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Education Programming Games

NAMCO Takes Down Student Pac-man Project 218

An anonymous reader writes "The core of how people first learn to do stuff — programming, music, writing, etc. — is to imitate others. It's one of the best ways to learn. Apparently a bunch of students using MIT's educational Scratch programming language understand this. But not everyone else does. NAMCO Bandai sent a takedown notice to MIT because some kids had recreated Pac-man with Scratch. The NAMCO letter is pretty condescending as well, noting that it understands the educational purpose of Scratch, but 'part of their education should include concern for the intellectual property of others.'"
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NAMCO Takes Down Student Pac-man Project

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  • Re:Play for free? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cosm ( 1072588 ) < minus bsd> on Monday August 02, 2010 @06:43PM (#33117174)
  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:08PM (#33117472)

    There really is a good lesson about intellectual property to learn here. No, it's not exactly the lesson Namco wants these students to learn, but in this overly litigious society, it's important for everyone getting an education in computer programming to learn about patents, copyrights, and trademarks, both in terms of how they work and in terms of what their limits are. After all, you can create a Pac-Man-like game without treading on Namco's turf, and programmers should take some time to learn just how to do this sort of thing.

  • Re:Learn better (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wkurzius ( 1014229 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:41PM (#33117766)

    The reason answers exist in the back of math textbooks is not for cheating. They are there so you can check your methods and determine if you are going about things the right way.

    One of my first programming experiences was making a tic-tac-toe game on the TI-83 my high school gave me. I knew the game already, I knew how it was supposed to look and work, and therefore allowed to me to concentrate on the method only. I had the answer, I just needed to figure out how to get there.

    Scratch is a learning tool, aimed at elementary students, perhaps going into high school bit. Maybe the students (assuming they're students) shouldn't have posted the project online, but I encourage them to rip off every game they need to until they're comfortable enough to make their own.

  • by IgnoramusMaximus ( 692000 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:47PM (#33117848)

    It's really true that part of an education is in fact realizing that some people have IP that they will vigorously defend, and that you need to perhaps think more about creating something truly original in order to avoid this issue.

    Except of course that the true purpose of all the "intellectual property", as the mega-corps and their paid-for politicos envision it, is to prevent exactly that and to ensure that no innovation is possible without it "belonging" to one of the "gate keepers" of all future progress who are busily jockeying for the position in this aristocracy.

    And it is already nearly so since every thing ever invented or created always builds on the cumulative knowledge of all the discoveries and developments of the past and the recent past is nearly completely patented, copyrighted and locked down. Locked down forever - for all practical purposes from the point of view of a person living less then 100 years.

  • by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:32PM (#33118206) Homepage

    The core of how people first learn to do stuff — programming, music, writing, etc. — is to imitate others. It's one of the best ways to learn

    Correct, and I did my share of imitating other's games when I was learning. However, I didn't use the same name as the original, and I didn't take copyrighted artwork or music from the originals.

    Using the same name is a clear trademark violation, and NAMCO has to tell them to stop, or they risk losing their trademark here.

    As far as copyright goes, you can't copyright the idea of a "be chased around a maze while gathering prizes, and have power-ups that sometimes let you chase the monsters" game. However, there are a lot of ways to express that idea in a game, and copyright protects NAMCO's particular expression. There's plenty of room left for someone to do a similar game, but different enough that it incorporates no protected elements. From the descriptions i've read from people who played it before it was taken down, they did not stray far at all from NAMCO's particular expression.

    A damned good case can be made that learning how to imitate the idea of something without copying the expression is an important skill that any professional or serious programmer should learn.

  • by cpghost ( 719344 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:36PM (#33118224) Homepage

    And it is already nearly so since every thing ever invented or created always builds on the cumulative knowledge of all the discoveries and developments of the past and the recent past is nearly completely patented, copyrighted and locked down. Locked down forever - for all practical purposes from the point of view of a person living less then 100 years.

    Let's see it from an evolutionary standpoint: societies that allow themselves to be shackled, bound, and immobilized by excessive red tape (including all this IP nonsense) will ultimately go the way of the dodo. I.e. they will become extinct, while other, more dynamic societies, will arise and prosper and replace those dinosaurs that our societies have become.

  • Re:Play for free? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vastad ( 1299101 ) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @01:15AM (#33119968)

    No please, don't say such cool things knowing it will never be true.

    Seriously, with Google's wallet, you could actually pay for a decent writer to rescue the farce that is Tekken. Don't get me wrong, I love the game as a fighter and it works quite nice as a Double Dragon style beat-em-up. But with those amazing looked beautiful but they were re-donkey-lous.

    Nina is what...40? 50 years old now? But she's the sex symbol and so some cryogenic-hibernation handwavium keeps her in her 20s. Paul doesn't even have that excuse. He should be looking as dodgy as Dolph Lundgren by now. Weirdly, Heihachi makes sense. He's a centenarian by now. All the bad mojo or something.

    The various war gods they fight are just lame. It's approaching SNK territory. First was the Aztec-ish Ogre. Then Heihachi's dad with the ridiculous facial hair. Most recently some weird Egyptian beast made of ice that definitely suffered from SNK Boss Syndrome as well as SNK lameness.

    Ultimately it would be nice to hire some fresh creative non-Japanese brains to come in and sweep away the tropes and stereotypes that stained the latest release. Alisa and Lars were irritating and lazy additions to the roster, Lars being a decent re-hash of Heihachi karate (who'da'thunk the old man liked Swedish blondes). The robot-girl however was getting into Darkstalkers tongue-in-cheek territory which I can't tell is intentional or not.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @08:32AM (#33121834)

    Yes, lets consider this company which supplies utterly useless crap, "demand" for which is manufactured wholesale by attempting to brainwash the unsuspecting dupes that "jewelery" will somehow improve their self-esteem or if they do not get it, they will be seen as "lesser" by their peers. The term "parasites" comes to mind.

    So your saying that people who buy jewelery cannot think for themselves? Apparently there is some massive conspiracy of jewelery retailers "brainwashing" people into buying their products? That's quite a patronising statement indeed.

    I just cannot understand your point of view - how are people selling jewelery "parasitic"? It's Jewelery, not homeopathy for god sake.How is jewelery wholesale any more parasitic than any other business model, or lone human being for that matter? We all rely on other life forms in one way or another, at their expense, to survive.

    The fact is humans see value in things they deem to be attractive. What we find attractive is merely a result of our genetics and our experiences. Art, clothing, furniture, cars, architecture, consumer electronics are all made with aesthetics at the heart of the design process because it *matters* to the consumer. The visual appearance of a product has mattered to mankind since the beginning of civilization (clothing, piercings, face paint and jewelery, oddly enough..) - in *every* civilization that has ever existed. It wasn't a big corporate "brainwashing" excercise then, and it isn't now. Jewelery is no different - it may not have any obvious function, but neither do the works of art we have taken great lengths to preserve for thousands of years. Aesthetics are at the heart of our culture, our humanity, and that isn't likely to change any time soon.

    Your comment truly baffles me.

  • by IgnoramusMaximus ( 692000 ) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @10:19AM (#33123072)

    Your comment truly baffles me.

    I will make an (only one) exception in replying to an AC, further AC comments will be ignored as odds are that you are down-moderating me with your real account.

    Your confusion stems from conflating "aesthetics" with corporate activities. While it is true that people might find one thing or another "attractive" those perceptions have long since became subject to manipulation by the "fashion" industry, with the aim of "creating market" for disposable crap. Jewelery is in the same category, and has been worked by the con-men so thoroughly that you end up with nonsensical psychosis like "engagement rings" and "anniversary rings" etc. If only aesthetics was involved, the jewelery (and clothing) markets would not reach even 1% of their present size.

    Hence "parasitic" activities, since a tiny conceivable gain is visible for the "consumers" at a massive expense.

    It can also be put another way: a good indicator of "value" of something is the resale price of the said thing as measured immediately after purchase. For jewelery in the US the drop is frequently in 80% range.

The wages of sin are high but you get your money's worth.