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Justice For Desktop Dungeons

As you may recall, last December saw the frankly maddening news that an alleged rotter had allegedly cloned QCF Design’s most splendid Desktop Dungeons. The goodly chaps behind said ten-minute roguelike were worried they mightn’t be able to do anything about it. Turns out, they could.

League of Epic Heroes – for it is no longer damaging to QCF to reveal the alleged rotter’s allegedly cloned alleged game – has been withdrawn by its author.

While DD is, of course, a PC game, LoEH was an iPhone title that bore a few similarities to it. Just a few. For instance, most of it. QCF Design were planning on a later iPhone version themselves, as well as a Unity-based, massively spit’n’polished update to the PC one, so this clearly presented a rather significant obstacle to their making money.

LoHE creator Eric Farraro, aka the bittersweetly ironic Lazy Peon, had maintained for some time that he’d done nothing wrong, even telling Edge last week (in a must-read investigation by Rich Stanton) that “My formal line is that League Of Epic Heroes violates no law, and that QCF does not have a valid legal claim.”

He admitted, at least, that “Obviously it’s not what you want to be known for. Do I think it’s fair? I would say it’s hard to say. I would say it’s somewhat not really fair. It’s inevitable. Obviously I want to do the right thing.”

Entirely coincidentally I’m sure, he happened to do the right thing just after QCF went down the legal route. In an email sent to them yesterday, which they’ve posted here, he said “Just wanted to let you know that as of today, I’ve removed LoEH for sale in all countries, following the copyright infringement notice I received from your lawyer.

“I apologise for all the issues this has caused, and wish you best of luck on your IGF nomination. Looking forward to the full version of Desktop Dungeons on iPhone.”

Which sort of sounds gracious, I guess. Unfortunately for QCF (whose response post you should read in full), it may have created a new problem for them: “We now have to deal with the fact that there are people out there who have seen LoEH before they were even aware of DD. Yes, this is partly our fault (uh, for not marketing to a user-base we didn’t have a product for yet, I guess) but now we have to conquer that odd first-adopter loyalty just because someone else stole our work.”

Us lot, at least, should get to enjoy the fact that impending update “DD v0.15 blows LoEH out of the water. It’s not even in the realms of comprehensibility to compare the final full version to something that’s not as good as our own alpha. But, when the full comes out, we’re going to be told that we “stole” features from LoEH.” This includes an inventory system, which QCF were apparently working on long before LoEH turned up. Will this duly put them in hot water?

Maybe so, maybe no. For those of us who do know DD was there first, it’s good to see that it’s going to continue, and hopefully gain the prestige and success it deserves. Too many wonderful indie games (which almost invariably start off on PC) get ripped off, and reduced because of it – Canabalt and Death Worm to name but two. Although Canabalt-copying did lead to Robot Unicorn Attack. Hmm. DILEMMA.

I’ll leave you with a salient observation from QCF’s Danny Day: “Cloning is financially riskier than building an original game: You are increasingly likely to have your clone’s earning window cut short through either technological, legal or consumer-awareness avenues. In the end, cloning isn’t about trying to go for the “quick win” and earning a bunch of money you wouldn’t have gotten before. It’s actually about trying to lose slower than the other guy. You don’t have to be a rocket-surgeon to realise that’s a stupid way to try and earn a living.”

So if basic morality doesn’t stop you from cloning, maybe basic business sense will.

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Alec Meer

Senior Editor

Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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