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Lesan

Legal game principle copying

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I know there aren't lawyerss here, but I hope that someone knows something about this problem. I'll demonstrate it using an example: Let's say I'm going to make a game very similar to e.g. Age Of Mythology. It's going to be a RTS. Player is going to advance trough the ages, fighting the enemy and gaining god powers. It will just have another story, units etc. Is it legal to release such game as a freeware? Another example: Let's say Medieval Clash is a commercial game. Is it legal to do copies of it? And there are many clones of it in the world. Thanks for answers in advance.

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Disclaimer: IANALNDIPTBO (I am not a lawyer nor do I pretend to be one)

If it is an exact copy of the gameplay, down to the unit balancing and interface, you will probably have some legal issues to deal with. However, if it's just that the concept is very close and the unit types are loosely based on AoE then there shouldn't be a problem.

"Bad artists copy. Great artists steal." - Pablo Picasso

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Don't steal resources. If you reverse engeneer a game and it's gameplay without copying any artwork or gametext or other game resources, and you avoid trademark disputes (ie, using the name Empires of Ages or anything that could confuse your two products), you are pretty damn safe.

Rules and Gameplay of games are not protected by IP law in almost every area. The art assets are, the storyline is, but the gameplay itself isn't.

Now, you do have to fear "lawyer crush syndrom", where a large company can crush you like a bug if they notice you through sheer "we can afford mountains of lawyers and you can't" means. The best way to avoid this is to surrender at the first sign of being noticed.

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Quote:
Original post by NotAYakk
Now, you do have to fear "lawyer crush syndrom", where a large company can crush you like a bug if they notice you through sheer "we can afford mountains of lawyers and you can't" means. The best way to avoid this is to surrender at the first sign of being noticed.

This is the most likely legal problem you will face. It won't be an issue unless you make it an issue though... only small design changes are needed to make a "new" game.

I assume you weren't talking about stealing graphics and sound from AoE, right?

I would like to suggest, though, that clones are a disgusting hack and should be avoided. Make something new, even if it is along the same lines as AoE don't just make the minimum changes and re-release the same thing. Come up with a new way to use your units, a more interesting tech tree, and/or a clever new interface. It will make for a much more interesting and worthwhile game.

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Thanks very much for the very quick replies. I don't copy any graphics or storyline. I don't even want (at the current time) to release it into the world public. I will show it perhaps to some friends in my town.
I don't make a copy of AoE or Medieval Clash, but I use the same game principle like in Wormbook Adventures game by PopCap (popcap.com). And if I'd have some legal problems, I can always just stop the releasing, cannot I?
Thank you very much once more.

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Quote:
Original post by tsloper
FAQ 61. http://www.sloperama.com/advice/faq61.htm "So You Wanna Use Somebody's IP"


that is a GREAT website, and I agree with nearly everything on it ... at least FAQ 61 ...

but it does not in the slightest apply to the OPs question or issue. He does not want to steal anyone's IP, he wants to know if the aspects of the game in question ARE IP in the first place, and the answer is that they are not. Its that simple.

Every single core element of game design and game rules are deemed to NOT BE PROPERTY, as this was an issue brought up early in copyright / patent law. Of course back then it was clear cut, but every since the agencies went loopy and decided that software patents didn't run against the basic fabric of patent law, people have had a hard time predicting exactly what they would rule in some cases.

This case however is simple ... if you invent "Guitar Hero" ... and someone comes out with "Crossroads: challenge of the quitar gods" based very closely on your gameplay idea, you are very likely to be completely unable to do anything. You can sue over name issues (trademark), story, art, music, documentation (copyright), screen layout specifics and behavior (look and feel - but the clone must be nearly a 100% copy to fail this test), custom patented technology (if you have a patent pending before you release the game that is later granted), custom inhouse technology of any sort that is stolen through nefarious means (trade secret), or just the simple vague notion of "copying" because the work as a whole is copyright protected too ... BUT only AS A WHOLE, if even 2-5% of the little details are fundamentally different (like, starcraft has 3 damage types, we have 4) then you are your own copyright protected work (and can sue AoE if they steal your art :).

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Quote:
Original post by Lesan
Let's say I'm going to make a game very similar to e.g. Age Of Mythology. It's going to be a RTS. Player is going to advance trough the ages, fighting the enemy and gaining god powers. It will just have another story, units etc. Is it legal to release such game as a freeware?
Yes it is legal to release such a game, either as freeware or a commercial product, provided that all the assets are your own (that includes not directly copying mission structure and not making your game look too similar to the game you are inspired by).
Quote:
Another example: Let's say Medieval Clash is a commercial game. Is it legal to do copies of it? And there are many clones of it in the world.
No, this isn't acceptable. A clone (as in a direct copy) is breach of copyright. There are lots of clones out there because the company that made the original game doesn't know they exist or doesn't feel the need to take action - however that doesn't change the fact that they are a breach of copyright (and possibly Trademark).

Red Alert and Warcraft are my favourite examples of the answer to your first question. Warcraft is Red Alert but because they only used the idea (harvest resources, build buildings, buildings create units, units attack enemy) and created their own assets (code, art, mission designs, audio) their game is not a breach of copyright.

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I don't think it's as simple as whether it's a clone or not, as different elements may be treated differently.

For example, text/stories most certainly are covered by copyright - so if you were wanting to make a clone of something like a roleplaying game, this is likely to be a problem if it includes some kind of story. On the other hand, I've never heard of "rules" being copyrighted (the actual rules, not an expression of those rules), which is the main issue I imagine with RTS games.

Also it depends what we mean by "clone" - if it means taking a copy of the artwork etc, then obviously that would be illegal, but often the word is used to mean recreating a game without copying those materials.

What about FreeCiv? They're well known, have they ever had trouble for cloning Civilization?

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