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App Store hit by new game-cloning controversy

League of Epic Heroes withdrawn following Desktop Dungeons dispute

In the latest of an apparent glut of plagiarism disputes, RPG League of Epic Heroes has been pulled from the App Store as a result of complaints by another developer.

QCF Design released the PC game Desktop Dungeons last year and was planning on a later iOS port, but in December revealed concerns around alleged similarities in Eric Farraro's iPhone title League Of Epic Heroes.

Farraro had previously admitted that "League is based on the core gameplay of Desktop Dungeons" but claimed the £1.19 App was not a clone. Stating he had not yet been contacted by QCF's lawyers, he told Edge last week that "My formal line is that League Of Epic Heroes violates no law, and that QCF does not have a valid legal claim."

Farraro appears to have had a change of heart since then. In an email sent to QCF yesterday, he wrote that "Just wanted to let you know that as of today, I've removed LoEH for sale in all countries, following the copyright infringement notice I received from your lawyer.

"I apologize for all the issues this has caused, and wish you best of luck on your IGF nomination. Looking forward to the full version of Desktop Dungeons on iPhone."

QCF is now worried that this may reflect badly on its title. Wrote founder Danny Day, "We now have to deal with the fact that there are people out there who have seen LoEH before they were even aware of DD. Yes, this is partly our fault (uh, for not marketing to a user-base we didn't have a product for yet, I guess) but now we have to conquer that odd first-adopter loyalty just because someone else stole our work."

Day also revealed that "We gave Mr Farraro ideas on how to change LoEH so that it wasn't a DD rip off. We tried to motivate him to create something cool and offered to work with him to help deal with the resulting longer dev time. Obviously he didn't go for it. We're sorry about that."

In the last week, plagiarism charges were also levelled against various 'doodle' games on the App Store by Doodle Jump creator Lima Sky, and at Capcom's MaXsplosion by Twisted Pixel's 'Splosionman.

Desktop Dungeons' Day felt such disputes were a growing trend. "You can't heave a brick these days without hitting something that's involved either in copyright infringement or enforcement in some way. Laws are going to change, games will enjoy more protection eventually.

"More and more cloned games are being shut down by platform owners that realise they're hurting the platform's perception. Game buyers understand what a clone is and - even if they don't - are less likely to spend money on something that others have complained about."

Addressing other developers who were considering copying existing games in the hope of making a fast buck, he argued that "Cloning is financially riskier than building an original game: You are increasingly likely to have your clone's earning window cut short through either technological, legal or consumer-awareness avenues. You don't have to be a rocket-surgeon to realise that's a stupid way to try and earn a living."

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Alec Meer avatar
Alec Meer: A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.
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