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February 21, 2006

My Invitation to meet “She Whose Name Shall not Be Spoken.”

Filed under: Thoughts and Rants — Tom B @ 6:17 pm

So, I get this email invitation to a party for Hillary…now referred to as ‘She Whose Name Shall Not be Spoken.” SWNSNBS for short. It goes like this…

THIS THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23RD, FROM 9-11 PM @

THE NATIONAL HOTEL-1677 COLLINS AVENUE

SENATOR HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON IN MIAMI TO CHAT WITH YOU!

THIS PARTY HAS BEEN WIDELY PUBLICIZED AND TALKED ABOUT. TICKETS ONLY COST US$50 AND WILL SUPPORT SENATOR CLINTON’S RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN IN NEW YORK. THIS IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO MEET TONS OF INTERESTING PROFESSIONALS SUCH AS YOURSELF AND TO TALK TO SENATOR CLINTON WHO WILL BE SOCIALIZING AND MIXING WITH THE CROWD.

LOTS OF WORK FROM SOME PRETTY SIGNIFICANT PEOPLE HAS GONE INTO MAKING THIS EVENT A HUGE SUCCESS AND I PERSONALLY THINK THAT YOU WOULD BENEFIT GREATLY FROM BEING THERE.

PLEASE RESPOND TO THIS E-MAIL TO CONFIRM YOUR ATTENDANCE AND I WILL TAKE CARE OF THE DETAILS FOR YOU-AND IF YOU CAN NOT MAKE IT, PLEASE BE COURTEOUS AND LET ME KNOW BY WRITING “NO” IN THE SUBJECT LINE.

HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

Jordan Kavana
Managing Director
K-Group Industries, LLC
K-Group Industries (Far East) Ltd.
(305) 576-3339 x237
Jordankavana@kgiproducts.com

And it had this cute invitation attached….
Invite to Hillary's Party!

Well I suppose I could have gone and even paid extra to let SWNSNBS know what I think of her crusade….but it would take time and money to do that, and I have neither to waste on such foolishness. But I did take the time to respond to the nice person who sent me the unsolocited invitation as follows:

Jordan

Unfortunately, although I am a life long Democrat and had intended on supporting Mrs. Clinton, I can no longer do so due to her pending video game legislation that singles out interactive multimedia entertainment software for criminalization, while ignoring similar content in film, music, books and television.

This legislation reflects the lowest sort of pandering to the most ignorant among us by targeting the newest entertainment medium,Video Games. I find this all the more disturbing due to the significant first amendment issues involved. This is especially disheartening when offered by someone who I believed to be a competent attorney who should know better. This disgraceful, self serving purely political act has so denigrated my perception of Mrs. Clinton that, not only am I no longer supporting her, I am actively opposing her political aspirations at ALL levels.

So, thank you for the invitation, but I’ll be busy that night…playing games on my computer!

At 02:54 PM 2/21/2006, you wrote:

I hope word gets to SWNSNBS and she reconsiders her shameful conduct..yeah right!

February 17, 2006

Man…These Guys are Good!

Filed under: Thoughts and Rants — Tom B @ 9:57 am

I have made it a mission to represent independent developers and it does my heart good to see one of them do good. Last year at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco I had the opportunity to meet with the guys from Tripwire Interactive. They were a brand new studio formed from the mod team that had released the Red Orchestra Mod and won Mod of the Year and the Nvidia “Make Something Unreal contest.” I already represented Trauma Studios the team that brought you the Desert Combat Mod for Battlefield 1942 and completely changed the focus of that franchise forever. And I think that gave me a bit of additional credibility with the Tripwire guys as well.

You see, since these start ups have little or not money to pay the usual hourly rate that I charge, if I like their project and believe in their team, I accept them as a client for a % of revenue. It usually ranges from 4% up, depending on the scope of work involved, including everything from contract review to negotiations, business consulting and even pitching their game to publishers like an agent does, if they need me to. I have been doing this for the past 5 years or so and , to be honest,. it has been a financial loser for me so far. But it has allowed me to help out in ways that my clients could never have afforded. And I still believe that these sort of relationships will be a good thing for me as well as my client developers in the long run.

So, Tripwire decided to hire me and for the next 6 months we worked to secure a deal. Midway was very interested after E3, but they could not close due to a soft response from their European retailers (like retail buyers should be deciding what game should be made anyway!) And we even negotiated for a full funding deal with a major hardware manufacturer…but that fizzled as well. And as good and the Mod was, things started to look pretty dicey for the Studio. So, they just buckled down and decided to go ahead anyway. They had won both a Unreal Engine2.5 and 3.0 licenses. So the 2.5 license was going to go into the first game, which is a complete redo and expansion of the multiplayer mod as a stand alone game. But even if the game got done, how would it be distributed. Digital baby!!!

We discussed a bunch of possibilities including IGN Direct 2Drive, Trimedia’s Digital River Distribution network, GarageGames and Valve’s Steam. I figured that Steam was limited to only Source Engine games…and that there was not way the Valve would want RO selling into their core Day of Defeat and Counter Strike customers since these were the core audience for RO as well and will compete against DoD head on. But to his credit, John Gibson, resident rock star and head of Tripwire got in touch with Valve. Too my amazement they were very interested in distributing the game for us and in short order we had our digital distribution deal. And that deal got us 2 page editorial preview articles with PC Gamer US and UK and a flood of interviews and previews. That level of exposure resulted in a retail distribution with Destineer’s, Bold Games. So we had digital and retail and get to keep our IP. How’s that !

Of course we still were going to be ultimately dependent on the quality of the gameplay experience. After all the game is build on an older technology and in this hard core market, the only thing that really counts is gameplay! Well let me tell you…I have played the beta and this game totally kicks ass! You can check out the trailer, mode completely from in game captures if you don’t believe. I knew these guys had a chance when I took them on . But I had no idea they were capable of getting this much out of the UE 2.5 engine. Wow, Red Orchestra Ostfront 41-45 looks and plays like a champ! ANd if you don’t believe me, check out the RO trailer!

Presales on Steam started a few days ago and the full retail download will be next month followed shortly by the retail box release. Keep you fingers crossed for these guys…they deserve a hit and I for one hope they get one!

February 8, 2006

Protect my granddaughter from evil GAMERS!!!

Filed under: Thoughts and Rants — Tom B @ 9:38 am

They say there are two thing you never want to watch being made…sausage and laws! I got a little taste of that yesterday (laws, not sausage!) when I traveled to Tallahassee Florida to speak in opposition to House Bill 647, a bill related to violent video games being presented for consideration to the Business Regulation Committee. The ESA contacted me a few days ago when they learned that my ole buddy Wacky Jacky might be in attendance to speak in support of the bill. So, I could not miss the opportunity to take the trip.

The bill is being offer by representative Baxley who I do not doubt is well meaning. Mr. Baxley had never seen a video game until this issue was brought to his attention by State Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla. Apparently someone (hmmm…he did refer to Thompson as “Our Dear Friend”) convinced him that his granddaughter was going to be attacked on the playground by someone “desensitized” and “corrupted” by playing evil games like GTA. He also had many other fears associated with games that were either imagined, based purely on supposition or just plain wrong.

This Bill is a carbon copy of the California bill, based on the Illinois Statute already overturned by a Federal Court as being unconstitutional. A fact that Representative Baxley admitted when he presented his bill to the Committee. Yes, that’s right. He admitted the bill he wanted them to pass was constitutionally flawed, but wanted them to pass it anyway. Go figure… Of course, the simple fact it that this sort of singling out of games for treatment substantially move restrictive that other entertainment media is never going to meet constitutional muster was completely ignored.

After spending the last 5+ years working with Games-Florida to “Bring Florida to Game Developers and to Bring Game Developers to Florida” you can imagine my position on a bill that singles out our industry to more severe regulation. Aside from being useless, this bill is awefully mean spirited. For example, under this bill if a clerk at retail store inadvertently sells an “18 Only” game to someone under 18 the clerk himself is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a $250.00 fine. Heck that’s almost a week’s pay for those folks.

Unfortunately Wacky Jacky was a “no show.” No surprise there. However, it was interesting hanging with a bunch of industry representatives and lobbyists and learning a little more about the process. But the whole thing of listening to this Baxley guy rant on about his warped perceptions about games, and then getting only 5 minutes to respond by addressing the committe comprised of a bunch of folks who were rally not that interested in what was going on anyway, was a bit much for me. The representative from ESA went first, followed by a lobbyist from the Retailers. I batted last.

First, I mentioned that I am a Floridian, not a paid lobbyist and a hard core gamer. I explained my ties to the industry and my efforts in behalf of Games Florida. I then characterized the bill as a slap in the face to an industry that Florida should be courting, not offending. I mentioned the $42M in incentives that were used to secure EA’s expansion of it’s Tiburon Studio in Orlando, including $4.2M from the State. I talked about jobs and the importance of this high tech, low impact industry to the State’s future. The only problem I had was when I compared this uproar about video games to the uproar in the 50’s about rock and roll. One of the representatives (a 30 something guy who very obviously was not there at the time) objected to my invoking the name of “Elvis” to make my point. He could not see how anyone could compare Elvis to these evil violent games, which he referred to as an “abomination” (cool word I’ll have to try to use it more…). Of course, that is exactly how Elvis was being referred to in the 50’s.

So, the bill got tabled in the Business Regulation committee. (There should be a video of the February 7, 2006, session up on the committee site in a few days, our bill was second on the agenda, about 1/2 way through the video.) No vote for now. The bill will have to pass through three more committees before it can be considered for passage. and the legislative session in Florida is only a few months long. So, while we did not get is killed, it certainly is slowed down which, in this long process, is almost as good.

February 3, 2006

EEEEEEAAAAAAA!!!!!

Filed under: Thoughts and Rants — Tom B @ 9:25 am

So, good old EA has cut its workforce by 5%. Earnings are down and what’s a responsible manager to do? Cut executive salaries and bonuses…not likely! But then, that is the way of big business. I found it interesting to note that on the quarterly conference call yesterday that the opening of a China studio is in play. So, is this EA following up on their threat to move jobs off shore because of some of the class action employee suits filed against them in California…possible. But any major publisher/developer who is not looking as China as both a production base and market, especially for wireless games, is already missing the boat. Though I suspect that the location of the layoffs may have been influenced by the law suits and the more employee biased laws in California when compared to other area of the country like Texas and Florida. But we’ll probably never know for sure.

I guess they had to do something…after all they were already targeted with a class action shareholder law suit. And EA profits were down 31% so they clearly missed their projected profits for the last quarter of 2005. As they say - shit runs downhill…sad, but true. But the next time we hear an EA executive claim that their employee practices are based on the culture of the game development industry as a whole, it should be taken with a grain of salt. EA is not a typical developer that can say that sort of thing any more. EA is a solid member of the publicly traded corporate structure and they was they treat their employees has nothing to to with the industry culture, only their own.

As for the individuals who are laid off…I wish them well and urge them to consider gathering what resources and entrepreneurial courage they have and consider taking a shot. Digital distribtuon and the growing market for small games and casual games. Not the great opus one has in mind, but a great way to get started. Also the application of game based technologies and techniques outside of the entertainment sector fo advertising, corporate training, education and simulation. Not as glamorous, but a solid way to build a studio. Remember, you have to build a great studio before you can build a great game!

February 1, 2006

Game Law School

Filed under: Thoughts and Rants — Tom B @ 9:43 am

I got a call yesterday from a reporter from a Southern California paper about a law school there that is instituting a course in Game Law. Apparently it’s a two hour, once a week, sort of thing being taught by an attorney who used to work in house as a major publisher. I had actually approached Nova University Law Center in Fort Lauderdale about a game law seminar type course a few years ago. The Dean of the Law School, Joe Harbaugh, was my evidence professor when I was studying law at Georgetown so I just called him up and pitched him. Nova bills itself as the “Most Wired” law school in the country with extremely progressive instructional methodologies. And that’s pretty much true…but it is still an institute of higher learning with all the administrative mumbo jumbo that I have pretty much avoided my whole adult life. So, after I was directed to the appropriate administrator and they explained what they would need in terms of materials and such to put this course into the que for possible consideration by a committee at some uncertain point in the future…I sort of lost interest.

So now a few years later I get this call…and I have to say, as I thought about it, I was not really too sure it was much of an idea. Oh, sure it would be fun for the teacher and probably for the students. But the real value of a course like that is extremely limited. I rely on my core course work in contracts from law school every time I review a deal. Similarly, the course work in Intellectual Property have real value. Heck, even secondary courses like Constitutional and International Law have value in the present day game industry. But as for the real world value of a seminar in Game Law…I think honestly it is a fluff course at best…but there is certainly a place for fluff in any students course selection process if for no other reason than mental health - though it does certainly smack of pandering to student interest. But then, I get calls all the time from law students interested in the industry - so the demand is there.

There are some difficulties involved as well. Just as with full degree courses in game development, the business of the game industry changes constantly…certainly much faster than and curricula development process in a law school. this means that the course would have to change annually. And if one devoted themselves to teaching Game Law they would probably lose touch with the status of the industry pretty fast. I have been lurking on a serious games mail list for quite a while and I have to say, these academics seems to be a pretty clueless bunch. And I suspect that after a few years out of the loop, no matter how hard one tried to stay current, any “Professor” would probably find their material out of date. Heck, me living in Florida puts be a bit behind already. And I deal with this stuff every day.

The other issues I see is that the scope of the course is going to be naturally limited by the subjective experiences of the instructor. I am sure that the POV of the guy teaching this course on the west coast, coming out of the legal department of a major publisher, would be tons different that my POV being a trained litigator and hard core games who represents mostly small independent developers. It sure would be in terms of the underlying business and legal issues and, of course, the litigation aspect from my POV is way different than that of an in house counsel who most likely has a much more transactional practice focus.

Anyway, I wish them luck with their program and I am, to be honest, a little jealous. It would be an absolute hoot to get to go to a law school once a week and BS about the industry with a bunch of bright young lawyer wannabees! Hmmmmm…Maybe I’ll give my friend Joe another call…..


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