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Treading the Fuzzy Line Between Game Cloning and Theft 235

Posted by Soulskill
from the welcome-to-the-world-of-policeactioncraft dept.
eldavojohn writes "Ars analyzes some knockoffs and near-knockoffs in the gaming world that led to problems with the original developers. Jenova Chen, creator of Flower and flOw, discusses how he feels about the clones made of his games. Chen reveals his true feelings about the takedown of Aquatica (a flOw knockoff): 'What bothers me the most is that because of my own overreaction, I might have created a lot of inconvenience to the creator of Aquatica and interrupted his game-making. He is clearly talented, and certainly a fan of flOw. I hope he can continue creating video games, but with his own design.' The article also notes the apparent similarities between Zynga's Cafe World and Playfish's Restaurant City (the two most popular Facebook games). Is that cloning or theft? Should clones be welcomed or abhorred?"
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Treading the Fuzzy Line Between Game Cloning and Theft

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  • by cheesybagel (670288) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:29AM (#30386594)
    Starcraft is one example. I would rather play Starcraft than C&C.
  • by QuantumG (50515) * <> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:32AM (#30386608) Homepage Journal

    at its finest. "This is plagiarism!!" No it's not, you tool, it's conversation. Your attitude is exactly what is wrong with the world copyright has built. You don't own that idea, it belongs to the ages.

  • Re:Warcraft (Score:4, Insightful)

    by somersault (912633) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:32AM (#30386612) Homepage Journal

    Saints Row 2 (haven't tried the first) is actually much better and IMO more in line with the GTA philosophy than GTA IV. I was surprised how good it was. Bring on the clones. We don't have to play the crappy ones.

  • There's no line (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vadim_t (324782) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:39AM (#30386636) Homepage

    First, there's no theft. There could possibly be copyright infringement if somebody is using somebody else's graphics.

    Second, there doesn't seem to be any copyright infringement, since as far as I can tell nothing is being copied. Copyright only applies to copies of the original material. Making your own graphics that look a lot like something else is not copyright infringement.

    There could possibly be trademark infringement, but that's most definitely not theft.

    And what's the big deal, anyway? For every successful game, there have always been a few clones.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:45AM (#30386658)

    starcraft is not a c&c clone. when graphics and gameplay are as different from one game to another as they are between these two games, it's just two games from the same genre.

  • by Kentaree (1078787) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:51AM (#30386678) Homepage
    Why did someone write Linux when Unix was already out there? Why was Mario created when there were already other platform games out there? It's going to get harder and harder to come out with original ideas, e.g. look at any game released in the last 10 years, you can count truly innovative ones on both hands. But yet there's still games that come out, using a tried and tested formula, that are better than the rest. If there was no cloning, we'd have very few new games coming out ever.
  • by Shinobi (19308) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:02AM (#30386722)

    The reason is that no clone brings any innovation or evolution. Another problem is developers who confuse cloning and inspiration, thinking both equate the other. There are some who view any game inspired by theirs as a clone, but far more common are developers who straight off clone/plagiarize something and then claim it's inspired by as well as innovation blah blah, and it's not just game developers who are guilty of that. In fact, just look at development in various open source areas, and you'll see that they are more busy plagiarizing functionality and then spouting off some PR about innovation rather than actually engage in innovation. GIMP is one, the Linux project has a fair amount of it too. The various BSD's have also done this, but to a lesser extent.

    The FSF may claim that it somehow fosters innovation, but that's disingenious at best. Innovation is, when you get down to the root of it, to say "Who cares if others think I'm wasting my time, I'll do this completely new thing". Plagiarization fosters laziness and incompetence.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:02AM (#30386724)

    ...and Starcraft is a clone of Warhammer 40,000, the sci-fi version of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Blizzard rips off Games Workshop again. Zerg = Tyranids, Terrans = The Imperium of Man, Protoss = Eldar...

  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:06AM (#30386746) Homepage

    First, it's copyright infringement, not theft. And no one can "steal" your idea because ideas cannot be owned.

    Second, it's infringement if he infringed on your code, art work, or music. If not, it's not infringement.


  • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:11AM (#30386774)

    I think the truth lies somewhere in between. A mechanical, soul-less knock-off, like the flow example in the article, accomplishes nothing from a creative perspective. Yet even the most conservative "Doom Clone" brought some sort of rich addition to the design mix, even if it was just new levels. In the act of duplication, creative forces can be at work, producing a less-than-exact copy which carries with it some trace of the creative processes of the duplicator. There's a broad spectrum there.

  • by vadim_t (324782) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:22AM (#30386836) Homepage

    Sorry, I don't give a damn about originality. I care about what matches my needs. Obviously a straight 1 to 1 feature clone isn't terribly interesting, but once you're there, you're probably going to want to differentiate your clone somehow, so you'll have to add improvements somewhere. That's where it gets interesting.

    It fosters innovation by the virtue of competition. For instance, you make a text editor and have the idea of adding syntax highlighting. Somebody else goes and makes their own editor, also with syntax highlighting. Now you need to do something new to be a better choice, so you add code folding. Then do too, and add a spell checker. And so on. There's your fostering of innovation.

    If you had the only editor in existence you wouldn't have a lot of motivation to make it better, you could just keep selling 10 year old code. But that wouldn't be very innovative.

    If you're so worried about somebody else copying your idea, get off your ass and improve your.

  • by rcastro0 (241450) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:41AM (#30386934) Homepage

    "Is that cloning or theft? Should clones be welcomed or abhorred?"

    Easy. Clones should be welcomed.

    1) They put innovation pressure on the original, benefiting everybody.
    2) They put price pressure on the original, benefiting everybody.
    3) They may create a better platform, a better product than the original, benefiting everybody.

    Everybody wins. Except when you look at the motivation to create original products in the first place. Will the clones lower the reward and make it less beneficial to be original?


    1) A truly original and inovative product will take some time to clone -- there will be a lead, in which user base/fan base/multiplayer communities should create critical mass.
    2) Playing it right, the original *will* have goodwill. In other words, all things being fairly equal, people will likely stay with the original.
    3) Originality is a scale, not a binary concept. Games are more or less original. Per (2) above, clones will need to compete in originality just like their inspiration did. When each clone out of many tries to be a little more original than the next, they may arrive at a quite original game, per Darwin. This could happen even though they started off at a lower plateau of originality than the concept originator. Think StarCraft.
    4) In this sense, everyone is (or must be) original to be relevant. Originality is not at risk.

    I hope that didn't sound too confusing :-)

  • by shish (588640) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:46AM (#30386966) Homepage

    GIMP is one

    Last I checked the GIMP developers were trying to be innovative, but all the users were screaming "No! Everything must work exactly the same way it does in photoshop!" :-P

  • Re:Warcraft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:51AM (#30386990) Homepage Journal

    For a guy that has so much to do that he never gets bored any more, that's saying a lot.

    There's a difference between "never gets bored" and "easily amused".

  • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:56AM (#30387012) Homepage

    No, plagiarism and infringement are two very different things. For example, if you copied someone's ideas for a paper and took credit for them yourself, that would be plagiarism but not infringement; if you copied the paper itself but gave credit, that would not be plagiarism but would be infringement.

    Plagiarism is about who gets credit for things, not copying, while infringement is the other way around.

  • by TheKidWho (705796) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:01AM (#30387050)

    Only temporary monopolies called Trademarks and Copyrights.

    The fact that they are being extended for well beyond their original intended life span is what's wrong with the system. I blame Disney.

  • by cheesybagel (670288) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:25AM (#30387210)
    Not just Starship Troopers, but Dune as well. God Emperor of Man? Astropaths? Space Marine training grounds often look like Salusa Secundus.
  • by badpazzword (991691) < minus caffeine> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:38AM (#30387308)
    Are you trying to claim there was no reason whatsoever to innovate or create art before patents and copyright were introduced?
  • by russotto (537200) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @09:48AM (#30387962) Journal

    In the early 1980s, there weren't other scrolling platform games. As far as I can tell, SMB1 was the first game to use scrolling instead of a Donkey Kong-style single screen or Pitfall!-style page flipping.

    There were plenty of scrolling non-platform games, e.g. Zaxxon and Defender. I'm pretty sure there were vertically scrolling Donkey Kong clones as well.

  • Re:Warcraft (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StuartHankins (1020819) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @11:04AM (#30388928)

    it becomes trivial to sort through all the crap out there and skim the sweet delicious cream from the top of the Intarwebz (ewwww....)

    For many things it's not trivial. For instance, have you tried locating apps in the App Store lately? To say that it's tedious doesn't do it justice -- way way way too many choices that aren't relevant. I recently looked for a free painting program and after trying various forms of paint, draw, edit image etc I eventually had to use the term "sketch" to find what I was looking for. It was just dozens of pages of crap, many of which had nothing to do with painting / drawing. For my purposes these were synonyms yet to the search engine they were not. And yes I tried Google also, and again there were so many hits, many outdated, that finding "real" content was a problem. So many dupes that I couldn't easily tell what options I had.

    As another example, commonly-used terms such as OpenOffice's Calc or Write -- try searching for those and see what you get. Or OO Draw. How about tips for MS Paint?

    We need a semantic web because so many of the content is based on keywords which are either inexact or are also commonly used words. We need to be able to grep the web in a more efficient manner.

  • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld@gm a i> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:54PM (#30392112)

    Blizzard doesn't make new. Blizzard takes what's out there in raw form and polishes it so much that you have to be careful you go blind from the glare.

    This is their 'special ability', it's what they do.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming