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My question is similar to a previous question. Consider the following clone of Starcraft: Change the artwork, sound, music, change the names of units. However, leave the unit hit points unchanged, unit damage unchanged, unit movement speed unchanged, change ability names but not ability effects.

Is that considered illegal? In other words, is copying the unit hit points, damage, etc. considered illegal even if everything else is changed?

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Dvole's answer seems pretty conclusive, it is legal. I wonder what you would gain though, unless you copy a successful indie Flash game and put it on the App Store before they do. If you do it to StarCraft--an established brand--it sounds a lot like Coca Cola adding more sugar because Pepsi was more sugary, this had an averse effect. It won't be "the original", and you won't add value (unless your artists are godly). PS: Work on your accept rate. –  Eric Jun 9 '12 at 10:18
    
@Eric: Are you sure? The entirety of the hp, dmg, movement speed of all the units of starcraft can not be thought of as "writing" that is copyrighted? –  user782220 Jun 9 '12 at 10:30
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Not sure, IANAL, Activision/Blizzard might still try to take you to court. :-) Recently they settled with Valve over DotA by changing the name, so take that however way you like it. Other precedents can be found here: Clone (video game), notable example being Tetris. –  Eric Jun 9 '12 at 10:48
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I'll mention something that I always do on these cloning questions. Make sure you recognize that "illegal" and "unethical" are two different things. Copying the hard work of the Blizzard devs without acknowledgement is a douchey thing to do. It's far better to be original. You can examine Starcraft to figure out design principles and guidelines for HP/damage ratios and such, but copying wholesale without permission or attribution isn't ethical. –  Gregory Avery-Weir Jun 9 '12 at 15:36
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This is rather off-topic, but it should be noted that you wouldn't be getting much by trying it. You would have to write the game yourself (rather than simply reskinning SC1), and much of the longevity of the game comes from quirks of the engine. Quirks that your self-written engine will not have or will otherwise be different from SC1's quirks. So it's not like you're going to get the competitive gaming community's support on this. –  Nicol Bolas Jun 9 '12 at 21:17
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1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You can't copyright or trademark numbers. Every RPG I've ever played has an attack stat and a defense stat, many of which are quite similar. No one sues them. As long as you don't copy their artwork there won't be any problem.

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I would have to agree with this answer up until you make the point of copying code. it is difficult for a company to sue for copied code considering that even 2 games that play very similar/identical could have vastly different codebases from language, engine, or just style. though the codebase of a game is considered to be part of the IP, and covered equally to artwork. launching a case to prove copied code is difficult as the first hurdle is proving that said defendant had access to the code in first place, and then proving that the code was actually copied. –  gardian06 Jun 10 '12 at 20:13
    
@gardian06. Okay, I'll edit it. Thanks! –  jepugs Jun 13 '12 at 20:21
    
@gardian06 Disagree - code copying is harder to prove than artwork, but far from impossible; particularly in those cases where code is actually copied wholesale, binary compares will work wonders. Even in other circumstances, it's likely to be more feasible to show than you might think based on reverse-engineering. Yes, 'two games that play identically' may not have the same code - but if code is stolen, that can straightforwardly be noticed. –  Steven Stadnicki Jun 13 '12 at 23:39
    
I am not saying that tests to prove that code was copied don't exist especially with languages like java, and c# that can be decompiled, and analysed. my point was that unless there is some evidence "entity had a copy of the code in their possession" "a copy of the code was taken, and tracked to the entity's office/home/etc" then such investigations, and inquiries are rarely launched as in order to do so the accusing party must be able to show just cause which usually requires the code of the defending entity anyways, and most entities are unwilling to just hand over their code to be tested. –  gardian06 Jun 14 '12 at 1:18
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