Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sharing the DINO-PIRATE Love

I got involved in a bit of a conversation with the clever and oh-so-talented Philip J Reed (best known to me as Ronin Arts, but also a reviewer of toys. Not such a bad gig, I reckon).

It started when folks on Twitter started talking about the Creative Commons license for an upcoming game (not by Philip, as far as I know) called Eclipse Phase. Philip asked:
I can accept the idea that opening a game to fans will generate more sales but does that really work with small fan bases?

I responded with
on the other hand, when the amounts of money are so friggin' low to begin with, why not?

Philip said
If I was looking at building an IP, and not just a game, I would not go with CC.

I suggested
I think there's a model around CC-based development

Philip asked
But how do you then sell the IP to a studio or large publisher?

To which I responded:
well, clearly, you don't. THAT model doesn't fly. But you CAN sell material based on the IP.

Philip disagreed
I feel that creating any IP should keep in mind the possibility that someone may come along and want to make an offer.

My final statement on the issue:
that's fair. I'm more interested in how do I create as many fans as possible. Heard of "1,000 True Fans"?

(if you don't know, THIS is "1,000 True Fans")

So I quote all this not to send you trawling through the detrius of Twitter, but to throw up the fact that DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND is in fact going to be an open setting. I'm still sorting out how that's exactly going to happen, but this is the plan.

And we'll do it with TECHNOLOGY.

No, I'm serious. The whole world is going to be able to help create this setting, and anyone who cares to will be able to profit from it (or at least try to). I didn't want to turn a private conversation into an ad, but it did get me thinking about the model here. It's a model of generosity.

The idea is that the more creativity I GIVE, the more opportunities I GET. Giving isn't the same as surrendering. It isn't about being ripped off, or not caring about money. But I do my best work in partnership with others, in community. And it's not always straightforward to build a community around the idea that DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND is worth building (I know, I don't understand it either). But the broader the scope, the lower the barrier to entry, the more likely I think I am to find collaborators who will help build a mutually profitable enterprise. The more opportunities I am able to provide for other people's creativity, the more likely I am to find opportunities to generate value -- for myself and for my community.

Exactly how this is going to roll out is not 100% fleshed out but the teams are in place and things are moving along. I think I've figured out how to maintain consistency and yet allow free contributions. To let everyone who engages with the setting to make it their own. And it's happening. It feels real to me in a way it never has before. I've been working on this concept for some five years now, and it's very exciting to see it lumbering towards completion.

I should probably call it "The Rough Beast", huh?


  1. I have to wonder if there is a way to license the setting as open within a single medium or specific media. For instance, Dino-Pirates would be open in regard to works in print and electronic written material, as well as any techno-ventures you engage in, meaning that your fans are free to expand the setting within those media. However, should there be interest in moving the setting to a closed media (such as TV, movies, etc), the rights to that are exclusively retained by the creator (you). I don't think CC has terms for this, but it's an idea.

  2. That's not really the plan. I'd like for other people to be able to profit, not just me. If somebody else wants to go ahead and create a DINO-PIRATES movie, that's awesome.

    I guess I've come to the realization that I'm inspired by other people's efforts, not threatened. Just because somebody else writes a DPoNI novel, that doesn't mean I can't as well.

    What I'm working on is developing a structure for establishing the "canon" of the setting -- folks can add all the wacky stuff they want, but that won't upset the consistency of the canonical setting. I think it's sorted out, but we'll have to see how it all works in the field.


  3. I think the idea of holding out "just in case" is a bit silly. Either write your novel or screenplay, or don't. If you don't, then you're not doing much with the setting, so why not let someone else?

  4. I'm not sold to begin with on the value of a "setting" in and of itself. I think you can sell novels, comic books, movies, games etc based on a setting, but the setting itself? I guess it's happened but it seems weird to me -- and I don't think it's something you'd ever get rich selling.

  5. I agree. Besides, as Dennis McKiernan proved with his Iron Tower trilogy back in the 80s (or whenever it was that he published those) you can always file the serial numbers off of a setting that has successful original works and churn out your own inferior replicas anyway. It's the work itself, not the setting, that makes a novel, or movie, or whatever, good.

    Although in some cases, setting is integral to the story, and I think fantasy and science fiction fans in general like setting moreso than many other genre-fans do.

    But it's still not something sellable in and of itself. Except, possibly, in a roleplaying game environment.

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