• Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  

Legality of recreating MTG:O

This topic is 3611 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

I'm sure discussion about the legality of recreating video games or other intellectual content has been brought up ad infinitum. I apologize if this is old news, however, I believe this is a special case. The game, as the title suggests is Magic: The Gathering. The goal would be to recreate the online version of the table-top card game. Now, right there is the special case: we're dealing with two entities: 1) MTG - The card game 2) MTG:O - The computer game I know for certain that recreating board games is in fact legal. Just so long as certain conditions are met. For example, the board game Settlers of Catan has been recreated with no ill legal troubles. Microsoft's Settlers of Catan Online: http://zone.msn.com/en/catanonline/default.htm Freeware: http://www.jsettlers.com/ The conditions are something along the lines of: -No intellectual content can be used (pictures/descriptions) -No terminology can be used (must rename game pieces) If MTG were simply a card game (which I'm perhaps incorrectly considering a "board game"), I would feel confident suggesting someone attempt to recreate it. However, because it has an online portion, I am on curious legal ground. For the record: This would be a non-for-profit project I'm suggesting to an old friend- to challenge some of his bright students with. I'm assuming they'd want to distribute the finished project in some way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
Creating an online card game would be legal. Making any reference to MTG, their ruleset, or any of their cards would not be. Unless you had the rights to use their IP.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Microsoft didn't create the game concept... they bought the rights to use it for their online game. The jsettlers that you linked is unauthorized, though it might be getting a bit of a pass because it has its origins in published AI research:
Quote:
There have also been several unauthorized video game implementations of Settlers. One of these unauthorized versions, called "Java Settlers", was developed by Robert S. Thomas as part of his Ph.D. research at Northwestern University. A paper describing the AI research involved was published in the Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces.[8] The source code for Thomas' Settlers of Catan implementation along with the AI code was released under the GNU General Public License. At the time of this writing there are several servers running freely accessible on-line versions of the game using Thomas's code.


Long story short, though, if you are making a viable high-fidelity alternative to a game whose maker stands to lose a lot of money, you'd better have a very, very good lawyer. And it will probably ruin you, too, even if you have a very, very good lawyer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There are already unofficial MTG sites where you can get all the cardsets and play. It's better than the official MTG:O tbh...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It doesn't matter if you were making a first person shooter. If you use the name Magic: The gathering you can get into trouble. Whether there are people/groups out there currently getting away with it is irrelevant, you have to seek your own permission.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It depends on how much you're taking from MTG. If you are actually coming up with your own game with your own rule set, images, content, characters, etc., that's your own IP. If you borrow any part of MTG's artwork, rule set, story lines, designs, characters, etc., you're asking for trouble. And using the name is an absolute and resounding no.

read this and read Tom Sloper's article. The reason it's "legal" to make video games based on board games is because the creator of the board game gave permission to the developer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by curtmax_0
There are already unofficial MTG sites where you can get all the cardsets and play. It's better than the official MTG:O tbh...


That's true, too... there are unofficial ones that are quite good. Often they exist as pluggable card-game client apps, and then you download the cardsets and play with them... so in that sense they aren't really liable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Funkapotamus
I'm sure discussion about the legality of recreating video games or other intellectual content has been brought up ad infinitum. I apologize if this is old news, however, I believe this is a special case.

The game, as the title suggests is Magic: The Gathering. The goal would be to recreate the online version of the table-top card game. Now, right there is the special case: we're dealing with two entities:

1) MTG - The card game
2) MTG:O - The computer game

I know for certain that recreating board games is in fact legal.

He who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wizards has several patents on gameplay elements of Magic, as well as copyrights on all of the cards and probably on the rulebook itself. They have viciously enforced this copyright in the past against other card games. They have not, as far as I am aware, taken action against electronic versions. Those versions are still illegal, of course.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Promit
Wizards has several patents on gameplay elements of Magic, as well as copyrights on all of the cards and probably on the rulebook itself. They have viciously enforced this copyright in the past against other card games. They have not, as far as I am aware, taken action against electronic versions. Those versions are still illegal, of course.

It's the patents that make things especially problematic. Copyrights and trademark on their own cannot own a game idea, as you can redo all the artwork, rewrite your own version of the rules and avoid any of the trademarked terms. But patents protect the basic idea behind the game itself.

Apart from the patents, you'd have to be very careful to avoid any of the MtG specific terms, such as "tapping" (incidentally, I think that's one of the aspects covered in the patent: it's been a while since I've skimmed over it).

All in all, it's a concept I'd tread very carefully around. My gut feeling is that you'd be fine making your own trading card game if it was only very loosely inspired by the concepts behind Magic, but conversion is on much shakier ground and you'd need to be very, very careful to not break any IP laws. Of course, the gut feeling of some random guy off the internet isn't worth basing such a decision on...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hey cool, Sloper replied to me.

Thanks for the replies- though I think some of you were taking too many liberties with your assumptions.

I only post as a means to cover my butt. I'd rather not suggest somebody do a project that would get them in a world of trouble. However, it seems that as long as things are kept on a purely academic level, there's no harm.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've thought about making a MTG program for fun before as well, as the interlocking/overriding/constantly-expanding rule-set is a real challenge to program for!

I didn't end up completing it, as I never ended up coming up with a flexible enough design for the engine. MTG has too many cards that just make up totally crazy rules that you didn't account for!

If I had have completed it, and was going to release it online though, my plan was to release it as a plug-in based "card game emulator engine", that could potentially support MTG if other people supplied all the artwork (which I'm sure they could easily find on BT...) and created their own rule-set plugins for the engine (which is actually one of the most time-consuming parts of development!).

That way I *think* it would have shifted all of the legal blame onto the people who made the MTG plugin for my generic card-game engine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Hodgman

If I had have completed it, and was going to release it online though, my plan was to release it as a plug-in based "card game emulator engine", that could potentially support MTG if other people supplied all the artwork (which I'm sure they could easily find on BT...) and created their own rule-set plugins for the engine (which is actually one of the most time-consuming parts of development!).

That way I *think* it would have shifted all of the legal blame onto the people who made the MTG plugin for my generic card-game engine.


The "shifting blame" game doesn't really work in copyright. You can't actually shift legal blame (although you can request indemnification, typically via reps and warranty) because in a copyright infringement claim you can sue everyone who participates in the infringement, whether directly, vicariously or contributorily.

I'm all for keeping things academic, but there are better places to discuss legal theory. Like law school. Or your lawyer's office. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by madelelaw
Quote:
Original post by Hodgman
If I had have completed it, and was going to release it online though, my plan was to release it as a plug-in based "card game emulator engine"

The "shifting blame" game doesn't really work in copyright. ...you can sue everyone who participates in the infringement, whether directly, vicariously or contributorily.

This is irrelevant ;) But this hypothetical situation [[I make a platform for playing card-games, someone else extends my platform to support a copyrighted game, and I get sued]] makes just as much sense as charging the manufacturer of a base-ball bat for assault when someone gets beat up with one!!!

(except for the fact that I've now publicly admitted that my intention was to allow that copyrighted game to be played. But obviously if I had have went through with this hypothetical platform I would have made no such admissions or encouragements... leaving me with no intent to support infringement and committing no infringement myself.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Hodgman
Quote:
Original post by madelelaw
Quote:
Original post by Hodgman
If I had have completed it, and was going to release it online though, my plan was to release it as a plug-in based "card game emulator engine"

The "shifting blame" game doesn't really work in copyright. ...you can sue everyone who participates in the infringement, whether directly, vicariously or contributorily.

This is irrelevant ;) But this hypothetical situation [[I make a platform for playing card-games, someone else extends my platform to support a copyrighted game, and I get sued]] makes just as much sense as charging the manufacturer of a base-ball bat for assault when someone gets beat up with one!!!

Not really. Unless you were really careful to avoid the problem the lawyers against you will probably claim that your intent was to provide a system to duplicate the IP of their clients.

A similar thing happened to City of Heroes: they were sued by at least one of the big comic book publishers (Marvel, I think) for having players play as Marvel characters. The argument was similar: that the character creation tool hinted towards various comic book character archetypes, like giving character claws or purple shorts (I'm a bit hazy on the specifics).

The problem with legal issues is things aren't clearly black and white: there's a huge amount of grey in there too. And in this framework there's a lot of room to sue people for infringement if you feel they're getting too close to your IP. It's the reason why you really do need to get a lawyer to look over these things if you project is serious to help reduce the risk of an unnecessary lawsuit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Hodgman
Quote:
Original post by madelelaw
Quote:
Original post by Hodgman
If I had have completed it, and was going to release it online though, my plan was to release it as a plug-in based "card game emulator engine"

The "shifting blame" game doesn't really work in copyright. ...you can sue everyone who participates in the infringement, whether directly, vicariously or contributorily.

This is irrelevant ;) But this hypothetical situation [[I make a platform for playing card-games, someone else extends my platform to support a copyrighted game, and I get sued]] makes just as much sense as charging the manufacturer of a base-ball bat for assault when someone gets beat up with one!!!

(except for the fact that I've now publicly admitted that my intention was to allow that copyrighted game to be played. But obviously if I had have went through with this hypothetical platform I would have made no such admissions or encouragements... leaving me with no intent to support infringement and committing no infringement myself.)


Yeah, it definitely worked out that way for Grokster. Plausible deniability is only really effective if it is plausible. Here, it isn't-- the platform is designed to function as an online MTG, it's suggested that infringement will occur, so even if there is no actual knowledge there would be sufficient constructive knowledge to assert liability.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by madelelaw
Yeah, it definitely worked out that way for Grokster. Plausible deniability is only really effective if it is plausible. Here, it isn't-- the platform is designed to function as an online MTG, it's suggested that infringement will occur, so even if there is no actual knowledge there would be sufficient constructive knowledge to assert liability.

Comparing this to Grokster is a bit harsh! You're misrepresenting my hypothetical platform there! I think I mustn't have explained myself properly...

In my hypothesis, the platform is designed to play card games, such as blackjack, poker, hearts. There is no link to MTG at all, overt or covert. It would be distributed with art and rule-set for public-domain games only, and this would be it's intended purpose.

The only link to MTG (and every other card game out there!) is that it could "potentially support MTG if other people supplied all the artwork and created their own rule-set plugins for the engine".

So as far as I can tell, it would be as illegal as tools like Game Maker are...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In that case, wouldn't the blame simply be shifted from the card game developer, to the party that created the plugin?

If someone makes a Half-Life mod that spoofs Halo, then Valve wouldn't get in trouble. I suppose that's why makers of such tools offer disclaimers and license agreements. Such that you can use their app and tools to create whatever you like, so long as you're not stepping on something else's toes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Funkapotamus
However, it seems that as long as things are kept on a purely academic level, there's no harm.
But you said it would be distributed.


Quote:
Orignal post by Hodgman
I've thought about making a MTG program for fun before as well... my plan was to release it as a plug-in based "card game emulator engine", that could potentially support MTG if other people supplied all the artwork (which I'm sure they could easily find on BT...) and created their own rule-set plugins for the engine (which is actually one of the most time-consuming parts of development!).


This already exists, and has very thorough MtG support through plugins. It's best feature is that you can download entire libraries of every card ever made, and you can use this to design and test decks before hunting down or purchasing the cards you need.

Of course, you can also play MtG with it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement