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Author Topic: Unofficial implementation for fancards only?  (Read 1009 times)

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Udzu

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Unofficial implementation for fancards only?
« on: December 05, 2018, 09:30:05 am »
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Hi all,

I'm aware that prior to 2013 unofficial implementations of Dominion such as Isotropic and Androminion had the implicit consent of Donald X and RGG (as long as they remained non-profit and didn't use official artwork). Following the introduction of Dominion Online, these were discontinued (though Androminion still appears to be available online, albeit not through Google Play). At the same time, simulators such as Geronimoo's and Dominiate (which don't permit full gameplay but still implement the game mechanics) continue to operate.

My question is: would it be ok to implement and release an unofficial (and non-profit) Dominion game that allows you to play only with unofficial fancards (apart from the base treasure and victory cards)? I'm looking for a pet coding project and implementing Dominion would be lots of fun. My end goal would likely be a simple console application that lets you define and play with custom cards, and perhaps a rudimentary AI.

Anyone know who I can contact to find out. And if this is still not ok, what (if anything) I could get away with implementing?

Thanks
Udzu

PS Anyone know how to tag Donald X.? This is my first time posting here...
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JThorne

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Re: Unofficial implementation for fancards only?
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2018, 12:49:07 pm »
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As a software developer, and someone who knows a bit about intellectual property issues, I'd like to suggest an even broader idea.

If you're looking for a pet project, why not a deckbuilder-builder?

In other words, write a deckbuilder game framework in which all systems are abstracted, configurable and scriptable. In fact, you might even study some other deckbuilders to see if there are mechanisms that Dominion doesn't have that your project could implement.

The reason I suggest this is partly because even including the base cards, or using terminology or card names particular to Dominion, would be copyright violation, even for a project that you intend to release for free for fun. But partly because what I'm proposing would be more generally interesting.

If what you release is a configurable system, containing no card names or mechanisms, then individual users of your system could create their own configurations, card names, designs, artwork, whatever. If those people chose to use Dominion images, names, mechanisms, then if they already owned Dominion, it would fall under fair use. If they did not, or if they shared these configuration files with other users who did not own Dominion, then that would be a copyright violation, but it would no longer be your responsibility.

Maybe this sounds like a grey area, like a file sharing framework that's technically not responsible if their users use it primarily for piracy, but I think you could end up with something much different here, especially if your system were powerful enough to mimic many different existing deckbuilders, or even give users the creative potential to make new ones and experiment with game design mechanisms.

The fascinating thing about approaching a project this way is to start thinking about how abstract you need to be in order to create a configurable system. Instead of thinking about actions, buys, coin, debt, just think about imaginary values A, B, C, D, etc. that can be named anything and can be added to or subtracted from. (Wait a minute... Actions, Buys, Coin, Debt? That was completely accidental, I swear.) Empty your mind of specifics and see how far you can generalize.

Likewise, where can cards exist? Don't think in terms of supply piles, deck, hand, discard, in play, tavern mat, etc. Cards can go into card containers. Card containers have or do not have a number of attributes: Shared or player-specific, ordered or unordered, public/player/hidden/head-only/tail-only visibility, etc. The act of "drawing" is taking a card from the head of container A (player-specific, ordered, hidden) and adding it container B (player-specific, unordered, player visible). "gaining" is taking a card from the head of container C (shared, ordered, head-only visibility) and putting it in container D (player-specific, ordered, public tail-only visibility). The fact that you call A a deck, B a hand, C a supply pile and D the player discard pile is completely arbitrary. "in play" is a container, "set aside with Prince" is a container. The names and implications of each are all part of the configuration.

What do cards do? Well, they contain a sequence of instructions which must be followed in order, but even then, they're conditional. There are often several different instructions that are followed depending on which container the card is in. Some cards affect the game differently in different containers. Some instructions give the player a choice. Some simply add or subtract values from A, B, C, D, but even then, additions or subtractions need to be bounded (not less than zero?) or conditional (instruction is only followed if value F is greater than value G?)

And even the concept of a "card" may be too specific. Anything that can effect game state and can move between different containers needs to be tracked. Landmarks, events, adventures tokens, victory point tokens, etc., are all objects that move and affect game state and may contain instructions.

To say nothing of turn phases. Again, don't think about action/buy/cleanup. Think phase A, B, C, D, etc. Allow the configuration to specify what happens during each of these phases, whether it's optional or mandatory, how many times it can be repeated, etc. And keep in mind that the "what happens" part of these phases would allow setting, clearing or modifying the values described in the beginning. Different games have different phases. Many games draw one card at the start of turn. Dominion cleans up all cards from play and hand and draws a new hand at the end of the turn. These are just moving cards from one container to another during different phases and could be implemented in a sufficiently robust system.

If anything, exploring a generalized system like this will be a much more valuable programming and development experience than writing an implementation of a specific game.

Note: Starting as console-only is a good call. Writing a UI would be an unspeakable nightmare. If anything, what I'm describing above is kind of a game-development API which you (or someone else) could write a UI on top of for a specific game implementation. But again, maybe you want some API UI tools, as well, for implementing on-screen game object containers and manipulations.

AI, incidentally, is a lot harder than you think. I would keep that open and scriptable and just start with the concept of AI scripts, much like the Geronimoo sim, so that you could script AIs for pre-designed configurations. Making an AI that can handle any possible configuration, particularly if the system is sufficiently flexible and robust, is virtually impossible. However, if you allow specific AIs to be scripted, the you or others could create challenge games with a pre-configured game and AI that others could play against to see if they could beat it without reading the AI script.


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Donald X.

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Re: Unofficial implementation for fancards only?
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2018, 01:23:58 pm »
+2

I'm aware that prior to 2013 unofficial implementations of Dominion such as Isotropic and Androminion had the implicit consent of Donald X and RGG (as long as they remained non-profit and didn't use official artwork). Following the introduction of Dominion Online, these were discontinued (though Androminion still appears to be available online, albeit not through Google Play). At the same time, simulators such as Geronimoo's and Dominiate (which don't permit full gameplay but still implement the game mechanics) continue to operate.

My question is: would it be ok to implement and release an unofficial (and non-profit) Dominion game that allows you to play only with unofficial fancards (apart from the base treasure and victory cards)? I'm looking for a pet coding project and implementing Dominion would be lots of fun. My end goal would likely be a simple console application that lets you define and play with custom cards, and perhaps a rudimentary AI.

Anyone know who I can contact to find out. And if this is still not ok, what (if anything) I could get away with implementing?
We allowed isotropic and some other versions such as the BGA one, with the idea being, we weren't doing anything there, why not be friendly. We are doing something there now though, the dominiongames version. So nothing else is allowed. I'm not the one to ask for permission, but RGG would say no. I don't think RGG could even say yes; contractually they probably give ShuffleiT an exclusive.

When someone says "what could I get away with without being sued," I think, "here is someone who is not my friend." You can get away with making some completely unrelated game, that's what you can get away with; there is plenty of fun to be had writing programs for games which are not Dominion. There are games desperate to have programs, where the publishers would surely be happy to have someone promoting their game. Programs for Greed or Nefarious would be great, for example. I can't give permission from those publishers, not being them, but you know.

You can also just make something for yourself. By not sharing it online you gain the ability to do endless things that you'd never get permission for.
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Watno

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Re: Unofficial implementation for fancards only?
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2018, 02:01:17 pm »
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When someone says "what could I get away with without being sued," I think, "here is someone who is not my friend." You can get away with making some completely unrelated game, that's what you can get away with; there is plenty of fun to be had writing programs for games which are not Dominion. There are games desperate to have programs, where the publishers would surely be happy to have someone promoting their game. Programs for Greed or Nefarious would be great, for example. I can't give permission from those publishers, not being them, but you know.

The publisher of Greed (Queen Games) totally ignored them when I asked wether I could put my implementation of Greed online. They didn't sue me either when I did though .

I still didn't get around to set up a new server after my free AWS year ran out however:(
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Udzu

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Re: Unofficial implementation for fancards only?
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2018, 02:27:53 pm »
+1

Thanks for the quick (and unambiguous) response! (And sorry if the question came across as presumptive.)

I'll check out the great suggestions here, or perhaps go for something altogether different.
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