Friday, 4 May 2012

Fading Suns 3 Stillborn

Fading Suns 3rd edition has been a long road for me. I have spent 4 years of my spare time labouring on it, and it has been a labour of love. The writers (Vidar Edland and I) delivered the final manuscript for the FS3 Player's Guide in December 2011, and the manuscript for the FS3 Game Master's Guide in February 2012. Both books were hefty volumes at over 300 pages each. We had an ambitious release schedule with the Players Guide planned for first quarter of 2012, and the GM's Guide following in quarter 2. The dates slipped a bit, but the anticipated release date of the Players Guide had moved to the end of May 2012

So imagine my horror when when I received the following communication on 30th April:

Dear Angus,

After serious consideration, I regret to inform you that your services are no longer required with regards to Fading Suns Third Edition and Noble Armada Third Edition development.

Effective immediately, your access to the Developer Forums has been revoked. I would remind you that you are still bound by the terms of your Confidentiality and Intellectual Property Agreement.

The reason for this decision has not been taken lightly; we respect your skills and dedication to the Fading Suns property over the last few years.

I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Thank you and kind regards,

James Sutton
Managing Partner,
RedBrick LLC
West Chester, OH 45069,
United States of America

WHAT?!

That's it? After 4 years of dedicated work! You terminate me after I have delivered on all the promises I made, all the work I put to ensure that the fans would get the product they deserved. Words are frankly inadequate to describe my feelings on the matter. As you can see from the above message I was also working very hard on Noble Armada 3, so that it was fully integrated with Fading Suns 3, I am so glad I never got round to submitting more than the first chapter.

I immediately emailed Holistic Design (the IP holder for Fading Suns), and spoke to Andrew Greenberg. He seem equally as shocked as I was, but had no insight that he could share.

I could go on at some length about being betrayed, but it would do little good. I did receive a reply to my emails from James Sutton, written in cold stiff language, that thanked me for my work, and reminded me of my responsibilities regarding confidentiality and intellectual property ownership.

The agreement I signed with RedBrick LLC, that all the contributors signed, consolidated the Intellectual Property of the product in the hands of RedBrick LLC. This may seem very foolish now, but at the outset the reason for this was problems with writers serving short periods of time and then disappearing leading to issues of copyright down the line. I signed this agreement on the wider set of promises and inducements, including payment for my work, release schedules, and on the understanding that a secondary agreement, encompassing all these promises would be issued within a month. This didn't happen, I chased RedBrick LLC for this agreement on an almost monthly basis and was told by James that it was "with the lawyer" and was expected immanently.

As a result I feel that James / RedBrick has breached their contract with me. Yes this is an abject lesson in trust no one, not even people you think are your friends. Get it all down on paper before you give them anything. I have since exchanged a few emails with James as I tried to work out what exactly had happened. To date I have not received any valid reason for the termination of my position or the Fading Suns 3 project.

I did receive this...

I don't believe that I indicated the game line would be canceled. However, to avoid ambiguity, RedBrick will be continuing with the Fading Suns and Noble Armada licenses and with Third Editions of those games. I confirm that none of the content that you personally have created for FS3 and/or supporting materials (Dispatches, Shards, etc.) will be used by RedBrick.

Given that I wrote the vast majority of the material (with some contribution from Vidar Edland, and Alex Wichert). This in effect says that RedBrick LLC is throwing everything out and starting over from scratch. I still have no idea why this decision has been taken, and if anyone out there has any insight I'd love to hear it.

In the same email...

In terms of your retention of the non-proprietary content contained in your work in FS3, that is released to you with the following exclusions: any and all elements directly related to HDI's Fading Suns and Noble Armada games, including, but not limited to elements of trade dress (logos, images), proper and place names, races, game elements, or content that has been published by Holistic Design and/or RedBrick under license from HDI. This includes use of and/or representation of the mechanics of FS3 as the Victory Point System.

Okay even though I have the rights to the texts I wrote, I am still am not able to publish them, as I do not have a licence from HDi to do so. I guess I could investigate the legality of a "fan project", or I could file the serial numbers off, and perhaps release it under another name.

Here ends my association with James Sutton, Managing Director of RedBrick LLC.

Now I'm off to start a new Chapter, both literally and metaphorically.