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General Forge Forums => First Thoughts => Topic started by: Carabbit on August 20, 2008, 03:44:01 PM

Title: Hey, new game and etiquette
Post by: Carabbit on August 20, 2008, 03:44:01 PM
Got a group and a game that's been in production for more than a year. We feel we've reached a 'beta' type point where we are looking for others outside the creation process to take a gander. How much content and/or functionality is required before I should start asking around (this site and/or others) for some playtesting? Because we've got a lot already functioning (but still needs refining) and yet, a lot still planned for the future that could be finished before we start asking around.

Also, can anyone give me an idea about the general accepted overlap between a our game and other, published games? Such as...I guess abilities/weapons/etc. I mean, most fantasy games include swords and spells, right? I guess I should ask what the boundaries are (because we don't want to get sued or something.) What is the etiquette?

Title: Re: Hey, new game and etiquette
Post by: Vulpinoid on August 20, 2008, 04:46:53 PM
Post us a link to a PDF (or other suitable file format) and I'm sure someone here will let you know if it infringes on anything.

But the general community spirit here allows most people to borrow one another's ideas and try new variations on old concepts. Unless you're copying chapters of a book verbatim, I think you're generally safe from charges of plagiarism.

Title: Re: Hey, new game and etiquette
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on August 21, 2008, 01:42:25 AM
As for the legalities of "getting sued" (keeping in mind that you'll want a lawyer if you want certain and responsible knowledge), the general consensus of the field is that as long as you don't copy text verbatim, use another's trade dress or plagiarize their fiction (in the everyday literary sense), then you can't really borrow too much from another person's game. Games consist mostly of procedures and math that, if it were to be protected by law, would be in the domain of patents, not of copyright. So as long as you don't run into anyone's patents (there are a few, but they're so esoteric you're not likely to) or trade identity (including distinctive terminology, note), you're not in any significant danger of flouting IP law.

So that's the legal angle in a nutshell. I've yet to encounter a game that were irredeemably unpublishable because of legal issues, and certainly something like featuring swords and spells won't make your game the first one. Now, the moral angle is different, but it's also very multi-faceted. Consider:
  • Are you using ideas from other games to a degree where you're really just riding on another's work? Shouldn't you cop to it in a reference section of some sort if somebody influenced your work in a major way? Perhaps ask their permission if you feel that you might be trampling on their toes?
  • Are you being honest with your audience if you sell a game that is not original, but instead a retread of something else?
Those sorts of moral questions are tricky, and there are no solid rules about them. For example, most designers schooled at this site consider reference sections and coming clear about their influences a matter of course, insofar as courteous community behavior is concerned. This contrasts with the general field of rpgs, wherein the etiquette is pretty much that you shouldn't mention another roleplaying game at all in your own game, even if you cite numerous works in other media fields. Not that I know the reason, but if I had to guess, it might have something to do with not wanting to inadvertedly cause offense by quoting another game in a less than favorable light. Or they might just want to present their work as totally original, ridiculous conceit as that would be.

But, ultimately, listen to V: if you'll post a PDF of what you've got so far, we can point out any details that jut out in the work. For all I know you've copypasted the entire 4th ed. D&D in there and just changed the spell names.