UPDATE: A fellow Pawn, Richard Bliss, just got off the phone with Richard Borg. Apparently Richard hadn’t even heard of Puffin Software or Viking Lords, and was quite shocked to see his game so blatantly ripped off. Richard is going to look into how to pursue legal action. Purple Pawn in no way condones the actions of Puffin Software.
The game play is identical to Richard Borg’s Command and Colors system. You have a left flank, center, and right flank that your units play on. You’ve got 3 classes of units: fast but weak, well balanced, and strong but slow. The only things that Battlelore has that Viking Lords doesn’t is Lore and Lore Masters.
Is the game any good? Yes, it is. You’ve got 15 maps, 18 unique units on each side, and the ability to play against the AI. You can play a campaign, a quick skirmish, or play online. The graphics aren’t the best in the world, but they’re not the worst either. All this for $3.99, and you’ve got yourself a good time for a good price. I really hope the game gets future updates with more maps, units, and maybe something similar to a Lore system.
Puffin Software provided a free copy of Viking Lords for review. Viking Lords can be found on the iTunes App store for $3.99 for the iPad.
So is this game actually licensed from Richard Borg and is he getting a cut of that $3.99 or is this another case of intellectual property theft in the App space? From what I can tell from the developer’s website, he isn’t even credited or acknowledged.
While I love that more and more quality board and card games are being made available on iDevices, it’s disheartening to see cases of theft and piracy promoted and celebrated in the press & media to the detriment of their original inventors.
If Viking Lords was released as a boxed board game, would it receive the same level of support on this site and amongst other gaming enthusiasts?
As far as I know, Richard Borg did not patent the Commands & Colors system, so there’s no intellectual property theft involved.
The intricacies of patent law aside, are you suggesting that Richard Borg doesn’t deserve to receive some form of compensation for such a clearly derivative work? If you were to remove the elements of this product that can be clearly attributed to Mr. Borg, would this product still be capable of standing on it’s own? Do you not consider the existence and sale of this product damaging to Mr. Borg and to the intellectual property on which he sustains his career? If you had designed Command & Colors, BattleLore, and Memoir 44, would you be upset to find news sites such as Purple Pawn actively encouraging their readership to buy this app?
Sorry, but as a fellow designer, I can’t help but find this willful disregard disturbing.
Are you saying that you find it acceptable, morally or otherwise, when people completely plagiarize designer’s systems, that they may have worked on for years, as long as the thieves make the graphics look slightly different? That is an extremely filthy comment. Intellectual property theft has nothing to do with patenting. Thats like saying “it’s ok to cheat on your wife, because there are no laws that specifically forbid you to do otherwise”. It sounds like you are in dire need of a moral compass sir, yours seems to be shattered.
If Richard Borg in fact did not grant permission for this, I’m thoroughly disgusted and I hope purple pawn has the decency to discontinue promoting it.
Rob – sounds almost to me like official blessing and permission for you or I to develop and profit from app derivatives of ElementaliS, Paragon, and HDL…
*Edit / add* – stupid me, I thought David’s comment was actually a response by rkalajian, the original article poster. My apologies for the misinterpretation.
However, I still await his response to Rob’s excellent points.
This article prompted me to create a Geeklist over at BGG, exploring my thoughts in a little greater depth.
To tell you the truth, even though I pointed out the similarities in my review, I never put much more thought into the fact that it pretty much is a blatant rip off. I don’t really condone the action the developer took, nor can I really say he was 100% in the wrong.
Is Words With Friends in the wrong because it’s a rip off of Scrabble? Do most hobby gamers even care about that because it’s “Big Bad” that’s getting ripped off? You see this happen all the time in software, board games, RPGs, books, and movies all the time.
In the end I can’t really say how I feel about the issue, and I think it brings up many good discussion points. I’m by no means defending Viking Lords. It’s a good game, but it’s one I could take or leave, as with most iOS apps. If Fantasy Flight, or Richard Borg take action against the developer, they’re probably in their right. If they want to release an official Battlelore app? I’ll buy it before it’s released, if possible :)
It’s hard for me to formulate a good response without someone thinking I’m a jerk, but I guess that’s hard to avoid. Please just keep in mind that when I originally reviewed the app, I did so with no malicious intent to harm Richard Borg or his Commands & Colors games.
Gavan, instead of insulting me, you might argue on point. Intellectual property theft has everything to do with patents.
Rob, “willful disregard” for what?
I was simply addressing Rob’s question, “Is this another case of intellectual property theft in the App space?”
Intellectual property is a legal construct. Game mechanics can be patented. Yehuda writes a regular series on that. I know of no patent on the mechanics in Commands & Colors. If not patent infringement, one would have to argue copyright or trademark violation.
David, sorry for insulting you. Intellectual Property is not limited to the scope of patents. It also relates to copyright infringment.
In a recent similiar case, the creators of Jungle Speed had sued the creators of Jungle Jam, and won:
That being said, it is an expensive and difficult journey to sue someone for copyright infringement. So even though this clearly is intellectual property theft, it is unlikely that there will be any action taken by anyone. The only REAL defense mechanism against such clearly immoral (though hard to define by law) infringements, is people like Rob who actively try to convince the community that it is wrong, and not to purchase said product.
I apologize again for the harsh comment. Gaining your empathy or mindshare in the matter, may not be attainable, but it most certainly won’t be attainable through insults.
Dammit, David. How dare you argue a knee-jerk emotional response with facts and logic? You, sir, have a broken golden compass.
Yes, that’s sarcasm.
Rkalajian, fair response.
David – I don’t think Gavan insulted you; I think he made an observation of your ethical stance on this issue. Basically, you’re saying because it’s legal to take this candy from this particular baby, that there’s no grounds to stop you from doing it. That’s unfortunately absolutely true.
There is no law against being a jerk. (That might sound a bit more like a personal attack, but a) it’s not directed at you, and b) it’s a catchphrase I have commonly used/heard when someone is technically within their rights, and c) validly illustrates this point, I think).
I think Rob’s primary objection (and Rob is welcome to clarify or contradict this) is that Purple Pawn would “promote and celebrate” someone who is technically obeying the letter of copyright/patent/trademark law, while blatantly violating the spirit of it.
@rkalajian – Thanks for the response and I know you weren’t going out of your way to damage Mr. Borg. To be fair, I doubt the implementer of Viking Lords had set that as a goal for himself either – he’s clearly a fan. Regardless of intent, however, the damage remains and I felt it was important that I voice my concern and dispel the [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystander_effect]bystander effect[/url] that I saw happening here.
My hope is that you and your fellow reporters give some honest thought to the question and keep it in mind when considering future articles of this sort. It’s the sort of issue that Purple Pawn and other industry news organizations (formal and informal) should establish clear editorial policies around. I’m not here to tell you what is or isn’t newsworthy or appropriate site but, personally, I had been holding Purple Pawn to a higher standard and I was disappointed to see this sort of coverage here without clear thought being given to the consequences.
As for the developer, I’d encourage him to get in touch with Richard Borg or his publishers and see if the license is available. With a little bit of honesty and humility, it’s probably still possible to end this whole debacle to both of their benefit (although it’s probably harder now than if he’d simply approached them in the first place). Let’s face it, there are more boardgames out there than there are quality iPad developers.
@David – When I referred to “willful disregard,” I was referring to the disregard of both the developer and the Purple Pawn for the integrity, creativity, and value of Mr. Borg’s designs and his right, legal or otherwise, to be compensated for contributions that are clearly his. I recognize that I’m somewhat naive and utopian but I view the boardgame industry as a community that holds shared interests and a desire to see each other (and the broader hobby) succeed. Viewed in that context, your deliberately cavalier attitude feels little more than cruel and destructive. The law doesn’t say I can’t eat a rock but that doesn’t mean it’s good for me.
Paul, you’re putting words in my mouth. The scope of my statement was very specific.
Rob, now I’m “deliberately cavalier?” You were the one who suggested “theft and piracy.” I thought it helpful to address that with specific facts.
Yes, David, I consider you deliberately cavalier. You are choosing to believe that the sale of unlicensed versions do not have a negative impact on the original creator.
I am not a lawyer and I doubt you are either. I’m not here to argue whether or not something is legal or illegal because, quite frankly, I haven’t a foggy clue. But I do know that the internet is the last place I’d go to find a factual answer or legal guidance surrounding that particular question.
What I am here to argue is that the existence of these unlicensed versions is unhealthy, inappropriate, and damaging. Even the app developer would be better off if he actually went and asked for the official license. Taking this approach hurts everyone and benefits no one so I don’t see why someone such as yourself would want to jump so quickly to its defence. It’s like giving loaded guns to babies – even if it’s legal (and I have no idea if it is or isn’t), why would anyone do that?
Wow, I’m thoroughly impressed by Purple Pawn’s actions in contacting Richard Borg. Great work!
I cannot condone what the creator of Viking lords has done, as my personal moral compass has a sense of right and wrong. But at the same time, I am not naive enough to believe that David’s statements are anything more than that.
I have no idea whether or not the creators of Viking Lords were aware of the infringement and harm they may have caused to Mr Borg. But the question still remains, will Days of Wonder or Mr Borg be redressing the balance by releasing a version of either Memoir 44, command and Colours or the Battlelore system?
It could be that the creators are attempting to fill that void. I cannot posit anything more than theories at this time and assumption is very dangerous in these matters, so I shall refrain from doing so. As posters have commented, following and proving in a court of law, infringement of copyright can be an expensive process. Maybe it is better that we allow Mr Borg to make the decision that hopefully benefits both himself and his army of fans.
And, to close the file on this, I’ve posted a final summary of events to my [url=http://robbartel.blogspot.com/2011/02/perils-and-possibilities-of-going.html]Canadian Gamer blog[/url]. I end with some constructive advice on what I feel different sectors of the industry can do when confronted with this problem.
Thanks for the discussion, everyone.
[...] as card and tabletop games. Attempt has been to try to combine the best from both worlds.” Rumor has it that Borg is looking into legal action against Puffin Software, the app’s [...]
[...] as well as card and tabletop games. Attempt has been to try to combine the best from both worlds." Rumor has it that Borg is looking into legal action against Puffin Software, the app's [...]
what a bunch of blah blah blah all over this silly thing lol
gamers are such idiots