Code of Ethics

It’s never been easier to make an application and for it to be on many mobile phones and/or computers.
Unfortunately, there a lot of shady developers making malware disguised as useful apps or games, which then steal your personal information etc.
My code of ethics isn’t about that, it’s a WIP, collection of my beliefs on how the interactive entertainment industry (video games) should work.

#1 No Buzz words - Don’t confuse listeners
#2 No data mining - Spying and data theft
#3 Unfinished is unprofessional
#4 No always on DRM
#5 Broadcasting is a privilege, not a right
#6 Discounting - The race to the bottom
#7 Secondhand - No digital ownership

#1 No Buzz words - Don’t confuse listeners

I do take words literally and have a real issue with buzz words!
Wiki defines ‘buzzowrds’ as:

A buzzword is a word or phrase that becomes very popular for a period of time. Buzzwords often derive from technical terms yet often have much of the original technical meaning removed, being simply used to impress others, although such “buzzwords” may still have the full meaning when used in certain technical contexts.

The first buzz word I remember was in the late 90’s, XML was everywhere and badly overused!

When words are used wrongly (purposefully or otherwise) their meanings are so mangled and corrupted to the point that the word becomes fake or void at the least.
I don’t blame the gamers, smaller developers use them to bandwagon their wares.
Before indie was gaming, indie referred to music and I remember the distinct hatred when musician’s were pigeon holed, how the times have changed with social media!

So, here are a few buzzwords I will never use or use with care:

Indie - Independent of what?

Independent usually refers to a game or developer, but independent from what exactly?
Currently, Indie may include anyone from a child who just installed a game engine, to large companies like Valve, because they have independent creative control.
The traditional term of ‘indie’ was “independent from a publisher”.
What I find deeply ironic, is that every ‘indie’ now is actually very dependent on a digital store, which is actually a publisher! πŸ˜•
And that’s very sad considering the developer doesn’t even own it’s own audience, the store (aka publisher) does instead.
Better words would be: bedroom, hobbyist, solo developer or micro, small, # person studio.

Retro - means old

The word retro just means old, applied to video games, it usually means a visual style/aesthetics, but which style specifically?
10+ years ago, retro meant 8bit styled, 2D games but now the range of retro is so huge, it’s ridiculous.
From Atari 2600 through to late 2000’s 3D games and I imagine in another 10 years time, it will be an even larger span.
So retro what? retro 8bit? retro 16bit? retro 32bit? retro 3D?

Also, is a newly developed game made for an older system, also considered to be retro when it’s actually new?
As a software developer, I’ve supported older systems (DOS, win95, etc) and the word ‘retro’ is never used, instead it’s called legacy 😊

Pixel Art - Does not mean any digital image!

Pixel art is the crafting of 2D images into hardware with limitations, ie ROM/VRAM size.
A CLUT (Colour Look Up Table) was used to compress the images by only using colours within a table, and it had an actual artistic and craft to it!
Sadly the colour limitations is conveniently forgotten and now literally any digital image is considered to be pixel art, so where’s the art? πŸ˜•

Low Poly - Doesn’t mean flat shading!

The first 3D rendered images were wireframe, then came flat shaded (filled with a single colour) these were obviously low polygon due to hardware constraints.
When 3D rendering hardware became popular, they could also render gouraud and textured polygons.
Developers still had a polygon budget for everything rendered so the frame rate & game play wouldn’t suffer.
Today, what we see and hear as ‘low poly’ doesn’t mean having a low amount of polygons, instead it typically means flat shading πŸ˜•


I’m not looking for people to agree with me, just to understand the confusion buzzwords bring and that there are far better descriptive words to accurately describe things.
But to me, it’s sounds unprofessional and bandwagon’ing.

#2 Don’t data mine - Spying and data theft!

The wikipedia meaning of Telemetric is:

Telemetry is an automated communications process by which measurements and other data are collected at remote or inaccessible points and transmitted to receiving equipment for monitoring.

Data collection is so rampant that you would be surprised at how many do it:

Unity3D, is the most popular game engine for small to mid size game development teams.
This information subset is from their Unity3D privacy policy:

    Q: I play a game built with Unity software, what should I know?
    A: Unity has probably collected some or all of the following information about your device:

  • unique device identifiers
  • IP address, country, language
  • device manufacturer/model and OS version
  • Hardware information, RAM, VRAM, CPU, GPU, sensors
  • Information about the Unity Editor used to create the game
  • Application or bundle identification (”app ID”) of the game installed
  • unique advertising identifiers provided for iOS and Android devices (e.g., IDFA or Android Ad ID)
  • Some Unity developers use Unity’s analytics and ad services which collect additional information

As of unity3D 5, developers don’t have the option to turn off Unity3D’s telemetrics.
But do developers inform their users that unity3D is data mining them? and is there a legal requirement to do so?

Maybe the developers are those “nothing to hide” type people, and don’t care about who is watching them or when or why.
But I feel strongly that developer’s must respect the rights of their audience who do care about their privacy.
Who don’t wish to be monitored by a game engine vendor or even the developer for their own data/metrics collection, especially without their permission.

Game developers mostly use telemetric data for design issues like level and AI tuning, but this is a horrible excuse for it to be in a final product!
Developers have open and closed Alpha/Beta testing, which is where telemetric data mining should only be.

And lastly, mobile data is still relatively expensive, metric data being transmitted to the developer, Google/Apple and Unity3D would add up over time!

Mining is a very dirty word, respect the audience’s right to privacy! 😜

#3 Unfinished is unprofessional

Do we buy ‘anything’ at full retail price, and have to wait for patches before it’s actually finished?
Now replace ‘anything’ with books, movies or music, No we don’t, but the video games industry seems to think it’s okay?

I fully understand why it’s done, the technical, financial and human pressures of finishing anything is a huge endeavor in of itself.

To ‘borrow’ time, it’s common now to release games unfinished and hope by the time the physical product is on the shelves, the day one patch is ready.
Win/Win, right? well no, the contents on the physical media is of lessor quality and it’s that version that will outlive the server that provides the patches.

But this is what is pushing the complete move to digital, the whole point of physical media is now seen as a joke and redundant, with the day one patch being larger then the data on the actual physical media.

Also, by distributing an Alpha/Beta quality product, you risk disappointing your audience, this even applies to Steam’s Early Access and’s refinery.

It makes more sense for gamers to actually wait for a discount and receive a (more) finished product!

It’s better to first release digitally, then when it’s ‘completely’ finished distribute a physical product via

All forms of digital entertainment get labeled ‘disposable’.
Not publishing on physical media is a real issue and exactly why the come back of vinyl records!
The fidelity of vinyl records is actually really bad, by today’s standards but it’s revived because of the quality of the packaging and content.

Also, the sad reality of digital content is, once it’s created, it’s worthless and can literally be given away, in the hope of a wide dissemination, this is also known as “the race to the bottom”.

Traditionally, games were delivered and accepted as creative works and physically stood the test of time.
Ever since consoles introduced hard drives and live update/patching systems, games became pure software.
As a business software developer, I release rolling updates, but if you also believe games are creative works, we must accept that the two a mutually exclusive.

As game developers, if we truly value the medium, ship only when it’s finished and offer a physical media option, no excuses!

#4 No Always on DRM - Ownership

Protecting intellectual property is obviously very important for software developers.
Always online DRM is an huge inconvenience to user’s of standalone software.
I like owning software which works today, exactly the same it did 10+ years ago (games, 3D/image/audio software).
DRM should actually be called Digital License Management, because you don’t own the rights, you are only licensed to it, at least until the authorization servers are on.

But, I don’t see piracy as the biggest issue in the monetization of games software, see 5-7.

#5 Broadcasting - It’s a privilege, not a right

If you believe games are pure software, then broadcasting is a non issue, as software usually has no broadcasting restrictions.
However, traditionally, games where creative works, like movies and licensed as such:
From Sierra Online - After dark, 1995:

I consider “lets play” videos/streams to be the same as “reaction videos” and don’t consider it “content creation”, instead I see it as an abuse of the ‘fair use’ laws, which apply to movies, music and the same applies to video games.

It was, IS common curtsy to ask the author of the work for permission before broadcasting/recording.
Saying broadcasting the complete game is free publicity is the same as saying piracy is free publicity.
Yes, games are interactive and not every one plays games the same, but that’s not the point!
Respect the wishes of the author or get a content strike πŸ˜•

#6 Discounting - The race to the bottom

Developing software is time, money and skill intensive, none of which is for free.
For developers to continue to make software, it needs to generate a profit (money after expenses).

In this competitive age of digital, developers often drop their price to make more sales.
There’s a few times when a discount makes sense, ie online PvP/free to play games or a specific marketing campaign, but for standalone games, regular discounting often hurts the developer in the long run.

If the game is price fairly and correctly then it shouldn’t need to be discounted, mostlikely the people buying games with huge discounts have many games which haven’t been played more then a few minutes, this isn’t an audience and the quick revenue doesn’t justify the means.

If a discount is applied, it should have a greater purpose.

#7 Secondhand - Digital ownership

I don’t agree with a secondhand digital market.
A physical copy of software is a tangible product, it has inherit values: SKU, condition, scarcity, etc.

In my opinion, all digital software products should be licensed and not sold, ie you (the purchaser) have a right to use the software, but you don’t own it.
Reselling a digital license or key to me is completely wrong because it implies the original purchaser had “physical ownership” to resell it.

Digital software today however, especially via a digital stores are commonly always being updated (see #3) and involve some DRM(see #4), both of which I disagree with, but makes sense in a digital end user license model.

My views have been compiled over time by listening and talking to many of my peers, which I have complete respect for, even though we may not always agree!

Cliff Harris
Jonathan Blow
Dino Dini
Rob Swan
and the many interviews from Josh Bycer

Better graphics, doesn’t mean better games
Bigger game engines, doesn’t mean better games