The Legality of Fangames
I've seen a lot of misinformation on the topic of fangames, and it's easy to misinterpret what the laws do and don't say. In this article I'd like to attempt to address whether fangames are or aren't legal, how they can be, when a work is your own, what it's protected under, and to generally inform you about Copyright, Trademark, Fair Use and more.
There are four main topics that we need to go over to grasp what the legality of fangames is, and these are Copyright, Intellectual Property, Trademark, and Fair Use. There are more factors that could be considered both within and surrounding these topics, but these are what I will be addressing in this article.
I am not a lawyer, and the content of this article is not a substitute for legal advice.
Intellectual Property, IP for short, is an intangible, non-physical creation that is stored in our human intellect. IP rights are made up of copyrights, trademarks, patents, and more aspects like industrial design rights and geographical indications, and sometimes even trade secrets. The purpose of IP is to give people the exclusive property rights to information and intellectual goods, and to encourage people to create. Just like traditional properties, these are things you own, but intellectually rather than physically.
The purpose of trademarks is to mark a slogan, a logo or different type of good as being owned by the creator. If you have a trademark, you...
Yes that was the most provocative, clickbaity title I could think of. Can't wait for it to start showing up in Google searches.
So, the question of "should a fan game include a complete National Pokédex" comes up pretty often in the Discord Castle - and other places I hang out in that talk about fan games - so instead of re-writing the same answer every time, I decided it might as well be a forum thread. The idea is pretty appealing: you like Pokémon games, and you want to make your own, and in order to make a game just like Pokémon [insert your favorite] and [insert whatever its counterpart(s) is] you want to do exactly what they do. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, at least when the IP lawyers aren't looking.
Feel free to chime in.
The short answer:
The long answer:
This is going to come in several parts because nothing in game design happens in a vacuum and all of the things you put in a game have ripple effects in a lot of other places. Also, I kinda like to hear myself talk, apparently.
What is "Dexit?"
Assuming you've been anywhere near the inner Solar System for the last 14 months you've probably heard of the little footnote on the games Pokémon Sword and Shield that has had the entire fandom's knickers in a twist for an entire freaking year, but in case you haven't, the short version is that the Gen 8 Pokémon games will not feature the entire back catalog of cute monsters from the first seven generations. There are some valid reasons people...
Hi, I saw a lot of people asking on discord about making online feature for their game, like P2P battle or stuff like that. Most of the time this theme ends with: “what server would host it”?
This question is a bit reductive and I’ll some way to technically make online feature without having a dedicated server (for the internal stuff of the online feature).
Making online feature for your game is something that will always imply some modification in the engine you’re using. This operation can be easy (open source based engine) or very hard (proprietary based engine).
If you don’t know how to script, you’ll have to learn because you shouldn’t expect the maintainer of the engine you use to implement such features.
How to make online feature work without using any dedicated server
You probably know about P2P (peer to peer), most of the time, it implies having a server in the middle to connect the two peers (often used in tormenting) but in our case it’s not mandatory.
Let me explain: to connect each other one of the peers needs to know the IP address of the other peer, the server is here to tell the peer what’s the IP address of the other peer. In our case, we can just DM the peer using any support to tell him our IP address.
The big issue with P2P is being able to communicate with the other peer. Most of the time, internet user are being a NAT/PAT that is at least configured to block any unwanted traffic from the outside. This prevents anyone to mess with...
"Open world" is one of the more fun buzz words in our industry. I was on another site and people were talking about applying it to Pokémon, and I thought we had a thread for it too but I can't find one (maybe it was old Relic?) and I know an uncertain number of people have brought it up before anyway so let's dive right in.
As most of us have probably realized, there is no plug-and-play PBOpenWorld module that we can just enable when we load up a fresh copy of Essentials, so if we want to do that we have to do it ourselves, to whatever degree feels appropriate. I don't really want to just turn this thread into a brain dump of what I think about open world games, so I'll probably just respond to wherever the conversation goes, so here are some common questions to get started. For most of these I'm picturing a game that takes 50-60 hours to complete rather than 25, but you don't have to.
- How does pacing work in a game where you don't control the order in which events happen?
- Do any Pokémon-specific mechanics have to be adjusted? (Level cap, evolution times/methods)
- Are there any other things that Pokémon games do (I don't really want to call them "mechanics") that have to be adjusted? (Rival battles, Elite Four)
- How do you gate progress, not so much for general areas where the player isn't supposed to go but for things that they might be able to do that would completely break the story? (Do you need a key to enter a dungeon, or will a relevant NPC not do...
For a long while, I had trouble trying to get my team interacting in my private developer server and working on my game. I did learn a few things that I wanted to help spread to other aspiring developers.
Tip 1: Give clear objectives
If you already have a team together, but they don't actually do any work on your game, they may not know what they need to do on the project. For a while, I didn't realize I could ask my team to help me with my project. I shot myself in the foot by doing everything on my own while my team for the most part was left in the dark of what I was doing, what needed doing, and why they were even on my team if they didn't do anything. If you give your team members clear objectives of what needs done, it can significantly help make you closer to your team than if you didn't. Just make sure you remember that the people on your team are making fan games in their free time, and it is not their full time job. Don't get mad at your team if they don't fulfill a deadline or are unable to do what you ask because they don't have the time, skill set, or drive to do it!
Tip 2: Show progress to your team
Another thing you should do is showing your team that you're pulling your weight as well. It doesn't take too much to do, and it can make your team feel more motivated to do things. Transparency is important in becoming a trustworthy figure, and it is especially critical when you are managing a team.
Tip 3: Talk to and respect your team members
Hi, guys. I got in a bit of an analytic mood, so I wrote this thing up for consideration when coming up for your fangame's story. Just a few things worth keeping in mind when you craft your big masterpiece of a game!
1. Is the game more focused on complicating the plot than coming up with something that’s thematically satisfying?
Meaning: you think that the most interesting story you can tell involves connecting dots perfectly together, or hiding big twists that have no real purpose other than to surprise. The big bad of the evil team is in fact the person you’d been trusting throughout the entire game! The good company turns out to be the evil company! Your character, or your rival character is in fact related to various different other characters that we are already familiar with, or the big bads, or good guys!
Even if your plot does not fall in line with those specific examples, think about why you’ve chosen different details. Is it because you just want to surprise, or because you think those details mean something?
2. Does the narrative break the mold?
Meaning: 8 gym leaders. 4 elite four members. 1 champion. An evil team. Arceus being important. How much of these things does your game tick? Okay. It’s fine to have all these elements. For the most part, that’s what makes your game a normal Pokemon game. But why does it have all of these elements? It’s not just because those are the familiar elements of a Pokemon game, is it? Why do you need an evil team? Why do...
Hi all, my name's Adam AKA "Koolboyman". I am the author of Pokemon Prism.
I came here, hoping to answer your questions and offer some insight on my experience. My hack Pokemon Prism got well known for reasons I wanted to avoid. I'm glad more people are playing it because of it, but I did not want this kind of baggage to be attached to my game. I hope to get this out of the way and clear up any misconceptions regarding Nintendo's involvement with Prism.
I partnered with Twitch Plays Pokemon in order to complete the game, because for the longest time I wanted to finish Prism and move onto something else. The developers there worked on other ROM Hacks for the stream and the project manager and crew offered to help to finish the game in exchange that Twitch Plays Pokemon gets to play it before the release. I have very little time to ROM Hack these days and I didn't want to drag this out even further. I was ashamed that this was taking so long to finish. So for me it was either get TPP to help out or cancel the game. I accepted TPP's help along with the possibility that Nintendo may notice and not like what I'm doing, but with TPP's numbers not what they used to be 3 years ago I decided go forward. Working with the TPP devs as project manager the project came out better than I could've ever dreamed of and the stream helped me get a better perspective of the game from a player's standpoint and iron out a lot of notable flaws.
I got a takedown(a C&D, not a DMCA) notice...