Avoiding Lawsuit

No, you’re not in any trouble, Cliff. I might be.

I’m currently in early development of an indie game with many of the same thematic ideas as Gratuitous Space Battles, including top-down semirealistic space battles, with customizable ships and, conceivably, large fleets. In terms of the planned graphics style and theme and closeness of development (within a year or two of yours being released, mine will probably be released as well) people will draw parallels between my game and yours, as well as Battleships Forever (due to having similar component-based shipbuilding ideas).

I would like to ask to see if you would consider my game idea sufficiently different than yours:
Notable features of my game that differ would be:

  1. Ships can be controlled in a more direct RTS style
  2. The player actually pilots a ship directly (keyboard+mouse), for most of the time during gameplay
  3. The degree of customization will be significantly greater (for better or for worse), more along the level one could see in BSF, but not quite (you’ve got to think of balancing…)
  4. Game progression will begin with a scattering of relatively insignificant forces, and will ideally end with a clash of developed and numerous ships of all sizes
  5. The game will sometimes revolve around resource and maneuvering tactics as well as combat tactics
  6. It will be primarily played in multiplayer

Thank you for your time;

That sounds totally different to me. Nobody owns the patent on groups of spaceships fighting each other. Also, seems like this is the kind of thing you’d probably ask via email rather than a public forum. :-p

That was my thought too, Supraluminal, on both points.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a lawsuit (lol@patent), but this sort of thing does create tensions which have the potential to work out badly.

The reason I posted on this public forum is that I doubt Cliffski will really care what I do, but if I end up releasing my game, people will notice similarities and act accordingly. Having something in a public place like this will offer a credible reconciliation.

Uh… I guess. I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you, but whatever floats your space-boat.

Edit: Actually, to be perfectly clear, this thread seems more likely to create tensions. I’m sure you don’t intend it this way, but it feels like a very backhanded form of advertisement or buzz-building for your own project. I know you haven’t even given so much as a name or URL, but it still feels weird.

I despise forum advertisers. Anyway, it would be awfully difficult to find my game on google given just this information.

I’m just trying to keep my bases covered…

That sounds like something I wouldn’t discuss on a forum.

Really? If that’s how you think, then I suggest for Cliffski to lock/delete the thread and reply to me via email. My email address should be in my account settings somewhere…

Dude, if you want to know whether you’re stepping on legal toes, ask a lawyer, not a programmer.

This is a subjective question to whoever is making GSB. A lawyer (hey, those guys aren’t cheap) can’t speak for Cliff. I was only asking if he would consider my idea too similar to his, since after all he came first.

Geez, I’m just trying to be in good faith.

I’m sure Cliff appreciates your concern. Don’t mind everyone else; everybody has to put in their 2 cents. :wink:

This probably is best to ask Cliff in private, though, if only to keep everybody else from asking questions and to alleviate concerns of indirect advertising.

IANAL, but given your description, you shouldn’t have to worry about stepping on Cliff’s toes. He hasn’t patented anything (and can’t do so now that it’s public). His art and such is copyrighted, so don’t go using any of that without his permission, but you’ve clearly said you aren’t anyway. Any names he uses could be trademarked, but aside from the name of the game, the rest is too generic to really be considered trademark material (half of it is based on Star Wars, so you’d have to worry more about Lucas Arts than cliffski).

All said, I appreciate your good faith attempt to avoid stepping on toes. It would be nice if more people would try a friendly conversation than jumping straight to lawyers.

Ditto what jamescooper just said. I dont think your game sounds that similar to GSB, more like a more traditional RTS with designable ships… having said that, regardless of what youre doing only the following things are a no-no:

  • re-using actual code or art/sound/etc assets
  • infringing a patent
  • infringing trademarks

In other words, its perfectly legal for me to make an almost carbon copy clone of GSB, as long as i do everything from scratch. It’s not a very nice thing to do, but i dont think cliff would have much legal standing. The entire games industry is based on copying and building upon successful game styles, look at all of the clones of games like wolfenstein3D (->doom->quake->every FPS ever made) and dune 2 (->command & conquer->millions of RTSs) that have happened over the years. And this is a Good Thing - i very much doubt cliffski would be able to do what he does (i.e. small 1 man game developer) otherwise - he would have to pay huge teams of lawyers to check every game ever made to make sure nothing in GSB is similar to anything else. High score table? No sorry somebody already did that. Glowy lasers? Sorry, been done. You get the idea.

Dont get me started on software patents though, which are basically exactly this but for algorithms… grrrr…

As for the star wars thing mentioned - the people in the modding forum are the ones who should be worried about the threat of lawsuits. Seen so many star wars / star trek /etc mods for various games closed down over the years - think it basically hinges on the trademarks thing above.

P.S. guess what, IANAL (are there any lawyers on the internet?), so everything i just said might well be garbage.

This totally shoulda been an email, not a forum topic with an especially AWing title.

Thank you for your replies, JamesCooper and daveybaby.

To be honest, I discovered GSB only a few days ago, on accident. I nearly panicked, noticing some striking similarities to my own plans, but now I’m at ease.

At this point I’m sure there won’t be any issues; thank you for your time.