If there’s one thing that irks me about gaming, it’s the sheer number of ripoffs of other games that exist. I’m not talking about games that are similar to one another (eg any FPS and Doom/Wolfenstein 3D), games that take popular (or even unpopular) games, change a few things then slap it out to the public and smile.

The source of inspiration for this is an iOS game I bought out of intrigue a month or two ago and have only just gotten round to playing, the uncatchily titled Pirates vs Ninjas vs Zombies vs Pandas. Yeah. It was 59p and I was interested to see what sort of odd game that title could hold. To my deep disappointment, it’s basically Angry Birds. The premise is that for each level set (near-identical to the sets you get in Angry Birds) you’re one of the four different titular groups, taking on another one. Essentially, each one has its own little traits (like the different birds in AB), and the enemy sits stationary (like the pigs) in a physics-affected castle (guess), waiting for you to be slingshotted/slungshot/whatever at them. Every mechanic is the same, down to the bonuses for unused “ammo” characters and for the number of blocks you break/damage.

The worst thing about the game is that for quite a while it was sitting very, very high in the iOS charts – above Angry Birds itself at one point. These guys were profiting quite heavily off someone else’s concept. This sickens me – it’s not quite as bad as just selling the game with ripped sprites, but it’s damn close.

I don’t get the mentality behind it at all. I struggle to imagine the concept meetings the PvNvZvP team members had.

“Let’s think of a great new game!”
“We could rip off Angry Birds to get lots of money!”
“Well gee whizz, you’re fantastic!”

I guess from that perspective it pretty much worked. But that brings me onto ripping off within free, independent development. There’s no monetary gain to be had from this, so anyone that’s a part of it is in it for two things – the fun, and positive reception.

Now, where along the line of thinking is it even remotely plausible that stealing somebody’s ideas for your own use will garner positive reception? 95% of the time, the person you stole from will be well-known in the development community. Within ten plays someone will have recognised what you’ve done, and you’ll start eating the backlash. From there you can either apologise and either credit the original developer or take the game down, or you can deny it’s a ripoff, shoot your reputation in the foot (which you’ll have done anyway, but this makes it oh so much worse) and never get it back, or at least not for a long time and a lot of making up for it. Both the fun and the positive reception die during any of those routes.

Note that this doesn’t include fangames, where you are showing your appreciation for the original game (though this is still pretty unimaginative when you could show your appreciation by referring people, then put your skills to better use), and instances where you take the idea, turn it into something of your own accord, then credit the original developer (much better, as it shows initiative and appreciation in one).

It’s a mentality I will never understand, and thankfully have never had in the past myself, though I’ve definitely been inspired by people before – see Ne Touchez Pas and FKR, inspired by Mark Essen’s “Flywrench” and Cactus’ “xWUNG” respectively, but I’ve always given credit where credit is due and have had a reason to create both (simplification of a complicated concept, and a different take on a similar concept respectively).

Nintendo 3DS still rocks, by the way. But the games are currently a bit shit – mine serves as a Pokémon Black upscaler at the moment! If you also own a 3DS and would like my Mii gurning on it, then scan my current YYG avatar with Mii Maker’s QR Code scanner. (Apologies to readers in the future that are interested in this after the next YYG avatar change, whenever that inevitably happens!)