this has been an interesting week! Holiday orders are pouring
in, our games were mentioned in WIRED magazine, our website got
Slashdotted, and someone ripped-off the design of Fluxx!
On Thursday, we got our first look at the January 2001 issue
of Wired magazine, which features a two-page spread entitled
For Geeks", this being a list of 20 neat-o gift ideas
picked by Slashdot, which includes our own "Non-Computer
Games", described as being "card games that modify
their own rules, and board games for the brainy." The article
consists of a two page spread, with a product shot of Chrononauts
in the corner!
Once WIRED hit the newsstands, the article, complete with
appropriate linkages, became available on Slashdot.org, which
had solicited ideas for the list from its readers. Slashdot is
infamous for crashing other websites by overwhelming them with
traffic; nerds surfing in from Slashdot and thus causing a webserver
to crash is apparently so common that the phenomena is nicknamed
us, the Slashdot Effect has been entirely positive. We had a
major spike in sales, and our websites didn't crash despite a
dramatic increase in traffic. Probably this is because ours was
just one in a list of 20 links, and our site is broad and widely
distributed. But we definitely got a lot of hits, and more importantly,
a lot of orders! Our sales volume literally tripled on the day
we were slashdotted. We've been packing orders and getting 'em
over to the Post Office as fast as possible, trying to stay on
top of the situation, so we're busier than ever in this, our
busiest time of the year. And we owe it all to Erskin, the Slashdot
reader who submitted our games and thus set this all in motion.
Anyway, judging from the email we've been getting, we have
a lot of new readers looking in this week, and if you are one
of these new Slashdot-generated readers, let me just say, "Welcome
to Wunderland!" (And to everyone else: remember to take
your shoes off at the door.)
Meanwhile, in an unrelated story, we had to deal with an awkward
intellectual property issue this week, and although it did end
with a peaceful and amicable resolution, it still left me feeling
like a corporate blue meanie.
Here's what happened. On Thursday, we received a review copy
of a game called "uManage", the design of which was
totally copied from Fluxx.
Its creator had put the whole thing up on his website as a free
download, complete with a set of PDF files that you could print
onto cardstock and cut up yourself. Great idea for publishing
your own game... except of course that this wasn't his own game.
I tried to reserve judgment on what he'd done until I'd actually
seen it, but when I did, I'm sorry to say that I took a dim view
of his embellishments.
uManage (that "u" up front is supposed to be pronounced
"micro"; like the Oneders,
it's a name doomed to mispronunciation) was a Dilbert-style rehash
of Fluxx, with everything renamed and rewritten to avoid blatant
copyright violation. Thus, the basic rules became "Corporate
Policy"; instead of "Draw 1, Play 1", his terms
were "New Hire 1, Outsource 1"; New Rules became "Initiatives",
Keepers became "Deliverables", Goals were "Mission
Statements", and Actions were "Action Items"...
it just went on and on like that. uManage was full of in-jokes
about the tech industry, but except for a couple of minor innovations
(like text on the Keepers telling you which Goals they were good
for), the gameplay was a mirror-image of Fluxx. It's such a precise
copy that I can tell he based it on a First Edition deck.
Now, you might think (as he did) that this was just a simple
case of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery; he made
no bones about the fact that his game was based on mine, and
credited me as the original designer. But he never told us anything
about it directly; we only heard about it after the game was
picked as the UserFriendly
In general, we encourage people to customize their Fluxx decks
to suit the audience they game with. That's why we include a
blank card, and why we make more blanks available in our webstore.
But this was different. It wasn't Fluxx anymore... he had drained
all the beauty and elegance out of my game and replaced it with
confusion and obfuscation. And he was giving the whole thing
away free, without my knowledge or consent.
To his credit, he took his pages down as soon as he heard
we had concerns about uManage. I made a point of saying that
I wasn't telling him to take his downloadables down, but
that I nonetheless wasn't giving him permission to put them up.
That was enough to make him decide to keep his game offline,
and he agreed he should have asked me about it first instead
of just putting it all online. But still, I feel like a Bad Guy...
this is the first time I've had to shut down someone else like
this, and I didn't enjoy it. I felt particularly bad when I realized
how nervous his household had been about the possibility that
we might bring some sort of legal action against them. (Yeah,
right. Me, sue?) But I think it's all turning out OK; he's already
moved on to an altogether different game idea, which you can
now download instead.
He keeps an online diary at OpenDiary.com, so you can read
the whole story from his point of view, beginning with his discovery
of Fluxx on November
16, through his receipt of my email
telling him I didn't approve, and right up to the present.
Don't Forget to Shop!