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Waveform: when a clone isn't a clone
by Ryan Vandendyck on 03/21/12 01:07:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Yesterday I released my indie game Waveform on Steam (http://store.steampowered.com/app/204180/). I had been working on it for nearly 3 years mainly alone, which was a painful endeavour that I undertook while also working as a full-time programmer in the games industry (read more about that in my other blog entries: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/RyanVandendyck/908384/). 

I spent every evening and every weekend on it for the better part of 3 years, working 100+ hours every week and draining my bank account. But finally, I had a game to release that was actually very cool and very unique! It was garnering a lot of great reviews, and people who played it had a ton of fun.

What happened next, you ask? 

The proverbial crap hit the fan. The internet (or at least the corner I pay attention to) exploded with confusion and questions about how Waveform appeared to be a blatant rip-off of Kenta Cho's game Sin Car (http://www.gamesetwatch.com/2011/10/drive_around_kenta_chos_sin_ca.php). In particular Adam Saltsman (of Canabalt fame) and Jan Willem Nijman from Vlambeer were particularly aghast at what appeared to be a clone and direct rip-off. And they were right to be suspicious! Jan, along with Rami Ismail, gave an awesome talk at GDC just a few weeks ago on the devastating impact cloning games has on our industry, especially indie games. It's a problem, and they were correct to call attention to it.

To anyone who happened to come across both games, they seem very similar! Both involve controlling a sine wave to accomplish objectives. And unless you happened to stumble upon the few obscure places Waveform was referenced and talked about starting in late 2010 (like it's IGF entry for example), Sin Car seemed to have debuted first. And of course let's not forget that Kenta Cho is a renowned indie developer! Who's this Ryan Vandendyck guy? Never heard of him :)

So the similarities between Waveform and Sin Car are immediately apparent, and their debut dates a bit suspicious. What's going on here?



Well folks, we seem to have come upon a classic Newton/Leibniz situation. For anyone who doesn't know, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz both seemed to have come up with Calculus (a branch of mathematics) around the same time. But who copied who? Did one of them abscond with the other's papers during the night? For those in the world of mathematics (not a large percentage of the world, but maybe a good number of Gamasutra readers) this is a well-known debate. The conclusion seems to be: they came up with it independently.

Maybe a little coincidental, but that seems to be the truth from what we can garner from history. And to make a long story short, that's what happened with Waveform and Sin Car, coincidental though it may be.

I tried getting the word out in advance of Waveform's release that the two were different games after hearing about Sin Car. John Polson from indiegames.com wrote up a great article about Waveform's then Kickstarter project (http://indiegames.com/2011/11/kickstarter_project_waveform_e.html) and helped explain that actually they just happened to be developed independently. But being a small, unknown indie dev, I didn't have enough contacts to spread the word further than that. I was hoping that the information would filter out and people would know of what happened, but it didn't quite happen as organically as it could have. Good point to know for the future!

Despite having a working prototype of Waveform since mid-2009, I opted against talking about it much or showing really anything online. Why did I decide that? Ironically, given what has happened, I was afraid someone would clone my game :)


Above: A video of me talking about the history of Waveform, with an early prototype shown in the top-left corner. Full video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piRXp0EjB80


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Comments


Enrique Dryere
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I feel for ya man, and I hope you can get this problem resolved!

Ryan Vandendyck
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Thanks so much Enrique, I hope so too! My head is still spinning to be honest between the launch yesterday and this coming up now. But I hope it all gets straightened out soon enough :)

Lars Doucet
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As someone who's been on the receiving end of a lets-jump-to-insane-conclusions-hate-brigade myself, I definitely feel for you.

I'm a little frustrated by the whole anti-cloning brigade, honestly, but then my views on copyright tend towards "liberal" for lack of a better term. It seems to me that which side people sympathize with has very little to do with principle (ie, who executed an idea first), but rather whether they're a loveable indie underdog or a rapacious corporate overlord.

Copyright already exists to protect against outright infringement. We don't need another layer of protection. Ideas are not and should not be treated as property and I think cases like this are a good example of the damage that can be done to innocent people when we start treating them that way.

Ryan Vandendyck
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Thanks for your comment Lars! I wish I was seen a bit more as a loveable indie underdog as you mentioned, but I think I'm still too unknown to even be called an underdog :)

But you made some awesome points about copyrights. It's a tricky subject, and one that I think we can certainly benefit from by bringing cases like this and others into the open.

Thanks again!

Jacob Germany
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Here's my problem:

Sure, maybe these guys could've researched it a bit more before jumping to conclusions. Ignorance is never a good foundation, especially if you're going to attack someone's ethics or morality.

But an even deeper issue? They aren't what I would consider "clones" in the first place. One (Waveform) appears to have much deeper mechanics, much more polished graphics, and is obviously a result of more effort and time.

Let's assume for a second that Waveform was, in fact, directly inspired/cloned from Sin Car. Would that even a problem? Certainly, the basic mechanic seems similar, but for the industry to get up-in-arms over what could only reasonably be described as a deeper, more polished version of a quick-and-dirty game seems incredibly short-sighted, not to mention hypocritical. A novel game mechanic being used to inspire a "new genre" (if you want to call it that) is hardly the Dream Heights/Tiny Tower or FarmTown/Ville debacle.

Ryan Vandendyck
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Thanks for the vote of confidence Jacob, I really appreciate it :)

I agree with you in that I was hoping people who saw Waveform would notice how much effort and time was put into it and realize that it being a copy of Sin Car really didn't make sense given the timeline since that game was revealed late 2011 and Waveform came out yesterday, making it about 5 months later. I think it'd be quite hard for anyone to make Waveform after seeing Sin Car in only 5 months. Just making the levels and the endless modes in Waveform took a long time, and that was after we already had all of the mechanics working!

Josh Gibson
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I'm pretty sure I've seen Waveform before because your screenshot looks extremely familiar, so I wouldn't have jumped to any conclusions.

It's a shame this happened, hopefully it all works out for you in the end.

Ryan Vandendyck
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Thanks Josh, I hope so too! It's been a long road making the game, and I anticipate it'll be a long road getting the word out there. But I hope it'll be worth it in the end :)

Bryan OHara
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I saw Waveform's kickstarter a little while back when I was browsing for Vancouver local projects. It's truly awesome to see that all that hard work came to light and you got it out on steam. Huge, huge props for that. I want to echo what Jacob said in that it is very obvious that Waveform had love, care and a ton of polish put into it.

Keep up the good media and hopefully we'll see more from Eden Industries in the future!

Ryan Vandendyck
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Thanks so much! It really is awesome to have you say that. Your support really means a lot, I think especially since after working on Waveform for so long in near isolation, having other people come out in support of it is a really cool feeling :)

Jonathan Biddle
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Hi Ryan.

I can completely sympathise with you on the calls of false cloning. I worked on a prototype of Explodemon starting in 2005, and had our console version unveiled merely hours before Twisted Pixel's Splosion Man, but were beaten to market by them by around 18 months. Because Splosion Man became so well known, from the moment we released our first video of the console release up to the current day, Explodemon has been hounded by the cry of 'Splosion Man rip-off' wherever it went. Even when the games proved to be very different and our evidence of prior creation highlighted, the calls have continued.

I blogged about it here on Gama and my own site to spread the word ( http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JonathanBiddle/20100818/87873/The_
Explodemon_Saga__Part_Seven.php ), and while we did manage to get our side of the story known by the internet public at large, in the end it did significantly affect our success.

I hope things go better for you!

Ryan Vandendyck
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Hi Jonathan,

Thanks so much for sharing your story of what happened with Explodemon. That's really unfortunate. Sounds quite similar to what happened with Waveform, although I think actually yours was worse since Splosion Man ended up being quite a hit.

It really is a shame how quickly people are to jump to conclusions, especially when people like you and I would happily set the record straight given the chance! If you think about some of the other famous cases of cloning (Zynga, or others), the apparently offending party doesn't even offer to have that dialogue and explain things. It feels like that should immediately indicate the very clear difference between a blatant clone and an idea genuinely developed in parallel with someone else.

Anyway, I hope things go better for me as well! Ironically I think it may've almost been a good thing (after the initial horror subsided) since it got people looking at Waveform that probably wouldn't have otherwise :)

Stephen Loney
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I'm sure people wouldn't accuse you of cloning if they had the chance to meet you for even a minute. After playing an earlier version of Waveform at Full Indie in Vancouver, I sensed your genuine enthusiasm for the project; something I wouldn't expect from someone simply making a clone!
As well, if I'm correct, SIN CAR was published on 2011-10-22. Even IF it had been a clone, it'd be very impressive to have made Waveform within that time, especially considering the size of your team O.o;

A sincere congrats to you on Waveform's launch! It was really awesome to see it appear on Steam this week.


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