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You just copied <Insert game name here>!

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Usually I poke into the creative forums more than anywhere else, but I thought this didn't quite fit as its more ... 'game politics' in nature.

I mean there has always been a wave of 'This is a Doom clone' to 'This is a Wow clone' cried out about any FPS or MMO since the 90's, a lot of it I roll my eyes at and ignore. Admittedly there are occasionally blatant clones (although the only one I can think of is the chinese phone version of 'not' Overwatch).

I have a ways to go before I really worry about this, I'm still learning the ropes at the moment, but how worried should one be that their project 'infringes' on an existing game? I mean the idea I'm tumbling around in my head is "I like X, but I think X would be better if done with more Y" (In this case Space Engineers and the concept of first person'ish spaceship construction).

Obviously I can see the issue if I simply created something that functioned just like (or worse, like an inferior version of) Space Engineers and called it .... Star Technicians, a pure replica so to speak. I would rightly be called out on it. But how close is to close? If I try for the same basic concept with differences in approach am I still 'copying'?

I guess what I'm saying is yes, there will always be those who will say Y is copying X, but on the level of developer to developer is there respectful boundary on ideas and concepts that is good to follow?

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Well, my feeling towards the issue of games being "WoW Clone" etc and how to differentiate is based on really only a few features.

A big one being Aesthetics, is the game art style the same / similar to other games in the genre, if you differentiate the art style the game instantly looks and feels a lot less like a clone of the other games in the genre.

One of the other issues is Story (or lack thereof), are you going for a purely sandbox style game with little or no story? is that how the other games you are trying to improve upon work? If there is already a well established pure sandbox style of game, a similar pure sandbox game can often seem very clone like just of the fact the way you play is pretty much the same.

and then the 3rd issue is the mechanics of the game / features. Does your game work is the same way as the other game, are the buildings / rooms / items the same / function in the same way? Does your game have something innovative to make it stand out that the other games are lacking?


In terms of exactly "how close is too close" - the barrier really shifts on a per player basis so its never going to be an exact science, but if you keep the art style something of your own instead of trying mimic the other games, you focus on creating your own story elements / events (if sandbox style) and work on creating a couple of features (it really can only be a handful) that make your game unique, they then become the selling point / focus of the game and it will usually get seen as being its "own thing" instead of being a "clone"

Looking back at an example, "Minecraft" and "Terarria" - when it first came out Terarria was overall a fairly similar game to Minecraft, though they did have a lot of features they wanted to (and did) add that make the game very different in the end, the initial release though was fairly similar though the 2d art style and the different buildings / npc interactions really made it different enough to stand alone as a game, and then the features added really made it a strong difference.

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A big one being Aesthetics, is the game art style the same / similar to other games in the genre, if you differentiate the art style the game instantly looks and feels a lot less like a clone of the other games in the genre.

I think this is the first that jumps out on people. Some games copy the Blizzard art styles, and even though it could be a completely different game, they can't help to think that it looks like a Blizzard game. IIRC, there was a game that looks like WC3, and I thought it was a WC3 mod.

The mechanics come second as it takes some keen players to notice it. Many players dont pay attention to the design of the game they are playing, they just play. Game developers do, but they'd probably have to play it to notice it. Edited by alnite

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But how close is to close? If I try for the same basic concept with differences in approach am I still 'copying'? I guess what I'm saying is yes, there will always be those who will say Y is copying X, but on the level of developer to developer is there respectful boundary on ideas and concepts that is good to follow?


Moving this to the Business and Law forum, where "how close is too close" has been
discussed many times. See the FAQs.

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Short answer: If it's close enough for people to notice, it's too close. 

 

Long(ish) answer: There are a broad range of IP claims someone can raise against a potential copy, ranging from Copyright and trademark to patent and unfair competition. Each of these laws have limitations as to how much an IP holder can claim for protection, so IP owners have to take care in what they pursue from a legal perspective. There's also the fact that some copies, like certain fan products, help the brand more than hurt it. 

For copyright, there's a recent article that gives some guidance on copying and enforcement from Withrop & Weinstein. 

It's wonderfully concise. 

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