Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sega Turning Into Mr. Hyde Again

Yeah...not much else to say this time besides report the news. Well, Good Old Sega is back again, thought you should know that.

First is this copyright on gameplay mechanics. You know, stuff like "press arrow buttons to move the character" or some nonsense that you'd have to be really petty to care about. Anyway, Sega is suing Level-5 for making some innocuous video game (Inazuma Eleven, popular in Japan) that really shouldn't bother anyone. Apparently, Sega patented the ability to move characters by touching the screen. Yes, it's that broad of a patent. And it's not just for the $11 million in cash--Sega is demanding that Level-5 stop selling eight of these Inazuma Eleven games.

...Wow, they're outright trying to kill games. That's a horrible thing to imagine especially if you worked on these games yourself. And it's not even straight-up ripoffs like Zynga's The Ville (read my take) or a Chinese knockoff, this is some original series of video games that are trying to get taken down. And just for informative purposes, it seems the first Inazuma Eleven game came out EDIT: 4 years ago (thanks GameFAQs, you lie).  So it took Sega THAT long to get around to this? Oh, and didn't Nintendo do something like this before with a game called Super Mario DS?

Maybe there is something going on in the Sega war room we really don't know about (i.e. Level-5 pissed in Sega's corn flakes) but with the Japanese game industry going to crap and "scumbag" companies are starting rise like Capcom and Sony, it really helps if Sega watches its own ass since it's been in hot water for the last 10 years, dropping all its franchises, particularly Sonic, on their heads.

... Which reminds me that Sega has pulled this patent nonsense before. Our beloved Crazy Taxi has a patent on its core gameplay features. See the "invention" description:

One object of the present invention is to provide a game display method and an apparatus which permits people to be present in virtual space, such as a city or others, while not permitting cruel images, as of colliding with the people to be avoided. 

Another object of the present invention is to provide a moving direction indication method which can make direction indications which are easy to be understood by operators freely moved in the virtual space, such as a city or others, and a game apparatus. 

Further another object of the present invention is to provide a game display method and a game apparatus which can make displays which are easily understandable for an operator who gets, in a virtual space, such as a city or others, a specific object and carries the object to a destination. 

Further another object of the present invention is to provide a drive simulation method which can provide real driving feeling....it goes on and on. Who wants to sit through 50 pages of this monotony?


In other words, Sega patented the right for video game pedestrians not to be run over by reckless drivers. That and the green compass and telling people to drive to point A on the map. God forbid someone actually tries not to get run over in a video game. Well, that's what Carmageddon and GTA went for...just run 'em over.  Leave bloody tiremarks.  Mutiny averted!  Lawsuits & complaints by US Government officials, yes.  But Sega, no, you're safe from them.

Well, not for Fox Interactive...they released The Simpsons: Road Rage in 2001 which played out similar to Crazy Taxi. Sega sued in 2003 and they settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. You could challenge it if you felt like it, but all the time & money wasted just to win a macho head game vs. Sega wasn't really worth it...just settle and put it behind you.

Now I only have limited knowledge on intellectual property and the law though (I did have a run in a few times with YouTube's copyright police). I'm not a slip & fall lawyer. I respect patents but how vague can you get with these things--trying to push vague ideas as patents or "inventions." And also this, pertaining to the Crazy Taxi--was Sega just scared that someone would make a better racing game than they could? Um, no one could make a better Crazy Taxi than Sega can. Besides, people called out The Simpsons: Road Rage for being derivative so it's not like someone stole Sega's racing mojo. They are still the king.

Maybe Sega deserves props for "gaming" the system properly...hey, they got some money out of the thing. You play the "game" of game design, prepare to lose...

Also worth mentioning that our good friend Namco has a patent on "minigames in loading screens", as such:

5. A method of loading games program code means from a recording medium into a games machine and performing predetermined processing therewith, wherein a main-game program code means and an auxiliary program code means are stored in said recording medium and when said games program code means is loaded and processed, said auxiliary program code means is loaded first in response to an initialization program in said games machine and then said main-game program code means is loaded.

In other words, auxiliary program = mini-game. Wow, my head hurts trying to read this. But anyway, very creative concept you came up with there, Namco. I guess by "minigame" they mean the ROM of another older game (like Xevious in Ridge Racer 6) as opposed to some buttons to click on (the slot machine from Sega All-Stars Racing). But what do I know! (see list at bottom of page).

Patenting gameplay...Betcha EA wish they thought of this sooner!  It just dawned on me...it would FRIGGIN HILARIOUS if Call of Duty's "aim down sights" mechanic was patented/trademarked.  Or Gears of War's "cover & shoot" mechanic.  And so on and so forth.  If anything like this really happened, you'd see how imbecilic this Sega patent nonsense really is but on a much larger scale (sites like Reddit/Kotaku/GameFAQs would actually care).

I know I'm droning on with things that have been said on tens of hundreds of blogs before (omg copyright infringement??) but the point is this. You try to make a game. It's hard enough as it is trying to hire people, create great new ideas, work long hours to complete, advertise, and sell the thing. But then you got millions of legal landmines to avoid. If you aren't aware of every copyright & patent like "a green arrow floating above a car," then a big company like Sega or Namco is gonna zing ya like that.  Yeah, no excuse for ignorance but we all have too many issues on our plate these days to focus purely on potential lawsuit pitfalls...like trying to raise a family, pay the bills, express ourselves through works of art, and just trying not to die in general.

Then there's the second thing and that's some crazy guy at Sega taking down every single Shining Force video on YouTube. This is most certainly not new to me. If anyone submits a complaint to YouTube that a user is violating their copyright, YouTube's knee-jerk reaction is to remove the video right away. It's a serious uphill battle trying to prove your innocence to YouTube though...one reason why I've given up on that site.

Sadly, if it did come push to shove between Sega and some of these fans uploading these vids, Sega would probably win. The sad truth is that even with Fair Use, a lot of Internet content (videos, pictures, music, etc.) would get flagged purely for using someone else's content (went over this before). The good news is that 99.999% of the time, the copyright owners don't care. Look at this site. I got Daytona USA 2 wallpapers everywhere. Imagine if Sega actually cared about Daytona again, enough to want to stop anyone else from using any material from the game. That's sort of what's happening now to Shining Force. And it really, really sucks, particularly because it's so random and no one knows a "predator" waits in ambush of anyone posting Shining Force vids. From the TSSZ News article:

We never give explicit permission to use our intellectual property. However, in cases like this, we tend not to take action unless our products are slandered in the derivative works.

Best Regards,
Sega Customer Support

Translation: Sega doesn’t officially approve of fan art, fan fiction, fan games, or anything else that fans do with their properties, but they aren’t going to stop you from doing it unless you’re trying to make them look bad. For those of you out there worrying about the sanctity of Sonic the Hedgehog lets plays or other fan projects, this is as close as you’re going to get to an unofficial thumbs up to keep doing that stuff.

Good news! Sega isn't going to kill you for posting material they own! Unless you create a Streets of Rage remake (Sonic CD is okay, however). Or if you create a Sonic YTMND. Or you post a Shining Force video. Or you say Sega sucks, or something. YouTube Poops are okay still, I hope--PINGAS!!! EDIT: Dawned on me if some of this "mature" Sonic fanart is okay.  Let's show that to Sega and see what they think!

Oh boy it's confusing. The chances are very slim that anything you or I do draws the ire of lawyers, but things like that make me not want to contribute to the community...to make games, fan pages, etc. since you can get dumped on so quickly.

There's a few people that are trying to boycott Sega. But IMO, it's not necessary for two reasons: 1. It's a big corporation with employees in all different fields. Because one guy starts throwing around lawsuits/YouTube takedowns doesn't mean Yu Suzuki, the AM2 team, or even Sumo Digital thinks that way. 2. Sega's already flying a cargo jet on a blown engine or two. Go ahead and boycott. It'll just screw them even worse.  Other than Sega All-Stars Racing and the recent ports, there hasn't been a whole lot of anything Sega-related I've clamored about. For Christmas, there's Sega All-Stars Racing and...uh, Sonic Jump on the Android. And a Virtua Fighter port. There's not much left of Sega to boycott anyway.

That's all I have to say about the recent events. It's vastly disappointing but I still support Sega anyway. People aren't perfect and I hope everything is better in the end.

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