Philosophy

We may have the formal legal structure of a software company, but we like to think we have the soul of an artist’s studio.

We could use our philosophy page to spin the same old rhetoric about how we want to make games that are fun and/or interesting and/or innovative, which, while entirely true, should really kinda go without saying. Instead, we’re gonna climb up on our soapbox and preach at you about how we approach game design.

Games are Art

We hold this truth to be self-evident.  Not much more we need to say about this, save that Roger Ebert can shove off.

Games should be made by gamers

I remember meeting a developer who worked with another game development company around town.  Not only did he freely admit that he didn’t play video games himself, he actually seemed to brag about it, which mystifies me to this day.  The funny thing is, before I even met this guy, I had played one of his company’s games with a group of friends and there were spots where we said to each other “geez, did they even play this game before they shipped it out?”  When your development team isn’t familiar with their medium, it shows, which is why anyone

We’re a second-generation studio — not in the sense of console ‘generations,’ but in the sense that we grew up playing video games — and we’re going to turn that to our advantage.  There were games in the 1980′s where talking to people in a town was made a chore because the text-box animations were painfully slow.  First-generation developers were working without the benefit of a childhood full of impatiently waiting 10 seconds just to hear someone say “SECRET IS IN DIRECTION OF THE ARROW.”  Those of us who play video games know better than that by now, those who don’t might be making the same mistake as we speak.

Business people should take their orders from artists, not the other way around.

And everyone’s in the industry, and I hate when they use that word / And when they tell me they’re in the industry, I ask, “Oh are you in steel?”

— Jill Sobule, “Nothing to Prove”

You hear talk about the gaming ‘industry,’ but we don’t like to think of what we do as industrial.  When we have design meetings, we don’t kick around words like ‘demographic’ and ‘market’ unless they are being used strictly in-universe.  I don’t mean to dump on big development teams — many of them come up with amazing stuff that I love — but there are definitely a number of disturbing trends that occur whenever we allow culture (of any medium) to become industrialized.  David Wong came up with a nice list of exactly the kinds of things we’re trying to avoid.

We believe there’s enough honest money to be made from a well-designed game that we don’t need to resort to player-hating tricks.  Will we offer DLC?  Sure.  But when we do, it will be honest-to-goodness bonus content and not just us making you pay extra to play level 8 so we can cash in double on the rental and used game markets.

(Mostly) License-Free Software

We like to ship out software with the least restrictive license we can. Our rationale is that we feel copyright laws give us all the protection we really need. You want to patch one of our games so it runs on different hardware? Sounds like honorable intentions to me. Heck, you’re adding value to our product. If your intentions are less than honorable, like circumventing copy protection to distribute our stuff and cheat us out of money, then copyright law has us covered.  D.J. Bernstein has an article elaborating this opinion.

We won’t go as far as to say software licenses have no place, but we’ll only resort to them when we really need to.  A provision that we can ban you from an online service if you pollute the high score tables with cheat-acquired is good for everyone, not just us — but that’s really more terms of use for a service than a license condition for software anyways.

(Also, sometimes our distributors have license requirements, or license requirements come with third-party tools we use, and our intent is not to give you a free pass to ignore them)

Our T.S. Eliot Copyright Policy

One of the surest tests of the superiority or inferiority of a poet is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate mature poets steal bad poets deface what they take and good poets make it into something better or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique utterly different than that from which it is torn the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time or alien in language or diverse in interest.

— T. S. Eliot

Restated in context, if you take an idea we came up with, because, as a “mature poet,” you see a way in which you can mold it into something awesome, we’re not going to come after you with copyright infringement claims; that course of action we reserve for “immature poets” who are only taking our ideas to compensate for a lack of ideas of their own. Is that subjective? Definitely. That’s why it’s just a ‘policy’ and not a formal legal license. We just want to acknowledge that it’s natural for artists to be inspired by one another.  We’d be hypocrites not to.  We stand on the shoulders of traditional games and puzzles all the time, and we’re prepared to pay it forward.