They say imitation is the purest form of flattery. Those of you who are regular visitors to TheSixthAxis will know that we felt a little differently when a Turkish website decided to “imitate” our entire design and layout. You see, imitation might sometimes be designed to flatter but often it’s just designed to profit from someone else’s hard work.
So it was with some shock that I discovered the video for a new AppStore submission called Bunny Dodge by Skylon Games. The premise for that game is to guide a comedic cartoon character left and right along the bottom of the screen, collecting shiny coins as hazards tumble from the sky in a kind of perpetually descending maze through which you must safely navigate your cartoon protagonist.
If that description sounds familiar, it might be because you played this game back when it was developed by Futurlab and released as a PlayStation Minis title called Coconut Dodge. Except you didn’t really because Futurlab has nothing to do with Skylon Games or this near-perfect imitation of Coconut Dodge. That’s right, all evidence suggests that Bunny Dodge is not much more than a reskin of one of our favourite Minis from last year.
Of course, I can’t be certain that Skylon have carefully recreated as much of Coconut Dodge as they thought possible to get away with but it certainly looks like more than a coincidence to me.
Here’s the trailer for Coconut Dodge, released last May as a PlayStation Minis game. Note the way the little guy (he’s called Clawrence) zips about negotiating the falling mazes and collecting shiny obects.
Now, here’s the video of Bunny Dodge, released recently onto the Apple AppStore. Note the way the little guy (I’m calling him Fauxrence) zips about negotiating the falling mazes and… oh, this sentence is almost identical to the one in the previous paragraph. That’s a coincidence, honest.
It’s quite similar isn’t it? I noticed several things which were almost identical while playing the game (which is initially free but sells level packs via in-app purchases!). Among the similarities apparent to my untrained eye were: a few levels which were identical, bouncing balls which pop after a certain number of bounces, maze-slowing ball and a level structure which, if not identical, is extremely similar.
Of course, sometimes the best way to develop something new is to build on the successful foundations laid out by others. That’s how we went from having one first person shooter to having lots, in lots of different sub-genres. There is nothing wrong with studying and emulating someone else’s work in order to learn a bit more about your field and progress your own skills. That’s how creative people feed each other’s creativity and it yields fantastic results for the growth of the medium. But you’re supposed to build on what others have done, not just stop when their blueprint does.
Is this a case of imitation for learning? If so then why has it made it all the way through production and been released? Is it a coincidence? Well, it’s technically possible that this could have happened entirely by chance but the odds against are staggering. Some of the mazes look identical, the programming that goes into that would have to hit the right string of hundreds or thousands of coincidences in order to end up with that result. It would be like tossing a coin a thousand times and always getting heads.
Bunny Dodge does have a couple of unique elements, there’s a kind of levelling system where you can buy plants which benefit your character (including, Coconut Dodge fans may note, a cabbage which bestows invincibility). You can also buy clothes for Fauxrence. It’s not particularly enjoyable and the push notification to tell me to go and do some gardening was actually mildly irritating but at least it’s the beginnings of an original idea. It’s just a shame that it exists alongside so much that is blatantly, shamelessly unoriginal.
Some of you might argue that it’s not so bad because Bunny Dodge is on a completely different platform to Coconut Dodge. That is true but what if Coconut Dodge was making the move to iOS in the future? What if they’d already spent time, manpower and money preparing for an iOS launch, only to have their game so closely imitated and put up there first? They haven’t announced anything but given the nature of Coconut Dodge, it would suit the AppStore perfectly (as Skylon Games clearly agree).
Of course, this isn’t the only case of iOS imitations appearing. The relatively low barrier of entry to develop for that medium is fantastic because of the creativity it allows but it also allows a lot of seemingly lazy development too. This is just one case that struck a particular chord with me, possibly because of our own problems with copyright theft and possibly because I enjoyed Coconut Dodge so much. It’s a single example of a much wider problem which, if left to go unchecked, could ruin the healthy breeding ground that iOS development has fostered.