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Plagiarism vs Inspiration

Published on 01/02/2012 by in gamedev

Over on Facebook today, the hardest working man in showbiz Brian Baglow kicked off an interesting debate with the following post. I don’t think he’ll mind if I re-post it here:

Cloning is fine. If it wasn’t allowed, the industry as we know it wouldn’t exist. Zynga is simply following in the great traditions of all the major games publishers who ‘draw inspiration’ from each other with almost every game… Discuss.

I admit to being conflicted on the matter myself.

It is true to say for that as long as there have been game devs, there have been game devs happy to play fast and loose with the notion of intellectual property. It has always been a murky area. After all, a clone may begin life as a sincere tribute from an enthusiastic bedroom coder. A clone may surpass and improve upon its inspiration, bringing new ideas to the table and thereby establishes its own identity. And yes, there are times when a clone is precisely what it looks like – theft.

Just spotting a clone can be tricky. On the surface, the (rather wonderful) Trials HD might be mistaken for being a lot like Kikstart or Elastomania. That’s unfair of course: they are very different games that merely share a common theme.

The free market approach is to say:

If you feel you can make a better one, go right ahead; we will let market forces decide who wins.

I agree with this view, although it causes me occasional pangs of conscience. Sometimes the better game doesn’t win out. Sometimes a small¬†dev goes under because they didn’t have the resources to fight in the courts for ownership of their work. Sometimes I just have this nagging desire to point out that, ACTUALLY, Pixelus is blatantly¬†Guru Logi Champ, and Zuma is obviously Puzz Loop.


I suppose the bottom line is that even if is basically “fine”, I don’t have to like it.
RIP Compile.
 
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