Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Puzzle Games (Games)

PopCap Distressed Over 'CopyCat' Games 88

Posted by Zonk
from the calling-the-kettle-black dept.
GamesIndustry.biz, in an interview with PopCap Games chief creative officer Jason Kapalka, reports that the company is apparently a bit miffed at 'imitation games'. Puzzle games being what they are, Kapalka finds the number of Bejewel-like titles on the market frustrating. "Very few games are developed without reference to past games. There's always going to be titles that build on a previous mechanic or game. But there's a fine line between that and very bold-faced rip-offs that aren't adding anything to the game and are just trying to make a quick buck." Over at 1up, editor Ray Barnholt points out that PopCap is a funny company to be making that claim. Several of that group's most popular games are in turn tweaks or imitations of little-known Japanese puzzle titles from the 90s.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

PopCap Distressed Over 'CopyCat' Games

Comments Filter:
  • Irony (Score:1, Insightful)

    by TheMadcapZ (868196)
    Boy it runs thick within this story.
  • well (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday June 28, 2007 @01:06PM (#19677897) Homepage Journal
    as long as they don't start dragging people into court - they are entitled to 'feel' however they want about it.
    • they shouldn't have based their business model on making easy-to-immitate games
      • A lot of businesses are easy to imitate. How hard is it to make ketchup? But I defy you to take down Heinz. Or Hanes Tee-shirts, or whatever. It's all about brand name and/or quality. Fact is, while Popcap doesn't have many original games (Peggle is pretty cool but really is a glorified Pachinko machine), they have fantastic production values and an established name (and do some small things that increase replay value). I don't think their market share is really in trouble - really they should just st
  • Copying (Score:2, Insightful)

    I'm not sure if the copying their refering to is flat out copying, or say, the same game with a slightly tweaked look or rules to it, or if somebody is taking the base idea and improving off of it Personally, I don't see a problem with using an idea of something that works in your own product, using a sucessful idea and building off it encourages market competition, and helps to create a better product for the consumer, so i dont see why popcap is angry if somebody is using their base ideas (which it sound
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I dont see why popcap is angry if somebody is using their base ideas (which it sounds like werent even theirs) to create something "new and improved"

      Of course they are angry because they are afraid it means they will be making less money. They want to prevent people from producing products similar to theirs, in order to ensure that they are the only source of the product.

      Unfortunately for them, their product is not a substance, but an idea. Ideas don't work like substances. Just looking at a car doesn't
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PylonHead (61401)
        the whole concept of intellectual property is such a farce

        Hah... we are on SlashDot, aren't we.

        Only here can somebody take an issue that doesn't involve intellectual property (a company angry about their ideas being ripped off, which isn't against the law), and use it to damn all intellectual property. . I swear we could have a story on walruses, and someone would twist it into a scathing attack on the RIAA.

        Copyright, for example, is pretty easy to understand and distinguish. If you copy my song, my movie
        • by KDR_11k (778916)
          They could probably have patented the gameplay and with the current state of the USPTO even gained approval.
    • by trolltalk.com (1108067) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @03:20PM (#19679787) Homepage Journal

      Copyright law doesn't extend to the rules of a game, just the artwork, etc. - the "tangibles."

      For the disbelievers, here's what the U.S. Copyright oOfice has to say about games [copyright.gov]:

      The idea for a game is not protected by copyright. The same is true of the name or title given to the game and of the method or methods for playing it.

      Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author's expression in literary, artistic, or musical form. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in the development, merchandising, or playing of a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles.

      You can make your own version of Bejeweled, right down to the name. You can't copy the logo artwork (they can register the logo) or the game images - you're on your own there. Popcap ought to pop a few 'ludes before they pop a gasket.

      • After all the years that it has been discussed on /. you would think that people would understand more about Intellectual Property (IP).

        In the United States IP is generally divided into three categories: copyright, trademarks, and patents. In a very broad, and potentially misleading sense, copyright covers creative works (art), trademarks covers a business brand image (name, product names, logo, slogans, etc.), and patents cover the physical implementation of an idea (inventions).

        Again, these definitions

        • Game rules cannot be patented. Try to find a single example. You won't be able to.

          You can't use the trademarks (as I pointed out), but you can certainly make your own version of Monopoly, with your own trademarks. "Monopoly World by RotoDMonkey - better than the original Parker Brothers Monopoly" would pass, as there is zero chance of confusion. Change the artwork, the names and prices of the board squares, and maybe the layout a bit, and you're in business.

          The rules and game play can stay absolutely th

  • Poor baby (Score:5, Informative)

    by seebs (15766) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @01:11PM (#19677979) Homepage
    http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/copyright/cases /allen_vs_academicgames.html [darkshire.net]

    "Here, Allen has not shown that it is possible to distinguish the
    expression of the rules of his game manuals from the idea of
    the rules themselves. Thus, the doctrine of merger applies and
    although Allen may be entitled to copyright protection for the
    physical form of his games, he is not afforded protection for
    the premises or ideas underlying those games. To hold other-
    wise would give Allen a monopoly on such commonplace
    ideas as a simple rule on how youngsters should play their
    games."

    For what it's worth, Puzzle Quest (a Bejeweled-engine RPG) is absolutely brilliant, and definitely constitutes real innovation. It's a real upgrade, and very clever.
    • Yes, Puzzle Quest is a fun game. I just find that the AI needs a bit of work - sometimes is far too easy, but it frequently seems to do the impossible. I am often about to win, until it performs insane combos solely from gems that drop in, leaving me defeated and very frustrated.
      • Puzzle Pirates was likewise a great game, and it added the social elements of a player (pirate) driven economy as well as crews and such.
      • I was playing it for a while and I gave up when the computer was suddenly able to do exactly what you describe--ridiculous combos would pop up out of nowhere that would wipe out all my HP.
      • Puzzle quest (Score:3, Informative)

        by zstlaw (910185)
        I actually manage the opposite. I very frequently get 5 move combos based on watching how things are lining up and using the right abilities at the right time.

        Early on in the game I was upset that the AI seemed to always get the right drops, but then I got better at predicting the likelyhood of particular drops and that helped a lot. Also if the enemy never gets a turn then they can't beat you. When the board is ready for a massive clear be sure to use stun, web, etc. Then take moves to set up the big c
        • by seebs (15766)
          I noticed the thing with the same starting board too. It's a funny bug, but I don't mind getting a free head start on tough fights.
        • Is this the DS or PSP version? I can't say that I had noticed any seeding issues on the DS version, but then again, when I'm playing PQ I usually just put it into sleep rather than powering down.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by JRaven (720)
          The problem with Puzzle Quest is that the basic head-to-head bejeweled game is far too random. As a result, you spend the early part of the game suffering through that randomness until you get powered up... at which point the game is completely trivial, since you can kill most things in one turn.

          It's a nice concept, but it needs some serious tweaking.
          • by Babbster (107076)
            I was consistently taking enemies out in 1 or 2 total turns and just had to stop playing. It lost even the standard, long-form Bejeweled charm since I was really only making a maximum of 5 moves (within those 1-2 actual turns) per battle. I ended up having more fun forging items where you didn't have any skills/spells to fall back on.
      • by Fozzyuw (950608)

        I just find that the AI needs a bit of work - sometimes is far too easy, but it frequently seems to do the impossible.

        hehe, I love PQ, but I'm a firm believer that the computer is a cheater! *WOOT* 150 HP and the computer only has 4 HP left! (computer goes) dmg buff, 4-combo, 5-combo skulls, 3-combo gold.. but gets a free turn, 5 combo skulls for 50 dmg!, 3-combo skulls fall down, bleh. I'm dead. =(

        The thing I hate even more, after getting a combo, I cannot see the board because the "4-combo" words a

  • That's really the way the game industry has always been - you saw something in life that was frustrating or annoying, then tried to make it into a game. Then someone else would see your game and make something similar, but yet remove some things they didn't like and have the creativity to add some things that were new.

    There were always "clone-makers" who would just make identical copies or make game development kits (pinball was the favourite one) but these were always restricted to what they saw, and would
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly. And casual game producers/publishers like Popcap, Big Fish Games, Reflexive, etc. are some of the worst offenders when it comes to copying gameplay. A few years ago it was Bejeweled match-3 clones. Now it's hidden object games like the Mystery Case Files series. Casual gamers are buying them hand over fist, so you can't blame the companies. And small developers can make a (admittedly small) fortune by turning out derivative games that take a few months to develop.

      I do enjoy some of the weird

    • That's really the way the game industry has always been - you saw something in life that was frustrating or annoying, then tried to make it into a game.
      Unfortunately many of the game designers do exactly that...but forget to make it fun and instead leave it frustrating or annoying.
  • So what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @01:18PM (#19678083)
    Ray Barnholt points out that PopCap is a funny company to be making that claim. Several of that group's most popular games are in turn tweaks or imitations of little-known Japanese puzzle titles from the 90s.

    So what? Microsoft has been making the same sort of statements for the get go (that people are stealing their works yada-yada) while at the same time copying/stealing/buying work from others, to the point that most of their product lines was never developped in-house. People are used to Microsoft, why not from other companies ? The old saying "you shouldn't criticize someone's body odor if you didn't shower yourself" somehow never seems to apply to companies...
  • HA! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday June 28, 2007 @01:19PM (#19678099) Homepage Journal

    FTFS:

    Over at 1up, editor Ray Barnholt points out that PopCap is a funny company to be making that claim. Several of that group's most popular games are in turn tweaks or imitations of little-known Japanese puzzle titles from the 90s.

    That's hilarious. One of PopCap's best-known games, Dynomite, is a direct ripoff of Taito's Puzzle Bobble, one of the best-known (and -loved) puzzle games of all time. It's not a very good one, either. It's "cheap", in that if the timer runs out while the animation for removing eggs from lines that would save you is playing, you lose (among various similar failings.)

    PopCap can stick their whining about ripoffs right up their hypocritical, untalented asses.

    • by pla (258480)
      That's hilarious. One of PopCap's best-known games, Dynomite, is a direct ripoff of Taito's Puzzle Bobble, one of the best-known (and -loved) puzzle games of all time.

      Not to mention, even PopCap's crown (Be)Jewel(ed) directly rips off similar Japanese puzzle games (and even American clones from before PopCap ever existed). Talk about balls, daring to complain about others producing similar games...

    • by Hobart (32767)

      One of PopCap's best-known games, Dynomite, is a direct ripoff of Taito's Puzzle Bobble, one of the best-known (and -loved) puzzle games of all time.

      PopCap can stick their whining about ripoffs right up their hypocritical, untalented asses.

      One of the most egregious game rip-offs I've seen in commercial gaming is the shareware game 'Snood', another direct rip off of Puzzle Bobble. And not only was Snood collecting shareware donations, they actually had a GameBoy version!

      I think the amount of cash you

    • by Ant P. (974313)
      Probably the only puzzle game that's been ripped off more than Puzzle Bobble is Tetris. I can count at least two clones of it just in my distro's packages (Frozen Bubble and Monkey Bubble). Even FB's levels are ripped off from the original.
      • by KDR_11k (778916)
        Opensource games only seem to get done if their mission statement is essentially "We'll make a clone of game X but better!".
  • Time Out (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday June 28, 2007 @01:23PM (#19678143) Homepage Journal
    Ok, I was about to jump in here with a frothing at the mouth reply of, "After all the millions of dollars you've made on a stupid flash game that's been ported to nearly every platform in existence, you have the gall to complain about cheap ripoffs? Make something new!"

    Then I RTFA. The original interview, not the one linked to.

    The Popcap rep actually says this: "There are a couple of Bejeweled variants like Jewel Quest that have carved out there own niche but it hasn't caused a huge problem for us."

    He then goes on to express a concern about indies copying each other. Not about it impacting PopCap's bottom line, but about the Indie industry as a whole. Specifically, he says this about other developers:

    They think they can do a quick knock-off to help pay the bills and then they can work on their big magnum opus but that rarely happens. Once they start down that road of making rip-off games you never make a huge fortune off it and you end up working hand to mouth. They don't have time to work on larger projects that take a risk. And that has a negative effect on the industry as a whole. It should be a really creative opportunity to have a small team that has the luxury of creating whatever it wants and getting to market without the usual cumbersome problems that come from publishers and other factors. The casual space should be encouraging a huge amount of creative design but there's a lot of imitation and that's a shame.
    Translation: If you make copies to make a quick buck, all you're ever going to make are quick copies. Try to improve upon formulas and show some originality in your games.

    That's all he said. Really.
    • Re:Time Out (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @01:30PM (#19678249)
      He's right that the indie clones are not a concern to PopCap, but I wonder if he knows -why-?

      In my opinion, it's all in the presentation. A mediocre game with fluid, easy-to-use interface and pretty face interests me a LOT more than an amazingly-clever game with a crappy, ugly interface.

      Simon Tatham's Portable Games are a great example of this. Those games are -awesome- ideas. But I would be much more inclined to play them more often if they were prettied up, and the interface made better. (Yes, I -have- considered doing this myself, but I'm not an artist, and not all that great at GUI design either.)

      On the other hand, games from PopCap and such that are pretty always draw me in and at least get me to try them. Burger Rush is a good example here. It's -just- a Bejeweled clone with good graphics, and a little side-action. But my Sister has played through it at least 5 times, and my mother at least 7. They still enjoy it.
      • Simon Tatham's Portable Games are a great example of this. Those games are -awesome- ideas. But I would be much more inclined to play them more often if they were prettied up, and the interface made better. (Yes, I -have- considered doing this myself, but I'm not an artist, and not all that great at GUI design either.)

        Not that Mr. Tatham invented most (or any?) of the puzzles himself--in fact, he credits his source where possible. However, I don't see what's wrong with the interface for his games--is it just that they aren't pretty enough? The presentation is very minimalist to be sure, but they're very responsive and convey all the information you need clearly.

        By the way, have you looked at how those games are implemented? There's a fairly clean separation between the puzzle logic and the display that would make imp

        • by Aladrin (926209)
          I have not actually taken the time to look at the code, no, but I was reading about them and there was talk about how loosely coupled the logic and code was, so I was already pretty sure it would be 'easy' to replace the interface. (I think I was reading the changelog, actually...) That actually isn't the issue...

          The issue is that I am not artistically inclined -at all- and my User Interface skills are pretty lackluster. I seriously doubt I could improve on them much.

          I do remember on a few of them thinki
          • That covers the interaction part of the interface, but you are correct that I feel they 'aren't pretty enough.' By far.

            That's fair enough, and I can't argue the point. They're very good for what they are (fun, minimalist reasoning puzzles) but they don't and probably were never intended to have mass-market appeal. And no, I don't have the graphics skills to do it either (otherwise I would).

            However I have been tempted to make a Flash or Javascript reimplementation... wouldn't be able to use his backends that way, unfortunately, but I'd love to be able to play those truly anywhere, even when I can't download his (such as

    • by Goaway (82658)

      Translation: If you make copies to make a quick buck, all you're ever going to make are quick copies. Try to improve upon formulas and show some originality in your games.

      That's all he said. Really.
      Well, yes, and that's exactly what people are upset about, you know?
      • No, I don't know. The guy is trying to tell people how to make money and they're getting all upset about it. They act as if he said that they're taking money from Popcap by making clones. Which he didn't say. You know?
        • by Goaway (82658)
          Note that he's telling people to not do what he himself did, and implying that people who do so are stupid.
          • He's implying that they're stupid? I don't see that at all. What I see is that he's trying to share his experience, for better or for worse. Like he said, the Bejeweled clones don't really impact their market. His point is that if the market wants to grow, it's going to have to find its own killer titles.
            • by Goaway (82658)
              What I see is that he's trying to share his experience...

              By, once again, telling people not to do what he did, as leader of a successful company, and giving no reason why?
              • "You're not making any money" isn't a good reason? Wow. Just wow.
                • by Goaway (82658)
                  "I am making lots of money! You are not! Therefore, do not do what I have done!"

                  Does that really seem like good advice?
                  • Therefore, do not do what I have done!

                    *THWACK* WAKE UP!

                    No wonder you're confused. He's not saying that in the slightest. Did you read the interview? The actual interview, not the one filtered through Slashdot and the media?

                    The truth is that very few games are developed without reference to past games. There's always going to be titles that build on a previous mechanic or game. But there's a fine line between that and very bold-faced rip-offs that aren't adding anything to the game and are just trying to make a quick buck.

                    They think they can do a quick knock-off to help pay the bills and then they can work on their big magnum opus but that rarely happens. [...] The casual space should be encouraging a huge amount of creative design but there's a lot of imitation and that's a shame.

                    In case that isn't percolating, he's saying that you're not going to get rich off of a quick Tetris clone. You might, however, get rich off of a new twist on Tetris that shows high production values and original thinking.

                    Which makes perfect sense when you think about it. How many times h

                    • by Goaway (82658)
                      In case that isn't percolating, he's saying that you're not going to get rich off of a quick Tetris clone. You might, however, get rich off of a new twist on Tetris that shows high production values and original thinking.

                      That makes sense. But he's not actually saying that. Maybe he means it, and is just bad at expressing himself, but he still is not saying that. You're adding a whole lot of interpretation there that just isn't in that statement.

                      This line especially almost directly contradicts that: "The cas
    • Translation: If you make copies to make a quick buck, all you're ever going to make are quick copies. Try to improve upon formulas and show some originality in your games.
      The irony here is that's what his company has been doing, so it's a little hypocritical to call others out for the same thing.
      • Read as a whole, I get two things out of what he said:

        1. Popcap has experience with making clones, so they feel like they are in a good position to comment on it.

        2. Copying game mechanics is pretty normal for the industry. But if you're going to do it, do it right. Add your own flare, make it interesting, and above all try to differentiate yourself.
  • by p4rri11iz3r (1084543) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @01:25PM (#19678165)
    Popcap, I believe some of these may apply to you.

    - What's good for the goose, is good for the gander.
    - That's the pot calling the kettle black.
    - What comes around goes around.
    - You reap what you sow.
    - A stitch in time, saves nine.
    - Whoever smelt it, dealt it.
    - Whoever made the rhyme, did the crime.
    - ...
    - Profit!!!
  • I'm surprised that PopCap hasn't gone for securing some kind of software patent on their puzzle games. Granted, the patent may not be particularly valid, given that there's very little new content in the puzzle gaming world, however, the existence of the patent would certainly be enough to scare off other small developers.

    • by seebs (15766)
      What "kind of software patent" do you think they would go for? How do you think they'd get it?
  • I guess someone should point out that Bejeweled is a clone of Pogo's Sweet Tooth?
    • Or perhaps someone should point out to YOU that Sweet Tooth is a reskin of Bejeweled that was done FOR Pogo. Nice try, though.
  • There was a guy who made a Lemmings clone. Psygnosis contacted him and asked him to take off his game from the web.

    This is something I don't understand - no more lemmings games have been produced - why does the company want to take off a game that doesn't take any sales away from them?
    • It's a trademark-like thing (I don't know if there's actual trademark involved, though). They may not be making any more games, but their IP (there's that abbreviation again) is valuable and someone may be willing to pay big bucks for it even if it's just the name/concept (see: Atari). The mere existance a derivative work reduces the potential value of the original brand. Not saying they aren't assholes, just suggesting the reason they are.
    • There was a guy who made a Lemmings clone. Psygnosis contacted him and asked him to take off his game from the web.

      This is something I don't understand - no more lemmings games have been produced - why does the company want to take off a game that doesn't take any sales away from them?

      I don't know how long ago the incident you're referring to occurred, but a Lemmings game was released in May 2006 [gamespot.com] for the PSP (and then released on the PS3 in December 2006).

    • by dreemernj (859414)
      Well they did come out with a Lemmings game for PS2 in 2006. So its not like they abandoned it or anything.
    • by grumbel (592662)
      ### Psygnosis contacted him and asked him to take off his game from the web.

      "Copycat Lemmings" as it was called I think was a direct rip-off, it even copied a few of the graphics from what I know. So it wasn't just a Lemmings clone, it was copyright violation, trademark violation and all that stuff.

      ### no more lemmings games have been produced

      There has been a very steady stream of Lemmings games over the years (Lemmings2, Lemmings3, 3D Lemmings, Lemmings Paintball, Lomax, LemmingsRevolution) and just recent
  • disney's a company that mines almost all of its ideas from the public domain, but also a company that repeatedly has new copyright laws made to prevent any of their characters from ever entering the public domain. hypocrites all.
  • Pot, Kettle, Black (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @02:29PM (#19679013)
    Popcap doesn't have a lot of room to cry here. Talismania is certainly an imitation of or at least highly derivative of the old Atari 5200 game Zenji. And, Super Collapse 3 certainly seems a lot like Breakout. Maybe I just don't understand the finer points of corporate whining.
  • Yeah, let's go for gameplay patents! There're too many Tetris clones on the wild as it is!
    • by tepples (727027)

      Yeah, let's go for gameplay patents! There're too many Tetris clones on the wild as it is!
      Dr. Mario appears to be patented (U.S. Patent 5,265,888),
  • Damn it. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by br14n420 (1111329)
    Dear PopCap,

    I own a couple of your games and can honestly state they do not seem very original. For instance, I have seen a multitude of games similar to Bejeweled for years. Take a look in family arcades and bar-top arcade systems, jewel + puzzle games of this style have been around for about 15 years longer than Pop-cap has been in business.

    It is very tempting to go through my MAME screenshot repository and find games PopCap did that look like older arcade titles, then begin sending email to each of these
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by PaganRitual (551879)
      Dear Brian the Pot Smoker,

      You've paid us for some of these games that you say show no originality. Our goal with regards to your input into our business model has been met. From this point on, unless you want to give us more money to actually exceed our goals, we really couldn't give a a fuck what you have to say.

      Regards,

      PopCap
  • Imitation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mhannibal (1121487)
    While PopCap might be the wrong company to make statements about copying ideas, they make a valid point. Casual and Indie games have been touted as bringing innovation to a stale market, yet most seem to be using the same tactic as the major companies - copy what works. Where are the innovators of the 80's and 90's - it seems there were so many different genres and ideas then?
  • Indie and casual game designers are discussing the Popcap interview at great length at the Indie Gamer forums [indiegamer.com]. As I remarked there, many people have observed that the current syndrome of blatant, rampant plagiarism is dangerous to the casual game market's long-term health -- and whenever someone does observe this, the plagiarizers move immediately to smear that speaker's reputation. By demonstrating the speaker isn't a pure and saintly exemplar of all things holy, the plagiarizers believe they prove their a

  • when they start charging more reasonable prices for their games.. 20 bucks is too much for a little puzzle game. at 5 bucks a pop I wouldn't feel like i'm getting ripped off.

    I can go to the local store's bargain bin and get year old games for 20 bucks.. this is a 5 MB download..
  • PopCap are the ones copying games from other companies and now they're angry they're being copied in return?

    Keep in mind that Zuma is a copy of Puzz Loop, Bejeweled is a copy of xjewel, etc.

    That's either priceless, funny or just really sad.

  • This would be interesting coming from Valve, or Id or Blizzard or any of the companies that has truly expanded their individual genres through technological advances, or radical re-thinking of gameplay and strategy.

    But Popcap? They make puzzle games that are derivatives of Tetris, and their games are better suited for widgets and free downloads than they are as stand alone titles.

    For Popcap to whine about "copycats" would be like Bethesda complaining about all the other swords and sorcery RPG's out there.

Cobol programmers are down in the dumps.

Working...