This week we’ve received a flood of inquiries about our game Johann Sebastian Joust. Particularly, there have been some allegations that J.S. Joust has become the victim of “cloning.” In turn, a number of media outlets have asked us for an official response.
In this post, we address some of these issues and offer our opinion on a variety of topics.
What do you think about the recent “cloning” allegations?
To be clear, we’ve never given anyone permission to make a derivative version of any of our commercial products – existing or forthcoming. That said, the definition of “derivative” is elusive. We generally don’t believe that game mechanics themselves can or should be copyrighted or otherwise protected.
We’ve also never requested any studio to pull any of its products. We believe that game developers have the responsibility to decide for themselves what is “over the line” in terms of cloning vs. innovating (separate from legal obligations regarding copyrights, trademarks, patents, and other intellectual property rights). Yes, all game developers draw inspiration from prior games. For instance, we’ve been very open about the playground games that inspired games like J.S. Joust. It’s a wonderful thing to take various game ideas and re-work them into a game that’s uniquely “yours.” But cloning is a problem that continues to plague game developers, especially small indie developers trying to explore on new ideas. (For example, read about the recent Ridiculous Fishing controversy that took a toll on our friends at Vlambeer).
As for our opinion on whether specific games are “clones” of J.S. Joust – we believe that it’s more productive to focus on making the best games possible, and giving them the unique “feel” that only we can provide. That said, we do hope the community will continue to push back against cloning as a general development practice. We encourage everyone to help build awareness about these issues. Even a minimalistic game like J.S. Joust has a lot of thought and hard work behind it! The game’s design rests upon many hard-earned lessons working on motion control games over the years.
Why is it taking you so long to release J.S. Joust?
We first prototyped J.S. Joust for the PlayStation Move controller in June 2011. This past Fall, we distributed beta copies of the game as a reward to people who donated to Brandon Boyer’s Venus Patrol Kickstarter. So, the game has been around for more than a few months now.
Bottom line – we are incredibly eager to get this game out to the public! But there are a number of obstacles we must overcome. For starters, we have been talking with various publishers since December. Why publishers, you ask? We want to distribute (and debut) J.S. Joust on platforms that are the best fit for the game. Here at Gute Fabrik, we aim to release only the best, most polished games we can. We have no interest in rushing out half-baked versions of games on platforms that aren’t the right fit. Good games take a long time to develop and tweak!
Unfortunately, publisher negotiations involve iterative processes that take time. Nevertheless, we believe the inherent risk and delay are worth the reward. We’re doing everything we can to bring you the version of J.S. Joust we’ve always envisioned – even if that path is a more arduous one. Partnering with the right publisher and/or distributor will help us spread the word about J.S. Joust to players who might not otherwise get exposed to the game.
Moreover, in the spirit of playground games, we want to make the game as modifiable as possible. To that end, we hope to eventually open source all the game code. After all, the prototype was built on top of a number of open source libraries (here, here) and we are committed to giving back to that community. This further speaks to our need for diligence and patience while negotiating any publishing/distribution deals, such that we can best retain our intellectual property rights.
We also hope to develop a smart phone version of J.S. Joust in the future. We’ve already discussed some ideas about how we’d tailor the game to such a platform. But first, we want to make sure we explore all our options and do some more prototyping.
(Get in touch with us at email@example.com)