Kick back, folks. This is going to be a bit of a long one.
I would like to preface this piece by saying that if you as a game developer have ever cloned someone else's work - if you've ever seen another developer's idea and tried to profit from it as your own - you are a cancer. You and the people like you are everything that's wrong with game development; talentless hacks who do nothing but discourage the men and women that are actually passionate about what they do. In short, I hate you - please stay away from my hobby. Go sell used cars or something.
Right. Let's get down to business. Development studio Vlambeer is no stranger to being ripped off. The developer - which is much beloved among its fans - has seen no less than two blatant ripoffs of its games in the past three years. First, there was Ridiculous Fishing, which was beaten to the market by Gamenaut's Ninja Fishing. It's a long, painful tale, but I'll try to sum it up:
- Vlambeer had a short flash game called Radical Fishing that it released to the public. This was done with the intent of releasing a full-length iOS game known as Ridiculous Fishing in the near future.
- A trailer for another game, known as Ninja Fishing, pops up on the iTunes Store. It is a blatant ripoff of Ridiculous fishing, right down to using identical upgrades.
- The developers at Vlambeer try to be civil with Gamenauts, which apologizes for ripping their idea and says they'll be credited for it. As far as I know, they never have been.
- Ninja Fishing hits the app store, and is the best-selling app on iOS during release week. This release happens in spite of requests from Vlambeer to delay it. Vlambeer decides not to pursue legal action, and gives up on releasing Ridiculous Fishing.
That's the Cole's Notes version of what happened. Vlambeer has since decided to once more work on releasing Ridiculous Fishing, and shortly thereafter, it received the "Best Mobile Game" reward at the 2012 Independent Games Festival. It released earlier this year.
For a time, it looked like Vlambeer would be able to put this unfortunate saga behind them...
Then it happened again, this time even more blatantly with Rubiq Lab's uncreatively named SkyFar ripping of Vlambeer's in-development title Luftrausers. This time, the guilty party chose to deny everything, playing the victim when fans and games journalists descended upon them in a tide of indignation. This time, Vlambeer was having none of it - they stood up and expressed just as much outrage as their fans, coupled with the conviction to fight the shameless piece of crapware to the death.
As near as I can tell, they won. Rubiq Lab has vanished from Twitter, and their game is no longer present on the iTunes Store. The only word we've heard from them since is a video they posted to YouTube which is either celebrating India's successful Mars mission launch or advertising a new mobile game....or maybe both. It's not really clear. It's a victory...if only a small one.
Oh, have I mentioned that several ripoffs of another of Vlambeer's titles, Super Crate Box, have surfaced as well?
See, this isn't a problem that just impacts Vlambeer. Given that it takes no talent whatsoever to hire a skilled marketing agency, and taking into account the downright dismal state of video game copyright law, it's effectively open season on creative ideas, particularly where mobile development is concerned (in fact, that's where this problem is at its worst). For every developer like Vlambeer which successfully fends off IP thieves, there are several more who see their beloved brainchildren fall into someone else's hands and turn a profit.
Anyway, now that you've gotten a bit of backstory, I'd like to direct your attention to a lovely little web app known as Vlambeer Clone Tycoon. Developed by composer Rik Niewdorp of Claynote and web developer Martijn Frazer, the browser game puts players into the shoes of game developers who've only got one goal: to rip off Vlambeer titles. Players are tasked with duplicating Vlambeer's games as closely as possible without getting into legal trouble with the aim of beating Vlambeer to release.
"We want to demonstrate how dismal it is to clone games by letting people experience the activity themselves," explained the duo. "And what could possibly be a better way to experience something outside of your reality than through a game? That is why we have created Vlambeer Clone Tycoon, which is exactly that: a game in which the player assumes the role of a cloner with the single goal of ripping off Vlambeer as hard as possible."
You can find Vlambeer Clone Tycoon here, and soon you too will know what it's like to be a shameless, talentless hack!