Streets of Rage Remake: 8 Years in the Making, 1 Week in the Ceasing and Desisting

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Matt Barton's picture

Streets of LitigationStreets of LitigationThis is a story that's sure to get you upset if you're a fan of remakes: Streets of Rage Fan Remake Taken Down At Sega's Request. It looks like the developer (Bomber Games) really went all-out, adding a HUGE amount of new material. Unfortunately, it all came down immediately after goons at SEGA sent them the old C&D. I came across this news via Rampant Coyote, who has a strong position on the issue--why put all that effort into a risky venture when you obviously have what it takes to make an original title?

I know where Jay's coming from here (and I'm sure Bill agrees 100%). However, it flies in the face of what Henry Jenkins argues in Convergence Culture. This is exactly the kind of project by hardcore fans that SEGA needs to woo and celebrate, not alienate and piss off. You'd think a games company would be more forward-thinking than the knee-jerk reaction over IP, but there ya go. Maybe there's something about wearing a suit all the time that impedes the flow of oxygen to your brain.

But Jay's point still stands: Why put all that effort and energy into a product whose company will fight you instead of support you?

Unfortunately, love is not a rational thing. We don't fall in love with the "nice girl" or "nice boy" our parents think we should. These guys obviously loved Streets of Rage (a game I personally don't give a flying shit about) in ways that I can't appreciate. I'm pretty sure they represent a decent chunk of the game's hardcore fanbase; the sort of people who get so excited about it that they get other people involved. They're probably the same guys who would punch you in the face if you said Double Dragon was way better.

Imagine that you're selling lemon aid at a lemon aid stand. You have a fairly steady flow of customers; most of them buy from you once or twice and never again. Let's say those represent 20% of your sales. But there is a small group who LOVE and ADORE your product, and end up buying 80% of what you sell. Now imagine that some of them are so excited they tell everybody they know about you. They make websites, t-shirts, whatever. They're obsessed with your lemon aid. Sales go up, and up.

But suddenly you decide those guys love you a little TOO much, so you tell them to please go away and NEVER buy from you ever again. Don't ever even say the word "lemon aid" again. Or you'll send the local gang of thugs out to their house to beat them up and break all their stuff. Maybe you even throw some dirt in their face to teach them a lesson.

Is that good business? Of course! Just ask one of Sega's lawyers.

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Bill Loguidice
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I do agree 100% with Rampant

I do agree 100% with Rampant Coyote on this one, as you suspected. Sega is alive and well and re-releasing their classic properties all the time, Streets of Rage included. Why in God's Green Earth would the developers think it would be OK to do this? Are they living in some alternate reality where it's share and share alike? A few MINOR tweaks here and there and lo and behold, you have an original, non-infringing title. I just don't get it. The love/homage angle is fine, but there are simple ways to do that without infringing. Geez, brilliant in one area and moronic in another...

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Matt Barton
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Check before Eight Years of Work

I think that most of these amateur developers assume (probably rightfully) that asking permission beforehand will get them a form letter rejection (and perhaps, worse, draw the attention of the authorities), or no response at all. They're probably hoping that once it's out there, enough people will get hold of it to keep it spreading despite the company's efforts to squash it. It's that conundrum we see in other areas, such as the field commander who always asks his superiors for permission to do something new. Of course the answer is always NO. His only opportunity is to not ask, do it anyway, and hope for a good outcome. If it's successful, he's promoted. If he's not, he's court martialed. And so it goes.

I had an idea a few months ago to make a game based on the old Wheeled Warriors toys. I was able to find a website form for asking permission to use their IP. If and when I ever get to the point where it's a possibility to do a good game like that, I might fill it out and see what happens. I'm guessing they'll either reject it outright, try to charge me a huge amount of money, or give me the runaround (most likely). I've got a great interview coming up on Matt Chat with Jeff of Darkstar and his runaround with the band RUSH. It just makes you want to gag how these big corporations are so duplicitous and even dishonest.

I'm of the opinion that people should have the RIGHT--not privilege--to do creative works based on existing copyrighted works. I'm not saying everything is acceptable, of course. It has to differ significantly from the original to the point where it's not just a clone. It must be clearly labelled so no one will possibly get confused about what it is or who made it. It also has to be free and not compete financially with the original in any demonstrable way. I don't think it should matter if the remake disparages or makes the creators look bad; that's freedom of speech as far as I'm concerned. I'm thinking here of thinks like fan fiction where the characters turn out to deviants or whatever.

I haven't played this remake or the original enough to really be credible here, but just from looking at what I've seen it does appear to represent a pretty solid competition for the original (which is apparently still being sold). If it's a question of whether this remake is a desirable alternative to buying the original, that's wrong in my opinion.

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gilgamesh (not verified)
I don't know whether the

I don't know whether the ratio is actually that bad. I am under the impression that the games industry has become more lenient toward the fans lately. Maybe there is a change of attitude in the beginning. Think of The Silver Lining, the Nuka Break fan film etc. LucasArts pulled the plug on LucasFanGames (oh no), but left Zak BTAS alone so far. It's always a risky gamble, though.

Chris Kennedy
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Not surprised

I'm still trying to figure out why they thought a fan remake like this was going to get an OK from Sega.

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Carmine
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Joined: 09/05/2010
I'm all for sticking it to

I'm all for sticking it to the man but an IP is an IP. If you love a creation, be inspired by and make your own new creation. If you want to update a masterpiece because nobody else is, then you simply have to make alterations to make it your own OR get the license to do it. Why didn't they just make a side-scrolling beat-em-up that was slightly different? That's one of the reasons we have the term 'spiritual successor' right? 8 years? At this point could they just change it enough and release it under a different name?

Matt Barton
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I think you guys are missing

I think you guys are missing the point, misguided though it may be. They loved Streets of Rage, therefore they made a remake of Streets of Rage. If they changed the characters and what-not, it wouldn't be the same. I can appreciate that. Whether it's justifiable is another thing.

What we're basically looking at here is whether this is the equivalent of fan fiction. If you love Harry Potter enough to write fan fiction of it, you don't just get rid of Hogwarts and Dumbledore and change it all up. If you do, it's no longer fan fiction, and that's the point, right? Otherwise, you'd just write regular fiction.

Don't get me wrong; I think this particular example is not valid because it appears to me (and I could be wrong) that this is a viable alternative to buying the original game, which is still being sold. That's not right. I wouldn't have a problem with it if it was doing something different with the characters. Fan fiction doesn't mean just copying word-for-word and adding a few additional chapters. That's NOT what I am advocating. Fan fiction means you take the core elements (characters, back stories, etc.) and take it new directions. It shouldn't compete with the original directly. Indeed, it should add value to the original by expanding the universe.

For instance, I'd have no problem with someone writing a story set in the Star Wars universe. I think they should have a RIGHT to do this, assuming their story isn't sold for money and doesn't copy anything directly. If they want Chewbacca to be in it, that's fine. If they are just copying the script from a movie or existing novel, that's not right. If you get really into Star Wars fan fiction, it doesn't make you not want to see the movies or buy the official books and comics and such. It actually makes you MORE likely to buy them!

It's more difficult with games, but I can imagine a fan fiction equivalent of many. This could be things like Loom 2. Go ahead, use the characters and the idea of musical spells, etc., but set it to different events or another place, and of course don't copy the puzzles. Maybe you're nuts about Myst, so make a game where you play as Sirius or one of the bad guys. Make a new Ultima game. Of course you're going to have Lord British in it and place names and monsters and such, but it shouldn't be a clone and the story shouldn't be the same.

Now if I wanted to make a "fan fiction" version of Street Fighter II, it's more difficult. If you had different characters, it wouldn't be a remake, and if you had different moves, it wouldn't be the same characters. So there I'm kinda stuck. I don't know how you could honestly make a fan remake that wouldn't just be a rip-off.

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Chris Kennedy
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The point
Matt Barton wrote:

I think you guys are missing the point, misguided though it may be. They loved Streets of Rage, therefore they made a remake of Streets of Rage. If they changed the characters and what-not, it wouldn't be the same. I can appreciate that. Whether it's justifiable is another thing.

Well...that's just the thing. They didn't make changes. It appears to be exactly what it claims to be - a remake. A "clone" if you will.

I understand and stand by fan fiction, fan made games - perhaps a sequel to an existing gaming IP, etc. While I do personally love the idea of a Streets of Rage fan remake, I again must say that I hope they weren't surprised when Sega defended their IP.

So to answer your point about what we are looking at - No. I do not believe we are looking at fan fiction at all. In fact, I have to go with your last sentence there, Matt - I don't know how you could honestly make a fan remake that wouldn't just be a rip-off.

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gilgamesh (not verified)
the other way round
Matt Barton wrote:

I wouldn't have a problem with it if it was doing something different with the characters.

It was the other way round with LucasFanGames and ManiacMansion Deluxe. LucasArts were apparently ok with the remake. Problems began when LucasFan started to develop something new based on Indiana Jones.

AGDI got a permission for their KingsQuest remakes, when the unofficial sequel TSL had to deal with two cease and desist letters.

This doesn't make any sense to me.

Rowdy Rob
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Joined: 09/04/2006
Remake, or theft?

I suppose there's a fine line between "fan fiction" and "copyright infringement."

A free, fan-created product can indeed create interest in the commercial product. People who create and/or consume "Star Wars" fan fiction or games are MORE likely to pay for commercial Star Wars products, not less! We know that; we're geeks.... we understand.

But look at the case of "Tetris." It's arguably the best videogame ever conceived, yet the original creator is not sitting on a mountain of gold! It was a commercially-released game, but there are so many freeware clones that there's really no reason at all to purchase Tetris. Most clones do indeed add more optional features, but rarely are they an improvement over the original gameplay.

In the case of the "Streets of Rage" remake, I have played neither the original nor the remake, but it appears to me that it's pretty much a straight clone, with perhaps added levels. There's no incentive to purchase Sega's version if I can get the same game free. That's not adding to the "scene," that's attacking the creator of the "scene!"

I don't have a problem with taking elements of a game to create a whole new experience, because if basic elements of games couldn't inspire other similar games, there wouldn't be a games market. "Wolfenstein 3D" would be the first AND last first-person-shooter you'd ever play, and Space Invaders would be the only SHMUP on the market!

But a straight clone, or one that delivers a very close experience to the original? Yeah, I gotta go with Bill on this one. "The Man" has to eat, too!

clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
Streets of Rage was already a

Streets of Rage was already a copy (Side scroller beat um up), its loved becuase it was a such a good copy, almost arcade good on a home system. But sega at least changed the graphics if not the gameplay. SOR has had a very good following, while its no Sonic, its got a solid following and making a copy of it... i would say duplicate would be more correct has to get in Sega's hackles. Most Fan made stuff that doesn get "foxed" uses known characters in new ways.. SOR remake is ... SOR with more levels... its not new in any way really, it uses the mobs from all the SOR games, it really is sorta a SOR deluxe.

Sega only really stopped them from devolping more.. its all over now so anybody who wants it can get it. As far as I can tell it was basicly done.

I do feel bad for them, its pretty impressive work. But much like taking a great song and remixing it... it might be better but you just cant do that.

I think the real reason its being shut down is it was just released to Phones (SOR games by Sega).

I was one of the guys on the BORG Quake conversion and we where shut down... we had asked for permision and had it (took forever) but it hinged on them revoking it any time. We worked on it almost 2 years.. i think i have mentioned it made it on some PC gamer Cover discs. Well they shut us down just as we where about done. Start Trek Elite Forces came out a few years later.. now I know we didnt push them that way, but I would guess a game like that in the planning stages.. no "fan" made stuff that might muddy the name should be let lose.

As I say its to bad.. really is cuz i can see the time and effort put in.

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