Sunday, January 29, 2012

Standing up for ourselves

Sometimes you need to stand up for yourself, or you're just begging to be taken advantage of.

We (Spry Fox) have filed a copyright infringement suit in federal court against 6Waves LOLAPPS in response to their release of Yeti Town, their blatant copy of Triple Town. This was a difficult decision for David and I. We are not enthusiastic about the prospect of spending our time in court as opposed to making games. And in general, we believe that only in the most extreme circumstances should a video game developer resort to legal action in order to defend their creative works — the last thing our industry needs is frivolous lawsuits. Unfortunately, it is our opinion that 6waves has behaved in a reprehensible and illegal manner, and we can not, in good conscience, ignore it.

The full legal complaint can be downloaded here. In particular, I will call attention to these issues:

First: Yeti Town, as launched by 6waves, was a nearly perfect copy of Triple Town. We’re not just talking about the game’s basic mechanics here. We’re talking about tons of little details, from the language in the tutorial, to many of our UI elements, to the quantities and prices of every single item in the store (how exactly did 6waves “independently” decide to price 200 turns for 950 coins, or 4 wildcards for 1500 coins each? That’s quite a coincidence!) But don’t take our word for it. Here are just a few quotes taken from the numerous press articles that were published shortly after the release of Yeti Town:

  • Gamezebo: "Unfortunately for Yeti Town, the only substantial difference between it and Facebook’s Triple Town is the platform it's on. Otherwise it’s the exact same game, only this time with snow."
  • InsideSocialGames: "Yeti Town is a matching game nearly identical to Spry Fox’s Triple Town"
  • "Replace "saplings" with "bushes", "tents" with "houses" and "yetis" with "bears". What do you get? Something that would look a lot like independent developer Spry Fox's Triple Town"

Second: what most people don’t know is that 6waves was in confidential (under NDA) negotiations with us to publish Triple Town at the exact same time that they were actively copying Triple Town. We gave 6waves private access to Triple Town when it was still in closed beta, months before the public was exposed to the game. We believed those negotiations were ongoing, and we continued to give private information to 6waves, until 6waves’ Executive Director of Business Development sent us a message via Facebook on the day Yeti Town was published in which he suddenly broke off negotiations and apologized for the nasty situation. His message can be found in its entirety in the body of our legal complaint.

It’s bad enough to rip off another company. To do so while you are pumping them for private information (first, our game design ideas, and later, after the game was launched on Facebook, our private revenue and retention numbers) is profoundly unethical by any measure.

Despite all this, David and I still struggled with the idea of initiating a lawsuit. However, 6waves brought the issue to a head when, rather than openly and honestly discuss their actions, they had the chutzpah to tell Gamasutra that they had developed Yeti Town completely independently, and characterized the legitimate public criticism of their company as simply “part of the natural process” of game development.

We believe that there is nothing “natural” or ethical or legal about 6waves behavior. What they did was wrong. And if they get away with it, it will simply encourage more publishers to prey on independent game developers like us. We refuse to sit back and let that happen.

-Dave & Danc

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Real Triple Town available on iOS and Android

The holidays were crazy. Instead of opening presents, we were putting the finishing touches on the mobile version of Triple Town. Some late nights all around. Big kudos to Cliff Owen for doing an immense amount of the heavy lifting.

Triple Town for iPhone and iPad

Triple Town for Android

If you love Triple Town, please download it (it is free) and rate it. We are in a bit of a David and Goliath situation here since a very large and nasty company copied Triple Town on mobile right at the end of December. We're a small team and we work hard, but moving to the phone took a few precious months. I don't quite know how to express the feeling of bleeding our lives out trying to finish the game...all while watching a soulless shark lavishly spend VC cash to ride up the chart. Using my own design. That was like a punch in the gut. Betrayal, violation and powerlessness all wrapped up into one unpleasant emotion. This has easily been one of the most emotionally difficult releases I've ever done.

To add insult to injury, the night we got ready to upload the Android version we made an awkward discovery: There was already a game called Triple Town being sold by a certain Mr. WangYang.  In fact, it was Triple Town.  The art was ripped from the web version.  The logo was the same.  Check out that screenshot...captured for posterity.  I want to send big thank you to Google.  Even though their offices had closed for the night, they took down the fake immediately.  That was deeply appreciated.

Ripped off: An example of a counterfeit game.

The best and most positive thing anyone who loves innovative indie games can do is spread the word about the original. Share the link. Download Triple Town. Write a review. Tell your friends. Heck, I tell strangers in coffee shops.

No one ever complains since a good indie game is an authentic joy. The next time I see someone after introducing them to Triple Town, all they ever want to talk about is Triple Town. It becomes an essential part of their life. It doesn't matter that it was done by a few guys working out of home offices. All that matters is that it is a good, original game that players love. I figure the Fast Follower bastards may have money and evil on their side, but maybe a passionate community and some word of mouth about a decent game can carve a small space for the little guys.

Big thanks for all the continued requests asking us to make Triple Town for mobile. It kept me going.

take care,

PS: Also a lot of folks told me they just wanted to 'buy the damned thing'. So even though the game is still free if you want, you can now pay once and get unlimited turns.

PPS: First game in Unity! Very nice!