Eli5: How can it be that game studio aren’t sued for „stealing“ from well known games?


Recently I bought the game Thymnesia. I knew it was called souls like and I have no problem with the mechanics.
But the animation for activating the safe points was do Bloodborne like. Also you had a safe zone, like the Hunters Workshop, with a little girl by your side resembling the doll.
Another example would be the game Wolcen Lords of Mayhem. There you got treasure insects instead of treasure goblins.

I am curious because I recently read that Monster was suing companies for using the word „monster“ in games or titles.
Why is it so different when copying game mechanics?

In: 2

Probably just an asset pack which dark souls doesn’t own, but tweaked it themselves. A lot of games use asset packs and don’t make things from scratch.

Not a game designer, so I don’t know too much, but I’ve dabbled in making gakes here and there kn a university computer in my free time, and some asset packs you look at or hear, you can connect to plenty of games.

Intellectual property and the laws surrounding it are very complicated, but to over-generalize –

The more specific and recognizable an element is, the more likely it is to fall under copyright. Things like the specific names of characters, places, and so on are under copyright. Actual graphical and sound assets and code fall under copyright (unless they were released under license). Vaguely defined plot or game-play elements do not.

“Fair use” is an exception to this, and protects parody or commentary. You can’t put “Firelink Shrine” in your video game and call it “firelink shrine,” and get away with it, unless you are making specific critique of firelink shrine, and only use as much of it as you need to use to make that critique.

“Trademark” is also a separate concept from copyright, which makes it even more complicated. A registered trademark is a name or logo for a product that can’t be used by a competing company. You can’t sell a drink and name it “Monster” even if it is a very different drink from the real monster energy drink, because consumers could plausibly get confused about which is the real one. You can, however, call something that is not a drink “monster” and probably it is fine.

But at the end of the day, whether or not a company can win a lawsuit about any of this is not about the law, it is about whether they can win the case. Is there a precedent for people suing over this and winning? Can they convince a jury that their business was damaged because of the conduct of the other company, or not? Can they threaten to bring a suit that they know they would probably lose, but would be too costly for the other party to contest? These are, at the end of the day, the more relevant questions.

A video game that was 1:1 a direct mechanical clone of another *might* have a good theoretical case for copyright infringement. You could argue that the game was effectively stolen. But – can you convince a jury of twelve random people who haven’t played the game that it is? Moreover, since certain gameplay tropes are so universal and copied by so many different games anyway, would they care that game A copied some mechanics from game B?

Game mechanics generally don’t fall under intellectual property laws. Components of a game such as code, text, images, and sounds can often be copyrighted. Novel technologies used to create a game can often be patented. The name and logo can often be trademarked. But the actual functionality is generally fair game for anyone to copy. There is a long history of people creating “clones” of games, which have exactly the same mechanics but use different text, images, and sounds.

The things you’re describing sound like they involve similar images or names as well as game mechanics, so they might be sailing a little closer to the wind, but it’s hard to tell without knowing the full details, and copyright disputes can be very complicated and unpredictable anyway.

You can’t “steal” an idea because general ideas aren’t protected. You are welcome to make a game inspired by all the games you like.

Anyone can sue anyone for anything. Monster can sue anyone they want. Their case is stupid and they will lose, but they’re allowed to sue and lose if they want.