Publishing more MeCCG: a reply from Pete Fenlon

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Publishing more MeCCG: a reply from Pete Fenlon

Post by Eyelid » Mon Jul 16, 2007 1:27 am

Some of you might have read the post below about the end of Decipher's own trading card game based on Middle-earth.

This sparked some interest about the availability of the Middle-earth license along with the remote and highly hypothetical possibility of reviving MECCG.

I wanted to find out what the original designers of the game thought about all this, so I wrote a little note to both Pete Fenlon and Coleman Charlton.

I just got a reply, which I wanted to share with the community. It came from Pete Fenlon earlier today. I asked him if he would mind if I shared his reply with the community, and he said I could go right ahead. Here are his words:
Dear Mr. Teroux,

Thank you for your kind words. We appreciate your interest in, and passion about, our MECCG. Unfortunately, however, neither ICE nor its old principals have any legal rights to publish the game. We cannot grant that which we do not have, so you’ll have to approach The Saul Zaentz Company. They own Tolkien Enterprises. You can find them in Berkeley, California. You’ll likely speak with Laurie Battle.

Should you secure the requisite rights re Middle-earth, you’ll then need to approach ICE. ICE’s owner, John Seal, controls the rights to the old ICE CCG rules system. This includes the iconography.

This is all the help we can offer you now or in the future. Good luck on your quest. Take care.

-Pete Fenlon
So there it is. I guess any revival of MECCG is not entirely ruled out, but it  probably won't be easy and it will certainly take a considerable amount of greenbacks to boot. Still, a slight possibility is better than nothing, wouldn't you agree?

Incidentally, when I asked Pete if I could quote him, I also asked him if he might be interested in working on MECCG again if the opportunity arose. But to that he provided no reply.
Does that mean we can take it from his silence that he's not against the idea? That's a definite maybe :-)

So if anyone has a lot of cash to spare, you know who to get in touch with...

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Post by The Lidless Eye » Mon Jul 16, 2007 6:27 pm

This at least clears things up

So Tolkien Enterprises (TE) owns the rights to produce a CCG based on Tolkien's works.

ICE owns the copyright on the game mechanic.  

Therefore both are required if MECCG were to be re-issued.  The other issue would be the artwork used on the cards is owned by the artists.  It is unlikely, even if TE and ICE were to agree that cards could simply be re-printed without either agreements from the original artist contributors or commissioning new artwork.

I also don't know how much market there would be for a 10-year old game.  Sure there are a core set of fans but would the game attract new fans and be commercially viable?  

I know that just before ICE went bankrupt they were working on a second edition of the MECCG called LORE (Lord of the Rings Expandable Card Game)  I believe.  Which was a simplified version of the MECCG rules.  If there was any shot of a new MECCG-type CCG game, I would think LORE would probably have a better shot.

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Post by Darksatin » Mon Jul 16, 2007 6:37 pm

The LORE Rules, from "The Lair of Morgul Rats" :

Type 1.5 Tournament Rules
These are the rules that were used for a Lord of the Rings Expandable Card Game (LORE) playtesting tournament at North American Nationals a few years ago. LORE is the simpler version of MECCG that never saw the light of day because ICE lost its Tolkien-license.

Introduction: "There will be a special non-sanctioned tournament held on Friday, for those with invitations to the Semis. As some of you may know, we are currently in the process of revising MECCG, and this tournament will showcase some of the new rules we are currently playtesting for the revision. The tournament will be run as a Wizard-only tournament (hazards and hero resources from any set may be used), with the following additional rules:

Active conditions: Characters may not be used as active conditions during the movement/hazard or site phases unless they are in the currently phasing company.

Calling the End Game: The End Game (or The Free Council) may be called by either player if they have at least 20 MPs. The End Game is automatically called after both play decks have been exhausted (at the end of the turn).

Characters: Character MPs are ignored (except for negative MPs). You may bring a character into play at a Haven or his home site, regardless of the position of your Wizard. To bring a character into play, you must have enough influence available to control the character.

Character Draft: The draft is no longer simultaneous. Before the draft, dice are rolled by each player. The high roller chooses whether to draft the first character or take the first turn. Once the first drafter is determined, players draft in alternation until the normal requirements are met. Wizards may be drafted, counting as mind 0 characters.

Company Limit: You may only have two companies. Characters with Await the Advent of Allies played on them do not count against the two company limit.

Discards: All players must discard face up.

Extra Strikes: Extra strikes now give a -1 to prowess *and* a -1 to body. No character's body may be lowered to less than 6 by excess strikes.

Gold Rings: You may tap a sage to test a gold ring. If you test a ring in this fashion, results indicating The One Ring are ignored.

Influence Attempts: You may not make an influence attempt against an opponent's resource, unless you have a copy of that resource in your hand, and reveal it for the influence attempt.

Minor Items: One minor item may be played after entering any site, from the sideboard, hand, or discard pile. Tap a character to play the minor item on that character. Minor items that may be discarded for an effect may not be played from the discard pile, and Star-glass may not be played from the sideboard.

Movement: You may not use starter movement, and you may only move three regions per turn.

Reserve Pile: There will be a reserve pile for each player. All sideboarded cards, and any other cards that would normally be shuffled into the deck, go into the reserve pile. Your free discard during the end-of-turn phase may go into the reserve pile if you wish. After your turn, shuffle your reserve pile into your deck (as your opponent is planning his turn).

Sideboarding: You may not sideboard into the discard pile or into the play deck. Any effect that normally allows sideboarding a card into the play deck puts that card into the reserve pile instead. When you exhaust your deck, you may put five cards from the sideboard into the reserve pile before reshuffling. However, you may not remove cards from your deck at that time. Two new ways to sideboard are added. If a company enters a site and plays no resources, you may tap one character in that company to sideboard one resource into the reserve pile. If an opponent's company moves and you play no hazards on them, then you may sideboard one hazard into the reserve pile.

Starting Site: You may start at Rivendell, Lorien, Minas Tirith, or Edhellond.

Weakest Link Method: This will not be used. Ties will stand, and each player will gain 3 tournament points.

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Post by Sly Southerner » Tue Jul 17, 2007 7:32 am

More info about the plans ICE had for LORE can also be found in Coleman Charlon's interview by Jason Kight in his MECCG Newsletter #4, pages 1-5 (which you can download from this page: http://www.meccg.net/netherlands/meccg/).
So that's where that southerner is hiding...He looks more than half like a goblin.

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Post by Warlord of Gondor » Sun Jul 22, 2007 8:53 pm

Intresting. It would make sense that TE has the rights to produce the game. So, I wonder if anyone could approach them and ask if they would allow ME to be revived.
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Post by jhunholz » Tue Jul 24, 2007 7:31 pm

TE speaks one language: $$$.  Remember, this isn't the heirs of Tolkien we're talking about; this is an investment company that is interested only in what makes them more wealthy.  To purchase licenses, game companies pay large sums of money, and they would expect the same from us.  It isn't so much that they don't want MECCG to come back, but rather that there's no way to make it successful enough to pay for itself.

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Post by Gwaihir » Sat Jul 28, 2007 2:39 pm

I've put a lot of thought and research into this over the years. Right now I'm thinking that if anything, the community had best aim for a modest project, serving the most direct needs, mainly an unlimited edition of the Balrog, possibly some missing translations to German and Spanish, and *perhaps* to bring a few of the finest ideas for new cards to print officially. My reasoning:

LoRe (or something along those lines) is cool and possibly even commercially viable if distributed in the right format (and if The Hobbit comes to the big screen). However, it's a grand undertaking and it will be a different game. What good is it to the fanbase of this game, those who already have the cards and know the rules?

Tolkien Enterprises (TE) is probably still betting on bringing The Hobbit to the big screen somewhere in the next decade. If they are, any sizeable license will cost big $$$ and take considerable effort to work out to our satisfaction. However, with the Decipher exclusive license out of the way, a small thing just *might* be passable, as long as they are convinced it won't jeopardize their ongoing big $$$ plans, i.e. doesn't diminish the value of their more commercially sellable licenses. Still this is a very long shot.

The Tolkien Estate, Christopher Tolkien in particular, doesn't like extrapolation from Tolkien's work, nor does he care for games. Very relevant as TE only owns the rights to The Hobbit and the main body of LotR. Our game however uses materials from the appendices and other sources as well. Same will go for LoRe and that will make it very hard to realize; note how the need for strict adherence to the material from the main storyline joepardized Decipher's LotR RPG. A small, not / hardly commericial fan inititive for MeCCG on the other hand might just be aimicable enough to pass. Again, a long shot, but at least one fan 'massage' might help for.

ICE, new ICE that is (or the trustee of old, depending on where the rights currently are), will not likely mind. They'll probably be easiest to get on board, but don't expect them to actually contribute, let alone take the lead. They'll likely want to steer way clear of the past nightmare.

However, even such a "small project" would be well beyond what this community has every achieved over the years; it would not seem we have the capacities required to pull it off. That's not to say it is impossible, just to make anyone starting out think well about what he's getting into so he can decide and prepare accordingly.

My own time and interests have drifted on since, so I won't be actively pursueing any of this. However, if and when a serious plan is on the table, I might be able to dig up some old contacts / rally some support in the right places.
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Post by Sly Southerner » Sun Jul 29, 2007 9:31 am

Gwaihir wrote: However, even such a "small project" would be well beyond what this community has every achieved over the years; it would not seem we have the capacities required to pull it off. That's not to say it is impossible, just to make anyone starting out think well about what he's getting into so he can decide and prepare accordingly.
I'm no expert but I think that the technical part of printing off a whole lot of Balrog cards or "dream" cards to a reasonable standard would not be that difficult. Its getting the permission that would be hard.
So that's where that southerner is hiding...He looks more than half like a goblin.

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Post by Gwaihir » Sun Jul 29, 2007 12:20 pm

Yes, I was refering to the organisational aspects. The technical aspects are simple by comparision, which is why I haven't specifically mentioned them at all.
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Post by rismisner » Thu Aug 02, 2007 5:09 am

This is a very interesting topic.

My take on it is that a physical reprinting of MECCG cards is extremely unlikely, though not entirely impossible.  It's just too many licenses to acquire from too many disinterested parties.

IMO, what is needed even more badly than printing more cards is the ability to update and maintain the game, revamp the rules as needed, and rewrite many cards to make the wording more consistent and understandable.

While I definitely see the value in reprinting all the existing cards to make it easier for me to get some Balrog (which was never sold in my area and was bid for >$300 the last time I saw it on eBay)  I think there is even more value in resurrecting the ability to maintain and update the game, which a fan community is unable to do because nobody has adequate authority to pubish official errata or actually CHANGE the cards or the rules to make them more consistent and easier to follow.  That is what I care about more than access to printed physical cards.

This leads me to believe that the best method we have for keeping the game alive and available to a wide player base is the virtual world of software like GCCG, and that's one of the main reasons why I launched the Ardanet project (http://ardanet.sourceforge.net/ or http://sourceforge.net/projects/ardanet - still in its infancy, not much to see there yet, but we're accepting volunteers...)

While I am fuzzy about the legality of such software, none of the copyright owners seem to pay any attention to it, as evidenced by the fact that GCCG and NetMECCG are both still freely available and used by the community.  GCCG is free, developed for free by volunteers, and distributed for free to fans.  It costs nothing to produce millions of copies of it, and so surely, this seems to be the most cost-effective way to keep the game alive, given the barricades to get permission to reprint the physical cards in booster packs and starter decks.

But the issue of permission is the real key.  Can anyone who knows better than me comment on the legal ramifications of these copyright ownerships as it relates to software like GCCG and NetMECCG?  I am very curious about how far the fan community can take MECCG-related software, and to what extent we can enhance the software and features for playing MECCG online without resolving the nightmare of licensing issues (i.e. without purchasing the licenses).

I see much room for improvement in GCCG and can imagine many ways that the online MECCG experience could be better, and I wonder how much better we as the fan community are allowed to make it before one of these copyright owners would step in.

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Post by Gwaihir » Fri Aug 03, 2007 6:06 pm

rismisner wrote:I think there is even more value in resurrecting the ability to maintain and update the game, which a fan community is unable to do because nobody has adequate authority to pubish official errata or actually CHANGE the cards or the rules to make them more consistent and easier to follow.  That is what I care about more than access to printed physical cards.
Yes, that could be way cool. However, to simply buy the rights doesn't grant actual authority over the community.
Can anyone who knows better than me comment on the legal ramifications of these copyright ownerships as it relates to software like GCCG and NetMECCG?
They are pretty much identical to those for the physical product, except that ICE has given permission to a (no card images no flavour text) free distribution of NetMeCCG back in the day. There are more details in old threads on such topics, search ought to find those. You'll also find that the rights owners have paid attention and have shut down several initiatives that they felt to be out of bounds. The most vigorous clean up was shortly after the license was sold to Decipher, so another round is likely to follow if / wen the licenses have found a new owner.
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Post by Sly Southerner » Sat Aug 04, 2007 2:47 am

I wonder if it would be possible to simplify the situation and only deal with permission from ICE? Given that ICE still hold the rights to the game mechanics and icons, it might be possible to create cards which do not use any of the righs held by Tolkien Enterprises (ie no quotes from the books, or names of characters and places). Sure, whole new expansions would be very difficult and I am not advocating making up lots of new Kuduk Lore, but it may be possible for some of the virtual cards to actually be created as real cards if ICE are agreeable.

Incidentally there must be some loopholes or gaps in what Tolkien Enterprises own - there is a wine label called "Shadowfax" available here in Australia which has nothing to do with Tolkien Enterprises.
Last edited by Sly Southerner on Wed Aug 08, 2007 1:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by The Lidless Eye » Tue Aug 07, 2007 11:50 am

I wonder if it would be possible to simplify the situation and only deal with permission from ICE? Given that ICE still hold the rights to the game mechanics and icons, it might be possible to create cards which do not use any of the righs held by Tolkien Enterprises (ie no quotes from the books, or names of characters and places). Sure, whole new expansions would be very difficult and I am not advocating making up lots of new Kuduk Lore, but it may be possible for some of the virtual cards to actually be created as real cards if ICE are agreeable.
This is probably the easiest solution to pursue.  In fact, this idea could have been done even if Decipher still owned the licence.  However, looking at ICE's webpage they have the following statement:
Middle-earth Questions

VERY IMPORTANT: If You're About to Contact ICE With a Middle-earth question:

Sorry to say it, but ICE no longer sells, supports, provides rules or card lists or any other material or information related to our old Middle-earth games. So please, please, please DO NOT send us emails asking us where you can buy our old Middle-earth products.

We no longer hold the license for Middle-earth gaming products, so as such we do not sell or support any of our old Middle-earth products including Middle-earth Roleplaying or the Middle-earth Collectible Card Game. If you are seeking information on any of our old Middle-earth games our best suggestion is to do an internet search—there are hundreds of sites out there that have the info you're looking for. If you are looking to fill in the holes in your Middle-earth Roleplaying collection we recommend
It sounds like ICE wants nothing to do with MECCG.  Although it could be a way to keep from getting flooded with emails that they really don't want to deal with.[/quote]

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Post by Sly Southerner » Wed Aug 08, 2007 1:34 pm

I think the reply from Pete Fenlon indicates that it could be possile to get permission to use the relevant icons etc. I think it would be possible to make plenty of card using these.

Going further, it could also be possible to get permission to use characters and places from MERP as these are ICE creations. Sure it isnt Tolkien, but if Tolkein enterprises wont support MECCG then this is next best option to rejuvenate the game. MECCG is not a game for "Tolkien purists" anyway as it already contains plenty of Kuduk lore and other ICE inventions.
So that's where that southerner is hiding...He looks more than half like a goblin.

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Post by BoderHamster » Wed Aug 08, 2007 7:43 pm

I think reactivating the game is nearly impossible.

And not very sensefull....


If in any case there is only one way to get the game back!

Getting the Tolkin World License and building the game Anew...

At least building  a very similar game....

WHY?
Because the game would need a clean up in the first place to make it atractive again.


20 years have passed since the beginning of METW...
And as we know even ICE had realised in the end of the game, that restating the game with a easier version would be best for the game.

If anybody reactivates METW in any way.... It must be done in the direction LORE went....

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