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License question, and "is this a legal clone?"

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First of all, I'll hopefully start sending out pre-alphas of my game, so I'm starting to think about what to do about the license.
The game will be free, and I'll probably release it with unencrypted lua files holding most of the game logic. But I don't plan on releasing the C++ source.
I can't really see a problem with anyone messing around with it, using my graphics for their own purposes or whatever, but maybe there's something I'm overlooking. What would be the risk of just ignoring the licensing altogether, and just have a disclaimer saying "do whatever you want"?

Secondly, the game is heavily inspired by Zelda: Link's Awakening. It uses absolutely no actual content from the game, but I've used the same perspective for the graphics, and I've used the Link sprites as a reference when creating my main character, meaning it has very similar poses and proportions. When you slash with your sword, the slash feels very similar to the original game.
Basically, everything is mine, but the inspiration is obvious (and intended to be so). I'm also adding a lot of my own gameplay into the mix though, so it's not a Great Giana Sisters-deal.
I've read the FAQ and it felt a bit unclear to me when it comes to the look and feel aspect (obviously, as that is an unclear concept). I'm not expecting a definite answer here. I've seen a lot of "If you're worried, contact a lawyer" here. All I want to know is if you see a reason for me to be worried.

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First of all, I'll hopefully start sending out pre-alphas of my game, so I'm starting to think about what to do about the license.
The game will be free, and I'll probably release it with unencrypted lua files holding most of the game logic. But I don't plan on releasing the C++ source.
I can't really see a problem with anyone messing around with it, using my graphics for their own purposes or whatever, but maybe there's something I'm overlooking. What would be the risk of just ignoring the licensing altogether, and just have a disclaimer saying "do whatever you want"?

By default (depends on country you live in, but USA,germany etc. should be ok) you own all rights to work(code) you have created yourself (but be careful about derivation, you can't simple take someone else work, modify it and declare it as your own work). Licenses are often used to lift the limitations to give others the possiblity to use your work.

When you want to deliver parts of your work as "do whatever you want" you should select one of the many licenses available. You could use a public domain license, use the zlib license (very open) or an other open source license (like (L)GPL) for your lua code. But be sure, that you really want to do it this way ( how would you react when someone would use your lua code, sells it and gets really rich with it ? ). Don't just give it away with "do whatever you want", think about liability to. Most available licenses includes atleast some words about liability.

For art I would take a look at the creative commons licenses.


Secondly, the game is heavily inspired by Zelda: Link's Awakening. It uses absolutely no actual content from the game, but I've used the same perspective for the graphics, and I've used the Link sprites as a reference when creating my main character, meaning it has very similar poses and proportions. When you slash with your sword, the slash feels very similar to the original game.
Basically, everything is mine, but the inspiration is obvious (and intended to be so). I'm also adding a lot of my own gameplay into the mix though, so it's not a Great Giana Sisters-deal.
I've read the FAQ and it felt a bit unclear to me when it comes to the look and feel aspect (obviously, as that is an unclear concept). I'm not expecting a definite answer here. I've seen a lot of "If you're worried, contact a lawyer" here. All I want to know is if you see a reason for me to be worried.

I'm not a laywer, but I know a big publisher who prefered to avoid similarity of one visual model with an other big IP. On the other hands there are many clones available, but you could be never sure if the IP owner will file in a lawsuite (zynga and city/farmville clones). It depends on the awereness of your game, the similarity, the IP owner etc.

I hate it myself, but "If you're worried, contact a lawyer", sorry :wink:

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When you want to deliver parts of your work as "do whatever you want" you should select one of the many licenses available. You could use a public domain license, use the zlib license (very open) or an other open source license (like (L)GPL) for your lua code. But be sure, that you really want to do it this way ( how would you react when someone would use your lua code, sells it and gets really rich with it ? ). Don't just give it away with "do whatever you want", think about liability to. Most available licenses includes atleast some words about liability.

For art I would take a look at the creative commons licenses.


I wouldn't mind someone making money off it, but I would mind if someone could somehow copyright my own code and invalidate my work. I might look into the licenses for that reason. I checked out GPL, but it seemed to require an open source approach, though maybe I can apply it only to the lua files somehow?


I'm not a laywer, but I know a big publisher who prefered to avoid similarity of one visual model with an other big IP. On the other hands there are many clones available, but you could be never sure if the IP owner will file in a lawsuite (zynga and city/farmville clones). It depends on the awereness of your game, the similarity, the IP owner etc.

I hate it myself, but "If you're worried, contact a lawyer", sorry :wink:


I guess you're right, I can see some parts where my game might be a bit too similar and I might change those.

Thank you.

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Oh shoot... seconds after posting that last reply I check my news feed to see that Team Meat's next game will be a Zelda clone with roguelike elements... which is pretty much exactly what my game is.:blink:

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I wouldn't mind someone making money off it, but I would mind if someone could somehow copyright my own code and invalidate my work. I might look into the licenses for that reason. I checked out GPL, but it seemed to require an open source approach, though maybe I can apply it only to the lua files somehow?

Nobody can really steal your copyright, thought it could happen to proof that you are the owner of the copyright . Eventually some people just ignore the copyright and it could be really hard and expensive to get your rights conserved.
It should not be a problem to only put parts of your game under a special license, i.e. all third party libraries you include will have its own stand-alone license and are not automatically covered by your own license. In fact it is important to account third party licenses correctly.
To avoid misstake it would be advisable to include only source code you really want to give away under a certain license, all closed code should be available as binary only and you should clearly write down which files are covered by your license.


Oh shoot... seconds after posting that last reply I check my news feed to see that Team Meat's next game will be a Zelda clone with roguelike elements... which is pretty much exactly what my game is.:blink:

Don't let yourself be demotivated by other games. Think about the wave of FPS in a modern/realistic setting, in fact they seems to be equal at first glance, but eventually they are different enough. The same accounts to other game genres, just take a look at all the rogue-like derivations available.:)

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Nobody can really steal your copyright, thought it could happen to proof that you are the owner of the copyright . Eventually some people just ignore the copyright and it could be really hard and expensive to get your rights conserved.
It should not be a problem to only put parts of your game under a special license, i.e. all third party libraries you include will have its own stand-alone license and are not automatically covered by your own license. In fact it is important to account third party licenses correctly.
To avoid misstake it would be advisable to include only source code you really want to give away under a certain license, all closed code should be available as binary only and you should clearly write down which files are covered by your license.


Alright, thank you for the advice. I'll start looking up some licenses. I recently got an artist onboard, so I'll have to make sure I don't give his stuff away by accident too. :P


Don't let yourself be demotivated by other games. Think about the wave of FPS in a modern/realistic setting, in fact they seems to be equal at first glance, but eventually they are different enough. The same accounts to other game genres, just take a look at all the rogue-like derivations available.:)


It was more of a feeling that it might mean I'm infringing more on that game than on Zelda. But then again Team Meat certainly copy things even more blatantly than I do. :cool:

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I've read the FAQ and it felt a bit unclear to me when it comes to the look and feel aspect (obviously, as that is an unclear concept). I'm not expecting a definite answer here. I've seen a lot of "If you're worried, contact a lawyer" here. All I want to know is if you see a reason for me to be worried.

How comfortable are you with risk? Obviously, you're not worried enough to contact a lawyer, but how safe do you feel with a random bunch of non-lawyers' advice? Even a lawyer will never say "you're safe, go ahead" nor "danger, don't do it." They'll tell you about the risks, and leave it up to you to determine how comfortable you are with the risk.

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How comfortable are you with risk? Obviously, you're not worried enough to contact a lawyer, but how safe do you feel with a random bunch of non-lawyers' advice? Even a lawyer will never say "you're safe, go ahead" nor "danger, don't do it." They'll tell you about the risks, and leave it up to you to determine how comfortable you are with the risk.


I realize that to some degree. But still, I can't imagine a lawyer telling me I'm not safe if I were to, say, make a game where steering is done using the arrow keys, or that has hearts as a symbol for hit points. I was hoping the description I gave of my game would be clear enough for someone to say "That's nothing to worry about" or "I'd still speak to a lawyer". Obviosuly, either I wasn't clear enough, or I'm going to have to decide how comfortable I am with risk. :)

Thank you.

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I realize that to some degree. But still, I can't imagine a lawyer telling me I'm not safe if I were to, say, make a game where steering is done using the arrow keys, or that has hearts as a symbol for hit points. I was hoping the description I gave of my game would be clear enough for someone to say "That's nothing to worry about" or "I'd still speak to a lawyer". Obviosuly, either I wasn't clear enough, or I'm going to have to decide how comfortable I am with risk. :)


There is ALWAYS risk in doing business. Even the relatively simple act of picking a business name exposes you to risk of lawsuit.

Everything you do has non-zero risk, including your button mapping. It is simply a matter of estimating the risk, estimating the cost to fix or otherwise handle problems that occur, and proceed accordingly.

For example, your button mashing example has practically zero risk; the cost to fix it through a patch or update is almost nothing if you already support such things. Consequently this isn't something to worry about.

Cloning someone's IP has a fairly high risk of being challenged and high risk of being an infringement; the cost to fix it depends on how much you rely on it and can be extremely damaging to the content of your game. Since it has high risk and high cost, you should probably avoid it unless you like spending money on lawsuits or really want to abandon your project shortly after launch and the receipt of a C&D order.

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I was hoping the description I gave of my game would be clear enough for someone to say "That's nothing to worry about" or "I'd still speak to a lawyer".

I feel I am restating the obvious: You should still speak to a lawyer.

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