News Digest Episode 130
This is a copy of the “script” we used to organise Brainwaves Episode 129. It is not a full transcript but should give you an overview of the news as we reported it. Quotes are in italics.
- Berserk Games are the publishers of Tabletop Simulator, a PC programme that can be used to build simulations of boardgames. The programme came to prominence during the pandemic as the boardgame community sought ways to connect online. Effectively it became a platform for digital versions of boardgames much like Boardgame Arena or Tabletopia.
- Way back in episode 86 we covered a story where the publisher of Three Kingdoms Redux and Race for the Chinese Zodiac had not been paid royalties by Berserk Games. Publishers can agree for their games to be put on the platform and get given royalties based on the sales for that particular module in Tabletop Simulator.
- At the time Keng Leng Yeo, one of the people behind the publisher of these games, brought the story to the attention of boardgamegeek in a thread detailing the non-payment. Eventually Berserk games paid Ken the money owed and the thread was marked resolved.
- On September the 8th, Scottish publisher Digisprite games, makers of Adventure Mart and Familiar Alchemy, posted this to Twitter.
- On august the 10th Ken had reopened the thread on BGG saying that
- After many months of sending chasing e-mails, we received a cryptic e-mail from Berserk Games yesterday . It contained the sales reports for Q2 2022, Q3 2022, Q4 2022 and Q1 2023. While happy to receive them, they have missed out the Q1 2022 sales report . And yes, we have always been reminding them which sales reports have been missing in our reminder e-mails.
- We replied with the invoice for the four quarters immediately but are not holding our breaths for fast payment.
- We reached out to Ken to ask for permission to share these updates and to confirm that the publisher remained unpaid. I also posted in that thread asking for people to come forward and contact us, anonymously if they wished.
- We were subsequently contacted by folk who have worked on games for the company as freelancers who have also run into issues. Contracted work has been carried out but the freelancer only gets paid on release of the game they have worked on. When this doesn’t happen the freelancer is left in limbo and can’t get information from Berserk Games as to when the game they worked on might get released and when they will get paid
- We were also pointed towards the news that Stonemaier Games, publishers of Scythe and Wingspan, had pulled their games off Tabletop Simulator. I reached out to Jamey Stegmaier, president of Stonemaier games, to confirm. He wrote back and asked me to quote the whole email to give his reply the proper context.
- In January 2022, these allegations became public information: https://www.dicebreaker.com/topics/tabletop-simulator/news/tabletop-simulator-moderation-transphobia-allegation-1
- Jamey then links to a Dicebreaker article that contains allegations of Transphobia amongst the moderators of the Tabletop Simulator forums. We reported on those allegations in episode 90. Jamey goes on:
- We researched the allegations and discussed them as a team. Finding truth in them—not just the anti-LGTBQ+ censorship but also the poor/toxic response from Berserk Games—we decided to cut all ties from Berserk in the form of telling Jason Henry to remove our games from TTS. It was a well-discussed decision that included our DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) consultant…we believe in second chances, but our investigation yielded a high level of toxicity on the TTS forums that TTS has simply allowed to happen for a long time. Even though they shut down the forums, the longstanding nature of that toxicity was a sign to us that our principles simply do not align with theirs.
- Jason confirmed that would be done (though I did recently hear from someone that Euphoria and perhaps other games are still there—I contacted Berserk fairly recently to reiterate that they are not authorized to put our games on TTS, and I have not received a response).
- When we made this decision, we didn’t publicly broadcast it, as it’s in our core principles to uplift and elevate, not bash and denigrate (unless a company or person is truly endangering someone). However, we’ve made it no secret that we do not work with TTS and that instead we work with Tabletopia.
- We also reached out to Digisprite, asking them if there was anything they wanted to add to their public statement. Robyn Davies, Managing Director of Digisprite replied giving us a fuller breakdown of the situation. We’d like to read some of that reply to you now
- Throughout the 3 years this was happening to us, I repeatedly asked why, what was going to be done to prevent it in future, etc., but it was ignored each time, either with no reply or with a reply that didn’t address those questions. The very first time was the only exception, with a vague reasoning of our reports in particular somehow being omitted from their processing.
- Robyn goes onto detail how they were forced to resort to joining the Tabletop Simulator Discord and messaging staff to get any sort of traction with getting paid. Recently though, even those efforts have fallen on deaf ears. Robyn says this regarding the decision to remove Adventure Mart from Tabletop Simulator
- It’s been a very tough decision to make overall though. We have 4 main income streams: in person sales at conventions, online sales through our website, retailer sales and the AM DLC on TTS. Losing one of those is very significant, and I imagine other creators are in similar situations and either simply can’t (or understandably don’t want to) lose that revenue stream. I think that because of this, the only hope we have of Berserk changing their behaviour is with pressure from users themselves.
- Digisprite have sent a formal notice to Berserk Games to remove Adventure Mart from their platform, but are yet to receive any response from the company. Robyn finishes by saying this
- I think it’s very important for users of TTS to be aware that any money they spend on these DLC may either not actually reach the original creators at this point (as is currently the case with the $2,000+ they haven’t paid us at the time of writing this – this equates to somewhere around 1,500 copies of the DLC) or requires the creators to go through all of this to try and get their share.
- Last sunday, the 10th of September, we sent an email to Berserk Games asking them for comment on these allegations but at time of recording we are yet to hear back.
Haba is insolvent
- Back in episode 126 we reported on the troubles facing games company Haba as it planned to fire 650 of the 2000 staff the company as they were hit by a downturn in sales.
- Haba are the publishers of Rhino Hero amongst other award winning kids games.
- It now seems the situation has worsened and Haba has filed for Bankruptcy via a self-administration procedure.
- In an article published on Zeit Online, Managing Director Mario Wilhelm said
- “The application for self-administration was anything but easy for us,”
- In August, Haba discontinued Jako-o one of their children’s clothing brands.
- Unlike regular administration procedures, in self-administration the management team of the company remains in place and has a chance to reorganise the company. There is a ‘supervisor’ assigned to make sure administration rules are adhered to. In the case of Haba that will be Tobias Sorg from the law firm DMP Solutions.
- As we record this, Stronghold Games’ most recent Kickstarter campaign is drawing to a close. It is for ‘More Terraforming Mars!’, further expansions for the 2016 hit Terraforming Mars. At time of recording, they have raised just over a million pounds.
- However, the company has drawn criticism for choosing to use AI art in this project. At the bottom of the campaign page, there is a heading called ‘Use of AI’.
- I plan to use AI-generated content in my project.
- What parts of your project will use AI generated content? Please be as specific as possible.
- “We have and will continue to leverage AI-generated content in the development and delivery of this project. We have used MidJourney, Fotor, and the Adobe Suite of products as tools in conjunction with our internal and external illustrators, graphic designers, and marketers to generate ideas, concepts, illustrations, graphic design elements, and marketing materials across all the elements of this game. AI and other automation tools are integrated into our company, and while all the components of this game have a mix of human and AI-generated content nothing is solely generated by AI. We also work with a number of partners to produce and deliver the rewards for this project. Those partners may also use AI-generated content in their production and delivery process, as well as in their messaging, marketing, financial management, human resources, systems development, and other internal and external business processes.”
- Do you have the consent of owners of the works that were (or will be) used to produce the AI generated portion of your projects? Please explain.
- “The intent of our use of AI is not to replicate in any way the works of an individual creator, and none of our works do so. We were not involved in the development of any of the AI tools used in this project, we have ourselves neither provided works nor asked for consent for any works used to produce AI-generated content. Please reference each of the AI tools we’ve mentioned for further details on their business practices.”
- The inclusion of this heading is due to a recent directive from Kickstart itself (which we covered in ep XX), which states that if a company is planning to use AI art in its project, it has to justify their decision and be open about which tools they are using.
- Charlie Hall interviewed Travis Worthington, the current president of Indie Game studios. Indie Game Studios is the combined company that was formed when Indie Board & Cards, and Stronghold Games merged in 2018. Stronghold games were the publishers of the original Terraforming Mars.
- We aren’t going to quote the whole piece as it is pretty long and definitely worth your time to read. However there was one part we wanted to draw your attention to. At one point Charlie gets into the consent question that Kickstarter asks anyone using AI to answer. We read that out earlier in the piece. Charlie asks
- OK. The other thing that folks are bringing questions about is the second part of that disclosure, and I want to read Kickstarter’s text back to you here real quick. “Do you have the consent of the owners of the works that were or will be used to produce the AI generated portion of your projects? Please explain.” And the way that your explanation is written is, you don’t. Is that fair?
- Yes. We’ve also not specifically used anything.
- I’m not sure what you mean.
- So there’s a number of different AI models that you can use out there, some of which you can directly input images to use. So if you look at like a Stable Diffusion, the way their model is you can train it on specific images. So we have not done that. We’ve not trained it on specific images. Now, that being said, the AI tools that we have used are trained on large databases, right? I think that’s kind of general knowledge about AI. I’m not aware of any generative AI model that is 100% consent-based at this time.
- And so what Kickstarter is asking is, “Do you have consent?” And what your company is saying is? “No.”
- What I’m saying is the tools we use are not based on a consent model, nor is there, to my knowledge, any AI tools that are based 100% on a consent model.
- And Kickstarter, having received that “No,” allowed the campaign to proceed.
- Polygon reached out to KS for comment on the disclosure system and Kickstarters head of communication, Nikki Kria, said this
- “As indicated in our policy, we ask that creators disclose how they use AI in their project so that they are upholding the open, transparent communication that we encourage all creators to have with their backers.”
- The piece goes onto talk about AI more and Travis at one point goes on a long answer about what he thinks the future of AI in boardgames is and indicate he thinks it is too late to turn back the rise of AI generated imagery and that companies like Wizards of the Coast who pledge to not use AI imagery in their projects will have a hard time matching that pledge as AI art will become too good to spot.
Gencon thieves charged
- Thomas Dunbar and Anthony Guiame are the two individuals who were suspected in the robbery of $300,000 worth of Magic: The Gathering Cards at the Gencon convention in Indiana in August of this year.
- Charges have now been filed against the pair who stole the stock from retailer Pasttimes, Comics & Games. The pair could face up to 6 years in jail.
- An affidavit was seen by site Polygon that laid out the specifics of the case and the subsequent arrest of the two individuals.
- We’ve covered the details of the theft before but this affidavit also reveals that the car they left the Gencon site in was identified and linked to Dunbar. It also says that the pair had badges registered in their names at Gencon and that the names on those badges were changed in the run up to the event.
- The pair had also tried to enter the area of Gencon run by Asmodee and Atomic Mass Games but a member of staff stopped them after believing they might be trying to steal stock.
- A New York attorney contacted police to let them know a client of theirs was coerced into buying the stolen stock for $4000. The stock was subsequently recovered at this attorney’s office.
No Rolls Barred
- On the last episode of Brainwaves we covered the news that No Rolls Barred host Adam Blampied was on disciplinary leave from the channel after allegations of sexual harassment. No Rolls Barred is a Youtube channel that produces tabletop game related content.
- In a recent post on the No Rolls Barred patreon, the company posted this
- We have mutually agreed with Adam Blampied that he will be leaving the company with immediate effect. Adam will be making his own statement on his Instagram about his departure shortly and we respect his request to address this matter in more detail himself.
- We’ve made this a publicly available Patreon post on the continued advice of those we have worked with during this difficult process. We will continue to work with the external expert consultants mentioned in our previous update, so we can be certain we always have the strongest possible processes in place to support our team members and community.
- The past few weeks have been very challenging for all of those involved, and we would like to thank everyone who follows our channels for their continued support of our amazing cast and crew. Your understanding throughout the recent month has been genuinely heartwarming for us all and is truly appreciated.
- Adam posted a statement regarding their departure from No Rolls Barred, and started that like this:
- He goes onto refute the language used about him and implies that this is on the advice of legal counsel. He also basically says that people should keep ‘politics out of boardgames’.
- We will remind our listeners that after the last time Adam was accused of sexual harassment he wrote a piece in the Indepedent newspaper in the Uk saying he was glad he got caught. He finished that piece with this:
- Harassment and abuse excused by “immaturity” or “ignorance” can no longer be a quirk of our gender. We are faced with a choice: behave with decency and respect, and pursue only proper consent, or face the consequences and deserve them.
Sheldon Menery, creator of commander format, dies
- Sheldon Menery, creator of the commander format for collectible card game Magic: The Gathering, has died after a seven-year battle with cancer.
- Commander is an extremely popular format of the game and sees 3 or more players using 100+ card decks and unique leader characters to play the game. Magic: The Gathering decks usually top out at 60 cards.
- Menery was delighted by the popularity of the format, telling site Polygon
- “It’s validation that you’re doing something good. It’s that shared joy of being able to let some of your friends in on a thing that you know about and they might not. Whether it’s a game or a TV show or a film or a bottle of bourbon, you love sharing things you love with people you like. And that’s basically what we were doing with Commander. ‘Taste this,’ we said. And a lot of people were like, ‘Man, this is right up my alley.’”
- Wizards of the Coast, publishers of Magic: The Gathering, provided the following statement to Polygon
- It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of a dear friend and colleague, Sheldon Menery.
- Sheldon was a trailblazer, influencer, and revered member in the Magic: The Gathering community, helping to shape the judge program from its earliest days and serving as a level 5 competitive Magic judge until retiring from the program in 2011. A prolific writer and content creator, he shared his insights and expertise through articles, videos, and podcasts.
- Perhaps one of his greatest contributions to the Magic community is through the Commander format. Known by many as the “Godfather of Commander,” he was instrumental in the format’s creation and development. As a founding member of the Commander Rules Committee, he oversaw the format’s evolution into one of Magic: The Gathering’s most popular formats. Of his work with Commander, Sheldon said, “to see something that you created and shepherded and nurtured become wildly popular and beloved by so many people, it’s a pretty humbling moment.”
- Sheldon was known for his kindness and generosity among the community, and he sought to make the game a welcoming and enjoyable experience for players of all levels and backgrounds. His passion and enthusiasm for the game and its community seemed boundless, and he took pride in his work with the game. “How cool is it that I get to help a lot of people have some enjoyment in this life,” he said during a podcast interview with Mark Rosewater.
- Sheldon’s loss will be deeply felt by all those who knew him, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and the entire Magic community. Sheldon is a legend who will be remembered for many years to come and whose legacy will live on through countless players.
- Many members of the magic community have expressed their sadness at the news of Sheldon’s passing, but it seems his legacy will live on in the format he created.
Meguey Baker Breast Cancer Fundraiser
- Meguey Baker, who wrote the famous Apocalypse World RPG with Vincent Baker, has a crowdfunding drive at the moment to help Meguey recover from Breast Cancer.
- Baker was diagnosed on July 17th when technicians found a tumor that needed to be operated on quickly. The procedure was successful and she is now home safe.
- The campaign has so far raised close to $30,000 and will continue to run for the foreseeable future.
- Meguey posted an update on the 2nd of September
- “From the beginning of this, all the way back in late July, the most dominant emotion I have felt is gratitude. Grateful for the medical technology and technicians who found the tumor. Grateful for Vincent’s steadfast love and support. Grateful for our children and our home. Grateful for all of you who will receive these words. Grateful for the surgeons and all the attendant medical team who are saving my life,” she wrote. “That I get to “do nothing” for a while, and just focus on the quality of the light, the amazing community around me, and how infused with gratitude I am? That feels like something.”
Jobs, Opportunities, and Events
Hasbro Woman Innovators of play challenge
- Following up on the talks we made you aware of in the last cast, Hasbro has announced the Women Innovators of play challenge.
- This will run from September the 12th to October the 12th and seeks the next woman-led mass market toy or game.
- The winner will receive $10000, an all expenses paid trip to Hasbro HQin Rhode Island for ‘A day in the life’ experience, and a mentorship session with one of Hasbro’s top women leaders.
- The challenge is open to anyone 18 years or older who identifies as a woman and lives in one of the following countries: Australia, Canada (excluding Quebec), France, Germany, Israel, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Spain, UK and USA.
Kevin Bertram, Fort Circle Games
Metallic Dice Games
Promo Code: ROLLWITHBRAINS
Second highest valued pokemon card for second place card
- The second most valuable Pokemon card has a new victor.
- $444,000 for the 1998 Pikachu Silver Trophy card (that’s £356,860.56)
- It was a second place prize at the 1998 Mega Battle tournaments in Japan, specifically the 1997-1998 Japanese Lizardon Mega Battle Pokemon Tournament event (the second one held) Some of the first tournaments ever organised for the Pokemon TCG
- Allegedly only 14 cards were originally printed, and of them only two remain a PSA Gem Mint 10 grade, the highest grading offered for a card,
- Currently the 1998 Japanese Illustrator Promotional Card is still the most expensive Pokemon Card, coming in with a deal valued at over $5 million, which involved YouTuber Logan Paul exchanging a PSA 9 version of the card (valued at a paltry $1,275,000) and an additional $4 million, for the only PSA 10 version.
We will be back in 3 weeks time, rather than our usual two. Due to a confluence of holidays we won’t all be able to get together.
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