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Old 11-16-2007, 01:16 PM   #21
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Jeysie, your logic escapes me. You're claiming:

A. KQIX had fan support;
B. Vivendi made the KQIX team a lousy offer (you have not established a causal relationship between A & B, but you choose to assume one);
Actually, I offered two possibilities:

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Originally Posted by Jeysie
Was Vivendi going to simply shut down the fangame, no quarter, and the fan response prompted them to make *some* kind of offer? Or did Vivendi straight from the get-go make the "sign everything over to us and still release or we shut you down" offer?
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C. SQ7 did not have fan support;
D. Vivendi later made the SQ7 team the same offer; therefore
E. Both fangames "benefitted" from KQIX's fan support.

Even if one assumes the causal relationship between A & B, it doesn't begin to establish one between A and D, and the conclusion you're drawing is built on more than one unfounded assumption.
The relationship between A and D is: If A&B *are* connected, then it makes sense for Vivendi to then offer similar terms to other fangames, because one, the precedent they set gives the new fangame ammunition, and two, they know they scored the first time and would want to try again.

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Let's give you your A&B assumption for the sake of argument, and also give you your assumption that due to the KQIX fanbase response, Vivendi will now make this lousy offer to everyone. If we assume both of those, then we should be damning the KQIX fan response for making it HARDER for every fangame to get produced from now on.
You can damn the KQIX team for accepting the unpleasant terms and setting a precedent. You can also damn the KQIX team for not trying to parlay that fan support into more favorable terms. But you can't blame the fans for being happy with the result since they believed the team was happy because the team kept them in the dark.

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So all that PR no longer buys you anything...except, as you suggest, other intangibles that have nothing to do with whether or not you get to proceed with your project.
Though it does at least guarantee there's someone left to care if you complete your project or not, especially since fangames are made for the love of the franchise and the community, not money. Plus it's nice to know people would be willing to ride on the coattails of someone else's hard work.

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Perhaps we should both just agree that keeping a COMPLETELY low profile is (and, in SQ7's case, WOULD have been) the only proven, established way to go unless one is ready, willing, and able to sign over all the work to the legitimate copyright holder, who will not compensate for the work.

And maybe we should leave it at that.
We do agree that that is the best way to deal with a corporate company that prefers to treat its fans and franchises like dirt. (There are in fact some companies that realize how valuable fan input is, but sadly the two adventure game giants of old don't qualify.)

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Old 11-16-2007, 05:08 PM   #22
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First of all, I don't understand under what logic this is a "lousy deal" being offered by Vivendi. In fact, I don't believe they are asking for anything that doesn't already belong to them by law.

They own Space Quest, right? And SQ7, as a sequel to previous SQ games, is a derivative work under copyright law.

"Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to
authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work. The
owner is generally the author or someone who has obtained rights from
the author."

"As soon as a work is 'fixed', that is, written or recorded
on some physical medium, its author is automatically entitled to all
exclusive rights to the work and any derivative works unless and until
the author explicitly disclaims them, or until the copyright expires."

Secondly, I think that the maximum-publicity, dare-them-to-shut-us-down strategy used by KQIX amounts to cynical exploitation of fans. It's reminiscent of Bad Brain's attempts to get the rights to S&M by appealing to the community. The idea that a high-profile fan game that was shut down at the last moment would leave everyone with "good memories" I find absurd. Bitter and disappointed, more like it. Deliberately whipping up that amount of drama rightly destroyed any credibility Wolfgang Kierdorf had. For KQIX it seemed to work, but the whole affair still left a bad taste in my mouth. And Vivendi extending the same offer to SQ7 seems to indicate that the whole thing was unnecessary all along.

So I respect the lower-profile approach taken by SQ7, though I have a hard time getting my head around what better outcome or offer the team expected.
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Old 11-17-2007, 06:02 AM   #23
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^ What he said.

It stuns me that people think it's acceptable to make something that's a breach of copyright, and then complain when offered a deal that allows them to release their product so long as they forfeit the copyright that they were never entitled to anyway . That's how the law works, and it's hardly like the developers shouldn't have known this going in.
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Old 11-17-2007, 06:23 AM   #24
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Exactly so. Just because you love or enjoy something doesn't give you right to reproduce it in any fashion, especially if you intend to profit from that reproduction. Now if you want to satirize it...well, that's a tiny bit different.
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Old 11-17-2007, 09:35 AM   #25
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^ What he said.

It stuns me that people think it's acceptable to make something that's a breach of copyright, and then complain when offered a deal that allows them to release their product so long as they forfeit the copyright that they were never entitled to anyway . That's how the law works, and it's hardly like the developers shouldn't have known this going in.
Absolutely, the developers are knowingly breaking the law.

That doesn't automatically make any deal offered to them a *good* one.

I believe a good deal would include *some* sort of compensation to the developers IF the copyright owners who retain the rights to the work decide that the work is good enough to profit from, and they proceed, in fact, to sell it in some form.

As it is, the deals that are currently cut not only give the full rights to the work to Vivendi, they also cut the developers out of any compensation if the publisher decides to sell the work.

They are also within their rights to cut the developers' names out of the credits if they so choose, so the developers may not even get credit for their work (let alone compensation).

*Any* deal is not the same as a *good* deal.

--Josh
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Old 11-17-2007, 01:46 PM   #26
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Josho: Well I'm not going to talk if a deal is a good one or a bad one. But it seems that you underestimate the fan base factor. Imagine if SQ have fan base like the the KQ one or even bigger. And at one point, SQ gets the same offer from vivendi as the one for KQ. What if the project leaders change their minds and accept that offer because of the demand of many, many people?
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Old 11-17-2007, 02:54 PM   #27
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What if the project leaders change their minds and accept that offer because of the demand of many, many people?
The project leaders DID receive the offer and turned it down for reasons having nothing to do with fan support...and no amount of fan support would've changed it. They turned it down because some members, like me, don't consider Vivendi a charity and only agreed to work on the project in the first place under the stipulation that the game remained freeware and in the PD, NOT as Vivendi's property.

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Old 11-17-2007, 09:23 PM   #28
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If you wanted to make the game in the public domain, you shouldn't have used characters, names, etc. that are owned by Vivendi. As long as Vivendi owns SQ, you can't make a SQ sequel and put it in the public domain. I would have thought that was self-evident. It seems like the best you could have hoped for was to complete and release the game before Vivendi got around to shutting you down, but the lack of a deal with the company would not have made the game public domain.

And I agree it would suck if Vivendi took the finished game, stripped your names from the credits and sold it for profit. But do you actually think that's a real risk? There are all sorts of reasons (which it seems redundant to list) why that wouldn't make sense for them.
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Old 11-18-2007, 07:19 AM   #29
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If you wanted to make the game in the public domain, you shouldn't have used characters, names, etc. that are owned by Vivendi. As long as Vivendi owns SQ, you can't make a SQ sequel and put it in the public domain. I would have thought that was self-evident.
You would think so, wouldn't you? But other fangames have already done it. The ones who kept a low profile, released their games with no prior fanfare, and then had the publisher shrug, say "So what?", and ignore it.

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And I agree it would suck if Vivendi took the finished game, stripped your names from the credits and sold it for profit. But do you actually think that's a real risk? There are all sorts of reasons (which it seems redundant to list) why that wouldn't make sense for them.
I have been dealing with Sierra since the 1980s and Vivendi since they assumed the label. (In fact, I worked extensively on a Vivendi game that just came out about a month ago...but I was contracting with the developer, not with the publisher.) I have worked for publishers and developers alike, and one thing I have learned about publishers is never to predict what decisions they will make or the reasoning behind their decisions. Anyone who's worked in the industry for a few years could fill a book with the absolutely stupefying decisions (decisions that seemed nonsensical from within, let alone from the outside looking in) made by major game publishers...decisions made out of fear, decisions made out of political maneuvering, decisions made out of sheer incompetence, decisions made out of poor communication.

The worst thing any developer, or individual employee, can do is underestimate the ability of a publisher to do what it thinks is in its best interests, and to have that decision made in a staggeringly short-sighted way...and, often, by someone who is simply unqualified to be in their position.

--Josh
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Old 11-18-2007, 07:35 AM   #30
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As long as Vivendi owns SQ, you can't make a SQ sequel and put it in the public domain. I would have thought that was self-evident.
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You would think so, wouldn't you? But other fangames have already done it. The ones who kept a low profile, released their games with no prior fanfare, and then had the publisher shrug, say "So what?", and ignore it.
They have released games without an agreement with the copyright holder, yes. IANAL, but I wonder if not the copyright status of those games may be that they are as much the property of Vivendi as those who made the deal. (I get that impression from what Aabn writes.) If that's not the case, the best case scenario for the creators is something that nobody has the right to copy.

IMHO, the only reasonable course for anyone making a fan game would be to get a deal before any work is done. Then no work is wasted if no satisfactory deal can be made. High or low profile - fan support or not - all that talk is just pointless speculations anyway.
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Old 11-18-2007, 08:35 AM   #31
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The worst thing any developer, or individual employee, can do is underestimate the ability of a publisher to do what it thinks is in its best interests, and to have that decision made in a staggeringly short-sighted way...and, often, by someone who is simply unqualified to be in their position.

--Josh
This sentence is grammatically bizarre and obscures whatever meaning that you are trying to get across--but apart from that, I have worked in publishing for many, many years now, on both sides of the fence, and while there are mistakes made in any field, and by any and every individual, I think that to make such a sweeping generalization regarding the qualifications of people in the publishing business is under-informed and so defensive as to suggest envy. We believe whatever experience has taught us is truth, but at least use specific examples to back up your arguments, rather than mean-spirited judgements of people whose basic "sin" is to have made decisions that have run counter to your wishes.
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Old 11-18-2007, 09:32 AM   #32
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Merricat,

Well, I don't know if you've been in the game publishing business or just publishing in general, but I would be happy to comply with examples that satisfy your demands. It has nothing to do with envy, BTW (although you have no particular reason to believe that). I'm not sure what you think I'd be envious of.

Here's one from my archives.

Prior to 2000, I was Director of Game Design at a particular instantly-recognizable multinational videogame software publisher (which I shall not name) that also sells its own videogame hardware and systems. I was brought on to oversee non-sports first-party and in-house development of titles that would be the first wave of gameware for the company's soon-to-be-released next generation game system.

For months, I read and worked on first-party game proposals with dozens of development houses; most, of course, our division ended up rejecting, and some we passed along to the financial decision-makers in America (who, upon greenlighting them, would then pass them along to the company's overseas management).

Over the course of months, we found ourselves constantly stymied. Not a single project made it past very early production; most were killed during the concept stage. After eight months or so, it became painfully clear that we were not going to be able to greet the new game system with any first-party non-sports titles...time was growing short, and the overseas management had nixed every single project at some point along the way (often without much actual examination of the product in question).

The head of the division that hired me finally went to the overseas management and said, "What's the story?"

Well, the story was basically this: the overseas management had long ago decided not to publishing ANYTHING we presented, under any circumstances. Apparently, during the days of that company's previous videogame system, American development had let them down, and they no longer trusted the American division to provide any action, RPG, adventure, arcade, or any sort of non-sports software. (Never mind that there was not a single individual still at the company who was responsible for the previous system's software, nor was there any notion of considering any of the newly proposed games on their own merits.)

The division head followed up this rather stunning revelation with the question, "Then why are we here? Why do you have a whole division set up if you KNOW you're not going to publish anything we come up with?"

The answer: they simply wanted to make it APPEAR to the press that the company WAS supporting the new hardware with lots of first-party software. To close down our division would signal to everyone that perhaps the company wasn't as serious as it could be about first-party support for the hardware.

With the cat out of the bag (within the company), some people in the division stayed because, hey, big paycheck and virtually no work required. (Now that we knew they weren't going to greenlight ANYTHING, there was no longer any reason to look at proposals, visit developers, etc.) Other people -- my boss, myself, and several other people -- left because we had nothing to do and didn't care to sit around surfing the web all day, even if we did pull a good salary doing it. Think of the millions of dollars this company spent intentionally NOT developing games.

The system, which was a very good system, tanked fairly quickly due to lack of software.

Who could POSSIBLY have predicted THAT?

--Josh
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Old 11-18-2007, 09:58 AM   #33
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They have released games without an agreement with the copyright holder, yes. IANAL, but I wonder if not the copyright status of those games may be that they are as much the property of Vivendi as those who made the deal. (I get that impression from what Aabn writes.) If that's not the case, the best case scenario for the creators is something that nobody has the right to copy.
I'm not a lawyer either, but yes, that's the point. "Public domain" means, roughly speaking, that no one owns any rights to the work. As long as Vivendi owns the copyright to SQ, no SQ game is in the public domain. That's why they (and other game companies) can, if they choose, send cease-and-desist orders to shut down unauthorized fan games, before or after release. Even if some companies don't do it, that doesn't mean they don't have that right.

I'm not sure exactly how much of a fan game they automatically own. Not, I would imagine, all of it in every case. It probably depends on how derivative it is. If you create a mostly original game and stick in a tiny Roger Wilco cameo, that doesn't mean all your work now belongs to Vivendi (I would think). But a sequel that followed the same main character and continued the story from the earlier games would probably be mostly Vivendi's property, if they took you to court.
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Old 11-18-2007, 10:17 AM   #34
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I'm not demanding anything; I'm merely suggesting that any argument is more successful if it uses specific examples, rather than an abstract attack on an entire field of people. Your experience does sound dreadful, and while it is not the worst I've heard, I can understand why you are bitter. At the same time, I know that all kinds of reasons go into those peculiar decisions, but the bottom line for a publisher is profit. Without knowing specifically what caused the publisher to distrust the American division, I can only surmise that the publisher felt in some way more profitable by not investing in the division. That is infuriating, yes, and demoralizing as well, since presumably you want to work, but it isn't detrimental to their business or they wouldn't do it.
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Old 11-18-2007, 11:48 AM   #35
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I'm not demanding anything; I'm merely suggesting that any argument is more successful if it uses specific examples, rather than an abstract attack on an entire field of people. Your experience does sound dreadful, and while it is not the worst I've heard, I can understand why you are bitter. At the same time, I know that all kinds of reasons go into those peculiar decisions, but the bottom line for a publisher is profit. Without knowing specifically what caused the publisher to distrust the American division, I can only surmise that the publisher felt in some way more profitable by not investing in the division. That is infuriating, yes, and demoralizing as well, since presumably you want to work, but it isn't detrimental to their business or they wouldn't do it.
Merricat,

It was predictably calamitous to their business. Fear and distrust drove their decision ("we don't want to make the same mistake twice"). In fact, those factors were so much a part of their decision that they didn't even trust THEMSELVES to tell a good game from a bad game at any point in development; they simply created a virtual rubber stamp that said "From America -- Cancelled" on it.

Almost ANY decision can be shown to be more profitable than its alternatives; that's a matter of presentation and statistics. And while many people in the industry honestly attempt to arrive at the most profitable decision, there are just as many people who make their decisions first (based on all the questionable criteria I've mentioned) and then selectively show why their decision is likely to be the most profitable one.

Example: an action game I worked on earlier this year (for one of the oldest videogame publishers and the young, exciting development company they hired). The developer had come up with a demo that blew the publisher away; they said "Make us this game" and assigned us a producer who was constantly lecturing us on how to make the game more profitable: which features not to invest time and money in, which features would review well and thus help drive sales, etcetera. Come to find out -- way too late in the development to remedy the situation -- that this producer had a rather elaborate agenda in which he represented to the publisher that we were going far astray (actually we wanted to stick to what had been presented in the demo; he didn't personally like the demo, so he had other plans for us) and that he'd "saved us and the project" by putting us "back on track," ostensibly making him the hero at our expense. It backfired; the publisher finally took a good look at the project, including the producer's emails and the game itself, and said, "Where in hell is the game you demo'd for us?", and the producer was sacked.

Sure, the producer thought doing the game his way would make the final product more profitable, but his overriding motive was increasing his own cachet within the company, and he wasn't competent to actually produce a good game. This kind of story is a dime a dozen in this industry, as you know.

There are certainly many bad management decisions that have affected me personally and which I've felt bitter about, but the vast majority just amuse me and lead me to shake my head with bewilderment. Nothing surprises me any more. I've simply come to realize that a company's decisions are frequently muddled, and frequently result in enormous waste of talent, work, and/or money. That's why I say that one should NEVER underestimate the ability of a publisher to seem arbitrary in its actions, and the bigger the company, the more likely the Peter Principle is to be operable there, resulting in even more questionable -- and sometimes incomprehensible -- decisions.

--Josh
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Old 11-18-2007, 11:55 AM   #36
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I'm not a lawyer either, but yes, that's the point. "Public domain" means, roughly speaking, that no one owns any rights to the work. As long as Vivendi owns the copyright to SQ, no SQ game is in the public domain. That's why they (and other game companies) can, if they choose, send cease-and-desist orders to shut down unauthorized fan games, before or after release. Even if some companies don't do it, that doesn't mean they don't have that right.

I'm not sure exactly how much of a fan game they automatically own. Not, I would imagine, all of it in every case. It probably depends on how derivative it is. If you create a mostly original game and stick in a tiny Roger Wilco cameo, that doesn't mean all your work now belongs to Vivendi (I would think). But a sequel that followed the same main character and continued the story from the earlier games would probably be mostly Vivendi's property, if they took you to court.
I was always told by the legal counsel at Sierra that they had to demonstrate to the courts that they were vigorous in defending their copyrights. It weakened the company's case, they told me, if they pursue copyright violators selectively. As soon as they set a precedent of leaving one violator alone, that would make it harder to say that another violator was damaging them.

If that's the case, I wonder what a court would make of the fact that there are some Sierra-based fangames that Vivendi has never bothered with, even years later. But, of course, none of the fangame organizations care to find out.

--Josh
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Old 11-18-2007, 01:18 PM   #37
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Well, Josh, you must know that your options are limited: either use a publisher, or publish yourself. If you use a publisher, you know what you are possibly letting yourself in for, and if you self-publish, then you need to invent your own characters. Painting all publishers with the same brush, though, is a mistake--a logical fallacy that doesn't do anything for your credibility. A good publisher invests money, provides time, and lends the company brand, which in turn convinces retailers to stock the product--the publisher, in fact, takes care of the business end so that we, the artists, can dream our dreams, and make our art, and share that art with as many people as possible. If you see the publisher as the enemy, you set up a hostile working relationship that has no way to resolve conflict. I'm not saying you have to use a publisher--I'm not saying that at all--but I am saying that you are savvy enough to realize that you either get over it and stop whining, or you do something about it.
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Old 11-18-2007, 05:08 PM   #38
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Merricat,

I'm not a fangame developer (although I've helped out on quite a few fangames). I'm a working designer and have no hostile relationships with any publishers. I make my living designing games and have done so for almost 20 years. In the past few years, I've found it preferable to freelance, so I generally work more closely with the development houses than with the publishers themselves, and I'm glad I've removed myself from that process.

I simply keep my expectations very low when it comes to publishers. Occasionally I'm delighted when I find integrity and common sense ruling the day, but I think I'm not alone in my opinion: if you ask most development houses, you'll find a general consensus that publishers -- especially the older, bigger ones -- are not to be trusted. That's not to say that there aren't honest, hardworking people working there...but that the decision-making process is very often broken by people with ulterior motives.

Thanks for the advice, though...it's perfectly good advice for people who choose to go the fangame route. Personally, when I work with fangame groups, I urge them in the strongest possible terms to NOT make derivative works or remakes, but some of them are more interested in keeping older games or series alive.

Best regards,
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Old 11-18-2007, 07:05 PM   #39
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Very interesting thread but it appears fairly certain Vivendi could care less about adventure games. Take a look at what this company has released in its history. See any adventure games on that list? You can't count the half hearted effort called "collections" It seems all that amounts to is a repackaging without any serious effort. It appears the fan base for those old games, ( GK, KQ, SQ, etc ) are alive and well. For whatever reason Vivendi attributes no value to that. Perhaps they see the fan base as a vocal minority with numbers that will not support a profitable venture in extending any of those series. Perhaps Vivendi simply does not like adventure games. Perhaps they are simply short sighted. What I see as accurate is that Vivendi's actions suggest they bought the Sierra brand for the name only and not to continue the previous product line.

It appears fan game designers of these series would be best served to create new games with new characters and move on. The message to adventure gamers couldn't be any louder or clearer "Vivendi does not care about adventure games." Do what I do support companies who produce games that you want. Vivendi is not worth the time or space this thread had given them.
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Old 11-19-2007, 07:25 AM   #40
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Merricat,

Thanks for the advice, though...it's perfectly good advice for people who choose to go the fangame route.
My intention was not to offer advice, and certainly not to designers. As a writer, I found your argument less compelling because of your use of logical fallacies and the lack of concrete example. Often when people feel passionately about something, they make emotional statements and expect those statements to stand, but if you want to succeed in persuading someone of anything, you should expect to define your argument.
My experiences with publishers have been largely in print and largely positive: I've written a textbook for the airline industry, and I've written various pieces for both magazines and newspaper. I've been an editor at a literary journal, and an editor at a newspaper. I finished my first novel last year and am in the process of writing another. I have sometimes had personality clashes with some publishers, but for the most part, have enjoyed positive relationships with them. So you really needed something more to convince me than an emotional appeal that begged the question. That's all I was asking you to do.
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