Replay Suing Wisecrack For Sam Suede Kickstarter

By John Walker on May 31st, 2012 at 10:00 am.

Hard see. Like an erection. Like a hard penis! AHAHAHAHA!

Update: Wisecrack are stating, and the same is supported by Steve Ince, that Al Lowe had given this project his blessing, and even approved the Kickstarter content. Which makes these whole affair even more confusing.

Original: Oh, why can’t we all just learn to get along? In the happy-go-lucky world of Kickstarter, everything is meant to be made of flowers and unicorns, but as reported by Venture Beat, Al Lowe and Replay Games are marching in with their knee-high sue-boots and threatening legal action against Wisecrack Games, and their plan to raise half a million for a new Sam Suede game. Oh – they may have a point.

Sam Suede is one of Lowe’s creations – a sleazy private detective, intended to be a game back in 2006. He was working with Ken Wegrzyn, with whom he’d created iBase Entertainment, but after failing to find a publisher for the game, the company closed down by that December. This had been Lowe’s attempt at a swansong, formerly pretty much retired, and seemed like it would be his last attempt to create a game.

That of course hasn’t proven to be the case, with the recently successful Kickstarter to remake the original Leisure Suit Larry. And in the wake of all the recent Kickstarter triumphs, Ken Wegrzyn has create a campaign to raise $500,000 to revive Mr Suede. This, Replay says, is an infringement of their copyrights, and a misrepresentation of Lowe’s involvement, and they want the Kickstarter closed down.

And in fairness, Wegrzyn does appear to be antagonistic here. The Kickstarter page for the game begins with “Al Lowe & Ken Wegrzyn present”, which would seem to me to be a misleading claim – to present something, you usually having to be, er, presenting it. And it seems he’s not. There’s no question that Lowe worked on the project, hoping to create a Larry-like for the new millennium, and presumably still harbours desires to see it come to fruition. But presumably not via someone else using his name on a project on which he’s no longer involved. This then gets even more overt as the page posts his smiling face and explains that he’s working on the game.

The game itself looks like a dinosaur of knowing sexism, and half a million for an unknown title is an enormous reach. You can see why you’d want Lowe’s name there to grab attention, especially when that opening line makes it look like he’s involved. So you can also see, I’d argue, why Replay aren’t best pleased. The text for the Kickstarter goes on to mention that it will have humour from Al Lowe (as well as Broken Sword writer, Steve Ince, interestingly), which is presumably based on the work he previously did six years ago. It also makes the rather enormous claim of having the “gameplay” (whatever that is) of Beyond Good & Evil, the plot depth of Broken Sword, and the exploration of Tomb Raider, which would make it a truly remarkable game.

Venture Beat report that Lowe’s partner at Replay, Paul Trowe, is pretty pissed off.

“I think the blatant misuse of the Leisure Suit Larry name and copyrighted material shows clear disregard for copyright law. To piggyback on someone else’s success is not only rude but also illegal. Those who continue with this will be pursued to the fullest extent of the law. We are suing today.”

But interestingly, Wisecrack are standing firm. Venture Beat reports a statement from them in which they say,

“Wisecrack Games has not infringed or otherwise violated any rights of Replay Games. Wisecrack’s references to Al Lowe’s accomplishments, including his work on the Leisure Suit Larry series, are truthful, come directly from Mr. Lowe’s website with his permission pursuant to a written agreement, and constitute de minimis and fair uses under applicable law. Based on records of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. Copyright Office, Replay Games owns neither the trademark nor copyright to Leisure Suit Larry, so any claim on Replay’s behalf is entirely baseless. As Kickstarter fans are aware, Al is currently working on Leisure Suit Larry. The references to Al Lowe’s extensive work with Ken Wegrzyn on the design of Sam Suede in Undercover Exposure is truthfully stated and a historical fact. The original design and prototyping have been completed by Al and Ken, as well as a written agreement with Al Lowe for the Sam Suede in Undercover Exposure Kickstarter with Wisecrack Games. Upon completion of a successful Kickstarter campaign, Wisecrack Games moves into full production to complete the game.”

Which is disingenuous at best. You don’t need to own a patent or trademark to have copyright over your creation, and it’s not entirely clear why they reference Larry in their response, rather than Sam Suede. But more egregious is the pretence that they’re not suggesting Lowe is presently working on the project. From stating that he “presents” it, to their listing people they’re “teaming” with to make it, starting with Mr Lowe. Use of present tense, etc, is obviously misleading, and their defiance is odd. It would seem to make a ton of sense to re-word things considerably. Lowe can’t deny he spent a lot of time working on the game, certainly, and as much as it may grieve him to see its happening without him, they can still point out he was involved. But he isn’t any more, and that’s not apparent from their page. You can’t write,

“We’ve assembled an award-winning and nominated writing, design, and development team, with over 40 years of experience in the gaming industry.”

And then immediately below have “Al Lowe” and his photograph, and not expect people to think he’s involved.

However, when we spoke to Steve Ince, whose involvement in the project is dependent upon the success of the Kickstarter, he explained that Lowe had apparently given his blessing and knew of the Kickstarter in advance. Which, if the case, does make Replay’s actions now seem strange. Unfortunately, Lowe himself has said nothing so far, with only Trowe making statements.

As for who owns the rights to Suede – that’s the sort of tedium that can only be solved in expensive courts, making lawyers rich and benefiting almost no one else. Suede failed six years ago, this Kickstarter is asking for an awful lot for an unknown team and project, and it would seem to me to make a lot more sense to just let it go. For heavens sake – the idea being argued over here is a sexually charged private detective. I mean, come on – it’s not exactly a groundbreaking new stretch for literature, and hardly a concept worth spending fortunes fighting over.

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33 Comments »

  1. Dominic White says:

    Yeah, this is a pretty clear-cut case here, and scummy business from Wegrzyn. He probably could have got away with running the kickstarter if he’d just said it was a personal project and left Lowe out of it, but when you go and invoke one of your direct competitors in your own sales pitch, it’s not going to end well.

    • Grargh says:

      Yup. As matters are, it’s no wonder Replay Games suede them.

      • jumblesale says:

        It was a lowe move.

      • RegisteredUser says:

        Stop being a dick, I say.

      • Man Raised by Puffins says:

        And yet I suspect John has the right of it on this one; if it goes to court only the lawyers will be left as happy as Larry.

      • Lanfranc says:

        Such behaviour just can’t be al-lowe-d.

      • Milky1985 says:

        This story is good for a Laffer, would Lovage to see how it finishes.

      • Skabooga says:

        With this new information coming to light, I’m not lei-sure what to believe anymore.

        • Aedrill says:

          I don’t get it. It’s like they have no lowe for the franchise whatsoever.

    • innociv says:

      Yeah, it sounds to me that Al gave permission to go ahead with the game, but not permission to piggyback off his success and act like he’s involved when he’s not.

  2. gladius2metal says:

    there is a comment on kickstarters from wisecrack
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1787675232/sam-suedetm-in-undercover-exposure/comments
    “Al and Ken both agreed to the opening title and the statements made, since this is their design that is being Kickstarted to raise funds for completion.”

  3. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    Let’s not forget the $10,000 tier reward, which is actually called the “Al Lowe Edition,” and includes admission to a concert featuring Lowe performing with Seattle jazz band MOJO and dinner with Lowe and Wegrzyn.

    Yeah. I smell a scam.

  4. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    *sigh* Why couldn’t he have just played nicely? Who knows, Al might even have lent his support to the project had things been done differently (then again, maybe not).

  5. Defiant Badger says:

    Sleaze sleaze sleaze.

  6. rustybroomhandle says:

    Al’s gunna call him Betty.

  7. Bensam123 says:

    This is just to gather views and recognition of the game. Like RPS, this game isn’t well known and pitching for 500k just wont happen. It doesn’t matter if Lowe is or isn’t working on the game. This is garnering news coverage and much needed views for a game that wouldn’t otherwise be on the radar.

    Weg is just blowing hot air and he’ll retract any and all claims to Lowe being involved with a ‘grudgingly’ administered apology before things get too serious. In the end this project will probably end up being funded unless Lowe gets KS to take it down, which more then likely wont happen.

  8. mangrove says:

    Sue you, sue me

    Sue it for always, that’s the way it should be

  9. Unaco says:

    Leisure Suit Larry, Freddy Pharkas and now a sleazy Private detective. Makes me think Al Lowe is a little… obsessed? Sleazy? All seems to be bosoms and toilet humour. As such, can a third party not come in and sue everyone so none of this sort of nonsense gets made?

    • Dominic White says:

      Leisure Suit Larry and Freddy Pharkas are about as sleazy as a Carry On movie. Hardly offensive.

      • Unaco says:

        You may not find them offensive, but you (surely) don’t speak for everyone. Also, I didn’t say I was offended. Disgusted, perhaps, that these sorts of attitudes still have a place in video gaming, but not offended. Others may be though.

        • Dominic White says:

          What sorts of attitudes? The hapless, bumbling, wildly inept men – especially Larry – are the butts of every joke in the LSL series.

        • Grygus says:

          Whoa there. Not liking a game is one thing; disgusted with the fact that ideas you don’t like even have a place is something else again. Is that really your position?

        • Milky1985 says:

          “You may not find them offensive, but you (surely) don’t speak for everyone. ”

          Your right he doesn’t but nither do you, so not sure what point you are trying to make by bringing that up.

        • Mordsung says:

          Everything is offensive to someone.

          We live in 2012, we should not be censoring anyone or anything at this point.

        • Unaco says:

          @Dominic White

          Attitudes? Protagonist objectifying women. The art (probably) objectifying women. Toilet humour. Immature smut, essentially. The protagonist may end up being the butt of (most of) the jokes, but there are definitely attitudes towards women in this man’s games that some may find objectionable.

          @Grygus

          Disgusted is perhaps too strong a word… Sickened slightly, that our medium isn’t growing up and maturing the way I would like. It’s entirely a personal opinion… I don’t expect everyone to share it. But perhaps to accept that I have this opinion.

          @Milky1985

          What the fuck is the point of the Comments section, with the big red ‘OPINION, AWAY!’ button at the bottom, if not for expressing our opinion? I never claimed to speak for everyone. Dominic did. I expressed my opinion, Dominic responded with a solid statement and generalisation – This isn’t offensive. I argued against that, that just because he doesn’t find it offensive, doesn’t mean it isn’t offensive to some.

          @Mordsung

          I think that topic is way beyond this little comment thread. Just to point out though, I wouldn’t like to see this censored, or restricted in any way. I made a slightly tongue-in-cheek comment about this not really being my thing and, in an ideal world, it not being around. As it is, I’ll let these things stand… but I’ll come in and deride them for their childish sense of humour and approach to women.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Worth noting that he also did other stuff, including Torin’s Passage and much of the writing on Police Quest.

  10. jhng says:

    Sounds like Mr Lowe might have got himself into a bit of a love triangle with Trowe and Wegrzyn (“you said it was all over with Ken… bleh bleh bleh”)

  11. Cooper says:

    Al Lowe and Replay Games are marching in with their knee-high sue-boots and threatening legal action against Wisecrack Games,

    and

    Unfortunately, Lowe himself has said nothing so far, with only Trowe making statements.

    Don’t scan together.

    I really don’t think this was intended John, but if you have a pop at someone suggesting someone’s involvement when it’s unclear how / if / to what extent they are involved, it behooves you to be a bit more carfeul and not suggesting Al Lowe is getting all legal when he’s said nor done nothing of the sort…

  12. RegisteredUser says:

    Maybe we could put 500k into a proper rape(add quotation marks as necessary to stave off flame wars; in completely virtual reality rape is what you make of it)/sex sim with a great interface, detailed modeling, superb physics and unlimited mod support?
    That’s really what a silent minority (me! memememememe. ME!) playing these Larry-ish games over the years would kindasorta really want.
    And I don’t think there exists a single game that does this properly in any way, shape or form yet(and I’ve been looking over the decades).

  13. Urthman says:

    Which is disingenuous at best. You don’t need to own a patent or trademark to have copyright over your creation

    Copyright would cover the rights to a particular game, Trademark would cover certain rights to using a character or name from a game.

    And no matter how much we all wish someone were squatting on a patent restricting the use of tasteless sex jokes in video games, patent law has (fortunately!) nothing at all to do with this.

  14. pilouuuu says:

    Anyway the game just has $3.5 K so far, so there’s no way it’s going to achieve the goal.