A Silver Lining for Fan-Made Indie Games

Curator's Note

The designation of "indie" is traditionally given to games that are produced outside the mainstream industry with often limited resources and audience. Fan-games are definitely outsider projects, yet they are by their nature simultaneously independent and corporate-inspired. Indie games are often defined by the legends that surround how they came to be: creators working in their spare time, school projects turned into ambitious start-ups, or unexpected success from a simple but brilliant mechanic. The fan game Silver Lining is no exception. A group of fans networking across the world decided to take on the ambitious project of creating a full sequel to the King’s Quest adventure games, using 3D graphics and a modern engine to realize the story to its full potential.

The story of a group of fans so dedicated to the pursuit of their aesthetic dream for the King's Quest series that they fought armies of copyright lawyers--and won--is instantly compelling. Cesar Bittar, director of the project and Phoenix Online, explained the team's motivation in an interview: "We just simply couldn’t let go of our childhood dreams, and, when we learned that there would be no more King’s Quest, we decided to take matters into our own hands and do a final chapter. We wanted the series to go out with a bang. We felt it so deserved it. We had been together with this family for so many years and we felt that if we were to say goodbye to our heroes, it needed to be in a big way, a grand way, fitting of a Daventrian adventure."

The trailer shown here is itself remarkable, as at one point Activision seemed bent on eliminationg all such traces of Silver Lining from the web. There are now three episodes available to play, with two more pending. Can we expect every company to begin ceding its intellectual property rights and throw its ideas into public space? Of course not. But the Silver Lining victory suggests a willingness to negotiate new boundaries between corporate and fan-produced games. And the Silver Lining project need not be a final goodbye to Sir Graham. Telltale Games recently announced their own King's Quest reboot. A coincidence? Or perhaps a reminder of the power of fans to draw attention back to--and expand--the game worlds they love?


Anastasia, I really enjoyed this post for providing an excellent example of player agency expressed in both a resistant and constructive way, even as it moves in direct opposition to the mainstream industry.  I'd love to hear more about Activision's response and explanation for ultimately backing off.  Cynically, I wonder what it might have benefit beyond goodwill that Activision might have found to allowing it to thrive.  Regardless, the fact that Silver Lining survives is enough to ask whether is capable of learning a lesson other media industries haven't about conflicts with users. 

Randy, thank you. The groundswell of fan protest seems to be one of the main reasons the project was allowed to continue, the project's fate was discussed throughout gaming media. They also had a stronger case with Activision because they'd already gotten permission from previous copyright holders. Here's the quote from Activision that offered a portent of the good news: 

"Given the overwhelming community support for the Silver Lining project," a company statement released to Kotaku on Sunday read, "Activision is in discussions with Phoenix Online Studios about allowing them to continue to finish the game and then release it to their fans." (From the Kotaku article)

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