In a forum we are currently discussion the legality of game remakes in contrast to fan fiction which is kinda not illegal, but allowed in most countries. The reason for that discussion is that the creators of the settlers series (you may know it, RTS game) decided after the latest release of Settlers 5 to do a remake of their own game Settlers 2 (which had a more unique gameplay focused on economics than war instead of creating an AoEIII type of game -clone) with their current 3D engine to enhance the visuals as sweet candy for all the fans out there. Most users agreed that this decision is amazing, so we discussed this general topic. I searched google about more serious information than some users which talk about Lucas Arts which abandoned some users projects or else, but I didnt came too far. So.. I thought that you as a professional game developer know something more about that topic or perhaps you can discuss the on the gameproducer blog. That would be very nice, because its a strong discussion under indies as you may know.
This time the question was more like a topic of discussion, but I found an issue that I’ve had experience with.
Legal issues with remakes
I’ve already mentioned that the secret game project is based on one popular board game. I approached the publisher of that game (using the 3-step program, twice actually. Worked both times) and a very clear answer from them.
They said: “Any attempt to copy the system of a game of ours is a breach of copyright. Any mention of either [designer's name] or [brand name] is a serious breach of registered trademarks and will be dealt with accordingly.” (in response to asking whether I could use their name in a press release).
Legally I’d say that their note about ‘attempt to copy of the system’ is not legally very easy to protect as we can see in games today. There are clone wars: developers copy each other’s ideas… and they are not easy to protect.
Now I have know quite clearly where I stand:
#1 – First of all, I am now 100% sure that it’s better to ask permission to use references, before using them. As we didn’t get the permission I have no interest to use it, and I’m sure our game will get the players it deserves. Without need to mention the board game.
#2 – To dodge the issue of ‘similar gameplay’ we will use different gameplay mechanics. Their game uses bit different battle system, we have different board, movement, theme etc. This is issue with remakes – I personally think that best way to avoid legal issues, is to make the gameplay something bit more original. If you are making a direct clone from some game (even if the game is very old) there are chances getting into legal problems, especially if you plan to sell your game.