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PopCap Distressed Over 'CopyCat' Games

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the calling-the-kettle-black dept.

Puzzle Games (Games) 88

GamesIndustry.biz, in an interview with PopCap Games chief creative officer Jason Kapalka, reports that the company is apparently a bit miffed at 'imitation games'. Puzzle games being what they are, Kapalka finds the number of Bejewel-like titles on the market frustrating. "Very few games are developed without reference to past games. There's always going to be titles that build on a previous mechanic or game. But there's a fine line between that and very bold-faced rip-offs that aren't adding anything to the game and are just trying to make a quick buck." Over at 1up, editor Ray Barnholt points out that PopCap is a funny company to be making that claim. Several of that group's most popular games are in turn tweaks or imitations of little-known Japanese puzzle titles from the 90s.

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Irony (2, Insightful)

TheMadcapZ (868196) | more than 7 years ago | (#19677869)

Boy it runs thick within this story.

Re:Irony (5, Interesting)

Headcase88 (828620) | more than 7 years ago | (#19677933)

This is like that time RedOctane sued the Ant Commandos for making guitar controllers for their games.

(RedOctane got their start making dance pads for Konami's games)

Re:Irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19693341)

Yeah...I remember some things...

well (3, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 7 years ago | (#19677897)

as long as they don't start dragging people into court - they are entitled to 'feel' however they want about it.

Re:well (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19677953)

they shouldn't have based their business model on making easy-to-immitate games

Re:well (1)

Phoenix00017 (1017168) | more than 7 years ago | (#19684401)

A lot of businesses are easy to imitate. How hard is it to make ketchup? But I defy you to take down Heinz. Or Hanes Tee-shirts, or whatever. It's all about brand name and/or quality. Fact is, while Popcap doesn't have many original games (Peggle is pretty cool but really is a glorified Pachinko machine), they have fantastic production values and an established name (and do some small things that increase replay value). I don't think their market share is really in trouble - really they should just stop complaining and keep making the quality casual games that they've been making.

Copying (2, Insightful)

BlueLightSpecial (898144) | more than 7 years ago | (#19677957)

I'm not sure if the copying their refering to is flat out copying, or say, the same game with a slightly tweaked look or rules to it, or if somebody is taking the base idea and improving off of it Personally, I don't see a problem with using an idea of something that works in your own product, using a sucessful idea and building off it encourages market competition, and helps to create a better product for the consumer, so i dont see why popcap is angry if somebody is using their base ideas (which it sounds like werent even theirs) to create something "new and improved" the only thing they'd be angry about is losing their market, and if that is so, they should quit complaining and work on developing something better

I agree, only more so (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19679093)

I dont see why popcap is angry if somebody is using their base ideas (which it sounds like werent even theirs) to create something "new and improved"

Of course they are angry because they are afraid it means they will be making less money. They want to prevent people from producing products similar to theirs, in order to ensure that they are the only source of the product.

Unfortunately for them, their product is not a substance, but an idea. Ideas don't work like substances. Just looking at a car doesn't instantly give you car-parts to distribute, but it does instantly give you an idea for a car design. The parts can be easily controlled, but the idea can't.

This is a nice example of why the whole concept of intellectual property is such a farce. When is an idea a different idea? How many tweaks must be made? It is not possible to define absolute boundaries for this sort of thing, because ideas just don't work that way.

The better response is to use ideas in a manner that befits how they work, rather than expecting to make money off an attempt at using ideas in a way that does not suit their natures, and trying to force everyone in the world to pretend that ideas work the way you think they should.

Re:I agree, only more so (2, Insightful)

PylonHead (61401) | more than 7 years ago | (#19683347)

the whole concept of intellectual property is such a farce

Hah... we are on SlashDot, aren't we.

Only here can somebody take an issue that doesn't involve intellectual property (a company angry about their ideas being ripped off, which isn't against the law), and use it to damn all intellectual property. . I swear we could have a story on walruses, and someone would twist it into a scathing attack on the RIAA.

Copyright, for example, is pretty easy to understand and distinguish. If you copy my song, my movie, my program, without my license you have violated my copyright. If you copy my idea, you have not.

Sure it can be more complicated than that, but 99% of copyright issues are just that simple.

Re:I agree, only more so (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#19693953)

They could probably have patented the gameplay and with the current state of the USPTO even gained approval.

copying game rules is legal (4, Informative)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 7 years ago | (#19679787)

Copyright law doesn't extend to the rules of a game, just the artwork, etc. - the "tangibles."

For the disbelievers, here's what the U.S. Copyright oOfice has to say about games [copyright.gov] :

The idea for a game is not protected by copyright. The same is true of the name or title given to the game and of the method or methods for playing it.

Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author's expression in literary, artistic, or musical form. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in the development, merchandising, or playing of a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles.

You can make your own version of Bejeweled, right down to the name. You can't copy the logo artwork (they can register the logo) or the game images - you're on your own there. Popcap ought to pop a few 'ludes before they pop a gasket.

Re:copying game rules is legal (1)

RoloDMonkey (605266) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688951)

After all the years that it has been discussed on /. you would think that people would understand more about Intellectual Property (IP).

In the United States IP is generally divided into three categories: copyright, trademarks, and patents. In a very broad, and potentially misleading sense, copyright covers creative works (art), trademarks covers a business brand image (name, product names, logo, slogans, etc.), and patents cover the physical implementation of an idea (inventions).

Again, these definitions are overly broad. Obviously there can be a great deal of overlap between the categories, and recent law and court decisions have completely muddied the waters (software patents, DRM, DMCA, etc.)

So technically you are correct that the copyright office has said that games can not be copyrighted, but the rest of your assertion is incorrect because you are only considering one branch of IP. The name Bejeweled can be trademarked, and it almost definitely is, and theoretically you could even patent the rules of a game.

Based on your assertion, I could make a board game called "Monopoly", with the same rules as Monopoly and all I would have to do is change the artwork. Do you honestly think that Parker Brothers would let me do that?

Re:copying game rules is legal (1)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 7 years ago | (#19691267)

Game rules cannot be patented. Try to find a single example. You won't be able to.

You can't use the trademarks (as I pointed out), but you can certainly make your own version of Monopoly, with your own trademarks. "Monopoly World by RotoDMonkey - better than the original Parker Brothers Monopoly" would pass, as there is zero chance of confusion. Change the artwork, the names and prices of the board squares, and maybe the layout a bit, and you're in business.

The rules and game play can stay absolutely the same, since they are not protected/protectable elements.

Re:copying game rules is legal (1)

RoloDMonkey (605266) | more than 7 years ago | (#19692369)

Game rules cannot be patented. Try to find a single example. You won't be able to.

Oh really?
http://www.abstractstrategy.com/game-patents.html [abstractstrategy.com]
or
http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/06/05/ 1226253 [slashdot.org]

Before you argue that these patents are for the physical parts of the game, read some of the patents and you will see that a description of how the parts are used (i.e. rules) is in there as well.

However, you are partly correct. I did some research and there are lots of Monopoly clones out there that do not appear to be sanctioned by Parker Brothers. So without the patent you could clone a game.

Poor baby (4, Informative)

seebs (15766) | more than 7 years ago | (#19677979)

http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/copyright/cases /allen_vs_academicgames.html [darkshire.net]

"Here, Allen has not shown that it is possible to distinguish the
expression of the rules of his game manuals from the idea of
the rules themselves. Thus, the doctrine of merger applies and
although Allen may be entitled to copyright protection for the
physical form of his games, he is not afforded protection for
the premises or ideas underlying those games. To hold other-
wise would give Allen a monopoly on such commonplace
ideas as a simple rule on how youngsters should play their
games."

For what it's worth, Puzzle Quest (a Bejeweled-engine RPG) is absolutely brilliant, and definitely constitutes real innovation. It's a real upgrade, and very clever.

Re:Poor baby (2)

SighKoPath (956085) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678133)

Yes, Puzzle Quest is a fun game. I just find that the AI needs a bit of work - sometimes is far too easy, but it frequently seems to do the impossible. I am often about to win, until it performs insane combos solely from gems that drop in, leaving me defeated and very frustrated.

Re:Poor baby (1)

Robber Tom (1116343) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678271)

Puzzle Pirates was likewise a great game, and it added the social elements of a player (pirate) driven economy as well as crews and such.

Re:Poor baby (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678277)

I was playing it for a while and I gave up when the computer was suddenly able to do exactly what you describe--ridiculous combos would pop up out of nowhere that would wipe out all my HP.

Puzzle quest (2, Informative)

zstlaw (910185) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678307)

I actually manage the opposite. I very frequently get 5 move combos based on watching how things are lining up and using the right abilities at the right time.

Early on in the game I was upset that the AI seemed to always get the right drops, but then I got better at predicting the likelyhood of particular drops and that helped a lot. Also if the enemy never gets a turn then they can't beat you. When the board is ready for a massive clear be sure to use stun, web, etc. Then take moves to set up the big combo while the enemy is incapacitated.

My biggest gripe is the random number generator seeds the same when you turn on the device. I have the first dozen moves memorized to maximize the number of combos I get. Then I have enough mana to win the board unless it is a really special enemy. Seeding the board based on the current time would make each one more distinct. As it is the first game is just a warm up for my fingers.

Heck I think the capture game is the most fun. I wish there were more "new variations" like that and less random bejeweled battles. The places they innovate they do so well.

Re:Puzzle quest (1)

seebs (15766) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678405)

I noticed the thing with the same starting board too. It's a funny bug, but I don't mind getting a free head start on tough fights.

Re:Puzzle quest (1)

SethraLavode (910814) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678527)

Is this the DS or PSP version? I can't say that I had noticed any seeding issues on the DS version, but then again, when I'm playing PQ I usually just put it into sleep rather than powering down.

Re:Puzzle quest (2, Insightful)

JRaven (720) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678711)

The problem with Puzzle Quest is that the basic head-to-head bejeweled game is far too random. As a result, you spend the early part of the game suffering through that randomness until you get powered up... at which point the game is completely trivial, since you can kill most things in one turn.

It's a nice concept, but it needs some serious tweaking.

Re:Puzzle quest (1)

Babbster (107076) | more than 7 years ago | (#19682843)

I was consistently taking enemies out in 1 or 2 total turns and just had to stop playing. It lost even the standard, long-form Bejeweled charm since I was really only making a maximum of 5 moves (within those 1-2 actual turns) per battle. I ended up having more fun forging items where you didn't have any skills/spells to fall back on.

Re:Poor baby (2)

Fozzyuw (950608) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678953)

I just find that the AI needs a bit of work - sometimes is far too easy, but it frequently seems to do the impossible.

hehe, I love PQ, but I'm a firm believer that the computer is a cheater! *WOOT* 150 HP and the computer only has 4 HP left! (computer goes) dmg buff, 4-combo, 5-combo skulls, 3-combo gold.. but gets a free turn, 5 combo skulls for 50 dmg!, 3-combo skulls fall down, bleh. I'm dead. =(

The thing I hate even more, after getting a combo, I cannot see the board because the "4-combo" words are still hanging over it. I'm playing a speed game I often miss that 4/5 combo because the words where covering it up when my eyes passed it's spot.

What a moron... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19678009)

Its extremely rare to find anything original in games/movies/music these days.

Maybe he should stop crying and try working harder.

Re:What a moron... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19678809)


Its extremely rare to find anything original in games/movies/music these days.

Even life imitates art! We had a power failure over the weekend. Sitting in complete darkness I thought "Man, this is just like Doom 3."

That's the way the game industry has always been.. (1)

mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678025)

That's really the way the game industry has always been - you saw something in life that was frustrating or annoying, then tried to make it into a game. Then someone else would see your game and make something similar, but yet remove some things they didn't like and have the creativity to add some things that were new.

There were always "clone-makers" who would just make identical copies or make game development kits (pinball was the favourite one) but these were always restricted to what they saw, and would always fade away once the next title with new features was out.

Re:That's the way the game industry has always bee (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19678245)

Exactly. And casual game producers/publishers like Popcap, Big Fish Games, Reflexive, etc. are some of the worst offenders when it comes to copying gameplay. A few years ago it was Bejeweled match-3 clones. Now it's hidden object games like the Mystery Case Files series. Casual gamers are buying them hand over fist, so you can't blame the companies. And small developers can make a (admittedly small) fortune by turning out derivative games that take a few months to develop.

I do enjoy some of the weird sites like Casual Explosion [casualexplosion.com] that have popped up to review these derivative games, however...

Okay, back to work making my own derivative hidden object game. (Seriously.)

Re:That's the way the game industry has always bee (1)

HarvardAce (771954) | more than 7 years ago | (#19679767)

That's really the way the game industry has always been - you saw something in life that was frustrating or annoying, then tried to make it into a game.
Unfortunately many of the game designers do exactly that...but forget to make it fun and instead leave it frustrating or annoying.

So what? (2, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678083)

Ray Barnholt points out that PopCap is a funny company to be making that claim. Several of that group's most popular games are in turn tweaks or imitations of little-known Japanese puzzle titles from the 90s.

So what? Microsoft has been making the same sort of statements for the get go (that people are stealing their works yada-yada) while at the same time copying/stealing/buying work from others, to the point that most of their product lines was never developped in-house. People are used to Microsoft, why not from other companies ? The old saying "you shouldn't criticize someone's body odor if you didn't shower yourself" somehow never seems to apply to companies...

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19678375)

The old saying "you shouldn't criticize someone's body odor if you didn't shower yourself"...
I must ask, where are you from?

Re:So what? (1)

illeism (953119) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678457)

I'd guess Hazzard County...

Re:So what? (1)

CaseM (746707) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678571)

Except Microsoft doesn't appear (as a general rule) to be crying about someone "stealing" their ideas.

Re:So what? (1)

BrianGKUAC (919321) | more than 7 years ago | (#19679121)

Something's telling me that 235 software patents would disagree.

HA! (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678099)

FTFS:

Over at 1up, editor Ray Barnholt points out that PopCap is a funny company to be making that claim. Several of that group's most popular games are in turn tweaks or imitations of little-known Japanese puzzle titles from the 90s.

That's hilarious. One of PopCap's best-known games, Dynomite, is a direct ripoff of Taito's Puzzle Bobble, one of the best-known (and -loved) puzzle games of all time. It's not a very good one, either. It's "cheap", in that if the timer runs out while the animation for removing eggs from lines that would save you is playing, you lose (among various similar failings.)

PopCap can stick their whining about ripoffs right up their hypocritical, untalented asses.

Re:HA! (1)

pla (258480) | more than 7 years ago | (#19679833)

That's hilarious. One of PopCap's best-known games, Dynomite, is a direct ripoff of Taito's Puzzle Bobble, one of the best-known (and -loved) puzzle games of all time.

Not to mention, even PopCap's crown (Be)Jewel(ed) directly rips off similar Japanese puzzle games (and even American clones from before PopCap ever existed). Talk about balls, daring to complain about others producing similar games...

Re:HA! (1)

Hobart (32767) | more than 7 years ago | (#19680901)

One of PopCap's best-known games, Dynomite, is a direct ripoff of Taito's Puzzle Bobble, one of the best-known (and -loved) puzzle games of all time.

PopCap can stick their whining about ripoffs right up their hypocritical, untalented asses.

One of the most egregious game rip-offs I've seen in commercial gaming is the shareware game 'Snood', another direct rip off of Puzzle Bobble. And not only was Snood collecting shareware donations, they actually had a GameBoy version!

I think the amount of cash you have available to spend on lawyers is a factor, as I've never seen game clones of Monopoly and so on.

--
Slashcode bug # 497457 - unfixed since December 2001 - Go look it up [sourceforge.net] !

Re:HA! (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 7 years ago | (#19683307)

Probably the only puzzle game that's been ripped off more than Puzzle Bobble is Tetris. I can count at least two clones of it just in my distro's packages (Frozen Bubble and Monkey Bubble). Even FB's levels are ripped off from the original.

Re:HA! (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#19694229)

Opensource games only seem to get done if their mission statement is essentially "We'll make a clone of game X but better!".

Time Out (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678143)

Ok, I was about to jump in here with a frothing at the mouth reply of, "After all the millions of dollars you've made on a stupid flash game that's been ported to nearly every platform in existence, you have the gall to complain about cheap ripoffs? Make something new!"

Then I RTFA. The original interview, not the one linked to.

The Popcap rep actually says this: "There are a couple of Bejeweled variants like Jewel Quest that have carved out there own niche but it hasn't caused a huge problem for us."

He then goes on to express a concern about indies copying each other. Not about it impacting PopCap's bottom line, but about the Indie industry as a whole. Specifically, he says this about other developers:

They think they can do a quick knock-off to help pay the bills and then they can work on their big magnum opus but that rarely happens. Once they start down that road of making rip-off games you never make a huge fortune off it and you end up working hand to mouth. They don't have time to work on larger projects that take a risk. And that has a negative effect on the industry as a whole. It should be a really creative opportunity to have a small team that has the luxury of creating whatever it wants and getting to market without the usual cumbersome problems that come from publishers and other factors. The casual space should be encouraging a huge amount of creative design but there's a lot of imitation and that's a shame.
Translation: If you make copies to make a quick buck, all you're ever going to make are quick copies. Try to improve upon formulas and show some originality in your games.

That's all he said. Really.

Re:Time Out (4, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678249)

He's right that the indie clones are not a concern to PopCap, but I wonder if he knows -why-?

In my opinion, it's all in the presentation. A mediocre game with fluid, easy-to-use interface and pretty face interests me a LOT more than an amazingly-clever game with a crappy, ugly interface.

Simon Tatham's Portable Games are a great example of this. Those games are -awesome- ideas. But I would be much more inclined to play them more often if they were prettied up, and the interface made better. (Yes, I -have- considered doing this myself, but I'm not an artist, and not all that great at GUI design either.)

On the other hand, games from PopCap and such that are pretty always draw me in and at least get me to try them. Burger Rush is a good example here. It's -just- a Bejeweled clone with good graphics, and a little side-action. But my Sister has played through it at least 5 times, and my mother at least 7. They still enjoy it.

Re:Time Out (1)

syntaxglitch (889367) | more than 7 years ago | (#19679031)

Simon Tatham's Portable Games are a great example of this. Those games are -awesome- ideas. But I would be much more inclined to play them more often if they were prettied up, and the interface made better. (Yes, I -have- considered doing this myself, but I'm not an artist, and not all that great at GUI design either.)

Not that Mr. Tatham invented most (or any?) of the puzzles himself--in fact, he credits his source where possible. However, I don't see what's wrong with the interface for his games--is it just that they aren't pretty enough? The presentation is very minimalist to be sure, but they're very responsive and convey all the information you need clearly.

By the way, have you looked at how those games are implemented? There's a fairly clean separation between the puzzle logic and the display that would make implementing a new interface easier than one might expect.

Re:Time Out (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#19680117)

I have not actually taken the time to look at the code, no, but I was reading about them and there was talk about how loosely coupled the logic and code was, so I was already pretty sure it would be 'easy' to replace the interface. (I think I was reading the changelog, actually...) That actually isn't the issue...

The issue is that I am not artistically inclined -at all- and my User Interface skills are pretty lackluster. I seriously doubt I could improve on them much.

I do remember on a few of them thinking that they could have been done better if someone did -x-, but I forget what -x- was. Maybe it'll occur to me again in the future and this time I'll write it down.

That covers the interaction part of the interface, but you are correct that I feel they 'aren't pretty enough.' By far. I think some of them could convey the information better (black box!) and someone could be easier to tell when the puzzle is complete (pattern, net, etc) and some could be easier to read. And Sudoku could have a better input mechanism altogether, perhaps offering choices for those who can type and those who would rather click. There have been many interfaces invented for it, but very few that I enjoy using. Simon's is not one of them.

Again, the puzzles and their code are very very well done, it's just the interface that I don't like. And as I stated before, that, more than anything, is the difference between a game and a hit game.

Re:Time Out (1)

syntaxglitch (889367) | more than 7 years ago | (#19680589)

That covers the interaction part of the interface, but you are correct that I feel they 'aren't pretty enough.' By far.

That's fair enough, and I can't argue the point. They're very good for what they are (fun, minimalist reasoning puzzles) but they don't and probably were never intended to have mass-market appeal. And no, I don't have the graphics skills to do it either (otherwise I would).

However I have been tempted to make a Flash or Javascript reimplementation... wouldn't be able to use his backends that way, unfortunately, but I'd love to be able to play those truly anywhere, even when I can't download his (such as on my Wii, hahaha).

I think some of them could convey the information better (black box!) and someone could be easier to tell when the puzzle is complete (pattern, net, etc) and some could be easier to read. And Sudoku could have a better input mechanism altogether, perhaps offering choices for those who can type and those who would rather click. There have been many interfaces invented for it, but very few that I enjoy using. Simon's is not one of them.

Well... many of the games--black box, pattern, tents, others--sometimes lack good error displays. For instance, pattern should highlight filled-in row/columns that do not match the numbers, and black box would benefit greatly from showing trajectories automatically somehow, perhaps as lines crossing the grid that bend and warp as you place guesses.

A few other minor things too; it'd be nice to be able to move groups of points in untangle, it'd be nice if lines were multi-colored in slant to make loops easier to spot by something besides trial and error, etc.

I've not played computer sudoku other than his. How else do people do it?

Again, the puzzles and their code are very very well done, it's just the interface that I don't like. And as I stated before, that, more than anything, is the difference between a game and a hit game.

But it's worth noting that interface means more than just glitz and pretty pictures. I've played many games arguably better looking than Simon's puzzles that were no fun because the controls were unresponsive, the display was confusing, etc. Pretty pictures can improve a good interface but make a bad one worse...

Re:Time Out (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678655)

Translation: If you make copies to make a quick buck, all you're ever going to make are quick copies. Try to improve upon formulas and show some originality in your games.

That's all he said. Really.
Well, yes, and that's exactly what people are upset about, you know?

Re:Time Out (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678827)

No, I don't know. The guy is trying to tell people how to make money and they're getting all upset about it. They act as if he said that they're taking money from Popcap by making clones. Which he didn't say. You know?

Re:Time Out (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#19681977)

Note that he's telling people to not do what he himself did, and implying that people who do so are stupid.

Re:Time Out (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688587)

He's implying that they're stupid? I don't see that at all. What I see is that he's trying to share his experience, for better or for worse. Like he said, the Bejeweled clones don't really impact their market. His point is that if the market wants to grow, it's going to have to find its own killer titles.

Re:Time Out (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#19692357)

What I see is that he's trying to share his experience...

By, once again, telling people not to do what he did, as leader of a successful company, and giving no reason why?

Re:Time Out (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#19692641)

"You're not making any money" isn't a good reason? Wow. Just wow.

Re:Time Out (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#19693301)

"I am making lots of money! You are not! Therefore, do not do what I have done!"

Does that really seem like good advice?

Re:Time Out (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#19693647)

Therefore, do not do what I have done!

*THWACK* WAKE UP!

No wonder you're confused. He's not saying that in the slightest. Did you read the interview? The actual interview, not the one filtered through Slashdot and the media?

The truth is that very few games are developed without reference to past games. There's always going to be titles that build on a previous mechanic or game. But there's a fine line between that and very bold-faced rip-offs that aren't adding anything to the game and are just trying to make a quick buck.

They think they can do a quick knock-off to help pay the bills and then they can work on their big magnum opus but that rarely happens. [...] The casual space should be encouraging a huge amount of creative design but there's a lot of imitation and that's a shame.
In case that isn't percolating, he's saying that you're not going to get rich off of a quick Tetris clone. You might, however, get rich off of a new twist on Tetris that shows high production values and original thinking.

Which makes perfect sense when you think about it. How many times has Tetris been copied? Enough to where no one is interested in purchasing a clone, right? So why is Tetris DS successful? Or for that matter, why was it given an IGN Choice Award? And why did people rush out and buy Tetris Worlds for their PS2s? It's all just Tetris, so people should be tired of it, right? Why would they pay money for those variations when your average software developer can barely give away his Tetris clone?

Production values and originality. Learn it, live it, love it.

Re:Time Out (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#19696629)

In case that isn't percolating, he's saying that you're not going to get rich off of a quick Tetris clone. You might, however, get rich off of a new twist on Tetris that shows high production values and original thinking.

That makes sense. But he's not actually saying that. Maybe he means it, and is just bad at expressing himself, but he still is not saying that. You're adding a whole lot of interpretation there that just isn't in that statement.

This line especially almost directly contradicts that: "The casual space should be encouraging a huge amount of creative design but there's a lot of imitation and that's a shame."

Production values and originality. Learn it, live it, love it.

You know, you just claimed that originality is not as important as minor variations on an old theme a couple of sentences back.

Re:Time Out (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678871)

Translation: If you make copies to make a quick buck, all you're ever going to make are quick copies. Try to improve upon formulas and show some originality in your games.
The irony here is that's what his company has been doing, so it's a little hypocritical to call others out for the same thing.

Re:Time Out (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#19679159)

Read as a whole, I get two things out of what he said:

1. Popcap has experience with making clones, so they feel like they are in a good position to comment on it.

2. Copying game mechanics is pretty normal for the industry. But if you're going to do it, do it right. Add your own flare, make it interesting, and above all try to differentiate yourself.

Understandable (1, Redundant)

Miguel de Icaza (660439) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678153)

I can appreciate them being a bit miffled. Nobody like to slave over an idea, work out all the kinks and do lots of testing - than have some sweatshop on the otherside of the world knock out a poormans copy in a couple of weeks. IP laws are the bane of /. but here we see an example where the good guys need international ip harmony.

Sage wisdom... (4, Funny)

p4rri11iz3r (1084543) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678165)

Popcap, I believe some of these may apply to you.

- What's good for the goose, is good for the gander.
- That's the pot calling the kettle black.
- What comes around goes around.
- You reap what you sow.
- A stitch in time, saves nine.
- Whoever smelt it, dealt it.
- Whoever made the rhyme, did the crime.
- ...
- Profit!!!

Re:Sage wisdom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19687115)

Exactly, this story really made me laugh. A company whose entire business is making remakes of classic games that complains about people copying their game ideas.

Mr. Pot this is Mr. Kettle (0, Redundant)

techpawn (969834) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678185)

He'd like to tell you you're black...

Re:Mr. Pot this is Mr. Kettle (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19679091)

Once you've gone black, you never go back.

Nolan Bushnell Called... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19678203)

He said it's time you deal with "The Jackals" the same way he did, make a lot of different games, fast...

Software Patents (1)

quanticle (843097) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678227)

I'm surprised that PopCap hasn't gone for securing some kind of software patent on their puzzle games. Granted, the patent may not be particularly valid, given that there's very little new content in the puzzle gaming world, however, the existence of the patent would certainly be enough to scare off other small developers.

Re:Software Patents (1)

seebs (15766) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678347)

What "kind of software patent" do you think they would go for? How do you think they'd get it?

A PopCap-like game from the late '80s on X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19678361)

A Xwindows only game called "Software Engineer" that consisted of a 4x4 tile grid, similar to other tile games where you need to line the tiles in numeric order, except the tiles had railroad tracks on them and you had to keep the train from derailing.


Moral of the story: Games are built on experiences including other games. PopCap needs to remember this a grow up.

BTW, does anyone remember the game? It was on Athena back in the day.

Re:A PopCap-like game from the late '80s on X (1)

Loligo (12021) | more than 7 years ago | (#19681209)


Sounds like Loco Motion for the Intellivision, from 1983...

Re:A PopCap-like game from the late '80s on X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19681993)

Sounds like Loco Motion for the Intellivision, from 1983...


Excellent. Picture a Loco Motion board in a Mac OS 6 (or earlier) puzzle game style and frame. Thanks for suggesting that.

Time for Tetris Maker to sue PopCap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19678413)

for blatent copyright issues... the guy that made Tetris is now old and ready to enter full Retirement... He needs a nice retirement fund, and this could be one way for him to get it.

Re:Time for Tetris Maker to sue PopCap (1)

Bones3D_mac (324952) | more than 7 years ago | (#19686091)

Actually, I believe Alexey Pajitnov is actively employed at Microsoft. If you own an XBox 360, you've probably played one of his newest games... Hexic.

Clones Galore (1)

dufachi (973647) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678603)

I guess someone should point out that Bejeweled is a clone of Pogo's Sweet Tooth?

Re:Clones Galore (1)

Charolastran (1121725) | more than 7 years ago | (#19680497)

Or perhaps someone should point out to YOU that Sweet Tooth is a reskin of Bejeweled that was done FOR Pogo. Nice try, though.

Psygnosis and the Lemmings clone case (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678639)

There was a guy who made a Lemmings clone. Psygnosis contacted him and asked him to take off his game from the web.

This is something I don't understand - no more lemmings games have been produced - why does the company want to take off a game that doesn't take any sales away from them?

Re:Psygnosis and the Lemmings clone case (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678825)

It's a trademark-like thing (I don't know if there's actual trademark involved, though). They may not be making any more games, but their IP (there's that abbreviation again) is valuable and someone may be willing to pay big bucks for it even if it's just the name/concept (see: Atari). The mere existance a derivative work reduces the potential value of the original brand. Not saying they aren't assholes, just suggesting the reason they are.

Re:Psygnosis and the Lemmings clone case (1)

TheBlackSwordsman (870838) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678903)

There was a guy who made a Lemmings clone. Psygnosis contacted him and asked him to take off his game from the web.

This is something I don't understand - no more lemmings games have been produced - why does the company want to take off a game that doesn't take any sales away from them?


I don't know how long ago the incident you're referring to occurred, but a Lemmings game was released in May 2006 [gamespot.com] for the PSP (and then released on the PS3 in December 2006).

Re:Psygnosis and the Lemmings clone case (1)

dreemernj (859414) | more than 7 years ago | (#19679003)

Well they did come out with a Lemmings game for PS2 in 2006. So its not like they abandoned it or anything.

Re:Psygnosis and the Lemmings clone case (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#19679169)

### Psygnosis contacted him and asked him to take off his game from the web.

"Copycat Lemmings" as it was called I think was a direct rip-off, it even copied a few of the graphics from what I know. So it wasn't just a Lemmings clone, it was copyright violation, trademark violation and all that stuff.

### no more lemmings games have been produced

There has been a very steady stream of Lemmings games over the years (Lemmings2, Lemmings3, 3D Lemmings, Lemmings Paintball, Lomax, LemmingsRevolution) and just recently Lemmings1 got a remake for PS2, PS3 and PSP, there also where numerous ports spread across all kinds of platforms over the years.

Beside, there are a ton of Lemmings clones on the net that never got touched by Psygnosis as well has a few commercial Lemmings-like games that didn't get touched either (Troddlers). So its not like they are going against any recycling of their gameplay elements.

this attitude reminds me of disney. (1)

darga (953093) | more than 7 years ago | (#19678867)

disney's a company that mines almost all of its ideas from the public domain, but also a company that repeatedly has new copyright laws made to prevent any of their characters from ever entering the public domain. hypocrites all.

Pot, Kettle, Black (2, Insightful)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 7 years ago | (#19679013)

Popcap doesn't have a lot of room to cry here. Talismania is certainly an imitation of or at least highly derivative of the old Atari 5200 game Zenji. And, Super Collapse 3 certainly seems a lot like Breakout. Maybe I just don't understand the finer points of corporate whining.

Well, patent them! (1)

Lisandro (799651) | more than 7 years ago | (#19679231)

Yeah, let's go for gameplay patents! There're too many Tetris clones on the wild as it is!

Re:Well, patent them! (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#19683737)

Yeah, let's go for gameplay patents! There're too many Tetris clones on the wild as it is!
Dr. Mario appears to be patented (U.S. Patent 5,265,888),

Damn it. (2, Interesting)

br14n420 (1111329) | more than 7 years ago | (#19679293)

Dear PopCap,

I own a couple of your games and can honestly state they do not seem very original. For instance, I have seen a multitude of games similar to Bejeweled for years. Take a look in family arcades and bar-top arcade systems, jewel + puzzle games of this style have been around for about 15 years longer than Pop-cap has been in business.

It is very tempting to go through my MAME screenshot repository and find games PopCap did that look like older arcade titles, then begin sending email to each of these companies to make their own determination if PopCap is, in fact, the real copy-catter.

Anyone else with a library of screens for MAME, feel free to join in. If we could get PC to drop one game over a lawsuit, we'll never hear such dribble out of them again!

Re:Damn it. (0, Flamebait)

PaganRitual (551879) | more than 7 years ago | (#19683709)

Dear Brian the Pot Smoker,

You've paid us for some of these games that you say show no originality. Our goal with regards to your input into our business model has been met. From this point on, unless you want to give us more money to actually exceed our goals, we really couldn't give a a fuck what you have to say.

Regards,

PopCap

Re:Damn it. (1)

br14n420 (1111329) | more than 7 years ago | (#19685119)

I got tricked, what can I say! Ninja Bee to the rescue!

Imitation (2, Insightful)

mhannibal (1121487) | more than 7 years ago | (#19679541)

While PopCap might be the wrong company to make statements about copying ideas, they make a valid point. Casual and Indie games have been touted as bringing innovation to a stale market, yet most seem to be using the same tactic as the major companies - copy what works. Where are the innovators of the 80's and 90's - it seems there were so many different genres and ideas then?

Indie Gamer forum discussion (1)

Allen Varney (449382) | more than 7 years ago | (#19680261)

Indie and casual game designers are discussing the Popcap interview at great length at the Indie Gamer forums [indiegamer.com] . As I remarked there, many people have observed that the current syndrome of blatant, rampant plagiarism is dangerous to the casual game market's long-term health -- and whenever someone does observe this, the plagiarizers move immediately to smear that speaker's reputation. By demonstrating the speaker isn't a pure and saintly exemplar of all things holy, the plagiarizers believe they prove their arrant plagiarism represents no danger to the market. It's nothing but an unhelpful and short-sighted diversionary tactic.

I wrote about the cloning phenomenon in The Escapist issue #34, "Attack of the Parasites [escapistmagazine.com] ."

i'll care (1)

Some_Llama (763766) | more than 7 years ago | (#19681089)

when they start charging more reasonable prices for their games.. 20 bucks is too much for a little puzzle game. at 5 bucks a pop I wouldn't feel like i'm getting ripped off.

I can go to the local store's bargain bin and get year old games for 20 bucks.. this is a 5 MB download..

That has to be a joke (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688639)

PopCap are the ones copying games from other companies and now they're angry they're being copied in return?

Keep in mind that Zuma is a copy of Puzz Loop, Bejeweled is a copy of xjewel, etc.

That's either priceless, funny or just really sad.

Huh? What are Popcap's "Original Contributions"?? (1)

popo (107611) | more than 7 years ago | (#19692585)

This would be interesting coming from Valve, or Id or Blizzard or any of the companies that has truly expanded their individual genres through technological advances, or radical re-thinking of gameplay and strategy.

But Popcap? They make puzzle games that are derivatives of Tetris, and their games are better suited for widgets and free downloads than they are as stand alone titles.

For Popcap to whine about "copycats" would be like Bethesda complaining about all the other swords and sorcery RPG's out there. Not only are they pretending they invented the genre, but they're pretending they're the genre's leaders.

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