea

I think its a great idea, but I suggest maybe talking with designers/programmers/devolpers and seeing if they would be more OK with a charity (maybe they would pick one)... maybe several? ChildsPlay or so many other ones. Im sure you have a million great ideas.. one thing.. I wouldnt make it about repayment, but as you say redemption... Get a few of the great old games (as you mentioned abondon) have a box shot maybe the charity it goes too and a donate button. If you keep it about charity and not "pay for something I should have" even if in spirit only you can keep the people who actually own the rights from getting all bent out of shape. And if you use pictures of Box art ( but say something like "so and so helped make this game, if you would like to donate to -charity they pick- in his or her name, click here!) that way you can keep from walking that sticky legal area on games... you are donating not for the game, but a person who made the game and would give the ok... you would just use the box art as a "he helped make this" and not a 'this game" really....

Dont get me wrong I'm sure a few of those guys could actually use some cash for their work... but i think you would get in a whole leagal rights battle if some money, even donations where made from them. Maybe you have it much more thouhgt out and have it all figured out.. needless to say ... sounds like a great idea to me..

Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Clok, I want to bring you

Clok, I want to bring you onboard this in an official capacity. You sound like you have some expertise in this area. If so, let me know. I don't want to "go it alone" when there are people here with more knowledge than I have about this stuff.

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
so many questions
Matt Barton wrote:

Clok, I want to bring you onboard this in an official capacity. You sound like you have some expertise in this area. If so, let me know. I don't want to "go it alone" when there are people here with more knowledge than I have about this stuff.

not an expert in any sence of the word, just full of it, ideas I mean, mostly bad ones, but a good one here and there.

I do agree with Rob, they deserve it, but as somebody who has delt with companies on MOD's for games and such, even when you are making NO MONEY and doing it as a labor of love, some lawyer out there is looking at $$$. The reason I went with charity is simple. This works or fails, there should be NO lawyers looking for a piece of the pie, NO right holders complaining that they own the rights. Most games while ABANDON are still owned by some entity, they may or may not (most likley not) have any planned use for them, but if you Make money (even donations) you can bet one or two will crawl out of the woodwork and want some part or even worse, just not want to hassel with it so they will say "leave my game out of it".

I do think Ideally maybe the money could be earmarked for specific people and they can chose to give to charity or ??? but again, since its "income" then you gotta start looking at keeping track, paying taxes, etc.. Charity just eliminates alot of LEGAL issues. But I do agree as I said, it would be great to just give the money to the people and let them decide. But in that case I would suggest talking with some people who know alot more about that type of stuff.

I think the KEY to all this is the games, the Images/screenshots/video to make people feel that nostelgia and want to give back. I know the Game MAGIC CARPET, I know BULLFROG, but I dont know the develpers so a picture of them and some text under it saying they created it wont mean much to me. And that is where the real gray area is, and once again why I said Charity. Donations would keep the donaters in the clear, but the people recieving it, if images and likeness of past games is used (and I really see that as a requirment) sombody is going to say they are "makeing money" off it and that wont fly, but charity, no money being made, etc, no reason to cry foul.

It would have to be worded very well, we cant be "paying" for anything.. past crimes, whatever... its as Matt said Redemption, feel better, fix a wrong.. BUT it cant be PAYING! Maybe somebody who is much smarter than me (99% of the worlds population :) ) can come up with a DONATE to the people thi was intended to help, or not even help, but to say THANKS.. my point is, if we give the money to the people who made the games, we gotta make sure its not a HEADACHE for them.. taxes, records, etc.. WORK for them.. that also assumes that their are enouhg people who would GIVE to a thing like this.

As I say, giving the to the specific people is what we would all want I'm sure... And if somebody who knows alot more about legal stuff can figure out a way we can do it without makeing it a hassel for them (and us), please point us to it. Charity is just (yes) the easy way out, we can give something back, and skip alot of legal stuff.

Its a real hard thing, but a WONDERFULL idea. How do you pick who to start with, let alone contact them. I cant see listing every old game... so how do you pick and start that?

And of course a snappy name.. I like the REDEMPTION angle And matt is creative (seen that in his game). I love the idea.. now how far can it be took, and so on..

And Matt I will help any way I can, not alot of knowledge on this type of stuff, but as a ex software writer, comic book artitist, and MOD team member I know the LAWYERS will come out of the woodwork if money is being brought in and they can find a legal way to get some of it. The bad part is alot of them wont come out untill you are in full swing and you cant just "stop" easy.. they love to make your life nasty... a year into soemthing like this they will pull up, ask for accounting of all cash and demand "backpay with interest"... So things have to be done very carefully.

Rowdy Rob
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Joined: 09/04/2006
Great idea! A few short thoughts.

Gotta make this quick (before going to work!).

First of all, great idea, Matt! I hope this gets some traction!

Second of all, Clok.... some very good points. But I think donating to charity in someone's name somewhat dilutes the concept of compensating the artist(s) in question. Also, if THEY chose the charity, then their choice of charity might be controversial and put some people off, depending on their views (National Rifle Association, PETA, Christian Children's Fund, Planned Parenthood, or whatever other hot-button issue there is).

Also, some artists might feel that they want the money for themselves (they deserve it!), but would feel "shamed" into choosing a charity instead.

I'd rather just give the money directly to the person, and they decide what to do with THEIR money, whether it be donating to their favorite charity, feeding their children, supporting their crack habit, or whatever. It's THEIR money.

My point is that I do like the idea of compensating the artists directly, although that can get iffy when many of the games in question might have been developed by a team of artists.

Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Excellent points, Rob and

Excellent points, Rob and Clok. Man, you guys must be super brains in vats or something!

Anyway, a lot of the guys I've interviewed joke around about this, usually saying they'd be happy if somebody bought them a pizza or beer. I don't think they're expecting to get a huge payout (and I'm not expecting anyone to give them that, though who knows, if this got big enough it could happen). The reason I mentioned charity is that a lot of these guys will probably say they don't want donations or don't need them, since they wouldn't want to appear greedy. That's why I thought the redemption angle was a good one; it's like, look, these are guys who would have bought the game back in the day if they had the resources they do now. So, just think of it like a seriously delayed payment!

There are issues of course. Very few games are solo-authored, even back in the 80s, so we'll have to divvy it up somehow. If they were just donating to a charity, that wouldn't be necessary. The important thing (I think) is that we keep clear records and show how X game is bringing in so many dollars, etc.

BTW, the charity could be a fund instead, say a fund to preserve classic games and systems or perhaps a fund for creative and original new indie projects. Just thinking off the cuff here. But I'd like for it to be an option to give money directly to the designer, assuming that was unambiguous.

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
The real trick.... the one

The real trick.... the one that so often gets great ideas... making it actually happen. Now, boring day at work and way to much "thinking" time..

I think you need to start putting some "hooks" into this so somebody doesnt steal this wonderfull idea.
More to add and I might say way to GUNG HO at this point..

GOG... or anybody like that might be a tie in, much like YOUTUBE has songs in video with a link to the song on Itunes or amazon, maybe some GOG tie in with a link to buy the game. Of course this may somewhat defeat the ideal.. people buying the game and not donateing. But its an idea for exposure. Also depending on how you plan to host do this.. GOG ight bring oin a dollar or two more, for hosting or charity. Maybe in the end its not a good idea to hve them tied in as I say, it might make people chose between buying said game and Donating. You might also make a good tie in with links to MATT chat, or even other reviews of games.

To be honest i think it would be neat to have a small shrine to each game with a pile of quarters with a donation number on it... err.. maybe no HARD numbers as people can get stupid when they have numbers to compare. but some guage of donation/page views or something? In each Shrine area, some info (designers being the MAIN part of it) and some small YOUTUBE gameplay or some such. Maybe if luck holds some interviews (matt is the man on this) about the game and such. and A comment section so people can say why they liked the game and such.

I know is almost beyond the scope of all this.. but Places like Underdogs and such are sorta dying out.. it could start small and build on that, not like the abondanware sites.... but Like an Information site on classic games. I know a million of them out there, but you need that type of stuff to keep the people viewing/looking interested.

still one of the best ideas I have heard.. now to exacute it in a way that turns out well.

Troy Wilkins
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Joined: 06/19/2010
I love this idea!

And I hope it gets off the ground. If I can help in any way, I'd be only too happy to do so!

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
We're talking about this over

We're talking about this over at Marvelopers, too. Everyone (with one ahem exception) seems really enthused about it.

I thought about the GOG connection, too. That'd be simple to implement. I guess I'd have to get a different partnership so I could keep those proceeds separate, but maybe the little bit we'd get from referrals might help support the site. That's not really the reason for the Halls of Redemption, though. This is more to reward and honor folks whose work is no longer available in commercial form. Ideally, all of that work would be available on GOG or something like it, and we can try to encourage that, but frankly sometimes it's just not feasible or even possible for various reasons.

I'm seeing more or less a database of games that you can look up. When you look for a game, say, Forbidden Forest, it'd take you to Paul Norman's page. There you'd see how much money Paul wants you to donate in order to receive your Forbidden Forest Redemption Coin. So Paul decides that; if it's $5 or $50, that's up to him.

I'm thinking, too, that instead of this being seen as payment, it might be safer to call it donations. I wouldn't want to get into taxes or whatever else. I'm not a businessman. I'd like to give each participant a choice of two options: 8 Bit Funding, which gives funding to worthy indie projects, and Child's Play, which gives games to sick kids in hospitals. I think both of these are worthy efforts that deserve support. Of course, if the person in question has some other project in mind, I'd definitely consider it though I'd have to get mired in politics or controversial groups.

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Rampant Coyote (not verified)
Better to make donations entirely independent

My biggest issue is the one that Clok brings up - legal issues.

Another is that these games (especially after the early 80s) involved teams of people, and it's really hard to know who was responsible for what (and more or less worthy of donation). That even came up in your interviews with Brian Fargo and Becky Heineman - who did how much work on which game? There's really no 'fair' way to compensate contributors.

What might work is, instead, a page with tip jars. Maybe they could write something about their experiences working on the game, but ultimately the donation will have to be something completely independent of their past efforts. There are just too many questions of ownership and so forth and things have a potential to get 'weird.'

Mark Vergeer
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Joined: 01/16/2006
For a lot of folk it was just a job... For others...

For a lot of folk it was just a job... For others it was pretty much like the way we experienced it! A great hobby. For the first category a hall of redemption would maybe mean something entirely different than for the last category.

Then there's the different views people may have:
"I've alway bought games, also in the past. I won't deny playing the odd bootleg copy too but I personally feel no need to pay my respects or show my gratitude by forking up some doe. I would much rather pay hommage/tribute by putting those developers in the spotlight."

"I bought a ton of games, always have. Why would I need to sponsor people way past the expiration date of many of those pieces of software?"

Great idea but... <- my own

Don't get me wrong I think it is a wonderful and generous idea but it would be incredibly hard to implement and opinions on it will vary immensely bordering on the controversial.

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