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Styx
2011-Nov-05, 08:50 AM
So I made a game that looks like Pac Man. It is a Pac Man clone to be fair. But with a different name. Now here is the thing I made this game from the ground up myself. It even plays better than the official Pac Man game according to user reviews. So I put the game up on Android market for sale. A few weeks later Namco forces me out without any warning or explanation whatsoever. Is this right ? Judge for yourself from the screenshots

See my game (http://slideme.org/application/pac-droid-hd) and the Namco Pac Man (https://market.android.com/details?id=com.NamcoNetworks.international.PacMan) game for comparision. It's frankly ridiculas. By their reasoning someone with enough could claim ownership of Tic Tac Toe or Chess and throw everyone else who made a Tic Tac Toe or Chess game out.

My game looks nothing like the Namco Pac Man Android game. I am not pirating their product. I built my own Pac Man game. What Namco is saying is that they own the Pac Man gameplay concept. It's a nonsense idea that has been applied by other people with $$ and lawyers. For example they forced out most of the Tetris games from Android market. Their reasoning ? The concept of matching falling geometric shapes is their property.

Is this fair ? Can gameplay concepts be owned like this ?

HenrikOlsen
2011-Nov-05, 10:14 AM
Getting the idea for good game play is the hard thing, implementation is easy.

This is exactly the reason why intellectual property rights exists.

Strange
2011-Nov-05, 10:46 AM
So I made a game that looks like Pac Man. It is a Pac Man clone to be fair. But with a different name. Now here is the thing I made this game from the ground up myself.

I wrote a book that is just Harry Potter. I called it Barry Snotter and wrote all the words myself. Is that fair?


Judge for yourself from the screenshots

Yep. Yours looks like a pac-man rip off.


What Namco is saying is that they own the Pac Man gameplay concept.

Yep. They do.

What if it was the other way round; you wrote a really novel game that was hugely successful and then you found the Android market was full of copies? Would that be fair? Wouldn't you like some way to stop other people ripping off your idea and stealing your income?


It's a nonsense idea that has been applied by other people with $$ and lawyers.

And when you have your own idea you can use the same laws to protect it (it doesn't cost that much).


Is this fair ? Can gameplay concepts be owned like this ?

Of course it is fair. Stealing someone's idea is theft.

pzkpfw
2011-Nov-05, 11:02 AM
Sorry but, while you have the software skills, you still need to come up with an original idea.

(Or use an idea that's very old, already cloned many many times, and then tweak it enough (maybe using ideas from several sources) that no-one can claim ownership. "Angry Birds" has sold lots...)

John Jaksich
2011-Nov-05, 11:37 AM
Although this may sound somewhat controversial--to some--there is some merit to it!

IMO---in order to have original ideas, one could have the "Me too" --approach that you have seemingly done too well. or


While you are learning to create - a new idea---learn to use your right hemisphere of your brain.




In short----> while learning a to play the piano or some type of "art"---try to craft your invention skills.

grapes
2011-Nov-05, 02:23 PM
Judge for yourself from the screenshots

See my game (http://slideme.org/application/pac-droid-hd) and the Namco Pac Man (https://market.android.com/details?id=com.NamcoNetworks.international.PacMan) game for comparision. It's frankly ridiculas. By their reasoning someone with enough could claim ownership of Tic Tac Toe or Chess and throw everyone else who made a Tic Tac Toe or Chess game out.

My game looks nothing like the Namco Pac Man Android game.I'm a little confused by this. It looks a lot like the same, to me, from the pages at those links. Are the links right? I didn't go any further, but the screen shots at the first link look a lot like the old pac man boards.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Nov-05, 02:26 PM
Is this fair ?

Of course it is fair.


Can gameplay concepts be owned like this ?

Of course they can. How can you doubt it? It would be extremely unfair if you couldn't own your own creative idea.

peteshimmon
2011-Nov-05, 06:54 PM
Wait a minute wait a minute. Was there
not a big tiff about Gooeys a while ago?
Someone was peeved then!

(Graphical User Interface. I do pick
somethings up).

jokergirl
2011-Nov-07, 12:37 PM
There's a difference in big SW companies (not naming names, but we all know who they are) claiming rights to basic GUI elements and a game producer actually owning the concept to a complete game that they evented.
Think of it as the difference between claiming rights to a "nail-like device or any device that may function like a nail" and claiming rights to, say, LEGO or Mekano.
Please don't muddle the waters any further, software patents are an annoying topic as it is without people going left and right claiming unfair to fair principles and fair to unfair ones.

(though of course I would like to know when the patent for Pac-Man runs out, hasn't it been quite long now?)

;)

Strange
2011-Nov-07, 01:36 PM
(though of course I would like to know when the patent for Pac-Man runs out, hasn't it been quite long now?)

It is probably protected by a combination of trademark and copyright. If there were any patents they would probably have expired by now.

grapes
2011-Nov-07, 01:40 PM
(though of course I would like to know when the patent for Pac-Man runs out, hasn't it been quite long now?)
Pac-Man's been around for thirty years, but it's probably copyright or trademark rights that are being asserted here. They have a lot longer term than patents, I think.

ETA: As Strange notes, above. :)

Strange
2011-Nov-07, 01:47 PM
Trademarks are effectively for ever, as far as I know, given certain caveats like keeping them in use, preventing them becoming genericized, making reasonable efforts to protect them (which is at least part of the motivation for the letter in this case) etc.

I have less experience with copyright and it varies with territory, medium, etc. I think in the US it is lifetime of the creator + 70 years but that may be out of date.

Fazor
2011-Nov-07, 02:28 PM
And 'Pac-Man' is certainly a (tm) that they keep in use. As for the gameplay itself, it's probably generic enough that if you change the graphics to not completely resemble the original IP, and also change the name so that it doesn't play off of that (tm), then you should be able to sell it.

For a good example of how to rip off a game without breaching copyright, just look up about anything that GameLoft publishes.

I'm certainly against over-use of IP protection (See: Bethesda sueing Notch, of Minecraft, to halt the use of the name 'Scrolls' for an upcoming game, based off the copyright for "The Elder Scrolls" series.) In this particular case, I'd have to side with the Pac Man rights holders, which apparently are Namco.

boppa
2011-Nov-11, 01:46 PM
So I made a game that looks like Pac Man. It is a Pac Man clone to be fair. But with a different name. Now here is the thing I made this game from the ground up myself.

the last bit is the bit that counts...



`I built a 4 wheel mode of transport that requires petrolium products in an internal combustion motor to move- I call it a bmw'

ford calls foul and wants all bmws banned immediately...

IF he has built the code from beginning to end- it IS his own to do with as he pleases- just because `ford' built a 4 wheel petrolium propelled vehicle- doesnt mean anyone else CANT...

but if `ford' screws over the little guy simply because `might is right' even tho they dont actually have a legal case??

that only shows the fact that the underlying system is wrong from the word go...

(my rebuttal is that who can tell the difference between a ford., toyota or holden from the back end- or does this only apply to the `little guy'??)

`obviously' is the answer in some greed ridden systems...

this is why the capitalist system is no better (and in some cases can be a lot worst) than any other system...

thankfully it is self destructing as we speak- and a lot of people will have a lot to think about..

edit to correct spullin

Strange
2011-Nov-11, 02:08 PM
the last bit is the bit that counts...

Of course it isn't. Imagine you are a struggling musician and you finally get a hit record. Before you can start making any money from it, another band comes along and records their (better!) version of it so you don't get the recognition or rewards from your creative genius. But you think that's OK because they played all the notes themselves?

It is OK for me to sell my books about Barry Snotter at Pighorts because I wrote all the words myself?

It is nothing to do with the "big guy"; in fact IP laws are probably more important for protecting the little guy. The reason I used to work in IP is because we were a very small company that needed protection from the multi-billion dollar companies in the same area.

If the OP had actually done something original and successful, shouldn't he have the rights to stop the big software companies (or even other amateur programmers) stealing his money?

boppa
2011-Nov-11, 02:17 PM
so if it looks like a car- and drives like a car- the fact that he designed his OWN car- and put his own labour into building it- doesnt count??

strange world you live in..

me if I build my own car from the ground up- the fact it has a petrol motor and 4 wheels and 4 doors- doesnt mean I copied someone elses car just because it `looks like someone elses'

if the coding is unique- then regardless of visual appearance - it is the coders own property...

Paul Beardsley
2011-Nov-11, 02:28 PM
so if it looks like a car- and drives like a car- the fact that he designed his OWN car- and put his own labour into building it- doesnt count??

strange world you live in..

me if I build my own car from the ground up- the fact it has a petrol motor and 4 wheels and 4 doors- doesnt mean I copied someone elses car just because it `looks like someone elses'

if the coding is unique- then regardless of visual appearance - it is the coders own property...

False analogy and just plain wrong.

Strange
2011-Nov-11, 02:38 PM
The car analogy is really bad. There is no creativity in a generic car; as you say, anyone can build one. And if you started selling copies of specific Ford models then they would have evry right to stop you stealing their design. And, again, nothing to do with the big guys of the little people; the same would be true if you ripped off the design from a small niche car maker that employs half a dozen people.

But suppose you spent many years and all your savings to invent a novel type of engine that was much more efficient (or quieter or whatever). Would you be happy for Ford or Mitsubishi or whoever else to just take the idea and use it, depriving you of any benefit? Buy you logic, that's OK because they built their engines themselves.

OF course, maybe you don't think inventiveness, hard work, creativity, and investing time and money deserve any reward. But learning some routine skills so you can exploit other people's inventiveness, hard work, creativity, and investment does. Funny old world.

Fazor
2011-Nov-11, 02:39 PM
False analogy and just plain wrong.
Agreed.

The OP example isn't building a BMW and being sued by Ford. It's Building a BMW and being sued by BMW because they already make that car.

A big part of the law is to keep someone from profiting off of someone else's identity. Look at the game in the OP. How is that *not* profiting off the popularity of the original gluttonous yellow chomper?

Like I said; it really doesn't take much to get away with producing a 'clone' of someone else's game in the software world. Again; take a look at some of Gameloft's offerings. But the title in the OP *is* Pac-Man, even if the code behind it was written from scratch.

boppa
2011-Nov-11, 02:54 PM
I'm afraid I will have to disagree to disagree here

if he spent time making his own coding- then he should be allowed to use it-
IF he had simply `ripped off the ford' ie copied the existing code, and changed a few bits (ie painting the ford yellow instead of red)- then I would agree with you- but the fact he spent his own time writing the code- makes that code HIS

just because his toyota looks like a ford- doesnt mean it is just cause it has the same same shape and has 4 wheels...

Fazor
2011-Nov-11, 02:58 PM
So, you can rip off ideas, gameplay mechanics, design, and even name, so long as the code is original? That's simply not how it works.

Now if you excuse me, I'm off to pen my latest graphic novel - Batguy. So long as I take the time to draw my superhero myself, it's perfectly legal. Even if he looks the exact same as Batman. Right?

Strange
2011-Nov-11, 03:06 PM
I'm afraid I will have to disagree to disagree here

if he spent time making his own coding- then he should be allowed to use it-
IF he had simply `ripped off the ford' ie copied the existing code, and changed a few bits (ie painting the ford yellow instead of red)- then I would agree with you- but the fact he spent his own time writing the code- makes that code HIS

just because his toyota looks like a ford- doesnt mean it is just cause it has the same same shape and has 4 wheels...

Stop using that irrelevant car analogy. What about a creative work? Or don't they exist in your world?

It doesn't matter how much time he spent writing the code. I'm sure a good forger (of banknotes or artworks) will spend a very long time getting the details right. Does that make it OK?

NEOWatcher
2011-Nov-11, 03:12 PM
The car analogy is really bad. There is no creativity in a generic car; as you say, anyone can build one.
Yes; I think the analogy is way to general.
But; if you want to use a car analogy, I'm sure you can find plenty of examples of "look and feel" issues between companies even though they developed the designs themselves.

The on that I can think of of the top of my head is when Chrysler was suing GM because of the look of the Hummer grill was too much like a Jeep.

I can't remember how that turned out, but one of the catches was both companies inherited the grill look from AMC.

boppa
2011-Nov-11, 03:17 PM
IMHO its only irrelevant because it goes aganst your arguments...

I really cant understand the (mostly us centric) ideas that come up here- if it was a `new' idea being stomped on in this fashion- it wouldnt even be an issue..

it seems (as appears to me) that its ok to work for yourself and spend your time doing something- unless its something `owned' by a big business entity- in which case its bad you spent that time and effort doing something..

`huh?'

whatever- it seems that the original writer is apparently `the new bad guy'

so I'll leave you to wallow in your own stock madness

IsaacKuo
2011-Nov-11, 03:20 PM
Is this fair ? Can gameplay concepts be owned like this ?

Obviously, you are not familiar with the legal history of Pacman. In 1982, Atari sued Philips (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munchkin_(video_game)) over K.C. Munchkin, a game similar to Pacman (but NOT a direct clone). This successful lawsuit set the precedent--not only that gameplay concepts could be owned, but also the extent to which minor modifications would be inadequate.

Since this historic ruling, there have of course been many videogames. Many of those videogames have been cloned also, and in most cases no one bothered suing anyone about it.

But Pacman? Pacman is the Mickey Mouse of videogames. You rip off that one at your own peril.

Strange
2011-Nov-11, 03:25 PM
IMHO its only irrelevant because it goes aganst your arguments...

You fail to address the argument. You just keep repeating your assertion that it is OK to steal other peoples creativity, hard work and income.



it seems (as appears to me) that its ok to work for yourself and spend your time doing something- unless its something `owned' by a big business entity- in which case its bad you spent that time and effort doing something..

It is nothing to do with "big business".

Don't you think that a new up-and-coming songwriter should be protected from having his work ripped off by the big music companies?

If the OP had written a new game, shouldn't he be protected from others just writing their own version?

And as you are so fond of the car idea, what about the "little guy" who invents something useful like, say, an intermittent windscreen wiper. And then finds his idea being stolen by the big car makers. Shouldn't he have the right to protect his invention: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1054588/

Strange
2011-Nov-11, 03:27 PM
I really cant understand the (mostly us centric) ideas that come up here

It is not a "US centric" idea. Intellectual property rights exist nearly everywhere. And are even respected and enforceable in some of those places.

Hal37214
2011-Nov-11, 03:37 PM
It is not a "US centric" idea. Intellectual property rights exist nearly everywhere. And are even respected and enforceable in some of those places.

Astonishingly, even the Australian government takes the notion of IP seriously.

IP Australia (http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/)

NEOWatcher
2011-Nov-11, 03:42 PM
Astonishingly, even the Australian government takes the notion of IP seriously.
Why is that astonishing for Australia? Am I missing something about thier culture?

jokergirl
2011-Nov-11, 03:44 PM
I'm afraid I will have to disagree to disagree here

if he spent time making his own coding- then he should be allowed to use it-
IF he had simply `ripped off the ford' ie copied the existing code, and changed a few bits (ie painting the ford yellow instead of red)- then I would agree with you- but the fact he spent his own time writing the code- makes that code HIS

just because his toyota looks like a ford- doesnt mean it is just cause it has the same same shape and has 4 wheels...

No, you did not. You built a car that looks like a Ford Focus, drives like a Ford Focus and has the same engine as a Ford Focus, and you are selling it as "Boppa's Ford Focus Clone". The fact that you built it yourself is irrelevant.

I am not American (in fact I am European), I am a SW engineer, and I am very outspoken against SW patents, and even I can see the problem here...

;)

boppa
2011-Nov-11, 03:49 PM
It is not a "US centric" idea. Intellectual property rights exist nearly everywhere. And are even respected and enforceable in some of those places.

and in many other cases the us based copyrights have been overturned when it was shown that the original idea wasnt `close enough' to claim copyright


Astonishingly, even the Australian government takes the notion of IP seriously.

IP Australia (http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/)


and lil johnnie signed the free trade agreements with the us- doesnt mean they are considered fair or equal (unless you happen to be a us based company)

I wont bother replying after this- its obvious that you `all' have your own ideas on whats fair and right- and everyone else has their own

nighto

Hal37214
2011-Nov-11, 03:49 PM
Why is that astonishing for Australia? Am I missing something about thier culture?

That was in reference to boppa's suggestion that this is, somehow, a US-centric issue.

Fazor
2011-Nov-11, 03:51 PM
Boppa: The reality is that the "little guy" is just as protected, from a legal standpoint, as "Big Business" is. The difference is that the little guy oft can't afford the lawyers needed to see a case like this through, while the bigger companies can (and oft have attorneys already on staff for just such a thing.)

Again, by your standards I should be able to make a new hit tv 'toon called The Sampsons, with every single character looking and acting exactly alike to their Springfieldian counterparts. I mean, as long as I draw the pictures myself and write my own script, it doesn't matter that I'm using the ideas of someone else and piggybacking off their popularity. Right?

Strange
2011-Nov-11, 03:56 PM
and in many other cases the us based copyrights have been overturned when it was shown that the original idea wasnt `close enough' to claim copyright

Right. That's why we have laws and courts - to protect the little guy from unfair treatment by big business. And vice versa of course.

If the OP had actually done soemthing that didn't look and play just like a rip off of Pacman then they could take their chance in court. Given what we have seen, I wouldn't think he has a leg to stand on.


I wont bother replying after this- its obvious that you `all' have your own ideas on whats fair and right- and everyone else has their own

"Everyone else" seems to be pretty much you and the OP :)


nighto

You still haven't addressed the central point about creative work. But never mind.... G'night.

IsaacKuo
2011-Nov-11, 04:10 PM
Note that Pacman really is a special case. The K.C. Munchkin lawsuit had an incredibly chilling effect on Pacman clones.

Consider that neither Space Invaders nor Donkey Kong had equivalent lawsuits. Think about the subsequent history of videogames. How many shooters and platformers can you think of? How many maze games?

Strange
2011-Nov-11, 04:13 PM
That does suggest that the OP should have done some homework and picked a less litigious game to be "inspired" by.

I should say, I am not totally without sympathy. It must be a real bummer to do all that work and then find it was wasted. But, hopefully, a good lesson learnt...

jokergirl
2011-Nov-11, 04:16 PM
Consider it a good exercise in programming.

Now that you've copied some old masters and studied their composition, use what you learned in an artwork of your own...

NEOWatcher
2011-Nov-11, 04:27 PM
Consider it a good exercise in programming.
I've tried cloning a few things in that vain. Mostly due to seeing if I can work with those concepts in a different architecture.
(Imagine a version of Centipede for the Sinclair ZX81)

It's always better to learn something when you have a specified goal in mind.

And I may go back to that, because I can't find "classics" for the PC anymore. They all have some kind of modernization or other garbage to go along with it. But then, how classic can it be without a proper joystick or trackball?

Moose
2011-Nov-11, 04:45 PM
Consider that neither Space Invaders nor Donkey Kong had equivalent lawsuits. Think about the subsequent history of videogames. How many shooters and platformers can you think of? How many maze games?

Quibble on point: There's no strict separation between maze games and classic platformers. As I see it, it's one genre with two names; a continuum with Pac-Man (maze) on one end and Mario Brothers (classic platformer) on the other, with games like Mappy, Burger Time, Bubble Bobble, Popeye, Kangaroo, Keystone Kops, Jumpman, and (arguably) Donkey Kong spread throughout.

I would define Super Mario Brothers as a modern platformer, along with games like Vikings, Rolling Thunder, (arguably) Kung Fu Master (but not derivative games like Double Dragon, also arguably), Pitfall, etc.

The difference, as I see it, lies in the extent of the play area. If the goal is to reach point B from point A in an otherwise unrestricted environment, it's a (modern) platformer. If the goal is survival within a confined play area, until some non-destination goal is accomplished, it's a maze game or (classic) platformer, depending on the strictness of the confinement.


Boppa, this thread reminds me more than a little of the Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America. You're definitely coming off like Cleo McDowell.

Strange
2011-Nov-11, 04:55 PM
Boppa, this thread reminds me more than a little of the Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America. You're definitely coming off like Cleo McDowell.

For anyone else who had no idea what that meant:

Look... me and the McDonald's people got this little misunderstanding. See, they're McDonald's... I'm McDowell's. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick. We both got two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but their buns have sesame seeds. My buns have no seeds.
http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0011113/quotes

jokergirl
2011-Nov-11, 04:57 PM
That's derailing the topic now, but I've always seen the difference in maze vs. platform in that a maze is basically bird's eye view (you don't have to jump) whereas a platformer is open side view...

Moose
2011-Nov-11, 05:06 PM
That's derailing the topic now, but I've always seen the difference in maze vs. platform in that a maze is basically bird's eye view (you don't have to jump) whereas a platformer is open side view...

Burger Time and Mappy both straddle that definition pretty thoroughly.

But yes, for my part, back to the mainline. Strange, you're dating yourself. :)

Strange
2011-Nov-11, 05:08 PM
Well, no one else will date me :)

IsaacKuo
2011-Nov-11, 05:22 PM
Quibble on point: There's no strict separation between maze games and classic platformers. As I see it, it's one genre with two names; a continuum with Pac-Man (maze) on one end and Mario Brothers (classic platformer) on the other, with games like Mappy, Burger Time, Bubble Bobble, Popeye, Kangaroo, Keystone Kops, Jumpman, and (arguably) Donkey Kong spread throughout.

While this may be true topologically, legally it's a question of how infringing you are to Pacman. KC Munchkin established broad strokes--for example, movement of the dots was not sufficient. If you ignore the jumping and sideways view, Jumpman would actually be similar to Pacman. However, the sideways view and jumping would actually be a distinguishing factor.

The bottom line is that if you have developed a Pacman clone, it's worth your while to modify into a very different game, or even to go back to the drawing board. Modifying the graphics to make the game look like a side view platformer with platforms and ladders is one way to do it.


I would define Super Mario Brothers as a modern platformer, along with games like Vikings, Rolling Thunder, (arguably) Kung Fu Master (but not derivative games like Double Dragon, also arguably), Pitfall, etc.

The difference, as I see it, lies in the extent of the play area. If the goal is to reach point B from point A in an otherwise unrestricted environment, it's a (modern) platformer. If the goal is survival within a confined play area, until some non-destination goal is accomplished, it's a maze game or (classic) platformer, depending on the strictness of the confinement.
Practically all platformers and maze games had a restricted environment. Earlier games lacked scrolling due to hardware limitations, but even scrolling games don't have infinite environments.

Whether the goal is to reach a destination point or to capture all of the "flags"...well, Donkey Kong had both. The first level had a goal of reaching the girl. The second level had a goal of touching all of the "flags" (in any order).

Fazor
2011-Nov-11, 05:27 PM
To be perfectly honest, you don't have to do *that much* to differentiate yourself. But saying "Here's pac-man that's better than THE pac-man" isn't enough. Hell, change the graphics up a bit to look different -- make it a frog that hops around collecting flies, and instead of techno-looking walls, make the "ground" water and the walls logs. Call it Hungry FROG! [HD] and have alligators in place of ghosts. Then the game could probably pass.

If you can ask yourself "Will my game only sell because people think it's Pac Man", then you're probably on the wrong side of IP copyright.

Moose
2011-Nov-11, 05:32 PM
The bottom line is that if you have developed a Pacman clone, it's worth your while to modify into a very different game, or even to go back to the drawing board. Modifying the graphics to make the game look like a side view platformer with platforms and ladders is one way to do it.

If I were going to do this, I'd do it as a mouse being chased around a lab maze by cats, collecting bits of cheese, and occasionally turning into a wererat or something. Basically Pac-Man in mechanics, but (I suspect) derivative enough to pass muster.

Strange
2011-Nov-11, 06:09 PM
Maybe the OP should rework the game as voracious lawyers chasing software developers!

Hal37214
2011-Nov-11, 06:19 PM
If I were going to do this, I'd do it as a mouse being chased around a lab maze by cats, collecting bits of cheese, and occasionally turning into a wererat or something. Basically Pac-Man in mechanics, but (I suspect) derivative enough to pass muster.

I used to have a cartridge game on my Commodor 64 that was very nearly the game you describe!

Gillianren
2011-Nov-11, 06:47 PM
If you can ask yourself "Will my game only sell because people think it's Pac Man", then you're probably on the wrong side of IP copyright.

That's not actually a bad rule of thumb! But yeah, no sympathy for the OP, here. This is probably because I'm a writer, and if I ever plan to make a living at it, intellectual property rights will be very important to me.

Jeff Root
2011-Nov-11, 06:54 PM
I missed the vast majority of video games, and am not familiar
with even the names of half of those mentioned above. Pac-Man
I know and have played, of course, but few others.

What if I start with simply the idea of a game in which the player
tries to get through a maze viewed from above? I have no intention
of copying any specific features of Pac-Man. Maybe I never once
think of Pac-Man while designing the game, and don't intentionally
try to make it different from Pac-Man.. Would I be likely to run into
the problem of my game being too similar to Pac-Man?

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

NEOWatcher
2011-Nov-11, 07:26 PM
What if I start with simply the idea of a game in which the player
tries to get through a maze viewed from above? I have no intention
of copying any specific features of Pac-Man. Maybe I never once
think of Pac-Man while designing the game, and don't intentionally
try to make it different from Pac-Man.. Would I be likely to run into
the problem of my game being too similar to Pac-Man?
Sure; it happens in the patent world too.
It happened to my uncle. It's the old "someone beat me to it".

Strange
2011-Nov-11, 07:59 PM
If you accidentally infringe, then you are not likely to have to do much more than "cease and desist" and perhaps pay some back royalties. If you *knowingly* infringe then you may be liable to double or triple damages.

Jeff Root
2011-Nov-11, 08:19 PM
What I was mainly trying to ask about was the idea that
mazes in general could be covered by ownership of Pac-Man.
That is obviously unreasonable. But where and how do you
draw a line between Pac-Man and a maze game that I create?
If I create a game in which the player tries to get through a
maze viewed from above, how likely is it that it will accidentally
infringe on the legal rights of the owner of Pac-Man?

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Moose
2011-Nov-11, 08:24 PM
I used to have a cartridge game on my Commodor 64 that was very nearly the game you describe!

'Doesn't surprise me. Lab rat mazes and cat+mouse are very old, generic and obvious. Three traits, I understand with my mad GED in law (http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/ged-in-x) skillz, that make it very difficult to assert copyright/trademarks and make it stick.

orionjim
2011-Nov-11, 08:25 PM
If you accidentally infringe, then you are not likely to have to do much more than "cease and desist" and perhaps pay some back royalties. If you *knowingly* infringe then you may be liable to double or triple damages.

The way I understand it is that this would be true if he came up with something that had been patented, but I think it works differently with copyrights.

If Jeff based a game on the Pac Man game it would be an infringement of the copyright law. But the strange thing is; say in his case that if he never saw the Pac Man game and he happened to create a game that was similar to Pac Man, he should be OK.

Of course he would probably be sued by Namco, but they would have to prove he based his game on theirs, and he would need to show he didnít.

Copyright laws protect the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. The best example I've seen of what a copyright protects is explained by the following example:

Suppose you go white water rafting down the Colorado River and record all of the exciting things you saw and did; you could write a story or book about it and copyright it.

I read your book and think itís pretty good and I decide to write a book about something similar. I decide I will write it about going down the Mississippi River, but instead of a raft Iíll use a canoe. Also I change a few other things I see along the way. In the end I have violated the copyright act. Why; because I used your book as a base.

Now suppose I happen to be about 5 minutes behind you on the Colorado River and Iím also in a raft. My experience would be almost identical to yours and I write a book about it. Would that be a copyright violation?

The answer is ďnoĒ! The reason is because your book had no influence on what I saw and wrote.

It's been a couple of years since I took the time to understand the copyright laws and I know they have changed some since then.

Jim

Grey
2011-Nov-11, 08:29 PM
I should say, I am not totally without sympathy. It must be a real bummer to do all that work and then find it was wasted. But, hopefully, a good lesson learnt...Well, the effort doesn't have to be entirely wasted. Over the years, I've seen a fair number of games roughly similar to PacMan, but with sufficient differences to let them avoid copyright and trademark violations (as well as a number that were deemed not sufficiently different). Styx, I'd suggest studying the history, and then figure out how much you need to change the graphics and game play that your game can avoid violating intellectual property rights, and release it as a new game.

Strange
2011-Nov-11, 08:35 PM
The way I understand it is that this would be true if he came up with something that had been patented, but I think it works differently with copyrights.

That may be true. I am much more familiar with patent law than copyright.


If Jeff based a game on the Pac Man game it would be an infringement of the copyright law. But the strange thing is; say in his case that if he never saw the Pac Man game and he happened to create a game that was similar to Pac Man, he should be OK.

Not necessarily. You can infringe copyright accidentally. This happens quite frequently in music, for example (or at least, that's what the defendants claim!). George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" and The Chiffons' "He's So Fine" for example. Or Men At Work and "Down Under".


Copyright laws protect the expression of an idea, not the idea itself.

Quite. This is why it was so laughable when the Holy Blood/Holy Grail authors attempted to sue Dan Brown. It may have been a publicity stunt but it ended up being pretty expensive.



But where and how do you
draw a line between Pac-Man and a maze game that I create?

If you can't come to some agreement it would go to court. If you still can't settle then the judge (jury in some jurisdictions) will decide. It is a very grey area.

Fazor
2011-Nov-11, 08:58 PM
What I was mainly trying to ask about was the idea that
mazes in general could be covered by ownership of Pac-Man.
That is obviously unreasonable. But where and how do you
draw a line between Pac-Man and a maze game that I create?
If I create a game in which the player tries to get through a
maze viewed from above, how likely is it that it will accidentally
infringe on the legal rights of the owner of Pac-Man?

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

That's where the OP's argument about unfair big-business bullying really breaks down. It *is* hard to draw the exact line and must be looked at on a case-by-case basis. But based on the many, many instances of almost-same's I've seen in my years as a gamer (and I do follow games closely. See sig line) the courts lean very heavily towards allowing closely related games. The OP claims oppressive and unfair lawsuits, yet entire companies have survived based on barely-different versions of popular games. If you want an example of being nearly identical and avoiding lawsuit, check out this one from earlier this year (Twisted Pixel original IP versus Capcom's later released carbon copy): 'Splosion Man (TP) v MaXplosion (Capcom) (http://www.blisteredthumbs.net/2011/01/capcom-responds-splosion/) via BlisteredThumbs

For the record, there's a *ton* of games, new and old, that use the "collect things through a maze viewed from overhead" formula. There's only one that's allowed to do it with a pie-shaped yellow dot that eats other dots while being pursued by ghosts.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Nov-11, 09:11 PM
Probably tying in with Fazor's point about case-by-case basis, I think the thing protected can vary. Sometimes it's look-and-feel, other times it's actual lines of code.

What I find strangest about this thread is the OP's assumption that "surely nobody can own Pacman!" As if those early Pacman arcade games just somehow grew, or as if the game has "always been there" like telegraph poles or the Bible*. Hard as it is to believe, before there was Pacman, there was a creative individual or team who sat down in front of a blank screen and thought, "Now what can I do that hasn't been done before?"


*Yes, I do realise that these had to be created too.

HenrikOlsen
2011-Nov-11, 10:14 PM
So I made a game that looks like Pac Man. It is a Pac Man clone to be fair. But with a different name. Now here is the thing I made this game from the ground up myself.

the last bit is the bit that counts...
You didn't make the idea of the game, so you didn't make it from the ground up.

pzkpfw
2011-Nov-11, 10:34 PM
Not the best article, but the first example I googled up: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,502309,00.html - for the "but anyone can make a car" argument.

The issue here being Chinese car companies not just making cars, but cars that look too much like other makers cars. Sure, any company can make a car - but only as long as they don't infringe on the property of other makers.


(Another example is plastic building toys. There's any number of brands, from China, Canada etc. but it's one thing to make a basic building toy, and another to simply copy another makers toys. I've seen clones of actual Lego kits for sale; down to the supplied decoration stickers being pretty much the same ( The real one: http://www.peeron.com/inv/sets/8272-1 ). Should the fact that the copying company made all those copied parts themselves, make them able to copy and sell that Lego kit?)

HenrikOlsen
2011-Nov-11, 10:49 PM
Should the fact that the copying company made all those copied parts themselves, make them able to copy and sell that Lego kit?)
Especially since the cloned kit is cheaply made of inferior quality, so by claiming it to be the original it damages the brand reputation by falsely giving the impression it contains crap.

pzkpfw
2011-Nov-11, 11:04 PM
Especially since the cloned kit is cheaply made of inferior quality, so by claiming it to be the original it damages the brand reputation by falsely giving the impression it contains crap.

You are right about the quality. I googled the brand when I saw it for sale on a local auction web site. Reports were of things like gears whoose teeth didn't actually mesh in the assembled models, they wouldn't "work", etc.

In this case, the brand didn't claim to be Lego; it did have a different name. But they'd clearly tried to make an exact part-for-part clone of a genuine Lego model (and in a similar box), that somebody (in Denmark?) had designed, and whose design time expenses had been paid for by Lego. There were actually clones of five or so of the then-current Lego models for sale on that site.

Githyanki
2011-Nov-12, 01:08 AM
http://videosift.com/video/Bill-Gates-Buys-Homer-Out

Jeff Root
2011-Nov-12, 01:45 AM
You didn't make the idea of the game, so you didn't
make it from the ground up.
I think that criticism is a bit excessive. If I dig the
hole for the foundation of a house, pour the concrete,
lay cider blocks, cut and erect the studs and joists
and rafters, lay the roofing, install the plumbing and
electric, put in the wallboard, and paint it myself, I
think I could say truthfully that I made it from the
ground up, even if I didn't come up with the ideas
for it myself.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

HenrikOlsen
2011-Nov-12, 08:52 AM
I think that criticism is a bit excessive. If I dig the
hole for the foundation of a house, pour the concrete,
lay cider blocks, cut and erect the studs and joists
and rafters, lay the roofing, install the plumbing and
electric, put in the wallboard, and paint it myself, I
think I could say truthfully that I made it from the
ground up, even if I didn't come up with the ideas
for it myself.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
But "House" is public domain by now, and building one is the hardest part.

With games the idea is the hardest part, coding is trivial compared to getting the right idea.

grapes
2011-Nov-12, 10:28 AM
I think that criticism is a bit excessive. If I dig the
hole for the foundation of a house, pour the concrete,
lay cider blocks, cut and erect the studs and joists
and rafters, lay the roofing, install the plumbing and
electric, put in the wallboard, and paint it myself, I
think I could say truthfully that I made it from the
ground up, even if I didn't come up with the ideas
for it myself.Also, if you used plans created by an architect, and tried to sell that house, you'd run into trouble.

Jeff Root
2011-Nov-12, 10:28 PM
I was specifically thinking about that aspect, since my dad
was an architect. Most of what he designed was rather generic,
though. He designed the first twenty-some Target stores.
Maybe to the point, somehow: It wouldn't be possible to use
the same plans for each store. They were all different.

I think it is ludicrous to call the coding "trivial". I don't have
any idea how to draw a line between game design and game
coding, though. If you imagine dividing the tasks up so that
someone first designs the game and then someone else
writes the code to implement the design, I'd say writing the
code would be at least 90% of the work, minimum.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

pzkpfw
2011-Nov-12, 10:31 PM
What's the value of the different kinds of work, though?

I think the evidence is that there are countless thousands of programmers who could code a good pacman game.

But how many could have come up with the idea in the first place?

Strange
2011-Nov-12, 10:35 PM
It is not about the amount of work. Coding is a "mechanical" process (OK, its a craft but anyone can learn to do it and implement a given game). Coming up with the concept in the first place is different; that is where the creativity comes in. Anyone can play the piano, but there is only one Beethoven.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Nov-12, 10:39 PM
I think it is ludicrous to call the coding "trivial". I don't have
any idea how to draw a line between game design and game
coding, though. If you imagine dividing the tasks up so that
someone first designs the game and then someone else
writes the code to implement the design, I'd say writing the
code would be at least 90% of the work, minimum.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Speaking as a former software engineer, I'd say you've got it backwards.

Daffy
2011-Nov-12, 10:47 PM
This is the same attitude that says it's just fine to illegally download music and even entire novels. It is stealing, plain and simple.

Jeff Root
2011-Nov-13, 02:04 AM
I think it is ludicrous to call the coding "trivial". I don't have
any idea how to draw a line between game design and game
coding, though. If you imagine dividing the tasks up so that
someone first designs the game and then someone else
writes the code to implement the design, I'd say writing the
code would be at least 90% of the work, minimum.
Speaking as a former software engineer, I'd say you've got
it backwards.
Then I must have a completely wrong idea of what design
consists of and what coding consists of. As I said, I don't
have any idea how to draw a line between them. They seem
inseperable to me. How would you describe them?

I only have very limited programming experience. I "made"
what might be described as "operating system extensions"
for the Commodore Plus 4. (Very similar to the 64.) I used
a combination of the built-in BASIC interpreter and 6502
assembly language. Design and coding processes were
completely intermingled and indistinguishable.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

pzkpfw
2011-Nov-13, 02:50 AM
... I only have very limited programming experience. I "made"
what might be described as "operating system extensions"
for the Commodore Plus 4. (Very similar to the 64.) I used
a combination of the built-in BASIC interpreter and 6502
assembly language. Design and coding processes were
completely intermingled and indistinguishable.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

(I did stuff like that on my C64. One could copy the basic interpreter to the RAM that shadowed the ROM (same address space), then flick a bit that made the CPU read from the shadow copy. All would work fine, but you could then mess with the way basic worked. I built some simple graphics commands that replaced certain basic commands that I "never" used.)

Anyway - this "Design and coding processes were completely intermingled and indistinguishable" is the difference between hacking (not in the sense of breaking into computers) and professional software development.

Small parts of a system may be hacked-away at like that, and few software products have every line of code pre-defined, but nothing as complex as a commercial-grade game is going to have design and coding intermingled like that. The first person who made PacMan didn't just sit down in front of a computer and start banging away on the code.

Besides, even if design and code were so intermingled, that still doesn't cover the idea for the game itself. That's intellectual property that begins before the computer is even switched on.

vonmazur
2011-Nov-13, 02:54 AM
For anyone else who had no idea what that meant:

http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0011113/quotes

For years and years, I thought he said; "Two obese Pattys-Special Ross, Lester Gee pickin' bunions on a Sesame Street Bus"!!!

Thanks to the interweb, I can get that out of my mind for ever!!

Dale

HenrikOlsen
2011-Nov-13, 03:26 AM
Then I must have a completely wrong idea of what design
consists of and what coding consists of.
Design is everything that happens before the first line of code is written.
Or for that matter, design is the part that don't give a damn about what language the game is going to be coded in.

It's the part the players see, game play, visuals, game mechanics, interface, all the bits that define whether the game is going to be fun or a big bore.


BTW, there may be confusion with the word "design", since it'll have two distinct meanings in this context, one being game design the other being software design.
The first designs the game, the second designs the code implementing the game.
They are two distinct design processes and people who are good at both are much rarer than people who are good at either, which are still rare.

Jeff Root
2011-Nov-13, 04:41 AM
Design is everything that happens before the first line of
code is written.
Not everything.



Or for that matter, design is the part that don't give a damn
about what language the game is going to be coded in.
That's helpful.



It's the part the players see, game play, visuals, game mechanics,
interface, all the bits that define whether the game is going to be
fun or a big bore.
I'd say *ALL* of that is more a function of coding than of design!

The players never see any of the design -- They see ONLY what
results from the coding.



BTW, there may be confusion with the word "design", since it'll
have two distinct meanings in this context, one being game design
the other being software design. The first designs the game, the
second designs the code implementing the game.
I worked sporadically for several years on the design for a program,
never getting beyond the first design phase. I laid out screens to
show how data would be displayed, figured out the number and size
of data fields required, color-coding of icons, the user interface for
making changes in the data, and so forth. I found that in order to
hold all the default data, I would need a data format that didn't exist
yet: A computer data version of an audio compact disk, which itself
hadn't yet gone on sale. Because of this need, I attended the first
public demonstration of audio CD in the Twin Cities. That was
years before I got my first computer. (I had been using dial-up
timeshare for years before that.) I still consider that design work
to be the easy part. If I'd gotten as far as trying to translate the
design into code, that would have been the really difficult part.

Another easy thing I did that was neither design nor coding was
to go through the majority of the Commodore Plus 4 operating
system instruction-by-instruction to figure out how it worked.
How a keystroke was captured and put into a buffer, read out
and printed onscreen in the right character cell, and so forth.
I could see exactly how difficult creating code like that would
be, even though I never got around to coding my big program.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

HenrikOlsen
2011-Nov-13, 07:16 AM
I still consider that design work
to be the easy part. If I'd gotten as far as trying to translate the
design into code, that would have been the really difficult part.
I'm a programmer professionally, perhaps that's where our main difference in outlook comes from.

For me, programming the thing is the easy part. In the sense that it may be hard work, but it's not difficult or very creative work.

Programmers are fungible, ideas people aren't.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Nov-13, 12:51 PM
Further to what Henrik and others have said, design is very much the "what is it going to do? what is it going to look like?" aspect.

Design decisions might include, are we having one maze or a series of mazes? A series, you say? Okay, so do we change the colour when the player progresses to the next one? How many lives? Three, you say? How about a bonus life every 10,000 points? How many points per dot eaten?

And so on, and so on. All this just for a simple game like Pacman.

Code is no more than the implementation of these design decisions. Sure, sometimes the reality feeds back ("Having 5 ghosts looked good on paper but it makes it unplayable - can we reduce it to 4?") but again, these things are at a design level - it's not a case of, "I don't like this int numberOfGhosts = 5; line."

I would add that anybody can write code that works; too many people think that because their code works, it is good code. But it needs to be traceable to the design so that if the design changes, the code can be easily changed to reflect the fact.

Fazor
2011-Nov-13, 03:30 PM
Point is; all of it is protected. You can't steal code. You can't steal design. You can't steal characters, names, assets (actual artwork, music, sounds, etc.) One's not more protected than the other. It's all part of a game, or an IP.

Strange
2011-Nov-13, 05:32 PM
Then I must have a completely wrong idea of what design
consists of and what coding consists of. As I said, I don't
have any idea how to draw a line between them.

That kind if thinking is one of the reasons there is much bad software around :)


The players never see any of the design -- They see ONLY what
results from the coding.

I would say they only see the design. It just happens to be brought to them via a computer running software. They will see the same result whether Carl coded it C, Fred in Fortran or Lucy in Lisp.

It is rather like praising the physical film and projector for a really good movie instead of the director (sticking with the Cahiers du Cinema theory for simplicity).

jokergirl
2011-Nov-14, 09:41 AM
Also on the SW engineering side, and I agree with all others that have posted on this thread that the *purely logical* part of any given SW is usually the part that takes 10% of the time, while user interaction, design and concept is the one that takes both creativity, time and energy.

Yes of course, you still need to be able to program. But a good programmer is not only a coder. Good programmers must be both creative and thorough, intuitive and analytic.
And copying someone else's work is always just that. Sure, you painted it yourself, but in the end, however good, it's a copy of the Mona Lisa, not your own painting.

;)