Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Naughty Dog Lives Up to Its Name

Someone got caught with their hand in the cookie jar ... twice.

Even though I haven't played The Last of Us, it's a game that I have a certain interest in. Part of the reason was due to something that I've already commented upon, that being the near universal praise from the professional game journalism circuit that it received. While I'm sure that discussion is still ongoing regarding the perceived over or under inflation of those reviews, that's not what I'm writing about today.

Since the game has come out there have been concerns, some more tangible than others, over the possibility of a tiny bit of plagiarism here and there. The one that everyone is talking about right now is also admittedly one that's not exactly new; that being the resemblance of the game's female protagonist, Ellie, to one Ellen Page.

The actress herself commented on the close proximity of the design to her face, saying "I guess I should be flattered that they ripped off my likeness ... but I am actually acting in a video game called Beyond Two Souls, so it was not appreciated." Although it certainly doesn't help that the character's name is very close to Ellen's as well, it should be noted that this resemblance is something that is still present even after the character was redesigned:

That image comes courtesy of this Kotaku article, which I should mention was written over a year ago at this point. If the new design is reminiscent of Ellen's likeness, then you could easily be forgiven for thinking that the old design was almost lifted from a photo of her. Page is, of course, using her likeness in another Sony exclusive game, Beyond: Two Souls, which is why she is less than thrilled that the character still bares a passing likeness to her.

Part of me idly wonders if perhaps resources were shared between Quantic Dream and Naughty Dog, although if that were the case then there probably wouldn't be the slight controversy about this that is emerging now.

In a case of something being far, far more concrete but making fewer waves, looking around one might find that this isn't the only thing that Naughty Dog has been accused of nicking for their game. The second one doesn't make as big of a story though, because what was taken in that case was a copyrighted map of the Boston subway system.

Cameron Booth was less than pleased when someone who was playing the game pointed out the map to him, which upon further inspection was an exact copy of his own work, which Naughty Dog had most decidedly not contacted him for permission to use. Booth's original posting about it (since edited) noted that,  "For a software developer - especially a big developer working on a blockbuster title like this - to casually appropriate someone else's work and incorporate it into their game without any discussion with the owner of that work is completely unacceptable," He also noted that this entire situation was, "... hugely ironic, as the software industry is always complaining about piracy of their work."

Although Booth could have sought legal recourse, it seems that for the most part what he wanted was a modest fee, recognition for his work, and a sincere apology, all things that Naughty Dog seem quite willing to give him if his follow up blog post is any indication:

UPDATE, TUESDAY JUNE 25, 1:00pm: I’ve just spoken with Naughty Dog over the phone in a very constructive conversation. Can’t say more at the moment, but it seems as if matters will be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction shortly. I can say that they do acknowledge their error in using my map and were very apologetic for it. I likewise apologised for my initial vitriolic post. A lot of mutual respect for each other’s creative work.

It's nice to see that this situation has been resolved without the need for a drawn out legal battle, but again I can't help but wonder why Naughty Dog found itself in this situation in the first place. As Booth pointed out, for an industry that is so vocally against piracy of its own products, it is certainly ironic that this would happen. Of course that disregards the fact that some companies cough Zynga cough made their mint from ripping off others. Still, I suppose that if anything it's yet another lesson that these days the Internet with ferret out this kind of thing, so it's best not to do it, intentionally or not, in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. "...that being the resemblance of the game's female protagonist, Ellie, to one Ellen Page."

    Pfft. We wouldn't be having this problem if every game didn't have to have ultra-realistic graphics and brown all year 'round. Where are all my green-haired heroines, blast it?!

    Joking (sure, let's call it that) aside, as much as I would like to say that a matter of samey-looking faces is a non-issue, I've got to admit I can see the problems. Aesthetic similarities aren't going to do anyone any favors, but I wonder if this is going to set the precedent for actors speaking out against their likenesses being used in the future. Then again, if we're going to keep getting generic buzz-cut white dudes, I don't think we'll have a problem for a while yet. Doubly so if leads are put in face-obscuring hoods and/or helmets.

    ...I might be a little bitter when it comes to character design.


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