# A Game of Clones: Video Game Litigation IllustratedMay 27, 2015 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Can't seem to get there from here, not even via CoralCache. Any help out there?
posted by Samizdata at 9:51 AM on May 27, 2015

I don't know why that's happening. The article is also on the wayback machine: A Game of Clones: Video Game Litigation Illustrated
posted by boo_radley at 9:55 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Bang! example is nice, (though as he notes, it's not a final judgment) because it is purely about the mechanics where most of the examples also have similar visuals.

I also like the note with Tetris vs. Mino that something like the dimensions of the playfield can be an issue.

The 7 Tetris shapes is a very interesting case. Yes, if you decide to use shapes made of four squares, then those same 7 shapes follow from that decision. But is deciding to use shapes made of four squares and not five a creative expression?

I'd argue that things like ghost pieces (to show where the block will land) and preview pieces (what will appear next) follow naturally from the idea of a "falling-block puzzle game" while deciding your blocks are going to be made of 4 squares is a similar decision to choosing the dimensions of the playfield.
posted by RobotHero at 10:52 AM on May 27, 2015

posted by LogicalDash at 11:01 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

RobotHero - I think the article did a useful job of framing the question of whether the decision to use tetrominos or pentominos (for example) is creative or essential to the idea of the falling-shape game. Adler posted pictures of non-tetromino shapes, and suggested that they would make the game essentially unplayable. I'm not sure that this is true, but the nice thing about that proposition is that there are a few ways to test it. One might be mathematical; if we could show that the set of potential matches with simpler shapes is so small as to be boring, while larger shapes would be too challenging (for example), we might conclude that the use of tetronimos is essential to, and thus merged with, the idea of the falling-block game rooted in geometric manipulation (as opposed to matching-type games, like the old Yoshi games).

For that matter, I could imagine litigants with time and resources at their disposal actually mocking up crude pentomino-based games, with tetromino-based games in the same engine, to demonstrate that tetrominos yield such a superior game play experience as to be essential.

As to ghost and preview pieces - I agree with you, for the simple reason that these features are what allow one to practice longer-term strategy. Playing without preview pieces creates a fundamentally different game, because players now *have* to play differently.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 11:30 AM on May 27, 2015

(deploys Copyright-Inflato-Lawyer, is instantly pulped by falling buzzsaw)
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:05 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well with ghost and preview pieces, you either have them or don't.

With preview pieces, either you can see what comes next or you can't. Maybe you can do something like show the next two or three pieces, but there's not really a lot of variation on how to show this information.

Same again for the ghost pieces. If you have the goal of showing where a piece will land, there aren't a lot of ways you can present that info that makes sense.

In the example of Street Fighter vs. Fighter History, it mentions "intuitive game controls" and I would be inclined to call these "intuitive data presentation."

I think it's a much tougher thing to argue these 7 shapes are the best and/or only viable shapes. Maybe these 7 shapes work well for this size of playfield, but if we made the playfield wider, then pentominoes would work better. What if we didn't use all 7 shapes? Maybe we should try out various subsets of the tetromicoes. And try each subset in a range of playfield sizes. Maybe pentominoes will work if we leave out the U and + shapes or some other combination, so we should try all of those, just to be sure. And maybe we could mix and match the two sizes together. Maybe try throwing the 3-square shapes in there, too. There are a vast number of possible variants here.

Some of them could also become viable with other rule changes. Maybe trominos (3 squares) are more of a challenge if you can't rotate them? Maybe pentominoes are more forgiving if you allow them to be loose blocks. (When a row is cleared, any "hovering" blocks will fall)
posted by RobotHero at 12:59 PM on May 27, 2015

boo_radley: "I don't know why that's happening. The article is also on the wayback machine: A Game of Clones: Video Game Litigation Illustrated"

Cheers! I tend to assume too much lagtime on the Archive and assume it is basically for things like my Geocities page.
posted by Samizdata at 2:07 PM on May 27, 2015

I tend to assume too much lagtime on the Archive and assume it is basically for things like my Geocities page.

posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:12 PM on May 27, 2015

You Can't Tip a Buick: " I tend to assume too much lagtime on the Archive and assume it is basically for things like my Geocities page.

"

Crikey! NOW I remember the story. Cheers for the refresh!
posted by Samizdata at 3:35 PM on May 27, 2015

The law of copyright infringement is complicated. But by playing some clones that were found infringing and some others that were not, we can develop a gut-level feeling for copyright infringement in video games.

Yes, and to avoid getting slammed with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of legal fees, you need only predict with accuracy the gut of a random (and technologically illiterate) judge. Truly a great system " To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts".
posted by factory123 at 5:43 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

factory123, you're so off base I don't even know where to begin.

You can certainly rack up a hundred grand in legal fees without ever talking to a judge.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:50 PM on May 27, 2015

Off base how? If you can't accurately predict what sort of behavior the law deems infringing, you have an incentive to avoid expression that could be infringing. (Eg, Google "Fiesler copyright"). If you piss off somebody with deep pockets, you're fucked. The rules are loosey goosey, so plaintiffs always have cover to bring suit.

Whether or not it goes before a judge is irrelevant. Expression is chilled, and the progress of science and useful arts suffers.
posted by factory123 at 11:51 PM on May 27, 2015

Erm, I'm pretty sure that RobotVoodooPower was making a joke.
posted by Ned G at 2:15 AM on May 28, 2015

Very tangentially related, because it's patent not copyright, but Namco's patent on loading-screen minigames expires in November of this year. (An acquaintance of mine has announced a themed game-jam)

Giant floating arrows I think we have to wait until 2018.

I played a Winnipeg-themed game called Winnipeg On Board and most people look at that and think that's basically Monopoly, right? But there's a lot of little things that I think they deliberately changed to reduce their risk. The colours of the properties are all different. The prices on everything doesn't match. Even though it roughly follows Monopoly where the cheap and expensive properties are, almost everything is off by 10 or 20 dollars. Even the Fringe and Theatre cards, they are almost all mechanically equivalent to the Chance and Community Chest cards, but you might get \$150 instead of \$200. (Of course with Monopoly, there was the prior Landlord's Game which might help put a limit on what they can get you for.)
posted by RobotHero at 9:10 AM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

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