Monday, July 26, 2010
Is Forge Legal?
The “devil is in the details” and there are always details when it comes to programming and life. “Is Forge Legal” is a complicated question and truthfully only a trial with a jury could rightfully make that decision. Even if Forge was technically legal, it doesn’t mean that Wizards could sue me or Google.
In my opinion Forge is probably not legal because Wizards owns everything related to Magic. They own the rules, the card names, the artwork, and anything else that I forgot. (As I understand it, a game’s rules are not copyright-able in Europe, so Forge might be legal over there.)
On the other hand, Forge tries not to be “very illegal”. The card pictures aren’t included. Wizards seems to care about this since they complained about this issue to Wagic, another Magic program like Forge. Forge also does not implement a whole bunch of new cards, so Forge tries not to steal money from Wizards. (Granted, Forge can’t implement many complicated cards because of its primitive architecture which I designed.)
I doubt Forge prevents people from spending their money on Magic cards. I believe that Forge actually encourages people to spend money because they can “use the card” and see how good it is. Magic is a social game and Forge is purposefully non-social.
Even if Forge is illegal, Wizards does not seem to be hunting me down. When Forge was hosted on Sourceforge.net, I did receive one DMCA notice which bummed me out until I figured that I could just change servers. (This happened after I applied for a job at Wizards, thinking that they would be impressed with Forge. I only got as far as the phone interview.) In the last 6 months I received another DMCA notice about my blog, so I removed the link to Forge from my “What is Forge?” article. Somehow having a link to the program in the right corner of my blog doesn’t matter, go figure?
(DMCA stands for the Digital Millennium Copyright. The DMCA is supposed to fight piracy but in reality it allows anyone to shut down someone’s webpage or server by sending their ISP a notice saying that the information on that webpage is copyrighted and therefore illegal. The problem is that the sender does not have to prove that the information is copyrighted and illegal.)
Like many derivative works, Forge was written because I enjoyed Magic very much. I liked Magic Online but I was constantly annoyed at the high prices for good cards like Wrath of God and irritated at people who would drop their Internet connection in the middle of a game. I didn’t know anything about programming a good AI, so I created one to the best of my abilities, which is another reason that I don’t think Forge is stealing money away from Wizards, because Forge’s AI is very basic and not nearly as intelligent as a human opponent. (Having a weak AI is good in a sense because people enjoy winning.)
I’m glad Forge exists because it allows players to use a great bunch of older Magic cards. Where else could you get your hands on Juzam Djinn or Ali from Cairo? Where else can you create a Necropotence deck? Most of the cards in Forge are eating dust, even good cards like Meloku the Clouded Mirror which is really fun.
In my phone interview with Wizards I was asked why did I program Forge and I answered, “Because I wanted to use expensive cards that I didn’t own” and the guy said, “Randy Buehler would have a cow if he heard that.” Ha!
I have this insane idea about creating a new card game. The biggest difference is that you would choose which of your opponent’s creatures that you are attacking. The goal would be something like Magic Online and instead of buying individual cards, you would have access to all of the cards for your $5 monthly fee.
Since the whole card game is online you could do crazy things like allow the weekly tournament winner to ban 10 cards which would shake up the metagame. (The banning would only last a week until the next tournament and the winner would choose 10 different cards to ban.)
Since you have access to all the cards, drafting and sealed deck would be free.
at 1:34 AM