Saturday, May 23, 2009

Another One Bites The Dust

It's a pretty public fact amongst people I know that I can be a pretty passionate person, and about several different things. You've already heard me sound off on matters of sport and of science, and now, to another passion of mine: Gaming. I'm a proud gamer, and have been for a long time, and I've been particularly fond of some of the RPGs that Square has churned out, one of my favourites amongst those being Chrono Trigger. I'm one of the many patient fans who have been waiting for another installment of the Chrono series, and after having heard rumours of a Chrono Break some time ago slated to be the third of the series after Trigger and Cross, it hasn't come to fruition.

There are some who are less patient than I, though. People in the mod community had already been slapped with a cease and desist order after Square caught wind of the Chrono Resurrection project, a homebrew remake that was shit-canned in September 2004. The CR remake was a 3D revamp of the original, and had some phenomenal potential, but likely was going to be released online, for no cost, at no profit to the developers, and at no (or very little) economic impact to Square, with full credit for the original IP given to the good people who worked on Chrono Trigger.

Bad enough that Resurrection got 86ed, just two weeks ago another fan project, using the Chrono Trigger cast and engine, but an original story, was axed. Crimson Echoes started development in late 2004, and was just three weeks away from release at about 98% finished, and due to hit the internet on May 31st, likely once again with credit to Square for original development, and without copyright claim, profit to themselves or negative economic impact to Square-Enix. It's bad enough that they came down on it in the first place, but to do it just three weeks from release, after these people have poured four and a half years of blood and sweat into it? Bad form.

So what's the underlying reason for this bit? Fanboyism gone overboard on my part? I don't think so, though I cop to being a bit of a CT fanboy. Criticism of Square's timing? Partly, but that's now been covered. A treatise on the DMCA and draconian abuse thereof? No; I'm a scientist, not a lawyer, and don't know the ins and outs of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (though if you like, educate yourself at the Great Wiki). This is largely to express bewilderment about Square's second snuffing-out of a fan tribute project, and what their intentions are with respect to the series.

I'll address the first of those two parts first, since it'll be the longer. I can't understand why fan projects like these are so widely feared or shut down or whatever you like to call it by the companies, especially when they look like they'll turn out to be quality projects. The act of jealously protecting a franchise name like this, or loading excessive DRM measures into a game (I'm looking at you, Electronic Arts. I haven't forgotten about the PC port of Mass Effect, even if I play the 360 version), or railing against a fan tribute as an act of piracy, only fosters a feeling of contempt, and appears to encourage cracking DRM. (Which, by the way, if it's there, someone, somewhere, WILL crack it; I don't know why they bother anymore, frankly. Another rant for another day, though, I suppose.)

On a consistent basis, it seems like Valve is the only developer that's gotten it right with respect to fan projects. Half-Life was a huge hit, and someone got the crazy idea of making a PvP first-person shooter out of the game. And so, when Valve caught wind of this, what did they do? They let it play out, saw that it was getting big, and got the hell on board. And so, the Counter-Strike franchise was born. Valve wanted the series, they commercialized it, and it got huge. Why Square hasn't tried to follow suit with the CR or Crimson Echoes projects, rather than continuing to flog the Final Fantasy series (which, while I enjoy it, probably has over two dozen different installments, without remakes by now to Chrono's two) is completely and utterly beyond me.

As for the latter point about Square's intentions, I hope, as the crew of Crimson Echoes do, that the move by Square to can CT:CE was as an interest in the series, and with the intention of making a new Chrono title, rather than just a short-sighted legal bitchslap that will continue to tire and alienate an enormous and devoted fanbase. If they decided to do what Valve did and port these games, say, Resurrection to Gamecume or PS2, and Crimson Echoes to DS, they would pull in dough that would make a gold mine look like chump change. Square, fans have been clamoring for another Chrono game after Chrono Cross for nearly a decade. Get your head out of your collective ass and get the hell on board.

For posterity:
Chrono Resurrection Teaser