I have very few emotional parallels to what it feels like find out that your game is being cloned. It’s an extremely difficult thing to explain how your creative joy turns into sheer anger and undermines the hope that keeps you doing this every day. This post tries to figure out “where to from here”, after establishing where “here” is…
The closest thing I can come up with personally is an amalgamation of the girlfriend you’d been living with for four years telling you she’s found someone else and that scene from the movie Contact where Ellie Sattler gets her research stolen by a slick bastard at a press conference. It’s a cocktail of seething anger at the creative bankruptcy of some faceless entity across the internets, combined with the crushing realisation that perhaps relying on game sales to stave off your own impending bankruptcy might just be a pipe dream after all. It hits twice as hard when you realise that the clone is going to reach the market first… With your idea, for your fans.
So: Yes, Desktop Dungeons is being cloned on the iPhone. No, I won’t link to the clone – you’re all very smart and those who aren’t have access to google. Yes, the cloner has contacted us. Yes, we’ve contacted lawyers. No, I won’t be writing about how the negotiation/legal thing is going… Yet. This post has been two weeks in the making, mainly because it’s hard to write honestly about something that’s this aggravating and secondly because I really don’t want to say something that might be legally stupid.
That brings me to the point of this article, because as cathartic as ranting and raving about how incredibly gormless the entire act of cloning a game is whilst cleverly juxtaposing the problem of creativity in a post-modern world (hint: the kicker is in the financial attitude – if primary motivation is profit, go die in a fire) that doesn’t actually help us right now. This has happened. It was always going to happen at some point. Now we need to figure out how to come out of it without being total douchebags, no matter how upset we might be.
So what do you? Do you pull out the Zen attitude, say “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, wax lyrical about the benefits of secondary marketing through positive comparison to an inferior competitor and steadfastly ignore it? Do you lawyer up, file patents, nail down your copyright claims and come out guns blazing? Do you rely on the indie community and pull a name-and-shame campaign in order to get at least some form of resolution?
It’s an exceedingly tricky thing to think about. Sometimes it seems like you’re balancing your creative drive vs your business acumen (both of which my British wit compels me to admit are things I’m not really very good at) and trying to make very important decisions with zero idea of where they’ll lead. At what point does cloning impact your bottom line – and at what point does thinking like that start to undermine your humanity?
I don’t know. I have none of those answers. What I do hope is that QCF survives this and we can advise future South African indies should similar things happen to them… In terms of dealing with right now, we have a couple of options:
1. The Unity build is playable, but we’re nowhere near done with graphics and sound. We could theoretically put new features on hold and slam out an iPhone version that matches the Desktop Dungeons freeware. We’d probably charge $1 – $2 on that, at least compete with the clone and help not go bankrupt.
2. Stick it out, see what happens with the clone and keep working on features for the full while we get the new content in. We’re at least a few months from release of Desktop Dungeons: The Full Version so we’d probably be seriously risking running out of money towards the end.
We’re really not sure which path to take. To be honest, we’re starting to care more about work that would benefit both paths – if something would only benefit the full, it’s hard to get motivated to do it right now. We need some advice from our players: What do you all want, an iPhone version NOW with a delayed full version or no iPhone release right now and a bigger, prettier full game sooner?
P.S. There’s a secret positive subtext to this entire post: We recently bought a development Mac, so all of you Mac players that have really wanted to play a native version of DD, we’re one step closer!
P.P.S. No, I won’t approve comments that link to the clone… Duh?