Is it legal to copy gameplay and levels?

So my question is, if it would be legal to copy the gameplay / game mechanics and levels from another game and release it? For example Tetris. This game gets cloned very often. But I’m asking as a general question.

If it is not legal, how to find out / get in contact with the company / person which holds the right to the original game?

In case you are wondering, why I’m asking: I finished a game but it uses exactly(!) the same game mechanics and levels. I only added some more levels on top of that, which I designed myself.

I’m not thinking about releasing it right now but I just want to hear what you guys think about it :slight_smile:

A few random links:

And a general search link:

I have an idea listed for my YouTube channel to cover this very topic…


OH and my opinion… forgot to add, Tetris is a closely guarded IP, so unless you renamed it entirely and added a few differences, and I must say they have added a lot of variation to the IP, then as long as it is not a Nintendo IP, you might be ok, but to be honest, just put it out there as Open Source and move on to something more original… or find a novel way to re-implement a similar gameplay mechanic…

I have done this with my upcoming game, so it can totally be done.

I mentioned Tetris because it can be cloned exactly. A 3D shooter clone in comparison will not match to 100% regarding the game mechanics (different camera movement for example). In my case it is more like Tetris :slight_smile:
Names, art, characters are all substantially different. Also the game I made a clone of is black and white or sepia, so a bit older and 2D, I changed to colorful 3D ^^

Just read this on the second provided link:

Even though a game’s concept/gameplay isn’t protected by the letter of
copyright law, in practice because of these differing approaches, and
the difficulty in identifying exactly what in a video game is an “idea”
or “expression” for purposes of copyright law, you copy a game’s concept
and overall feel at your own risk.

I think its simply not worth the risk.

Where do I find your channel?

Yes, I think this would be the right approach. But I’m not so interested in investing more time in this project, at least at the moment. And it would be a a lot of work to find and also to implement some cool new gameplay mechanic.

You mean you made a copy of a game? When is planned release date, if any? :slight_smile:

Nothing there yet, just some old stuff, but after my move in a months time :frowning: I aim to start creating more content as I will be able to work any time and all night as I please… long story there and I might cover it in my book when I get around to it… as well as some videos on YT…

No, not exactly, I can only say it is a reimagining of a mini game in another game :wink: I have already said too much :slight_smile:

Going back on topic, that excerpt there that you quoted is a good example and reflects what I said above, more or less, if you feel guilty, and it worries you, 8/10 chance you are right and should drop it, otherwise, do your research and press on… alternatively, spend the time to make it unique, otherwise, what is the use of another clone of a game, unless it has some interesting form of variation…

For example, I have a plan for a game that takes Mario Kart, puts it into a whole new dimension and reimagines the concept of Racing and Multiplayer… watch this space :slight_smile:

A lot of my game ideas redefine or create new genres which becomes a problem for distribution, which category do you put them under…

But to be honest I am happy having that issue and not the ‘Is this a clone’ issue…

Hmm I think I just found my tag/buzz word…

Be Original!

No-one here can provide or offer legal advice. A good intro to common legal pitfalls in indie game development is in this video from GDC 2016.

And this Reddit thread from a video game attorney.

View and read those two links before doing anything else. This can only be taken as education, so all we can recommend here is that you speak to a lawyer (there are several references in those two links).


This is what I forgot to say…

damn headache :frowning:

I would say as my general understanding goes, the typical answer to the question depends on what you mean by “copy”…

If you what you mean by that… is to copy the art and the content exactly like pulling the art out of another games art folder ect then, the answer would be in general yes it would defiantly be considered illegal.

The mechanics i would say in general No provided you are making your own version of them based on what you see and your own code provided your not copying stats and unit names directly ect ect.
Unless you actually copied them exactly or like got the code out of the games source and used it directly then in general its your take on a idea that inspired you. I mean most game mechanics are essentially the same you blow stuff up and upgrade seriously.

If you were to make say your own clone or version of a game with different content your own art your own code ect then in general from my understanding that is perfectly legal.

To say “mimicry is flattery” but “flat out copy pasting is plagiarism”.

Or another way to say it is you can be inspired by a game to make your own.
But inspiration to copy a game flat out then say you made it is plagiarism.
This even extends to game fonts and you should be aware of that.

Just look at all the games that have done the same genera already. Still the real person to ask would be a lawyer or start researching copyright information,

First of all, thanks for the provided links and information @MrValentine @KonajuGames
I also understood, that I should contact a lawyer / attorney if I want to go further the route of publishing the game.

I did not copy art or content or code directly. I just played the game and reprogrammed the game mechanics. Compare it with Tetris. It would be possible to clone the game mechanics to 100%. The same applies to my case. So this was my main concern. Also I remade all the levels and they have the exact same structure. Apart from that I already said, that the original was in black or white / sepia and only 2D. I made it in 3D although gameplay itself is in 2D.

So my personal opinion is, that it is sufficiently different. But since there will be some risk left, I don’t think I will publish the game.

Only possibility that I see which would make sense for me, would be to contact the company which holds the rights and ask for license / permission. But I don’t think they would have interest in that unless I pay them money. But I don’t want to pay money, since I don’t think I could make money with the game.

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In general you’re allowed to copy a gameplay mechanic. Everyone does it. I watched that GDC talk and match-3 games were given as an example. People always put a bunch of ‘buts’ and disclaimers around these types of statements though.

Of course you cannot copy levels, art or any form of content.

Kind of like, you cannot copy the maps of Mario Kart, as you also cannot simply feature Silverstone or any other real track for that matter as those have to be licenced I believe…