Author Topic: Copied content?  (Read 6630 times)

Bear

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Copied content?
« on: September 12, 2014, 08:32:55 PM »

Do people have opinions about reusing content from other games?

In Nethack, for example, there is the "Rogue level", which copies many features from the earlier game Rogue, as a sort of tribute/acknowledgement. 

But what if it goes much further than that?  What if an implementation provided its own controls and interface, but then just flatly read in the content from the source files of different games, such as the monster/item definitions from bands, the monster.h file from Crawl, and so on?  Most of these are written in very regular languages that would be easy to make parsers for, and implement a translator that constructed monsters with similar names, console letter+color representation, abilities, etc. 

At what point does it cease to be tribute and start being outright theft?

Or is it a neat idea that a player could get into the content of different games without actually climbing the learning curve of a different U once he's invested the effort of learning a complicated keyboard-driven UI?

mushroom patch

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Re: Copied content?
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2014, 08:52:49 PM »
If your game and the game you appropriate content from are compatibly licensed, then I would say you've basically been given a standing offer to take/reuse whatever you want, provided attribution is given in relevant source files and elsewhere. I'd be hard pressed to call that theft.

If you're talking about the "artistic" merit of such wholesale copying, that's another matter. I think taking content from another game diminishes the creative value of a game (or of the part of the work contributed by the copier), but I think to some extent people should be okay with that.

The tribute/homage situation would be an exception to this rule, if it's done in a way that is not too prominent within the scope of the whole work. On the other hand, "remakes" or "TrademarkedMediaPropertyRL" type things should be regarded as an extreme case where people should not necessarily be okay with it.

Bear

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Re: Copied content?
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2014, 09:04:22 PM »
I think it's neat to put homages into a game - I would be completely happy adding a 'wumpus hunt' level complete with sucker-footed wumpodes, giant bats, bottomless pits, and the classic 20 rooms connected in a dodecahedronal maze, and having the quest giver outfit our brave @ with two crooked arrows of wumpus slaying. 

It would outright copy virtually the entire content of that very simple game, but in the context of a roguelike, that would be just one level - possibly the first, if we want to pretend to be a sequel to 'wumpus hunt'.  And the entrance to the "main" dungeon is something you find when you lower yourself into one of those pits with a sixty-foot rope.

koiwai

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Re: Copied content?
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2014, 06:49:36 AM »
If the license permits reuse then you can use it yourself. Not everyone will be impressed by this of course. Tributes are great, but verbatim copying is generally a bad idea. Change it, adapt other game's content for your needs.

On the other hand, copying ideas is ubiquitous in video games, and in roguelikes in particular, it's like a stigma of the genre, in my opinion. Many developers don't think for themselves at all, and stick to copying, copying, copying. The resulting product is just a plain banality, an no one will enjoy it. Even in a famous game like ADOM, there was a useless charisma stat. Another example, DnD dice rolls are not the only way to do randomness in a computer games, but people don't want to be original, even htough computers can handle more complex and better models.

And, btw, copying ideas is worse than copying verbatim content. The worst is copying bad ideas  ;D All of us are doing that though, to some extent.

Zireael

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Re: Copied content?
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2014, 07:10:22 PM »
I think a lot depends on whether the original's licence allows re-use and whether you're trying to be ORIGINAL (or as original as possible) or not.

When making my own roguelike, I've made it clear from the start that the basic idea was 'port SRD into roguelike' and then 'port Incursion into a tiles-capable and worldmap-capable engine' - hence reusing a lot of Incursion's ideas and descriptions.
On the other hand, I did put a few spins of my own and made it clear that some Incursion features would NOT be ported over.

Eben

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Re: Copied content?
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2014, 08:19:50 PM »
I think a lot depends on whether the original's licence allows re-use and whether you're trying to be ORIGINAL (or as original as possible) or not.

When making my own roguelike, I've made it clear from the start that the basic idea was 'port SRD into roguelike' and then 'port Incursion into a tiles-capable and worldmap-capable engine' - hence reusing a lot of Incursion's ideas and descriptions.
On the other hand, I did put a few spins of my own and made it clear that some Incursion features would NOT be ported over.

And even Incursion was "port DnD to roguelike as fully as possible".

Given that it's impossible to be original, everything's going to be on a sliding scale. Do what feels right to you that's still legal.

koiwai

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Re: Copied content?
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2014, 04:03:26 AM »
Sorry I was offensive, I was mostly against a particular type of brainless copying. When a developer is mindlessly taking design elements from popular games, not really thinking why those elements are good, or whether they need them or not. Then, they end up with a bunch of very generic and half-baked features that don't really work together very well.

On the other hand, as long as the developer is thoughtful and conscious about thier choices, it's fine to copy good examples. For example the rock-paper-scissors meta-game principle is good for balancing games. And actually the dice rolls are very intuitive and familiar to the players, and this is great. And replicating other games as a project goal is awesome (I like this list: http://osgameclones.com/), if the game is not free, if it is buggy, if it is closed source, or if you don't like where the project is going and fork it.

Another thing, even if you copy the monster and item definitions from DCSS or some other source, your game still may be quite original and novel. Actually, I think that using a well balanced set of mobs is an interesting way to start a new project.. You may replace them at some later stage, or keep (as long as you comply with the license of the source and give credit to the original developers), but I don't see anything inherently wrong about it..  It's like a challenge, and maybe an interesting 7drl idea?

Bear

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Re: Copied content?
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2014, 06:18:16 AM »
Heck, I wasn't offended. 

The copy could never really be exact, unless all your mechanics and effects were the same as the other game's mechanics and effects.  Which isn't likely unless both are faithful replicas of a the same pen-and-paper RPG.  Which doesn't describe anything I'd be likely to implement, so no risk there.  :-)

So while I could read the monster definitions file and see that something has, say 4d6 damage and a base-to-hit (based on monster hit dice) of, say, 16, I'd be using that to base a different set of values on - what does that stuff mean, in a game where characters start with more hit points than the d20 system it's based on, but high-level characters have less hits than high-level d20 characters?  Where the base-to-hit from d20 has no very close analogue because we're using a normal rather than linear distribution, and where damage is divided between short-term (stun and endurance which require rest) and long-term (cuts and bruising which require healing)? And where healing rates and availability of healing effects is different from the source game?  And what does a special attack form mean if the means of resisting or recovering from that effect is different or harder in one game than in the other? 

Then what does the fact that in the source game a monster appears on levels 20 to 40 mean if my game only has half as many levels, but they're twice as big, the original has unlimited level regeneration and my game has persistent levels, and player progress through levels is likely to take less time near the beginning of the game but more time toward the end? 

I mean, yes, you can write a straightforward translation function by picking some set of assumptions, just as you have to make assumptions when you're translating from English to Russian to Chinese - but no, it's never going to be exact, any more than a translation from English to Russian to Chinese will be exact.  The critter would be recognizable, and similar in scope and threat - but it would never mean exactly the same thing strategically as the original meant in the original context. 

Krice

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Re: Copied content?
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2014, 09:37:25 AM »
Sorry I was offensive, I was mostly against a particular type of brainless copying. When a developer is mindlessly taking design elements from popular games

It's easy. There is your answer. It's much easier to use existing stuff than try to create original content. Most monsters in roguelikes have been invented before, most items, spells etc. Of course some are so generic that they would be invented anyway. Then there is deeper type of copying such as the RPG system, descriptions, messages etc. I think it's not that big problem in free roguelikes, but it's kind of lame when people make commercial roguelikes heavily based on earlier roguelikes. That's what TB did, but he is german and doesn't care.

Troy_Costisick

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Re: Copied content?
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2015, 02:01:22 AM »
I think it's great to pay homage in your own game to a game you loved, but I don't like the idea of stealing something directly.  I'm a big defender of spiritual successors and tribute games, but I'm also a big defender of copyright and intellectual property.  If a designer wants to do something that evokes a sense or memory of a previous game, I say go for it!  But I would also say don't copy a whole level or a particular character.  At that point, I feel the designer may be on thin ice.