This is the next post in an ongoing scrapbook series. Exploring the emerging Dweb (Web3) ecosystem, the #supportnet, and the coming ‘Metaverse’.
The word permissive is usually used to describe a type of ‘intellectual property regime’. A IP regime is considered weak or permissive when it provides stronger rights for knowledge-users, making access to knowledge easier.
Permissive IP: a mash up of ‘Internet Protocol vs Intellectual Property’
Given the affordances the Dweb, lets split the difference
Permissive: Intellectual Protocols
As Web3 lays the foundations for the Metaverse, new types of procedures legal arrangements, systems of rules for governing intellectual property and the returning value directly to creators and communities will be made possible
What follows isn’t so much an essay. More like pages from a notebook building upon a recent THREAD by Jacob Navok co-author of the Epic Primer. As we unspool I’ll also highlight some examples of Proto-Permissive IPs.
I will be avoiding any digression into the difference between Strict/Restrictive/Permissive licenses etc. There are also plenty of lessons learned after 20 years of Creative Commons, and the last 30 years of the Free Software movement. I will just gesture toward them and say “Far more things are possible now, than then”. Post Open Source by boringcactus is an interesting read.
Yikes we’re only at Tweet 2! the first tweet was addressed here.
Yes agreed. IP Ownership is more important than Content Creation. This post is largely about the control of Meta-IPs like franchised story worlds etc, and the opportunity for Web3/community created and owned IP’s to return value to their users.
Creators of individual works or IP can’t be ignored. See Interdependence.fm and their episode with Tom Gray, Director at PRS for music and the #brokenrecord campaign for a wide ranging discussion around reform of streaming services, and various rights policy proposals to better protect songwriters and producers. See also the pervious scrapbook entry on community/ fandom tokens. Permissive IPs build on those ideas.
The current cultural logics of IP ownership are legacy structures operating in zombie mode. Shambling in to the 2020’s from 20th century.
There are huge issues in this space. Both the monetisation of, and control of IP. Problems compounded by the dearth of mechanisms available to fans and fandoms to interact with (and consume IP) made by monolithic IP owners in the context of participatory internet culture.
See Craving Canon for tensions between IP creators and fans and Rusted Chrome for issues around legacy IP owners treating culture as a commodity.
I’m going to link dump two essays here to get you up to speed.
The central theme both essays is the lack of agency that ‘consumers of stories’ have in the current media environment.
Huw Lemmy in his substack newsletter wrote that currently a fan of a commodity franchise sits in the cinema, waiting to see whether characters who are a part of their sense of self will betray them or not.
On listening to youtube reviews of movies like Joker, I’m always struck by how fan-critics discuss them; they talk about being “happy with what they did with the character” or “disappointed with how they showed him”, angry at the introduction of female or queer characters, as they see it, for purely external political reasons. The meanings of these new legends have been co-produced within their fandoms, yet, beyond fuming about them online, there’s no ability to influence or retell their stories in meaningful ways. The viewer sits in the cinema, awaiting the latest installment, waiting to see whether characters who are a part of their sense of self will betray them or not.
The full essay is an exploration of agency in story telling, though the lens of Robin Hood and the ‘Camelot Extended Universe’ or rather Arthurian Legend. His essay is in dialogue with many of the ideas in Craving Canon.
It’s useful to point and gesture towards the explosion in the popularity in RPGs and DnD in recently years. The IP of DnD is currently owned by Wizards of the Coast.
The global role playing games market reached a value of nearly $15,793.3 million in 2019, having increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.84% since 2015, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.22% to nearly $22,471.3 million by 2023.
This growth is small in the grand scheme of things when compared to the Video Games industry. But the growth is healthy when set against ‘commodity’ IP franchises. It indicates a trend in media consumption, Role Play Games allow for audience participation and agency within their franchise words. The experience of agency within a video game franchise is an ersatz agency in comparison to TTRPGs. What they both share when at their best is ‘Immersion’ over realism.
In 2016 WoTC partnered with onebookshelf.com to launch of the Dungeon Masters Guild. A platform that allows creators to make + sell fully licensed game content and materials in many of WoTC’s IPs. Royalty on content sold though this platform is 50/50. High fees certainly, but in adjacent worlds self published authors swallow an Amazon sales commission of 65%.
Perhaps the best known site in onebookshelf family is the SERVICExPLATFORM DriveThruRPG. A hugely important site in the global RPG ecosystem This post from 2014 on DTRPGs pricing sweet spots my be of some interest.
DriveThruRPG.com is part of a family of premiere online marketplaces also including DriveThruRPG, Dungeon Masters Guild, DriveThruCards, DriveThruComics, DriveThruFiction, and Wargame Vault. Together, we have been selling digital and print-on-demand comic books, roleplaying games, and fiction since 2001. As of 2016, we have launched multiple community content programs as well as our Community Card Creator for fans to create content for some of their favorite roleplaying and card games.
As you can see the wider ecosystem of value creation in DnD and TTRPGs in general is now 20 years old. The size of that market is difficult to get figures for, but you can include live streamed shows like Critical Role, professional D&D DM’s as well as the above SERVICES like DriveThruRPG etc.
There is a growing hunger to consume and participate in story franchises that provide consumer agency.
I also can’t not talk about Games Workshop.
GW has seen massive growth in the last 5 years with no sign of slowing down – just like the wider D&D market. I’ll also note that GW paid back its UK Covid-19 loans already.
GW is in the business of selling table top wargame rulesets and toy soldiers. And therefor highly zealous and litigious around protecting certain forms of its IP from exploitation. It certainly is not a fan of people recasting its models, or the selling/uploading of 3D scans to the internet for people to print at home. Games Workshop does however take a relaxed approach to smaller companies making parts that are compatible with its models as long they don’t infringe on its trademarks etc. It also learn’t its lessons after the renaming of its poster boys to Adeptus Astartes after the debacle involving an expansive interpretation of its trademark on the term ‘Space Marine’.
GW however, is very open to fans creating content in their IP universes and making a living via the #Supportnet. The creator of the fan movie Helsreach was recently brought on board to head up their in house storyforge project. Helsreach as a fan project lifted ALL its dialogue from the audiobook of the same name.
See the other following fan films. The creators of the Astartes fam film is making $19,000 bucks a month minimum from their Patreon.
Games Workshop’s IP is quite frankly, a behemoth.
At least a 1000+ books published by its publishing arm with 412 Warhammer 40,000 books currently available on the website to purchase right now. I would guess it controls the biggest coherent (but not canon) story world in the English language following Disney’s decision to blow up 30 years of media/canon.
Games Workshop’s IP has its origins in RPGs and table top Wargames. It understands that the true value of its IP is a vehicle for player story telling and narrative agency. Years ago, fans of the IP were complaining on 4chan about the static nature of the story world (setting) and asking why GW wasn’t Advancing the Storyline (its canon).
The now legendary reply came in the form of the ‘Your Dude’s’ argument for IP Engagement.
40K/Fantasy/AoS is about your own group of soldiers.
I don’t care what faction you play or what lists you use. I don’t care if you’re an existing unit or you make up your own. 40k is about your dudes. It is about YOUR GUYS.
Let me tell you a story about one Erasmus Tycho:
Erasmus Tycho was a Blood Angels captain in an early after-action report in White Dwarf. At one point he got KOed by a Weirdboy’s psychic blast. This was fluffed as him being severely injured, and that affected his characterization and what would become of him. In-game events were strung together and then logically connected to a potential story – an EMERGENT story based on the guided events of the gameplay.
Do you see what that is? THAT IS AN EVOLVING STORY. THAT IS THE KIND OF THING YOU CAN DO WITH YOUR GUYS. You can give your dudes names and grow attached to them in the same way that you can with X-COM or Final Fantasy Tactics or any other game where you have generic dudes.
Hell, if you played Chaos Gate, that was basically the game! The last time someone played it for /tg/, there was a dude named APEMANTUS who was badass (based on in-game events), was killed (as an in-game event), and was brought back as a dreadnought (a stretch of the imagination that was connected to in-game events).
That’s the kind of stuff 40k should be about. Evolving stories based on what you did, and how a battle went. It’s what Necromunda does, it’s what Mordheim does, and it’s what every strategy game ought to do.
Don’t worry about “the fluff“. The fluff is background material. It exists to provide context for your own story. Worrying about fluff is like worrying about Drizzt and Elminster in the Forgotten Realms – it shouldn’t be about them, it should be about your party. The same thing applies to 40k. Become the change you want. Just as planned.
It is also worth pointing out as an aside, that due to its customers being nerds GW has dealt with, the same kinds of issues around Toxicity of its Fandom (and learned lessons from the experience) that are currently being experienced by IPs like the MCU or StarWars. One of the down sides of these lessons however in my mind has been that (by and large ) Games Workshop products are now credited to the design studio. Individual writers and artists no longer have their names on the products. This is apparently what you need to do to prevent and protect your staff from social media pile ons and death threats.
What DnD and Warhammer share is that their IP’s / story worlds are open to audience agency. I’ve written elsewhere on the deletion of the performer spectator divide in RPGs. This trend will only continue at bigger and bigger scales.
What does all this mean for the Dweb and the Metaverse?
Let’s consider the phenomenon of Roblox for a moment.
Whilst I’m sure most people are familiar with Minecraft, Roblox is a a differnt beast:
Roblox is an online game platform and game creation system that allows users to program games and play games created by other users. Founded by David Baszucki and Erik Cassel in 2004 and released in 2006, the platform hosts user-created games of multiple genres coded in the programming language Lua.
We previously described PLATFORMs as a foundational element in a system, a kind of stage on which certain activities can “run”.
I’d also like to bring the frequently misattributed quote by Chamath Palihapitiya in to the mix:
A platform is when the economic value of everybody that uses it, exceeds the value of the company that creates it. Then it’s a platform.”
As I said in the last entry: The most successful games/worlds/projects will be the ones that return the most value to their users.
Roblox is a Platform in the literal sense. It’s not so much a game but a tool for building worlds. Here’s an overview of some of the most popular games that have been created inside the world of Roblox platform
Adopt Me! is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game where the nominal focus is players pretending to be either parents adopting a child, or children getting adopted, though the de facto focus is around adopting and caring for many different pets, who can be traded with other players. As of July 2020, the game had been played upwards of ten billion times.
Jailbreak is a cops and robbers game which is among the most popular games on the site, accumulating tens of thousands of concurrent players daily, and which has been played a total of 4 billion times as of August 2020.
MeepCity is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game with noted similarities to Club Penguin and Toontown Online. In addition to its role-playing quantities, MeepCity also features customizable pets, called “Meeps”. MeepCity’s creator, Alex Bidello, stated in 2018 that he was making enough money off the game to pay two employees and support his mother and brother.
Murder Mystery 2
Murder Mystery 2 is a game where players are randomly assigned roles to play each round. One player is selected to be a murderer, who must kill everyone to win, while another player is selected to be a sheriff, and must kill the murderer to win; all remaining players are selected as innocents whose goal is to survive.
Natural Disaster Survival
Natural Disaster Survival is a game where players are tasked with the role of surviving a litany of natural disasters thrown against them. The game has been positively compared to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
Piggy is an episodic horror game that incorporates elements from Peppa Pig and the indie horror game Granny into a zombie apocalypse setting. The games’ style of episodic storytelling resulted in a significant fanbase developing prior to the game’s finale on May 25, 2020.
Welcome to Bloxburg
Welcome to Bloxburg is a game based on The Sims, noted for being a Roblox game which players have to purchase with Robux before playing.
Work at a Pizza Place
Work at a Pizza Place is a game in which players work together to fulfill orders at a pizza parlor. The game is considered a classic among the Roblox userbase, with the creator attributing its success to the game’s ability to encourage socializing.
Like all successful online spaces, in addition to the powerful LUA scripting, they also have their User-Generated Content (UGC) catalog. Enabling everybody on Roblox to view and buy items from the UGC catalog. In the Metaverse Dweb Tokens, NFTs etc will all play their part in forming Monetary Fabrics.
Online worlds are increasing becoming ‘places’. Last week the Lil Nas performed a pre-rendered concert in Robolox. Its infrastructure failed when the game tried to teleport almost a million concurrent players all at once in to the concert arena. Over the course of the weekend 33 million people saw Lil Nas’ concert.
See also this recreation of the Cyberpunk 2077 in the Roblox Environment.
As video game environments begin power the Metaverse, they will cease to be Toy Boxs, and become Powerful Toolkits. This shift is going to be a slow and subtle one. It may not even be noticed by many until we are past the point of no return.
Dreams PS4 by Uk developer Media Molecule is also another ‘Platform Toolkit’ that many people are sleeping on.
See this hyper real environment made in Dreams PS4.
To allow the Toybox/Toolkit shift to happen in a more equitable way for the user, the Dweb must provide the organisational SERVICES for groups or communities to create, manage, licence, monetise, and have governance over: the worlds, stories, virtual materials, and objects that communities create together.
I can imagine scenarios in the future where communities create, own, control, vote on licensing and earn money from their participation in worlds built around properties of their own creation. Permissive IPs will be administered by DAOs.
In the Metaverse there will be worlds, and there will be the worlds.
They will have to be controlled by their users. Or we are destined for more of our reality to be owned and controlled by entities like Facebook. The zealously controlled IP worlds of video game franchises, and DisneyCorp universes (Starwars, Marvel, Disney etc) are on the clock.
Well my brain is fried and thats enough for now.
NOTE: This post may contain a lot of buzzwordy jargon. I intend to build a glossary page linked off the Dimensino category home page soon.
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Thanks to: Cade Diehm, Ben Vickers, Jaya Brekke, Guild.is Crew, Trust Squad, Blogger Peer Review, Other Internet, Interdependence.fm, Common Knowledge Coop, and RIVAL STRATEGY for all the conversations and friendship over the years.
Let’s get this done.
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