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Richard Garriott launches a dev contest (but there's a bit of a catch)
Richard Garriott launches a dev contest (but there's a bit of a catch)
April 16, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

April 16, 2014 | By Alex Wawro
More: Console/PC, Indie, Production, Business/Marketing

Renowned game developer (and space traveller) Richard Garriott wants a modern-day port of the teletype RPG D&D #1, which he programmed in 1977, and to get it he's calling for developers to take part in a public competition to see who can port it best.

"Richard Garriott's D&D #1 Contest" started yesterday and runs for 30 days, ending May 15. Until then, anyone may submit a fully working, faithful recreation of D&D #1 as either a Unity game or a browser game that does not require any additional plug-ins.

The contest seems fairly standard, but there is a catch that might bother some game creators, as Garriott is asking all participating developers to cede their rights to their work to him, going so far as to require them to add “© 1977-2014 Richard Garriott” to their submissions.

After May 15, two winners will be chosen from both the Unity and non-Unity submissions, for four winners total. Each will be granted a "Citizen Level" pledge reward from his Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter campaign, which contest organizers value at roughly $550.

In addition, the four runners up -- two in each category -- will be given a "Collector" level pledge reward from the same campaign, valued at roughly $165.

History buffs, take note: Garriott has made scanned printouts of the the BASIC source code for D&D #1 available for free as part of the contest.

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Andrew Wallace
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We're all so privileged to have this opportunity to do unpaid labor.

Matthew Fundaun
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Not much of an expert, I have to admit, but it is standard for this sort of thing to allow devs to keep rights over their own stuff, yeah?

As is... I agree, this is looking like a publicity stunt, and a dubious one. They aren't even offering a concrete prize, just a kickstarter spot (even if it's a high-end one). It's an avenue to try putting one's work out to be seen, sure, but you aren't even going to be able to say you own what you submitted if you lose.

Mike VanHoose
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The argument could be made that since it's a port, that it's not a new program (they were pretty clear that note, but it's not in the article above).
To be eligible, entries must:

1 Be a faithful recreation of the original, not embellished (e.g. No fancy graphics, stick with a traditional font on “yellow” paper.)
2 Be fully working and debugged versions as similar to the original as possible.
3 Be self-running, and not require any other installations that are not automatically requested during the running of the entry.
4 Add a “© 1977-2014 Richard Garriott” at the beginning.
5 May include an addition of “Ported by DEVELOPER NAME”.
6 Must agree that all rights to this port remain property of Richard Garriott

As for the prize, there are physical goods involved at those pledge levels and the land deeds do have a monetary worth.

I don't disagree with what you're saying though, this has come across poorly even on the SOTA forums but for different reasons. The people who have been working on it (the ones I've seen anyway) are doing it more for the sake of challenge than reward. The ones who don't have the skills to do it have complained and the rest of us who can don't want to invest the time. IMHO

Mike Griffin
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Kinda' weird to receive a donation level as a prize.

I realize you 'earn' the prize through your winning work, but doesn't it compromise the perceived 'value' of a Kickstarter donation tier when the person taking KS money is handing out pledge tiers as a prize?

So it's like: Here, do some work for me that I'll assimilate into my own efforts and completely cut your rights to the work, and I'll play with my already-funded Kickstarter's donation tiers to "reward" the contributor with a pledge tier that other people have technically already paid for.

I'm probably being too negative here. It just feels kind of sketchy.
Ostensibly, you can't even keep your work if you're not selected.

Jacek Wesolowski
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Seems like this is a contest for Garriott's gamer-fans and not for his developer-fans. You know - modders, fan content authors, that kind of people. His Kickstarter campaign community, essentially.

(The game is a whooping 1500 lines. If you can be bothered to decipher an ancient coding dialect, you can probably port it to C# in one evening, or maybe two.)

Robert Schmidt
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Let's see if I got this straight;

1. You want a bunch of programmers to make an unimaginative copy of your game
2. You will evaluate all entries based on some personal criteria
3. For those that, by sheer coincidence, meet your arbitrary standards you will donate to yourself an insulting amount of money on their behalf
4. Win or lose you own all the code submitted by all contestants

It takes a pretty massive ego surrounded by a team of sycophants to come up with a contest like that. This is nothing more than taking advantage of people eager to get into the game industry. And knowing full well that it offers them virtually nothing towards that goal. Shameless.

Kieren Bloomfield
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Do you get bonus points for fixing all the spelling and grammar errors?

Alan Barton
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"wants a modern-day port"

Sounds like a great idea! ... I think I'll setup my own Dev Contest. I'll give them my game idea then they can let me know when they have created a modern-day version of it!. Brilliant!. Right I'm off to the pub to have a break whilst I wait for the emails to come in with the finished version for me! :)

Mike Weldon
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What pledge tier do I get for spotting the syntax error on line 1330?

Mike VanHoose
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That's the only one you found? :)

Andy Lundell
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It'd kind of impressive that line 1330 has syntax errors in TWO LANGUAGES.

Jane Castle
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Will we have to crunch?

Amir Barak
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From the minds that brought you Richard Garriott's "Make my game work today, please" arrive two exciting new contests... Richard Garriott's "Make my laundry clean today, please" and Richard Garriott's "Make my cup of tea warm today, please"... each contest features amazing prizes such as, no prize at all, no actual compensation for your time and of course a PNG picture of Richard Garriott valued at 3 million virtual pounds... Apply today!

And don't forget folks these contests ARE registered as not-for-profit events (well, not for your profit anyway).

(No offence meant, I actually love Ultima and I think Richard Garriott is a great, if somewhat, um, interesting, persona in the industry).

Michael Joseph
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Would be more interesting if developers interested in the 30 day challenge decided to create a work inspired by "D&D#1" but otherwise free to make whatever artistic changes they see fit. Then they can post their results to TIGForums or elsewhere on May 15.

Incidentally, is "D&D" trademarked?

august clark
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>"Incidentally, is "D&D" trademarked?"

"Dumb & Dumber" is a pretty old movie that I doubt anyone even remembers at this point.

david vink
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I think there is a sequel in the making.

Mike VanHoose
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Um no it's Dragons & Dungeons...completely different. :)

Michael O'Hair
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Oh... depending on the DM and/or players involved...
quite the same, at times...

Zachary Strebeck
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That was my first thought, as well.

John Owens
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Jack Everitt
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Ha, that's the same machine I programmed my first game on, connected via 110 baud modem to a DEC PDP-10.

Chris Spears
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Chris from Portalarium here. I’m guessing that people who are upset here didn’t bother to click through the link and are just echoing the negative sentiments of the story and others. If you click through the links and look, you will see that the game to be ported is a few hundred lines of basic code that prints an ASCII dungeon and was written by a teenage Richard. You’re really worried about owning the result? If participants are porting this for any reason other than fun and so you can get a laugh out of what passed for a computer game 3 decades ago, you are doing it wrong. Also, for those saying it would have been better if we asked for an updated version of the game, I fully expect a few people to port it no time and then easter egg it up a bit for fun.

On the other hand, if you did take this seriously and think we were trying to get people to port some significant amount of code, then why would you think you would get to own a port? I’ve sadly had to do a few ports in my time and the porting company never owns the port. Honestly though, that is beside the point because this is supposed to be a fun, historically based fan challenge.

We’ve done a number of fan requested challenges like this. Unity is kind enough to give us Unity Pro trials to share with all the competitors and for our last contest they even gave out a pro license and Alienware has kicked in some free stuff. It is about getting a wider audience interested in game development and having fun with fan contests and NOT about trying to exploit people for free work to pad our profits or trying to use this as a recruiting tool.

Thanks for those who saw past the negative vibes and sorry this has been spun in such a negative light by some. It really was just intended to be just for fun and for the benefit of the community.

Mike Griffin
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See, I knew I was being too negative - my apologies if it indirectly fueled other flames.

Although my beef was more with regards to using funded KS pledge tiers as a prize. In general, I don't think that's great -- but that's my opinion.

In this case, it might've been better to extract the pledge tier's physical goods and in-game bonuses into a separate prize package specific to this little contest. It would still serve to attract people to SotA who may not have been in the Kickstarter fan sphere, without indirectly leveraging (funded game) pledge tiers as the ostensible prize money.

For me you want the very concept of a Pledge Tier to be exclusive privilege to those who actually pledged their money at that tier. Not to be handed out, out of context, as a prize. I see anything beyond Funded level as funding into game stretch goals/post-launch goals, and you rarely see "giving out pledge tiers as a prize" for stretch goals.

Of course PR for the game is part of what's being funded, and all of this can be looped into self-funded/fulfilling PR.

For a devout SotA community member or SotA KS backer (at an entry-level pledge), they can have a little fun with some old piece of code, yet instantly see the value in those two Pledge Tiers being offered as contest prizes.

Despite those grumbling about the application of KS funding or others saying 'Meh' to the contest's parameters, as evidenced by this article, Portalarium still benefits from extra exposure to SotA and increased community involvement.

Sven Hesse
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So, if this is just for funsies: Why are you not releasing the source, alongside all ports, under the terms of a free software license? For example, the AGPLv3. That I could agree with; that would be in the spirit of fun and openness. But a blanket assignment of all rights? No, that's highly unethical.