Games are not protected by Copyright

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Warhammer 40K

Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark ma­terial involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.

This is the opening paragraph of FL-108, from the US Copyright Office… There is some confusion that I have run into on online forums regarding 3D printed miniatures for games, where there was a concern about being sued for violating the Intellectual Property rights of companies such as Games Workshop or Wizards of the Coast by creating miniatures for their games without a license.

IP rights are Copyrights, Trademarks, or Patents. There isn’t any other type. You can’t copyright a game–only the art or text within it. Ideas are not protected by copyright, only their artistic expression in fixed form. Some people think that the rules (game mechanics) are protected since they are within the copyrighted rule book, but that aspect of the work is specifically not protected by copyrights:

In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work

This is from a ruling on a cloned tabletop game, where the judge ruled summarily that there was no infringement. The artwork and story can be protected by copyright–The rules cannot.

This issue came up in 2011 when an artist created 3D printable versions of pieces for the game Settlers of Catan and made them available on Thingiverse. The 3D printed tiles are not based on the printed tiles from the game (which could make them derivative work), so are perfectly legal in regards to copyright.

Trademarks are a different type of intellectual property, that identifies the source of a product or Service. Games Workshop has a trademark on the term “Space Marine” as the name of a product:

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The Trademark (word mark) identifies “Space Marine” as a product of Games Workshop. This trademark identifies the source of the product–specifically the tabletop wargame. It does NOT mean that Games Workshop owns the word, except as the name of a game.

The actual  miniatures and illustrations from the many Warhammer Codexes are protected by copyrights. To create your own version of these pieces, if based on them, would be to make a derivative work–a violation of copyright.

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Games Workshop “Space Marines”

However, there is nothing preventing an artist from creating miniatures intended to be used as space marines, which is why you see miniatures from 3rd parties such as Scibor Miniatures:

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As long as your sculpture is original and not based on a copyrighted drawing or painting, it is not a violation of anyone’s intellectual property.  As stated above, games are not protected under copyright.

There is an “Open Gaming” movement, which I have an issue with–The copyright holder granting you a “license” to use their rules to make your own content! Wizards of the Coast started this with their D20 System, to encourage 3rd parties to create content that was compatible with their game.

But  game rules are not protected by copyrights, there is no need for permissions at all. The OGL license does not grant the right to use any of Wizards of the Coast’s copyrighted artwork, so it is essentially granting a license where none is required. Maybe this is a way to relieve 3rd party creators concerns that they could be sued, and to encourage them, but it also creates an illusion of “IP Rights” that don’t exist….

In this new era of 3D printed tabletop games, an artist could not only create a line of miniatures for 3D printing, but also publish stats (warscrolls) for playing them in Warhammer 40K, Hordes, Warmachines,  D&D or Pathfinder!

Another possibility is to create standardized tabletop rules, where players can bring in their armies that they have bought, built or printed and play them against any army–regardless of the setting they were originally created for–A Multiversal Wargame™

 

 

Low Cost Resin Printers!

There is a new class of SLA (Stereo Lithography) 3D printers that is using an LED screen to generate the UV light, instead of a laser or DLP projector. This innovation is bringing the cost of SLA way down, as low as $250!

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The SparkmakerFHD is selling on Kickstarter for only $250. It is big enough for making miniatures and jewelry

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Another is the Anycubic Photon for a little more than $500, and is great for miniatures.

I have been watching the adoption of 3D printing by the Tabletop Wargaming community, and I think this class of printer is making it possible for gamers to print their own 3D printed miniatures at home.

my friend Stian Ervik Wahlvåg printed out some samples of my TAR of Zandoria mini on his Anycubic Photon. The details are simply incredible!

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After alcohol bath
Finished miniature! Photo by Stian Ervik Wahlvåg

I believe this technology is a game changer for the hobby of tabletop Wargames and miniatures, because the detail is much finer than can be created through traditional molding, and the cost of printing these miniatures is much less that the mass-produced ones.

I wrote an earlier article about this 3D printed alternative to traditional miniatures

Drawing with Light

The pages for the graphic novel are coming along nicely, and the illustration technique that I talked about on my last post is helping me achieve the “look” that I have in mind for “The Scroll of TAR”.

In this battle with the Stone Monkey, I have added an additional layer set to “ADD” mode, where I have drawn highlights from the distant fire in orange using a charcoal brush in Procreate. It gave it just a little more pop!

I had worried about the illustrations in this section, because it is at midnight in desert ruins–I thought I wouldn’t be able to use much color, and it would be boring… But the orange and blue contrasting colors make it seem more exciting!

I have a Patreon page for this project, if you would like to see more and help fund the production of the book-for only $1 per finished page.

A different approach to digital painting

When I started working on a graphic novel about TAR of Zandoria, I experimented with a few techniques in digital painting that I studied. For many comics, colorists start by “flatting”. This is basically filling in all of the color areas of a line drawing, then rendering shadows, highlights, etc above that color layer.

During my experiments with all of the various blending modes between layers in digital painting, I got an idea that probably has its roots in my years with CG animation and rendering. If I start with 50% gray on a layer set to hard light, it has zero effect on the color on the layer beneath it. But on that grayscale layer, when I draw with black and white ( and darker and lighter shades of gray), whatever is darker than neutral gray will multiply with the color beneath it, and whatever is lighter than gray will lighten the color beneath it.

The grayscale drawing can then control all of the values and lighting, combining with a color painting beneath it which controls the diffuse color everything. This is not the same thing as just painting on a layer set to “color” above a grayscale painting. If you were using that approach, you will find it difficult to control tints and shades of color, because the color blending mode is only using the hue information to color the values beneath it. With this new approach, you can just paint the object colors in their flat pure color and the hard light layer will render the correct shading in hightlights and shadows. When drawing, it helps me to think of of the objects form, not the final look.

Here is a stage by stage example, starting with just a rough layout. I have brought in my lettering from Pages and moved it into position.

My “pencil” drawing in blue gets more refined. This is on a separate layer that will be hidden later. It doesn’t need to be in blue, of course, since this is all digital. (This is just a nod to the past, when you would do layout in non-repro blue, and then ink with black. The blue pencil would be invisible to the process camera…)

On a new layer I start my “ink” drawing. This line layer is basically the contours of the drawing. I’m actually using a digital brush that simulates vine charcoal, rather than a pen. (just a preference for the “look”). This layer is set to “multiply” and will darken everything beneath it.

Beneath the line layer, I fill in all of the objects with 50% gray using a solid brush. And then lock the alpha transparency (this keeps me inside the lines, without having to think about it). I then start laying in the shading and cast shadows with a darker gray. I switch to a light gray to render the sunlit side of the objects. And lastly, I will draw with pure black and pure white to hit the deepest shadows and the specular highlights.

Now that I’m ready to paint the color, I make a selection based on the alpha of my last layer and fill a new layer with a dull brown, and lock the transparency. I do this so that I can paint the characters only, and then paint the sky separately on a layer beneath. The alpha lock saves time so I don’t have to keep making selections to keep from painting outside the lines.

I’ve made a custom palette, where I’ve saved color swatches of the different colors of the characters clothing, and gear to save time and to keep the color consistent page to page. Using a solid airbrush, I paint in all of the colors. Looking at a reference photo I sampled some colors from the sky, and loosely painted the sky background behind all of the other elements.

After I’m done with the color painting, I finish up the balloons with a black pen and fill them with white. This is done on a layer between the lettering and the rest of the artwork. Likewise, the panel borders are drawn above the art (in this case with a block charcoal brush)

I showed some of this to a local group of friends who are also working on their own comics, and since the layers and blending modes were a bit mysterious to them, I thought it would be a good subject for a tutorial…

This art was all done in Procreate on my iPad, but the technique would apply the same in all digital paint programs like Photoshop.

If this was interesting, and you would like to keep up with what I’m working on, please signup to my email list!

Caves of Chaos

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Artwork from “The Keep on the Borderlands” by TSR Games

When I first played Dungeons & Dragons as a teenager,  the first adventure was the Keep on the Borderlands. The monsters were in an area of the map called The Caves of Chaos! I have a lot of great memories of those years, so when I started thinking about designing some 3D printable terrain for table-top gaming I naturally started think of those caves….

There are a number of kickstarted companies that are selling .STL files for 3D printing. I realized when I started checking them out, that the gaming community has eagerly adopted this technology, and there might be an opportunity for me in this area.

Before 3D printing, a company called Dwarven Forge was already making a very high-quality hand-sculpted and hand-cast resin terrain for gaming, but it is very expensive. What I noticed right away about the designs from these newer companies is that they were basically copying the designs of Dwarven Forge– The tiles were all 2″ squares, about a half inch thick, in all sorts of configurations to help you layout your dungeon.

However 3D printed PLA plastic is a lot lighter than Dwarvenite resin… So the 3D printed pieces have to be clipped or glued together so they don’t get scattered all over the table. I felt that the designers had failed to approach the problem from scratch with the strengths of 3D printing in mind. On top of that, the Caverns and caves were all rectangular and ugly….

I decided that I would start from scratch. One of the strengths of 3D printing is the ability to create complicated shapes that would be difficult or impossible to create through traditional manufacturing.  I wanted to build complete pieces that were ready to paint and play, with no assembly.  Instead of squares, I started with a hexagon and began to calculate the number of possible passageways that could come in and out of a 6-sided tile.

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The biggest tile that I can print on my Printrbot is 6″, though that is pretty small compared to a lot of FDM printers, which would be big enough to not get knocked over during play. Since it doesn’t have to attach to the other tiles for stability, That gives you the freedom to rotate the tiles and quickly reconfigure the game map.  Because the 3D print is starting from the ground, and there is no need for the additional structure to clip tiles together, I decided to make the floor 1/8″ thick–thick enough to be sturdy, but not wasting plastic.

I kept the 2″ standard for the openings of the passages, and the 2″ overall height (taller than that interferes with visibility of the miniatures).

My wife and I visited Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville Tennessee, which is the largest cave complex in our state, for some inspiration.

Once I was back home in the studio, I opened ZBrush and created a template for the tiles, ensuring that I could make all of the tiles mate up perfectly when printed.

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I ended up creating 22 Hex tiles, which could create and endless cavern across the tabletop. The tiles print with no support, and require no assembly.

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Here is just a quick sample of the types of cavern layouts you can create:

Once I had the pieces sculpted, I decimated the models to create a high-resolution polygon mesh, and exported the .STL files.

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If you are a gamer, and would like to print your own endless caverns and caves, you can get the set of .STL files here:

https://cults3d.com/en/3d-model/game/caves

On Pinshape:

https://pinshape.com/items/42328-3d-printed-caves-set1-of-2
https://pinshape.com/items/42329-3d-printed-caves-set-2-of-2

On DriveThruRPG:

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/232472/Caves

On RenderHub:

https://www.renderhub.com/zandoria/caves

Bear Cub Martini Glass

This was a custom martini glass of 3 bear cubs climbing a pine tree. The client provided some photos for inspiration and specific volume requirements for the martini. Originally conceived as a 3D printed piece through Shapeways, I designed around the requirements for their process. However, because this was a luxury item, the client opted for using a traditional foundry and had the glasses cast in stainless steel.

Because of the need for precision for the glass, I modeled the basic form in Rhino. Then I exported that Geometry and brought it into ZBrush for the sculpted elements. I looked at a number of materials from porcelain to steel to give the client some options for materials, as each material has different specifications for minimum wall thickness.

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The basic bear cub was modeled in ZBrush, and 3 different copies of it were posed on the stem of the martini glass

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The details of tree bark, branches, and roots were sculpted on the geometry that I created in Rhino

 

The foundry used a 3D printed pattern to create traditional molds and then cast the final glasses in stainless steel.

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I thought that this project was interesting because I was able to combine the precision of CAD, calculating the liquid volume, with the artistic freedom of digitally sculpting in ZBrush. I also liked how well it turned out, as an actual martini glass.

The client was also very pleased with the results. and says that the metal also serves as an excellent heat sink, keeping the martini cool!