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MMPGs as Art Development Platforms
Pierre R. Berger
Digital artist. Chair "Les Algoristes"
2A, Impasse Marie-Louise.
Maisons-Laffitte F 78600, France
Tel: +33 662 605
439 – e-mail:
292 rue Saint Martin, 75003 Paris
Abstract: Digital Art could break new ground through cooperation. MMPGs would afford a vast and powerful support, as well for technical and legal standards as for communication, marketing, and interactive creativity.
Key words: Art, development, cooperation, games, platforms, MMPG, property rights, users.
The reflexions presented here stemmed from very practical issues emerging from the development of Roxame , a "painter system" . Started in 2001, this system has met today its primary objectives : prove that a computer program may create, without human intervention during the process, create pleasant and original works of art. (The pioneer in the fiels is Howard Cohen, with his Aaron program , which inspired Roxame).
Though still comparatively small (15000 C++ lines), the project seems today outgrow the competences and time of an isolated artist, and cooperation is looked for. That raises various issues, technical as well as legal and communication/commercial. It may be hoped that a recent and rapidly expanding field could bring answers to all these issues : the Massively MultiPlayer Games (MMPGs).
2. MMPGs AS A COOPERATIVE WORLDS
Computer Graphics are today a vastly cooperating field. Movies and games  , with budgets in ten million dollars, are developped by teams which are at times counted by hundreds, including a high number of "artists", grouped in complex organizations described for instance by Phil Co .
This working environement is certainly far from the romantic image of true "artists". We see the great painter (and he sees himself) more as a Van Gogh in his miserable hotel room than as a salaryman in his cubicle deep buried in a corporate building !
Individualism may foster genius, but also emprison in mediocrity and lack of true innovation. That perhaps why the general public does rarely finds happiness in the world of contemporary art, where authentically provoking art is often difficult to disinguish from hoax or commercial hype. It may also justify the fact that digital art is so poorly represented in the main art Shows of Basel, Miami or Paris, as shows for instance James Faure Walker .
MMPGs could open the way beyond and forward. As explains Cory Ondrejka in , these games need a considerable amount of content to attact and still more to retain players month after month. The key answer is "user creation" by the players.
That begins with mere parametrization of the game, for instance the attributes of avatars representing the users : gender, body size, clothing, fighting capacities ("crafting"). A lot of games encourage the users to build their own private spaces inside the global game universe. It may be done individually or by group of players ("guilds"). Installation of art works, of various kinds, seem natural in these spaces. At a higher level, some players develop modified versions of the game ("mods"), with or without the blessing of the original developing team.
Then, cooperative work of artists in MMPGs would be nothing but a further step in creation, and bring the answer to digital art progress. But, even with motivated artists, how to manage such a collective action ?
3. COOPERATION IN MMPG : TECHNICAL AND LEGAL ISSUES
Ideally, cooperative artists could design, implement and negociat specific standards, practices and legal frameworks to support their collective creation and protect their individual property rights. A lot of professions have built such tools, with EDI (Electronic data interchange), syndication tools (RSS) and more recently with Web services . But these constructions are technically difficult. Worse : standards elaboration is costly as well as boring but for dedicated professionals of the speciality.
Then, whycould not artists build partnerships with game publishers ? These business corporations have the tools, teams and knowhow to manage large and complex workflows (See for intance Brinkmann ), from image capture and geometric modeling to publishing interfaces through compositing and modeling. Even after delivery, the MMPGs, by definition ("massively multi..."), have to lead and drive large and complex communities of user-players, in strong but supple coordination with their development teams (several papers in Alexander ).
Then, the cooperating digital artists could focus on their irreplaceable role of creation. Among the artistic community, this form of partnership could be pertinent in particular for the "algorists", i.e. artists using their own algorithms as the core of their creations. They would in these worlds fulfil the daring motto of Schoeffer : "The artist's role is no longer to create an art work, but to create creation" . MMPGs would bring them the engineering platform, the quality assurance, the presentation to the public... and even a rich feedback to push their ideas further.
The chief remaining issue will be to design an appropriate type of contract between artists and publishers. The global legal environment of MMPGs is far from beeing stabilized. The publishing firms would like to keep control of the whole process. They try to constrain their users by EULA's (End user licence agreements). But the trend goes to a more and more diversified set of roles.
MMPGs are "spaces" if not "universes", and not simply "games" in the traditional meaning. In these New Worlds, social structures progressively integrate structures inspired by the classical ones, public as well as privates. The artists, after their ancillary role under princes and churches, then their romantic role devoted to (and more or less stochastically supported by) the "collectors", are here in position to redefine their position and responsibilities, both as individuals and as groups ("studios", "schools", "collectives"...) .
 See http://www.roxame.com
 Pamela McCorduck . Aaron's code. Meta-Art, Artificial Intelligence and the Work of Harold Cohen. Freeman 1991.
 Stéphane Natkin. Jeux vidéo et médias du XXIe siècle : Quels modèles pour les nouveaux loisirs numériques, Vuibert, Paris, 2004
 Stéphane Natkin : Video games and Interactive Media : A Glimpse at New Digital Entertainment. AK Peters 2006.
 Phil Co : Level Design for Games. Creative Compelling Game Experiences. New Riders. Berkeley CA. 2006
 James Faure Walker. Painting the Digital River: How an Artist Learned to Love the Computer, Prentice-Hall, 2006
 Thor Alexander (ed.) : Massively Multiplayer Game Development 2. Charles River Media, Hingham, MS, 2003.
 Jean-Marie Chauvet : Services web avec Soap, WSDL, UDDI, ebXML... Eyrolles, Paris, 2002.
 Ron Brinkman. The Art and Science of Digital Compositing. Morgan Kaufman 1999.
 Nicolas Schoeffer. Le nouvel esprit artistique. Denoël, Paris 1970.