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bbitmaster

Looking for advice on a clone of lolo that I've been working on.

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First of all, a little bit about the project, I have always loved the lolo/eggerland series on the NES and its unique style of puzzles. I haven't played any puzzle game quite like it ever. About 2 years ago, I met another person that liked it as well, and we started working on a PC clone of it. This really should have been a 3-5 month project but since I've been doing it as a hobby, and only working when away from school, and because of a few bad design decisions in coding it, I've only got about 50% of the coding work done after 1.5 years. I have the next couple of months free so I expect to get some major work done, I hope for it to be finished soon. The project has been worked on by me and 1 other guy (sivak). I pretty much did all of the programming while he did the graphics and music. Basically, I want this to be a completely freeware game, I do not plan on making any money off of it. I am working on this purely because I absolutely love the lolo series and I realize that it would look good on my resume. Here are a couple of youtube videos showing what we have.
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Here's a quick page a threw together with screenshots http://bbitmaster.com/loloscreens.html Now, my main concern is the legal issue of ripping off the lolo series. Basically here is what is copied: * Many of the graphics (mostly sprite work) are taken from a Japanese only PC eggerland game that was released in 1994 by HAL. This particular game was never released outside of Japan, however. I am unsure if there are international copyright laws protecting them. * I have personally tried to duplicate the lolo game behavior as closely as possible, and it hasn't been easy. Some of the enemies have very specific behavior in the NES game, and I ended up disassembling the ROM image and obtaining their movement logic directly from the 6502 ASM code. (I am a rom hacker from way back, and happen to have the skill to do this). To make things clear, I did not directly copy any code. I only copied the logic that the code produced. * The lolo series itself is copied in name. The project will be called "The New Adventures of Lolo" Now, this all sounds pretty bad, right? Well, let's look at the good side of all of this. * All of the music is completely original. Sivak is a skilled musician, and I personally love his work. There is one tune he made that is a remix of an eggerland tune. As far as I know, it is the only tune that has any resemblance to anything in eggerland/lolo, and he did it by ear, so I think it could be considered his original work. * The few (non-legal) friends I have talked to have assured me that since HAL of America (the company that released lolo here) is now dead, nobody will likely care to come after us. I realize that somebody owns the rights to lolo, but I am not sure who, nor am I sure how to find out. I would *guess* it would be Nintendo. But, that may not be the case since lolo was released on a few non-nintendo computer systems. (If anyone knows how to find out, please let me know). I was buying this argument for a while, because I look at other projects like zelda classic that went completely under the radar. I am posting here looking for the opinions of other game development professionals on what I should do now. If I think I can finish and release this as-is, under the radar, with little risk of getting a cease and desist letter, then I want to do so. But I have no money or time to get into any legal battle, and it would kill me to see all the work we've put into this stopped with a letter. I am just a programmer doing this as a hobby. One idea I had, and this is what I am leaning towards, is to rename the game and all of the enemies and try to find an artist to redraw all of the graphics to something original. There are two other projects that seem to have done this, both with the same name: "The Adventures of Bobo" http://www.gamedev.net/community/gds/viewentry.asp?projectid=368134 http://www.nebslilypad.com/bobo.htm I really absolutely love the current graphics though, so maybe later I could release an *unofficial* separate stand-alone mod to convert the game graphics back to what they are now, as I really love the current graphics and I am quite certain there are other lolo fans out there who want it as is. The game is designed to be easily modable so anyone can create their own levels and graphics if they wish, this mod would be nothing more than that. I am really unsure what to do from where I currently am with the project. Please help me out and give me some advice on what I should do. -bbitmaster

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Us should panic because yet another person has asked:

>Now, my main concern is the legal issue of ripping off the [name any IP universe]. Basically here is what is copied: ...
>I am really unsure what to do from where I currently am with the project.

1. Read FAQ 61 at http://www.sloperama.com/advice/faq61.htm
2. Hire an attorney and ask him to advise you. I'm serious. That's what you absolutely need to do.

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Quote:
Original post by bbitmaster
* Many of the graphics (mostly sprite work) are taken from a Japanese only PC eggerland game that was released in 1994 by HAL. This particular game was never released outside of Japan, however. I am unsure if there are international copyright laws protecting them.

* I have personally tried to duplicate the lolo game behavior as closely as possible, and it hasn't been easy. Some of the enemies have very specific behavior in the NES game, and I ended up disassembling the ROM image and obtaining their movement logic directly from the 6502 ASM code. (I am a rom hacker from way back, and happen to have the skill to do this). To make things clear, I did not directly copy any code. I only copied the logic that the code produced.

* The lolo series itself is copied in name. The project will be called "The New Adventures of Lolo"
Well it seems you've correctly identified the bad points - and the thing is, it doesn't matter how many "good" points there are, the bad points still need to be fixed.

* I don't know the details, but copyright laws have international protection, so I doubt there'd be a get-clause here. Perhaps try advertising for someone to produce some original graphics?

* No idea about disassembling.

* Can't you just call it something different?

I don't believe it's practical for people programming for fun to consult a lawyer for every single piece of code they write, but for bits which are obviously going to be problematic, you're better off fixing those issues rather than hiring a lawyer who'll just tell you exactly the same thing, i.e., that it would infringe IP.

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Original post by bbitmaster
Basically, I want this to be a completely freeware game, I do not plan on making any money off of it.
That makes no difference to the legal situation.

Quote:
Now, this all sounds pretty bad, right? Well, let's look at the good side of all of this.

There is no good side. You are infringing on someone else's copyright. You may or may not get caught. No one here can tell you how likely that is or what the results will be. It is up to the copyright holder to decide what action if any they want to take. If you're happy to infringe someone else's copyright then there isn't much we can say.

However I'm not sure why you think doing this will look good on your resume. (I assume you are talking about a games industry employment related resume, rather than just bragging rights). Protecting IP is a major issue for games companies. Both protecting their own IP and also ensuring that their employees don't infringe on someone else's. If you make your project and use it just as a portfolio piece (don't make it freely available for download), then it would be OK. However distributing something which infringes other people's IP rights isn't going to be a big plus as far as employers are concerned.

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Thanks for the replies; I really don't have the funds to hire a lawyer for something like this. As it is just a freeware fan made game, the money would come out of my pocket. I don't think a lawyer is going to tell me anything new either.

Anyway, I spent the better part of last night doing research on this subject, trying to find out, what exactly the risk is of nintendo sending a cease and desist letter. What I found suprised me. I found dozens of freeware fan made games, all of which are direct copyright infringing of other nintendo releases. What I could not find was even one confirmed instance of Nintendo shutting down even one of them.

While there are dozens of others, one project that interested me in particular was Zelda Classic. I found this interesting quote in their forum faq: (taken from http://zeldaclassic.armageddongames.net/forums.php)

Q: Does nintendo know you guys made this project?
A: Nintendo officially does not care about fan projects, as long as they are not for profit. ZC has been around for years and there are probably plenty of people telling them about it all the time, especially after being recognized on TechTV's The ScreenSavers and EGM magazine.


Other projects I found include Shadows of Lylat, Metroid Prime 2D, Ultimate Flash Sonic, Super Metroid Classic and many many more.

The only confirmed instance I could find of a freeware project that cloned a game that was released on a Nintendo system getting sent a cease and desist letter, was this Chrono Trigger 3d Remake Project. Even then, it was sent by Square-Enix and not by Nintendo.

This has actually relieved a lot of my fears. If I could find even one confirmed instance of Nintendo sending a fan made freeware project a cease and desist, then I would really be very concerned, but as it is, I cannot. From what I can tell most other game companies follow this trend as well. They don't seem to care about fan made games.

Anyway, I suppose I have 2 options

1. Make my game completely legit by renaming it and finding an artist (hopefully I'll be able to find one, I don't know anyone who is currently willing to help).

2. Finish it up and release it as a Fan Made Lolo game with little to no risk of anyone ever shutting it down.

I would still feel more comfortable if my game was 100% legitimate, so I really haven't made up my mind yet. I don't think it'll be easy to find an artist willing to put work into it for free. It is a tough decision. I'll have to give it some more thought.

bbitmaster

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HAL of America is dead. HAL Laboratories, the creators of the Eggerland/Lolo series, is alive and well. Most recently created a little-known* fighting game called "Super Smash Bros." and the Kirby games. [grin]

They still own the rights to Lolo. They still "might" send you a cease-and-desist. But I don't think that should be your biggest worry. Your biggest worry should be the fact that this is a resume/portfolio piece, and the fact that you are distributing what is essentially illegal material may actually end up costing you a job.

Graphics for a Lolo-alike are simple, and there are plenty of free sprite packs online. Or you could go the "programmer art" route and get really stylized with it... embrace your lack of art and intentionally make it a low-res homage to old-school Nintendo. Or just a rolling ball, or solid-colored boxes with a tasteful palette.

I'd highly recommend against using any stolen content. I doubt the AI algorithms would become an issue (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer), many employers may appreciate the dedication that it took to study the ROM assemblies. But the graphics and name are a big no-no, and there's no good reason you can't use original graphics.


* If you live under a rock

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Original post by bbitmaster
Thanks for the replies; I really don't have the funds to hire a lawyer for something like this.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer, you can't afford to make your little opus public.

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Looking at your videos, the game-play appears pretty polished, so my advice is this: Quite wasting your time looking for loop-holes and get an artist capable of producing original work.

It sounds as if all your "artist/musician" friend does is rip sprites, so find a real artist and demote him to just "musician".

Seriously, it looks pretty polished, and its exactly the kind of game that a sprite artist hanging around Help Wanted would be looking for. Lolo-like Graphics aren't even that complex... Hell, I consider myself a decent sprite artist where it comes to background tiles/objects (not sprites so much) but even I could pull of all the necessary graphics.

Just get original art and change the characters/title.

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.... What I could not find was even one confirmed instance of Nintendo shutting down even one of them.
Finding running projects is easy. Finding shut down ones is harder.... because they have been shut down... and believe me Nintendo have shut down lots of similar projects.

Quote:
... one project that interested me in particular was Zelda Classic. I found this interesting quote in their forum faq: (taken from http://zeldaclassic.armageddongames.net/forums.php)
And? Someone who knows nothing about IP rights and has never spoken to Nintendo claims they don't care? No surprise there. Now lets read what Nintendo actually think.... http://www.nintendo.com/corp/faqs/legal.html

Quote:
2. Finish it up and release it as a Fan Made Lolo game with little to no risk of anyone ever shutting it down.
The better your game the more likely it will get noticed and shut down. From what ravyne2001 says that would be a pity. Far better to change the graphics and be safe (and have your own IP that you may one day benefit financially from).

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