The Problem With Machinima

MachinimaLast year, as many of you know, we announced the end of the Leet World. At the time, we cited several reasons, one of them being our confirmation that Valve was not interested in machinima in the slightest. While we couldn’t go into the details of how we knew this to be true, it seems that another machinima studio has done so.

Pixel Eyes Productions are the creators of the well known Shelf Life machinima, using the Source engine. Recently, they’ve gone through some of the same issues we had in terms of trying to monetize their (hour intensive) hobby, and came up with similar results. We just assumed not talk about the problems we had, but it seems they have done so. This includes their issues with trying to become YouTube sponsors, where they were denied, just like us, since they don’t own the rights to the Source machinima they produced. Naturally, Valve owns those.

More interestingly than the YouTube dilemma, though, was that they (like us) pursued the securing of these rights from Valve, via a commercial machinima license of some kind. And, they have posted the official response. Which, just as we insisted all those many months ago, was simply that Valve is not interested in machinima.

If you don’t feel like clicking on the link, here’s the short of Valve’s response.

We are not interested in licensing our technology or IP for machinima. This includes providing copyright approvals.

I have to say, I really feel for Pixel Eyes, having been in their shoes just last year. If you are a young filmmaker trying to use Valve’s excellent Source tools, they have essentially shut the door with statements just like that. While I don’t blame Valve for trying to protect their property in the slightest, it certainly is a shame to see them take such a hard line stance when it comes to something their community produces so readily and in many cases excellently.

To me, it’s stances like these that will keep machinima in kind of a stale flux for many years to come. What you are starting to see is that the more talented individuals get snatched out of making machinima and onto other things, because machinima runs into more dead ends than it does opportunities. While it’s a nice low-budget way to practice something you love doing, making money off of it is often times the exception and not the rule. And this extends beyond machinima even, to any kind of derivative content.

My advice for any hobbyists out there that like to dabble in machinima or other forms of derivative content (fan fiction, stories based on popular games or movies, comic strips that do the same, etc) is that if you want to do this stuff for a living, don’t spend all your time on something you don’t own. By all means, practice your craft with machinima and use it to gain a fanbase, but let that be only a supplement to a project that you own completely, and let that be where you sink most of your time into.

Trust me, in the long run, it’ll be worth it. You don’t want to spend years of your life working on something only to be told that it doesn’t really belong to you in the end. Sure, you gained lots of experience and you had fun doing what you loved, but if you can do all that and then use it to pay the bills, it’s a double bonus. And believe me, if you’re good, somebody somewhere will want to pay for what it is that you’re kicking ass on.

So go out there and make it happen.

15 thoughts on “The Problem With Machinima

  1. Arctic Avenger

    I just wish that there was some kind of reward for those people (note. by “those” I also mean you guys. Just wanned to make that clear). Because, as you pointed out, at the end of the day, one needs to pay the bills. Or buy a soda after a hard days work.

  2. Tuoppo

    Ever wondered if there will be anyone as good in making machinima as you guys? Your show still remains a true example of a good piece of machinima.

  3. Lord Hayden

    Damn, sorry to hear that about Pixel Eyes. I just wish there was some way to earn some good money off Machinima without going into too much legal issues.

    But you guys did/still are make some good money in selling the Leet World Season 1 Soundtrack right? That is a good little bonus. Also, I hate to ask, but are you guys planning on/still planning on releasing a Season 2 Soundtrack? I found the music in Season 2 much more appealing then in Season 1 to be honest.

    Anyway, at least Valve doesn’t own your awesomeness… šŸ˜€

  4. Jesperbro

    So, if we make Valve approve Machinima, will that bring TLW back? If so, I’ll join complaining and shit to Valve. Machinima is one of the more greater things on the Internet, and if Valve doesn’t want hilarious or exciting content, that’s their problem. It’s just that today you can make a living by making popular videos on the Internet. No education required. So. My guess is that the entire Valve-machinima (machinima made by the source motor) fanbase will write/e-demonstrate to Valve saying that they is admired because of their accessability and that machinima producers love their Source-engine to make hilarious movies on the internet.
    Im just sayin.

  5. Enraged

    It is obviously really unfortunate that Valve have become blind to the needs of the Machinima community. It is understandable that it would cost them atleast a small sum to organize the legal and other components neccesary to head down this road, but I am dissapointed by their actions. It is also unfortunate that you don’t see what Machinima has given you.

    You may not have proffited monetarily on the LeetWorld series, but you have gained a considerable following. You then went on to produce the ‘FUCKING AWESOME’ WebZeroes, a marvellous series in it’s own right. Your fanbase immediately followed you over though, and attracted more people to this profitable show; I’ve already got 4 of my mates watching that, plus all the others who have confirmed they went on from LeetWorld to this new show.

    Machinima may never be recognised by Valve, but it is by your fans. I hope you will one day make machinima again, and I feel that hope is useless on this matter. Either way, enjoying WebZeroes.

  6. Trogador

    Why not go with Daniel’s idea? Make a TLW documentary and sell that, and include a “free” copy of the season 1 and/or 2 dvd.

    Either way, this whole thing on VALVe’s part is really lame. I think they should just look at licensing their content for machinima purposes from a promotional standpoint (i.e. machinima promoting the sales of a game) instead of shutting out this great pool of content creators, including Smooth Few Films. :/

  7. pixel eyes

    Thanks for posting on this as well Eddy. We felt it was important to share with the community what we had been through since it took around 6 months of trying to make contact with Valve before we finally received our very short and disappointing answer.

    We really appreciate the amazing work you guys have done and how you have chosen to move in other directions after all your hard work on TLW and other shorts like Portal: A Day in the Life of a Turret, one of my favorites. šŸ™‚

    Much as you have done with TLW, we plan to finish the Shelf Life story with Source Engine and then consider moving away from Source Engine for the most part. You guys deserve full respect for continuing to work on TLW and trying to make progress with Valve before deciding to end the series and move on to other projects.

    Great job with Web Zeroes by the way!

    – James

  8. KateFosk

    Viewers can make a difference.
    The most powerful message Source film fans could give to Valve, is to start watching films made using other engines. Money talks. If the Pixel Eyes crew can gain a significant following on youtube (using iclone, a commerically licensed machinima tool) it blows Valve’s assumptions out of the water that machinima is economically insignificant, and not worth dealing with.
    At the moment, Valve can assume that viewers only watch source machinima because of the association with their watching fan movies.
    If Smooth Few could be persuaded to make films using Moviestorm (for instance), another commercially licensed machinima tool, AND the fan base follows the writers / filmmakers rather than watching whatever source mach is produced, then that would be a double whammy to Valve’s world view.
    It’s both easy..and possibly rather difficult all at the same time.

  9. doublehawk

    thats total bullshit you guys really should get paid thou valve could actually be benefitted from this because it could get them future customers 2 purchase “said” game (probably counterstrike source)….. it would extremely benefit them….. fuking idiots saying that they see no reason on it (i just said 1) eat that VALVE……… assholes

  10. SargentPikachu

    Yeah, copyright and legal stuff sinks. Sadly, this gets in the way of people trying to create machinima and eventually machinimators have to quit, which was in the case of TLW. But somehow, Rooster Teeth and get profit (I’m not angry at them, but how does that happen?).
    For some, it’s mostly no problem. Pixel Eyes’s ‘Shelf Life’ is a great miniseries and Accursed Farms’s ‘Civil Protection’ is really funny (though the creator is currently in some financial troubles).
    The only thing to do is to make machinima more popular. This might influence Valve and will provide a larger fanbase to machinimators who need it as a reason to continue their work.

  11. arichitamaru

    The Leet World was great… And it is the greatest source show ever. I am just sad these days becouse there isn’t any TLW ;( I just want to say It was oner to see this show .

  12. - Anonymous -

    Yeah I’ve always wanted to make a machinima with css, and I still do even with MW2 out, css is still awesome IMO. Ofcourse it wouldn’t be anywhere near as big or amazing as TLW, and I wouldnt even try, but I acutally have some pretty good ideas. I just don’t really know where to begin and what to do but wtvs.

    L0L what happened to posting more often??

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