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safe to release freeware games that mimic another game?

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I'm sure this has been asked a bunch of times, but searching and a quick glance 3 pages deep I didn't find anything right away... atleast not answer.

For a couple friends of mine, I put together this horrible looking version of "magic : the gathering". it pretty much uses the exact same mechanics, just alot more variation (ie with a little tweaking driz made a new mana type, souls/evil, and cards that specifically play off that mana type), and different names.

Id love to release it to the public, for all those mod junkies and people that love magic, but want something different. Though I'm 99.9% sure it goes against the copyright of magic the card game, as it looks and plays exactly like it. Is there still danger of releasing it for free... even the slightest.

Feels weird trying to be legit on the internet.

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Yes, I think this would be illegal. Something that indicates this would not be 'Fair Use' is that your game would hinder sales of the cards - if someone wanted to play Magic: The Gathering they'd download your game for free instead of buying the actual cards. 

If you want to play this with your friends, don't publish it. 

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The parts of Magic that are copyrighted are the images and the text.

If you use different wording (names for things, etc) and different images, and your game play is even a little different (which could be a grey area), then you should be safe to release it for free, or even sell it.

If you use ANY graphics or descriptions/wording from their cards, you are in extreme violation of copyright, whether you release it for free or sell it.

If you want to be safe, you shouldn't even use "mana" or whatever other terms they use, and you should move around the orientation of the different pieces of information on the card a little (layout can be copyrighted if it's not purely functional).

I hope that helps, best of luck!

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I disagree on the idea of not using "mana" for your game. That should be fine. Several games, card and otherwise, make use of mana, referring to it as such. TCGs in general play off a few things: Graveyard/Discard pile, Deck/Library, Card Art, Name, Play Cost, Ability Cost, Health, Mana/Energy, Attacking, Defending, and Spells. Changing names and card art would help, but also remember that keeping everything else about a card the same would raise some flags that a card is just like a MTG card. Change the icons for the colors of magic, and rename them. White=Light, Blue=Water, Black=Dark, Red=Fire, Green=Nature, Grey(Artifact)=Metal, or something of that sort.

EDIT: Library in retrospect might not be a good idea. Not sure if any other game uses that.

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Yes, you can use similar gameplay in your own game. Otherwise, there would only be one RTS on this planet. However, you may not use images, names, text, music, etc from the other game. You must use your own original content and story. But don't go advertising "This is a clone of X", because that could potentially create some liability.

Common English words can be used without fear. Proper nouns, names, etc are likely copyrighted, so you'll have to come up with your own.

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While the above responses are by and large correct, the answer to the question "safe to release freeware games that mimic another game?" is "no." You're never "safe" in business. The MtG folks still might possibly come after you.

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Well none of my cards are what you'd see in magic, I made them all up. Though there might be some that are pretty similar. They all use the same type of stats and rules to play the game. Though I'm not too familiar with the game "FreeCiv", it always looked like a complete copy of Civilization II, just with a more intuitive UI and higher resolution. But I'm not sure if it has anything to do with Firaxis, I thought not.

Guess ya got to know me to play it for now.

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