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Remaking an old game - Ethical?

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I love playing PBBGs (persistant browser based games). There is an old (5-6+ years) game written using basic HTML/PHP that I feel like remaking using the HTML5/Javascript that I have learned.

I will also be redoing the game mechanics to take advantage of the new programming tools. E.g. HTML5 allows the webserver to push updated game states to browser without a refresh/request. And also using my own game design ideas. The name and story will also be different. But the theme and premise is basically the same.

Is this ok? Or considered unethical/plagiarism of another developer's game design?

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I'll leave it to Tom Sloper to direct you to his excellent FAQ (specifically, entry #61), but as a little advance spoiler: It's not a good idea to do such a thing if you own a shirt that you're wearing.

The question is not whether it's "ethical" but whether you'll be dragged to court. If it's an obvious clone of someone's IP, and you are not totally unsuccessful and never heard of, chances aren't bad for that to happen.

In any case, abstain from using the original name or a name that sounds confusingly similar, and abstain from making something that "looks and feels" identical or nearly so. It is often "OK" to borrow some ideas as long as they are not patented (most games borrow something from somewhere), but it is never "OK" to "borrow" a name or allege a competitive product with the "original" in some way. Edited by samoth

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I don't know the details but I would not consider this unethical or stealing. My most important tip is to not hide it. Say you were inspired by X.

It's almost impossible to make a new game/movie today with a new theme and premise.

My experience is also that 90% of the PBBGs is the same game reskinned.

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I don't see how this is a question of ethics or morality. Remaking or copying a game can get you sued. Making a game inspired by another game is different. You can still get sued, if you use another game's graphics or audio or code, or violate somebody's patent, copyright, or trademark. Or if someone thinks you did.

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I will also be redoing the game mechanics to take advantage of the new programming tools. E.g. HTML5 allows the webserver to push updated game states to browser without a refresh/request. And also using my own game design ideas. The name and story will also be different. But the theme and premise is basically the same.

Is this ok? Or considered unethical/plagiarism of another developer's game design?


IMO, from what you've said you are in relatively safe territory depending on how close you stick to the original... think of the variety of fantasy themes and sub-genres there are, for example, or how many stories start with a boy/girl that turns out to be the "chosen one". But it's always safer to inject your own ideas to move away from a direct clone, and that goes for setting, story, graphics, etc, etc.

Think of it this way: you are making a game inspired by X, not remaking X.

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This topic came up just recently, where an open source copy of Terry Cavanagh's Super Hexagon was cloned (called Open Hexagon). Worst part is that the open source version beat Terry to release. The open source dev requested permission to make a game inspired by Terry's, and Terry explicitly asked for it to not be a clone. But the end result according to Terry is a clone.

This could get messy.

Rock Paper Shotgun article: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/11/20/pc-tested-cavanagh-approved-open-hexagon/

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no, i think this is fine as long as the game is old enough. As an example, look up to the moon on steam. Its a remake of horizons from the 80s

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no, i think this is fine as long as the game is old enough.


That's bad legal advice. If the "remake" is recognizeably a clone of the original, even if the original game is from the 1970s, someone still owns that IP and could sue.

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no, i think this is fine as long as the game is old enough. As an example, look up to the moon on steam. Its a remake of horizons from the 80s


The mistake here is in assuming is that because someone is currently getting away with it, it's okay to do. Tom Sloper might remember a specific example, but there's been cases where the Intellectual Property rights have changed hands and hobby projects based on that IP that had previously been left alone were immediately shut down (by the new IP holders).

If you make an infringing clone, it might be days or months or years, or never before the IP holder finds you... but why take the risk when it's pretty easy (and fun) to add and change things?

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Those games are nothing new to begin with. They resemble old BBS door games that existed 20-30 years ago. Legend Of The Red Dragon, Dope Wars, TradeWars, etc... LORD has even been re-implemented as an open source PBBG called LotGD (http://lotgd.net/about.php). You could start there.

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