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Game Making & Editing FAQ/Q&A

The content on this page is the result of providing answers to Frequently Asked Question asked of Search Engines.

Questions that often go partially or fully unanswered that gamers, content creators and developers want to know about making games, gaming in general, game editing, modding, developing or creating content for games.

If you don't see an answer to a question you may have asked - which is what brought you to this page - then send it in and KatsBits will answer it or find one for you.

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[Blender] User Preferences broken / not showing

June 13, 2014, 09:32:28 PM by kat
Problem Description
Occasionally Blenders User Preferences pop-up window either does not show, or when it does is corrupted when accessed from "File » User Preferences" main menu. The likely culprit is a graphics card driver with broken or poorly implemented OpenGL which can manifest in problems displaying multiple layers of OpenGL content (which Blender uses to draw it's interface). Whilst not a fix in of itself, the following tip should allow access to User Preferences, not as an overlay, rather as an 'Editor'.

Solution
From any view (typically the 3D View), click the "Current Editor Type" button far-left of the menu-header under the active window and select "User Preferences" from the list. If there are no fundamental issues with Blender itself, the view should switch to the appropriate window absent and display issues. If not then it means there is a fundamental problem either with the installation of Blender (in which case re-download and re-install the file, or download an earlier version to see if the same problem exists).


User Preferences not properly displaying when accessed from the "File" menu


Instead of accessing from "File" menu, select "User Preferences" as a "Current Editor Type" view


User Preferences shown as an 'Editor' type. Switch back when done

Blackberry Playbook won't charge, power-up or boot

March 28, 2014, 02:06:27 PM by kat
Problem
Like all electronic devices, the Blackberry Playbook is prone to issues if its batteries are allowed to fully drain. When this happens the device will neither power-up nor retain a charge when plugged into a power source. The reason for this is due to the way power is managed by the Playbook - batteries need to have a residual amount of power, about 3 volts, for proper power management, below this point there isn't enough to power the CPU and power management chip that regulates the batteries and their power usage/charging. When pressing the power button if the LED flashes red a number of times and then either green or amber, all is not lost.

Note: this is not the same issue as the 'Playbook Black Screen of Death' (BSD)

Solution
Depending upon the severity of the battery drain simply plugging the device into the charging unit (not the USB connector but the wall plug and cable unit) should fix the problem - when connected the screen will display a 'power' symbol indicating it's accepting the charge. Allow a reasonable amount of time to pass, at least 30 to 40 minutes, attempting to boot the device. If this does not happen then the following may need to be done.

In instances where nothing at all appears to be happening (aside from a hopefully flashing LED) it may mean the Playbook needs to be 'stack charged'. This involves charging the device a number of times for a limited period, usually from 30 seconds to between one or two minutes - duration depends on the severity of the battery power loss. Each charge 'stacks' on top of the previous and over a duration builds up sufficient change in the device for it to either boot, or at least then accept a proper charge. In essence, this process builds enough charge for the CPU and power management chip to activate, which in turn allows the device to charge properly. Again, allow a good 30 minutes or so before turning on the device.

If both the above fail then it means the device has absolutely no power at all (not even the LED flashes). In such instances the device may need to be dismantled and the batteries accessed directly for charging - which bypasses the power management system. Needless to say this will void any warranties.

"Fan Art" & Copyright Infringement

March 19, 2014, 07:19:33 AM by kat
Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights can be a tricky subject to understand but for the typicaly game maker or content creator it need not be. Take for example one of the many [1] "Mario 64" remakes that popped up recently making use of the Blender Game Engine[2]. It's getting a lot of praise, YouTube views, and as a personal project for the developer it's certainly a laudable and impressive pursuit; people tend to learn difficult subjects or concepts quickly, and retain more information better, and for longer, when they enjoy what they are doing, or are familiar with certain aspects of the materials used. Mario, being a fun character and one with which most gamers are familiar, could be considered a perfect example of this principle in action.

This material is provided for informational purposes only and should NOT be construed as legal advice on Copyright, Intellectual Property Rights or DMCA. It is highly recommended legal Council be sought in matters of law.

However, these types of projects regularly prove problematic for creators because their assets are frequently ripped[3] from other games. As a result it often means the Copyright or Intellectual Property rights and protections of a third-party are being directly infringed[4]. Where Mario is concerned that third-party would be Nintendo.

So what is "Copyright" and "Intellectual Property" and why should it matter? In a nutshell Copyright and other Intellectual Property rights concern certain aspects of creative endeavor. Whilst not mutually inclusive of each other, that is; 1) the Authors right to claim the Work as theirs, and 2) the prerogative to exploit said Work[5], however they see fit, independently, in part or whole, the activities of which are recognised and protected[6] under various International Treaties and Regional and Local Copyright Law[7]. For the most part however, certainly where recognisable content, brands and Intellectual Property's are involved, when someone else's material is being used without permission, discussion of "Copyright" and "Intellectual Property" tends to infer the latter rather than former point - the unauthorised exploitation of the Authors prerogative in a given Work - because the determination of 'ownership' is crucial with respect to being able to properly appropriate content without adverse legal consequence.

To put the above in context with the Mario this would mean that whilst Shigeru Miyamoto is recognised as the 'Author' and 'creator' of the character and associated Intellectual Property, the exploitation 'Rights' currently belong to Nintento. In other words Nintendo own Mario, and depending upon the degree of 'ownership' Nintendo has over the Mario, they also control how he's used - which might subsequently mean Miyamoto having to get Nintendo's permission to exploit something he created. So, if Miyamoto has to do this as the original creator of Mario, then everyone else would require permission for the same reason; the Property belongs to someone and their permission is needed to use it. Furthermore, should the resulting project be made public, because doing  'exploits' (is making use of) the Property of another individual or entity, permission would be of greater import. Without it the projects owner could find themselves in a lot of hot water, or loose their work entirely (cf. fn[9] & [10]).

But isn't this all about making money? What about "Fan Art", people don't make money from that and it's often posted to 'public' websites?. Generally speaking, infringing another’s Intellectual Property concerns its misappropriation or unauthorised use, interpreted as broadly as possible, rather than 'money making' specifically. This makes Fan Art doubly problematic because, whilst Rights Holders might 'indulge' communities by (conditionally) allowing the creation of themed artwork[8], the issue becomes exacerbated the moment such content appears alongside any form of monetisation - websites that tout for subscriptions or memberships, that sell other services, or just display plain old banner advertising -  even though fans might not otherwise have intended to profit from their creations. This is a key point in understanding this entire issue and why some content can be removed whilst others might remain - in almost all cases the applicable conditions of use tend to reside solely with the Rights Holder[9]; if they feel someone is unduly profiting from something they don't have the appropriate permission to use, they will determine whether or not the material gets "Foxed"[10] and issued with a "Cease and Desist" Notice[11], a process now made all the more easy with the advent of DMCA[12] and its respective "DMCA Take Down" procedure.

It should be apparent at this point, and in this context, that using third-party content without permission needlessly conflates the creation process such that would-be creators, need to foster an increasingly cautious, responsible and mature attitude towards Copyright and Intellectual Property because, if anything, it is of equal import to their own projects as it is to the likes of Nintendo[13] - just as with Privacy[14] these rights are uniformly applicable, the moment the creator become selective in their consideration is the moment they might loose or compromise their own grounds of complaint should they find their own work misappropriated.

The same is also true in the broader context and the Blender communities overall lack of regard for Copyright and other Intellectual Property issues. It (the collective community) should be seen to encourage originality, for creators to express their own ideas rather than to infringe, especially where such productions are a direct consequence of lazy familiarity, cashing-in on, or at the expense of, someone else's work[15].

Finally, whilst Copyright and Intellectual Property issues can be complex, they are not always expressly ambiguous. In other words, certain types of activity are pretty cut-n-dry in terms of their being an infringement or not - ripping, or using ripped content for instance, is not "ambiguous" because several layers of 'security' has to have been intentionally bypassed to get at it. And whilst working with such content might not be strictly condoned when done in the privacy of the personal home computer, publicising the results only invites trouble, something that can be avoided by simply not doing it in the first place.

The below is a very basic list of Copyright and Intellectual Property "do's and don'ts" - it's important to note that the following does NOT mean doing one or the other will be considered a 'safe' activity or not as the case may be, because as discussed extensively above, Rights Holders typically have the last say on these matters and have no reservations about expressing that position.

Avoid doing the following;
  • Ripping content from a primary source.
  • Porting content from one source to another.
  • Distributing materials created by another.
  • Bypassing DRM.
  • Ignoring an EULA.
Consider doing;
  • a re-imagining or re-interpretion (using different media may be better than same media).
  • looking at whether 'Fair Use'[16] applies.
Additional Reading


FootNotes
[1] searching BlenderNation should reveal the article unless it's been removed - it's not linked to in the above for reasons stated in the above, namely this site (KatsBits) not wanting to condone the activity in question.

[2] the BGE remake/facsimile makes use of materials and content ripped (extracted) from a protected environment. This generally means two things; 1) the circumnavigation of DRM (where applicable), and 2) ignoring an EULA (End User License Agreement) by cracking open the games content, elements of which are typically held proprietary format.

[3] the author of the Mario 64 Blender Game Engine facsimile port openly admits on YouTube that the assets used area ripped from Smash Brawl "Using Blender Game Engine, just playing a bit, the model is from Smash Brawl, everything else done by me, still a lot of work to do, stay tuned for more updates! :) " [(youtube)/watch?v=RA-aXpl6f8s]. It's often the case that assets used for projects like this are ripped and given their professional quality, having been made by professionals, often garner much praise as a result of people not knowing (out of naiveté rather than not caring per se).

[4] even though the materials in question are virtual, because they have been 'taken without permission' a "theft" has occurred. This is because "Theft" is generalised as a 'Property' crime rather than an issue attributable to specific, tangible items or 'things'. As such 'taking', 'exploiting' or 'misappropriating', 'Property' without permission is "theft".

[5] "Natural Rights" differ from "Assigned Rights" in that they exist 'outside' or in the absence of Law; being regarded as the author of something is not predicated upon the existence of a Law saying as much..

[6] generally speaking International Copyright and Intellectual Property are afford protection under the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which also depends upon the Territorial jurisdictional interpretation and enforcement of the aforementioned, alongside U.S. Code: Title 17 - COPYRIGHTS in the United States, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 in the UK, or under the EU as The Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. Furthermore, whilst the following is not required for a Work to qualify as being Copyright protected, Intellectual Property registered with a Government Agency, Officially recognised body, or in an appropriate form that engenders 'Official Sanction', will be afforded greater protection through an associative preponderance of evidence, i.e. there is an official record of such-and-such. It's important to note additionally that ideas and thoughts in of themselves cannot be protected unless or until they are manifest in tangible form.

[7] the "Author" or "Originator" of a Work can grant use of their materials to a third-party (or beyond) typically through conditional 'license of use', a privilege that can be revoked under certain circumstances. This means that Copyright and Intellectual Property is in effect comprised of two interconnected parts; 1) the item itself, a painting for example; and 2) the ability to exploit said item without necessarily taking ownership, for example making a print of the painting without having to purchase the painting outright. However, if the Author/Originator transferred full Rights in their Work to another, whilst they will are always recognised as the "Author" et al, they would then need to seek permission from the assignee to use the very materials they created - the creator of a Work can never be stripped of "Title" to the work (being referenced as the "Author" et al) because it is a 'natural right' - a right that exists outside law, but they can be prevent from exploiting that right depending on assigned license/rights conditions. There is a material difference between being recognised as the author or originator of a Work, and being able to 'exploit' that work.

[8] where "Fan Art" is tolerated by Rights Holders, that might be based upon whether a given Work is 'transformative or 'non-transformative' - a drawing or new 3D character might be considered 'transformative' because it changes, adapts or modifies the original expression; whereas ripping and transferring content between devices might not because it makes no substantiative change to the original - it is 'non-transformative'. Establishing the characteristics of the above in any case can be difficult when output is based entirely on someone else's property, especially if that material is in actively use (as is Mario).

[9] level design and game modding differ in a general sense in that developers and publishers might expressly allow it through the availability of proprietary tools - id Software, Epic, CryTec and Valve for example, provide various proprietary tools and editors to facilitate the production of fan made content for their games.

[10]Anyone with more than a passing interest in game related content creation, or wanting to make their own games, needs to be aware that infringement can lead to projects being “Foxed”, that is, their projects being forced to close through the receipt of a "cease and desist" Notice, as happened an Alien's themed Quake Mod that had to be cancelled due to 20th Century Fox claiming infringement of their Intellectual Property. Unfortunately for the mod team (and others since), 20th Century Fox were (and still are) well within their Rights as the IP holders to do this. And not just with games. It's equally applicable to transfer printed mugs and tea-towels as it is to action figures, movie prop replicas and full-size CosPlay outfits.

[11] “...The Alien Quake project was using copyrighted material without permission and this makes Alien Quake an unauthorized and illegal production. Therefore, you are hereby ordered to remove all your Alien Quake files from your computer storage...” [source notice]. Prior to DMCA, a legal Notice had to be sent to the infringing party at considerable cost to the Claimant (person/entity claiming infringement). Now all a Claimant need to is send an eDoc for the infringing party to be considered 'served'.

[12] DMCA is a legal process by which a Rights Holder can issue a Notice against an infringing party to have suspected materials taken offline whilst the veracity of such claim is contested (or not as the case often is). For more information read the following - “I got a DMCA 'take-down' Notice, what do I do?”, “Are DMCA Protection websites scams?” and “filing a DMCA Notice or Counter Notice”.

[13] individual developers and small teams are increasingly reliant upon revenues generated from advertising, so competing products that misuse or misappropriate someone else's Intellectual Property robs them of income by diluting or hijacking their revenue stream – this is one of the reasons YouTube/Google recently instituted their “Content ID” claim system, which partially seeks to address this issue on YouTube (cf. “YouTube & Not Approved for Monetisation”).

[14] "equal rights" refers to assignment without bias or prejudice. However, do note that "equal rights" is not synonymous with "equality of result". With respect to "Privacy", as is generally understood, it is another form of property right because the data and/or information often at the centre of such claims, belongs or pertains to some one or entity. 'Ownership' (source) can be traced in other words, making it a commodity that can be treated in much the same way as any other property over which a claim could be made, or protection demanded.

[15] a creator or developer using someone else's material to make a name for themselves, or to cash-in on either the popularity of a particular game or any of the names associated with it, is a form of exploitation that is just as readily an infringement of Intellectual Property as 'theft' and equally subject to liability
. So again, it's far better to create something from an original idea than to use 'ripped' content because at the very least, the Author has stronger claim of ownership over such material.

[16]
it's important to understand there are no specific allowances for "Fan Art" in Copyright Law so it tends to be argued under "Fair Use". However, depending on applicable Law and Jurisdiction, "Fair Use" has some strict conditions that do not always apply (because the intent behind 'Fair Use' differs to that of 'Fan Art'). Use with extreme caution.

Surface Tablet & limited internet connection

October 18, 2013, 03:48:17 PM by kat


Description
Microsoft's Surface Table (Windows RT) appears to have persistent issues connecting to the Internet resulting in either "Limited Internet Connectivity" errors, or there being a full connection (there are no errors or warnings) but the speed and throughput is severely reduced. This may happen on WiFi networks that do not otherwise exhibit problems themselves nor do any other connecting devices. Microsoft recommend connecting to the Internet to install the latest updates (the irony).

Problem
The problem may be related to accessing hidden networks, i.e. networks that do not broadcast any "SSID" information. This might mean that although a connection can be made manually, because no general broadcast information is available the connection appears to self-limit despite showing full connection.

Solution
Where network or router management is available, try temporarily enable SSID broadcasting to see if that clears the general connection issues. If it does, download the latest Windows RT or Device Hardware Firmware updates (which are reported to fix the problem) before disabling SSID broadcast.

Alternative solution
If the above does not work, it may be possible to network the device to another computer using a USB/LAN converter, then setting up a shared LAN connection.

Are DMCA Protection websites scams?

July 04, 2013, 09:30:12 AM by kat
It's an unfortunate inevitability that posting material to the Internet will at some point mean having to deal with the niceties of "DMCA", either as a Claimant sending a "DMCA 'take-down' Notice", or the Accused having to respond in kind with a "DMCA Counter Notice". Whilst most issues can be dealt with by those involved, in researching the subject it won't have passed notice there are a number of websites and businesses dedicated to providing various free or premium (paid for) DMCA 'take-down' and/or DMCA Protection services.

What are they? And are they any good?.

It is strongly advised that legal Council be sought in matters of law. Do not blithely or blindly initiate or respond to a DMCA Notice, Counter Notice, or sign any documents without doing so. The below is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

What is DMCA?
The essence of "DMCA", or "Digital Millennium Copyright Act", is an administrative process of notifications, i.e. the sending back and forth of documents authors, creators and copyright owners can use to have their content removed or taken down from the Internet or other electronic publishing system (iTunes, Kindle, etc.) when it's been stolen, infringed or otherwise misappropriated without permission. The Claimant (person finding their work used without permission) files a "DMCA 'take down' Notice" with a service provider (YouTube, Apple or Amazon for example) who then removes or disables access to referenced materials. If the claim is valid nothing else typically needs to be done. If the claim is invalid, false or incorrect, materials claimed against may be re-enabled on their own merits and/or if the Accused responds with a valid "DMCA Counter Notice".

How much does DMCA cost?
There are no inherent licence or processing fees ascribed to the issuance of a DMCA Notice or Counter Notice, their filing with a Service Provider or other entity. Costs may be incurred however, sending emails, posting documents, paying for the use of an appropriately qualified third-party 'Agent' (a DMCA lawyer for example) or independent service to administer the procedure on behalf of involved parties.

Can DMCA protect content?
DMCA does not "protect" content in a pro-active preventative sense. Instead DMCA is re-active, that is, it provides 'protection' after-the-fact; DMCA cannot be used to stop theft, it can only be used to prevent further or continued infringements once discovered. This essentially means that ANY website or business offering "DMCA Protection" or similarly tagged benefits, is doing so by misrepresenting the relationship between their respective content protection services and DMCA. In other words, DMCA itself is not 'protecting' content, (typically proprietary) tag and track technologies are.

Do I need to use a DMCA Lawyer?
Filing a DMCA Notice or Counter Notice invokes a Legal process (one signed under Perjury) so anyone making a claim, or being accused of infringement, is strongly advised to seek advice from an appropriately qualified DMCA or Copyright Lawyer, Solicitor or other Legal professional before submitting or responding to a claim, at the very least to assess its merits.

Should I use a DMCA Takedown Service?
Whilst most DMCA issues can be resolved by involved parties, occasionally the use of a third-party, a "DMCA Agent", may need to be considered. Should this course of action be taken the agent would normally act in an administrative or managerial capacity filing the necessary paperwork on behalf of claimants or accused, and only once the appropriate contracts have been signed authorising them to do so. What they cannot do, unless carrying the appropriate legal qualifications or personnel, they are or employ, DMCA or Copyright Lawyers for example, speak to, or offer, legal advice concerning the veracity of a DMCA claim.

So what are these DMCA takedown services charging for?
Typically DMCA protection services and DMCA Agents charge fees for the administration or management of Claims and Counter Claims, or for the use of proprietary technologies that 'tag and track' content. What they cannot do is charge for, or imply, that DMCA itself incurs any processing or licencing fees. The issuance of DMCA Notices has no such requirements.

So how do I protect my work with DMCA?
As discussed above, the intent behind DMCA is remedial, its invoked after-the-fact. This means marking content with "DMCA Protected" badges, stickers, insignia or other identifiers provides NO inherent preventative protection. In other words, to believe marking content pro-actively prevents theft is to fundamentally misunderstand the intent and purpose of DMCA - it cannot and will not prevent theft. However, this is not to say that using "DMCA Protected" badges and other identifiers is without merit, rather that their presence might be considered a notification of intent by content authors/owners they they will resort to DMCA and available processes to address infringements.

Can I use DMCA on foreign non-US websites?
For DMCA to be applicable in non-US countries, services upon which infringing material might exists would have to subscribe, at least in principle, to DMCA as expressed in United States Copyright Law. There are no obligations for their doing this however, especially where doing so may supersede laws and legislation governing localised Copyright. Legal Council is particularly advised in instances of International infringements.

Can I use DMCA to remove my photos (of me) from Facebook?
DMCA should only be used to address issues of Copyright infringement, meaning, a claim aught to be made using a DMCA takedown Notice only if the alleged image or photograph is in some way 'owned' by the claimant, i.e. the material was produced using the claimants own camera device or one they had permission to use. Should this not be the case, any DMCA Notice sent in pursuit of such an infringement claim would likely fail through receipt of a valid Counter Notice, resulting in the alleged material being re-enabled. Furthermore, filing DMCA Notices over issues more correctly pertaining to privacy rights (model release) may precipitate prosecution of claimant though causing content to be erroneously removed based on a knowingly false or incorrect claim.

What next
Click "I got a DMCA takedown Notice, what do I do?" to find out what you need to know before filing a DMCA Notice or Counter Notice.

Help others
Was this information helpful? Select the code below, copy/paste it into a webpage and help educate others about using DMCA to properly safeguard their content!.

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