Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mojang addresses copying and Minecraft modder conduct

Finally, almost a year after I posted A statement on Minecraft mods copying features from each other, Mojang has publicly addressed the issue. Speaking in front of a large audience at this year's Minecon panel on The future of the plugin API, Jens Bergensten (Jeb) said the following during his presentation:

The next thing is more complicated. And that is you can't say that just because you've made a plugin with a certain feature, you have exclusive rights to that idea.

For example, if you've seen the pistons mod, we decided to contact Hippoplatimus who made the original piston mod and he helped us implementing it. And he has credits for that in the Minecraft end text. However, if you make a plugin with a feature like that and we may already have our own plans for a similar feature you may not claim exclusivity for that feature. And the same goes for other plugin makers.

So I'm sure we're going to have some Internet drama. So be nice to one another. That's the best tip I have.

There are so many developers that do mods now that it's very difficult to protect ideas. The copyright laws are still in place, obviously, so if you have drawn a texture or made a model or something like that, that belongs to you and you have the copyrights of that. So people may not just freely steal the work you have done.

(Jeb's statement starts at 11:24 in the linked video; any transcription errors are mine.)

The associated bullet point on the slide says "Minecraft Plugins are not exclusive." But the bullet points in Jeb's comment are really these:

  • No features are exclusive to any plugin
  • Plugin authors (and users) should act professionally

The first point, about disallowing exclusive features, echoes my statement on Minecraft mods copying features from each other. Controversy has continued since I published the statement, to the detriment of the modding community. Thus Mojang has finally been forced to speak out on the issue.

The second point might bewilder anyone who hasn't been closely following Minecraft's modding community. This is Jeb's "Internet drama" statement where he directs people to "be nice to one another." Although this statement is forward looking, anticipating future drama, the whole topic of copying and conduct is being addressed due to things that have already taken place.

In the past year there have been several instances when one modder attacked another in a manner reminiscent of bullying. These attacks have been egregiously unprofessional. You've never read about a blood feud between, for example, professional game developers such as Will Wright and Sid Meier. They've never raided each other's forum threads, IRC channels, or YouTube comments, or through their insults and disparagement of the other's reputation, incited their fan bases to attack the other on their behalf. These things have all taken place in the Minecraft modder community.

Despite working for competing companies, professional game developers get along because the gaming industry is not a zero-sum game. Gamers buy and play multiple games and take pride in owning huge libraries of titles. Accomplishments by one designer don't diminish the others. Game Developers conferences and other professional gatherings are happy times where developers get to meet their peers, reconnect with old friends, and make new ones.

Defenses based on claims that developing a plugin is merely a hobby and thus not subject to the bounds of professionalism are no excuse for bad behavior. It may be a hobby for the modder, but it's a business for Mojang. Minecraft's player demographics include a huge number of children and young teens who are readily influenced by the behavior of leading modders. Mojang wouldn't want a think of the children-type scandal to arise in the Minecraft community. The more prominent a modder is the more they can expect to have any bad behavior noticed.

[Updated Dec. 16, 2012, new text follows.]
[Updated Dec. 19, 2012, see Marc Watson's comment for why none of what I say below is likely to happen.]
[Updated Jan. 3, 2012 again as a result of Marc Watson's comment.]

Should Mojang decide to deal with bad behavior it might follow the current practice of other game companies. For example, Riot Games banned a professional League of Legends player and ArenaNet in August suspended many Guild Wars 2 players; you can read about both incidents at the link.

I don't know how Riot Games's rulings work; League of Legends players are named and shamed for every violation if all the rulings are public. In the case linked at the top of the article, the banned player is very publicly named and shamed (both real name and in-game handle) in the ruling since it is the second post in the thread.

Dealing with bad behavior is not the responsibility of a game developer, which might explain Jeb's apparent unease while addressing it. Bad behavior is typically handled by a game's community manager or a software company's developer relations person.

I don't know if Marc Watson's Customer Support position encompasses the community manager role, or whether Mojang would need to hire one. Mojang has waited far too long to address the bad behavior, which has been allowed to fester. Long running grudges and feuds are best prevented early with quick action.

[End Update.]

(See also A statement on Minecraft mods copying features from each other.)


  1. Wow, just wow. Good job at totally misinterpreting jeb's statement and/or trying to misuse it to get your point across. You are making unfounded assumptions and you overall follow a pretty one-sided and dumb "argumentation". And yeah:

    "Such actions might start with publicly calling out and embarrassing any offenders."

    How old are you, 12?

    1. Exactly. Stratagerm starts out by making a fantastic point about originality and moddding, then just loses his mind and completely descends into the same childish humiliation and flaming tactics that he is trying to expressly condemned.

      I am massively disappointed, Stratagerm. I will no longer be following your articles anymore. This is a shameful, hypocritical disgrace.

    2. So what you're saying is that it's a good thing when modders behave inappropriately?

      I don't think there's that much room for interpretation when someone says "Be nice to each other". Also, Mojang has the right to prohibit modifications for Minecraft altogether, if the community doesn't behave (see Everyone should be glad they haven't made use of that so far.

      Also, I don't think YOU know what Jeb really wanted to express with his statement either.

    3. Are you saying there's been no unprofessional conduct? Tell me, what do you think Jeb was saying?

      Should Mojang codify "be nice" into a code of conduct for modders, violation of which removes the right to modify the game?

    4. Honestly, the people speaking out against this article haven't done their homework. Here's something straight from the Technic Forums. You can't miss it.

      This is ONE minor, MINOR example of how the modders act towards each other. It's a disgusting ring of immature, egotistical morons who want to be the next big thing. Honestly, I'm disgusted by the behavior and attitudes these people exude. I'm almost 100% sure they're teenagers. It wouldn't make sense otherwise.

    5. | I'm almost 100% sure they're teenagers.

      This is an example of the behavior I was talking about. It's triggered by a single person.

      The instigator is an adult. He had no business in that channel except to insult the people there. He has previously admitted to doing this sort of thing.

    6. IRC chat log 1
      IRC chat log 2

      Not sure of the order of the chats, I think this is correct.

      All the attention is on the second log (which is reproduced in the above comment's link to, but I think that log 1 is far more important, for this:

      [23:24] <[modder1]> will I fuck with [modder2] as much as possible within *my own moral boundaries*?
      [23:24] <[modder1]> absofuckinglutely

      Note: names have been disguised here but are present in the chat logs.

      By his own admission the world is just discovering what I'd figured out long ago: modder1 has had a vendetta against modder2.

      As I keep saying, Mojang needs to address this and should have done it sooner.

    7. And it seems I got the order wrong.

  2. "So I'm sure we're going to have some Internet drama. So be nice to one another. That's the best tip I have." - this is all he was saying. He says nothing about sanctions. I don't know where you came up with all that crap about "calling out" modders.

  3. I've updated the blog post today with some discussion about what Mojang might do in correcting bad behavior.

  4. My job is basically limited to customer support issues right now. As I understand it, "community management" would fall under Lydia's thing. But, I can comment on my own thoughts as a long term player and now insider, as long as it isn't taken as Mojang's official stance, because it's more than likely that were anything to ever happen, I wouldn't be the one "enforcing" it.

    I agree with the first comment, that Jens' statements were used to make a point that was not necessarily his own, and unfortunately, your update only goes deeper into conjecture. If Mojang doesn't moderate player behavior in Minecraft, I'm not sure why it would be moderated outside of it. Plugin authors should behave professionally, but at no point in there did it say "and Mojang will enforce it by taking x action(s)". You've listed a bunch of things that Mojang -could- do, but there's lots of things it -could- do. Mojang -could- give people free pie on Thursdays.

    In my own, personal, informed opinion, I think that plugin authors need to realize that the content that -they- create is the only thing they have control over. If someone else makes the exact same plugin (naturally, with different code to accomplish those same features), then that's the reality of it. It's been said before that plugins from the eventual plugin repository will be free, so people won't be making or losing money over it.

    Programmers should be able to conduct themselves with some degree of professionalism, sure, but I always think that should extend to everyone on the internet. Be grown-ups about things. If someone griefs your server, ban them. If someone harasses you in a forum, report them. If someone bothers you over Skype, block them. The example with Riot doesn't match this, because that was consistent player behavior from a highly-visible player on Riot's servers. I don't think it's Mojang's place to police these people.

  5. So when Lexmanos openly shows support of a mod that steals all features from BTW, FlowerChild is supposed to sit there and take it? This whole article is supposed to be about mod authors acting professionally but whats professional about someone assuming the alias FlowerAdult(totally professional) and stealling almost 2 years of hard work just because FC doesnt want to be apart of Forge. The hipocrisy in this article is hilarious and just shows the bias the writer has toward the forge team(made even more appearent in his tweets). What the Forge team is saying by all this is that they will take your mod if you do not wish to be apart of their api. Extremely professional if you ask me.

    1. Also the professionalism showed by Lex when he bashed FCs coding of BTW during the livestream that was veiwed by thousands.

    2. I link you to this artical:
      you should read it

  6. Jagen,

    Besides the conduct of modders, this article is about Mojang's decree that copying is okay.

    Yes, the language used and the taunting nature of the handle are unprofessional, and were there a code of conduct, would likely be in violation.

    Re-implementing a work-alike mod is explicitly allowed, according to Jeb's presentation at Minecon, since it's an extension of feature copying which is permitted. Mojang wants to be able to cherry-pick any feature and bring it into vanilla Minecraft, and has extended this to modders copying each other. It's quite obvious that modders wouldn't like to have their features cherry-picked by Mojang or other mods, but it's expressly allowed.

    When I was under the impression that Mojang would monetize addons I thought it inevitable that clone teams would show up and start copying mods, and that a forge-compatible BTW would be a nice juicy target for someone looking to make money. But in the API presentation Mojang declared that mods would be free and it would not support paid mod downloads; as a result I figured BTW and others were safe from clones.

    Thus I was pretty surprised by the whole BwF fiasco and haven't yet weighed in on it; at some point I'll get to it. I don't think reimplementing BTW is a particularly useful thing to do at this point, and if it was done to tweak FC then I'm quite disappointed because it's just adding to bad feelings. I had hopes after the statement at Minecon that people would relax and let things deescalate.

    My tweets were specifically addressing the revelation of the existence of a long-running campaign of abuse targeting someone and in no way support a counter campaign. Starting a counter campaign won't make the initial campaign stop. If BwF is part of a new campaign against FC I will condemn it since my goal is to have all the fighting and unprofessionalism stop.

    All the energy that modders are focusing on each other would be better spent working together to hold Mojang's feet to the fire so it delivers the mod API.