back to article UK developer trio accused of game plagiarism

A former pub landlord and two chums who together created a computer game and signed a big distribution deal with a major US games supplier have been accused of ripping off other titles' content. Back in May, local newspaper the Kent Messenger interviewed Steve Bovis, Tim Croucher and Laurence Francis, all from Maidstone, Kent …


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  1. Tom


    It's almost as though the publishers had no knowledge of some of the most successful games of recent times or never even bothered to look at the game they were publishing.

    It almost seems as though the developers had no knowledge of copyright law.

    It's almost so ridiculous that they could try and claim it was a deliberate attempt to demonstrate the lack of respect people have for the hard work of others.

  2. Liam

    what i cant understand is...

    who the hell plays these sad-arse point click games anyway?

    they were boring when they first came out and now they are REALLY boring!

    its so obvious that its a rip off from those pics (more second pic than first)

    stone-wall plagerism! oops! naught boys!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    So, get a copy from WH Smith.

    Flog it on everyones favourite old tat market.

    At least someone will profit!

  4. Ash
    Thumb Up


    So they stripped out the maps and textures from Oblivion, UT2004, and some other games, and thought that NOBODY would realise if they made a P&C game out of them?

    Saying that, though, I do remember seeing a shoddy rip-off of Terminator a while ago, to the point that you can actually see Arnold Schwarzenegger firing the minigun from Cyberdyne's office building window.

    Swings and roundabouts...

  5. Jamie

    Imitation if the truest form of flattery

    But com'on this is just blatant stealing.

    In the screen grab of thier game compared to Oblivion they were too lazy to even change the tapestries on the wall, the contents of the bookshelf, or the colour of the tiles on the floor, that is just plain lazy.

  6. Steven Raith
    Thumb Up


    I mean, there is homaging a game [think the doomguy on a spike in Duke Nukem 3D] and there is just taking the piss.

    I'd love to see the full list of rip offs in this, and the reason for them being there - was it a bad attempt to homage various games, or just plain lazy design?

    Steven R

  7. Michael Law
    Paris Hilton

    @ Ash

    They didnt rip out anything from the other games but took 'screen shots' :) Land of the lost backdrops are static and not 3d.

    Even Paris isnt that dumb

  8. Schultz
    Thumb Up

    Can't keep...

    a good game down.

    'nuff said.

  9. ratfox

    I actually feel bad for them

    It's not only the fact that they will have loads of problems with lawyers, it's also that they've been working so much without even hoping to make something original.

    God, their life must suck.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    Drawing is hard!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Got to go out and buy it, it will be a collectors item soon!

  12. Kanhef


    This is just mind-boggling. Almost everything is a screenshot from another game; only a few have been photoshopped up, and even that is just a copy/paste job. I wouldn't be surprised if every image is taken from somewhere else. At least it shows that they like playing other people's games.

    "Between the three of us we researched, wrote, designed, animated, scripted and developed the whole game from home,"

    Sadly, that's probably true; they don't mention the non-animated graphics. It might have been a decent game, if only they'd had a decent artist.

  13. Glenn Amspaugh

    They should release their P&C dev tool

    If they just released an easy to use P&C dev tool, they'd make some cash. Hell, my 7 year old would love being able to grab stuff from games and movies and then turn it in to a P&C adventure.

  14. Steven Raith

    P+C dev tool

    I think they used a C+P* dev tool Glenn.

    See what I did there? I'm here all night, try the veal, don't forget to tip your waitress, etc etc.

    Steven R

  15. Nordrick Framelhammer
    Gates Horns

    Dodgy, dogy, dodgy

    This is a really dodgy way to create a game or run the busimess. I can see them, and their publishers, getting hit with lots of lawsuits very quickly.

    I can also see Microsoft running to their door as their business practices are the same.

  16. Owen Edwards

    @ Glenn - They already have....

    3 guesses as to what was used for Limbo of the Lost?

  17. Adrian Esdaile

    My business plan!

    1. Rip off all the pretty stuff from wot games I done seen, innit?

    2. ...

    3. PROFIT!

  18. Mark
    Gates Horns


    I thought you might of been joking at first....

    but this user SBOVIS is strangely very similar to one of the writers (copiers) of this game..

  19. Henry Wertz Gold badge


    Amazing.. simply amazing. Before I saw the pics, I figured like a texture or two might have been "borrowed" and someone was making a stink over it. (Last time I read about this, it turned out nothing bad had happened -- both games had used a few textures out of some generic pile-o-textures). But.. these shots look identical.

    For a point-n-click style game, you would think they would draw up some unique art, it shouldn't be as difficult as making up a bunch of 3D models etc. after all. If they can't draw, then hire someone who can, or do it all sketchy like a few of the Nintendo games and whatever you do, don't admit it's because you can't draw, say it's to make some artistic statement (heh).

  20. Andy Bright

    That's hilarious

    As if there's a single game on the market these days that doesn't do exactly that - rip off not only the content ('please kill 5 wolves and return to Lothar-The-Scared-Of-Wolves for your reward'), but the very look and feel of whatever the current best seller is in the same genre. Original ideas these days appear to be doing a slight modification in the way you kill someone in the latest WoW clone (which itself merely lifted the best ideas from previously successful MMOs, bundled them together and presented them in the form of cutesy cartoons).

    Every original idea that's ever proven to be popular has been ripped off by every game house past and present. And the few genuine talents when it comes to creativity in game design have always found it almost impossible to get significant backing from any major publisher until they've proved not just once, but many times, that their ideas sell.

    Otherwise publishers are interested in nothing but re-hashes and ripoffs. I find it laughable that any one of these games houses has the balls to claim that anything they've produced actually qualifies as intellectual property.

  21. Herby

    Is it just me, or aren't all games the same anyway?

    Look, almost every game written is pretty similar. Get weapon, use on enemy, make points, discover treasure, find goal, live happily ever after. Yes, these guys just took some screen shots and fit them into the mold.

    The whole process (stealing stuff) has been going on in media for a LONG long time. See:

  22. Mathew White
    Thumb Up

    Box art, LOL

    Anyone seen the box art on amazon? Had me in stitches of laughter. Reminds me of the cover art for the chinese clone of harry potter.

    You would really hope that someone would have noticed something as unbelievably blatant as this.

    I wont spoil the surprise:

  23. George Johnson

    What staggers me... come it took them so long? Christ, how long does it take to rip off screenshots, put them together and link them up in one of the multimedia game designer thingies?

  24. Lee


    Skip the Dead Code forums, check the Games page under More Projects. I wonder if they'll clear that reference off of their site once they hear about this?

  25. Anonymous Coward

    @Mark Re;SBOVIS

    I think SBOVIS is one of the the developers involved

    Mine's the one with the CTRL+PRTSCN

  26. Andy Worth

    @Andy Bright

    To a point I agree with you there, as the vast majority of games are very similar yet slightly different variations around the same themes. However, take Oblivion for example - yes it's an RPG, (which you could argue are all various ripoffs of one or the other, however if you did that then there'd be about 12 games on the market). However, there are thousands of hours which have gone into developing beautiful landscapes, buildings, characters and stories, which sets it significantly apart from "another" RPG.

    Of course there are a lot of similarities between games in the same genre but you would also have to agree that once in a while something quite special comes along. For example Half-life, which took FPS games from being a simple point and shoot to having puzzles and an almost creative storyline.

    This incidence is entirely different though. They have taken what is probably the easiest thing to compare for similarities and then just outright copied it. It's not even like they stole the graphics engine and moved stuff around, but literally took screenshots of other games and used them in their own (at least that's how it appears). This is more than just a passing similarity in genre, more like blatent plagiarism.

  27. Russell Preece
    Paris Hilton


    The signature at the bottom of that post is even more conclusive!

    "kind Regards

    Steve Bovis


    Well, at least he was researching how to do *some* of the hard stuff.

    Paris, because she made her scenes look easy...

  28. Russell Preece

    And even more amusing...

    He's thinking of developing a sequel? Presumably to pay for all the legal fees that the first game incurred??

    Shocking - utterly shocking!

  29. Jamie


    It is one thing to borrow ideas for quests and plots but to actually steal the entire screen shots you are just lazy.

    As for WoW clones stealing ideas from WoW, according to some of your statements like kill wolves and return to blah-blah, those ideas go way back to Might &Magic series and Wizardry series. The M&M 6 game you have to kill wolves to complete a quest for a hunter.

  30. Stuart

    In fairness...

    It is debatable whether images of computer generated scenes generated by 3d engines are protected by copyright, when the viewpoint is free to move, since the creator of the 3d engine is clearly not artistically involved (though, the model itself is protected). Of course, you'd need to go to court to argue this, and there's a fair chance you'd lose :P

  31. Mark Fisher

    Better Late than Never?

    On 3rd June 2008 SBOVIS posted:


    I am on the look out for a 2D/3D background artist for the sequel to LIMBO OF THE LOST. This is a % of royalty position for the right person.

    The backgrounds need to be in 1024x768 resolution and the end result is a static 2D image.

    Other parts of the job will be for alpha masks and layers within the scenes. Approx 80 backgrounds will be needed, if you can construct in 3D using an editor like Unreal 3 etc all the better."

    Bit late for that now, mate, innit?

    More here:;u=157;sa=showPosts

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If they had copied the visual style of Oblivion et al. then that would have been fine. Unoriginal, but fine.

    Taking screenshots of someone elses game and passing it off as your own original work is not fine.

    I don't understand why there's any debate or conflicting opinion on this.

  33. Steven Raith

    @Andy Bright

    Um, having two different FPS both having a theme of hell on earth and both featuring shotguns, or two MMOs featuring the fact that you have to do tedious, repetitive tasks to gain experience points isn't *quite* the same as wholesale ripping off entire areas, scenes, and character designs that another company *paid* an artist/designer to create for them.

    You're saying that Ford would have no reason to complain if Kia lifted without modification, say, the entire centre console, front and rear end designs from a Focus for their next medium sized hatch - right down to the shutline tolerances and badges - because, well, they both make metal boxes with four wheels that go places.


    Steven R

  34. Rob


    Andy, don't be naive. Whether you think a game is 'original' or not, doesn't mean that (in this case) the Oblivion developers didn't spend months building the 3d models and the texture artists didn't spend months building the textures etc. All these people cost money to pay for their work to produce really good looking and effective scenes.

    To have some oik press printscreen and then profit from your work just because he thinks he can doesn't make it right.

  35. Rob
    Paris Hilton

    As an extra

    If you go to the games page you'll see "Limbo of the Lost" listed there as released and commercial...

    Not any more!

  36. nematodirus

    Infocom roolz......

    ......What is this "point-and-click" of which you speak ?

    (goes back to Amstrad PCW8256, Leather Godesses of Phobos, scratch 'n' sniff card and 3-D glasses)

  37. Anonymous Coward

    @ Andy Bright

    There's a difference between copying the *idea* behind a game and the actual *artwork* which is very very different from stealing the "look and feel" of a game. A lot of time and money will have been spent producing the artwork for games that these muppets have stolen - why should they get away with it? IMO it's a criminal act and should be punished accordingly. Bring back hanging I say! Hang them until it hurts!

    Erm, door, coat, offski

  38. David Gosnell

    @Mathew White

    That image is a customer submission, a piss-take (see the E3 award claim etc). Not that the real cover-art is remotely better.

  39. Phill Holland

    best ever

    I wanna buy the movie rights to the story of these developers, unfortunately, I don't know "which" movie rights to buy.

    The internet at its finest.

  40. Oscar

    Original version was ripped off too ...

    There is an amusing thread on Neogaf and on there there is talk about the original, Amiga, version that they worked on nearly 15 years ago. Turns out people have found that the artwork in that was ripped off too ...

    Totally brilliant ... i just can't believe they thought they'd get away with this one ...

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Comments on Amazon review....

    "The game brings out such a strange and happy feeling, like a deja-vu"

    "so much more original than titles like Oblivion"

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    thing is

    is the game story any good - having many a good idea for doujin games but no artistic ability I'm stuck contemplating ripping graphics. Art doesn't make a game, but it does help.

    Of course I'd mention the fact that none of the art was mine, and wouldn't charge for it. Of course that's still illegal - but whatever.

    I don't have much sympathy for them, if it was a free game, or a game being pushed for £2 off a website then maybe I would. But they were selling it as a full blown commercial product.

    Hell if they turned up said "yeah we've made this game, but all the graphics are rips so we'd need an artist for 6 months to fix that." I'm sure they'd of still got some interest, but probably wouldn't have made the same profits...

  43. TMS9900

    Oh dear...

    Here's my prediction (not that anyone asked for it):

    1) Distributor will be in the clear - they (appear to have) acted responsibly in withdrawing the game from sale.

    2) Offended games manufacturers sue the arse of the developers

    3) Offended distributor demand that the developers change the graphics

    4) Developers change the graphics

    5) Game goes on sale

    6) Distributors withhold all royalties to the developers to cover their costs in withdrawing the game from distribution/re-distribution etc

    7) Nobody buys the game. The game is a laughing stock.

    8) Distributor sues developers for consequential losses.

    Either way guys, you're fercked. You're not gonna paid for this game. Get a good lawyer, or a new identity.

    Oh, and get your coats. Yours are marked PLAGARIST.

  44. Anonymous Coward

    Provided some entertaining reading.

    High-Larious! Just been reading some of the forums and links.

    Apparently the game comes with an extra "Making of..." DVD (seriously).

    I can only imagine it contains mobile phone footage of the team down the pub.

  45. Greg Jebb
    Thumb Down

    Pay for it?

    Can you believe it was going for £29.99!

  46. Torben Mogensen

    Plenty of ways to get legal images

    There are many sources of free, legal images you can use:

    - Go out and shoot a few photos of landscapes, buildings etc. Play a bit with Photoshop if you think they are too boring-looking.

    - Use artwork by long-dead artists. I'm sure you could make a nice P&C game from a collection of, say, old Arthur Rackham artwork.

    - Google "public domain image".

    So it is just plain silly to rip off copyrighted images.

    BYW, one possibility that hasn't been discussed is that the developers may themselves have been victims of a rip off performed by an "artist" that they hired to do the artwork. If they just posted an ad in some forum, that might easily happen.

  47. Philip Cheeseman

    Having grown up in Maidstone

    I can quite believe this story....

  48. Martin Owens


    So much work goes into making game elements, I'm surprised there isn't more collaboration to create a repository of cool looking tree models and that sheep model that everyone uses.

    Seriously, these copy and paste wizzards are going to jail. But the games industry is burning money recreating the same basic objects as everyone else and could do a better job and encouraging new talent by releasing some of the more mundane stuff with a reasonable CC license.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Night fever, night fever

    "publishers are interested in nothing but re-hashes and ripoffs" - bear in mind that lots of re-hashes and ripoffs are also commercial failures. Consumers don't care whether a game is original or not, and why should they? They aren't purists, they just want a good time, and the company that can sell its goods most effectively, with the most effective marketing, wins. The loser gets nothing, it doesn't matter if he or she was morally righteous. Moral righteousness won't put food on the table, for that you need a cudgle and the willpower to go out there and kill a bison, and skin it etc.

  50. Jonny F
    Thumb Up

    The US Amazon reviews are great!

    I mean, when a game copy-pastes levels, sounds, graphics, UI, and designs from a crapload of other good games, such as Thief 3, UT2004, Morrowind, Oblivion, WoW, Vampire: Bloodlines (one of my all time favs), Crysis, + more, it must be super awesome, right? It's like the combined awesomeness of all those games in one affordable title

    "The Cliff Notes of gaming" etc.

    The amazon reviews are just great.

    If only my El Reg comments were that good.

  51. Rob Crawford
    Jobs Horns

    Not wishing to excuse their lazyness or (anything else) but

    just to throw this thought into the mix.

    They didn't actually include the 3D models or raw textures in the game but an representation of the textures and models.

    The screen shots used only really existed on their own machines (in theory) that rendering of that frame only took place due to players actions within the game.

    Sort of at best it could be argued that they only included a representation of another publishers game without permission. Perhaps in that thase they may be able to argue some form of "fair use"

    Graphically though the game bust have been a real dogs dinner.

    Anyway I have other trouble to cassuse now ;)

    Why Jobs ?

    No doubt he will sue as it's his role to steal other peopls ideas and pass them off has Apples own unique revolution

  52. Joe K


    That thread on GamesRadar is funny, even has a pic of the 3 clueless gimps who thought they could get away with this:

    "This whole story is fantastic. The guys in charge even look like extras from the last fight the Mitchell brothers had in the east end"

    They really do!

  53. Adam T

    Majestic = Tri Synergy?

    I think there's more than meets the eye here.

    Here's an interview from 1995...

    Check out the company name, bearing in mind "Tri Synergy" is their US publisher.

    Coincidence? Hmmmm.....

    Here's more for a good laugh:

  54. Adam T
    Paris Hilton

    @ Not wishing to excuse their lazyness or (anything else) but

    Paris, cause she undoubtable has more sense.

  55. Keith Doyle

    Did the publisher cough up an advance?

    These guys may have been simply trying to milk an advance out of a publisher I suppose-- if so good luck finding them after this. The publisher may not have any legal liability here but you really have to colour them stupid, whether or not they got taken for an advance...

  56. m

    Imitation is the sincerest form of being an unoriginal thieving bastard

    Good old Victor Lewis Smith, thanks to him for that quote. I was going to pass it off as my own, but...

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