Remake of old game, copyright infringement issues?

Hi, as a hobby project I want to remake an old SNK game using UE4, currently I’m making a prototype in Air (AS3), and I’m planning to use some of the code later when I port it.

The gameplay aspect would be very similar, with some minor tweaks here and there.

I wouldn’t be copying any assets, music or text, I would be just remaking them as HD versions. The original game was in 2D, so it would be impossible anyway to try to do so.
However the game will feel very similar.

Because of how the game plays, it is hard to not make a clone, it is hard to play both and not to think that one is the obvious copy of the other one, but the only real aspect that I would be copying would be the gameplay part.

I’ve read that you can’t copyright gameplay, but, I don’t know, I don’t want to spend a lot of time to end up with a cease and desist later.

How can I know for sure if my remake would be actually infringing the copyright of the game?. Are there any concretes rules? or the one with the better lawyer always wins?.


You can’t copyright gameplay, but people in the past have managed to patent it.

Either way, if you are just mimicking game mechanics, you’re probably just fine. If you use any names, characters or locations from the original game, then it’s infringement.

What would be an example of a successfully copyrighted game mechanic?

So I know if I could run into the same issue.

It’ll be extremely difficult to know if you’re running into patented mechanics or not (they are mercifully very rare), but some examples:

The use of a directional arrow indicator in the Crazy Taxi games.
‘Ghost’ cars in racing games.
The battle system found in Square’s JRPG games (aka ATB).

Microsoft have some absurd patents, whose descriptions are annoyingly broad, for example one describe where “Subjective style points are awarded if the player performs feats of style that are not necessary tasks of the game, depend upon the type of game, and may include sliding, spinning, jumping, blocking an opponent, passing an opponent, and avoiding obstacles.”

I thought in most cases, the technical implementation is what is patented rather than the high-level concept. That said, Ambershee’s find suggests otherwise. That’s awful if you can actually patent gameplay features like that.

I believe that would qualify as making derived work.

You’re looking for legal advice, so the best idea would be to consult lawyer.

In the past when I was discussing copyright issues (and LGPL/GPL licenses), someone mentioned that some things cannot be copyrighted. Ideas cannot be copyrighted, only their expression. Also, for example, IIRC “int i = 0;” is not copyrightable because there’s pretty much the only one way to do it, and the same principle applies to lots of programming-related code. If programmer is good and writes efficient/elegant code, then portions of it will be hard to copyright, because someone else who’s implementing the same algorithm will probably end with identical code.

I my opinion, you’ll be able to get away with that if you make a game that highly resemble SNK game. A parody, or bunch of highly similar characters. For example, those two chracters are nearly identical:

However, if you start making HD version of original game without permission, you’re in dangerous territory and they may hit you with cease and desist.

Also see Capcom USA vs Data East entry here:

Thanks Neg, I will consult with a lawyer to be 100% sure.

Yes. Make your own, don’t waste time on this.

Classic case:

So basically remaking something is violating copyright even if you do not intend to release it? Can’t even remake something to learn UE4 or show-off?

If it’s MS it ahould have 3 main rules:

-Every asset from scratch(so no extracted content from the original games nor soundtracks);
-Story of he game is not considered canon;
-Can’t make any money out of it.

+If they don’t like you they can shut you down anyway.

Also a question regarding this. Obviously the copyeight holder would hate your fangame to be put on Steam. Is it allowed to make use of Steam SDK without planning your game to be on the Steam Marketplace at all?

I’ve read that it is irrelevant if money is involved or not.

However, I also read that if you can’t fight back their lawsuit, which usually is the case, then you will have to desist, even if you are not violating any copyright or trademark.

It is correct that it is irrelevant as to whether money is involved; it’s not a valid defence.

You could however probably get away with it, if the game were never to be released to anyone and you made it quite clear in the material you did release (e.g. videos, screenshots etc). I’m not sure there’s much point making an ‘HD remake’ of a game if you never intend on releasing any of it however.

Show-off would mean you’re intending to release it in some way, which means you’ll be using their property.

You could probably get away with making something that you’ll never redistribute and show to anyone, but … :slight_smile: You will show it.

It is very tricky territory. For example, here are rules on fanart from blenderswap:

If you really wanna make HD remake, you could try to approach the company and ask for their permission before you start working.
They probably won’t give you the permission, but it is safest approach, and asking doesn’t hurt.

And when they won’t give you permission, you can start making your own product “inspired” by theirs.
Examples of such games are Mighty No 9 and Risen series (they highly resemble older Gothic series).

Without official permission, you’re playing russian roulette. Either company won’t notice you or won’t care about your project, and you’ll get away with it OR they notice you and slap you with cease and desist, then you’ll have to throw away months or years of your hard work. I wouldn’t like this kind of risk.

I contacted them already, but they didn’t even answer, and I suspect they never will. Maybe I didn’t use the right mail for this though. (if anyone know a valid way to contact SNK Playmore let me know).

I’d like to find a good lawyer to analyze my particular case before even trying to invest time.

The thing is, the game has very particular and specific mechanics, that without them wouldn’t work. Kind of having a hard time finding a lawyer on this. Maybe I can try a forum, no idea.

Don’t expect any sort of reply unless you sent them a letter in the mail, and even then you shouldn’t get your hopes up, as for finding a lawyer, I certainly haven’t heard of any hanging around these forums, so you should probably look elsewhere.

Grasping this topic, a little bit. Someone could to decide resurrecting the oldschool FPS game style: “Unreal” and “Return to Na Pali”, with all the cosmic fantasy story elements, renewed within a modern FPS-RPG approach using the Unreal 4 potential.

I loved those floating islands, the giant marble tower, fly-by over the castle, the dungeons, Crypts and strange alien catacombs, the villages with mystical beings, landscapes with fantastic atmosphere, finally ,with musics like Dusk Horizon. Why things like this do not come back nevermore?


Well it’s much safer to make spiritual successor(indie games)instead of fan games usually remakes big companies(usually game studios and corporations) have to strike down such a things due to DMCA violations it’s bothering me just like new copyright law that will affect Europe only.Lawmakers in European Parliament passed this law 2 months ago.People who are often using internet very often interpreting articles 11 and 13 that A.I.will always check copyrights in the future.Maybe at least modding will be allowed.…ained-meme-ban

Sorry for necroing this.

I’ve noticed something that happened with a popular mod called Dota Autochess, it started as a Dota 2 mod, became so popular that now Valve and Riot (LoL) are creating their own version.

Now, the gameplay is identical.

Wouldn’t this be some sort of the same kind of potential copyright infringement?.

I assume that if Valve and Riot do it, it must be OK.

Anyway, just wanted to mention it.

No issues because Dota is owned by valve, the mod creators in this case are simply using it and giving fresh ideas for “free” to Valve so Valve can take your “ideas” and create its own game with no problems at all especially one related to their own product.

Even if “Dota Autochess” was a unique product there is nothing that can legally prevent Valve or any other company to create a similar game with similar mechanics (even same mechanics) as that game. Just look at how many “Temple runs” there are now in the market, or candy crushes.

Copyright infringement goes into murkier waters when companies start using the same titles and art assets or very close look alike to famous well established characters. Even then there will be a very very expensive court case to look into these and determine if all this is valid and to what extend. But if you are working from a basement they wouldn’t even bother with you at best they would send a mail to Steam to block your site there.

You should take a look at this thread and the links added, where gameplay was actually copyrighted.