PopCap attacks "copycat" designs

Discussion in 'Feedback Requests' started by Teeth, Jun 26, 2007.

  1. luggage

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    Isn't that like saying "it's ok to rip off someone else's design so long as you're the first into a market with it"? Or even "it's ok for us to clone game 'X' but you can't clone game 'X'"?.

    It's either ok to rip off another's game design or it isn't. While being the first into a new market segment isn't quite as bad as being the 5th or 6th it's not a huge difference. We're still talking about copying somebody else's design.

    Personally, I don't have a huge problem with clones. They've been around as long as games have been around - they are nothing new. I'm just not keen on companies giving the impression that they're more original than they are.

    I can't see how they're hurting the industry - the consumers seem to lap them up. Only thing I can see it hurting are certain companies pockets.
     
  2. Dan MacDonald

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    I wouldn't get caught up in the ethics/morality of it all. There's no end to that conversation because it's based on peoples personal belief systems which are varied.

    When Popcap made Zuma they took a risk, they looked at the games of yesteryear (which almost every game today is a derivative of, knowingly or not ) they identified one that they felt had potential, invested a lot of time polishing it, refining it, and optimizing it for casual distribution. It turned out their hunch was right and they made some nice profit.

    They took the risk, puzzloop certainly wasn't a big brand or a huge success when it came out originally in arcades ( its' not like puzzloop was a casual bestseller and popcap just made a better version of it ) and the risk paid off. For all the Zuma clones that came after, they weren't taking any risk, they didn't have to do any research they didn't really do any thinking of their own, they bet on a sure thing. They saw that zuma was selling and decided to make a game just like it because they knew it would increase their chances of making money. They shortcut the whole process of actually chosing a mechanic that wasn't currently on the market, the shotcut the process of finding levels that worked, and rewards that worked, positive feedback loops for the player etc. They just lifted all those things from zuma.. threw a mayan theme on it, or a bug theme, or a pirate theme.. and shipped it.

    Sure enough they made money on it, maybe even more then popcap since there was no risk or development involved it took them a lot less time and investment to create their clone. As a result, even if they sold less, it's possible that they were more profitable. This is really the essence of what Jason is talking about, where popcap gets it's ideas you may not approve of, but one thing that's indisputable, they don't just look at what's the current hot seller on the casual top 10's and go make one for themselves. Popcap does the hard work, they analyze, they take risks, and they release games that aren't proven sellers. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn't, but they certainly aren't sitting around making gobs of money because their copying all the great work that other casual developers are doing.
     
  3. cyrus_zuo

    cyrus_zuo New Member

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    I still don't see the issue the same way as most.

    The industry isn't driving clones, the consumer is. You can tell the industry to make different things, and they do, but unless the consumer buys it, there is no industry.

    Most of what sells is derivations on a theme. People find something they like, and then they get more of it.

    If you have different types of books and people find that they like fantasy, they'll read lots of fantasy, though most of it all is derivative of Tolkien's original work (unless like Jeff Vogel they're not including Trolls and Orcs and everything else that LOTR made popular).

    IF people like derivative fantasy, and continue to buy it, then it will continue to be made. Once people stop buying it, other things may OR may NOT be purchased in its place. Games are very similar.

    I've been looking at charts of what sells for a lot of the day as James is getting ready for his games sales chart session at Casual Connect...they are awesome charts, and they, for me, show that as a group, people get in a mood for a certain type of game and then want more of it. After awhile they MAY or MAY NOT want something different (churn rates are an interesting beast to guess at).

    When someone wants fantasy and you give them a western, some people might dig it, but the majority will ignore it and go somewhere they can find what they want.

    Clones, or games that are similar to another game, but with slight derivations, are driving the financial success of the casual games market.
    This is happening because the casual games consumer, not the industry, drives the casual game market/industry.

    (and yeah, PopCap isn't in a great position to tell the industry about clones, however, their games were all EARLY derivatives...and MOST of PopCap's games haven't been cloned - in my mind they haven't been cloned b/c they didn't sell well enough to be cloned...which I think speaks to the reality of the market)

    Being original is something I love, and based on sales numbers, I'd say 3 or 4% of consumers also like innovative, original and different.

    However, the majority go on watching the popular shows and seeing the popular movies and reading the popular books and playing the popular games. That is what popular is, something the majority likes. To say there isn't money in it I believe is inaccurate and somewhat silly (but notably PopCap probably hasn't done enough cloning of what's popular to have a good personal perspective on the matter;).)

    The money in casual games is what is driving the similarity in games, not the industry. At Reflexive I'd say we get as many original puzzle games as not in any given week, and we release them, and the consumer chooses. I think most of the frustration over clones is really frustration with the consumers choosing games that we don't prefer.

    Those of us who prefer originality are disappointed by the choice of the masses, but that doesn't necessarily make what is popular 'bad.'
     
    #43 cyrus_zuo, Jun 28, 2007
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2007
  4. Dan MacDonald

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    What Russ says pretty much speaks to the heart of the issue. I'm not sure why Jason chose to say anything on the issue of cloning as it's really not something they can do anything about. As long as the market rewards it, theres no amount of ideal peddling or pressure by Popcap that's going to change anything. At best all it could hope to accomplish is to stir up some political controversy (much like this thread).

    I guess if anything it shows popcap's dedication to doing original games for the casual space and gives them some public accountability.
     
  5. luggage

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    I think Russ has hit the nail squarely on the head.
     
  6. Applewood

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    You make a solid point and I agree with it. However, what pisses me off, and I suspect most other people who bemoan the cloners too, is the whole "me too" aspect of it.

    If some company decides that zuma sold well because of X and Y, then make a similar game with an added Z, I can deal with that. It may not win peer popularity awards but it is a sensible business practice so fair play.

    What bugs me is not those people at all, but all these back-bedroom tosspots that make a "perfect" clone that adds nothing, because they have no creativity at all but want to get it on the act. These people are totally talentless and don't deserve to make a single cent imo. I'm sure 99% of them actually don't, but they all think they'll be the 1%.

    Anyone can copy a game perfectly - the skill is in adding something new and worthwhile and that doesn't mean squares instead of circles. For me, Zuma is logically a "valid" Bejewelled clone - similar mechanic, different way of using it. Many plaudits if that was the intention.
     
  7. Dan MacDonald

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    Yeah, that's one of the great things about retro remakes actually. Their a great way to get into game development. All the design has been done for you, generally all you have to do is find a way to implement it yourself and put some new graphics on it.

    Eventually you start repairing some design flaws in the original and before you know it you have the ability to design your own original game. In fact this would be my recommended approach to learning game development and design for people starting out.

    But for people who have only a novice understanding of game design principles and limited ability. For them to go rip it off from people who do and turn some profit on it is really "pretty lame". It's sort of a problem that's unique to the casual space though, because the barriers to entry are so low. That doesn't stop it from being any more insulting or derogatory to people who actually know how to design and build good games as they end up being grouped with a bunch of posers and wannabes who don't.
     
  8. Escapee

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    Well say Zuo-Russ, (as a male) I would never ever understand why would most of the female shoppers love to buy clothes more often than men. But that doesnt stop me from having my own female fashion stall (no i'm not gay) if i spot an unbeatable opportunity. If you cant innovate on the game mechanic. I think being creative on the art style and story telling would probably offset the lack of innovation of game and still sell great. The top 10 of BFG speaks the truth.

    Just my 3rd world 2 cents.
     
  9. James C. Smith

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    PopCap attacks "copycat" designs?? Really? Is that what they did? Where was the attack part? They said the copycats are "holding back growth of the casual games market". It is debatable how true this is. As Russ points out, it seems to be what the consumers want. But it may also be true that we would see more growth if more developers were investing in more diversity. It is hard to say for sure. But either way, I hardly see any attacks in anything Jason said. He never said the clones are causing PopCap to loose money. He never accused anyone of stealing revenue from someone else. He never said anything was immoral or wrong. He just said that it doesn’t seem to make great business sense and the clones rarely pay off the way the developers hoped they would. You could argue that isn't true. But I don't see why you would say Jason attacked anyone.

    I think the title of this topic is wrong. I would put the word attacks in quotes not the word copycap.
     
  10. Dan MacDonald

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    Yeah, it's actually that particular characterization in the thread title that got me all popcap defensive :)
     
  11. Teeth

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    FWIW I copied the headline from Eurogamer, where I got the link.

    The full interview is here.

    And TBH I think that from the standpoint of a company that has made a lot of money off highly derivative work, to turn around and say what he said in those particular extracts from the full interview that were posted, it does seem like an attack on such developers. He's not being aggressive, and in fact is suggesting a good alternative - be creative - so that's good. Regardless, to focus on the headline is to miss the hypocrisy of what he's saying.

    While I'm not a fan of the idea that taking one game made by someone else and introducing it to a new market is A-OK morally, I have to agree that it is a more creative move than going "Right, what's selling? I'll make one of those then".
     
  12. Ola

    Ola
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    To me it seems a lot of people in this forum wants to legalize cloning and reskins as much as possible. But why? Only to justify clones that can make quick cash? Is it just because we haven't had a major lawsuit yet, people in the casual buisness seems to be pushing cloning more and more into a legal buisness model. And as long as nothing happens, people keep pushing it a little further every time?

    That some people can't see the difference between what Popcap are doing, and those who just make simple reskins or clones is a bit scaring. To me it's clear that Popcap is one of the rare examples in the casual game space that actually try to do something else then just clone the latest top ten hit as close as possible. They spend a huge amount of time on every game, on all kind of levels, not only programming and art like all those that do reskins. I can only think of a handfull of companies that tries as much as Popcap to do their own thing in the casual game space.

    It may be that most people in this forum is only programmers, and not many are game designers or people that knows how much hard work it is to get a gameplay that isn't a straight clone to work smooth and good. They don't seem to understand or value the huge amount of time someone put into a game to make it fun and playable. I guess most people here would agree that to steal code is a bad thing, but if someone steals gameplay / designs / concepts / ideas and just make simple reskins. Isn't it much the same thing? Is all the hours a game designer put in, less worth then those of a programmer?

    If people have the opinion game designs and game mechanics should be free to use for reskining, why don't the same people make all their source code open source or public domain, and share those as well, with the whole casual community?

    Few seems to understand or care that the work of a game designer is lots of hard work. Much like the one of an inventor, takes lots of time to get it right. And then when someone else got it infront of them, it's so easy to copy. Of course, the few game designers we have in the casual space that actually put a lot of hours into making something else then a simple clone, will get pissed now and then, when seing their work being copied so fast, sometimes in a couple of months. Just like a programmer would be pissed if someone stole their code.
     
  13. luggage

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    I don't understand how you can post all that and think it's ok for popcap to do what they do. Don't you think your arguments regarding taking someone elses designs apply to them? Taking a game design from a different pot doesn't make it a different crime.
     
  14. LilGames

    LilGames New Member

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    I can't disagree with EITHER side of the clone argument, but just a thought: How is it that "flipper pinball" machines as a game and industry was able to survive for 50 years basically putting out the same thing, just reskinned in different artwork, different sounds, and moving the ramps and bumpers around in different configurations? Pinball is still ultimately the same damn play mechanics.

    I think this shows there is a market for "genres", and when consumers grow tired of it, they'll stop buying it. But if 'Alpha Mom' WANTS 10 variations of the same gameplay mechanic, who's place is it really to argue "no, you should expand your tastes"??
     
  15. Ola

    Ola
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    I don't say what is right or wrong. What I say is that Popcap isn't doing simple reskins like the majority of casual games these days. They are one of the few ones left that spend tons of time improving, tweaking and adding their own twists to the original inspiration sources. That makes it less likely for them to loose in court, then all those simple reskins the market is flooded with these days.
     
  16. Ola

    Ola
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    It's not what pot you pick your inspiration from that matters. It's how much you pick from every pot.

    Copying to much from one single source is plaigarism, copying from many different sources is art.
     
  17. luggage

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    You don't think Zuma takes pretty much all of the PuzzLoop pot then? I'm just curious as to what length of time\how different a market it has to be before it gets a big thumbs up from the crowd around here. Or how many 'tweaks' to a game there has to be before it's a-ok to copy something else?
     
  18. Game Producer

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    While I by heart agree with Kapalka that there's lots of cloning (and rip-offs) out there, I still think the first statement is quite questionable
    It wonders me if it really matters if there's 1000 or million poor clones/games out there.... if out of every 1000 (or million) games there's one extraordinary game. After all - it's small ideas that take the genre and market to the next level.

    Just look at Diner Dash (or Betty's Beer Bar), 3-match genre, the "find hidden objects" and so on...
     
  19. Game Producer

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    And to continue by asking:
    Why? :)
     
  20. andrew

    andrew New Member

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    The AAA industry has very similar issues. Just look at how many first-person shooters could be classified as clones. What's the difference between Soldier of Fortune, Call of Duty, Ghost Recon, STALKER, Battlefield 1942, Counterstrike, and Unreal Tournament? What's the difference between Halo, Gears of War, and Lost Planet? Look at how many people tried to clone Diablo when it came out. Nowadays the "in" thing is to copy game dynamics (and often even exact interface) from World of Warcraft.

    In the casual space cloning is more extreme simply because the budgets are lower. It doesn't cost $20 million to make a Bejeweled clone, and it doesn't take someone with 10 years of programming experience to do it.

    - andrew
     

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