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Theft of Ideas

by Selina Kelley

I normally find it very difficult to think of new "neat" ideas. What I create on my mud normally comes from another game I've played, or from books or movies that I've seen. Lately, I've come to question if my implementing ideas from other sources is ethical.

Take the latest game I've been playing, for example. I've been hooked on Diablo II since the start of the year. My friends at work got me started, and I've found it to be quite engrossing (albeit, *gasp*, graphical). From the game, I've gotten some really good ideas that I can implement on my mud. Socketed weapons, for example, is a really neat idea that could work well with the gems we have floating around the realm. (Socketed weapons allow you to insert gems into a weapon to enhance or add attributes). Also the idea of percentage chance that a weapon on a monster is "unique" is a fairly simple addition that could make a game interesting.

To Catch a Thief

Alfred Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief". Maybe he'll catch me...

But how ethical is it for me to take their ideas and put them on my mud? I'm certainly not harming Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of D2, nor am I really harming the enjoyment of the people that play the mud I'm on. But is it right for me to "steal" ideas, so to speak, from other sources?

Maybe I'm thinking about this all in black and white... it's surely a grey area when it comes to taking some artistic liberties with ideas from other games. I'm not taking their code, I haven't hacked their server, and I'm not even taking their players. I just think the idea is neat.

At the same time, I know how incensed I get when I log into a mud and see something that is an exact duplicate "unique" function from another mud (including typos!). Perhaps it's more that I see code-theft as a much more unethical event than idea-theft, or that I feel I can extrapolate more and provide a different "vision" on an idea than I could from a chunk of code that Joe-Bob Number Six from Zed mud created in 1995.

I consider myself a moral, ethical person. I don't really consider that using an idea taken from another game is wrong, as long as I don't pretend to have thought of the idea myself. I always give credit where it's due, and would never attempt to pass myself off as an ideas genious.

Perhaps it's more that I glean information from my surroundings and current outlook on life and turn them into online reality. Using life experience (albeit shallow, gaming experience!) is not altogether a bad thing when shaping a mud world, and can in some aspects make it more interesting for other people.

I try to make any mud that I am on interesting for other people, be it as a coder or player, and if that means that sometimes I have to take some artistic license and mold ideas from other games into the workings of my mud, so be it. Maybe I am a bad person after all.

Selina Kelley can most often by found on ProphecyMUD. She is also an editor here at Imaginary Realities.