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GSL questions for Scott Rouse and Mike Lescault

Bacris

First Post
amethal said:
The impression I get is that the whole "business license" thing is just a guideline. If you can demonstrate that you are a genuine business I hope you'd be fine.

For instance, there's no such thing as a business license in the UK, but I dare say that if Mongoose wanted to sign up for the GSL then WotC would let them.
Sorry, but that contradicts what I've heard from people who specifically spoke with WotC about this issue - including people from the UK.

Maybe it's been changed since then, but at this point, it's a pretty moot subject, since the books are out in just over 2 months anyway.
 

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Lizard

First Post
Bacris said:
Sorry, but that contradicts what I've heard from people who specifically spoke with WotC about this issue - including people from the UK.

Maybe it's been changed since then, but at this point, it's a pretty moot subject, since the books are out in just over 2 months anyway.
More to the point, an abstract standard of "You're a real business if we think you are" is just asking for legal trouble. Something objective, for example, "Retail sales of over 10K of OGL product in the past year" would be a fair standard, though that excludes those who wanted to jump in on the nascent 4e market in the hope it would bloom like the 3e market did, early on. Frankly, the 5K alone should be enough; no one is going to pony up that just to look at the books six months...I mean, two months...early.
 

AZRogue

First Post
Does anyone know if the new release date for the GSL has been pushed back to AFTER the release of the game? It seems possible, given that we only have 2 months left to go. Is there an official update, at least, that has, or can be, announced? Even an occasional "the GSL is still under review and we apologize for the unexpected delay" would go a long way with me.
 

nutluck

First Post
kenmarable said:
That's a good point I hadn't really considered either. Perhaps cutting off the competing games that piggyback on D&D is shortsighted as well? Given the fact that there will be competing systems no matter what, forcing those systems to be less compatible might be costing WotC in the long run? I don't know, there's a lot of factors. How compatible is it? Would more competing systems exist under the OGL than the hypothetical GSL? Or would they just be more visible?
I think having systems even if they did not directly help the sales of the PHB helped wizards as a whole. I know of more than one group that stuck with D20 games only. Once they got use to it they didn't want to learn other rules and while some of the D20 games where pretty different the basic concept of them was the same and easier to learn.

So i think if they do cut out stand alone systems based on the new 4e D20 rules it will be a mistake. Will it cost them? i think so, how much is the question. I don't think it will be much but I do think it is short sighted not to see the value of such products and that they encourage everyone to stay with d20 derived games including DnD.
 

dmccoy1693

Adventurer
lurkinglidda said:
Chris Perkins recently described me as the only person at WotC with the ability to make posts that don't upset the entire community (or something along those lines).

I'll let you in on a secret: it's a feat called "Utter Integrity" and it can be found on page 1 of my personal PHB. ;)
For this encounter, your treasure is 10 lbs of respect.
 

lurkinglidda

First Post
amethal said:
The impression I get is that the whole "business license" thing is just a guideline. If you can demonstrate that you are a genuine business I hope you'd be fine.

For instance, there's no such thing as a business license in the UK, but I dare say that if Mongoose wanted to sign up for the GSL then WotC would let them.
Our legal team is making exceptions for companies that are based in areas that do not have business licenses on a case by case basis.
 

lurkinglidda

First Post
AZRogue said:
Does anyone know if the new release date for the GSL has been pushed back to AFTER the release of the game? It seems possible, given that we only have 2 months left to go. Is there an official update, at least, that has, or can be, announced? Even an occasional "the GSL is still under review and we apologize for the unexpected delay" would go a long way with me.
Here goes: The GSL is still under review and we apologize for the unexpected delay ;-) That's the best I can say for right now.

I hesitate to comment on a new release date or if the window of exclusivity will be extended until I have a better status on the GSL.
 

AZRogue

First Post
lurkinglidda said:
Here goes: The GSL is still under review and we apologize for the unexpected delay ;-) That's the best I can say for right now.

I hesitate to comment on a new release date or if the window of exclusivity will be extended until I have a better status on the GSL.
Haha, thanks. :)
 

Mike_Lescault

First Post
Hi All,

They dragged me, kicking and screaming, back from vacation and I wanted to follow up on this issue as promised. Obviously, Linae's a key person working on this stuff and her insight into the area will forever dwarf what little informaton and undestanding I can track down, but with that said, I have a quote from Liz Schuh, D&D Publishing Brand Director.

“We’re still vetting our final policy regarding open gaming. As soon as that process is complete, we’ll make an official announcement. Stay tuned for more information.”

I'll make sure additional informaton is passed on when I receive it, but for now this is the best we can do for a quote.

Thanks,
-Mike
 

Lizard

First Post
Mike_Lescault said:
Hi All,

They dragged me, kicking and screaming, back from vacation and I wanted to follow up on this issue as promised. Obviously, Linae's a key person working on this stuff and her insight into the area will forever dwarf what little informaton and undestanding I can track down, but with that said, I have a quote from Liz Schuh, D&D Publishing Brand Director.

“We’re still vetting our final policy regarding open gaming. As soon as that process is complete, we’ll make an official announcement. Stay tuned for more information.”

I'll make sure additional informaton is passed on when I receive it, but for now this is the best we can do for a quote.

Thanks,
-Mike
Hmmm.

That sounds like their planning to announce their policy -- not the release of the GSL.

Hands up, all those who think there WON'T be a GSL or an SRD by June....
 

lurkinglidda

First Post
Mike_Lescault said:
Hi All,

They dragged me, kicking and screaming, back from vacation and I wanted to follow up on this issue as promised. Obviously, Linae's a key person working on this stuff and her insight into the area will forever dwarf what little informaton and undestanding I can track down, but with that said, I have a quote from Liz Schuh, D&D Publishing Brand Director.

“We’re still vetting our final policy regarding open gaming. As soon as that process is complete, we’ll make an official announcement. Stay tuned for more information.”

I'll make sure additional informaton is passed on when I receive it, but for now this is the best we can do for a quote.

Thanks,
-Mike
Liz Schuh is my grandboss so what she says goes! I'll quote this line until we have more to share ;)
 

Orcus

First Post
Mike_Lescault said:
from Liz Schuh, D&D Publishing Brand Director.

“We’re still vetting our final policy regarding open gaming. As soon as that process is complete, we’ll make an official announcement. Stay tuned for more information.”
Hmm. I'm disappointed by that comment. But maybe I am reading it wrong. It is inconcievable to me that they are "vetting their final policy regarding open gaming." I could believe that they are deciding how to handle the new licenses.

I thought their policy on open gaming was on their current website at http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=d20/welcome which states, with a bit of editing:

Q: Why create Open Games?

A: The tabletop RPG business lost 60% to 70% of its unit sales from the period from 1993 to 1997. After a detailed study of the market data available, business managers at Wizards of the Coast decided that the primary reason for this decline was the dissatisfaction consumers had about the products game publishers made available for sale.

One way to help publishers make products that will be more interesting to consumers is to allow them to use standardized systems that have large networks of players. Designing a product targeted at a large network of players gives that product a better chance of being commercially successful than designing a product targeted at a small, or a new network of players.

Due to the history of copyright litigation, and the relatively modest financial resources of most game companies, an informal agreement regarding the use of shared game rules, or a license requiring a monetary payment to a third party would not have been sufficient to generate sustained interest in using such systems. Open Games provide both a royalty free license (meaning they impose no financial burden on the publishers) and a formal, explicit agreement describing how to use copyrighted material owned by others without triggering lawsuits or threats of litigation.

Q: Any other reasons?

A: Yes. In addition to the potential improvement in the business of game publishing, Open Games will be subjected to a large, distributed effort to improve the games themselves. Because Open Game licenses allow publishers to make any changes they deem necessary to the material they are using, a publisher who thinks they have found a better way to write a game rule will be free to do so. And, if that new way is perceived as better than the existing alternatives, other publishers will be able to take that new rule and use it as well. In this way, the overall design of an Open Game should improve over time, and be the benefit of far more development and testing than any one game publisher, no matter how large and successful, could hope to apply by themselves.

Q: Is there an ethical reason to support Open Gaming?

A: In this writer's opinion, yes there is. It has been an established feature of RPGs since their inception that they should be used to create new content. Prior to the advent of widespread Open Game licenses, there was no practical way for that kind of material to be legally and widely distributed.

Open Gaming is recognition that your natural human right to free speech is protected and enhanced. The Open Game system is a way for the game publishing industry to finally deliver on the basic promises made by the very first RPGs; that individuals should be free to copy, modify and distribute their own creative works derived from the game systems they have acquired.

Q: Is there a business-related reason to support Open Games?

A: In the case of companies who own trademarks and brands associated with large player networks, one school of thought holds that Open Games which link to those large networks will tend to reinforce them and drive value to the owners of those trademarks and brands.

That is the primary reason that Wizards of the Coast, as a company, is supportive of the Open Game concept. It fully expects that it will gain a direct financial reward in years to come from the widespread positive effects Open Gaming will have on its RPG properties, specifically on sales of Dungeons & Dragons materials.

Of course, the flip side to that theory is that if it is successful, it is successful because other publishers have also been able to extract value from the network of players through the sale and promotion of their own Open Game product lines. Thus, at the same time the owners of large game network trademarks and brands stand to benefit greatly, so do smaller companies or individuals that simply want to sell their work to the largest possible audience of consumers.

Q: What good is a copyright license for Open Games then?

A: Even though portions of an RPG may not be copyrightable as an idea or as a rule, the actual text used to describe those rules is copyrightable. In addition, all the material surrounding the non-copyright portion is protected by the copyright law as well. The copyright licenses used by Open Games ensure that no matter where an individual judge might draw the line between copyright and non-copyright, you can be sure that you have the freedom to copy, modify and distribute the work. Removing this gray area creates a "safe harbor" that publishers can use to shield themselves from litigation. The safe harbor is an important component to the commercial viability of Open Games. Without it, most rational publishers would not attempt to use a shared rules system out of fear that someone somewhere would sue them for copyright infringement.

Another very valuable right you gain from an Open Game is the right to make a derivative work based on someone else's copyright. Without that right, you cannot legally make and distribute a derivative work. Since RPGs are often self-referencing (meaning, you use one part of the RPG to indicate how another part works or interacts with players during the game), RPGs are essentially chains of linked, derivative works. By giving you the right to make a derivative work, an Open Game license allows you to extend or modify these chains as you see fit.

Q: What does Hasbro think of the d20 System/Open Game concept?

A: The basic ideas were presented to the CEO of Hasbro in 1999 as a part of a wide-ranging overview of the company's Research & Development efforts.

In the great scheme of things, Hasbro as a corporation doesn't care one way or the other about Open Games and the d20 System. In fact, the RPG business itself is just barely large enough to be broken out as a separate line item in the financial accounting that Wizards of the Coast provides to Hasbro.

In short, Hasbro's management and oversight will be a non-factor in the success or lack thereof of the OGL/d20 experiment.

Q: Why is Wizards of the Coast pursuing this strategy?

A: The company believes that one of the major factors which caused the collapse of the commercial tabletop RPG market from 1993 to 1996 was the proliferation of different, incompatible, core game systems.

Wizards of the Coast believes that by doing so, and by educating consumers about the benefits of Open Games, the fundamental economics of the tabletop RPG category will be improved. One (obvious) consequence of this strategy is that if it works, Wizards will see significant, long-term financial benefits. Thus, the company sees this as a win-win situation, where it can benefit along with, rather than at the expense of, other publishers.
I cant imagine the massive PR hit that would come from a reversal of course on those beliefs. What, would those beliefs magically disappear overnight?

No, I dont think that is what the quote from Liz means. I remain convinced that Wizards is dedicated to open gaming and that we will get licenses to use content from 4E.

I think that quote, which I will admit made me nervous, was management-speak. I;ve vented. Now I am better. :) I still firmly believe this will work out.

Clark
 
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jgbrowning

Explorer
Orcus said:
I cant imagine the massive PR hit that would come from a reversal of course on those beliefs.
I can. That's why I'm now believing that the "There will be no GSL" announcement will be delayed until after the core products are released to minimize what little damage the announcement will create.

Personally, I believe there will be a minor backlash but very few purchasing opinions will change because of it. Those who were going to buy 4e won't change their mind about that decision because of no open gaming, IMO. I think the same opinion is shared, but prudence would support the announcement of such for the most beneficial time in the similar manner in which the existence of 4e was denied until the most beneficial time for that announcement.

I remain convinced that Wizards is dedicated to open gaming and that we will get licenses to use content from 4E.
I don't think so. IMO, the most realistic reason for any delay in the creation of the GSL is that the terms have changed from what was described in the conference call, probably because of the need to prevent the utilization of open "traditional D&D fluff" mixing with 4e rules and the new 4e fluff. I think after closely looking at what was desired by way of 3rd party support, I suspect it was realized that not having 3rd party products would be more beneficial than having 3rd party products that are supporting product fluff from older editions when the goal of 4e is to break fluff tradition. And, IMO, that break from fluff tradition was designed to prevent backwards compatibility as backwards compatibility is into an open system while forward migration is into the tremendously profitable subscription model.

We'll see if I'm right or wrong and it would be nice if I'm wrong. We'll probably know in a few months. I remember when there was discussion of a 4e OGL, then that turned into discussion of a GSL, and now we're back to "vetting our final policy regarding open gaming." This is a backwards process that has one very logical outcome. Once 3rd party material was viewed as competition instead of beneficial, as demonstrated through the creation of the more restrictive GSL concept, IMO, the ultimate fiscal benefit according to that belief would progress to no 3rd party material at all.

joe b.
 

Orcus

First Post
I'll admit, I dont have any inside info. All I have is faith and a strong belief that no one could be foolish enough to just disavow all the things they said they believe in.

I'm concerned. And that isnt good, since I am probably the loudest voice on the interwebs supporting Wizards and saying "be patient, they will come through."

Someone official needs to get in here pronto and say something more clear than "we're vetting our policy on open gaming."

I'm worried. I'm worried for D&D. 3E existed and thrived becuase of third party support in part. I dont know why on earth you would say all those things on your website about supporting open gaming and all the valid reasons for it and then not back them up. Wizards has spent years distancing itself from the bad will created by the TSR days of D&D. Going back on open gaming would be a huge mistake. I cant even concieve someone would consider it.

Clark
 

Oldtimer

Great Old One
Publisher
Orcus said:
Hmm. I'm disappointed by that comment.
Disappointed? Yes, me too. Surprised? No.

I really think they're going for a complete reversal. Even in management-speak, that doesn't sound like "we're just polishing off the pinnacle of Open Gaming that is GSL". That sounds like "we're trying to weasel our way out of this."
 

Lizard

First Post
Well, somewhere inside me is a cheerful optimist who likes to think that WOTC looked at the market, looked at initiatives like Pathfinder, looked at how ambivalent many companies are about 4e, and decided, "Y'know what? Let's just keep the OGL, make a new 4e STL, and try to make sure complying with the STL has such great benefits for companies that they'll really want to do it and drive our core book sales."

This is the same part of me that feeds nickles into slot machines.

The realist in me says that there will be nothing like an "Open" license. Licenses will be issued to specific companies who meet specific terms, and there will be limits on product type, product costs (no 2.00 PDFs flooding the market), number of products per year (no drowning the market in a dozen different sourcebooks inside of three months), general content limits (already discussed), and so on. The only thing which will be different from normal IP licensing is that the license will be either free (to companies which meet the requirements) or *relatively* low cost, and there will likely be no requirement for inspection/approval of products (that costs WOTC money for little gain). They will be able to 'kill' the license for any product or any company at will. There will probably be a clause allowing very limited reuse of the 3x SRD solely for purposes of 'migrating' existing products, though I suspect that will be closely watched. A key reason, publically stated, for holding back things like Druids and Frost Giants is to make the PHB II, MMII, etc, seem more 'core', so I doubt they're going to want to see this undermined by third-party replacements out a year early.

It will be interesting to see how close the final policy is to my prediction. I suspect WOTC marketing will 'spin' this as 'open' because "There's no fee" (maybe) or "There's no approval process".

If my prediction is right, I think it will be bad for WOTCs bottom line, hurt adoption of 4e, and put WOTC in the unenviable position of competing with their own former game system, which will remain actively supported by professional publishers, something which never happened with any prior upgrade.

EDIT: Another thing to consider is that part of the reason for the OGL was to end the problem of fan sites producing 'compatible with' material. After the late 90s idiocy of "We have trademarked 'armor class'", WOTC needed to win back the Internet. Ironically, free fan made material was relatively sparse for 3e, mostly because anyone who could produce anything even halfway worth using went into publishing. :) (I used to be a big fan of Blue Troll, back in the day) Anyway, nowadays, WOTC doesn't want fans posting their homebrew stuff on their own sites -- they want everyone on Gleemax. This is another reason I think the GSL is going to be narrowly tailored for commercial use only -- they want to draw people to their own, pay, site, and I think any website which began to be known as a source of high quality fan-made 4e 'crunch' will find a C&D coming down the pike.
 
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Brown Jenkin

First Post
Orcus said:
Hmm. I'm disappointed by that comment. But maybe I am reading it wrong. It is inconcievable to me that they are "vetting their final policy regarding open gaming." I could believe that they are deciding how to handle the new licenses.

I thought their policy on open gaming was on their current website at http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=d20/welcome which states, with a bit of editing:

<snip>

I cant imagine the massive PR hit that would come from a reversal of course on those beliefs. What, would those beliefs magically disappear overnight?

No, I dont think that is what the quote from Liz means. I remain convinced that Wizards is dedicated to open gaming and that we will get licenses to use content from 4E.

I think that quote, which I will admit made me nervous, was management-speak. I;ve vented. Now I am better. :) I still firmly believe this will work out.

Clark
I am willing to believe that those working at WotC believe in open gaming. What I am not so confident about is that the Hasbro lawyers share those beliefs. While everyone working on D&D may really want the GSL to go out, that doesn't mean that someone higher up isn't having second thoughts. For all I know there could be massive discussions going on where Scott, Linae, and Liz are fighting for all they are worth to get the GSL out against Hasbro corporate factions that want it killed.

Edit: Or maybe Liz just needs PR to look over any quotes she is giving out to see if she is using the proper language to describe the situation.
 
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CaptainChaos

First Post
Orcus said:
I'll admit, I dont have any inside info. All I have is faith and a strong belief that no one could be foolish enough to just disavow all the things they said they believe in.
Yeah, but the people who said all that stuff haven't worked at WotC for years.

I could believe that WotC will keep 4E proprietary. They'd take a hit, sure, but the mass of D&D fans don't care about open gaming. They just like D&D.
 

Orcus

First Post
CaptainChaos said:
Yeah, but the people who said all that stuff haven't worked at WotC for years.

I could believe that WotC will keep 4E proprietary. They'd take a hit, sure, but the mass of D&D fans don't care about open gaming. They just like D&D.
Yeah, but you are forgetting about the peel away effect.

Gamers are fickle. Unless you provide them something they are interested in, they will peel away from the core game over time and will go to other games. There is no way any one company can keep all the D&D gamers continually interested in D&D forever. That is where third parties come in. We offer an endless variety of game options, but with a HUGE IMPORTANT KICK--it is all still D&D! That keeps people invested in the core game longer. That way they still identify themselves as D&D players when time for a new big D&D product comes out or a change to a 5th edition in 8 years. If they have already peeled off to other games, you've likely lost them.

One of the huge benefits of the OGL to Wizards for 3E was that it kept people playing D&D as opposed to otehr games to a greater degree. There was some peel off, but it was less.

And remember, though there is noise about edition resistance here, it is mostly between CURRENT D&D PLAYERS talking about if they are going to 4E or not. If those players had already been lost, they arent really even in the discussion.

Since Wizards wisely believes their first step is to transition current players, they need to reach out to that player base. And the bottom line is that Wizards doesnt speak to that whole player base. But we third party publishers speak to those that Wizards doesnt. Net evidence is rarely true proof. But it is certainly evident from boards and from emails I get that people look to us to help them decide what to do. They trust us third party publishers. They trust Necro. They know what we can do. They know we will bring them content they will want to use in their game that feels like D&D to them. And no, more than ever with 4E, current gamers who like a particular feel and vision of D&D are worried that the new edition wont have that.

So Wizards actually needs the third party pubs both to help bridge current players now and to keep those players with 4E longer and avoid peel off by providing those many alternate ways to play that is still D&D.

If they dont, then there is fractionalization of the player base. And that hurts when it comes time to put out a product that they want to be successful--say, a 4E MMO or a new edition. This issue isnt just about third party publishers. It is about making a move to find a way to keep people playing D&D longer and thus ensuring the lifelong value of the D&D brand.

Any business manager should see that plain as the nose on their face.

Clark
 

Goblinoid Games

First Post
Orcus said:
I'll admit, I dont have any inside info. All I have is faith and a strong belief that no one could be foolish enough to just disavow all the things they said they believe in.
IMHO, if WoTC still held the stance you quoted above, they wouldn't have moved away from the OGL to begin with. Maybe I'm wrong, but it looks like the direction of 4.0 D&D is heading to be more online and computer based, and I'm just not sure where 3rd party support would fit into that. I'd think they would want to do what they can to get more and more people playing online and away from thinking of D&D as something you do with books around a table.
 

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