A Tale Of Two Tardigrades

“I felt my dream was ripped away from me in front of the world,” indie developer Anas Abdin told me, when I asked him about the bizarre circumstances in which he’s found himself over the last couple of weeks. “I felt violated, stripped from my own game. Most of all, I felt that my fans and friends had so many questions regarding my authenticity.”

Imagine the situation. You’ve been working on your unreleased indie sci-fi adventure game for over three years, only to see a major new TV show launch using the same specific idea as its core space travel concept. That’s the peculiar situation in which independent developer Anas Abdin found himself in when he watched the first few episodes of CBS’s Star Trek: Discovery. He’s been making a game called Tardigrades, and now Discovery has come along, he’s really not sure what to do.

It’s not unusual for the release of a new movie or TV series to bring accusations that the plot is based on a lesser-known work, whether a self-published book, a spec script, an animated short, or something else. So when Abdin got in touch with me to claim that Star Trek Discovery shared some odd similarities with his in-development AGS pixel adventure, I was immediately dubious. His in-development AGS pixel adventure called Tardigrades and which he says features intergalactic travel via the quantum abilities of a giant blue tardigrade… Huh.

Star Trek: Discovery, for those not familiar, is the first new TV series from the Roddenberry universe in twelve years. Co-created by TV maestro Bryan Fuller (Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, American Gods), it follows the ups and significant downs of Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), a Vulcan-raised human science officer on board a bleeding-edge Star Fleet vessel with a unique ability to instantaneously travel to anywhere in the universe, via a quantum “Mycelial spore network”. To harness this, the crew discover a symbiotic relationship between the spores and a huge and seemingly dangerous beast that resembles a massive version of Earth’s micro-animals, the tardigrade. And so they name theirs the same. The tardigrade allows the ship to make use of the quantum network of spacespores, and at some cost to the poor giant water bear, be anywhere they wish immediately.

Tardigrade, by Anas Abdin, is about an ancient race of Earthlings on the verge of discovering intergalactic travel, via a system using, well, giant tardigrades that allows them to travel to anywhere in the universe.

Star Trek: Discovery was announced on the 2nd November 2015 (although not named until the following year).

Tardigrades was announced on the 8th May 2014 (under the name “Epoch”). It was posted to Steam’s Greenlight on the 21st November 2014. It changed its name to Tardigrades on the 22nd February 2015. Nine months before it was even announced there would be a new Star Trek show, Abdin wrote this on his blog:

“Tardigrades, waterbears, moss piglets… call them whatever you like. For me, they are the indestructible. Despite their little size of about 0.012in, they can survive temperatures from just above absolute zero up to above the boiling point of water. They can also survive extreme conditions of radiation and the vacuum of space. They can go without food or water for more than 10 years. Who else can travel space like Tardigrades?”

Abdin’s concern is that it’s his project that’s not out yet. It’s his idea that he fears will now look like it copied CBS’s. Even if, as is entirely plausible, it didn’t happen the other way around either.

Although Abdin definitely is suggesting that it did. His argument starts with the tardigrade: both projects choose to take a specific micro-animal and make it larger than a man, both choose to make it blue, both then choose to have it be the means of instantaneous intergalactic travel.

It could simply be a coincidence. A pool of seven billion people makes unique ideas an unlikely prospect, and random events segregate seemingly non-randomly. While Discovery wasn’t announced until a year after Abdin announced his game, and not until nine months after Abdin renamed his project to “Tardigrades”, there’s every possibility that the show’s creative team had been working on the idea for years beforehand or simply came to it on their own. Indeed, put “tardigrade space travel” into Google and you’d perhaps expect to see Star Trek: Discovery dominating the results. But no. What you see instead is years and years of popular science articles about the seemingly invincible little Earth beasties, and their notorious ability to survive in a vacuum. And in space.


Credit: Daniel Mietchen

In 2012 the Smithsonian wrote in detail about the tardigrade’s potential ability to survive in space, in response to a Motherboard article about an amateur scientist who theorised that tardigrades could have come from outer space. They didn’t, of course. They come from Earth. Although they’ve been to space.

In 2008 a paper was published in Current Biology detailing how scientists with the European Space Agency exposed dehydrated tardigrades to space for ten days, with no deleterious effects. (Although solar radiation seemed to rather polish them off.) The extraordinary creatures were capable of withstanding not just complete dehydration, but also the vacuum of space, and then just get up and carry on. New Scientist reported the study at the time.

In 2011 they were off into space again, as the BBC reported. In 2015 the BBC looked back on this, and talked more about how the tardigrade is able to seemingly revive itself from death. They’re a creature that has caught public attention, not just because of their incredible ability to survive almost anywhere, but also because when looked at under a microscope, they’re just so damned cute.

It’s entirely plausible both projects were inspired by similar ideas and developed entirely independently, regardless of both coming to light around the same time.

But what’s more significant right now for Abdin is what he does next. People will argue that he has a legal case, others will contend that it’s coincidence, others still will make the case that ideas are to be shared. But for Abdin, a man who combines a full-time job with caring for two elderly parents, it’s made devoting his scant spare time to working on his gaming project a lot harder.

“I did not touch my computer at all,” Abdin tells me of the days following the realisation. “I was too scared to log on my email or any other social media outlet.” He first learned of the issue when, shortly after episode three of Discovery had aired, he received a series of emails and tweets from others within the AGS (Adventure Game Studio) community. Mostly populated by amateur developers who make games for little or no money, the tight-knit group had been following along with Abdin’s project since 2014. So when they watched Star Trek, the core storyline seemed immediately familiar.

Abdin said he wasn’t even aware there was a new series of Star Trek, but on receiving so many messages, he watched the episodes and found himself enjoying it. Then things got weird for him. “They started to show the “spore drive” and the white dots flying around in a blue room, and I felt something is not right. Then the Tardigrade appearance killed the show for me. I stopped enjoying the show as a story and just continued watching to note similarities.”

Abdin notes many more similarities between the show and his game, which to an outsider are perhaps less suspicious than to the developer who’s suddenly had the rug pulled out from under him. There’s a black female lead in both projects, and a gay couple. Both have a character with blond features that border on albino. For Abdin, this created the impression that Discovery was just taking his ideas one by one.

I suspect otherwise. The tardigrade is unusual, but beyond that the other similarities Abdin mentions could be found in any number of new television series. It seems astoundingly unlikely that Star Trek’s producers would have cast the show to match the pixel art of an unreleased game. But it’s easy for me to feel detached about this. Not so for Abdin.

“I felt some lawyer is going to call me any moment telling me I cannot continue developing Tardigrades,” he told me.

For the unknown developer, this has taken the joy out of his project. “I used to make doodles and pixel art almost daily, and share them via Twitter,” he says. “Until this happened. I can’t focus on anything. I can’t draw, I can’t even touch my guitar. Professionally speaking, my work has been affected.”

I suggest to Abdin that his belief that he’s been borrowed from falls down a little considering how ambiguously he presented the tardigrades’ role in his game’s plot. His previous posts and videos show a man being wrapped around by a giant blue tardigrade, which then zips off into space with lightning effect. But it was never overtly stated – because he had considered it a spoiler – that the tardigrade would be the civilisation’s secret for discovering intergalactic travel. The game was named after them, their role as a main theme was stated, but wasn’t the association too unclear for someone to take it without knowing the connections that exist only in Abdin’s head?

“No,” he says, unequivocally. “Why is the tardigrade huge? And blue? Why is it used for space travel? Why is it used in a blue set with little white dots floating around? This is too much for two people living on different sides of the planet to come up with in a short period of time.”

For Abdin, the most important thing is that his integrity be recognised, and his authenticity understood. What he wants is for everyone to know that his ideas were his own, and after that, some sort of answer from CBS. He’s contacted them, but previously been ignored. He wants them to respond, to know that he need not worry when they share so many similar ideas.

We got in touch with CBS for this story and they declined to comment.

“My ideal outcome,” concludes Abdin, “is to get addressed by the producers and [know that they’ll] let me be, to finish my project.”

73 Comments

  1. GrumpyCatFace says:

    So, indie developer got ripped off by megacorp. Calls the front desk, and waits for megacorp to apologize?

    He needs a lawyer. I’m pretty sure any IP attorney would be THRILLED to take this one.

    • tomimt says:

      The problem is, that the ideas here aren’t actually that novel. Tardigrades themselves have been the magical, mysterious creature of the decade, there’s been a lot of discussion about how peculiar they are, so to choose them as the mystery creature is not actually that big of a leap.

      Colour blue itself is also a pretty common sci-fi/fantasy trope, intended to make something look more mysterious/magical/dreamlike. James Cameron uses the colour theme a lot in his movies and I’m not just talking about the skin colour of those Avatar aliens.

      The same goes for taking something small or regular size and increasing its size. And old trope used even in movies since King Kong and Godzilla.

      You could have something on the similarities of the characters, but then again, in this PC era, how many different types of PC characters can you have? People who differ from “normal” can’t be used only as a butt of the joke anymore like 10 or 20 years ago so that actually leads into some pretty bland characterization when everyone has to be so formal and serious all the time, as the writers are too afraid to do anything else with them.

      The way I see it, there’s very little he has to go on here.

      • ohminus says:

        Sorry, but going from “tardigrades can survive in space” to “let’s have a tardigrade-based space travel method”, for all novelty of tardigrades, is still quite a stretch.

        • tomimt says:

          Not really, when you consider that the way they travel in trek is some sort of a space fungus network, so placing an animal in it that can use it for travelling and harness the said animal to human use is a pretty logical step.

          The said animal being a tardigrade is even more logical in the context of how much they’ve been in the eye of the attention since they’ve been introduced.

          Considering how much fiction is needed these days, it’s no wonder that several writers have come up with similar ideas.

          • ohminus says:

            The problem with your argument is that especially when the tardigrade has been so prominent, it was the first they came up with either way, and the space fungus network (which is completely ridiculous BS that reeks of handwaving to justify the former) was introduced later.

          • LexW1 says:

            ohminus – Er, no. You’ve confused yourself.

            The spore drive is introduced first. It is unreliable. Later they find the Tardigrade, and then use it’s DNA to find a way to make the spore drive reliable.

            Further they only use the Tardigrade for 1-2 episodes before it’s replaced.

        • Sin Vega says:

          There’s a passage in The Andromeda Strain about the “messenger theory”, in which scientists and narrator discuss the idea that aliens would likely communicate with us by sending not ships, but hardy organisms, likely very small. That was in 1969, and I remember it from reading it about 20 years ago.

          “Let’s use organisms to travel in space” is fairly novel, and both works picking the same organism is unlucky, but it’s hardly bulletproof that it was anything other than coincidence. Certainly not a compelling enough case that I’d waste money on whatever lawyer was unethical enough to exploit my naivete.

          I mean, I’m sympathetic. I live in idiotic terror that someone will produce a tv series or book or whatever just like something I’m working on, or even just write an article like the one I’m thinking of. There are billions of humans, it’s gonna happen to a lot of us.

      • Daymare says:

        I agree. It looks like a giant coincidence, but if you’ve ever heard or read about water bears before and also like sci-fi, the logical leaps aren’t that big.

        I’d also like to quote durrbluh from farther down this comment section: “But the reality was we were influenced by the media we consumed, the games we played, the books we read, which is hardly unique stimuli.”

        I feel like that is an important thought: That (unknowingly) shared experiences can account for a lot of things.

      • wisnoskij says:

        If you can own the IP of “rounded corners”, then you can own giant tardigrade based space travel.

        It does not matter at all that the similarities were accidental.

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          MajorLag says:

          In a logically consistent universe, maybe. But as things are in reality it is at best a waste of time for anyone but a giant corporation to make such claims.

    • LexW1 says:

      You are presumably joking with the “THRILLED”?

      Because he has no case whatsoever.

      There are no particularly original concepts in his setup. Tardigrades are pretty much the obvious “space travel” creature, which is why he picked them in the first place – and despite the article, the one in Discovery isn’t even blue (it’s a unpleasant grey-pink colour, just often lit by blue lights because everything in Discovery is).

  2. EvilSnake says:

    But… Discovery’s tardigrade isn’t even blue. The lighting sure is, but not the creature itself. And it goes off to travel the universe on its own five episodes in, never to be seen or mentioned again.

  3. something says:

    It does seem like an extraordinary coincidence.

    I think he should plow on with his game. He’s successfully fended off accusations of plagiarism on his part. He has nothing to fear in that regard. If anything this story will give the game an audience it would never otherwise have had.

    It’s probably worth talking to a lawyer, though suing a giant corporation might not be the most fun way to make money, what with all his other commitments.

    All said and done, he’s not lost anything. If he just gets on with his life as if this didn’t happen, it likely won’t play out any differently.

    • GrumpyCatFace says:

      Yes, why should any artist/designer expect to be “paid” for their work?

      • Sheng-ji says:

        Was that a reply to something else? It seems to be arguing against a point that wasn’t made.

        • GrumpyCatFace says:

          Was responding to your suggestion that he ‘just forget it and move on’ –
          “All said and done, he’s not lost anything. If he just gets on with his life as if this didn’t happen, it likely won’t play out any differently.”

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I didn’t make that suggestion, and the person who did specifically pointed out how little fun this kind of lawsuit was, hence why it might be worth, in the long run, if you ascribe value to quality of life and mental health, moving on.

      • something says:

        If the Star Trek people did indeed take this idea, then of course they should ask him first, and throw money at him for the rights to use his idea. But they haven’t done that.

        Forcing them to pay up may or may not be worthwhile. If he decides it is not worthwhile, then he is still in no worse a position than if this had never happened. If he sues them, good luck to him. Deciding not to pursue them but still being angry about it seems like the worst of all options. That was my point.

        What’s right and what we can make happen are not always the same thing.

        • LexW1 says:

          He can’t “force them to pay up” because they haven’t taken his idea. The Tardigrade in Trek is a mere incidental, that appears in what, episode 3 or 4, then is gone at the end of episode 5 (they just use the DNA after that). Nothing else is particularly similar – oh a show with a black female lead and a gay couple and so on? God never seen one of those before!

          Honestly it sounds like he’s angry, and frankly, a bit thick/unrealistic. I mean, the latter is not uncommon in solo devs but…

  4. WMain00 says:

    This looks like it’s a sad case of coincidence, which is a shame and I’m sympathetic toward him. I wouldn’t get hung up on it though – just keep developing.

  5. foszae says:

    I generally count pop-culture plagiarism as being spurious comparisons over rather indistinct little snippets, but in this case i’d have to say that’s one hell of a suspicious coincidence. I’d count that as a quite distinct idea in the history of sci-fi and for all the details to line up exactly? Geez, i wish i were an IP attorney because i’d take this guy’s case pro bono

    • LexW1 says:

      If you are an IP attorney, you wouldn’t touch his case with a bargepole, because he hasn’t got a case.

      The article is rather misleading. In Discovery, the Tardigrade is an incidental thing – appears at the end of episode 3 after they’re finding the Spore Drive is unreliable, and is gone by the end of episode 5. It’s also not blue, despite the gaslighting in the article.

      The crew is a fairly standard progressive line-up. There’s nothing remarkable about it in either case.

      And there’s EVERYTHING ELSE, which is different.

      So you could definitely take that pro-bono and lose yourself a huge amount of money in time and court fees and achieve absolutely nothing but feeding the persecution complex of a slightly nutty dev.

  6. Halk says:

    I am willing to believe that a show that randomly copy-pastes Stuxnet code to display it on the screens of its spaceship in a completely unfitting context would also steal other things.

    After all, they probably just googled “program code” and copy-pasted the first piece of code they found without thought. Maybe they similarly googled “space travel creature” and stumbled over Tardigrades?

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Wait – are you genuinely white knighting for the copyright of a malicious “virus”. Let the writer step forth and reveal him or herself, they can serve their prison sentance in every part of the world they get convicted first (Likely starting with Iran), then claim their copyright.

      • Halk says:

        Errm… what? I was just commenting on the apparent work method of the Discovery writers, and what it might imply for the plausibility of Abdin’s claim.

        By the way, Stuxnet was written by the Americans. Some people know very well who wrote it, and the authors probably got a (secret) medal. In large parts of the civilized world, they would never be tried.

        Now I am not a big fan of the US intelligence community and all the crimes they have committed and keep committing, but in this case: hats off! Stuxnet was a genius achievement, and morally unproblematic.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Morally unproblamatic, if you don’t life within fallout range of the nuclear facilities they infected and don’t give the slightest toss about those who do.

          Fact is, if you are a set designer, you are not a coder. You don’t know how to make code that looks real – because that’s a talent that requires a lot of skill to foster – as is set design. It could be argued that it’s quite clever, in fact, using material that the owners of the copyright could never, ever claim.

          Iran, by the way, is a very civilised place. You might not like it’s government, or some parts of it’s cluture (let he cast the first stone etc. but they aren’t the flintstones, and the stereotypes don’t match the reality for the vast majority of the residents. Heaven forbid, we say all Americans are deep southern trailer trash, or all British are like Alan Partridge – yet those stereotypes endure, because a slight, very tiny percentage of your populations are like that)

          • Halk says:

            Not sure where you get the idea from that there was risk of fallout. They were sabotaging the motors of centrifuges not nuclear power plants.

            In the past, Trek shows had people design this kind of thing for them, when it was needed. They even designed a whole language, Klingon. Compared to that, using Win32 code for a show set in the 23rd century is lazy as shit. Especially, when you then claim it has something to with physics, chemistry and biology. This pains me as a scientist. It most certainly does not “look real” for the context it was intended for.

            No need to educate me on the degree of civilization of Iran. I have colleagues there and hope to visit them in the not so distant future. I am already fuming at the prospect that I will never be able to use ESTA again when/if I want to visit the US again after that. Talk about civilization.

            But despite all this, I really don’t want the Iranians to have functioning nuclear centrifuges.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I’ve worked in facilities with these kinds of centrafuges. We’ve found the virus on our systems. We are not in a country targeted by the US, and our systems are 100% with the approval of your current president. I can promise you, these centrafuges exploding, when loaded with nuclear material would not only kill people in the facility itself, because that size centrifuge exploding at the point in it’s cycle it targets is a terrifying prospect due solely to the amount of energy and mass of spinning metal. Add the explosion and you have a crater. Then add the nuclear material, which would be scattered in the explosion, and you don’t want landing on your garden, where your children play. Perhaps fallout was too loaded a term to use, but still…

            When telling people about the brilliance of a piece of code, try not telling a person whose life was put at risk by said piece of code.

            “They even designed a whole language, Klingon”

            I think you may be confusing the role of a set designer, for the role of a writer.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Actually, I should apologise – I’m not in a fantastic place at the minute, and should really be avoiding any internet discussions. I’ll probably cringer later when/if I reread what I read

    • brucethemoose says:

      That is entirely plausible. In fact it was my first thought when reading this.

      They didn’t outright steal this dev’s idea like some maniacal corporate villain, like the dev implies. But some writer could easily have Googled something, watch that trailer among many other things about Tardigrades (probably without even knowing the trailer was about an in-development game), then pitched the idea to his co-workers.

      That’s completely impossible to prove in court, of course, if it’s even actionable in the first place.

    • senae says:

      You do know it wouldn’t have been the writers deciding what goes onto each computer screen, right?

  7. durrbluh says:

    Unfortunately, this is just how the creative process works. Nothing is created in a vacuum, and the rest of the details are just “wacky coincidences”.

    About twenty years ago myself and another aspiring game designer wrote up a concept for a MMO, which we didn’t end up submitting to any studios or publishers for consideration as we didn’t feel the technology currently available would do the game justice. Five years later, he contacts me demanding to know if I’d gone behind his back and showed or sold the concept to someone, as a game had been announced that was astonishingly similar to our design. Eerily so. The setting, premise, factions, basic story, combat system… all could’ve been lifted directly from our design bible.

    But the reality was we were influenced by the media we consumed, the games we played, the books we read, which is hardly unique stimuli. Someone else out there consumed the same media, played the same games, read the same books, and was more successful at pitching concepts than we were. To be fair the technology available *wasn’t* able to do the concept justice, as the game went F2P very quickly and was completely shut down within months of that.

    If you factor in the average development cycle for a slipshod MMO at the time it’s pretty likely that within a year of us shelving the concept, someone else penned almost exactly the same document in its entirety. As bizarre as it feels to someone in the centre of it all when it’s happening, this just isn’t that uncommon.

    Since the Star Trek franchise has enough lawyers to keep this in legal limbo until the show runs its course, my suggestion would be to preserve whatever evidence he has showing that his game design pre-dates the public announcements regarding Discovery and stay the course.

    • Daymare says:

      Just wanted to inform you that I quoted a bit of your comment, farther up this section.

    • LexW1 says:

      Wait did you accidentally come up with the plot/setting for Tabula Rasa?

      I can totally believe that. It was not a masterpiece of originality (no insult) and actually resembled some other stuff of similar vintage (for the reasons you detail).

  8. bretfrag says:

    “That’s the peculiar situation in which independent developer Anas Abdin found himself in when he watched the first few episodes of CBS’s Star Trek: Discovery.”

    You’v repeated ‘in’ for the same pronoun, ‘which’. Fix it please. Thanks.

    • AbyssUK says:

      Pretty sure there is a nicer way of pointing the error out too. Fix it. Please. Thanks

    • Dead In Hell says:

      You’ve missed the “e” in “you’ve”. Fix it please. Thanks.

      • bretfrag says:

        I’m not a professional writer, so your point is invalid. Thanks.

        • Ghostwise says:

          Then you should fix that. Thanks.

          • ColonelFlanders says:

            He’s a dick, but he’s right. Someone got paid to write that, then an editor got paid to read it and decide that it was correct and publish it. Like any error it should be pointed out and corrected. There are definitely nicer ways of pointing it out, but any other factual inaccuracy and people would be all over it.

          • Sin Vega says:

            That’s not a factual inaccuracy, it’s an extremely minor proofreading slip of the sort that you’ll find in any publication in any field going back several thousand years right up to whenever the robots get sick of our shit.

        • Daymare says:

          I think the point of the response was to point out how rude your comment was by applying it to your own.

          And while you’re not a professional writer, you’re posting on an RPS article. The main forum rule, as you can see below the comment section, includes this little phrase: “Respect others”.

          Personally, I don’t think your post was very respectful. But maybe you disagree.

  9. Kefren says:

    I have no idea in this case how much is coincidence, but I do understand the developer’s feelings. When my last novel was in the final stages I did another check for its name, to see what came up – and discovered a film had just come out (at film festivals, not yet on general release) with the same name, and in the same genre (sci-fi). I had a couple of days of panic, but ended up deciding to go ahead anyway, because it would be clear to any sensible person that there were no connections between the book and film, and it was genuinely a coincidence. Both had been worked on for a number of years before going public. But that initial fear, and worry about legal threats, or looking like I’d stolen ideas, or (worse!) having to change the name and therefore probably elements of the book that it tied into thematically and plot-wise – oh, that was a horrible feeling. In the end I just kept all my documentation and went ahead, hoping that both myself and the film makers did well, and if ever there were coincidental cross-connections it benefited both of us. That would probably be the best outcome for the Tardigrades people too.

  10. jonahcutter says:

    Perhaps cynically minded, but he might benefit from the association and controversy. It sounds like he’s well-protected from being accused of ripping the show off. Whether the show ripped him off or not, more people will be aware of his game than before.

    Fans of the show having previously no idea the game existed could well be compelled to buy the game to check it out. Either to compare for themselves, or simply for the chance to play something similar to the show they are fans of.

    He should definitely keep creating his game.

  11. AbyssUK says:

    This is very strange, i do find it hard to believe that high quality writers that penned something as high profile as star trek would have not researched this game existed, i am surprised they didn’t have a response ready to go.. i mean even the main characters look the same it’s very odd. r\legaladvise at the very least…

    • FunkyBadgerReturns says:

      Why would television writers feel the need to investigate unpublished indie computer games?

      As long as Netflix don’t throw a bunch of lawyers at the guy there’s no harm and no foul.

      • kentonio says:

        Usually if you create something new, you internet check to make sure you haven’t subconsciously ripped off an existing product. We’re constantly consuming media and ideas often without even realizing we’re doing it. Not checking is unprofessional and leaves yourself open to the risk of.. oh I don’t know, maybe producing something that rips off someone elses hard work.

  12. Michael Fogg says:

    Just out of curiosity: how does the sci-fi concept make the jump from ‘tardis can survive in space’ to ‘tardis can phase to any point in space instantaneously’?

    • tomimt says:

      In the case of Star Trek, their spore drive is actual, biological thing that grows in space and the tardigrade is an animal that uses it to navigate the space.

      Obviously, they could have invented a fictional animal for that, but considering tardigrades have been the it animal for a good while now, it’s not surprising that they chose them. Besides, it’s an alien looking creature from the getgo, so it doesn’t even need redesigning.

  13. Jay Load says:

    The TARDIs is blue, can travel anywhere in space, and the series was cancelled in 1987 immediately after the departure of then BBC controller Michael GRADE.

    CONSPIRACY!

    But seriously that really sucks for the poor guy. I hope CBS don’t be dicks about this – he definitely got there first. And I hope they didn’t steal it, too. That would really sour many people on the new series and there’s enough of those whingers already!

  14. Dead In Hell says:

    I mean, it’s certainly weird that they both make the totally nonsensical leap from survivability to godlike teleportation powers. But that’s life. Tardigrades have been a fascination of the science and science fiction communities for years now. This dude is hardly the only person that took an interest in them.

    Every person who has ever written anything has woken up one day to find “their idea” in someone else’s work. Robert Kirkham famously watched the opening scene to his own comic series (The Walking Dead) in someone else’s movie (28 Days Later), before his comic was even released. He didn’t whine, or take Danny Boyle to court for stealing his idea.

    However, I do totally understand the emotional impact that something like this has. I especially sympathize with the creator’s fear of being shut down by CBS lawyers. When that day comes, I’ll side with him. Until then, just make your game bro.

  15. Jovian09 says:

    Abdin’s not looking for a payout though. He just wants to know he can continue his project without fear of legal action. If he doesn’t have any basis for a suit, then neither does CBS, surely.

    • LexW1 says:

      That is correct. Neither of them has a suit against the other. The only person who thinks they do is apparently Abin, and a bunch in this thread who have zero understanding of IP law.

  16. GrumpyCatFace says:

    Sorry, but the odds of the Single Stupidest Sci-Fi Idea Ever coming to both CBS, and an indie developer at the same time, are completely astronomical.

    Occam’s Razor has a very clear answer to this question.

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      Stupid it might be, but it’s also fun. I’m very much enjoying the new Trek; in many ways it’s definitely Star Trek, but in many ways it’s definitely not. However Star Trek has always had stupid sci-fi in it and you’d be a fool to miss it. Transwarp Conduits? Subspace? Inertial dampeners, how the fuck is that gonna work then? Phase induced feedback loops in the left philange? It’s all bollocks and it always has been but it’s still good fun and still makes important social commentary behind the guise of science fiction, so they don’t get sued by everyone who’s offended.

      That said if they did steal that story it would be fairly dickish.

      • GrumpyCatFace says:

        I’ll accept all of those things as rubbish, except inertial dampeners – I always took that to mean “quick manipulation of our artificial gravity system” ;)

      • ohminus says:

        Transwarp conduits and subspace radio can well be explained as using some kind of wormhole-like shortcut. The very concepts of “At the quantum level, there is no difference between biology and physics.”, however, is so absolutely ignorantly stupid that it suggests whoever came up with it would struggle to pass a high school science class.

        • jakinbandw says:

          So what, our bodies are magical places where quantum physics stops working? Our bodies aren’t made up of protons electrons and neutrons? I’m very confused how you can say that biology doesn’t follow physical laws.

  17. fuggles says:

    There is an important and very understated hyperlink in this article which I suspect everyone else has overlooked – the text is ‘bizarre circumstances’.

    Not only did they use tardigrades, but the game has an African American heroine, a gay couple, one a Hispanic (I think) doctor and one a blonde white guy who has a connection to a man on another ship.

    Now whilst it seems super unlikely anyone knows about a niche game in a niche part of the internet (had you heard of it?)… I have to lean towards it being more than just coincidence.

    Still, this can only work favourably for the Dev as star Trek will never sue and it’s a free pr bump.

    • Sin Vega says:

      Star trek had people from most of those demographics on the bridge in every series, except the gay couple (and an all-straight cast in 2017 would have been a wasted opportunity at best). I mean, really, it would have been extremely unlikely that a new series would have even got out of the door if it wasn’t at least that diverse a crew. It’s half the point of the entire concept. I mean, shit, Voyager had a bloody Borg join up.

      If anything, the fact that it’s so incredibly similar makes it more likely it was a coincidence. I dunno about you, but if I was going to trace over someone’s work and pass it off as my own, I’d at least give the blonde guy a bottle of hair dye.

  18. PseudoKnight says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the most original (if silly) idea in Discovery was inspired by someone’s research that led them to this indie game. The show is very derivative. However, it’s likely coincidence, even if an exceptional case of coincidence. Our ideas are less unique than we think. Most of the time when I come up with something that I think I hadn’t heard of before, I see something remarkably similar created within the next few years. This is partly because we all have the same cultural influences, and partly because when we have an idea we become attuned to recognizing similar patterns.

  19. laggyluk says:

    I make shitty litle games and it happened twice to me already. At least dude got some coverage on RPS to cheer him up.

  20. Nosebeggar says:

    I feel really sorry for this guy, I can only imagine the heartbreak when he learned about Discovery’s spore-drive.
    I don’t think CBS ripped him off personally, but ideally CBS should issue a a public statement and give him credit for coming up with the same idea to promote his game. All should just carry on their merry ways. His game looks good and I enjoy discovery, there is no reason these shouldn’t co-exist.

    Also would be way better PR to let him do his thing than to bash him with a lawsuit AND I think that a proper IP lawyer would win this thing in his favor if they decided to go after him.

    I imagine he is very troubled right now, but in my opinion this is all in his favor so far.

    • LexW1 says:

      It’s not “in his favour”, and he has no case.

      CBS should not, and will not issue a statement “crediting” him with the idea. That would be an incredibly terrible idea, and pretty much a lie.

      What they could do is issue a statement saying that his idea and theirs are entirely independent of each other, but they don’t really need to.

      Legally speaking they can co-exist just fine. CBS has no case against him, hasn’t threatened him, probably neither knows nor cares that he exists. His fear are not serious or rational and the main reason to talk to a lawyer would be so they could stare at him like a madman, and say “No, that’s not how this works…” and calm down and stop worrying either way.

  21. RED says:

    “His argument starts with the tardigrade: both projects choose to take a specific micro-animal and make it larger than a man, both choose to make it blue, both then choose to have it be the means of instantaneous intergalactic travel.”

    Tardigrade in Discovery is large to be dangerous. Its connection with the drive wasn’t obvious at first. Tardigrade in this game is suppose to… house human inside? Judging by the teaser anyway. And Trek’s one ain’t blue.

    That said, I hope CBS will tell the guy it is ok to finish his work. There is no reason not to… besides sheer greed.

  22. Janichsan says:

    The scene from the game teaser with the tardigrade slowly hugging the naked dude from behind looks like the weirdest Rule 34 I’ve seen.

  23. Premium User Badge

    MajorLag says:

    “No,” he says, unequivocally. “Why is the tardigrade huge? And blue? Why is it used for space travel? Why is it used in a blue set with little white dots floating around? This is too much for two people living on different sides of the planet to come up with in a short period of time.”

    You’d be surprised. Human minds are largely very similar, and when provided with the same reference material will often come up with very similar notions. I myself once sketched out the opening plot for an RPG that ended up being pretty similar to FFIX’s, but since I never told anyone about it I could hardly claim it was stolen.

    Which isn’t to say there’s no relation, or indeed even that the idea wasn’t just outright stolen. Though I think the most likely scenario is that someone on the creative staff for Discovery had heard of the game, even if by proxy, and forgot about it. The idea lodged in their subconscious eventually emerged as what they would have honestly believed was an original thought.

    Unfortunately, even if you could show a substantial amount of evidence that someone had intentionally ripped off the idea, the fact that he’s a small-time hobbyist indie developer means it is incredibly unlikely he’d ever be able to take on whoever the hell owns the Discovery IP anyway.

    I think the best course he could take is actually pretty similar to what’s happening now. Just get the word out, have articles written establishing firmly that you did not steal the idea and may in fact be the originator of it, and use that as both legal cover and publicity for the game.

    • Tosgromm says:

      It might seem unlikely that two people independently have the same or a very similar idea but in this case it’s also no coincedence at all even without knowing about the others project and no plagiarism involved.

      The phenomenons of simultaneous discovery and frequency illusion discribe what happens when the time is right for an idea. Have a group of people access to the same pool of information and a similar cultural background or media consumption and have them work systematicly on a concept will result in extremly similar results.
      That’s just how our brains work. Everyone will prefer the same concept if it forms into a familiar pattern. For Abdin it might seem like the combination of these ideas is unique but all elements are very obvious choices in the background of sci-fi tropes and if you iterate on getting the “good” combinations while researching.

      I see this happen everyday at work when working with our concept artists and designers. Very different artists produce incredible similar results when tasked with the same assignment. The important part is to take this as a starting point and make those ideas unique through iterative refinement and execution.

  24. poliovaccine says:

    As much as I feel the guy’s pain, I think it’s just way more likely that ideas just plain work like that. Someone else said it well up above, so I’ll just tack on a few anecdotes to support that, as well as to go off in little weirder direction.

    The first anecdote is about myself, in 4th or 5th grade – I’m old enough that when I was 9 or 10 or so I still predated the debut of Spongebob Squarepants. I also had a cartoon character, named Jerry, who I would draw obsessively in various situations. His gag was that he hated everyone, especially his ebullient little neighbor, he was morose and cynical, and he had a big floppy nose that hung over his wide, flat, protruding, Simpsonsesque mouth, with big oval eyes with rectangular pupils (sheesh, I bet all cartoon characters probably sound equally hideous in literal description). My point is he looked *and acted* just like a humanoid Squidward. The only difference was the tentacles for feet, and my guy had hair, but still atop that same bulging, kidneylike forehead. It was so similar that, when Spongebob first started showing on Nickelodeon, I found out about it by my fellow classmates coming up and telling me, “Look, they took your idea!” Which was insane, of course, but I almost believed it. If I had a drawing handy I could demonstrate now, but it would only look like a direct imitation of Squidward, with hair on top, and would prove nothing. Since then, I’ve heard of the same thing happening to other people.

    The other anecdote is about a study I read of once, and which Richard Linklater actually writes about in Waking Life (the Ethan Hawke character says it), wherein a number of people were given the daily crossword each day, and evaluated on their overall abilities at it. Then, one day they were surreptitiously given crosswords they had never seen, but which were a day old, i.e. which had already been solved by hundreds of people around the world. The study participants’ scores on those crosswords went up something like *30%,* across the board. Not a negligible number, in other words. There are a zillion different ways you could explain it, but the simplest, most direct inference would have to be that, once those answers were known to some of us, they became better accessible to all of us.

    Starting on about “telepathy” may be whackjob stuff to most folks, but I see it as the far extreme, in one direction, of empathy (the other extreme being acute autism or schizoid disorder or something). Empathy itself is a bit of a magical ability, though we take it for granted. States of empathy allow us a lot more insight than mere facial expressions, words or body language sometimes “should.” We sometimes have strong intuitions, even dreams, shortly before, after, or exactly the moment as a loved one is in trouble.

    A third anecdote: my father recently had one such episode: my uncle, his brother, was deteriorating with Alzheimer’s in a home. My dad was scheduled to fly out and visit with him at the end of the week, had taken time off work for it. A few nights before he was supposed to depart, he got profoundly uneasy – I was around for this part, I saw it happen to him. He just started stirring in his chair, looking cross and preoccupied, and then stood up and said, as if replying to someone, “I *really* don’t want to leave right *now*…” and I remember waiting for him to finish, cus the thought was so abrupt. “But… I think I should.” He squabbled with my mother about it til she relented, then he packed and left that morning, took some flak at his job for getting time off at a certain time and then suddenly bailing out anyway. My dad arrived at the home where my uncle was, and had a chance to visit with his brother for about *six hours* before he died – if he’d made the trip as scheduled, he would have missed it. I won’t expostulate on my father’s character here in order to demonstrate – just take my word for it that, for him, such a rash, hasty decision, especially about *travel,* was deeply out of character. He likes plans, predictability, and order. When he says, “I’ll be there in seven minutes,” he’s there in *seven* minutes. But that one, sudden sense shook him so hard he actually stood up from his chair and announced it all at once, breaking all precedent in the process.

    Empathy is an aggregate sense, not a purely visual or linguistic one, and that indefinable level of communication, beneath the obvious, physical senses, is pretty well unexplored and unacknowledged, even if it’s commonplace to us all. And, we all hear anecdotes like the one with my dad, but we always dismiss them to the lost & found of life’s many puzzle pieces – if the corners of the puzzle are where we think they are, these pieces don’t fit, so for now we discard them as anomalous, or “probably actually something else.” We never do find where they fit into our current understanding. One day, some discovery will force the scope of the puzzle into a broader configuration, and then we’ll find space for these pieces, but not until then. Those sorts of discoveries, when they are finally made, are what mark whole epochs of humanity, and I think that coming to terms with so-called “psychic” phenomena as being perfectly existent, but also being explicable within the ordinary bounds of tangible matter and even physiognomy – maybe once we have instruments to perceive it – is going to mark precisely one of those epochs in science. “Telepathy” isn’t some remote, guru-exclusive ability, it’s what we’re employing every time one person says a word or phrase and the other person picks up on their mental image and meaning exactly. It’s how jokes come across, how we manage to communicate by mere meat-flappy sounds at all. It’s easy to envision early, primitive language without that sense – point to a rock, exclaim out loud, “rok!” and thus it is named – but when you get into abstractions like “self,” “soul,” “god,” “spirits,” and etc, communication relies on an ability for complex aggregate inference which is strong in children but weaker as we grow older and more set in our ways, and our habits of perception.

    My point is, I believe there is a common material or space which transmits ideas or information, which conveys them as more than just sound waves producing associations within the isolated parameters of a human individual. When Jung talks about a collective unconscious I don’t believe anything of his writing intends it to be taken as purely metaphorical, or symbolic. It’s a literal, tangible thing, with genuine effects on us, made up of some kind of *psychic material.* Jung himself was interested in the “supernatural,” especially so after the incident when his grandfather died, and at that precise moment all the clocks in the house stopped, and his grandfather’s old wooden table suddenly split in half down the middle with a loud bang. As absurd as that may sound on its face, consider that we’re the pinnacle of modern humanity, right? But only by dint of our existence at the cusp of the present. Back in the middle ages, THEY were the pinnacle of human civilization’s evolution. They did incredible things, humanity had done much by then – and yet they still believed things like “worms must be made of raindrops, because they always appear on the ground after a rain.” It would be arrogant and inaccurate to believe that we, in our modernity, aren’t also equally ignorant and backward in at least some neglected area or another.

    All this to say, let’s, for the sake of argument, accept the idea of a literal collective unconscious, of “telepathic” exchange, not as some divine ability special only to fruity old ladies who will hold you a seance for a tidy little price, but rather as the way we communicate already, at all, facilitated by language, both word and body language, but being more than just the sum of those parts. It’s all the little perceptions we don’t have space to perceive consciously, simultaneously, being therefore *unconsciously* evaluated and assembled, then distilled, into what simply manifests to us as “a gut feeling,” or maybe a symbolic dream, offering you foresight you didn’t think you had. In this view, “telepathy” becomes distinct from “empathy” merely by degrees – by one’s ability to suss more information than usual from those cues and feelings one picks up unconsciously – it’s the special skill of being in touch with one’s own senses, and therefore the rest of the world. It’s empathy performing to such a degree that it seems inexplicable or spooky, supernatural. In fact, precendent has shown that many “supernatural” things have come to be understood, and once they exist in the realm of science we no longer view them with that same aura of “magic,” though really nothing has changed. For example, jungle tribes may have been terrorized by a four-legged, snorting, roaring monster with hard, bristly fur and sharp teeth so huge they protrude from its head – giving that creature binomial nomenclature, and calling it a “wild boar,” doesn’t change anything but the name, but it makes it less “monstrous.” It’s not a monster anymore, it’s just an animal now, because we understand it, just like any degree of “telepathy” we can tangibly understand is, therefore, just another element of communication we now understand, it’s no longer “supernatural,” it’s no longer “telepathy.” And I think one day Schrodinger’s theory of entanglement will go on to validate or support in parallel the notion of a literal collective unconscious.

    All that leads up to this: Mr. Walker is right on the money when he googles “tardigrade space travel” and demonstrates the ubiquity of the idea beyond either this game OR the Star Trek concept. I only fairly recently learned about tardigrades myself, they experienced a little flurry of social media endearment and memeification like two years ago – I even remember making my FB profile pic an image I’d found of the New California Republic flag from Fallout New Vegas, where it was altered so that the two-headed bear was, of course, instead a “waterbear,” a tardigrade. They captured *everyone’s imagination,* not just this poor dev’s, and not just the Star Trek writers. We are all on roughly the same cultural diet, after all – our algorithms see to that – and there’s only so much media to ingest – and only so much of *that* is popular enough to be broadly visible. And it’s *not* a unique idea to be fascinated by a tardigrade’s ability to withstand the vacuum of space – a sci-fi about tardigrade space travel is the natural next thought, if you’re thinking in sci-fi terms at all. When I was first learning about/interested in tardigrades, I had an idea for a short story along those lines, but I never wrote it cus I didn’t even think there was “enough there” to justify it. Without some novel extrapolation or twist it would just be the most obvious, empty musing. Clearly I was mistaken in one respect: turns out that’s actually enough.

    But also, making the lead a black woman, and including a gay couple, is not novel or unique by any stretch – it’s extremely topical, it’s utterly expected. The newest Wolfenstein had a black female lead (not the protagonist of course, but a big character nonetheless) and it took some criticism for actually *pandering* to topical interests with that move. The newest Dishonored had a black female lead, too, and even her name calling back association with Billie Holiday. And including a gay couple is just plain ordinary at this point. Society is aggressively shoehorning these sorts of characters into everything because it’s got a lot of making up to do, after pretending for so long that they just didnt exist, or only existed as punchlines and stereotypes. To me, claiming that a black female lead and a gay couple indicate theft of his unique idea really only indicates the point where this guy’s thinking, much as I feel for him, goes a little off the rails. Because that’s just not unique – quite the opposite, it’s the word of the day. Just like the seeming indestructibility of tardigrades was, maybe two years ago, for some of us internet meme freaks. When he says, “to me, tardigrades are indestructible,” again he’s showing the same disconnect – they’re not just indestructible “to you,” that’s not your unique perception. That’s what *everyone* thinks about them who’s so much as peripherally of aware what they are. All these things are floating around in that collective unconscious of our culture.

    I understand how all the similarities together are so compelling to the poor guy. But here’s the thing – it just seems legitimately more likely that the two ideas were developed roughly at the same time in disparate places – and those are just the two folks who actually invented it, but how many times have you or a friend had an idle idea for an invention, which you’d never actually move on, but which nonetheless you saw for sale a few years later? Plenty more people may have the idea than just the few who take the trouble to produce it. This has happened before, and not just a little bit. In fact, come to think of it, the Ethan Hawke character in Waking Life even talks about *that* too, haha. About how sometimes two different people will invent the same thing, almost simultaneously, from across the globe. Neither is reading the other’s mind and neither is stealing from the other, and yet I’d argue they are both sharing the same thoughts in common, to the extent that those thoughts are developed by the combination of the current circumstances of all the world, and themselves as individuals – which are many, many variables, but which are ultimately finite. And certain things will be more popular, and attention-getting, than others.

    For example, everyone is interested in the indestructibility of the tardigrade, and the potential for it to travel through space. Nobody is especially fascinated by its using the same ability to survive buried under sand in a desert, however. Space captures the imagination better, and so that’s where tardigrade-centric ideas tend to gravitate, given the potential variables they offer.

    Definitely an interesting article, and I’m enjoying all the comments here, too. Thanks for a juicy read this morning!

    Oh and also..

    Typical John Walker hit piece!!

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