I'm planning to make a simple, HTML5 game, that would use some elements of the Half Life universe. Basically, it would be a 2D Portal clone, but it would have it's own story, and portals would be different, along with the mechanics of making and using them. Also, how far can I go with this? If possible, I'd like to have Gman, a character from Half Life, walk by a few times, and maybe even use some of the sounds from Half Life or Portal. It's also important to note that I wouldn't be making any kind of profit.

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    \$\begingroup\$ there really should be a law subforum or a whole new stack exchange devoted to legal issues, people here aren't lawyers and we're talking about law stuff, as in, the stuff you go to jail for or pay huge compensations, you should have your own alarm going on in your head along the lines of "i seriously should contact a credible source for these kind of questions", even if it's just an indy game, it'll probably be published on a site with ads on it, most likely none of these things will matter, but if you want to be a developer you can't take legal issues lightly \$\endgroup\$ – dreta Feb 19 '12 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with you. I see these kinds of questions here almost every other day! Maybe a visit to A51 is required... Also, thank you very much! \$\endgroup\$ – jcora Feb 19 '12 at 16:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Basically, it would be a 2D Portal clone, but it would have it's own story, and portals would be different, along with the mechanics of making and using them." Then take out the other Half-Life elements. It's your game, not theirs. \$\endgroup\$ – Nicol Bolas Feb 19 '12 at 16:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note the difference between "are you legally allowed" and "is it a crime." At least in the US, issues of trademark and copyright infringement like this are usually not illegal in the sense that the police will come after you, but they may expose you to civil lawsuits. \$\endgroup\$ – Gregory Avery-Weir Feb 20 '12 at 4:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't say for sure, but I find it unlikely that Portal has IP rights to "teleport with portal gun" given that the whole concept was taken verbatim from a student game (Valve hired the students) that you can still download and play for free from the school's website: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narbacular_Drop Cute note: the paint mechanics for Portal 2 were also taken from another student game from the same school: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag:_The_Power_of_Paint= \$\endgroup\$ – Sean Middleditch Mar 18 '16 at 7:36

Using characters, ideas or other assets from another game is illegal if you do not have permission. As @Kylotan said: whether or not the game is non-profit does not change anything, either way you would be breaking laws around copyright and possibly patents too. That being said, there are games and other media based around Valve titles that have been created for which Valve have taken no action against. Doing what you described in your question would probably be OK with them too. However, I am not a lawyer and am in no way legally responsible if you do get a knock on the door about the game you intend to create. It's up to you if you want to take the chance.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can I get a permission? Is the use of the sole concept of teleportation, with a portal gun, copyrighted? \$\endgroup\$ – jcora Feb 19 '12 at 13:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could try contacting Valve. Bear in mind that there are A LOT of people contacting them every day, so you might not get a reply. The concept of teleportation with a portal gun is most likely not copyrighted, though the way in which you use could be so much like how Valve use the concept meaning that they could theoretically take you to court. Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? No. \$\endgroup\$ – Eden Crow Feb 19 '12 at 13:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Arm, ideas? Ideas are ideas, they can't (and shouldn't) be protected. I think "not using ideas from other games" is a little bit far stretched. I mean, otherwise every FPS would be considered infringing on Doom/Quake. Using concepts or ideas from other software/games in no problem, as long as those are not violating the Copyright (f.e. same names, decompiled source etc.) And now I tell you that I'm not a lawyer. \$\endgroup\$ – Bobby Feb 19 '12 at 15:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ General ideas, sure. What I meant was that using ideas from another game to an extent to which the new game comes off as a copy of the original game is bad. For example, if I made a game that was a blatant rip-off of Portal to a degree where it was almost exactly the same as Portal, then I may be in the wrong. Using the general idea of a teleportation portal gun is fine, as the idea is too generalised. \$\endgroup\$ – Eden Crow Feb 19 '12 at 15:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Bobby, that was an answer I was hoping to get, but now I'm seriously reconsidering all of this. I will contact Valve and hope that they give me permission, in the mean time, I'll still be making this game (they can't do anything to me for just programming). \$\endgroup\$ – jcora Feb 19 '12 at 15:58

Using their characters is not legal at all, nor is using their sounds (or graphics, or unique names). Your game being non profit makes no difference (except to the amount of damages you'd pay).

Copying gameplay is allowed, however. They don't own the concept of portals, but they are likely to own a trademark on the name 'Portal' in the context of computer games.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That doesn't really answer my question... OK, use of their characters is illegal, but what about other things? \$\endgroup\$ – jcora Feb 19 '12 at 13:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ok, let me elaborate. \$\endgroup\$ – Kylotan Feb 19 '12 at 14:54

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