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RavenITA

Clones of a classic game

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What would be the legal steps to produce a clone of a classic game? Take Tetris, or Monopoly. There are lots of free clones (I'm especially thinking of the various clones of Civilization, SimCity...), so I think it can actually be done. What would I need to change? For example, can I make a Monopoly game with the exact same rules and the exact same board layout? Fictional names for properties would suffice? Do I also have to change the rules? To me, this is kind of a gray area: while it's clear that the Monopoly logo is a copyrighted trademark, is it the same with the Jail? Also, I think it would be a different story to clone a computer game or a board game. With the latter, there are no troubles with digital assets.

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What you think is irrelevant; what you see other people doing apparently without legal intervention is irrelevant. What matters is what the law says. Read this.

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The article clarifies a couple of points, but is still a bit vague (which is probably on the safe side when discussing legal matters...). I've found a lot of suggestions like "don't use their IP", but how far do IP rights go?

For example, say I make a game where players wander around a city or a region and walk into buildings, factories, land lots; they may, if they wish, buy them and manage the existing facilities, or build new ones. No "houses" or "hotels"; the player could decide to build, say, a petroleum refinery, which may bring him good money but decrease the land value. Properties could be sold and traded and so off.

Now, this sounds close to Monopoly, but with different twists and implementation. My question is: how different is "different enough"? Would it be enough if players moved around based on something different from a dice throw? Would it be enough if players stopping on a property didn't have to pay the rent? What if I made a feature called "Cartel", like: own five facilities of the same type to increase their productivity - would that be too similar to Monopoly's "get all four stations"?

I know that the specifics of my design would have to be discussed concretely and in a detailed manner, but I just wanted to get an indication, and I'm using Monopoly as a concrete example. Another example would be: what about porn Tetris? It uses the game mechanics of Tetris - I suppose that would qualify as an infringement?

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Original post by RavenITA
The article clarifies a couple of points, but is still a bit vague (which is probably on the safe side when discussing legal matters...). I've found a lot of suggestions like "don't use their IP", but how far do IP rights go?

Read http://sloperama.com/advice/faq61.htm

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Original post by RavenITA
The article clarifies a couple of points, but is still a bit vague (which is probably on the safe side when discussing legal matters...). I've found a lot of suggestions like "don't use their IP", but how far do IP rights go?

For example, say I make a game where players wander around a city or a region and walk into buildings, factories, land lots; they may, if they wish, buy them and manage the existing facilities, or build new ones. No "houses" or "hotels"; the player could decide to build, say, a petroleum refinery, which may bring him good money but decrease the land value. Properties could be sold and traded and so off.

Now, this sounds close to Monopoly, but with different twists and implementation. My question is: how different is "different enough"? Would it be enough if players moved around based on something different from a dice throw? Would it be enough if players stopping on a property didn't have to pay the rent? What if I made a feature called "Cartel", like: own five facilities of the same type to increase their productivity - would that be too similar to Monopoly's "get all four stations"?

I know that the specifics of my design would have to be discussed concretely and in a detailed manner, but I just wanted to get an indication, and I'm using Monopoly as a concrete example. Another example would be: what about porn Tetris? It uses the game mechanics of Tetris - I suppose that would qualify as an infringement?


As for the monopoly example you can get fairly close, basically you are free to borrow ideas, only the actual implementation is protected, You might want to look around for boardgames that are similar to monopoly and also compare those with some of the licensed variations of monopoly.

It is not enough to just rename the properties and other elements of the game though.

When it comes to tetris its best to be careful, the company owning the IP is fairly litigation happy, falling blocks is fine, just don't make a carbon copy of tetris gameplay or use a similar name. (You probably wish to avoid using their block shapes etc) , The same goes for civilization and sim city clones. (Freeciv could possibly be in legal trouble while for example Master of Magic is in the clear)

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Thanks, both of you. The FAQ was very explicit in ruling out all kinds of assets; the bad news is that IP rights on gameplay and rules are anyway a complex question.

I would also like to hear your opinion on a real case. An Italian company (which I won't name, though you probably know it) makes racing games since more than ten years. In a game that was released around five years ago, they introduced a feature they called "Tiger effect": during a race, if you had enough "energy", you could rewind the race, going back a few seconds so that you could get a second chance. Now this feature is included in many racing games, from Dirt 2 to NFS:Shift to MotoGP 09/10 (a direct competitor, by the way). Don't all of the other developers steal an IP of the original inventor?

Also, they made a game that was never released, featuring the gameplay of current games like Blur or Split/Second; does it make a difference that the game was never publicly released?

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Original post by RavenITA
In a game that was released around five years ago, they introduced a feature they called "Tiger effect": during a race, if you had enough "energy", you could rewind the race, going back a few seconds so that you could get a second chance. Now this feature is included in many racing games, from Dirt 2 to NFS:Shift to MotoGP 09/10 (a direct competitor, by the way). Don't all of the other developers steal an IP of the original inventor?

No that is not IP, that is an idea. Anyone can copy the idea, but they would have to write their own code. If they copied the actual game code, then that would be IP infringement.

The developer might be able to patent the implementation of the idea (as SEGA did with part of Crazy Taxi) but that would be the only way to protect it.

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Original post by Obscure
No that is not IP, that is an idea. Anyone can copy the idea, but they would have to write their own code. If they copied the actual game code, then that would be IP infringement.

The developer might be able to patent the implementation of the idea (as SEGA did with part of Crazy Taxi) but that would be the only way to protect it.


Interesting - then why making a Tetris clone is illegal? I mean, I take the "idea" of falling blocks that fill the screen and may be eliminated with skillful playing, and I re-implement it on my own. But, this is illegal; the tiger effect is not.

How far would the IP rights go on a "Trivial Pursuit"-like game? A question game with categories you have to master before winning, is using an "idea" or an intellectual property?

Don't get me wrong, I know I may sound like I want to be right at all costs; I'm just trying to understand. I know that the matter is complex and I appreciate the time you're taking to explain it :-)

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I'm not a lawyer or a law student. I learned about Italian copyright laws in a University course a couple of years ago, so I may be wrong.

The tiger effect is just a single element of the game, while in Tetris you are copying the whole concept. Let consider novels instead. You can copy some small elements of the story, but if you create an identical story you can get troubles. Italian Law is quite different than USA one though. Softwares are considered similar to books and only the implementation and the artistic resources are copyrighted. We have never really updated our laws to consider computer programs. You can't patent software in Italy (neither in the rest of Europe I think). Anyway, you can always ask to a lawyer if you have doubts.

But if you want to sell your game, you have to make it unique and different. Why should someone buy your game if there is another equal? You can copy some elements from other games, but just make it different.

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Original post by RavenITA
Interesting - then why making a Tetris clone is illegal?

Because to make Tetris you need to include the same blocks and the art of Tetris would be protected by Copyright. If you made a game about falling fruit that needed to be arranged into patterns that would be fine. It is perfectly possible to implement a system like the Tiger System is a game without copying any of the art or graphics. In fact you could probably implement it into a game that wasn't even a driving game.



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