我最近在App Store评价了《Plague Inc.,》这款有趣的流行病模拟游戏。在评价生成之后，有数人马上在评论中指出它与另一款名为《Pandemic 2.5》（早发布一个月）的iOS游戏颇具相似之处。《Pandemic》开媎 甚至在Twitter上@我，声称《Plague Inc.,》是自身产品的剽窃之作。
这真的公平吗？《Pandemic 2.5》开发商Dark Realm Studios至少从2008年就开始面向网络创造病毒和流行病模拟游戏。这是否意味着他们就拥有任何流行病模拟游戏的所有权？就算法律上没有优势，至少也占据了道德至高点？或者说这里的问题在于《Plague Inc.,》从《Pandemic》玩法借鉴了一点灵感？
重要的是永远不要忘了，万物都是合成物。尤其在今天，合成物与模因主导着我们的流行文化。也许没有比《Minecraft》大获成功更好的例子了。Mojang这款杰出的独立游戏之作衍生了大量克隆游戏。《Terraria》是一款2D版《Minecraft》外加《Castlevania》的游戏。《Ace of Spades》是一款融合《Minecraft》与《军团要塞2》的游戏。《StarForge》融合了《Minecraft》与科幻射击游戏《光晕》。
在App Store，没有哪款克隆游戏会比Rovio热作《愤怒的小鸟》更有名了，据称该游戏大量借鉴了Armorgames之作《Crush the Castle》的灵感。有关两者的对比在各大知名网站，在IGN评论中随处可见。
值得注意的是，《Crush the Castle》本身就与《Castle Clout》极为相似（记住，万物都是合成的）。这两者之间有许多差异，不仅仅是《愤怒的小》采用的是弹弓，而《Crush the Caslte》采用的是抛石机。抛石机需要两次点击以及准确的时机。弹弓需要细微的调整，并且只需要一次快速操作。换句话说，《愤怒的小鸟》更具易用性，更适合休闲玩家打发时间。再加上小鸟的独特个性（彩色小鸟比枯燥的岩石更令人印象深刻），我们不难看出为何一者成了热作，而另一款游戏却陷入沉寂，尽管它们表面上都具有相似性。
回到之前关于《Plague Inc.,》的话题。这是Dark Realm始于《Pandemic》的明智进化理念吗？还是说它只是App Store中不计其数的克隆游戏之一？我的观点是Ndemic Creation的这款游戏还处于安全区域。不可否认它确实与《Pandemic》具有相似性，但也不能否认它在这款病毒传播游戏基础上进行了提升。
我最初是因为强大的用户界面而被《Plague Inc.,》所吸引。玩家在游戏中可以通过三种风格的技能树发展自己的疾病——症候、抵抗力和传播方法。它在《Pandemic》普通的菜单上进行了明显优化，《Plague Inc.,》进行了更小但却很重要的调整。游戏玩家可以选择要从哪个国家开始传播疾病，而不是被迫进行选择。他们也可以从8种疾病中做出选择，而不仅局限于3种疾病。
在许多方面这种对比对Dark Relm和《Pandemic》并不公平。《Plague Inc.,》问世更晚，进行了一些小调整，又凭借另一家小型开发商掀起的疾病传播游戏的成功大潮进入市场。目前《Plague Inc.,》在整个App Store应用销售榜单排名第二，仅次于《Temple Run:Brave》。而《Pandemic》在所有榜单上却仅位列第150名。从整个App Store来看，《Plague Inc.,》销量比许多模仿游戏多了2倍。
无论公平与否，我都乐见Dark Realm在App Store而非Twitter上为自己而战。竞争催生创新和卓越。Dark Realm应该推出更多功能和选择，持续更新《Pandemic》。或者推出杀手级的续作。
How Copycats Built the Video Game Industry
by Justin Davis
I recently reviewed Plague Inc., a fun (albeit simple) pandemic simulator out now on the App Store. Immediately after the review went live several people noted in the comments that the game bore more than a passing resemblance to an iOS game called Pandemic 2.5, released a month earlier. Pandemic’s developer even weighed in on Twitter, telling me that Plague Inc. is an attempt to cash-in on its product.
But is that really fair? Pandemic 2.5 developer Dark Realm Studios has been making virus and plague simulators for the web since at least 2008. Does this mean they own the rights to any and all pandemic simulators? If not legally then perhaps ethically? Or is the issue that Plague Inc. takes a little too much gameplay inspiration from Pandemic?
My general stance is to err on the side of the clones. This is not a popular opinion. But these “clones” are often how entire genres are born! Without generous copying we wouldn’t have tower defense titles, or a thriving MOBA scene including games like Valve’s Dota 2 and Riot’s League of Legends.
Are pandemic simulators, where the goal is to wipe out humanity with the most ruthless virus possible, the next big genre? Probably not. But if studios are allowed and encouraged to grow and iterate on Dark Realm’s initial idea, some very cool video games could be the result nonetheless.
Everything is a Remix
It’s important to never forget that everything is a remix. Especially today. Remixes and memes drive our popular culture. There is probably no better recent example than the extreme success of Minecraft. Mojang’s incredible indie hit has already spawned dozens of clones. Terraria is 2D Minecraft combined with Castlevania. Ace of Spades is Minecraft mashed-up with Team Fortress 2.
StarForge remixes Minecraft with sci-fi shooting reminiscent of Halo.
It’s true that for every smart evolution of Minecraft’s basic premise there are plenty of shameless copies. Games that aim to do nothing more than piggyback on Minecraft’s success without actually adding anything to the sandbox building genre. But even some of these clones end up innovating. Games like Eden on the App Store started life as very close Minecraft copies but have since diverged and in some ways improved on their source material. And of course many gamers that point the finger at Minecraft’s copies often gloss over the fact that Minecraft itself was heavily inspired by Infiniminer.
None of this is shocking or new to followers of video games or pop culture in general. For three years following the release of id Software’s groundbreaking shooter Doom, virtually every subsequent shooter was referred to as a “Doom clone,” regardless of how much it actually borrowed from the Romero/Carmack hit. Of course, most shooters of that era did copy heavily from Doom – the label was usually well-earned. But as the genre continued to grow and become more diverse, the term “first person shooter” rapidly increased in usage. Now no one thinks of games like Halo, Call of Duty or Killzone as Doom clones. The genre evolved. It grew up.
“Doom clone” vs. “first person shooter” courtesy of Wikipedia
On the App Store no example of game cloning is more well-known than Rovio supposedly cribbing heavily from Armorgames’ Crush the Castle when designing Angry Birds. The comparison comes up in the lede of well-known gaming sites, in IGN comments… all over the internet.
Nevermind the fact that Crush the Castle is itself a very close copy of Castle Clout (remember, everything is a remix). There are many non-trivial differences between the two titles, not the least of which is Angry Birds’ slingshot vs. Crush the Castle’s trebuchet. Trebuchets require two clicks and precise timing. Slingshots allow for small corrections and only require a single quick motion. In other words, Angry Birds is much more accessible and casual-friendly right from the get-go. Combined with the birds’ big personalities (colorful squawking birds are much more memorable than boring boulders) and it’s easy to see why one game became a big hit while the other didn’t, despite their surface-level similarities.
Of course the issue is even cloudier when it’s an already-big company borrowing from the little guy. Zynga’s critics contend that the company’s entire multi-billion dollar social gaming empire is built on a business model of waiting for a small company to come up with an idea that works and then co-opting it. But as a game player or a critic, should this matter? If a team of 53 improves on an idea created by a team of 3, do gamers have an obligation to support the little guy, or should they just play the more polished experience, period?
The bottom line is that not all clones and copies are created equal. Some push genres forward, while others are created by greedy opportunists. But both always follow success, and always will.
But back to Plague Inc. Is it a smart evolution of ideas Dark Realm started in Pandemic? Or is it the latest in a long line of audacious App Store clones? My opinion is that Ndemic Creation’s title is firmly in safe territory. There’s no denying that it bears a close resemblance to Pandemic, but there is also no denying that it improves on that basic disease-spreading premise.
I was initially drawn to Plague Inc. due to its strong user interface. Players evolve their disease from three stylish branching skill trees - symptoms, resistances and transmission methods. This is a clear improvement over Pandemic’s plain menus. Plague Inc. makes more small (but important) tweaks as well. Gamers get to choose which country to start their disease in, instead of having one chosen for them. They have eight disease types to choose from as well, instead of just three.
In a lot of ways this comparison isn’t fair to Dark Realm and Pandemic. Plague Inc. comes out afterwards, makes a few small tweaks, and then gets to ride the wave of disease-spreading success that another small developer kicked off. Right now Plague Inc. is the #2 selling app in the entire App Store, behind only Temple Run: Brave. Pandemic 2.5 is #150 on the overall charts. Based on overall App Store ratings, it now appears that Plague Inc. has sold around 2X as many cumulative copies.
Fair or not, I would like to see Dark Realm compete on the App Store itself and not on Twitter. Competition breeds innovation and excellence. Dark Realm should keep updating Pandemic with more features and options. Or get to work on a killer sequel.
Right now if gamers ask me for a single pathogen-spreading game for their iPhone it has to be Plague Inc. But I don’t want that to forever be my answer. I want to see new remixes. New ideas. New evolutions.（source：ign）