Galaxy graphical style

This is where you can post your Commander Keen related stories, artwork, or other stuff that is related to Commander Keen but otherwise doesn't belong in another forum.
Post Reply
c64cosmin
Vortininja
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 14:07
Location: Where PI converges
Contact:

Galaxy graphical style

Post by c64cosmin »

Hello fellow Keeners!
I was wondering, if I make and release a game that has the same visual style of the Galaxy episodes, without any relation to the original IP (no title, no cameo, no copied artwork etc), just the pseudo 3D tile set layout, would this strike as a copyright infringement?
User avatar
kvee
Vortininja
Posts: 64
Joined: Sat Sep 26, 2015 11:17
Contact:

Re: Galaxy graphical style

Post by kvee »

Unless you use any of the original assets then no, that pseudo-3D look is way too vague of a concept
User avatar
K1n9_Duk3
Vorticon Elite
Posts: 749
Joined: Mon Aug 25, 2008 9:30
Location: Germany
Contact:

Re: Galaxy graphical style

Post by K1n9_Duk3 »

The original Prince of Persia had that same 2.5D perspective years before Keen Dreams and Keen 4-6 came out. Prince 1 might not even be the first game that used this look, but it's the first that came to mind (it was among the first PC games I ever saw/played).
Hail to the K1n9, baby!
http://k1n9duk3.shikadi.net
Benvolio
Vorticon Elite
Posts: 796
Joined: Sun May 29, 2011 12:43
Location: Ireland
Contact:

Re: Galaxy graphical style

Post by Benvolio »

Street Fighter (1987) would be another example of essentially the same graphical concept, a little earlier than Prince of Persia.

You would definitely not be guilty of infringement.
c64cosmin
Vortininja
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 14:07
Location: Where PI converges
Contact:

Re: Galaxy graphical style

Post by c64cosmin »

Thank you so much for your answers.
Found online Roobar's "Planet Cloudious" game. It has the same flavour as Commander Keen while it has no hint of the original IP other than feel. My curiosity is, if Roobar would decide to sell the game online(also would happily pay for it :D ), would that conflict the copyright?

I reckon that the best option would be to address my curiosity with a lawyer, but since I barely have a working game engine, more over I didn't event start implementing the visual style, I just try to get some answers done first. I am really fond of the CK game, and the itch of making a game that has even a little of that feel will never pass.

As far as I understand, "the feel" is not something that can be copy protected, as you folks helped me, other games do use the same visual style. Also I reckon source of inspiration would also be permitted.
c64cosmin
Vortininja
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 14:07
Location: Where PI converges
Contact:

Re: Galaxy graphical style

Post by c64cosmin »

Copyright law protects finished works of art. It does not protect things like facts, ideas, procedures, or an artist’s style, no matter how distinct.Source
User avatar
Roobar
Vorticon Elite
Posts: 3132
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 16:12
Contact:

Re: Galaxy graphical style

Post by Roobar »

They could, theoretically, strike down games that look too familiar, even if they use original graphics. However, I don't think anything like that will happen, unless you get really big and popular with your game. And I mean like 100000+ orders. Them you might get the Microsoft's attention.

As for my game, over the two years or so I didn't received any complaints/strikes or something like that from any Commander Keen copyright owners. A few people only "complained" that Planet Cloudius was a CK rip-off, but that's all. And it was to be expected.

Originally, my game title was gonna be Commander Teen, but K1n9_Duk3 suggested I change it to avoid getting close analogy. Now I think that would not have been an issue. Moreover, with a title like Commander Teen, I probably would've much more downloads.

Anyway, the point is, now that the Keen ip owner is Microsoft, there's even a less chance of that happening, even if you are selling it, even if it's 2.5D as long as it has original graphics/title/characters/music etc.. So yeah, I have theoretically no problems selling this game.

Unless you really want to delve into programming, I'd suggest you use K1n9_Duk3's KEENGINE to make your own Keen-like game instead of making it from the ground up. I think he wouldn't mind, if you're selling your game.
Gridlock
Vorticon Elite
Posts: 598
Joined: Thu Aug 12, 2010 2:20

Re: Galaxy graphical style

Post by Gridlock »

I'm hardly an expert on this subject, but for what it's worth, I did take a college course a few years back on intellectual property law (at least in the U.S.). Mainly the two types of IP law you want to be aware of are copyright and trademark.

Copyright protects specific expressions of work, such as assets made for a game (art, code, music). For example, using tile art lifted directly from Keen, even if that art is modified a little (a derivative work), could potentially be considered a breach of copyright. Same for using code that is either directly pulled from a game or reverse-engineered (I don't know if K1n9_Duk3's KEENGINE falls into that category). But, something like an isometric art style is certainly too general to be considered copyrightable. Admittedly, this area can get a little gray, such as whether it would be okay to make a game with the same color palette, tile size, and screen resolution as Keen (probably, but I couldn't say for certain). It's probably wise not to copy certain game conventions from Keen too closely, such as mechanics, menu designs, level layouts, etc.

Trademarks refer to things such as wordmarks and visuals used to identify a product. For example, that includes the name "Commander Keen" and materials logos associated with that brand (you can check a public government database to see what has been registered). The main thing to make sure of is that you're not using anything to identify your game that could have the potential to create confusion with the real product (ex: "Commander Teen").

As long as you don't obviously violate the copyright and trademarks of Keen, I wouldn't worry. If you manage to make a game that's big enough to get legal attention from Microsoft, you've already won the game industry lottery.
Image
Armageddon Begins Again. The Alphamatic has arrived.

Atroxian Realm: viewtopic.php?f=4&t=3536
The Alphamatic: viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4086
c64cosmin
Vortininja
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 14:07
Location: Where PI converges
Contact:

Re: Galaxy graphical style

Post by c64cosmin »

Gridlock wrote: Mon Dec 28, 2020 18:15 As long as you don't obviously violate the copyright and trademarks of Keen, I wouldn't worry. If you manage to make a game that's big enough to get legal attention from Microsoft, you've already won the game industry lottery.
I did some research on my own as well and seems like the line on what copyright infringement means is quite a gray area, but seems like, as you folks said, anything that would create confusion between the original work and the work in question would be eligible for a court case, taking Roobar's game as an example, it is obvious that it's not Commander Keen and certainly not derivative work. Also seems like the visual style is also a gray zone in itself, I guess having the character totally not resembling Billy's original sprite would make a new game stand even further away from a copyright case.
Roobar wrote: Mon Dec 28, 2020 6:45 Unless you really want to delve into programming, I'd suggest you use K1n9_Duk3's KEENGINE to make your own Keen-like game instead of making it from the ground up. I think he wouldn't mind, if you're selling your game.


I am rather experienced with C++ and wrote a small game engine myself, I find writing C++ (pls don't stone me to death pls :dead2 ) quite enjoyable, I don't have anything worthy to be called a game though, but wrote this with nostalgia in mind, recently found about your game Roobar, and all these thought sparked in my mind.

Thank you very much folks for the time and patience to discuss this issue with me.
Benvolio
Vorticon Elite
Posts: 796
Joined: Sun May 29, 2011 12:43
Location: Ireland
Contact:

Re: Galaxy graphical style

Post by Benvolio »

The only other thing to think about is whether any aspect of the technique is patented. Of course this is highly unlikely in the case of Keen Galaxy which is of course a 2D engine. It's extremely improbable anything about their 2.5D is patentable as it can easily be replicated with generic 2D engines such as the Vorticons engine. But always worth thinking about patents as well as the things Gridlock mentioned.
c64cosmin
Vortininja
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 14:07
Location: Where PI converges
Contact:

Re: Galaxy graphical style

Post by c64cosmin »

As far as I understand patents, in this case, only a pipeline, or process can be patented, for example a process to make the tilesets could be patented but if you do create a tileset that are visually similar without that said process it won't get liable. Also if the tileset layout would get patented, one could just make a small change in the style and avoid the patent, like the Tetris clones that include a 5piece or a lone block or something similar to avoid Nintendo's Tetris patent.
Gridlock
Vorticon Elite
Posts: 598
Joined: Thu Aug 12, 2010 2:20

Re: Galaxy graphical style

Post by Gridlock »

The only other thing to think about is whether any aspect of the technique is patented. Of course this is highly unlikely in the case of Keen Galaxy which is of course a 2D engine. It's extremely improbable anything about their 2.5D is patentable as it can easily be replicated with generic 2D engines such as the Vorticons engine. But always worth thinking about patents as well as the things Gridlock mentioned.
Patents only last 20 years, and since the Galaxy games are approaching 30 years old, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have to worry about patents, if any were even filed.

I really doubt Microsoft would want to spend resources prosecuting something like this in court. Maybe if you were making millions off the product and the similarities were sufficient for them to think they had enough legal ground. From what I've seen, most companies just send cease and desist notices (looking at you, Nintendo) if they believe a work violates their IP rights. And even then, I only know of one time that Zenimax (not Microsoft) did it for Keen, which was a few years ago when someone was making a fangame with assets from the Keen mobile game). Most likely, an inspired fan work would fly under their radar, even if it released on Steam.
I am rather experienced with C++ and wrote a small game engine myself, I find writing C++ (pls don't stone me to death pls :dead2 ) quite enjoyable
Lol. I never really gained a solid grasp of C++ myself, but primarily because I only had to use it for a few college classes. These days I primarily use C# and Unity for my professional career. I've probably been spoiled by all the conveniences C# offers.
Image
Armageddon Begins Again. The Alphamatic has arrived.

Atroxian Realm: viewtopic.php?f=4&t=3536
The Alphamatic: viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4086
User avatar
entropicdecay
Mad Mushroom
Posts: 511
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2007 15:00
Contact:

Re: Galaxy graphical style

Post by entropicdecay »

Gridlock wrote: Mon Dec 28, 2020 18:15Admittedly, this area can get a little gray, such as whether it would be okay to make a game with the same color palette, tile size, and screen resolution as Keen (probably, but I couldn't say for certain).
That just describes EGA games with 16x16 tiles and whatever resolution (come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever known offhand what screen resolution Keen uses), which is definitely not infringement as I'm pretty sure several other games that came out around the same time used some or all of those same things. 16x16 pixel tiles in particular were pretty standard in a lot of games to the point where I feel like it's pretty much the default tile size for tile based games in general, although more recent-ish ones might tend to use larger tiles since everything tends to often be in a higher resolution. Though not always.
Post Reply