How to steal?
It is a sad day in the gaming industry, once again, and I am writing as both a whistleblower and a pissed off indie developer. Recently it was brought to my attention that 505games has released a product called “How to Survive”. How to Survive is a top down shooter that controls like a FPS (WASD moves your lower half, mouse moves upper) where you play in a coop game to survive against an onslaught of zombies. You can craft, theres a skill tree, and you must drink water/eat food to survive. NPCs, bases, and a shockingly similar art style. Sound familiar?
Here I was sipping on coffee, about to get started working on Roam, and I receive a message from a Kickstarter backer. They had shown me a link to this game called How to Survive. I watched the trailer and as soon as 505games popped up it sounded familiar. I did some digging in my inbox and found that 505games had indeed contacted me about a Roam publishing deal. I couldnt believe it.
I am not foolish. There are tons of zombie games out on the market and a lot borrow ideas from each other. Until I saw the original email that 505 had sent I thought this could just be another coincidence. It is not a coincidence. This particular theft is blatant and 505games took advantage of the situation knowing full well what they were doing. This shows how much respect they have towards the industry and their fans.
You might be thinking, “Ryan, this happens all the time in video games. People take and borrow ideas all the time!” and you are right. However, it is rare that a company will contact an indie developer to offer a publishing deal and when it’s refused hire another company to deliberately rip off the game idea and design to the core.
Here is a copy of the email sent by 505games on January 30th, 2013 from an Evan Icenbice, Sr. Producer.
Received: Wed, 30 Jan 2013 16:41:00 -0800 (PST)
I came across your Kickstarter on Monday and after sharing the link with a few others at work…I’m happy to say we are all very excited about the game! I was especially sold after I watched the prototype video where you demonstrated the building and defending – I’ve been looking for a game with a good “build ‘n defend” mode for a while now!
Anyways… the reason I’m reaching out is to see if you would like to explore the option of eventually putting this title out on XBLA/PSN. If this is something that you would be interested in exploring – please let me know and we can discuss further. If not, no worries as you will still get my money on Kickstarter J
BTW- we are about to launch Terraria out on XBLA/PSN and have also signed a few deals with other dev groups similar to yours(ala Kickstarter), so we would love to discuss how those projects were treated.
The most upsetting part about all of this is that 505games is an established company. They have many titles released under their belt. We are just trying to get our foot through the door into the industry and these guys are trying to slam it shut. Due to the nature of Kickstarter I had to post all of Roam’s design ideas online to get funded. I threw everything I had into this. I put everything on the line for this project and took a huge risk. I moved across the country for this game. My partner is at risk. It isn’t fair that 505games thinks they can do this. They shouldn’t get to reap the rewards off of my risk.
How to Survive is getting torn apart by critics. It feels rushed and aspects of its design are unfinished. I wonder why it feels rushed…
By the way, there is no record in the backer report on Kickstarter of Evan Icenbice supporting Roam as he claims in his email.
I do not mind friendly competition. When it is blatantly obvious that they stole Roam from us and didnt even try to distinguish itself is when it is crossing the line.
I do not want the stigma that Roam is associated with How to Survive and I certainly don’t want people to think Roam has stolen anything from How to Survive. I also want to know what you guys think and what course of action we should take with this issue, as you all funded the project and I respect your thoughts. That is the purpose of this writing.
If you care to research further, compare the original Kickstarter page including the prototype video.