['Quiz Me Quik' is a weekly GameSetWatch column by journalist Alistair Wallis, in which he picks offbeat subjects in the game business and interviews them about their business, their perspective, and their unique view of life. This time, an innocent bystander and a nearby train wreck.]
Regarding the whole Limbo of the Lost fiasco, has anyone coined the term “LoLgate” for it? I don’t seem to be able to find any kinds of references to it as that around the place, so let’s see if we can’t get it to catch on. After all, it’s a pretty fair bet that people will be talking about this for some time to come – how often do you hear about something as blatantly weird as this?
On one hand, it does seem cut and dry. The independent Majestic Studios used locales from existing games for their own game, Limbo of the Lost - 3D areas translated into 2D click and point adventure backdrops, presumably by simply taking screenshots. Screenshots from games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Thief: Deadly Shadows, Diablo II, Unreal Tournament 2004, Unreal Tournament 2003, Crysis, Silent Hill 4: The Room, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, World of Warcraft, Painkiller, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines and hell, probably more too.
It’s a pretty straightforward case of plagiarism, and copyright infringement. It’s absolutely no shock that US publisher Tri Synergy pulled the game from release within days of the accusations hitting news sites and forums. Majestic recently responded themselves, calling the “notification that some alleged unauthorized copyrighted materials submitted by sources external to the development team have been found” within the game “shocking”. It’s a pretty meaningless and weak rebuttal.
But, there’s something oddly endearing about the company’s naïveté.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to defend it. It just feels more dense than insidious. Even their response is amusing: “Uh…wasn’t me.” Who would honestly believe that this kind of thing would go unnoticed in 2008? It’s like Ernest Goes To Digipen or something, except that they’re British, so maybe it’s more like Carry On Game Developers.
Still, even with that dimwit appeal, you’ve got to really feel for the people wrapped up in this. Majestic will never produce another game – that’s a given. But what happens to the credibility of Tri Synergy? What happens to the credibility of composer Marko Hautamäki, who worked to produce music for the game as a freelancer, and had no knowledge of the way that the game was being developed?
Already, he’s been under fire: guilt by association. “I have seen my name mentioned in several internet discussion forums,” he noted in a recent press release, “and there has been speculation about if the game contains stolen music but so far that has not been proven one way or another.” While Hautamäki didn’t produce every piece of music used in the game, he adds that he “can 100% guarantee everything” he worked on is original, offering the files on his website for scrutiny.
In order to work through his side of the story in more detail, I contacted Hautamäki, and asked about his experiences working with Majestic, and what this could mean for the future of his career as a composer.