I’d imagine it’s gut-wrenchingly frustrating when a Flash game creator discovers that one of his game's ideas, mechanics, or even overall aesthetic has been cribbed by another party and then monetized on the App Store without his permission. Most notably in media circles, it happened with Halfbot and its fantastic title, The Blocks Cometh [$.99], and it’s possibly happening right now to Andrew Morrish, the creator of Super Puzzle Platformer. In a strange twist, various games web sites are reporting that the 'company' that made a victim of Halfbot is also the same one responsible for this specific and supposed theft.

The game Morrish claims is cribbing his title is I Hate Puzzle [$.99]. DIY Gamer reports that the games are, basically, mechanically the same. As you’ll see, they also definitely resemble each other in a profound way. In the following image Morrish tweeted, the game on the left is Super Puzzle Platformer, while the one on the right is I Hate Puzzle. Take note of  how the assets are flip-flopped or toned down between these two titles:

The developer listed on I Hate Puzzle is Domi Games, the same house that, according to a GameFront report, lifted the Flash game Tiny Hawk in the past. According to the reporting in that specific article, Domi Games is a new name for Edison Game, the company that started The Blocks Cometh brouhaha.

There’s a lot of loose ends here, but it strikes us as odd -- provided these theft reports are indeed accurate -- that Domi Games is still allowed to distribute on the App Store. On a platform as closed as this one is, you’d figure something like a ban from Apple wouldn’t be out of the question. I wonder how this will shake out.

[Via GameSetWatch, DIY Gamer, @int_main, and Gamefront]

  • Jim Foronda

    Well, crap. I bought this a few days ago. Is there any way to get a refund so that those hacks don't get my money? I'd rather buy from the real developer, as I was unaware of the original game.

    • Anonymous

      Actually contrary to popular belief, you can get refunded for an app purchase from the App Store. I've included a link to help you out: http://bit.ly/cBdNzs Typically, if you provide a legitimate reason Apple's pretty nice about it. You will need the receipt of the transaction.

  • http://twitter.com/VULTR3 Mike

    That game looks fun.

  • http://twitter.com/johnwhitley John Whitley

    Wow, I'd call that blatant copyright infringement.  Mr. Moorish can explore a few options: 1) contact Apple and ask that the infringing app be removed, 2) send a DMCA takedown request to Apple to remove the infringing app, 3) Lawyer Up Lite: have an attorney send the app maker a nastygram, 4) Lawyer Up Heavy: sue 'em.

    • Foo

      Only that it isn't... You can't copyright game mechanics and you can't copyright a look and feel. (You can apply for a design patent in the second case, but that probably didn't happen.)

      Notice how Tetris clones are only taken down if their name is similar to Tetris? And  there are many lawyers behind Tetris.

      It may sound very wrong when looking at this case. But the alternative would be the patent war we currently see in the mobile industry and that would be devastating to anyone but the big companies.

  • Ed Stastny

    Unfortunately, Apple has no incentive to block developers -- they make a pretty penny off of every sale.  Maybe Apple should be held liable for publishing (in a loose sense) these rip-offs?

    • Adams Immersive

      Apple has plenty of incentive for keeping the App Store friendly for developers and their ideas—and they have sometimes acted accordingly in the past, removing games that were MUCH less of a copy than this. Sometimes they act sooner, sometimes later, and there are no guarantees, but that “pretty penny” (30 cents) definitely is not their only consideration--or they’d never reject anything.

      • Ed Stastny

        Perhaps I'm being too cynical.  But let's be clear, it's 30-cents multiplied by, what, hundreds of thousands?  Millions?  More?  They have no monetary incentive to act swiftly to take down games that offend so few people (e.g. the people who know about the original game and care enough to feel it is unfriendly to allow rip-offs to profit from other people's ideas and work).  

        My impression is that they reject apps for quality (bugs), terms of service violations (porn, scam, spam) and obvious breaches of copyright that would get them in costly legal trouble (such as "Mikky Mouse vs. Donkee Cong", totally making that name up).  I could be wrong, but I don't think I'm far off.
         
        You're right, though.  The profit isn't their sole consideration, but that is very high on their list.  In fact, it is their primary motivation for having the App Store in the first place. If we are agreed that rip-offs of this magnitude, especially by repeat offenders, should be deterred, I think one solution is to make it "hurt" Apple in the pocket book for failing to provide recourse for the victims of these incidents.  I suggest freezing all pay-outs to unproven or suspect devs for 3-6 months, some period to allow disputes to bubble up. 

        Not even going to get into "what is a rip-off" here.  Suffice it to say, I think this case is a blatant rip-off and the dev shouldn't be allowed to profit on it.

  • Anonymous

    The original developers should have brought their titles to the App Store before someone else had a chance to copy them. Domi Games is just practicing smart business, BTW I have no connection to any of the companies mentioned in this article.

    • Cranky Goomba

      "Those looters are just practicing smart shopping."

      Now it's your turn, kids!

      • Anonymous

        You can't compare looting to copying elements of a game. Few new games are entirely original. Domi isn't reselling Super Puzzle Platformer.

      • Cranky Goomba

        "Uh... is that my bicycle you're riding?"

        "Hey, I've painted the handlebars green, so it's totally not stealing!"

      • http://www.facebook.com/dean.kohler Dean Kohler

        Still not the same. Even if I made the bike and you made the same bike but changed a few things on the facade, still not stealing.  Taking the bike and painting it is stealing, but making a very similar bike feature-wise is not stealing.  See the difference?

      • Cranky Goomba

        OK. I'm putting the jokes aside for one moment.

        You do realise we're not talking about some abstract, hypothetical case, right? We're talking about the very specific actions of a very specific entity: Yan Zhenhua a.k.a. Domi Games a.k.a. EdisonGame.

        Before you, or anyone else, decides to use this case as an opportunity for an "everything is a remix" lecture, they should familiarise themselves with the history of this particular "developer". We're not talking about someone who takes other people's game concepts and then evolves them in an interesting way. We're talking about someone who lifts other people's work wholesale—including even the title of the game in at least one instance—and maybe makes a superficial change or two in the hope that their shenanigans go unnoticed for a while.

        So yes, this is kinda comparable to looting. And this is kinda like stealing a bike and repainting the handlebars.

        You want to argue that it's not technically, legally, theft? Fine. You feel it's important we recognise how all invention borrows from what came before? Cool. But please—let's not pretend that these jerks are anything other than talentless parasites; and let's not laud miserable sociopaths as the somehow admirable practitioners of "smart business". Ugh.

      • Cranky Goomba

        OK. I'm putting the jokes aside for one moment.

        You do realise we're not talking about some abstract, hypothetical case, right? We're talking about the very specific actions of a very specific entity: Yan Zhenhua a.k.a. Domi Games a.k.a. EdisonGame.

        Before you, or anyone else, decides to use this case as an opportunity for an "everything is a remix" lecture, they should familiarise themselves with the history of this particular "developer". We're not talking about someone who takes other people's game concepts and then evolves them in an interesting way. We're talking about someone who lifts other people's work wholesale—including even the title of the game in at least one instance—and maybe makes a superficial change or two in the hope that their shenanigans go unnoticed for a while.

        So yes, this is kinda comparable to looting. And this is kinda like stealing a bike and repainting the handlebars.

        You want to argue that it's not technically, legally, theft? Fine. You feel it's important we recognise how all invention borrows from what came before? Cool. But please—let's not pretend that these jerks are anything other than talentless parasites; and let's not laud miserable sociopaths as the somehow admirable practitioners of "smart business". Ugh.

    • http://twitter.com/rocketcatgames Rocketcat Games

      Someone... someone's defending Domi Games.

      Yeah, that's my breaking point.  You've broken me.  From now on, I'm just going to make 98% similar clones of existing games.  Why the hell not?  It's way faster to make games that way.  And if Domi Games can somehow earn supporters, I'm pretty we'd manage just fine with "practicing smart business".

      Coming soon from Rocketcat Games: "Diablo 3 - Not Affiliated with Blizzard Software".

      • Anonymous

        You'd probably finish sooner than Blizzard too.

  • Cilo

    Wasn't Ninja Fishing ripped off from Radical Fishing? Yet the thread on TA is condoning the fact that it was stolen because it happens all the time. 

    • Jobweit

      I think Ninja Fishing used the same mechanic but changed the whole art style and added the Fruit Ninja slashing stuff. This one copied everything including the UI and pixel art style to make it look like the original game. Did it add anything new?

      • http://twitter.com/doomlaser Mark Johns

        Ninja fishing stole more than just the "mechanic", they stole the whole three part gameplay structure, and all then they stole all the different powerup items, and their relative pricings.  It was really a pretty indefensible rip.

      • Jobweit

        Yeah I agree they're very similar, but at least the art style is completely different and they did change part of the game mechanics. This I Hate Puzzle game has exactly the same art style, UI and everything else (even the fonts) with that flash game. So it's on a whole different level.

  • Anonymous
  • http://twitter.com/spacecowgoesmoo Taylor Calderone

    I don't see why you guys included 'supposedly' and 'possibly' in the article. This guy has done the same thing twice already, he doesn't deserve any political correctness.

  • Anonymous

    "On a platform as closed as this one is..."

    o_o

    "...you’d figure something like a
    ban from Apple wouldn’t be out of the question."

    Are you kidding? Allow me to direct you to the excellent comment made by Ed Stastny above: "...Apple has no incentive to block developers -- they make a
    pretty penny off of every sale." Plus, this way Steve Jobs gets to keep touting iOS as the "Gamer's Choice."

    • Bogart

      It's not necessarily Apple's place to yank one game because this or that developer complains that it's too similar to their own, and there are plenty of examples where whether or not it's infringement (or who even had the idea first) isn't clear-cut.

      If they yank games (or music, or..) just because someone claims they're being infringed upon, that's something that could easily be abused as well.  I'm not saying it's cool to rip someone off, but the iTunes store is, in the end, just a store. Apple can't be expected to act as a copyright court and they certainly can't research the history of every game that's submitted, and whether there's another browser game out there that's similar. That's why legal recourse exists. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QCP4WHWLUQHFIOP66SLEA7E5CA Hampus

    It's not like it's only happening to flash games...
    On the last All About Android (twit.tv) they showed a game that was simply an ugly rip off of tiny wings :p

  • Anonymous

    mobile game developers have no shame.

    • Ur_ngocnghech_4ever

      copying and then editing is an art of y8       game maker