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Legality of making a game clone

This is a discussion on Legality of making a game clone within the General Discussions forums, part of the Community Boards category; Another example is Openttd, which is an open source game based on transport tycoon deluxe. It too can use the ...

  1. #16
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    Another example is Openttd, which is an open source game based on transport tycoon deluxe. It too can use the resources that comes with the game but there are also free versions available.

  2. #17
    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    It has already been said but the main problem is the art assets. Those are certainly IP and would constitute a copyright violation as well as a possible trademark violation which carries a stiffer and more costly penalty. That being said most defunct company IP owners realize people still like to play their older games and are more than willing to give permission for people to mimic the game and possibly even borrow some of the original assets. However they will tell you that you must give credit for the art assets to the original company as well as credit for the game idea to the original company.

    I was involved in this once and it appeared that Nintendo would let us copy Zelda and some of its tiles and graphics for 2D games only and with the disclaimer we had no actual connection to Nintendo or any of its subsidiaries. However under no circumstances would a 3D Zelda game be allowed under this stipulation. This could have been hogwash given the project director's lack of experience but I believed him b/c it did line up with what other websites were saying. There was a push to do a 3D Zelda by a famous tutorial site and the project was given a cease and desist on it. Also there are instances where the original company (read publisher) allows the dev team to produce the game and backs them - this happened with Peroxide games and Ultima. The project never saw the light of day but that sort of thing does happen although it is rare.

    Companies are concerned about a dev team trashing their IP and/or giving it a bad name but if they give you certain stipulations to protect themselves most are more than honored that you would even consider such a thing. There are certain companies that shall remain nameless who will not allow you to use any of their IP regardless of the age. Remember that some of those IPs are about to expire and once they do they are no longer protected by law unless the original owner renews it.

    Many times these fan games generate so much excitement and yearning for the game that it helps the sales of new more modern versions of the game when they are released. It would be wise for companies to use the community and the power of the internet to their benefit.

    Remember that IP laws apply for a set time period and some companies can and do release much later using the same IP. Look at the new Deus Ex - released by the owner of the IP and developed by 2 sep. studios and has done quite well. The Curse of Monkey Island was recently re-done and re-released and so while it does appear some of these companies are sitting on a gold mine some do realize this and bring back some of the old favorites for a re-release.

    Keep in mind the fight here is not with the company that produced the game but rather with the publisher that owns the IP.
    Last edited by VirtualAce; 11-14-2011 at 05:36 PM.
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    Thanks for the great insights!!

    I would contact the company if I could, but the company was bought by another one that was bought by another one that was bought by another one... and now I doubt anyone in the company that owns right to the game even knows they own the rights to the game (it wasn't a very popular game I don't think).

    I think I will just distribute the game with the art for the time being, and if someone complains, switch to the converter approach (I'll have to write the converter either way anyways).

    The game doesn't have characters (it's a city-building game), which seem to be what most people identify with in a game, so I wouldn't say the art assets are too recognizable (in a marketing sense). They are just generally nice looking buildings, etc.

  4. #19
    Registered User gardhr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyberfish View Post
    Thanks for the great insights!!

    I would contact the company if I could, but the company was bought by another one that was bought by another one that was bought by another one... and now I doubt anyone in the company that owns right to the game even knows they own the rights to the game (it wasn't a very popular game I don't think).

    I think I will just distribute the game with the art for the time being, and if someone complains, switch to the converter approach (I'll have to write the converter either way anyways).

    The game doesn't have characters (it's a city-building game), which seem to be what most people identify with in a game, so I wouldn't say the art assets are too recognizable (in a marketing sense). They are just generally nice looking buildings, etc.
    As long as you don't display the graphics in such a way that the game appears to be a derivative work (see trade dress), you're fine. Looks like you've covered that, though.

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