PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Creator Massively Confused And Hypocritical In Rant Begging For More IP For Video Games

from the battle-lost dept

The last time we checked in with the folks behind the massively popular video game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the company was complaining about Epic Games “ripping off” its 100 vs. 100 player game mode for its Fortnite title. In that post, we attempted to explain why this sort of thing isn’t “ripping off” in an intellectual property sense, because the idea/expression dichotomy exists. Using someone else’s idea for creative expression is not infringement, whereas using someone else’s specific creative expression is. Simple enough.

Except the folks behind PubG, as the game is sometimes known, didn’t take to this intellectual property lesson and are now instead suggesting that the entire video game industry needs much more intellectual property protection because of all the “ripoffs” out there. This from the creator of the game, Brendan Greene.

He claims elements of his game, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PubG), have been ripped off by other titles and he wants better protection from copycats.

Newly released on the Xbox One, PubG almost singlehandedly created a new genre, the Battle Royale game.

“I want other developers to put their own spin on the genre… not just lift things from our game,” Brendan says.

It’s worth noting that PubG is indeed a unique game in many ways. By tweaking several aspects of a well-worn genre and upping the map size and player count in a battle royale format, the game has become wildly successful. So successful, in fact, that one wonders exactly what danger Greene is seeing out in the hinterlands of clone-games.

Speaking to the Radio 1 Gaming Show, Brendan says: “I want this genre of games to grow.

“For that to happen you need new and interesting spins on the game mode.

“If it’s just copycats down the line, then the genre doesn’t grow and people get bored.”

Sure, there are indeed games that look to essentially clone others, including PubG. But those games are rarely more than blips on the radar in terms of success. And if you think about it, it’s obvious why that is. If game A comes along and introduces new features and gameplay that people gobble up, and then game B tries to copy that format closely, people aren’t going to be buying game B because they already have game A. The only reason to buy the second game is if it offers something the first doesn’t, in which case it isn’t a clone at all, but a separate creative expression that may have some similar elements to the first. That’s exactly how culture, including game genres, are supposed to morph and grow, and it’s essentially Exhibit A as to why the idea/expression dichotomy is such a treasure.

Greene also has a strange idea that video games are not afforded much in the way of intellectual property protections.

Brendan explains: “There’s no intellectual property protection in games.

“In movies and music there is IP protection and you can really look after your work. In gaming that doesn’t exist yet, and it’s something that should be looked into.

Let’s put a fine point on our response to this one: …….wut? The idea that games are not afforded intellectual property protection would come as news to this writer. I must now do some deep introspection, because I’m fairly sure I’ve written hundreds of articles right in these here pages about intellectual property disputes in the video game industry. In fact, not only do IP protections for games exist, the gaming industry specifically has done more in the realm of the nefarious to protect that IP than any other industry (see all of DRM, forever, everywhere). Claiming otherwise is nearly enough for a wellness check on Greene.

Beyond that, some of Greene’s reasoning is downright bizarre.

“Look at movies, Armageddon came out then 20 other comet disaster films came soon after,” Brendan Greene explains.

Can any of our readers actually name 20 comet disaster movies that came out after Armageddon? I can’t even name two. And the reason for that is obvious: once Armageddon did it, it was played out. No reason to go see another one of those movies. His example is actually a perfect encapsulation of why this isn’t a problem. One of the only meteor disaster movies I can recall is Deep Impact, which came out before Armageddon, and indeed was the inspiration for that film, so even this one example only works at a fifth of its supposed impact, and only in reverse. It would be hard to be more wrong with an example than this.

It’s also helpful to look at the Wikipedia article that describes, in the first paragraph on the game’s development, just how much influence and borrowing Greene’s game owes to its success.

Lead designer Brendan Greene, better known by his online handle PlayerUnknown, had previously created the ARMA 2 mod DayZ: Battle Royale, an offshoot of popular mod DayZ, and inspired by the 2000 film Battle Royale.[8][9] At the time he created DayZ: Battle Royale around 2013, Irish-born Greene had been living in Brazil for a few years as a photographer, graphic designer, and web designer, and played some video games such as Delta Force: Black Hawk Down and America’s Army.[10][11] The DayZ mod caught his interest, both as a realistic military simulation and its open-ended gameplay, and started playing around with a custom server, learning programming as he went along.[10] Greene found most multiplayer first-person shooters too repetitive, as maps were small and easy to memorize. He wanted to create something with more random aspects so that players would not know what to expect, creating a high degree of replayability; this was done by creating vastly larger maps that could not be easily memorized, and using random item placement across it.[12] Greene was also inspired by an online competition for DayZ called Survivor GameZ, which featured a number of Twitch.tv and YouTube streamers fighting until only a few were left; as he was not a streamer himself, Greene wanted to create a similar game mode that anyone could play.[12] His initial efforts on this mod were more inspired by The Hunger Games novels, where players would try to vie for stockpiles of weapons at a central location, but moved away from this partially to give players a better chance at survival by spreading weapons around, and also to avoid copyright issues with the novels.[9] In taking inspiration from the Battle Royale film, Greene had wanted to use safe square areas, but his inexperience in coding led him to use circular safe areas instead, which persisted to Battlegrounds.[9]

In that one paragraph alone, how many times are borrowing and influences in the game’s development and Greene’s previous work are mentioned? Way more than the number of comet disaster films that have came out immediately after Armageddon, that’s for sure.

Meanwhile, hey, BBC, how about injecting a little actual journalism into pieces like this? All of these refutations above weren’t exactly hard to tease out of a few well-phrased Google searches, after all. Maybe it’d be better not to simply parrot the claims of someone clearly out of their depths on matters of intellectual property.

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Comments on “PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Creator Massively Confused And Hypocritical In Rant Begging For More IP For Video Games”

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22 Comments
Paul Brinker (profile) says:

Ripoffs always exist

Just look at the history of games, someone makes a good set of rules that defines a type of game (RTS, FPS, etc.) and others quickly move into the area with some kind of twist.

The RTS era you could see Warcraft, Command and Conquer, Dark Reign, Total Annihilation, and so many others that are totally forgotten now.

Now a days we see base building, survival, battle royal, and that’s just the front page of stream. At the same time only one unique RTS has shown up in the last few months and people still play Starcraft.

Copying a game mode and doing a game mode well are vastly different things. To this day if Blizzard announces a new game the entire industry holds its breath since they all know they build games well and it could upset a subset of games for years.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Ripoffs always exist

Often what happens is someone comes up with a great idea and then makes a crappy (or decent but not great) game out of it, then someone else plays the game and thinks they can do the idea better, or it would be cool to combine it with another idea and they try and sometimes do.

Is warcraft a ripoff of Dune 2 and warhammer or were they inspirations? The answer (as always unless the code is actually copied) is 100% a matter of perspective.

Anonymous Coward says:

Theres nothing new in PuBg ,its a success because its
a well made game thats not full of bugs .
And it was streamed by all the big streamers on twitch.
And its easy to play but hard to master.
And some people might say the game is based on the japanese battle royale film where teens were stranded on a island to fight each other till there was only one survivor.
One of the reason the game industry thrives is anyone can make a game mode or genre and improve
on the previous games .
Theres loads of dota clones but the public only plays dota 2, league of legends ,heroe,s of the storm.
He,s a programmer ,not a lawyer , so he basically
knows nothing about intellectual property .
It would be a disaster if one company could own a game mode or a genre , Imagine if EA was the only company allowed to make online fps shooters with mmatchmaking and leaderboards .

Anon E Mouse says:

Hi.
Neither game has a 100 vs 100 players game mode. They’re either 100 players in free for all or in squads of up to 4 players. This distinction doesn’t matter for the main points of the article, but. You did this same mistake last time and were called out repeatedly on it. Parroting talking points you know are false makes you sound like a certain Mr. Pai.

Anonymous Coward says:

Greene might want to be thankful he’s not working in the mobile scene in China. The industry there doesn’t just copy; they clone. The attention span of players is about six months and that’s the lifespan of most mobile applications – so it makes the most profitable sense to release a game, milk it for all it’s worth, then release its reskin/palette swap six months down the road with minimal changes.

There’s also the issue that game mechanics by themselves don’t have copyright protection… and for good reason, because nobody would be able to make a platformer or shooter or card game without thousands of dollars up front.

PaulT (profile) says:

“Can any of our readers actually name 20 comet disaster movies that came out after Armageddon? I can’t even name two”

Oh, FFS, yes I can but you have to delve a little beyond the multiplex. There’s lots of SyFy/Asylum/whatever direct-to-video riffs on the themes, as with many others.

It’s also worth noting that Armageddon and Deep Impact were hardly the first on the theme – the 1970s Sean Connery movie Meteor comes to mind instantly, though there are others. They’re also symptomatic of something that happens regularly in Hollywood – movies with similar ideas in production at the same time. Sometimes, these are clearly coincidences (the 2012 movie Dredd happening to have a similar plot to The Raid, although it’s unlikely that this licenced property was deliberately ripping off an obscure (at the time) Indonesian production, it just became obvious after the fact that they were similar. Sometimes, it is very deliberate – Dante’s Peak vs Volcano, Antz vs A Bug’s Life, etc.

“In that one paragraph alone, how many times are borrowing and influences in the game’s development and Greene’s previous work are mentioned? “

Then there’s the cross-pollination and parallel invention possibilities. Suzanne Collins has sworn blind that she’d never even heard of Battle Royale before writing the Hunger Games series, yet the similarities are blindly obvious, at least superficially. The series do go down very different paths, but the concept is pretty much identical.

Should Collins be held responsible for ripping off Koushun Takami’s novel, the subsequent manga or Kinji Fukasaku’s movie and its sequel, all released years before The Hunger Games? Or, do we just accept that basic ideas are not sacrosanct and it’s the execution that matters? It would be very problematic to do the former, as very few ideas are completely original, even if you think they are when you have them.

I’m happy to live in the latter world, as should this guy since he clearly ripped off so many other sources for his inspiration.

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