Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Fan Remakes: Don’t.

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 13, 2011

I am personally a huge fan of these kinds of fan-made remakes of beloved older games, and am grateful for the efforts of the dev teams for making them. I really don’t want to be the guy to throw a wet blanket on these efforts at all, but I do feel like I should take note of the sogginess of thrown bedclothes…

Once again, the industry sez: Just don’t.

Or rephrased: Eight years to make it, less than a week to have it shut down.

For every fan remake of a game that gets an official or unofficial nod of approval, six others get a cease & desist. While sometimes it’s possible to re-tool the game to make it legal after the fact, wouldn’t it be better to make anย  original title in the first place, and just be “inspired” by an older game?

And maybe even make it something commercially viable?

Filed Under: Biz, Indie Evangelism - Comments: 31 Comments to Read

  • Xenovore said,

    Yeah, why go through all that effort, spend all that time, when there is a high chance that the IP owner will slam you with a cease-and-desist???

    You could totally make the same exact game, but with different characters and art — “inspired” as Rampant put it — and be completely fine. AND be able to potentially sell it.

    I’m continually boggled when people do this — just make a game similar to the game you like; don’t do a blatant rip-off and then expect them (Sega in this case) to ignore you!

  • Joe Larson said,

    On the plus side this is the internet where once it’s out there it can never truly be taken back.

    Plus I got mine before it got taken down.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I hadn’t heard of it until it was taken down, and if I had I probably wouldn’t have been interested. But I *was* a fan of the online Ultima IV Flash-based remake. And fortunately the King’s Quest fan remakes have been given – as far as I can tell – unofficial approval.

  • jzoeller said,

    Interesting you bring this up. A might and magic fan based game has recently popped up on moddb.com, and nearly all the graphics are ripped.

    I can’t tell you how many rpg maker games I have seen with ripped graphics also.

    I can see where the fun and desire to make a fan based game is, but I would never begin to attempt it without an official approval of the IP owners.

  • skavenhorde said,

    @Rampant Don’t forget about the Quest for Glory remakes as well. I love them and glad they didn’t get the cease and desist order.

    Here is what anyone should do if they want to make a freeware remake of a beloved classic. They should get the hell out of America and live somewhere where the government could careless what the industry says. Maybe, like in Taiwan. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hmmmm, maybe I should make a Warhammer Quest game and when Games Workshop inevitably (they almost always do) sends their cease and desist I can tell them to go take a long walk off a short pier.

  • skavenhorde said,

    The more that I think about it the more I like this idea. Maybe a simple roguelike type Warhammer Quest game based on the boardgame. No one else is making it.

    Thanks for the post Rampant. I’ve got some thinking to do now.

  • McTeddy said,

    Why release it as a remake and take the chance?

    Instant fan-base.

    Very few people will play “Roads of Anger” and even fewer will know that it exists. By making a “Streets of Rage” remake he instantly gets the support of the entire streets of rage fan-base.

    Even better… all he needs to do is change the graphic and he get’s the right to sell the game… AND a fanbase who wants to stick it to the “Evil SEGA corporation” would put down a fan tribute.

    Getting blamed by the IP owner is a sad point… but a remake still holds many benefits.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I’m really of two minds on this, to be honest.

    On the one hand, I’m an IP owner, and I know I’d have some small heartburn about people cashing in on my property without my permission, even if it’s not literally cash (gaining fame or whatever). It’s like somebody showing off my cool car (if I had a cool car, which I decidedly don’t) to try and impress women without my permission. Especially if they did something that damages it somehow. So the business side of me gets a little bit leery.

    But on the other hand… I also really want to support fans and anything they do in support of my game. The game designer / developer side of me says, “That’s so cool!” And I think the business side can be brought around to that kind of thinking, too. Rather than sending a C&D, I’d want to send them a legal document saying, “Hey, please dot your i’s and cross your t’s legally so it’s clear you are supporting my IP and not challenging it, and then we’ll be cool, and P.S. Awesome Job!”

  • skavenhorde said,

    Games that for all intense and purposes dead then I don’t see the problem at all. Especially since they’re releasing it for free. They’re willing to offer the masses what the industry decided they didn’t want anything to do with anymore.

    However, if they remake a game that is still around and being played then that would be a big no no.

    But for god’s sakes. Let these poor guys make a tribute to your game. If you don’t like it well they’re not making anything on it other than some people might enjoy it again or reintroduce it to a new generation.

    These IPs that just sit in their cells in some corporations basement need some love too. They’re suffering down there without anyone to enjoy them ๐Ÿ™

  • Ruber Eaglenest said,

    I would say, that the remake is so good, it’s so excellent, the gameplay so superb, that its mere existence justify the remake as remake.

  • Andy_Panthro said,

    AGD Interactive (makers of the King’s Quest and Quest for Glory remakes) actually obtained permission from Vivendi to go ahead with those, so they’re completely legitimate (See also, the sort-of KQ sequel The Silver Lining).

    The Streets of Rage remake is still available in various places, so if anyone is desperate for it I have a link to a german website.

    I also really like these sorts of remakes, because sometimes it’s all the attention an older series gets these days. There are plenty of people interested in these sorts of older games, and if companies were actively remaking or revisiting these IPs, I’d have more sympathy for them.

    In this particular case though, apparently the development team have been trying to contact SEGA for years with no reply, and it was only when the game was widely distributed and downloaded that they’ve done something about it.

  • McTeddy said,

    And theres the problem Skavenhorde, Sega is still using the IP.

    They’ve been releasing the games every few years on different platforms. It is still being sold on Virtual Console, XBox Live, and Steam.

    A direct remake, as I believe the tribute was, is a free version of the game they are still selling.

    Believe me, I am with Coyote that I do feel for both sides. I’d be overjoyed to see some fan work dedicated to any project that I work on. I really do like the idea of seeing other people’s interpretations of my creations.

    Yet… looking from an IP holders POV… I can’t help but realize that I created it. I eat my meals because of the profit that comes in with my IP. There is nothing wrong with defending yourself.

  • skavenhorde said,

    On something you are continuing to make a profit on, but for most corporations they acquire a lot of IPs through mergers or what have you and then they do nothing with them. They’re dead.

    I could argue that a fan remake of an old game could rejuvenate the title or at the very least show some of these people that the brand name isn’t as dead as they thought it was.

    But I’m right there with you in a fan remake of a series or game where the company is still making a profit off of. No sense in doing a remake on one of those because they’re still around…..however with one little caveat added to that.

    Take the Ultima remakes you see. Now Ultima is still around in it’s online form (I believe), but that is not Ultima singleplayer and all of the remakes or reinvisioments (is that a word :)) of these old game has been great. The USP and lazarus was excellent. I loved every minute of those games.

    I even like the flashbased Ultima 4 game. It was absolutely great for a coffee break style game while I was at work. I still don’t understand why they took that down unless they plan on releasing Ultima 4 again soon.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Though I don’t know how possible it is, my preferred approach (in the Streets of Rage case) would be to offer the game makers a deal to turn it into an official product. Turning it into a win-win is never that easy, especially if the quality was dodgy, but still… unleashing the winged lawyer-monkeys should be a last resort, not a first one.

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon, but I don’t really support fan remakes.

    Fan translations, patches to make old games work on modern operating systems, those I am fine with.

    I just think that it is huge waste of time and talent to remake someone else’s game or riff off their IP.

    One: it is dishonestly acquiring a fan base, not on the remaker’s own merits or skills, but from the work of other people.

    Two: I think it shows a fundamental lack of creativity on the part of the remaker. Instead of coming up with their own interesting and unique game or setting, they taking someone else’s wholesale off the shelf. It is part of my same annoyance towards the old school fantasy genre that rips from Tolkien unapologetically – tall, immortal elves, hobbits . . . sorry, halfings . . . .

    Three: It shows a fundamentally amateur mindset, a technical and more time-wasteful version of a kid scribbling cartoons on the back of his notebook.

    What makes me the most angry though is simply this: THE WASTE OF POTENTIAL. Many of those doing remakes obviously have great skills and talents, and they are flushing them down the toilet. How successful would they be if they had applied those same talents to their own game and IP?

    The people that made Streets of Rage, or Chrono Trigger, or Ultima would never have given the world those games if they had sat back and remade someone else’s games.

    AGD Interactive did it right by getting permission, but even then – wasteful. And for the love of God, if you don’t have permission yet, don’t start making the game.

  • Adamantyr said,

    I had the same realization myself awhile back. I worked on both a conversion of Ultima II and Eastern Front: 1941 for my old vintage home computer, the TI-99/4a.

    Ultima II was rough, because the original game was built around the Apple II’s architecture. Several fundamental changes would have to be made to have it “fit”… after realizing this, I lost interest quickly, although I had a bit of fun posting up the screenshots on AtariAge as an April Fool’s joke last year. (Which several took seriously…)

    Eastern Front: 1941, I actually got permission from Chris Crawford to do. (He was rather amused at the “quixotic” nature of the project) I actually got a pretty good way into it, but I faltered at the AI conversion. I realized that I could never be 100% certain I had captured the original game-play. Still, I may try and resurrect that one some time…

    Anyway, after those two projects, I promised myself this: No more remakes, ports, or clones. Everything I write for fun now will be my own design and my own IP.

  • WhineAboutGames said,

    There are a lot of benefits for a total newbie who wants to learn game-making in spending time on a remake/fangame. There’s the simple one of not having to worry about art (which isn’t always true, since some remakes are upgrading the art, but others are just about completely re-creating a gmae), and not having to worry about art is a help in getting something that someone other than you is willing to play and give you feedback on. Which, if you are starting from step 1 at game-making, you really need.

    Starting with a complete model of what you’re trying to build provides focus. You know what the end result should look like, and you (and others) can see if you’ve got it or not. It’s a much more complex version of the “make Pong!” challenge. To make a complete recreation you’re going to have to analyse the existing game in detail. How did they do all those things, and why? How can the same results be achieved? Again, that ready-made set of fans who can judge you against an existing standard and tell you when you’re missing the point is useful in sharpening your skills.

    However, if you become known for making remakes, you run the risk of having this stolen fanbase around you, completely disinterested in anything you make for yourself and wanting you to keep pretending to be someone else.

    It’s probably better to focus on building *a single level* from an old game. That gives you a clear goal (otherwise if you just start making the game, desire to finish projects can keep you going) while still being plenty for you to learn from, and will only whet the appetites of people who like that kind of games, making it easier to steer them towards your original projects.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Heh – considering I just recommended making a Pong clone… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • getter77 said,

    SEGA could have chosen a more elegant way to handle it, and perhaps they somehow still will going forward. It is certainly a cringing turn of events though, as there are certainly many of us here that have our pet notions of projects to get onto—shoot we even had a blog post on it not long ago at all!

    Potential slipping through the fingers like finely grained sand of so many hands on both sides of this…

  • skavenhorde said,

    @LateWhiteRabbit Ultima 5 and Lazarus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkWw3w9w-us&feature=related Now tell me that is a waste of talent. I think you are being a little ridiculous. They make nothing on these remakes other than to bring these old games back into the light.

    You could argue they’re making a name for themselves, but then please tell me some people who remade games that profited from them in that way. I would really like to know where all this venom is coming from for some remakes that the fans make sometimes.

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,


    What are you talking about? That is PERFECT example of wasting talent. He had the skills in programming and great art sense to recreate that game in full 3D. Of course he makes nothing off of it. That’s the point. THAT is WHY it is a waste of talent. He could have made his own original game that looked and played just like his remake and been able to sell it for profit.

    The venom isn’t about remakers profiting from the rework. The venom is about them NOT profiting from THEIR hardwork because they used SOMEONE ELSE’s hardwork.

    And regardless of whether or not a company is letting an IP languish, it is their property and their right to let it do so. Just because you think it is a same your neighbor never takes his classic car out of the garage is no excuse for you to steal it and go on a joy ride.

    If these fans are talented and desperate to remake a game, there are legal ways to go about doing so AND profit from it. They can try and set up a licensing agreement and GET PAID to work on the IP. And if they ask for permission or try to licensing and hear nothing – they are NOT allowed to start working anyway. It is simple. It is the law. You wouldn’t want someone stealing your stuff and using the excuse – “Well, I love it, and you haven’t used it in forever.”

    To use an example – because I know she reads this blog – Hanako made Cute Knight because she loved Princess Maker 2. Same style of gameplay, but with her own unique world and ideas. A big success she could make money off of.

    The Streets of Rage remake team put in a ton of hard work and talent into what, frankly, sounds like an awesome beat’em up game with a lot of cool additions to gameplay. And it is all wasted because they used someone else’s IP.

    So, as Rampant’s title so elegantly puts it – Fan Remakes: DON’T.

  • tfernando said,

    “And if they ask for permission or try to licensing and hear nothing โ€“ they are NOT allowed to start working anyway. It is simple. It is the law. You wouldnโ€™t want someone stealing your stuff and using the excuse โ€“ โ€œWell, I love it, and you havenโ€™t used it in forever.โ€

    It’s not that cut and dried. A rights holder has an obligation to respond to the inquirer, else the inquirer -may- have a laches defense for his infringement. There’s a bunch of case law which establishes what a reasonable time frame is, but I’m not a lawyer (or planning on infringing on anybody :), so I’m not sure I’m the best person to go through it.

    See, ah: http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=26290
    or: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laches_%28equity%29

  • skavenhorde said,

    @LateWhiteRabbit I couldn’t disagree more, but I do see where you are coming from. However, profit isn’t everything.

    Fans do all kinds of crazy stuff because they love a series. We have everything from machinima, fan fiction, fan art, modding, remakes, cosplay, music etc. Basically you name some entertainment medium and a fan has tried to do something with it with their favorite setting. It might be a waste of time and talent for you, but I appreciate their efforts.

    Someone updating an old beloved game with a new engine and updated graphics is something I truly love. This topic made me do a search and I found a lot of remakes of games I loved back in the day. A lot more than I ever thought possible. My favorite one so far has been a C64 Ghostbusters remake. I’m going to have to check that one out. Now someone needs to do Autoduel remake because EA sure as heck isn’t going to do anything with it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    With that said I can see Rampant and your point, but as a fan of many a series that has gone the way of the do-do I like being able to replay some of these games that the publishers/devs have given up on. Also, as a fan of many a series that has been canceled/turned into some mockery of itself *I’m looking at you Ultima 9* I like being offered something, I believe, is better than what was made for the masses.

    Fan Remakes: DO!

  • Gareth Fouche said,

    There is another issue at work here that people don’t realize, beyond ‘big companies do it because they are SO EVIL’. Legally, you *have* to defend your Trademark or you lose it.

    In other words, if big companies don’t defend their trademarks, even against the little guys and the fans, they will lose what could be a valuable IP in the future. There are a number of trademarks that have passed into public domain because their owners didn’t defend them.

  • Keldryn said,

    As has been mentioned here already, a fan remake has an existing fanbase to improve awareness of the project, and a big chunk of the design work is already done. You have a good idea as to what the end product should be, it’s just a matter of getting there.

    @LateWhiteRabbit, @skavenhorde – I worked on that Ultima V: Lazarus project as a world-builder (and later just managing the web site when I no longer had time to contribute to the game in a timely manner). I’m still amazed that Ian (the project lead) pulled it off, as it was a ridiculously ambitious project. He managed to keep it going for five years, while he was in university.

    That project earned Ian several job interviews, and he ended up at Iron Lore Studios, working on Titan Quest. I believe he was a lead designer on their next game before the studio closed. He’s now one of the lead designers for Big Huge Games’ Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

    After U5: Lazarus, he told me he’d never work on a game for free again. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The lead worldbuilder on Lazarus got picked up for a design role by Gas Powered Games, and at least a couple of the artists and writers also found jobs in the industry. An original project might not have received the same attention and exposure.

    My contributions to Lazarus helped me land a designer position with Rockstar Games. I’ve since decided that the games industry is not the right place for me, but that’s another issue altogether.

    A lot of Ultima fans enjoyed playing Lazarus, and the team who made it enjoyed the experience. I can’t call that a waste of talent.

  • jzoeller said,

    Gareth Fouche is right, there is a ton of legal issues here.

    Many times the IP is not owned by just the company but also others.

    Some companies allow their engineers to hold patents for things they created while at the company.

    The bottom line is clear, get permission in legal written form before starting anything.

  • Xenovore said,

    @ LateWhiteRabbit: Completely agree!

    @ skavenhorde: While I agree it’s nice to see old games polished up and remade, if someone is going to rip off the content and call the new game the exact same name as the old game… well, it’s just asking for trouble and smacks of laziness too — is it really too much effort to put in your own content and call the game something different?

    And to those who say, “Oh but if you change it you’ll miss out on the fan base”; that’s rather disingenuous. It takes only one or two sentences in a web page for a search engine to pick up the game, e.g. “Remember Streets of Rage? Well, Viaducts of Madness has all the cool game-play of Streets of Rage, but with awesome bridge building as well!”

  • skavenhorde said,

    I maybe completely biased here because I have played two truly great remakes of Ultima 5 and 6, Lazarus and U6 Project. The team went above and beyond the call of duty with those games and I loved every minute of them. I would not call what they did lazy at all. They’re hardcore fans that did a total conversion using the DS1 engine. I’ve spoken with some of them and know one person who worked on that project. I would not call them lazy at all. They worked their butts off on U6 Project and are extremely nice creative people that loved Ultima and wanted to share something they did with that series.

    Now, I seem to be in the minority here, but I still don’t see anything wrong with it. You have your fan fiction, fan art (which normally pretty much sucks, but every now and then you find something good), but god forbid someone does a remake with another persons dead game that no one but us old timers would play again.

    It also maybe that I’m not a developer and a lot of you are. I’m just a fan and a gamer, but I can understand where you guys are coming from. I don’t think Jay would be too happy if someone took the characters from Frayed Knights and did their own game with them. I wouldn’t play a game like that. It’s just the old ones that no one cares about but us old timers that I love seeing being remade.

    One more example: Space Quest. There are at least 4 new fanmade adventures of Roger Wilco that I was able to hunt down. You might think it’s lazy of them to use Roger in a game instead of their own characters, but I really miss that goofball and obviously so did they.

  • McTeddy said,

    I spend alot of time in the Let’s Play Community, where copyright issues are rather large. I enjoy the videos and I support the players… they seem to have the same issue that scares me in fan remakes/Movies/fiction etc.

    People seem to feel that they are entitled to using someone else’s intellectual property. They believe that because they own Dead Space they have the right to do anything they want with it. Whether it’s their own games, movies, stories… Dead Space is now Public Domain because I bought it.

    Whenever a company defends their copyright… people seem to rabidly attack the big bad corporation for their evil actions against the poor and innocent creator who can do no wrong.

    I’m all for creating remakes. I’m all for Let’s Play’s and fan fiction’s, and fan movies and Sweded Movies etc. I don’t mind how people get their experience. Experience at making games, writing, directing, etc. Experience is always a good thing.

    But when you choose to benefit from an existing IP you are taking this chance. It’s not a surprise or even a slightly unexpected event… It is a common occurrence that should have been expected from day one.

    If I’m ever to fully support fan projects they (Both Devs and Fans) will need to start respecting the owner’s wishes ESPECIALLY in cases like this when the game is still being sold. If they ask you to take it down, don’t argue or insult them for it…

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,


    I’m glad to see everyone’s hard work paid off with benefits for them.

    Still, for every success story like your team’s, there are a dozen more remakes that don’t end near as well.

  • Keldryn said,


    Don’t get me wrong; I would never recommend to anybody that they start working on a remake or join an existing team that is doing one. I would say that for every success story like Ultima V: Lazarus, there are hundreds more remakes that don’t end as well.

    In general, I think that it is a waste of time, effort, and talent for fans to do a remake of or sequel to another company’s property. This is partially due to the fact that the owner of the IP can shut them down without any notice. More than that, very few fans have what it takes to successfully complete a game. Being a talented artist, programmer, or writer doesn’t count for anything if there isn’t someone with a guiding vision and the organizational skills necessary to keep the project going.

    Like I said, it’s amazing that the Lazarus team lead was able to keep it going for 5 years and deliver an amazing product at the end. Far too many professional studios with budgets in the tens of millions can’t even manage that feat.