March 23, 2008
You may remember Sierra's ImagiNation network from the earliest days of dial-up networking:
The ImagiNation Network (INN), aka The Sierra Network (TSN), was the first online multiplayer gaming system. Developed by Sierra On-Line in 1989, and first available to the public in 1991, the ImagiNation Network was a unique online gaming network that gave subscribers from all over the United States of America a place where they could "play games, make friends and have fun". With a wide variety of games including RPGs, WWI aeroplane simulations, live trivia, and card and board games, almost every user could find something enjoyable to play. INN also featured an electronic post office, many bulletin boards, chat rooms, and the company boasted of having "more than 200 groups, clubs and special events online."
I had an account on The Sierra Network for a while. The graphics were incredible for that era, at least compared to the text-only BBS games that passed for online multiplayer gaming at the time. Still, it wasn't quite my cup of tea, so I didn't last long there. I finally achieved online multiplayer satisfaction a few years later with Doom, Dwango, and Kali.
The Sierra Network is an interesting bit of computer history trivia at best. But it's particularly relevant when you compare it to the recently launched Mytopia gaming service. Mytopia allows you to play common internet games (think hearts, sudoku, chess, etcetera) across several popular walled garden social networking sites including MySpace and Facebook.
The resemblance, indeed, is astonishing. It has to be some sign of the coming internet apocalypse when a startup has essentially rebuilt The Sierra Network in Web 2.0 fashion.
(via rei on QuarterToThree)
Posted by Jeff Atwood
You've got to hope that they got some kind of legal clearance for that, or their money reserves may take a hit, me thinks.
Wow Jeff !!!!
You noted the resemeblence.
How did you remember stuff from the 90s?
glad to see someone else noticed this. I'm just hoping they implement Boogers and Stratego.
Hoe is that a copyright violation? It's just a generic little town with roads. I drew stuff like that when I was a kid and my mother even made me a quilt that looks like that.
The more things change... the more they stay the same.
well, the Town Hall is exactly the same, the Shop and the building beside it are almost the same, the Home is virtually the same, and even the placement of the roads is the same. I don't know anything about copyright law so I can't really comment on that, but you do have to say that they copied it.
If you read the history of the Sierra network linked to above, then you will see that it's 100% likely that none of the companies involved care any more.
It looks like it's currently owned by AOL, of all companies.
But yeah, right down to the design of the facades on the buildings, too close for coincidence.
'Mytopia' sounds a bit too much like a disease to me. Myopia?
What an ironic name, considering...
The resemblance is astonishing?? Its virtually identical!! Just look at the shop and the town hall.
As far as I can remember, Doom did not have an online mode. It only did LAN multiplayer, since it relied on autodetect to find the server. :)
Not that great of a post though.
Although I'm happy to sy that Coding Horror is one of my two favorite blogs, next to Seth Godin's blog @ http://sethgodin.typepad.com/
So thanks Jeff!
the bingo game is also a complete clone of the club pogo bingo game bingo luau. the interface is virtually identical.
Kali - now there's a blast from the past. I recall using it for some online Carmageddon sessions :-)
this is fun an harmless.
However, it's possible that the original artist of the work could be upset. It happens.
The companies? Doesn't matter, not a clear Trademark violation.
the internet Rapture in coming!
I had TSN/INN for a couple years when I was a teen in the early 90s. It's where I learned to play Go and a few other board games. Back in the day it was pretty revolutionary. I even remember the happy holidays card/disk they sent in the mail and the town graphic would change with the seasons (e.g. there would be snow in the winter months). Good old Sierra.
Talk about strange. Our first company intranet website, circa 2000, looked almost identical to the Mytopia site which in turn is strangely reminiscent of the old Sierra site. Hmmmmmm
Just what the internet needs, another social networking site...
Kali? Wow - it has certainly been awhile since I've heard someone mention Kali. I have to say, for the time - it was *the shit*.
The two buildings on the bottom left are a dead giveaway. Its clearly an homage.
The roads even wind the same way.
It's worth noting that the only difference is that they've taken out the fun fantasy buildings (castle, coluseum, volcano, whatever that place with the orange columns on the right is) from the Sierra world and replaced it with a saloon, bar and casino.
These things do happen unintentionally sometimes, too:
"Dangerous" has a beat set at 103 BPM. The chorus of the song (This is serious/We could make you delirious/You should have a healthy fear of us/'Cause too much of us is dangerous) was taken, apparently unwittingly, from a 1983 Long Island Regional Poison Control Council PSA warning children of the danger of loose prescription medications.
If someone high up enough on the art chain had seen TSN back in the day, and both laid out the town and made decisions about the art style, the resemblance could be explained as possibly accidental.
Knowing that it is an homage, I'm now finding it interesting to note the *differences*. The one that really smacks you in the face is that the new version is much more "adult". Where the old Sierra verison had a colleseum a put-put course with a windmill and a fairtale castle, the new one has a bar a casino and a card saloon.
Also, the old Sierra version had a phone booth. Those are of course obsolete now, so it was replaced with a mailbox.
And here I was hoping that maybe Kathy was back!
I was quite young when INN was passing out of fashion but I managed to sign up for a free 30-day pass or something. The graphics were pretty rad though there's only so much fun to be had out of playing reversi with some stranger. Then and now. I seem to recall getting kicked off for saying inappropriate things on the bulletin boards. Hmm.
As for those wondering about the copyright question: it's _clearly_ a derivative work, at least by the standards of US copyright law, and if you think that the current company named Sierra Online doesn't care, just wait until this little startup has some money to be sued out of. If they didn't get permission then they have got to be the most moronic startup I have ever heard of. It's one thing to have a startup based on a willful violation of copyright law (Napster, for example), but it's another to have one based on a _totally unnecessary_ willful violation of copyright law (they could have easily made it look different).
how can anybody argue that this was unintentional. Who has such an unconscious photographic memory. This was copied on purpose, of course.
What, not Quantum Link and Club Caribe?
Actually, I exaggerate. There are certainly more moronic startup ideas than this. But it's still dumb to have done that.
grace -- look at the design of the "house", the "shop", the "town hall," the little pond. Look at the color choices. Look at the identical perspective, the identical shapes, the identical sizes.
This isn't a case of someone having some long-standing image in their head that they unwittingly duplicate. I do that sort of thing all the time -- but it is things like a great color scheme that I realize I first saw on the cover of an obscure book. But this -- this is willful duplication of details. I'd bet cash money they even used that screenshot from Wikipedia as a reference.
(And not to go on and on... but they've duplicated even the subtle and pointless details. The slope of the palm trees. The edge of the red building in the lower-left corner. The stump. The fountain in the pond. The number of steps on the town hall. The sort of things you'd never remember just accidentally, because you'd probably never even notice them in the first place!!)
I like how the little red school house has now morphed into a bar.
Also notice in place of those monuments of civilization: The palace, the Roman Coliseum, and pyramid is our new monument of civilization: The casino.
Maybe my grandma was right and civilization is going down the toilet.
Pretty interesting discussion :)
For those of you who remember TSN, I hope we brought back some great memories. Truly, I didn’t imagine this many of you were out there, and am thrilled to find the community still vibrant and kicking.
The main game map right now serves as a fancy menu, leading users to the different games and regions within Mytopia. That’s where the similarities end; a lot has changed since 1991. It is a tribute to what, IMHO, was the best gaming community of all time and a watershed moment in digital entertainment. If Mytopia’s initial skin brings overdue recognition to that moment in history, we couldn’t be happier. Those guys inspired an entire generation of kids to get into gaming, myself included.
I’ve been communicating with the original team behind TSN and they’ve been very supportive.
Back to 2008 – We’re focusing much of our energy to laying an infrastructure to enable cross-platform gaming across the fragmented Web, and beyond. We’d like to help the world play together by building a device-agnostic, digital playground. I believe a similar vision guided TSN, and we’ll do our best to carry the torch. Please feel free to contact me at guy at mytopia with your feedback and suggestions (INN memories also welcome).
You know form can be a product of function right?
also these are indeed the end times.
Come one, those pictures are completely different.
Just look at the trees at the right of the town hall. The original had two trees, the new one has three. You see that? two!=three
Also just look at the resolution. The old one looks pixelated, while the new one is so super smooth.
Nice try, Jeff.
Similar... but different enough to get around copyright laws I should imagine! Well noticed though Jeff :)
There is one glaring problem with "Mytopia": where is Mount Doom!? I loved the Imagination network (as pricey as it was, those charlatans!) for those multi-player dungeon adventures: Shadows of Yserbius (spelling?) and Fates of Twinion. That smoldering mountain in the upper right of the Imagination network was my home for at least two seasons of my childhood.
Oh... how I miss casting "Death Darts" on swarms of baddies... =(
I was a hardcore Sierra fan during its golden age. I remember reading stories in their newsletter about people meeting on TSN and getting married.
This video ad is a must see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKHMIKZZjaY
Not only is it hilarious, but it's also a technological time capsule. (That Toshiba laptop on that business man's desk is AWESOME)
WOW! I remember the INN!!
...and being a graphic artist who is constantly parodying logos and such, this new design is MOST DEFINITELY derived from the old Sierra screen. I mean, just a quick comparative glance and I can see that 80% of it is identical to the first one...
...even I try and change things WAY more than that when I'm ripping something off! I certainly don't need a copyright lawsuit!
Is there someone from the old Sierra version that is perhaps working with this new start-up? or just a former fan/designer stuck in a creative rut?...
The first online multiplayer gaming service? What about CompuServe?
I saw where the developer was discussing that the IP is clear and there shouldn't be any legal issues....I'm sorry if you have to justify your 'homage' then you probably missed the mark a bit. :-)
That second image is clearly derived from the first. Is that a possible copyright violation (assuming they didn't get the relevant rights), or is this sort of thing legally okay?
From the developer comment linked to above: "all the IP has long been abandoned so don’t worry"
It's scary that obviously nobody there bothered to consult an IP lawyer. Copyright claims don't ever get "abandoned" -- someone owns the IP, somewhere out there, most likely either AOL or Sierra Online. You haven't needed to "maintain" copyright claims since the 1960s.
I loved TSN/INN, I was there until the day it was shut down. I had the box copy of Yserbius/Twinion, too. I was a kid as well, and I remember the we-spent-too-much month. Oops.
And yes, bring on Boogers, Graffiti and the 3D Tic Tac Toe!
Shmork - Actually, your second comment about the similarities points out something that makes an argument for a subconscious copy, because *why* would someone copy trivialities such as these things? They make it look like an "obvious" copy.
When people are trying to avoid accusations of duplication -- and usually they are if they're "copying" something in this fashion -- they work to make *details* different. "Well, yes, we have a Town Hall, but it's not the same design! And there are no tree stumps anywhere."
If this is an intentional copy, it's either the most blatant kind of ripoff (which I do not think anybody intelligent enough to be directing the art could possibly do) or one of those odd quirks of human memory.
I'm not saying it *isn't* intentional...merely that it *could* be accidental.
What about Quantum Link?
My god, what a blatant ripoff! Did they think everyone'd forgotten about Sierra?? I was a Sierra user too back then. I played all their games like King's Quest and all that. :P
I miss the old games, in all their 2D glory. I actually think the game artwork back then was better. Now almost everything is made in 3D and it sucks (what I think at least).
Westwood studios represent.
Here's some uber-trivia for you. The original clubhouse shown on the INN screen was a restaurant called "The Old Barn" that had been converted into the INN offices. And the water tower next to it was real.
I had the imagination service WAY back when.....trying to chat on that thing was weird....i want to see some more screen shots from the original
As an employee of the TSN, all the way through the aquisition by AOL and the relaunch as WorldPlay, this tugs at the heart strings quite a bit. I live in Oakhurst,CA where the Old Barn and TSN/INN campus resided. Another friend who was visiting from Oregon was a Sysop on the system (INNRoxy), and she and her husband of 15 years met online. Her husband worked for me as a Workstation Technican, and then was my right-hand man in QA (Where we tested Red Baron II and INNFootball, and the Fates of Twinion). I moved on to become the manager of Online services. Yes, we had live agents who would CALL people to inform them their service had been interupted by a violation of the TOS (Terms of Serviced). You'd surprised what reactions you'll get from a Southern Baptist Preacher when you call him up to tell him what his son said in the middle of a Boogers match grin. Anyway, the Old Barn is now offices for some sort of Airplaned Technologies firm (Design, I assume, as there is no manufacturing facility their.
We went to take a picture of her now 7 year old son in front of the Barn for them to bring back to Daddy. Sadly, the water tower is mostly overgrown with ivy, and crumbling. I still have a photo of our entire team (128 of us) all around (and some ON) the water Tower which we sent to AOL after acquisition. Our last night on INN was August first, 1999. That's when AOL turned us off. There were some real honest tears in the office, and around the nation, I'm sure, as the technician in the server room pulled the plug (although he did give us an extra 2 minutes after midnight to say our online goodbyes.
I still have original software in the shrink wrap, and several framed marketing pieces, including the monthly newsletter in boxes here in the garage. It was an amazing time to be in a brave new online world.
CyperPark never made it off the ground --- but --- although not the same thing, you can see it's mark on places like Second Life... we were just a little too ahead of our time for what the dial-up networks and modems could handle.
By the way, did anyone ever attend any of the F2F gatherings? I have flown to Conneticut, Las Vegas, and made many trips to the bay area to meet people I had known online for years... quite an amazing thing. Would be interested to know if anyone here was that big of a fan... uh... geek... grin. I might know your screen name. ;-)
ITS 22 GUD N I WANNA PLAY THIS ON ANY CIRCUMSTANCES......