Risk 2210 A.D.
June 23, 2005 3:01 AM   Subscribe

We are a couple of guys thinking about making a free not-for-profit computer game based on Risk 2210 A.D. We know we can't use the title for trademark reasons or the board or graphics for copyright issues. Would there be any problems with us using the Risk 2210 A.D. rules for our game?
posted by sveskemus to Media & Arts (12 answers total)
i assume there's a big © in the rulebook. so, yea.
posted by raaka at 3:31 AM on June 23, 2005

That just means the text of the rules. You should probably ask a lawyer about this, but I seem to recall things like game rules (as opposed to the text explaining them) cannot be copyrighted. If you're serious about this, some googling should find precedents.
posted by fvw at 3:40 AM on June 23, 2005

There's also precedent that popularity is the key factor to litigation. Look at projects like MegaMek, which uses the rules, unit names, backgrounds, as well as the typical maps from the FASA tabletop miniatures game: Battletech. They've been developing and playing that game now for nearly 4 years.
posted by thanotopsis at 5:46 AM on June 23, 2005

I think your safe as long as you give your game a completely different name and as long as you don't copy any text, graphics, maps, etc. All legal problems I've seen involving cloned games were about trademarks or copied graphics.
posted by reynaert at 6:49 AM on June 23, 2005

From what I understand from reading about Scrabble, the board and pieces can be copyrighted, but not the mechanism of the game itself.
posted by skwm at 8:25 AM on June 23, 2005

game rules (as opposed to the text explaining them) cannot be copyrighted.

Think of this as a plagarism issue. If your wording is identical to a segment of the existing text, you're a plagarist (and you've violated copyright laws). If you rewrite/rephrase everything, then you're only copying concepts, not actual text.

And definitely avoid using any trademarked or game-specific words.
posted by WestCoaster at 9:01 AM on June 23, 2005

If game rules could be declared IP, a patent would seem to be the only form of IP that comes even close. I think you're in the clear.

In fact, even if the rules were patented, the patent has to cover a process, since ideas alone are not property. Since you'd be using a computer, your process would be different, even if the core rules were the same. I don't think a board game patent would easily apply to a computer game.

Of course, it wouldn't be difficult to tweak somethng in the computer game, so that the rules are not identical, but most player will happily be unaware of the difference (eg add a few new cards, or create a slightly different (or better) mathematical model to determine battle losses than the dice method - it's easy to do better because you've got a computer to make calculations just happen, wheras a board game has to keep the dice-related maths as simple and quick as possible to keep game flow moving. You're nolonger restricted to crude math.
The game would play the same, users wouldn't notice the difference, but the title, graphics, and rules would all be different.

Actually, I bet that just to make the game work on a computer at all, you're going to have to change rules :)

Its good to be aware of it, and think about it, and take it into consideration when making decisions, but I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:10 AM on June 23, 2005

Making the win rules different just because you have a computer would be bad: you want players to still be able to figure it out so they can make decisions on what they want to do.

And there's no reason that risk can't be exactly modeled on a computer, feasibility wise. It's something that I used to have programming students do, as a precursor to modeling different strategies.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:00 AM on June 23, 2005

Some people have patented game mechanics (1, 2). It may be worth doing a quick search or maybe asking these folks.
posted by sad_otter at 11:17 AM on June 23, 2005

Here's an interesting article that may point you in the right direction.

From what I can see, there's a lot of ambiguity around this. My advice is to play it safe. Use the rules, but don't make any mention of "Risk" or "Risk 2210 AD". If the mechanics are similar in the code, I can't see how that's a big deal as it seems sufficiently different from reading a rule book, using dice, pieces, and a board to simulate a similar game.

Pretty tangled question though, or so it appears.

The links at the bottom of that article are also well worth a read.
posted by C.Batt at 10:50 PM on June 23, 2005

And just because I'm a game geek and have been interested in this topic for years but haven't ever found the definitive answer, here's some more stuff i found (via the links at the bottom of the page I referenced above):
"The idea for a game is not protected by copyright. The same is true of the
name or title given to the game and of the method or methods for playing it."

"Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author's expression in
literary, artistic, or musical form. Copyright protection does not extend to
any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in the
development, merchandising, or playing of a game. Once a game has been made
public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another
game based on similar principles."

"Some material prepared in connection with a game may be subject to copyright
if it contains a sufficient amount of literary or pictorial expression. For
example, the text matter describing the rules of the game, or the pictorial
matter appearing on the gameboard or container, may be registrable."

So, it's pretty clear that the idea for a game is not protected, nor are
methods of play--the game rules themselves. A written rulebook is protected,
from the bottom of: ftp://ftp.cs.pdx.edu/pub/frp/tsr/debate/nolo1.txt
posted by C.Batt at 11:05 PM on June 23, 2005


Sure, you could make a compute exactly simulate risk, but why would you want to? Why would you want a computer game to tell a player in England "No - wait - you'll have to log back in in a few minutes, the guy in the US hasn't finished his turn yet. In fact, he hasn't even logged in yet, so it might be a few hours. Who knows?".

If you are moving a game to a new medium, you're shooting yourself in the foot to take the lowest common denominator "worst of both worlds" route.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:27 PM on June 25, 2005

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