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For a game I'm developing, I would like to use "inspired from ... game" to acknowledge and praise that game. But I'm not sure if this is a good idea from a legal point of view. They might think my game is a ripoff, and base the claim on my word.

Any ideas?

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I wouldn’t even think twice. If you’re not sure it’s a good idea from a legal point of view and it’s not a requirement, don’t do it. –  Sam Hocevar Jan 6 '13 at 19:36
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This can be viewed as using someone else's brand to promote your own brand. I'd be cautious. –  5ound Jan 6 '13 at 19:50
    
I guess you could ask original game developer's for their opinion. they can't sue you for asking that! –  Ali.S Jan 6 '13 at 20:57

2 Answers 2

Professionals making games with relatively deep pockets have said things like this, 3:55 into this talk Luke Muscat says he took his inspiriation for Jetpack Joyride from that helicopter game everybody's seen.

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Obviously JJ is way beyond that helicopter game in terms of execution, delivery and the things they built around it (just listen to the part near the end where he talks about how they developed the goals system). I can't see helicopter guy suing Halfbrick for what he's done, even though he openly admitted the basic mechanic of his game is based on it.

Was this a mistake by Muscat? I'd like to hear someone say otherwise.

I also heard various other programmers (such as John Carmack) say things like Commander Keen was all about bringing side scrollers such as Super Mario Bros to the PC (he specifically says "we had a nintendo there, we were playing Super Mario 3, that is what we set out to do as we were making those games on there, we wanted to bring the console experience to the PC")

So anyway, keep in mind the game makers that end up citing other games, when you look at the "derived" game or the game it cites as an inspiration, there's no way you could say the "derived" game "ripped off" the other. The game they made and the game cited as inspiration (more so for the Commander Keen/Mario comparison than for Jetpack Joyride) are totally different. I mean these developers are smart, they developed something cool and unique, and they didn't do some blatant plagiarism such as rip art or sprites from other games.

Anyway the gaming community is pretty critical and will probably accuse you of ripping off 10 other games you've never played before than the inspiration you cite.

So in short, no don't worry about citing your inspiration at a high level. There are 10k side scrollers, and 40k fps, and 90k RTS's. If people sued each other for minor similarity in play, there would be but 3 games for us to play.

But yes, don't blatantly rip off artwork or copy-protected stuff that anyone in their right mind would go after you for. Don't make a clone of a game and try to pass it off as your own idea.

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General rule of thumb: Don't cite "inspired by" in advertising copy. But feel free to mention inspirations in documentaries or presentations or "making-of"s. And remember that if your game is a direct clone, it is not "inspired by". –  Trevor Powell Jan 7 '13 at 6:25

I should preface this by stating that I both have no formal legal training and that my statements are based on:

  1. my personal, incomplete understanding of conference panels and classroom discussions of rights issues in the creative arts and digital media
  2. requests I've made to individuals and organizations for the rights to use their material
  3. take-down requests I've had to make to protect my own creative work from unauthorized, unattributed sharing

Due to the nature of legal issues, you'll most likely find that anyone who does have the legal training to answer your question with certainty will be reluctant to do so informally due to potential liability issues they face as legal professionals.

As with rights-ownership issues in many media, different content owners will have different prerogatives and will defend their content differently. Some content owners will appreciate your adulation, and others will aggressively defend their brands and content from all unapproved uses. Their options will vary based on the level of copyright and trademark protection they have sought for their work, whether you've profited from your use, and whether your use has cost them sales or reduced the value of their IP (even if that's just a trademark on the name).

The best way to protect yourself is to seek both legal counsel and explicit, affirmative written permission to make the reference you'd like to make.

That said, in personal practice I have sought permission on more than one occasion to share published creative/educational material, as well as to use restricted public APIs in ways not explicitly permitted in the terms of service and in every case thus far I've received something ranging from a polite acknowledgement of my permission to use their content in only the way specified by my request to grateful personal thanks for the interest and granting of permission. Likewise in making take-down requests to protect my own content I've found that service-providers who had been used to host the unauthorized content were more than helpful.

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This isn't about using material from another game, it is about citing a game as inspiration. Basically it means the author wants to add another game to an already existing genre, and he wants to say, "I was truly inspired by this particular game from this genre." Inspiration does not include copying assets. –  bobobobo Jan 14 '13 at 16:58
    
The question is about citing the game as inspiration, but the question provides no specifics about the strength of the relationship between the OP's game and the inspiring game. The OP's statement, specifically, "They might think my game is a ripoff, and base the claim on my word." gives what I feel to be sufficient justification for approaching his question in a manner that assumes, given the questioner's own qualms, the games are similar enough that it is entirely plausible for someone related to the inspiring game to construe a connection which goes beyond "inspiration". –  abathur Jan 14 '13 at 18:52
    
Which goes to my other point, if the author did rip off sprites from another game, then I hope he gets caught –  bobobobo Jan 18 '13 at 22:48

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