I’m not at this week’s Game Developer Conference in San Francisco for various reasons (the main one being that I’ve been covering events non-stop for nearly two months and my body is falling apart), but we’re keeping a pretty close eye on things just in case. We’re hearing that things just got a little dramatic in the “ANGRY BIRDS – An Entertainment Franchise in the Making” panel headed by Rovio’s “Might Eagle” (read: head honcho) Peter Vesterbacka.
During the Q&A session, someone from the audience stood up and claimed to have created the physics engine behind Angry Birds, requesting a credit. The audience, we’re told, roared with applause. I’m working to confirm this right now, but I’m almost certain that person would have to be Erin Catto, creator of the open-source Box 2D physics engine. (Update: Yep, folks in the audience have confirmed that it was Erin Catto.)
This issue started heating up back in December, after a handful of people in the development community (here’s one) started wondering aloud if Erin should get some financial love from Rovio — or, at the very least, a mention in the credits.
Technically, Rovio isn’t at all obligated to compensate Erin, be it with monies, fine jewels, or a passing mention. From Box2D’s license:
The origin of this software must not be misrepresented; you must not claim that you wrote the original software. If you use this software in a product, an acknowledgment in the product documentation would be appreciated but is not required.
Rovio’s lovable characters, near-constant updates, and generally awesome employees have given the company a pretty dang positive public image. They wouldn’t want a dispute with the guy who built a core element of their game (especially when the guy is giving said element away for free) to tarnish that; in this situation, they become David’s Goliath, and that’s a terrible spot to be in. If all the guy is asking for is some credit, giving him that as quick as possible is probably the best thing they could do.
The gist of Rovio’s response was pretty straight-forward: they’d be perfectly willing to credit Box2d, and if he’d come see them after the panel, they could talk about it.
Update: Both Erin and Peter have commented around the Internets to clarify that they didn’t feel the situation was (nor was it intended to be) awkward or confrontational:
Peter Vesterbacka, in the comments below:
No big drama. Erin asked, I replied that we are more than happy to give him credit. Box2D is a great piece of software.
Erin, in the Box2d forums:
Just to be clear, I did not declare that Angry Birds uses Box2D or demand that they give me credit.
The Q&A went something like this:
Erin: “Hi Peter, could you tell me which physics engine Angy Birds uses?”
Erin: “Great. Would you consider giving credit to Box2D in your game?”
Peter: “Yes, of course”
Erin: “Thank you! By the way, I am Erin Catto the creator of Box2D”
Peter: “Great! I would like to talk to you after the session”
So I really tried to ask this in the nicest way possible and Peter was very friendly. Angry Birds is a great game and I have a lot of respect for Rovio.