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League of Epic Heroes withdrawn following Desktop Dungeons dispute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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Latest comments (21)

John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam11 years ago
This seems to be a general issue on platforms with faster turn-arounds and lower barriers to entry than traditional PC and console development, sad to say. I was browsing the Android Market at the weekend and spotted a game called Angry Frogs, which looks just like Angry Birds, but with frogs and snakes instead of birds and pigs. And the blatant plagiarism and bandwagon jumping that goes on amongst Facebook game developers is legendary.
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Isn't this sort of constant cloning and plagerism what caused the first games market crash?
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 11 years ago
Why is everything being cloned these days? :/
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Show all comments (21)
Francisco Javier QA Engineering & Coordination, Saber Interactive Spain11 years ago
This whole plagiarism controversy is starting to be ridiculous. I saw tents of games that are all the same, but with some twists in a few places. We're in the process of design process of our new game, and we're having a lot of trouble finding which games are similar to the concept we're starting, which has completely grown up from our minds. Should we research the whole game market before starting to code our game? Should we waste tons of money seeking games that sounds similar to our design? ... if we really would be seeking the whole game market, we would waste our funds just seeking! Any idea on how to solve this issue?

I Would like to add that these developers who are cloning games, it's probably due to try to atract players from a current trend or market. Like happened with the Wii, that tons of games came after Wiifit (in different kind of games) to please the need of this new market.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Francisco Javier on 17th January 2011 3:08pm

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Graham Simpson Tea boy, Collins Stewart11 years ago
Seems the first mover advantage is paramount. If a clone beats you then you are screwed. Unfortunately the small developers or one man bands don't have the financial firepower to take the clones to court.
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Olivier Desanges Game & Industry Analyst, Ubisoft11 years ago
Sadly the Appstore is full of Angry-Ninja-Rope games...
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James Prendergast Process Specialist 11 years ago
Why is everything being cloned these days?! :/


Seriously though, it's more difficult to sort out plagiarism in an artform like gameplay when compared to something like a physical product (with patents) or writing or actual art where the art has a specific character to it usually stemming from the vision of a single author.
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John Blackburne Programmers 11 years ago
Sometimes plagiarism is just plagiarism. You won't see a much more blatant example than this, with the same game name and gameplay + ripped art assets, that came to light over the weekend:
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Rick Cody PBnGames-Board Member 11 years ago
It's not hard to tell quality. For the early adopters, every game should need a demo so they can judge it. For the late adopters, just look at the charts. If Angry Frogs is outselling Angry Birds than maybe it's better. We're not seeing that problem right now on the App Store. Angry Birds is a great game that's selling great, many of the games that deserve the sales are getting them.
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Abraham Tatester Producer 11 years ago
"You don't have to be a rocket-surgeon to realise [cloning's] a stupid way to try and earn a living."

Tell that to Zynga ...

@ John Blackburn, thanks for posting that link. That is INSANE. Good luck to Halfbot.
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Edward Buffery Head of LQA (UK), Testronic11 years ago
Rocket surgeons FTW :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Edward Buffery on 17th January 2011 5:51pm

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Philip Wilson Project Manager/QA 11 years ago
So how has NGmoco gotten by unaffected? They're original titles and even they're "new" titles now are just direct ripoffs of popular console titles.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 11 years ago
As a big DD fan, I'm happy about this - League was a DIRECT swipe of the gameplay and other elements that even the creator of the acknowledged to QCF that he basically stole their idea and rushed his game out the door. Good to see QCF win one as they tighten up the PC version of their game. I'll still wish Farraro the best in his work as well, as he has some talent - next time, go cook up something original, though.
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Matt Hackett Game Developer, Lost Decade Games11 years ago
"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."

I don't know where the author is getting that. I don't agree with a bit of it. From my experience, your average gamer doesn't know/care what a clone is. See Farmville. I've actually seen threads where people were saying "Don't play Farm Town! It's a rip off!" They get confused and don't bother looking up the facts. It's awful.
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Bryce Hunter Producer, DHX Media Ltd.11 years ago
Just a heads up to Alec and the rest of you guys on here, the Halfbot case that John Blackburne has raised is epically bad. Check out the screen comparisons here...

<strong>IMAGE COMPARISON</strong>

... and you can read up on the state of the game here...

<strong>Day 2: The Blocks Stoleth</strong>

Friggin' ridiculous.
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Thiago Vignoli Creative Director, Fan Studios11 years ago
App Store is new, will get some problems. But with time will be like other online game markets, Onlive, Steam and others.
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Tony Johns11 years ago
What about all those tetris clones of the early 90's as well as those PONG clones of the 70's?

Surely ther have been a few successful clones and not all of them have been commercial flops.
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Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos11 years ago
This article is very confused, I suspect purposefully on the part of soem of the parties involved.

Plagiarism is an academic term that has nothing to do with copyright. Copyright ONLY covers the copying of aristic expression fixed in a tangible medium. It does nto cover ideas.

If LoEH copied code from DD, or copied art from DD, then the claim is legitimate. if not, which this article doesn't seem to suggest is the case, then LoEH is 100% legally in the right. This smells like just another case of a developer with enough money to hire a lawyer strong-arming a competitor who doesn't.

Shame on you.
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Kim Soares Lead Designer, Nitro Games11 years ago
I second Jeffrey here. Game types are not singular entities that someone can say having a copyright for. We do not have just one racing game, but there are Forza, PGR, NFS, Test Drive etc. Resistance: Fall of Man, Killzone and Gears of War that were all about mean sonsofbitches shooting humongous monsters. I still confuse which was which, but they came out within six months of each other so I do not think anyone cloned someone else.

That said, with all due respect to Rovio, Angry Birds was clone of a dozens of wall breaking games that one could found for free in internet and that also had several examples in App Store before Angry Birds. Rovio did a clone with really streamlined gameplay, good visuals and characters that catch your attention. That was the difference that resulted in 13 000 000 sold games.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Kim Soares on 18th January 2011 7:03am

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 11 years ago
^Why not read the blog on the QCF design site and see the whole story for yourself? LoEH templated much of DD's art and design with only a few cosmetic changes, but it was still derivative enough that what had to be done was done. Hell, the guys at QCF even tried to HELP the other party in making his game not a total rip-off, but I'm gathering he wanted to get his game out first and make some quick money.

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Peter Dwyer software engineer, openbet11 years ago
It comes down to not protecting your game during development. Once it's out there, it's pretty easy to see who the clones are and prove ou were there first. The problem is (and I was guilty of this one too) is that I was so proud of my game I shouted about it to every Tom, Dick and Harry. Before I'd managed to finish my game a similar (read fikkin' straight rip) appeared online.

I never did finish that game but, learned lesson no.102 "Don't give your idea away through careless banter or plastering it all over the web when you only have a prototype and a title screen to show for yourself"
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