Community Discussion: Blog by shaxam1029 | What qualifies a game as a "rip-off"?Destructoid
What qualifies a game as a "rip-off"? - Destructoid


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Hi, I'm Shaxam.

Or maybe I'm Max, or Anan; depends on where and when you're from.

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Hideki Kamiya, the man responsible for the first Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe games, has come under fire recently regarding a statement that he made on Twitter. When asked about what he thought of Sony's upcoming brawler Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royal, Kamiya said that he didn't like it because it was "just a rip-off". Immediately, passionate Sony fans rained down the game designer with reason after reason of why the title wasn't going to be "just a rip off".

This whole issue got me thinking about what makes games "rip-offs". How clear is the line between "inspiration" and plagiarism. I started looking at games differently, making a point to see where they drew their influences from, and how close they were to other titles. And then I realized something. Almost every game has taken something from a game that came before it. This doesn't make them rip-offs. What makes a game a ripoff, to me anyways, is when instead of drawing inspiration from something, and putting your own spin on it, you straight up copy aspects of another game. What makes a game a ripoff to me is when developers put features from other games into their game not because they love those features, but they know that gamers love those features.

Let's look at a game that did it right. A game that was made it's influences clear, but differentiated itself from the games that it was derived from. A game that Hideki Kamiya, himself, worked on. Okami. This 2006 title was a 3D action-adventure game that put players into the shoes, or paws rather, of the Japanese sun goddess, Amaterasu in the form of a white wolf. It followed the traditional 3D Zelda formula for the most part, you go through a tutorial, explore the overworld, help the townsfolk, and solve puzzles in dungeons. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Even Kamiya admitted that he was a Zelda fan, and that the game influenced his general game design. What made Okami so memorable though were the things that it did with those typical Zelda conventions. Combat was much different than any action-adventure title up to that point. Gamers were given control of a magic brush that could be used to defeat enemies in many different ways. You could slash enemies, summon bombs to blow them to smithereens, stop them in their tracks by summoning a tree, the possibilities were endless! Instead of being given an item after every dungeon like in most games in the genre, players were given a different brush stroke. Each of these strokes felt much more practical and useful than the items players received in most games, and they were satisfying as hell to pull off. Unlike in Zelda players could also upgrade their abilities using the in-game currency. But the thing that really set it apart from other games was it's style.

It's got an incredibly beautiful cel-shaded graphic style that makes even the dullest of moments a joy to watch. It's pretty much unlike anything I've ever seen before, a cross between a Japanese ink painting and wind waker's fantastic art style. The setting is also pretty interesting, as I've never had played many other games that take place in feudal era Japan. The focus on Japanese myths and gods also make thinks pretty interesting. Makes you wonder why more games don't use the same setting or the focus on Eastern gods.

Now Okami is one of the many examples of games that were derivative without being rip-offs, but there are plenty of games that are derivatives and are rip-offs. The first thing that comes to mind for me are games from the ios studio "Gameloft". Now, Gameloft actually makes some pretty awesome games. The ios version of the Oregon Trail and "Spider-Man: Total Mayhem" are both fantastic titles, but Gameloft has a tendency to make some games that are not-so-fantastic. They take titles that are console exclusives and make games that are border-line copyright infringing. Examples include the "Gangstar" games, pretty blatant GTA clones, and the "Hero of Sparta" series, titles with gameplay that's a bit to close for comfort to another action series starring a certain god. Now there's not much necessarily wrong with these games, they're well made. The problem with them is that they're lacking soul. It doesn't feel like the devs did anything special with the aspects that they took from other games. And that's when I think a game qualifies as a "rip-off".

I can't tell whether or not PAS: BR is a "rip-off" or not, but from what I've seen of the game so far, it looks like it has some pretty interesting mechanics and does enough to differentiate itself from smash bros. Even if it is just a Smash Bros. clone, it's sure to be a well made one. I guess I can't really fault devs for making rip-offs, it certainly makes sense from a business standpoint, but it still makes me kind of sad. I just hope developers don't think that's all gamers want.
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