Too clone for comfort?

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by matibee, Oct 12, 2005.

  1. matibee

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2004
    Messages:
    95
    Likes Received:
    0
    Please take a look at this;Gamedev.net Image of the day. It's my project with artist/musician/designer "sinx" who posted the IOTD. The rumblings in that thread are warning us that we will end up in trouble for too closely imitating an original PSP game.

    I'm not looking for legal advice, just opinions. What would you do in this situation? Please bear in mind;

    1) While it's not a 1:1 copy of the original we do use the basic gameplay mechanic; dropping blocks of 2x2 units each unit one of two colours. Create groups of 2x2 of the same colour which are frozen and removed by the horizontally moving timer.

    2) Another clone has been around for around six months and is still going. I know this is not a defence, nor does it "make it ok", but it does make me think that the original was not original enough to warrant concern of lesser clones.

    3) I'd like to be able to push this game (our first) through the major portals and even if I'm prepared to risk legal action I'm sure the heads of those portals won't be-- so releasing a game that put's me on a legal wrong-footing and with little chance of making a profit anyway just seems crazy.


    I feel I have two choices; Release it as it is, or rework the gameplay entirely and lose the above mentioned mechanic. So back to my only question, what would you do?

    Thanks
    Matt
     
    #1 matibee, Oct 12, 2005
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2005
  2. mahlzeit

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2004
    Messages:
    852
    Likes Received:
    1
  3. Savant

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2005
    Messages:
    1,674
    Likes Received:
    0
    If I remember correctly, the other Lumines clone you refer to had real problems getting into portals and I don't think they ever actually succeeded.
     
  4. Nexic

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2004
    Messages:
    2,436
    Likes Received:
    0
    I would say that visually its different enough to be okay, but I would suggest changing the name to something non similar to Lumines. Not only will you be less likely to get into any legal problems, you will also give your game a greater personality. I HATE arkanoid clones which have the ending 'noid' or tetris clones with 'tris' in their name. So damn cheesy.

    Make yours stand out.
     
  5. Bmc

    Bmc New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2004
    Messages:
    1,088
    Likes Received:
    2
    yeh change the name, you are asking for trouble with a name like that and it's cheap and un-imaginative.
     
  6. Indiepath.T

    Original Member Indie Author

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2004
    Messages:
    329
    Likes Received:
    0
    I only approached them about a week ago. Expect to see it very soon on some very large portals near you. We've even managed to get it on a "browser-based" game portal.

    With regard to legality - I think you're gonna get your ass chewed.

    I took a lot of legal advice with regard to our game. I think you need to ask yourself some questions;

    1) Why do you have only two types of block? Is it because Lumines has two?
    2) Why are your play grid dimensions 10 x 16? Is that because Lumines grid is that size?
    3) Why do you have a bar that sweeps across the screen? Is it because Lumines has one?
    4) Why does the bar sweep from left to right? Is it because Lumines does that?
    5) Why do blocks not disappear before the bar touches them? You got the idea yet?

    You need to address these questions before you release anything. You need to make your game different enough from Lumines and from any other clone - including ours.

    You gotta remember that the original gameplay element of lumines is based around that sweep bar - copy that and I reckon you've got an issue.

    Our game can not be compared to lumines based on any of the above questions.
     
  7. luggage

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    2,132
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'd say change the name. You cannot copyright gameplay mechanics no matter what some folk would have you believe.

    If that was the case then what about all the direct clones of Zuma that are flying around? And every other clone. Can you tell me that all the clones available are really that much different than the original?

    Not sure what the question approach has to do with anything. So if you can answer those questions without saying "Because lumines does" makes it ok? So having a 10x15 grid means it can't be compared to lumines?
     
  8. Ricardo C

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2004
    Messages:
    1,349
    Likes Received:
    3
    The name has to go. "Lumix"?? I definitely have nothing against clones, but surely you can at least create an original name.

    Particularly Tumblebugs, which looks close enough to Zuma that I originally mistook it for an official sequel. Or Atlantis' debt to Luxor.
     
  9. Indiepath.T

    Original Member Indie Author

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2004
    Messages:
    329
    Likes Received:
    0
    Play it safe, take professional advice and make up your own mind. If you don't take professional advice and it goes pear shaped then you've only yourself to blame.

    Okay so you're sitting in a court room and the judge asks you those questions, what are you going to say? Sorry?
     
  10. Nexic

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2004
    Messages:
    2,436
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think IndiePath's advice is good with respect to the little details. If you want to avoid legal trouble those little changes could be the key.

    You've also got to remember that the company who own Lumines no doubt have greater resources than the average indie, and probably more than Popcap, which means that if they want to sue you they can afford it. They may not bother, taking the view that taking all your profits wouldnt even be worth their time but you will want to play it as safe as you can whilst keeping the game good.
     
  11. steve bisson

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2005
    Messages:
    201
    Likes Received:
    0
    the other "clone "

    the other clone matibee was refering to in is original post was

    verticube

    by

    http://www.frogtoss.com

    they copied almost 100% accuratly the play mechanics... even our game is more different from lumines than this one is.

    they dont seem to be having legal problems they have been running for 6 months now...

    i dont know if they were refused access to any portals because its too similar to lumines or it doest look good enough tho... maybe they did not even try.

    This game is all over the internet... if they were going to be sued i guess it would be done by now.... i dunno...
     
  12. luggage

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    2,132
    Likes Received:
    0
    1) Because with 1 block the game doesn't work and with more than 2 blocks it becomes difficult by an order of magnitude.
    2) 10x16 give the right artistic feel to the game - the blocks aren't too small or too big and it makes good use of the available screen estate.
    3) Each column could have an individual timer but this method gives a nice visual feel and is very obvious for the player. It also gives the player time to create combos.
    4) We read from left to right so it feels very natural.
    5) See answer 3.

    You could also ask the following questions.

    1) Why is the play area 10 blocks high? Is it because Lumines does?
    2) Why do you have 2x2 blocks? Is it because Lumines does?
    3) Why is your game widescreen? Is it because Limines is?
    4) Why is the mechanic of making 2x2 blocks of the same type there? Is it because Lumines has it?

    Hell, what about beat-em-ups?

    1) Why do the characters punch with their left hand? Is it because <Insert game here> does?
    2) Why does X character fight with a Kickboxing style? Is it because <Insert game here> does?

    If you carefully pick and choose the questions you can work it how you like. I can't see the following happening in a court of law...
    Judge: Do you have a grid with a size of 16x10?
    Defendent: No - we use 15x10.
    Judge: Oh. That's not the same at all.

    And what charge would you be up in court for?

    This discussion has been had before. Basically - what point is it a clone and what point is it a genre?
     
  13. soniCron

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    May 4, 2005
    Messages:
    3,664
    Likes Received:
    0
    Since when have game mechanics been copyrightable? So many times have the courts deemed that "look and feel" aren't copyrightable. The name may have to go, because it's awfully similar, but nobody's going to sue you because you have a 10x16 grid.

    You can't get much more infringing than all the Tetris clones out there, and they've been entirely unsuccessful with any lawsuits, as far as gameplay mechanics are concerned. Of course, talk to a lawyer, but I think it's a waste of time. They're going to sue you if they want to sue you... taking out the grid, or the left-to-right bar isn't going to change that. And there is plenty of precedent in which look-and-feel have been found not copyrightable.

    EDIT: Someone, please prove me wrong here so I don't have to walk through life thinking this... and include some facts if you do. Thanks! :)
     
    #13 soniCron, Oct 12, 2005
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2005
  14. Vorax

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2005
    Messages:
    349
    Likes Received:
    0
    Verticube has no intention of denying their clone origins infact, they have this on their website:

    "The goal of this software is to provide an alternative for people who can't afford to buy Lumines or would like to give a game on mother's day. If you have a PSP, Buy Lumines." (and a link to actually "Buy Lumines")

    Maybe they think that will get them out of trouble? Maybe it does? Maybe they have nothing to worry about in the first place. As was stated, you can't patent game play, which means you can't stop clones.

    Since their name is different, and since game play can't be patented or copyrighted, that's all they really need to say they aren't Lumines.

    The clone thing is common in all types of software, it abundant anywhere and everywhere when you look around. Even with the browser you are viewing this page with - for example "Internet Explorer" is a "Mozilla" clone which is a clone of "NSCA...(whatever the first was, can't remember) - ... now had it been called "Internet Mozilla" there would have been hell to pay.
     
  15. mahlzeit

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2004
    Messages:
    852
    Likes Received:
    1
    But you can still be sued out of existence, even if you're right.
     
  16. luggage

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    2,132
    Likes Received:
    0
    Exactly - changing the grid to 15x10 and having a bar move vertically won't stop that.
     
  17. steve bisson

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2005
    Messages:
    201
    Likes Received:
    0
    http://www.patentarcade.com/2005/08/case-capcom-v-data-east-nd-cal-1994-c.html

    this gives legal information on most of the "copyrigth " discussion we are having here.

    even if this Data east game copied street figther so closely that characters were the same , special moves were the same and the joystick motions to perform the special moves were the same capcom could not do anything.

    Even physical casing of the arcade machine had very similar art design , so both games could easily be mistaken for the other.


    As for what i think , well in my humble opinion all RTS or FPS or Side scrolling shooters are the same game with different skins. Those games were copied so often that it became a gendra instead of being labelled clones. ( thats only my 2 cents )

    as for frogtoss's verticube i bet they even make money out of lumines sales by being an amazon.com affiliate hehehe
     
    #17 steve bisson, Oct 12, 2005
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2005
  18. steve bisson

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2005
    Messages:
    201
    Likes Received:
    0
    the game in question was released

    the game in question was released, as a freeware side project . The official final version will have totally different reworked gameplay...

    this is our entry in a game dev contest on www.gamedev.net

    :) this is our first finished game actually , not too bad.

    http://www.dakurv.com/lumixed/
     
    #18 steve bisson, Oct 31, 2005
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2005
  19. Anthony Flack

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    2,176
    Likes Received:
    0
    Wow, what a farcical court hearing that must have been. I have no problem with the court's decision, but what a bunch of weasels Data East must have looked like, trying to pretend that Fighter's History wasn't a SF2 clone.

    Anyway, in this case it's all good. Street Fighter 2 was huge, and Capcom have made stacks of hit games. Since when have Data East ever made anything good? A lot of people probably have fond memories of Bad Dudes vs Dragonninja or Robocop, but if you go back and check you'll see that they've both got really rubbish gameplay.
     
  20. adhominem

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    0
    The only thing that protects this game from getting sued out of existence is the Lumines IP owners' forbearance, whether out of charity, ignorance, or the fact they consider such downloadable games negligible to their core business.

    Game mechanics are not easily copyrighted. But "look and feel" are. If a jury was to look at the two games and easily be confused which was which, you are in a very poor legal position.

    Portals' willingness to publish any such game will be dependent on their own legal concerns. Many have contracts that will pass any legal costs on to the developer... eg "We'll publish your game, but if we get sued because it's infringing IP, YOU will get the bill." I suspect most will prefer not to take even this risk.

    In any event it certainly appears to be a depressing piece of work, without originality, creativity, or any impetus beyond the desire to make a quick buck off someone else's effort. It's disappointing to see hackwork like this becoming increasingly common in a community supposedly dedicated to "independent" ideas that the big companies won't/can't try.
     

Share This Page

  • About Indie Gamer

    When the original Dexterity Forums closed in 2004, Indie Gamer was born and a diverse community has grown out of a passion for creating great games. Here you will find over 10 years of in-depth discussion on game design, the business of game development, and marketing/sales. Indie Gamer also provides a friendly place to meet up with other Developers, Artists, Composers and Writers.
  • Buy us a beer!

    Indie Gamer is delicately held together by a single poor bastard who thankfully gets help from various community volunteers. If you frequent this site or have found value in something you've learned here, help keep the site running by donating a few dollars (for beer of course)!

    Sure, I'll Buy You a Beer