A Completely Original Game, Except For All Of The Parts That Aren't
June 12, 2008 6:08 AM   Subscribe

Epic Theft? Epic Fail. "Steve Bovis, Tim Croucher and Laurence Francis, all from Maidstone, have dreamt of seeing Limbo of the Lost played across the globe since they first started discussing the game 10 years ago."* Conceived in the 90s as an Amiga 1200 title, the three Kentish lads went with the PC for the decades-deferred realization of their creative dream. Unfortunately, the long-delayed release of Limbo of the Lost is leaving reviewers with a profound sense of deja vu, as if they've seen this game somewhere before ...

The game's US distributor, Tri Synergy, has ceased distribution and is pleading ignorance of any and all "borrowing," but Bethesda Softworks -- publisher of Oblivion -- is not amused.
posted by grabbingsand (39 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Man, not only did they rip off Bethesda, but also Ion Storm, Blizzard, Epic, Painkiller, Dreamcatcher, and the movies Pirates of the Caribbean and Spawn. Epic fail indeed.
posted by danb at 6:14 AM on June 12, 2008

Erm, Painkiller is by Dreamcatcher, of course
posted by danb at 6:15 AM on June 12, 2008

They also used sock puppets to promote themselves in forums all over the web, apparently.
posted by delmoi at 6:19 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I mean, they look like nice enough guys ... you know, in that mid-nineties Full Monty / Brassed Off / "Lads!-I-got-an-idea-that'll-make-us-rich!" kind of way
posted by grabbingsand at 6:24 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Did anyone else hope that this was some sort of a zombie rhythm game?

'Cause that's what 'Limbo of the Lost' says to me.
posted by ulotrichous at 6:26 AM on June 12, 2008


I remember back in 1985-88 or so, I had this grand, pre-teen dream of making the Next Big Video Game. It was going to be exactly like PacMan, only with a different maze. Also, there would be 5 ghosts instead of 4. Mind blowing, right?

Looks like these guys didn't even do that much.
posted by DU at 6:38 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Zombie rhythm game"?
That would be any Grateful Dead album after "Terrapin Station".
posted by Dizzy at 6:40 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

If they'd just called it a mashup, the kids'd be all gaga over it and it would've sold a million.

OMG, Oblivion vs. Morrowind! Dugg
posted by uncleozzy at 6:43 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

For the briefest of moments after seeing the words epic, theft and amiga, I thought the post was going to be about a Keef the Thief sequel. Rats.
posted by cog_nate at 6:44 AM on June 12, 2008

Yet another reminder to get back to my oblivion save. It's been about 6 months now and I have few excuses.
posted by puke & cry at 6:44 AM on June 12, 2008

The three put their heads together and after three more years of hard work Limbo of the Lost - a PC adventure game - was born. It is a battle between fate and destiny, with players having to work through a series of puzzles and challenges to reach the end.

WOW! How innovative! No one ever thought of making a game like this before! And all it took was three revolutionaries and a lot of copyright infringement!

"Between the three of us we researched, wrote, designed, animated, scripted and developed the whole game from home."

Always a recipe for success. Three completely unqualified poofters going at it alone, stealing materials and models from hugely successful franchises which are intimately familiar to their target audience.

Genius plan, whatever could go wrong?
posted by splice at 6:54 AM on June 12, 2008

A genius plan, indeed, provided no one ever played the game. The devil is always in the details.
posted by tommasz at 7:15 AM on June 12, 2008

OMG, Oblivion vs. Morrowind! Dugg

posted by danb at 7:35 AM on June 12, 2008

Well, they could always try to pass it off as a tribute to great games...
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:38 AM on June 12, 2008

Half realised, half baked, farkakt ideas cooked up by enthusiastic amateurs with nothing but a van load of enthusiasm and a jumbo sack of group-think.

It *should* be an uplifiting sort of story, but I just know that somewhere in all of this, there's someone who knew better, said nothing and cashed the cheques.
posted by Jofus at 7:45 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Not to turn this into the free speech or hate speech thread but "poofters"?
posted by ninebelow at 7:49 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Had no idea that was anything but a generic insult. So please don't turn this into a hate speech thread, and next time just MeMail or metatalk it, mmkay?
posted by splice at 7:56 AM on June 12, 2008

British slang is a trap for the unwary.

The most amusing/pathetic part of it is that the levels they lifted from Oblivion actually look worse in their game. I mean, there's sprite fire that tries to hide the fact that it's sprite fire with clever tricks and lighting, and then there's... sprite fire.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:05 AM on June 12, 2008

I read 'Limbo of the Lost' and naturally assumed that it was a social game like Guitar Hero, except that you would play how-low-can-you-go under a bar, as characters from Land of the Lost.

I was going to fucking own as a Sleestak too, damn it.
posted by quin at 8:16 AM on June 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


No kidding. That fire looks like it came from an animated GIF the devs found on CompuServe in 1995.
posted by Target Practice at 8:34 AM on June 12, 2008

I had no idea that models, textures and environments were so easy to lift from commercial games.

It certainly sounds like if they'd packaged this as some sort of Oblivion "mod" they might have actually found success rather than scorn.
posted by rokusan at 8:35 AM on June 12, 2008

... if they'd packaged this as some sort of Oblivion "mod" ...

If Oblivion had been the only source, then that approach would've worked entirely in their favor. But the list of games in their borrowing stack just keeps growing and growing, a veritable cornucopia of familiar textures.

And for more tragi-comedy gold, here's an interview with one of the designers from 2006:
Gordon (Aplin): During the long gestation for this game, what sort of changes have you made to bring it up to date?

Steve (Bovis): All of the game (apart from initial background story and some character designs) had to be re-written, all the characters had to be created in 3D and animated, all the background scenes re-created, all the sounds, coding and music?..basically everything had to be redone or newly created for the PC version. This is not an old game that has been dressed up. This is the original concept, dusted off and re-created.
Oh, my.
posted by grabbingsand at 8:56 AM on June 12, 2008

Some of the so-called similarities are fairly thin. For example, the supposed resemblance to the Unreal UI is a stretch and anyway, how many ways are there of doing onscreen controls? The supposed theft of orcish armour from Morrowind is even less plausible, considering that it looks like Japanese samurai armour. It's more parsimonious in this case that the two games have a common inspiration.

Others similarities are uncanny, which makes the affair that much stranger. Despite the heavy use of the words like "theft", "ripped off" and "copy-paste", in reality the developers would seem to have recreated scenes from other games. There's no sign of them having the source or reverse engineering Oblivion, there's not any indication that they even used the same graphics engines. Far from being lazy, they went to a lot of effort to slavishly imitate scenes from Oblivion. And why? Simple changes of a few dimensions, some textures and shifting some furniture and doors would have disguised their source. But instead they did a lot of work to make the rooms look exactly the same, right down to the small knickknacks on shelves, pictures, and carvings in wood.

posted by outlier at 8:56 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

But instead they did a lot of work

They didn't have to do much. Read the Neogaf thread.

Practically all they did was take screenshots, and use Photoshop. They even stole wholly incidental graphics from Diablo & Burning Crusade.

...and when I say "wholly incidental" I mean "you'd barely notice the image, it's purely incidental, so why bother copying that jpeg from the Burning Crusade website? It would have taken less time to just skip it entirely."

I'm suspicious that one abbreviation for their game is LoL.
posted by aramaic at 9:18 AM on June 12, 2008

Outlier the levels in the game are screenshots of other games' levels. It's a 2D point and click game, man.

So uh. Yeah. "Theft," "ripped off," and especially "copy-paste" seem to be very very accurate here.

On preview: What aramaic said.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:24 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

The supposed theft of orcish armour from Morrowind is even less plausible, considering that it looks like Japanese samurai armour

No. A thousand times no. These textures are nothing like Japanese armour. It is most definitely an original design. The fact that the model and the textures are the same across both games points directly to theft, do not pass go, do not collect $200. There is no other interpretation.
posted by splice at 9:24 AM on June 12, 2008

What aramaic said about "LoL." I mean I guess it has to be real because it's a bit late in the year for an April fools gag, but I mean c'mon. LoL? Really?
posted by juv3nal at 9:51 AM on June 12, 2008

There's a lot of discussion about theft, and not nearly enough discussion about how hilariously bad this game seems to be in the first place.

On this page, you'll find a fantastic promotional list of its "features", evidently supplied by the dim bulbs who produced the game. Take special note of how proud they are of the fact that the game is 100% mouse-driven (take THAT, Sierra Games!) and that the main character may or may not actually do what you want him to.

From LoL's list of "features":

* State of the art graphics
* Immersive (being there) sound effects
* Devious Puzzles
* Each Level feels different in play
* 6 levels of logical devious puzzles.
* Spectator gameplay - You do not control the main character, you ask him to do certain actions, actions that sometimes he will or will not do.
* 100% mouse driven, with optional keyboard shortcuts.
* Save your game anywhere at anytime.
* No dying, action sequences or sliding puzzles.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:58 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

So, has anyone actually reviewed the game? I'd like to find out if there is any redeeming value here.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:31 AM on June 12, 2008

I don't know why, but I am still shocked and surprised that whenever someone commits a serious act of plagiarism, there are still many, many people who do their best to explain it away even when doing so is totally fucking ludicrous.

"Oh, that armor is just like samurai armor, it's not plagiarism, they just had similar influences."
"Oh, just because those eighty rooms are totally identical - (to the pixel!) - that doesn't mean that it's plagiarism. Maybe it was just an homage."

What? No. I mean, folks, these sad, pathetic hacks couldn't be more busted if they were selling an ISO of Oblivion with the word "Bethesda" crossed out and replaced by the phrase "some British twits who couldn't even code a game of fucking Minesweeper with an NSA supercomputer, the reanimated corpse of Alan Turing, and a nice hot cup of tea."

Their whole story of developing this game over decades makes it even sadder and dumber: Derek Smart meets Todd Goldman.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:46 AM on June 12, 2008

I'm kind of feeling sorry for these guys... or more accurately I suppose, a hypothetical version of these guys who really are honest garage developers and not just looking to get rich off of other people's work.

A team of three people simply does not make a huge, commercial quality 3D game all by themselves. The effort required to produce these things has grown to the extent that garage developers simply can't compete. What they probably tried to do was get around this fact by stealing whatever assets they could and hoping no one noticed.

And why? If they had contented themselves with being a hobby project, they could have gotten by with generic assets. Most games don't really have very original scenery. How many art teams have reimplemented the Doorway, the Staircase, the Window, etc? Aren't there any Creative Commons generic scenery packages out there they could have used? The game is the design and its bare implementation, everything else is just polish. Commercial games require lots of that, teams of dozens of art guys diligently polishing away, but amateur games can get by, and even become startlingly popular, without much of that.

If the game's story and play really is as unique as they said in that 2005 interview, then people would excuse the use of generic playfield models in an amateur production. They could have then used that as a proof-of-concept to get backing for a commercial-quality game.
posted by JHarris at 11:16 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Geez, who did they think they were going to fool? As if gamer geeks wouldn't spot this a mile away. I mean their target audience is probably made up of the same people who'd play Oblivion in the first place.

Judging by the trailer, even with their theft of elements from other games, and even though it looks awkward and rough, they did probably spend a shitload of time working on this abomination. I'm guessing that they're just naive and oblivious, with more ambition than common sense, and more fanboyish adoration than original thought. You see this a lot in the webcomic world, people basically copying exactly the comics they love (there are a million Penny Arcade clones, for instance) but not actually possessing a voice of their own. They don't get that there's more to art than just mimicry of someone who came before.

My broad assumptions aside, it is sad that the creation of video games more complicated than your average Flash game requires so much work. You might have the greatest game ever in mind, but it'll stay there without lots of money, time and skilled people to make it happen.
posted by picea at 1:01 PM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Judging by the trailer

Amusing aside: apparently they stole scenes from at least one movie in order to make their trailer. I mention this because the factoid is buried in the Neogaf thread & most folks probably didn't read it (note: my mentioning this does not invalidate your point).

These guys are hilarious. I'm starting to come around to the idea that they did it on purpose. Whether it's because they don't understand originality, or because they enjoy being sued, I have no idea.
posted by aramaic at 1:21 PM on June 12, 2008

2 movies, actually. Spawn and Pirates of the Caribbean. It's mentioned in "somewhere before" link. Pretty funny stuff.
posted by puke & cry at 1:48 PM on June 12, 2008

Damn pirates are going to ruin this industry.
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:42 PM on June 12, 2008

[CitrusFreak12] Outlier the levels in the game are screenshots of other games' levels. It's a 2D point and click game, man.

Like one of those games where you move around in front of a static background? Then I retract the second part of my comment. I thought it was at least partially 3D. In my defence, there seems to be a lot of similar confusion in related discussion across the net.
posted by outlier at 1:58 AM on June 13, 2008

Like one of those games where you move around in front of a static background?

Yeah, it looks like a higher-res generic fantasy version of Rebel Assault. Anyone else remember how much fun that game was? I bought a CD of it secondhand for $1.99 and even so I felt like how Bethesda is probably feeling right now. Ripped off but also somehow filled with pity.

My favourite part of the trailer is where the player walks up to the fat man wearing very brief swimwear and sitting on a throne of skulls. It's as if he has gone to hell only to find out that Satan is a German tourist. Now, I hope they didn't steal that part from anyone else, because it is art.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:00 AM on June 13, 2008

bicyclefish, that list of features is fantastic. From now on I'm going to append "(being there)" every time I use the word "immersion."

Also of interest: Rock, Paper, Shotgun's competition for the best invented screenshot. Gallery here.
posted by danb at 10:31 AM on June 13, 2008

I gotta wonder if this whole endeavor was like a videogame version of "Springtime for Hitler". It's so hilariously goddamn bad, I can't imagine anyone who's played PC games in the last decade to think it would have worked.

Therefore I can only imagine that there's some other side to all this, one that's less obvious. Perhaps there was someone with too much money, who was conned into investing in their "game studio" (aka their beer/pot fund) and this was their attempt at delivering a product to justify the investment dollars ... a product that they didn't think anyone would ever see.

I mean, that's the only even halfway plausible explanation I can think of. Nobody who's likely to even have heard of Oblivion, much less have even the limited technical ability to create a crappy 2D point-and-click ripoff of it, could possibly think that the ripoff would go unnoticed by the gaming public. Ergo, maybe it wasn't aimed at the gaming public, but only at a very small number of people -- presumably their investors -- who didn't know shit about PC games?
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:48 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

« Older Beware the machines   |   Mystery on 5th Avenue Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments