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Indie darling  J.S. Joust  caught in cloning controversy
Indie darling J.S. Joust caught in cloning controversy Exclusive
May 22, 2012 | By Mike Rose

May 22, 2012 | By Mike Rose
Comments
    54 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



The latest game from Whale Trail developer Ustwo is causing quite a stir today, due to its stark similarities to Die Gute Fabrik's PlayStation Move-controlled J.S. Joust.

In J.S. Joust, players hold a PS Move controller each, and must try to knock the controller in other players' hands without letting their own controller be nudged out of sync with the music that is currently playing.

Ustwo's Papa Quash features a similar concept, except it is available for iOS devices, and requires players knock the iPod or iPhone in the hands of other players. The revelation has caused outrage on Twitter, with people calling it a clone and displaying disappointment in the studio.

Via the Twitter hashtag #joustice, indie studio Vlambeer wrote, "Johann Sebastian Joust is amazing & it getting ripped off breaks our hearts," while Metanet Software's Raigan Burns noted, "Cloning only works because most consumers are apathetic and/or ignorant, and some developers are immoral/exploitative/shameless."

However, Ustwo's marketing director Steve Bittan has told Gamasutra that his studio should not take responsibility for the similarities, and that it is down to the person who commissioned the work -- former Big Brother UK contestant Sam Pepper.

"We made the app for Sam Pepper. It's his app. Not ours," said Bittan. "It's not an Ustwo app. It's a Sam Pepper app."

"Papa Quash was a concept from Sam Pepper," he continued. "We told him about J. S. Joust and he emailed them to OK it. After we got that assurance we did service work on it."

"Sam has a typical fan base. Young and into social media," he continued. "We asked him to reach out to J. S. Joust and explain his concept which he did. We had assurance everything was ok."

The game was meant to be uploaded to the App Store via Pepper's own account rather than Ustwo's, however Bittan tells us, "He wanted to launch it and we had issues with his account so went with ours so he could reach out to his fans."

"He is a ex-Big Bro contestant in UK and has a big Twitter and YouTube following. We're in process of getting his account set up," he noted.

As for the cloning allegations, Bittan adds, "We're not into cloning. We genuinely care about what we do and our reputation in the indie community."

He adds, "We're upset about how it's been perceived."

Gamasutra has contacted Die Gute Fabrik to inquire about the conversation between the studio and Pepper, and will update with any new details provided.

[Update: Die Gute Fabrik has posted on Twitter, "We've been getting a lot of inquiries lately. We're working on an official response - hopefully by tonight." The studio added, "Just to be clear, we have never and would never approve, give permission, or encourage anyone to clone of any of our games."]


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Comments


Nigel Lowrie
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Ustwo is listed as the seller. Money goes to them no? http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/papa-quash/id504304825

Danny Day
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They're upset that a cloned game is perceived as a clone? Are they also upset that water is wet? Love the attempt to shunt responsibility to some reality TV personality - they always do their legwork, don't they?

E McNeill
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To be fair, if a creator gives permission to clone (on a new platform, with a new cartoon+dubstep presentation), that would be all right. What seems to be the problem here is that the guy who commissioned the game claimed to have permission, while Die Gute Fabrik claims otherwise.

Lars Doucet
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I've always been mystified by the turf war debates that surround cloning. Why should the first person perceived to have come up with an idea be the one doling out "permission" to expand on that concept?

Not trying to troll, just genuinely interested in people's motivations/opinions on this. It just seems completely inconsistent with the free-to-remix values people in this community generally espouse.

Julian Kantor
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"Remix" being the operative word. I don't think most people would have a problem with taking a classic or beloved game as a jumping-off point for a new experience.

There is a huge difference between using a game as inspiration and blatantly copying a game. I think it's a bit disingenuous to suggest that the boundary is confusing or arbitrary. Sure, it is to a certain extent. But that extent is very limited, and people mostly get upset when the cloning issue is blatant, like it is in this case.

Naomi Clark
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If it was a remix, that would be one thing. Personally, I feel highly tolerant of remixes, of taking an element from one game and mashing it up with some thing else, of doing a slightly different version with your own spin. This game appears to be a straightforward reskin+port of J.S. Joust to a different platform; it doesn't add anything new that's not simply cosmetic, just takes out a couple features.

There's a grey area in there, sure -- is picking an avatar that displays on your phone a new feature? using iPhone speakers instead of PS Move controller lights a twist on gameplay at all? losing central tracking of players a new feature?) and we all have to "know it when we see it." but I feel like mine is pretty skewed towards "yeah take that idea, use it, remix it" and after playing both games, this one definitely tripped my sensors. Plus it seems to have tripped the developer's sensors -- they wanted permission from Die Gute Fabrik in order to do right by the creators of the original idea, they thought they had it, turns out they didn't. To some degree, most of the parties involved are in agreement that something is wrong here.

Luis Miguel Delgado
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It endangers the livelihood of the person that came up with the idea in the first place, it takes away the chance for their concept to grow and be fruitful.

It's quite hard to argue in this day and age who is the original and who is the cloner, when everything we make is exposed to the world and readily available. It's a shame developers have to resort to these tactics in order to make a product.

This game is straight up JS Joust, simply with a modified aesthetic. And the creators of JS Joust in no moment gave permission to clone the game. This is simply a developer seeing a successful idea and being opportunistic by releasing it to a wider audience.

Lars Doucet
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@Julian:

"Blatantly copying" is already illegal. It is called copyright infringement. We have laws for that already. If they were guilty of copyright infringement, they would be liable for prosecution.

Copyright protects a unique expression of an idea, not the idea itself. The boundary for me is copyright infringement, which is (usually) not confusing or arbitrary. Are you suggesting that this game is such a blatant rip off as to be guilty of outright copyright infringement? If so you have no argument from me.

If you are NOT suggesting it is copyright infringement, is it still doing something wrong? If so, why? And what should be the penalties? Interested in hearing your thoughts.

Being in favor of "remixes" but against "cloning" that is not copyright infringement is strange to me. It's like saying you're in favor of free speech, but not political speech you find distasteful, or being in favor of freedom of religion, but not if it means letting Muslim women wear headscarves in public or letting Jews run restaurants that only serve kosher food.

Being in favor of remixes in general shouldn't mean only being in favor of "good" remixes, or remixes of "classic" ideas. Age of the idea also shouldn't matter.

Julian Kantor
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I'm not a lawyer and don't know much about copyright laws as they pertain to games. My gut feeling is that if Die Gute Fabrik wanted/had the resources to make a legal case, they could probably get some money out of it, but like I said, I have no idea if that's true or not.

Regardless, there are many things you can do that are morally reprehensible, but not illegal, as your example regarding freedom of speech illustrates.

If this helps to clarify my distinction between a "remix" and a "clone," a remix has surface-level similarities and uses familiarity with a genre or mechanic to communicate new ideas. A clone communicates the exact same ideas in the exact same way, optionally with different or additional features and presentation.

Lars Doucet
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@Julian

I suppose we just have different values. As for the legal/moral thing - I'm not even much of a fan of copyright or the ownership of ideas in general, so I'm not even really saying "copyright is moral because it's legal and so that should be the standard." I think copyright laws should be WEAKER, not stronger.

Just in the context of this debate, it's as far as I'm willing to go to protect someone's "right" to an idea.

Lars Doucet
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People certainly have a right to be morally indignant about something without being accused of calling for more restrictive laws.

My main concern is that this disapproval reeks of hypocrisy - it's okay for indie devs to clone Mario and JRPG's all the day long, but it's not okay for someone to clone an indie?

Appealing to the "classicness" of old games to justify cloning/remixing them doesn't help either - it presupposes the value of a rich public domain of freely available ideas, which is exactly what I'm advocating for.

Julian Pritchard
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@Lars:

Firstly my apology for giving you two Julians to respond to.

Video games often go "what if we changed x about game y" this is the remix of video games.

A cloner will look at a game and simply go "let me do the same as game y and just change the visuals and some other things to avoid copyright infringement."

Simply put the cloner will copy the mechanics of a game. And mechanics are not subject to copyright. In order to protect a games mechanics the creators would have to patent it. Patents, to the best of my knowledge, are rather costly, and must be filed in multiple countries.

Lars Doucet
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@Julian2:

Hmm! Now we're getting somewhere interesting. Would you suggest that copyright law *should* extend to game mechanics? Furthermore - can you show how this would be on balance A Good Thing without major negative consequences?

Julian Kantor
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Well again I'm not speaking from a legal perspective, so the existence of a public domain doesn't figure into my argument.

If a game is an established success that "everyone" has played, a player's experience with that game is pre-supposed by the developer.This prior experience can be used by the developer so that they do not have to re-establish a control scheme, like dual-stick FPS controls, or abstract mechanics, like finding an item that will allow you to explore previously inaccessible areas. The familiarity can also be used thematically, to make an allusions or invoke nostalgia. Simply mishmashing genres or games is an absolutely valid approach as well, as the mishmash is the unique design of whomever is creating it.

The main point is that it is completely valid to use established forms to communicate new ideas. As the guys at Vlambeer excellently put it, cloning is stealing someone else's solution to a design problem. If you were writing a research paper, you would be stupid not to reference the research of others. But you would still need to be doing new research that would build off of the work of those who came before you in order for your research to have any merit whatsoever. If the pre-existing knowledge you are quoting is not "common," you are expected to cite your sources.

In this case, however, the developer is pre-supposing that the player has NOT experienced Joust (a reasonable assumption as it is not widely available) and is using that fact to cash in on someone else's idea. They are essentially stealing unpublished research and publishing it as their own.

Julian Pritchard
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@Lars:

As I am not a lawyer I cannot say with certainty were an applicable law should be formed for such a case. From my recent followings of implementing a an act such as SOPA vs amending something such as the DMCA. I would gander at amending existing laws to conform to the needs that we currently have as opposed creating new ones. In both cases it seems like an awfully convoluted system.

With regards to balance: I do not believe that courts are an ideal place for this although theoretically they should be. In a court of law one is supposed to be judged by their peers, but would such a case be judged by game developers?

Academics have a peer review system where people knowledgeable in the field examine a new work to determine its credence. With cloning I, ideally, would like to see a similar system where developer knowledgeable were to say if the game is a clone or not.

Bruno Patatas
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"My main concern is that this disapproval reeks of hypocrisy - it's okay for indie devs to clone Mario and JRPG's all the day long, but it's not okay for someone to clone an indie?" <- THIS!

The classics have been copied to exhaustion, or as someone said "cloner will copy the mechanics of a game". This has always happened, and will always happen. Just take the example of Diablo or Mario that were cloned to exhaustion.

Why does suddenly indie games are the darlings of the industry, and need to be treated differently?

People said gameplay mechanics should be copyrighted, and that's the most absurd thing ever. Imagine if this type of discussion happened in the film industry. "Hey, Michael Bay has the copyright for movies with giant robots that fight, so no one can do something similar".

There will be quite a few Diablo clones being released on the next few months (just read the latest issue of Edge Magazine). I don't see Blizzard making the headlines saying that it's outraged with that.

Eric McQuiggan
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For me, it's always a little weird that this conversation always ends up in the realm of legalities. Maybe public shaming is the cost of being an apparent clone? Does money need to change hands or is loss of clout enough?

Lars Doucet
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Even with legalities aside, the public shaming aspect can be completely unfair. What if you're merely *perceived* as a clone, but you actually came up with the idea first?

Totally happened to this guy - the indie community jumped down his throat.
http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/RyanVandendyck/20120321/166891/Wav
eform_when_a_clone_isnt_a_clone.php


Sure, the guys we're talking about *today* probably don't deserve too much sympathy, but the way the cloning controversy continuously stokes the internet outrage machine seems pretty destructive to me.

Julian Kantor
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As someone whose game has been called a "clone" (even though it wasn't widespread (nor was coverage of my game), it still hurt), I definitely see your point there. I think the internet rage machine in general is rather dogmatic and frightening.

Robert Fearon
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"My main concern is that this disapproval reeks of hypocrisy - it's okay for indie devs to clone Mario and JRPG's all the day long, but it's not okay for someone to clone an indie?"

No, it's not. Should it be? Does that happen often?

I mean, outside of kids learning to code or whatever, obviously.

Lars Doucet
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@ Robert Fearon

It ABSOLUTELY happens all the time. How bout this:
http://www.xenonauts.com/

Xenonauts is a super awesome game I'm very excited about. It's also totally an X-Com clone. I don't see anyone bashing them for it.

Robert Fearon
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I think Xenonauts is pushing away from its roots as a 1:1 X-Com clone into being more of a homage, but yes, there was a point it walked a very uncomfortable line with it being for money and showing few signs of being anything more than X-Com.

Having been custodian of a remakes site for a lot of the past ten years, I've kept a fair eye on things like this because they fascinate me. It also fascinates me how some games get a pass and others don't. I suspect Xenonauts gets filed under there's a demand that no-one is filling. It's a why-it-exists thing.

Anyway! The site (used to) mainly deal with old 8/16 bit games brought up to date by hobbyists with modern tech, sometimes clones (boring) and sometimes not and for a long, long time we kept a very strict hobby-only rule because that's the line thou shalt not cross. And generally, across the years, this has held up as a pretty reasonable thing for most (not all) people.

I wrote a bit about this post GameCity5 a while back: http://www.merseyremakes.co.uk/gibber/2010/10/being-remade/

I link to it because one of the things that has come up repeatedly is more than anything, it's about permission, politeness and respect to a lot of the authors. And because the talk didn't just consist of hobbyists but professionals also. ('RR' refers to the site I run, just in case there's any confusion)

I think boiling it down to "why is it ok for this but not that" isn't really helpful in the long run. Things are a lot more granular and nuanced with the issue. And personal, because games are personal creations. I think Martin Hollis' quote I use in the article sums this up nicely - it's not something that has to be rational, we're human. And it's sorta OK to feel violated if you've invested yourself in your creation. That's not the sort of thing you can just say "well, you shouldn't" because it's not going to make the feeling go away. If that makes sense.

There's remakes and clones that are essentially harmless, many where permission was sought. Obviously, it's hard to argue with the existence of these. No harm is done, commercially or otherwise. Most -actual- Mario clones or the like tend to be done by kids or people just starting out and learning. I can't find fault with that and I'd be a hypocrite if I did given I started out wanting to make Jet Set Willy.

Whereas from Henry's Hoard to Zuma to Ninja Fishing to this, it's harder to make a case for their existence. And that's where things get troublesome. When money changes hands, it gets much messier. There's a matter of intent, it's no longer about learning, it's not filling in the gaps of a long dead genre, it's profit harder with a vengeance. And it's a stark lurch from the kid practicing with Mario to someone taking an existing template that's not quite on the market yet and throwing it out there before the author gets chance to see his own vision out there. Or 1:1'ing or whatevs.

I feel we'd be better off sometimes looking at the why something exists and what benefits it brings far more than whether something exists. To not treat games as though they're born in a void and treat them as they are. Which isn't to say that something profit motivated can't have cultural value, be fun or be valuable just that it's existence is associated as much with its reasons to exist.

Bruno Patatas
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"Most -actual- Mario clones or the like tend to be done by kids or people just starting out and learning."

That is just totally wrong! Remember Great Giana Sisters back in the day? A lot of the current "new wave" of indie games copy the core mechanics of Mario to exhaustion. What about all the commercial 3D platformers that appeared after Super Mario 64?

And try to search for GTA clones and you will find a bunchload of projects released by high profile publishers that share the core game systems of GTA.

Robert Fearon
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Yes, and there's a reason GGG was contentious also. It's also from 1986. I'm not talking about 1986, I'm talking about now.

But you're mixing clones with genre pieces here and that's messy because we need the freedom and ability to build on what came before. Or we can't have Galaga because it's only a slight iteration on Space Invaders, we can't have Llamatron because Robotron and so on.

Which is why I say we need to talk about these things in context not just as things that exist.

Jana Reinhardt
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Why does the customer (Big Brother social dude) has to ask for permission? Isn't that the duty of the developer?

Julian Kantor
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If they are so against cloning, they should have told the Big Brother guy to take his business to Die Gute Fabrik.

Even if they were not being paid for this (and I'm sure they are), they are still enabling someone else to shamelessly cash in on someone else's idea.

Matt Robb
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The entity commissioning the work would be the one doing the due diligence on such things. That said, the entity completing the work should have had their concerns satisfied in writing via contract.

Buncha slackers.

Julian Kantor
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Sure, legally maybe. But even if they fulfilled their legal obligations and it really is the Big Brother guy's "fault," it still gives them no room to take a moral stand against cloning.

Matt Robb
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It's not a moral issue if the originator says "sure, make a clone". While they're both games, there's limited overlap in competition between PS3 and iPhone. I get non-game requests from companies all the time that basically consist of "we need something just like X, but we need it to work on Y."

That said, accepting the word of Party A that Party B said it was alright to rip off the idea without talking to them yourself is pretty stupid.

James Dean
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so what's the point of this game again? Take some $200-$500 piece of technology and try and knock it out of someones hand. That won't end in tears on the playground

E Zachary Knight
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"Die Gute Fabrik has posted on Twitter, "We've been getting a lot of inquiries lately. We're working on an official response - hopefully by tonight." The studio added, "Just to be clear, we have never and would never approve, give permission, or encourage anyone to clone of any of our games.""

Its a good thing that no one will ever need to ask for your permission to clone your game. There is no legal requirement to do so and no legal consequences for doing so. Cloning is not illegal, nor is it immoral. It has been a part of the games industry since the beginning.

The problems with trying to wrap this up in IP law is that no IP laws were broken in the clone of the game. Since copyright only covers the expression of ideas and not the ideas themselves, no copyright was violated. Since game mechanics are not patentable, no patents were infringed. Since this clone was not passed off as made or endorsed by the makers of the game tehy cloned, no trademark was violated.

This is nothing new and I am surprised that this activity still makes it to the news. This is like saying that Studio X just made a clone of Studio Y's FPS game and claiming that Studio X is evil incarnate.

Eric McQuiggan
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This is still news as the morality of it is very subjective, you recently wrote a piece about it yourself. We, as the game development community, are still trying to figure this out.

It's just your solution has a callous disregard for the creative input of game designers. I think, and I'm certain I'm not alone, that there is an understanding of a line and when things cross it. Unfortunately, unlike computer games, Morality of action isn't on a mystical polar scale. It's kinda damning when the developer themselves admit they thought it was south of cool, and requested to get permission.

Again, Legality isn't in the question, as a creative community we can define what we are willing to accept from our peers, and whole sale rip-offs aren't in that realm, for most people. You and cloners excluded, I guess.

E Zachary Knight
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"Again, Legality isn't in the question, as a creative community we can define what we are willing to accept from our peers, and whole sale rip-offs aren't in that realm, for most people. You and cloners excluded, I guess."

I guess you are right. This is a moral issue and people's morals are subject to personal interpretation. However, I just can't seem to understand what is morally ambiguous about it. As human beings we are constantly emulating the behaviors and successes of others. It is in our nature. To tell one human that they can't do that, is unnatural to them.

Eric McQuiggan
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I think it's usually a qualitative judgement based off of the motives of the copier against the relative power of the copy-ee to react to it.

If you can show that you weren't aware of the prior work, you usually get a pass from the community. People understand convergent inspiration. In recent issues, it's apparent that the alleged copier was aware of what they were lifting and half heartily tried to cover their tracks, or just straight up admit to the clone, neither of which is endearing.

Indies in particular get quickly defended because the assumption is they lack the resources to really do anything about it/ prevent it. Coupled with the idea that indies are the bastion of fresh new ideas, they should be able to proceed without having to worry about losing their chance to move things forward for everyone.

In the end it's about respecting each other as we may all work together someday, turning our backs for personal gain make it harder to work together.

Adriaan Jansen
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I suspect it has little to do with ethics of artwork etc., and much more about who get's to monetize that shit first. If J.S. Joust would already have sold millions of copies world wide, we wouldn't even be interested in this. We just think it's fair that the one with the idea should be the one to get rich of that idea first. Seems legit, eh?

I agree that the idea guy should benefit first/ the most. However, I don't think the idea should be protected by law. What if Die Gute Fabrik turn out to be massively incapable of delivering their product to the players? Or what if they're actually plotting to keep the idea hostage for a sum of money that's way to large? Putting copyright on game mechanics would vastly cripple the quality of games we could make.

Ustwo (or whatever)deserves a mean look for the somewhat respectless act, but nothing more.

E Zachary Knight
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"I agree that the idea guy should benefit first/ the most."

I don't agree with that. There are no right to benefit/monetize/get rich off and idea. If you come up with a novel idea but implement said idea horribly, then you have failed. If someone new comes along and sees your idea and reimplements that idea and does so successfully, they have full right to do so. They have done nothing wrong.

Even if you are successful, you still have no right to block the implementation of your idea by others. Even if they are more successful than your or successful in other areas.

Adriaan Jansen
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Absolutely. I'm just trying to say that we/I tend to feel that it's "fair" if the idea guy has the space and time to benefit first. But of course, he's not entitled to success just because he got the cool idea. It takes more than creativity to bring your game to the people, and if you fail doing so, I totally agree that others should be able to progress the underlying game further (or just clone it but bring it to the people anyways).

Still, it would show more respect for someone if you would ask permission and give them some time to develop. We tend to feel that's "fair". I would feel ripped off too if I would deliver a good prototype, and while creating a full fledged commercial game, a big company would have picked it up and made it themselves before I even had enough resources to finish a commercial game.

E Zachary Knight
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"Still, it would show more respect for someone if you would ask permission and give them some time to develop. "

So my success must wait for someone else to be successful? I don't see how that is fair at all. If this game never existed or was not publicly available, it never would have been cloned. Once it is out in the open, you can't halt progress just because you aren't ready for competition.

Adriaan Jansen
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Well, I think I pointed out by now that I don't feel that they're entitled to the idea. :P I'm just stating what I feel would be a respectable way of dealing with the situation. In their turn, the respectable answer of Die Gute Fabrik also should be "sure, try to improve us". If Someone breaks this courtesy, we just tend to find it disrespectful or covetous.

Let's dramatize things. You've been working on a game for the past 3 years. When it's finally finished, you send it to some friends to show/test it, and put the game on their computer in good trust (which is obviously naive). The game is now public. When you come home, you see your game on the appstore under your friends name. Rightfully, the situation is the same. You've made a bad business move to trust a group of people without a lawyer. But I think you would agree that it would have shown a bit more respect if they would not do that. (Now in Die Gute Fabrik this group of people is the world, which makes it even more naive, but in essence, the situation of the "cloner" is just the same)

If you break the social code of a certain degree of trust, you're not doing anything illegal. You're just creating a bad name for yourself. It can be a smart business move, but you still look like a soulless scavenger.

By the way, if Die Gute Fabrik in their turn would say "No" they would get Boo's for halting innovation. If they would say "yes, but give us another 6 months to create an app version as well", well, that would probably be the best for the consumer, but it also would be really, really, really stupid of Ustwo to do that.

Michael Peiffert
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"We just think it's fair that the one with the idea should be the one to get rich of that idea first"
J.S. Joust has been released for about a year. Instead of making the game only available to a few hipsters, maybe they should have worked on a version that could be played by everyone and actually get rich?
If someone want to benefit from his idea, he shouldn't wait someone else does.

Alex Popescu
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there might be some moral issues on this and then obviously it's up to the gamers to settle that score. But I definitely don't think the gameplay should be copyright-able. That would completely destroy the game world. Just think what would have happened to the industry if Nintendo would have had the copyright on platformers, or diablo on hack&slash RPGs.

Jason Schwenn
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Most in the game development community seem to be so implicitly, and often times quite explicitly, ok with liberally borrowing and reusing what are essentially the same ideas from existing games.

Just to play devil's advocate here, how does a multi-billion dollar and well respected company like Blizzard look in this regard? Can't imagine a game company that has more resources and the ability to innovate or explore, if it wanted to.

Diablo I, II, and III = Gauntlet

Warcraft I, II, III and Starcraft I and II = Dune II

World of Warcraft = Everquest

Is this not fairly standard knowledge and accepted as generally "ok" by the industry? And just how much of a clone (of a clone) is Torchlight? All the DotA games?

To be clear, I personally have always been disappointed in how terribly justified this industry is in blatantly borrowing and reusing so many designs and ideas. Perhaps it's just a part of our current "remix" culture but I've always found it disingenuous how easily the game industry justifies it's often blatant ripping off. So I am a little curious as to why this particular game is getting such attention.

Theo van den Bogaart
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"So I am a little curious as to why this particular game is getting such attention."

I can only answer why I think it deserves such attention. I believe in innovation and evolution of the industry. For that to blossom, innovation must be protected. Of the games you mentioned, the innovator already cashed in before the clone was made. Gauntlet was released way before Diablo, same fore Dune II and the same for Ultima Online (first MMO-RPG to my knowledge): all already cashed the fruits of their innovative idea.

If it becomes a cloners market, where it only matters who can better market the product, this means that innovation will not be rewarded. Instead you can say it is punished, as innovation takes considerably more resources than cloning. I do not want to live in a world where you should be afraid to innovate, so I think people who oppose this view so blatantly should be called on it.

Jason Schwenn
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Theo: First of all, I too hope for and desire innovation and evolution in the industry. In a way, what you are suggesting is an informal patent on truly innovative ideas. Just as a patent will run out at a determined point, at some point it would seem to suggest it's ok to copy. This point to you is perhaps when an idea cashes in properly for the innovator.

While I can agree with that in principle, it does leave it wholly up to the industry at large to essentially self-police, no? Through criticism and such?

But is not the game industry nowadays mostly complicit with lack of innovation, cloning and idea stealing? For example, when the original Diablo came out, PC Mag (I believe) gave it a modest score in the 70's and complained about it's lack of originality. Diablo III, two iterations later, is essentially the same game. It receives essentially universal acclaim. Any attempt to criticize the lack of innovation is usually dwarfed by the apologists who are essentially sanctioning a lack of innovation, it would seem.

As a musician, I remember back in the 80's that music groups would get blasted for even *sounding* like Led Zeppelin. Nowadays, it's common to completely *sample* Led Zeppelin. In this case, the music industry has largely become complicit.

So if it is all part of the overall trend to remix, sample, clone, copy/paste and such in creative culture, I'm all for any backlash towards that. I'm still just curious why this game stands out from the pack of cloned or copied games that otherwise get the implied OK from the community.

Jason Schwenn
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Theo: Sorry, was going to add about Minecraft to your point of getting to cash in first. Minecraft had a couple predecessors that never truly got to cash in. Yet Minecraft is a darling of the indie world for the most part.

Perhaps it's really having the involvement of the UK Big Brother dude. Nothing makes most creative people's blood boil like Reality TV crap. Perhaps that's the extra catalyst to make this particular instance of cloning even more distasteful.

Theo van den Bogaart
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I can't really judge on the Minecraft issue without knowing only that there were predecessors. There are games which have predecessors with which I don't have a problem. I do think that there is a difference between given a chance with a good idea AND execution and just cloning and get your product out first. However Minecraft is an odd one out, as Notch kept it in a open beta for an extensive period of time. But hey, whoever makes it big in the indie world is always the cool guy.

I can't really answer your previous and complexer question about how I would like to see the system work because: A it's pretty complex and B I wouldn't want to force my opinion upon bilions of others. I can only say that the problem I have with legislation in general is that it is protective of the status quo instead of the values that it claims to protect. Copyright and patents are a prime example of this. They were thought up to protect the investment that people make to innovate. They get time to cash in on their idea/invention and then it's up for grabs to progress culture and knowledge. I hold the value of innovation dear to me, even if I'm not that much capable in that field.

I find copyright laws pretty alien in that respect. For example inheritance of copyright. How does that help innovation? The innovater cannot be rewarded anymore, but since we like to see everything as a commodity, it can be inherited by children who have contributed nothing to claim such a right. So to provide some answer: I think that for a start, laws should uphold values and not the economy.

How to do that? Create a population of uncorruptable people. I'm saddened to say: Now That would be an innovation.

Theo van den Bogaart
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BTW: I've already offended a few Diablo 3 players by claiming it's a Facebook game. Next I explain the psychological mechanisms behind Facebook games to make you addicted and apply them to Diablo 3. Fun times.

George Blott
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Is JS Joust all that different from that game where you run around with an egg in a spoon trying not to drop it?

JS Joust looks fun and we following games certainly have heard a bunch about it. A side effect of this purported clone is that now this gameplay mechanic might be enjoyed by players who don't happen to be at a JS.Joust event and/or have a bunch of PS Move controllers and whatever else that game requires.

If someone makes a really exciting new game for 4 networked xbox1 steel battalion systems, should we get mad that someone else makes a similar game on a platform that is more practical for most users?

Aren't games made to be played?

At the end of the day this has made a fun gameplay mechanic available for people, and it has drawn a lot of attention to the interesting work that Gute Fabrik are doing.

Win win? I do not know.

Thorben Novais Silva Jensen
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"Is JS Joust all that different from that game where you run around with an egg in a spoon trying not to drop it?"
I was thinking the same thing. It would be interesting to know if Die Gute Fabrik was working already on an iOS version of their game.On the other hand, it is more like movie remakes. Normally the original is better than the clone/remake.

Mike Smith
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I don't get the issue. They didn't steal any source code or claim to be the other game.

I love clones! Our industry is built on clones. Especially if they can bring them to new devices or do them slightly better. But even if they can't, it's still making great ideas more available.

If you're up for it, feel free to clone my game (www.casterthegame.com). I promise not to be upset or throw a fit when you money based on an idea I had. Money is not made from great games, it's made from marketing and selling games.

Viva la clone!

Tony Tran
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Hey Mike,

I remember Caster from when I started up 2BeeGames (now rebranded to Indiepub - i'm not there anymore)
I think its a bit of a touchy subject but a bunch of people got it right - It happens all the time and who knows if they would have even expanded onto iOS and would that have implemented it right?

As you said, as long as they didn't steal source code or assets, it shouldn't be a huge deal. It would be nice to cite the original as a source of inspiration or improve upon it a bit. But who knows, maybe thats what they're planning for the future.

Jackson Wood
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I can't understand that there are people that don't have an issue with cloning. Is the hard work that designers, and every other person that iterated on a game's design, worthless to you? Should the industry pay only respects to the artists that have the ability to make a game look different? Or the programmers that can emulate it on another device?
When cloning is a non-issue, the only competition that happens in the industry suddenly becomes marketing - and that will be a very sad day indeed. Say goodbye to new design.

Ken Nakai
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To play devil's advocate here, while the games are pretty damned similar (if they'd done something to differentiate it like maybe have you keep the phone level balancing something on-screen or something unique to the iPhone, then this might be a different conversation), which would you prefer: the ability to build off a design even if it's very similar (Call of Duty and Medal of Honor back in the beginning were the same type of game with similar mechanics--point and shoot Nazis) or you getting sued by a patent troll because your arrow pointing to a way point is similar enough to a patent (Crazy Taxi) that you can't use a simple (but brilliant) mechanic?

It's a balancing act. Innovation on a consistent basis isn't possible if you have to invent something completely novel every time. The whole point behind the patent system (at least the US one) was to encourage the exposure of designs and innovations so that others can build upon them to further innovate and advance designs and processes.

In this case, it does look very similar but there is no law being broken beyond a slim case related to copyright infringement (I'm not a lawyer). It's bad form, no doubt, especially if there isn't anything different except the platform. Still, the main reason you don't see someone making an Xbox clone (it's just a PC after all) is because Microsoft will throw a dozen lawyers and millions of dollars at you and extract (potentially millions more).

Honestly, with Ustwo taking the app down from the app store, I think the best battlefield for this was the one that was used: social media and the popular "court". If you try to screw over the consumer by being lazy and copying someone else verbatim, you're gonna lose in the end...unless you're China and you're selling knock-offs to a different market of course. :)

Lea Hayes
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There is an old game that seems to have been completely forgotten about in recent years. I remember playing it on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) and it flopped for a number of very good reasons. However, I believe that it would be a good fit for mobile markets and would probably be a lot of fun to create. I would not want to use the same visuals as before, and additionally there are a number of gameplay features that I would add.

But, where would I stand in terms of copyright infringement?

I will not mention the title of the game for obvious reasons.


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