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Indie darling  J.S. Joust  caught in cloning controversy

Indie darling J.S. Joust caught in cloning controversy Exclusive

May 22, 2012 | By Mike Rose

May 22, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

The latest game from Whale Trail developer Ustwo is causing quite a stir today, due to its stark similarities to Die Gute Fabrik's PlayStation Move-controlled J.S. Joust.

In J.S. Joust, players hold a PS Move controller each, and must try to knock the controller in other players' hands without letting their own controller be nudged out of sync with the music that is currently playing.

Ustwo's Papa Quash features a similar concept, except it is available for iOS devices, and requires players knock the iPod or iPhone in the hands of other players. The revelation has caused outrage on Twitter, with people calling it a clone and displaying disappointment in the studio.

Via the Twitter hashtag #joustice, indie studio Vlambeer wrote, "Johann Sebastian Joust is amazing & it getting ripped off breaks our hearts," while Metanet Software's Raigan Burns noted, "Cloning only works because most consumers are apathetic and/or ignorant, and some developers are immoral/exploitative/shameless."

However, Ustwo's marketing director Steve Bittan has told Gamasutra that his studio should not take responsibility for the similarities, and that it is down to the person who commissioned the work -- former Big Brother UK contestant Sam Pepper.

"We made the app for Sam Pepper. It's his app. Not ours," said Bittan. "It's not an Ustwo app. It's a Sam Pepper app."

"Papa Quash was a concept from Sam Pepper," he continued. "We told him about J. S. Joust and he emailed them to OK it. After we got that assurance we did service work on it."

"Sam has a typical fan base. Young and into social media," he continued. "We asked him to reach out to J. S. Joust and explain his concept which he did. We had assurance everything was ok."

The game was meant to be uploaded to the App Store via Pepper's own account rather than Ustwo's, however Bittan tells us, "He wanted to launch it and we had issues with his account so went with ours so he could reach out to his fans."

"He is a ex-Big Bro contestant in UK and has a big Twitter and YouTube following. We're in process of getting his account set up," he noted.

As for the cloning allegations, Bittan adds, "We're not into cloning. We genuinely care about what we do and our reputation in the indie community."

He adds, "We're upset about how it's been perceived."

Gamasutra has contacted Die Gute Fabrik to inquire about the conversation between the studio and Pepper, and will update with any new details provided.

[Update: Die Gute Fabrik has posted on Twitter, "We've been getting a lot of inquiries lately. We're working on an official response - hopefully by tonight." The studio added, "Just to be clear, we have never and would never approve, give permission, or encourage anyone to clone of any of our games."]

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