Jump to content
  • Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  
Komatsu

trade marked orc design

This topic is 840 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

Whenever I picture an orc I see the classic Blizzard Orc. Green with small pointy ears overly large square jaw and big teeth. Blizzard has used the same iconic orc design since they were doing 2d adventure games. All the way up to world of warcraft and beyond. When I see the design or people who try and create orcs I stiIl think that is classic blizzard orc. In fact its so iconic its actually hard to create a unique looking orc that doesnt look like a blizzard orc and still have it look like an orc.

 

So my question is how much of this classic orc design is copyright. Its so iconic and hard to get away from the classic blizzard orc and still consider it a orc. heck even today a orc looks strange to me if it isnt green.

Edited by Komatsu

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
Generally none of the classic orc design itself is copyrighted etc.

Companies add their own histories, design decals and naming to the orc to make it distinctive to them for example flags and banners, names of subspecies.

Games workshop for example make their futuristic space orcs unique and protected in legal terms by renaming them as orks.

In blizzard mythos, the names of historical figures, clans, leaders, places are generally trademarks, copyrighted or similar and shouldn't be used.

But, if you just make your orc green and give him pointy ears, wearing leather and fur and brandishing an axe, and call him ug the flayer, sure, you'll be OK as this iconic orc has been around since Lord of the rings, possibly earlier.

If in doubt though contact a lawyer specialising in intellectual property law.

Good luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That said, I'd suggest that you don't use Blizzard's orcs for reference material, that is to say, don't look at Blizzard's orcs while creating your orcs, and don't think about Blizzards orcs.

 

Make your orcs, yours. Or make your own creature entirely. When designing your orcs, maybe look at real-life bat photos or something, as reference material.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In my own high fantasy world the orcs are descended from cold blooded reptiles so I based their features off them. For example looking closely at their faces shows a slightly scaled skin much like a snake or lizard. Their teeth take inspiration from alligators and their hands are clawed like a lizard. I didn't want to go too reptile though, this was just a way to explain their green skin, nature and other features and make them unique to my mythos. It also ties them into a back story.

Hope this helps inspire you! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Design is copyrighted, so, basically the orc can be copyrighted too (thought it is not really design). But like a car, which design is copyrighted too, you still have 1000th of different car models with 4 wheels and green color. I'm sure that the modern green orc evolved by several artists, each getting inspired by a former artist and the first orc or goblin or whatever will be much older than blizzards orc.

 

Try to create your own orc by taking common references (bodybuilder for shape, animal references for certain features like eyes, ears, teeth etc.) and avoid taking other art as reference. The latter bears always the danger of copying design.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'd say if you don't explicitly try to make a Blizzard style orc, you should be OK. That is normally very bad advice because indeed design is copyrighted, and it makes no difference whether you explicitly tried or not. However, for orcs, I think you are pretty far on the safe side.

For example, the name orc in itself signifies that it has big protruding teeth. Ork used to mean boar (in old celtic), and boars have tusks. It's just what boars look like.
(Fun fact: there's researchers who believe that Orkney is named after seals (orkn-ay = seal-isle) but there's also researchers who believe it really descends from an old tribe's name who named itself after boars).

It is probably no coincidence that the classic D&D design of orcs had, in addition to tusks, pig-like faces.

In Beowulf, orcs ("orcneas") are described as malicious spirits related to giants on whom God took revenge for fighting him. That sounds pretty much like the Devil, doesn't it (some people suggest orc may come from orcus, so that would be... "hell creatures" or something). Thus, the more humanoid-giant facial design (rather than pig-like) with pointy ears that you see in Blizzard orcs also makes perfect sense, but is not really a novel invention or a strikingly iconic design. It's just what one would have to imagine them like, following this description.

It also makes them more similar to the common depiction of ogres (orke), which makes sense (an ogre could be seen as a kind-of-giant, too). An ogre eats humans, so it would need big teeth and a wide jaw. If orcs are relatives to ogres, they would arguably have these, too.

Now, of course, The Devil should be red, not green... but who knows. Could as well be green, or they (orcs) could be devils, not The Devil... or something. Demons, minions, whatever. Both red and green are "unearthy" enough.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Whenever I picture an orc I see the classic Blizzard Orc. Green with small pointy ears overly large square jaw and big teeth. Blizzard has used the same iconic orc design since they were doing 2d adventure games. All the way up to world of warcraft and beyond. When I see the design or people who try and create orcs I stiIl think that is classic blizzard orc. In fact its so iconic its actually hard to create a unique looking orc that doesnt look like a blizzard orc and still have it look like an orc.

 

So my question is how much of this classic orc design is copyright. Its so iconic and hard to get away from the classic blizzard orc and still consider it a orc. heck even today a orc looks strange to me if it isnt green.

 

Maybe not so helpful, but please, please, PLEASE don't call it "classical Blizzard design"... as much as Blizzard is good at balancing games (I call it "streamlining the game into a ball", but then I dislike Blizzard games), they have never really, to my knowledge, been very innovative.

 

Point in case -> Warcraft is a pretty shameless ripoff of Warhammer. Pretty much everything in the universe is from this other fantasy universe, spiced up with some more tolkien, and some other fantasy universes.

 

Its not even that I believe that Games Workshop came up with this Orc Design on their own (AFAIK, Warhammer orcs predate Warcraft orcs by at least a decade), I am pretty sure the guys at games workshop raided the work of famous, but often not-so-famous fantasy and D'n'D artists just as much as they raided the D'n'D rulesets. After all, legend is most of the founding members where big fans of Pen and Paper (not to mention how shamelessly they ripped off the concept of multiverses, chaos gods and "different shades of grey" villain/hero characters from "Elric of Melnibone").

I can only guess that the Blizzard guys where quite into Warhammer Tabletop gaming when they had to come up with their own Fantasy world.

 

 

 

To get back from my unproductive semi-rant (Blizzard does not deserve half the rant I put up there, no matter what I think of their products, they do great in the market for a reason, no matter where the ideas come from):

 

I don't think you will ever get into legal hot water for "ripping off orc design"... it is unclear who came up with the "orcs are big, green, muscular, with boar tusks" design. I don't think tolkien did (which is why it is refreshing the movies based on his work where only SLIGHTLY influenced by the newer orc imagery), but I think it emerged during the fantasy and pen and paper underground phase in the 70's... the original designer most probably is so unknown, and his work so obscure that only the greatest Pen and Paper, or Fantasy / Hard Rock geeks would know him/it (there is a big chance the design actually started life as the album cover for a hard rock or metal band).

 

 

Don't care to much about it. Care to give YOUR interpretation something unique, breath some life into it. Blizzard did so by making the orcs noble in their own way. Game Workshop did so by making them funny, in a twisted, Joker-like way. While both orcs/orks (which, by the way, is what ze germanz call ze orcs) might look similar on the outside, the mental and moral image couldn't be more different.

Games Workshop orcs and orks are cruel, twisted, but funny (for the guy not getting wacked)... they amuse us BECAUSE they are a naive, twisted comedy of our human society. And because someone is always getting the short end of the stick and dying in a horrible way.

Blizzard Orcs seem to be more a more brutal, and savage versions of the noble indian. Misunderstood by humans, but noble in its own way (correct me if I am wrong, I am not so much into Blizzard lore as I am not so much into their games).

 

You can do a lot to differentiate YOUR orcs from similar looking orcs in other games. Maybe you want to play with your audiences expectations (orcs wearing nice clothing and talking about manners and rocket science?)... maybe you would like to stay true to their expectations, but alter it somehow (like Games Workshop did by making the ork civilization mirror huma civilization, just more savage, sometimes primitive and sometimes naive)?

You could use clothing, stature (maybe your orcs CAN walk upright?), equipment (how about making them farmers instead of warriors), mindsets (maybe they are being oppressed by the mean humans?), and many other things to make your orcs distinct.

Edited by Gian-Reto

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With a few minutes of online research, "Orc" is a new thing. Tolkien created the variation in LOTR, and described them there.

 

Before that, there was Orcus, a Latin deity of the Underworld. The written poem Beowulf (the oldest known epic poem in Old English) wrote of "orcneas", which has been translated as "evil creatures". Breaking it up, Wikipedia gives a root of: orc < L. orcus "of the underworld" + neas "corpses"  Tolkien was a literature professor who obsessed over ancient epic works, so he almost certainly pulled parts from there. 

 

The OED says the transliteration "Orke/Ogre" came from French fairy tales in the 1600's.  It probably has a similar root, from Orcus of Latin fame.

 

 

Thanks to LOTR the creatures have become a staple of role playing games, as Tolkien's works made him the grandfather of modern high fantasy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With a few minutes of online research, "Orc" is a new thing. Tolkien created the variation in LOTR, and described them there.

 

Before that, there was Orcus, a Latin deity of the Underworld. The written poem Beowulf (the oldest known epic poem in Old English) wrote of "orcneas", which has been translated as "evil creatures". Breaking it up, Wikipedia gives a root of: orc < L. orcus "of the underworld" + neas "corpses"  Tolkien was a literature professor who obsessed over ancient epic works, so he almost certainly pulled parts from there. 

 

The OED says the transliteration "Orke/Ogre" came from French fairy tales in the 1600's.  It probably has a similar root, from Orcus of Latin fame.

 

 

Thanks to LOTR the creatures have become a staple of role playing games, as Tolkien's works made him the grandfather of modern high fantasy.

 

But seeing how ALL the high fantasy worlds have taken a big part of their inspiration from tolkiens tale in the best case, and blatantly ripped them off in the worst, yet there was little in IP cases enforced till today by tolkiens family or the IP holders of tolkiens works, we can assume that this has become something like a "common good" by now, like folktales or myths?

 

 

If somebody wants to have a chance in enforcing and IP (that isn't protected by a patent or trademark), he has to show something pretty unique that got blatantly ripped off. That simply isn't the case with all the modern depictions of orcs/orks, which all can be traced back to earlier versions.

 

IF somebody would trademark or patent the design (Don't know if you can patent a design really), that would be something different, but ONLY because the patent agencies are known to be incompetent to really check if a patent should be granted. Again, given that I haven't heard from ANY cases between Blizzard and GW even though both started competing in the same space (GW entered video games, Blizzard started with some board games), and both depictions of orcs are pretty similar, I am pretty sure we can assume there is no such patent or trademark (besides things like the term "Space Ork" maybe... but then, GW makes you believe they have a trademark on the term "Space Marine", yet never went on to enforce it to my knowledge even though there are many others using the same term...).

Edited by Gian-Reto

Share this post


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

  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

We are the game development community.

Whether you are an indie, hobbyist, AAA developer, or just trying to learn, GameDev.net is the place for you to learn, share, and connect with the games industry. Learn more About Us or sign up!

Sign me up!