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Ferk

Stance of the original Id Software Team on Freedoom

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Posted (edited)

I've noticed that while the legal standing of the project is objectively clear, there are some doubts in the Doom community regarding Freedoom being something the Id Software team (and the original one in particular) might not be very happy with.

 

Their opinion bears importance beyond just following the law. I was told there are even some source ports that out of respect run checksums on the IWAD and they won't run if it isn't one of the ones supported by Id (so it won't work with Freedoom as the IWAD by itself).


So it would be great if we could obtain the blessing for this project from the original Doom devs, and if we do, maybe it's something that could be added to the Freedoom website. I know they no longer work for Id Software anymore, but that's more of a reason to be able to ask them for their opinion without them having to filter through company policy. It would be their personal opinion, in no way associated to current Id Software direction.

 

I know that long time ago there was an email exchange with John Carmack about the legal terms, and his response was uploaded in the following link: https://soulsphere.org/random/carmack_reply.txt

 

I believe this exchange happened before Freedoom was really a thing. Do we have more information on this? or a more recent opinion tailored to Freedoom, now that it's actually a thing?

Is there any further evidence about any of the other members of the team being ok with Freedoom? Has John Romero made any statements about this project?

 

I said it before but one of the main reasons the original Id Software team deserves in my opinion a huge amount of respect and admiration is the fact that they opened up to the community their entire engine, allowing complete freedom to integrate it in your own projects in whichever way you'd want, no strings attached. This certainly honors them and I would not be into classic Doom so much if it wasn't because of this. So I'd be disappointed if it was the case that they aren't ok with people being able to play Freedoom without owning a paid copy of Doom.

Edited by Ferk

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For me the damning line has always been this one:

You can make a completely different game using the code with our blessing, but if it has imps, cyber demons, BFGs, etc, then you are treading on thin ice.

There have been some strides in eliminating some of the worst issues of this type in the recent couple years, but I still maintain that making something that has the explicit intent of accurately running PWADs made for Doom can never truly qualify as "a completely different game".  OTOH I've heard it said (albeit from a take-this-with-a-grain-of-salt type of source) that "game rules are not copyrightable" and that therefore making a game that operates the same way but with different names and graphics is legally kosher (this was said in regard to computerized renditions of board games).  So I dunno.

 

It's kind of a shame that the FLOSS movement seems to be so fixated on making clones like this while the things that go in a genuine "new game" direction like (for example) Rekkr always seem to end up as proprietary "freeware" instead.  The People's Doom looks more promising in this regard graphically and thematically at least but recent posts about it seem to indicate it's not really embracing a FLOSS philosophy either.  But then I have my doubts that Eric Raymond's "Bazaar approach" really works for making games (or necessarily works that well in general, really).

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Posted (edited)

Really? To me that was always the safest line.

Freedoom never really had imps or cyber demons, at least not graphically (and the theme, at least in my mind, had always been about Lovecraftian creatures from the depths, although there has never been a clear story and lately there were some mixes of alien genetics stuff). But I do believe it could certainly do with less of the tech base theme of Doom. And I'd love to see Freedoom's SKAG 1337 replaced by something else entirely, maybe some eldrich artifact (in my opinion, there's too much of a techy scifi direction in the late years in Freedoom... but that's a different topic).

 

If you aren't thinking graphically, but gameplay-wise, then thousands of games have imps and/or cyberdemons. Enemies shooting projectiles is something overused, even before Doom was a thing. And let's not forget that the gameplay is not really provided by the WAD, but by the engine, which they released as GPL. Freedoom just gives you a WAD-packed collection of assets. You can load it in an engine with different gameplay that makes cyber demons fly and attack by stumping on you, turns imps into static decoration while running the entire game in an isometric view. The Freedoom project does not dictate any gameplay in particular, it's just graphics and map assets.

 

If anything, it's the last line the one that might be "damning" depending on how you interpret it when he mentions "similary looking original art". Specially if you think of the textures (although I doubt he meant anything else than the characters and other elements that might be distinctive of Doom and thus can be considered part of their trademark, otherwise I'm sure I can find examples in other games of some similary looking textures).

 

He also made the remark of them being "obligated to defend our trademarks and copyrights", so I dare to say that his response was more of a company policy kind of thing. The fact that he actually did say before that we'll get their blessings if we actually do not step into their Intellectual Property does tell me that he would be totally fine with Freedoom as long as it's legal.

 

But the question of whether is really legal or not is not something that the old Id Software can answer anyway, you'd need to ask a judge if it ever goes on trial (which is something that doesn't even depend on them anymore).

My question was not so much about the legal aspects. I was curious about their personal opinion, their morals.


Recently someone mentioned that it's possible the members of the old Id Software team might actually be angry at how Freedoom is allowing the engine to be used without owning the official IWAD. And that there's an unwritten rule that says that you should only run PWADs (or even TC's) if you actually own the Doom IWAD, to be respectful to the original devs.
So I wanted to know if there's any evidence of the Id Software team actually being unhappy about the perspective of it being possible for something like Freedoom to exist (provided it doesn't use any "similary looking original art").

Edited by Ferk

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, Ferk said:

If anything, it's the last line the one that might be "damning" depending on how you interpret it when he mentions "similary looking original art". Specially if you think of the textures (although I doubt he meant anything else than the characters and other elements that might be distinctive of Doom and thus can be considered part of their trademark, otherwise I'm sure I can find examples in other games of some similary looking textures).

They go hand in hand, but I suppose it's a semantic argument of where you draw the line of a "completely different game".  Freedoom still:

> Uses the same palette

> Uses the same texture/flat names

> Uses the same lump names

> Uses some sprite designs that are influenced by the appearance/descriptions of the originals (powerup orbs, for instance, although there has been some gradual replacement of too-similar designs over time)

All of which strike me as fairly questionable, and none of which would be necessary were it not for the whole "it's a thing that lets you run Doom PWADs without having Doom" aspect.

 

Legally speaking, yes, it's probably "fine" (or at least not profitable to persecute), or I'd imagine it'd have been smacked down by now like projects that're probably more obscure already have been (e.g. Doom Roguelike).  But I'd say it's, by deliberate design, still too similar for me to call a "completely different game".  And sure, you could run it through some modified engine that changes the game rules if you wanted to, I suppose, but that's not the explicitly suggested usage.  I guess that's irrelevant if you're just asking whether the id crew consider it to be a "completely different game" or not, though.  I don't think anyone's asked further after the initial response you quoted, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's been reluctance to do so for fear of getting an answer they don't like.

 

Edit:  I mean, think about this, if you change the names and graphics of things, but the game still operates the same way, is a game where you drop constructs of four blocks into rows to eliminate them still not just Tetris, or a game where you clear dots from a maze while four enemies chase you around still not just Pac-Man?  If anything saves Freedoom in this regard, it'd be the argument that it's a complex enough game that different level designs have enough of an impact to qualify it as a different game rather than just a variant, rather than the fact that the graphics were made to look (somewhat) different.  But then, look at all the people who slam Heretic as being "just fantasy Doom with everything too samey" and it's much more of a different game from Doom than Freedoom is.

Edited by ETTiNGRiNDER : For example...

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I know you mean well with this thread, but past experience has been that it never leads to any really productive outcome. Unless you're an actual lawyer or have consulted one and want to share what you've learned, there's not going to be much in the way of anything new to say here. Historically threads like these waste a lot of time and energy and produce no real outcome or consensus. For that reason I'm closing the thread.

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