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Nintendo Warns MMO Company Over Trademark Issues 86

Posted by Zonk
from the all-cell-shading-looks-vaguely-similar dept.
Gamasutra.com (news now registration free) has word that MMOG developer Webzen has received a friendly letter from Nintendo discussing the similarities screenshots of their upcoming game have with The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. The developer states that this is a coincidence resulting from the cell shades style of their game, and the particular hair and clothes show in published media. From the article: "a spokesperson from developer Webzen claims that the hero of the game does not have any fixed image, and is created by the player to be their avatar in the game world." Heads up courtesy your friendly neighborhood simoniker.
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Nintendo Warns MMO Company Over Trademark Issues

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    But those screenshots do look remarkably similar, except they did it right. No charlie brown esque models. They look like humans
  • Cut/paste (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wynterwynd (265580) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @02:15PM (#11768423)
    Come on guys, at least TRY to differentiate your product some. The screenshot I saw look almost identical to Wind Waker, aside from the lack of a jaunty green outfit. Methinks Big N has a point on this one.
    • Yea, even down in the corner where there was some word, then like an air gust, which looked exactly like some of the graphics in wind waker also..

      If your gonna release some screenshots of a game where you can have thousands of different characters, why release some where they guy looks just like link?
    • The "Zegend of lelda : The wand wilker" is a totaly origional work , and i resent any implications of plagery
    • I seriously hope Nintendo loses this one. They have no right to say anything from what I've seen. First off, you can not copyright/trademark/whatever an art style! If this were so, then ID could sue any game company using demons in a first person shooter... "oh look! there's an upside down pentagram!!! ...yep, definitely a rip off of doom! And look! There's an ammo counter in the bottom..." NO! If Nintendo won this battle, it would be a great stumbling block for any other game creators. As a character desi
  • I think... (Score:4, Funny)

    by DrZombie (817644) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @02:20PM (#11768475)
    ...that the little puff of "wind" in the lower right hand corner doesn't help their case either.
  • Make Him Spunky (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blueZhift (652272) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @02:22PM (#11768497) Homepage Journal
    Geez! The guy in the picture looks just like Link! Why don't they just make the default hero a spunky little Black kid, then Nintendo won't have anything to complain about. Seriously though, given the stink Marvel is raising over the ability of players in City of Heroes to clone (to some extent) Marvel characters in appearance, Webzen might consider getting this settled quickly.
    • Your post, especially the title, reminded me of the Poochie creation scene from the "Itchy Scratchy and Poochie Show" episode:

      Myers: No, no, no! He was supposed to have attitude.
      Silverman: Um... wh-what do you mean, exactly?
      Myers: Oh, you know, attitude, attitude! Uh... sunglasses!
      Lady: Could we put him in more of a "hip-hop" context?
      Krusty: Forget context, he's gotta be a surfer. Give me a nice shmear of surfer.
      Lady: I feel we should Rasta-fy him by... 10 percent or so.
      [the resulting dog i

    • C'mon . A BLACK protagonist in a KOREAN game? Are you nuts?
  • Wow! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordJezo (596587) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @02:34PM (#11768622)
    I clicked on the link expecting to see a picture of a game that might have maybe looked like Zelda:WW if I squinted and the light was right. I thought it would be another case of a big company going crazy over its characters and art style, trying to shut down anything that looked like their own stuff, no matter how far from the truth it really was.

    But then I loaded the page and saw the screenshot.

    The Big N has a point.

    That shot could easly pass as something directly out of WW.
    • Re:Wow! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by merdark (550117) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @03:39PM (#11769360)
      I looked at screens from both games. So what, Nintendo has patented cell shaded characters with white skin and yellow hair?

      I don't think the Big N has any point here. Really. Hair is different, cloaths are different, no green zelda outfit. Have you ever seen Link in anything but green?

      Sorry, last I checked nintendo did not have a trademark on all cell shaded wasp characters.
      • Have you ever seen Link in anything but green?

        Actually, yes [google.com]

        • ok, I stand corrected. I still don't think the resemblence is that big though, especially if there is nothing else about the game that is similar to zelda.
      • Re:Wow! (Score:4, Informative)

        by SetupWeasel (54062) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @03:57PM (#11769558) Homepage
        Have you ever seen Link in anything but green?

        In the Wind Waker, link is in a light blue outfit without a hat the entire game when you play it a second time on hard mode.

        so... Yes
      • Re:Wow! (Score:5, Informative)

        by zonker (1158) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:05PM (#11769668) Homepage Journal
        you looked at screenshots from both games, but have you actually played windwaker? there are so many visual similarities aside from the character (who is very very similar to link) that i can see exactly why they'd get pissed. everything from the little swoosh on the right of 'wiki' to the subtle facial detailing to the general colors of each scene.

        here's another screenshot: http://games.tom.com/images/2005/wlgame/0218/002/0 10.jpg [tom.com] and here's a good compare image for those who've not played the game: http://www.gameking.com.cn/gk/news/05/2/17/1432184 487_1.jpg [gameking.com.cn]
      • Have you ever seen Link in anything but green?

        It's pedantic, but in Ocarina Of Time Link can also wear fetching Red and Blue costumes in his adult form, as well as the Wind Waker example someone else mentioned...

        But I do think this games designers have taken a quite bit of inspiration from Wind Waker, at least in the graphical style. Having a vaguely Linkish character in your promo shots isn't likely to dissuade people from that notion. They could've tried to be a bit more original and disguise some of

      • "Have you ever seen Link in anything but green?"

        There was that obscure "The Legend of Zelda" game on the Nintendo Entertainment System where Link spent a good portion of the game either blue or red depending on his ring color.
  • Can you really copyright a particular artistic style?

    It seems to me that this is more of a style infringement than an actual copying of ideas.
    • by ivan256 (17499) * on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:03PM (#11769637)
      Trademark!

      Trademark! Trademark! Trademark!

      If people didn't talk in generics like "IP" all the time, maybe people would figure out the difference.

      It's not the same thing as copyright, and the law *requires* that Nintendo do stuff like this to keep their trademark. Trademark law can include things like trade dress, which is what protects things like the shape of a Coke bottle, or the exterior look of McDonald's resturants.
    • In case you didn't get it from my other reply to you (I forgot to say it plainly), trademark and copyright aren't the same thing. This has nothing to do with copyright.
  • Um. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordPhantom (763327) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @02:38PM (#11768662)
    OK, true the pic looks similar to Zelda games, but to be fair, how many 8 bit rpg games followed in the style/art of the original gold cartridge LOZ game?
    I'm not saying that this is or isn't a copyright infringement, but one small screenshot is hardly representitave of their work on the game as a whole, nor is the game complete.... I'm guessing that Nintendo's letter will simply protect their right to complain in the future while making the Wiki development team think about a some changes in the artwork. The style and technology lend a bit to the art effect, but short of seeing a "Jaunty Green Outfit(TM)" or a "Breeze Baton(not tm)", I'm betting that the company is smart enough to change the art such that there's no infringement by the time the final product comes out.
    • They also might want to think about changing their logo. Come on, at least have a different number of curlicues on the wind gust than Windwaker does.
      • The windwaker logo i find on google images looks nothing like this - can someone please link the logo everyone else is talking about?
    • Actually Nintendo probably doesn't want there early shots to look like Wind Waker, because they are making no mo ney on it.

      If there are 10's of 1000's of looks the developer really should make the caracter look different and release new shots.
  • Imagine... a few years after saving the world in Wind Waker, Link decides to settle into the peaceful life of a sheep herder. Kind of what it might look like, huh?
  • by Fr05t (69968) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @02:40PM (#11768689)
    A note to the many who didn't RTFA - it's a MMO so the character is going to look however the player makes it look.

    It is inevitable with MMOs increasing the ways players can customize their characters people are going to make them look like a super hero, or another video game character.

    I know this is a terrible analogy but Ford and GM don't get sued for what their customers do after purchasing a car. On the service side of things my phone company doesn't get sued if I use the phone to conduct illegal activities. Why is the creator of the game responsible for the actions of their customers?
    • If you read the fucking article, you would see that the game will be undergoing closed testing in December. The product was just announced.

      This is not the case of a character that some random user created that happens to look like Link. This is the developer making promotional material to hype its game that is 10 months from beta testing that happens to look just like Link.
    • by UWC (664779) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @03:07PM (#11768968)
      The problem here seems to be that even the press images created by the developer/publisher/whatever feature a character that looks just like a slightly elongated version of the Wind Waker protagonist wearing an outfit strikingly similar to one worn by another character in Wind Waker (pirate girl) and using an art style apparently almost identical to that used in Wind Waker. The body proportions (elongated torso, shortened legs that taper to small feet, large round head with wide-set round large-pupiled eyes and thick black eyebrows above an understated nose and thin-bordered mouth) are strikingly similar to the previously unique style used in Wind Waker. To be honest, I had to look twice to realize that the picture was from the non-Nintendo game Wiki, whose logo even features Wind-Waker-esque dust-whorls.

      I understand your point of the vendor not being liable for infringing after-market modifications and uses, but in this case, these shots are coming from those making and selling the game. To use your car analogy, it's like GM advertising their Corvette as easily modified to look like a Mustang and featuring such a modification in their press material.

    • Exactly.. my female undead mage in World of Warcraft looks exactly like Marge Simpson (well if she was dead .. whatever you get the picture). The fact that I named her Marge doesn't hurt the resemblence either..
  • by Dwedit (232252)
    But here's the real question: Can any user edit the game?
    • Re:Wiki (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NanoGator (522640)
      "But here's the real question: Can any user edit the game?"

      Doesn't matter. They can't advertise the game looking like WW. For the purposes of marketing/advertising, they cannot infringe.
  • by jmole (696805) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @03:21PM (#11769126)
    All hell will break loose if Tingle appears in this game.

    Nintendo: "You may have stolen our main character Link, but stealing our homosexual Frenchman who flys around on a balloon has gone too far! He is our Jar Jar Binks of the Zelda series, not yours!"
    • I've always found Tingle to be amusing. This is probably because he's the most "uber-japanese non-researched-for-localization-to-USA character" ever. At least in such a popular game series as Zelda.
  • by Moryath (553296) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @03:23PM (#11769156)
    --On the one hand, as the designers point out, that is merely an early screenshot. The real avatar may look like that, or may look entirely different.

    --We also have to consider that if you make a cel-shaded farmland scene, it will probably look like a cel-shaded farmland scene in another game. Just like how a red-haired chibi-anime girl looks a hell of a lot like every other red-haired chibi-anime girl.

    --The *NAME* of the game is Wiki. No, the puff of air will not stay right there the entire game. It's a promo shot, so they stuffed the game's title into the scene... and since they wouldn't want to override any of the aesthetics, the bottom-right corner was the best spot for it. Coincidence of design, not an attempt at deception.

    --That being said, Webzen could very well have done their avatar with some other design options, and shifted the scene camera around to put their logo into another spot.

    Yeah, it's a screenshot that looks similar. Deal with it. I think this is an instance of an overzealous lawyer (What, an overzealous lawyer from Nintendo? That'd be like Apple suing their fans for discussing gossip... wait... right.)

    Yeah. It's kind of like that.
    • by NanoGator (522640) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @03:32PM (#11769270) Homepage Journal
      "--On the one hand, as the designers point out, that is merely an early screenshot. The real avatar may look like that, or may look entirely different."

      On the other hand, maybe they should release screenshots that don't look like they belong to Wind Waker. Then they wouldn't be infringing on trademarks or confusing people into thinking it's Wind Waker instead of Wiki.

      "Yeah, it's a screenshot that looks similar. Deal with it."

      They are. They sent a letter instead of a lawsuit.

      " I think this is an instance of an overzealous lawyer"

      I think this is an isntance of an overzealous attempt to assume lawyers only represent evil intentions.
    • To be fair to the lawyers, trademarks must be defended. If someone doesn't defend their trademark, they risk losing it.
  • The character pictured in the article looks vaguely like Link if you've had a couple drinks. It might be important to note Nintendo's specificity to Wind Waker and not the Zelda series in general.

    Character branding is simply a marketing manuvuer that is now becoming obsolete because with graphical community online games such as MMORPGs, people don't have to depend on the releases of a particular image of an alter-ego to live out their imagination. Say you see yourself as Wolverine or Link or Mario. The
    • Warner would be the ones to sue Disney - Bugs predates Thumper.
    • His hair looks exactly the same as link's does in the beginning of Wind Waker. Also, they both wear blue. And Nintendo is not sueing. They sent a letter saying maybe this will be an issue, please think about this. I think Nintendo's in the right here.
  • by mowph (642278) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @03:35PM (#11769305)

    When I originally saw those shots last week, it occurred to me that the design looked vaguely familiar. I didn't initially even connect it to Zelda, but taking another look, I think there could be serious trouble, especially if this one design is to be used as a "spokescharacter" for the game. Check out the direct comparison [dreamwiz.com]. (In Korean.) Looks like the offending shots were right out of the press release. Here's another article [gamemeca.com] (in Korean) with side-by-side comparisons of the images... including the little puff of wind in the title.

    And, if you'd like to take a look at some of the other upcoming releases promoted during Webzen 's Feb. 15 conference, all of which seem to be MMORPGs of different themes, look at this Japanese article [4gamer.net]. (Writer Kim Dong Wook regularly covers new games from Korea.)

  • Customer Confusion (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Don't forget, one of the main reasons that companies want to protect their copyrights and trademarks (aside from cash cash cash of course) is that they don't want their customers to think they worked on a product if they didn't. Branding and recognizability, ESPECIALLY for a franchise-driven giant like Nintendo, is extremely important; probably the most important thing in their long view. If somebody puts out a game that looks exactly (and this game, at least in that screenshot, does look EXACTLY like WW)
  • The makers of web collaboration software [google.com] are warning Webzen about possible trademark infringement.
  • Three points (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MilenCent (219397) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {hwnhoj}> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:22PM (#11769876) Homepage
    1. The eyes on the character are the giveaway. Nintendo's artists created a unique look for the characters in Wind Waker, but the focus of it all is the eyes on the three main characters, Link, Aryll and Tetra, which are like white footballs, topped with eyebrows, with a large black circle in the middle. The eyes are what, in my mind, defines the look of these characters, and this screenshot apes them pretty much exactly. But it is not the only thing it copies, which is telling in my mind.

    2. The letter, I don't think it was a cease-and-desist, just a warning. Nintendo's lawyers aren't actually *that* overzealous concerning matters not related to people making illegal copies of their games. It'd be nice if they were more enlightened in regard to some of their older, forgotten properties, but large corporations are not particularly known for their Buddha natures.

    3. Dudes, the game's called Wiki! Has anyone asked Ward Cunningham about this?
    • Nintendo's artists created a unique look for the characters in Wind Waker, but the focus of it all is the eyes on the three main characters, Link, Aryll and Tetra, which are like white footballs, topped with eyebrows, with a large black circle in the middle. The eyes are what, in my mind, defines the look of these characters, and this screenshot apes them pretty much exactly.

      Which itself seemed copied from the Samurai Jack cartoon. Check out the first episode, with Jack as a little kid - his face is the s
  • by Sim9 (632381)
    At least from my perspective, Nintendo has always been afraid of Zelda MMORPGs. While it can be understandable to send cease and desist letters at fan games, Nintendo generally lets singleplayer ones slide, while being aggressive against multiplayer ones.

    Nintendo fought against Graal, who was at the time making a very Zelda-esque MMORPG (clearly derivative). And yet, Zelda classic (Single player, and also clearly derivative) is alive and thriving...
    • They fought against Graal because Graal was using the name "Zelda Online." Did Nintendo make Zelda Online? No. Were people going to get the impression that Nintendo did play a hand in ZO, based on the name? Yes. Just the same with Wiki. It looks EXACTLY like Wind Waker. Many people WILL think it is Wind Waker. This isn't good.

      As for non MMORPGs not being shutdown: OoT2D (a 2D, overhead, ala LTTP version of Ocarina of Time) received a cease-and-desist from Nintendo.
      • Technically the name Zelda Online should be fine for anyone to release. The name "Zelda" was not invented by Nintendo and may not be common, but has been used by many people long before Nintendo opened their doors. Not only that but Nintendo has never released a game called "Zelda", it is called "The Legend of Zelda"...so technically, anyone could release a game called Zelda Online if they wanted.
  • Pika? (Score:2, Funny)

    by ABaumann (748617)
    They should also sue them because of that little (dog?) thing running around that has the same color pallette as Pikachu.

    I mean, Nintendo clearly owns #FFFF00.
  • Link looks like a generic 3D implementation of a manga character. Big eyes, no nose, tousled hair. Pick up any manga and tell me if you can't find a dozen characters that look as much like Link as this Wiki avatar does.
  • I dont beleive they have any sorta case. You can't copyright cel shading. And the main character is the player's work of art. End of story.
    • [i] I dont beleive they have any sorta case. You can't copyright cel shading. And the main character is the player's work of art. End of story.[/i]

      Not correct. The actual problem is that they are using the EXACT same Type of cell shading the EXACT same proportions on the eyes/mouth, the same proportions in the hairstyles and even the same COLOR PALETTE. there are hundreds perhaps thousands of ways to do cell shading and anime but these guys are using EXACTLY the same one! (example at hand: check the style
  • Why is it that every time there's an article about patents or trademarks, the clueless Slashdot editors call it a copyright issue; and whenever there's an article about copyright disputes, they call it a trademark issue? They're three completely different things, and you're not really qualified to *report* on the subject until you know the difference.

    In this case, there is a copyright dispute, since Nintendo is alleging that the graphics and artwork (creative content) resemble Zelda very closely.

    If they h
  • by smileyy (11535)
    Since simoniker didn't post this himself, does that mean he's been shit-canned as editor? If anyone were to have posted any of my troll stories, I figured it would been him.

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