On the previous episode of the podcast we covered a story about King, the publishers behind the oh-so-great Candy Crush Saga, and how they're basically taking the award for Douchiest Gaming Publisher of 2014, already. During that conversation, I became very, very ranty and possibly didn't make my point as clear as I wanted to. This probably isn't going to be any different but I'll try. I really got angry while talking about this. So I wanted to waste some digital space and try to elaborate a little more on my point. To appease the parents, this will contain foul language so if your virgin ears can't handle it, mute the screen now.
There is a basic understanding in the creative realm that when you make something and publish it to the world, someone somewhere is going to eventually copy what you did in some form. There's a degree of tact to how this copying is accomplished however. You can copy on the basis of education so that you can help yourself or others understand how something works which is 100% okay (this is personal opinion here). You can copy as a derived work where you either take inspiration or some minor part of a work and make something of your own with it; this is not a legit copy of the original work though! Or you can be a total dick and just straight up copy something that exists, slap minor rebranding on it to try and make it look different, and publish and promote it as if you had the original idea.
This whole concept of copying works and derived works is extremely prevalent in software development (a.k.a. “writing computer games”). Not only are there an inenumerable number of licenses that are geared toward these ends but as it turns out, digital works are usually pretty easy to subvert despite the various attempts to lock it down. Most of the time, when something is locked down via DRM or anything Apple shits out on iTunes, people get pissed off over it. But then other times you don't really think about it as much for some reason or another. For example, while playing Candy Crush Saga, it's almost moot to think that DRM or Apple Shit would cover the code for the game. In fact, the code for the game is the last thing on your mind.
It's not the last thing on the minds of the developers though. The code is the soul of the game. Someone spent hours upon hours upon weeks upon months and maybe even upon years writing the code and tweaking it in so many ways to make it a viable cohesive thing that you can touch and play with. Even with the advent of “game development tools”, making a good game isn't an easy thing to do especially if you're an independent developer like I am. It requires that you train yourself in multiple disciplines that you may not have the aptitude for. It requires that you stop having friends. Flush your social life down the toilet, get ready for instant Carpal Tunnel, buy a copy of P-90X because you're gonna get fat, learn how to grow your own coffee beans because you'll need all of it you can get, and hope that maybe when it's all done that you're not going to get shit kicked in your face from ignorant five year olds who just look for something to bitch about. After all, it's not like you poured your blood, sweat and tears into it. By they way, just because you make a game doesn't mean you deserve mountains of platitudes. But you can't discount the level of work it takes to make one, let alone a good one.
This being the case, in the eyes of the machine, the code is the product and it's what needs protected. If the code were compromised in any way, the product is moot. Someone could and would take the code, make clones of it, publish in third-world countries where these things go unhindered and rampant and make just as much, if not more, money than the original developers made. Enter DRM and Apple Shit. Or, as is quite common in the US because people who do this are all fucks, we litigate. How do we prepare for this? We attempt to copyright words in the English language for starters. I mean, of course King introduced the words “Candy” and “Saga” into the English language. Who didn't know that? And don't even think about using those words together in public around a King employee because they'll sue your ass for everything you own. I bet the makers of Candy Land are shitting bricks right now. I guarantee you this year we're going to see Candy Land rebranded as “Junk Food Land” or “Source of Rotting Teeth Land”. We see shit like this all the time. A recent example was when Mojang, publishers of Minecraft, got in a spat with Bethesda over their upcoming title called “Scrolls”. Depsite it being a card game, no one would be able to tell the difference between “Srcolls” and “The Elder Scrolls” because we're all fucking idiots. It's not like anyone refers to the TES games by TES anyway as we always refer to them by their subtitles: Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, Bloodmoon, etc... A great example of this can be found on the podcast! I'm pretty famous for having a ridiculous number of hours on Skyrim and not once will you hear us saying “The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim” when joking about it. You don't even play cards in TES games! You read countless books, kill assholes, cheat weapons and armor, and do stupid shit that makes you laugh for hours on end.
The next thing we do is in league with what I like to call the “Steve Jobs Syndrome”. This self-proclaimed description stems from a quote Jobs used at one point which stemmed from 4,000 other people in the history of mankind: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” I suppose you could say that it's the “4,000 Other People in the History of Mankind Syndrome” instead. Regardless of the context it was used in, he said it and that's the most dickish thing ever. Despite the fact that it's 100% true, it's how you define someone I call a fuck. My rephrasing would be “Good artists create, great artists help create more.”
I digress. King recently got a little pissed that a small developer was originally looking to publish a game though them. However, before anything concrete had been laid with King, another publisher approached the developer with a far better offer and they opted to go with them instead of King. King, being the lot of five-year olds they are, hired some douchebags for, I'm sure, a few thousand dollars to sit in a basement for a few weeks and pump out a clone of the game that they didn't get. It wasn't just a minor rebranding either. It was basically the same fucking game with different graphical assets (and a name that I'm surprised didn't attract the attention of Atari's legal department).
There's a few things going on there. First of all, let's get the elementary school mentality out of the way. So what if the developer didn't publish with you. Go find something else to do than cry in the spilt milk. Make another fucking game. I mean you already own two words in the English language, put those to good use and make another ridiculous Candy Crush Saga game that more idiots on Facebook will play. Find someone else who's looking to publish something. Don't undermine someone just because you feel like being a shithead. Second, if you're really concerned that this game is going to compete with your games on a legitimate level, it's okay to make a competitor but that competitor had better not be the same fucking game with different sprites. And this is where my “Steve Jobs Syndrome” comes into play at. Let's just steal all of the ideas out there and make it look like it was something totally new and never before seen.
But then there's the periphery which may get ignored here. Let's talk about the dudes/dudettes who got paid to make the clone. You can't tell me that they didn't know before starting the project that King wanted an exact copy of the game with different sprites. If you're creating a game in a vaccum, you don't crank that fucker out in a week or two (save pro devs who take part in 48-hour challenges). This was well known from the start. So these people knew they were straight copying a competing product. Sell out much? These people just didn't give a shit. At some point, you'd think that something would click in their heads and one of them would just go “Hey man. Doesn't this seem a little, you know, WRONG to you?” Now I'd like to have a few thousand dollars plopped on my lap for writing code but I'd like it for legit code, not blatantly copying someone else's work. I'm also fine with derived works where credit for the original work is given (one of the cores of the open-source mentality).
The whole thing just stinks hardcore. The point to take away from all of this is that King is an ethically horrible publisher. If you play Candy Crush Saga, I highly recommend you stop playing this game, or any other title that King has or will publish.