New iOS game accused of cloning Vlambeer's Luftrausers (update: Vlambeer and Rubiq respond)

SkyFar, a recently released iOS action game, has been accused of ripping off Vlambeer's upcoming title Luftrausers, calling in allegations of cloning that Vlambeer is all too familiar with.

SkyFar's aesthetic, gameplay and controls all closely mirror those of Luftrausers, a version of which is currently available online as a Flash game. Both titles feature dogfighting warplanes and silhouette-based sprites, and relatively simple control schemes letting players steer their planes, fire off afterburners and shoot down enemies. Luftrausers will feature customizable ships and missions when it launches later this spring on PC, Linux, Mac, PS3 and PS Vita — SkyFar lacks those extra features, instead offering a single score-chasing mode.

A number of mobile developers and journalists took to Twitter to accuse the game of cloning Vlambeer's upcoming title.

Vlambeer's Rami Ismail commented on Twitter earlier today that he hadn't yet looked into the supposed clone.

Vlambeer is no stranger to having its games duplicated before they're even released. In 2010, Vlambeer released a Flash game titled Radical Fishing, which the studio decided to flesh out into a larger mobile offering. In 2011, Gamenauts released a title called Ninja Fishing, which featured many of the same elements present in Vlambeer's Flash game. As detailed in this Polygon feature, the duplication led Vlambeer to temporarily halt development on their game altogether, before releasing it as Ridiculous Fishing earlier this year.

We've reached out to SkyFar developer Rubiq Lab to comment on the cloning allegations, and to Ismail to see if Vlambeer has reached out to the studio. We will update this post with more information as we have it.

Update: Ismail has responded to our requests, telling Polygon that Rubiq Lab has been in touch with Vlambeer and denied completely that the game is a clone of Luftrausers.

"The developer of the clone has gotten in touch with us after Twitter exploded and let us know that 'acttuly we genrated our assets, Codes and all newly [sic]' and that the gameplay as indicated on the screenshots 'is not there in game as in the screen shots. We just done those screnshots for public attraction [sic],'" Ismail said. "They signed off with the note that 'we really dont think it links your game at all.'"

Ismail said that the studio is talking to Apple and Google to see what they can do to resolve the issue, and hopes to keep Vlambeer out of "yet another clone war." He also added that SkyFar serves as an example of why Luftrausers isn't coming to mobile, as the controls leave much to be desired on a touchscreen.

Despite the annoyance of cloning, Ismail said the studio won't abandon its release model of dropping bite-sized, Flash versions of their games before the full product launches.

"Ultimately, we refuse to accept this as a part of our industry," Ismail said. "We believe that showing our games to our fans early is a better way of developing Vlambeer games than keeping secrets and just dropping the final result on people when it's done."

Ismail's full statement to Polygon is posted below.

We obviously endured a bit of a scare when news arrived of LUFTRAUSERS being cloned and released ahead of our own release schedule by another developer. This time, however, it's not 'just' the idea of the game that has been cloned, but also the visual style. This gives us much more room to fight the whole thing, and we fully intend to. The developer of the clone has gotten in touch with us after Twitter exploded and let us know that 'acttuly we genrated our assets, Codes and all newly' and that the gameplay as indicated on the screenshots 'is not there in game as in the screen shots. We just done those screnshots for public attraction'. They signed off with the note that 'we really dont think it links your game at all'.

We simply can't deal with the stress of another cloned game, so we've gotten in touch with Apple and Google to see if there is a way for for the issue to be resolved without us getting involved in yet another clone war. We're more than happy to see games inspired by our works and we encourage anyone to practice game design and development by recreating personal favorites - but the clones of both Ridiculous Fishing and LUFTRAUSERS take 'inspiration' a step too far and into the marketplace. We're extremely exhausted from dealing with cloning and even though this is an important issue to stand up against, we had hoped that we could just release a game without the cloning debate happening for once.

Ultimately, we refuse to accept this as a part of our industry. We believe that showing our games to our fans early is a better way of developing Vlambeer games than keeping secrets and just dropping the final result on people when it's done.

Now that we've got the chance, we'd also like to take a few seconds to use the clone as an argument towards why LUFTRAUSERS is almost certainly not coming to mobile - we just can't find a way to make it work as well as it should on touchscreen devices. LUFTRAUSERS is still hitting PC, Mac, Linux, Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita - with the latter being the most interesting device for those of you who would like to play LUFTRAUSERS on the go. We've been wrapping up development and we are on schedule to release the game later this spring.

Thank you so much once again to the fans, friends and press that have helped us out with Ridiculous Fishing and thanks so much to everyone for standing with us once again with LUFTRAUSERS. We hope this will be the last time we have to deal with this, but we're encouraged to know that if it's not, we won't be alone.

P.S. We really like the idea of a Vlambeer clone game jam (https://twitter.com/folmerkelly/status/326393858332180480) - we might organize that after we're done crunching on LUFTRAUSERS.

Update 2: A representative from Rubiq Lab, the Bangalore-based developer of SkyFar, responded to our requests, denying that the studio's game is a clone of Luftrausers, and saying they've been harassed by the gaming community.

The message, which Rubiq Lab sent to Polygon via Facebook from its official page, claimed that someone from Vlambeer had reached out to them a "few weeks back," and accused them of cloning and lifting assets directly from Luftrausers. Rubiq Lab denied the claim, adding that it was a year-long development effort using "many tools," and that, "in media most of the things looks [sic] similar."

The Rubiq Lab representative added that the company's Facebook page has been plagued by users in Vlambeer's "friend circles" and "community" commenting with "bad words." Their negative reaction, the message says, is designed to promote Luftrausers before its release later this year.

"And they making an issue because of there [sic] new upcoming game publicity and marketing," the message reads. "And all about controversy to get benefits. These issues are so common with the gaming."

The message ends with the following excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for "Video game clone," which describes the legal protections afforded to games accused of being clones.

In present-day law, it is upheld that game mechanics of a video game are part of its software, and are generally ineligible for copyright. The United States Copyright Office specifically notes: "Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles." The underlying source code, and the game's artistic elements, including art, music, and dialog, can be protected by copyright law. As an alternative, some elements of video game software have been protected through patents.

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