Game Maker 3rd-party iOS compiler

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Post » Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:05 pm

Hey everyone,

I like to follow news in other game-creator communities, and I noticed an interesting story going on in the Game Maker world. Some third party developers have created (as I understand it) a tool which translates a .gmk file (their save file, equivalent to a Construct .cap) in to a .ios file, which their iOS runtime can run on Apple devices. This irritates them because they wanted to sell their iOS exporter, and the tool effectively does it for free.

You can read about it, and the official response here:
http://gamemakerblog.com/2011/01/04/gam ... ment-92428

The official response by Sandy Duncan basically says copyright prevents you copying any Game Maker software and that decompilation of YoYo Games software is also illegal. Legal threats are made.

Given my experience and repeatedly confirmed knowledge that businesses tend to issue fabricated legal threats against projects that inconvenience their plans in order to shut them down, I'm naturally coming from a skeptical angle. I'm not a lawyer so what follows is simply my (probably flawed) understanding of the situation given my limited understanding of copyright law. But as far as I can see, the decompiler guys aren't doing anything wrong.

For starters, they aren't redistributing any YoYo Games software: their tool translates a .gmk file in to a .ios file. They are not distributing the iOS runner or any part of Game Maker, just an independently written tool (as I understand it), therefore there is no copyright infringement, assuming the source code to the tool is original code. It appears the end-user can download the iOS runner for free, so the decompiler guys don't actually need to redistribute it, so at no point have they given anyone any YoYo Games software. So: no copyright infringement.

Further, they're not actually decompiling anything, so calling them the "decompiler guys" is a bit of a misnomer. They're translating a user's .gmk file in to a .ios file. This does mean reverse-engineering the .gmk file format, but that does not count as decompiling. The decompilation legal clauses Sandy Duncan posted refer to decompiling a software binary - executable code, like the main Game Maker .exe file or the actual runner itself. The "decompiler" doesn't do this, it merely appears to be re-formatting a .gmk file in to a format consumable by the iOS runner. The .gmk file is not copyright to YoYo Games either. If I write a story in Microsoft Word and save it to .docx, that file is copyrighted to me because it's my work, not Microsoft's. Otherwise, Microsoft would own any works produced in Office! The user owns their .gmk file - it's effectively a document - therefore they are free to do what they like with it, e.g. pass it through the "iOS translator" tool. The format of a .gmk file may be a trade secret, but that does not prevent reverse-engineering. If I recall correctly, several years ago OpenOffice were reverse-engineering the then-closed closed Word .doc format, and they were allowed to do so, because unless you have patents, there's nothing stopping you - not copyright, because the file is copyright to the author, i.e. you. I don't believe YoYo Games have any patents for the .gmk file format, and it would be questionable if they did anyway, because that's getting in to anticompetitive territory (Microsoft were forced in to opening the .docx format after attempting this with the .doc format).

In short, YoYo Games have messed up. Their exporter system is badly designed, because it makes this possible. They should have anticipated this in the design stage and mitigated it - it's a tricky problem and probably can't be completely overcome, but they could have done better. To compensate for their mistake they are making up claims about copyright infringement, because generally that works in scaring the small guys in to shutting themselves down.

They should be re-engineering a better exporter, but it's probably cheaper to make legal threats.

A useful analogue might be a free .doc to .pdf converter tool. Microsoft can sell a "Save as .pdf" add-on feature, but the free tool is considered a legal competitor to such a feature. Microsoft can't shut them down, only compete by making their exporter better (e.g. integrating with 'save-as' for better experience, or converting the file more accurately or with more features enabled).

Disclaimer: as I said I'm not a lawyer and I may have an inaccurate view of the situation, so I may be completely and utterly wrong, but I felt the need to wade in because I don't like to see what I perceive to be legal mumbo jumbo used to try and shut down someone working on a legal software project! It happens too often in the world. YoYo Games, if you don't like it, respond by making better software instead!
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Post » Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:54 pm

I'm not sure what the licensing agreement currently is for the actual Game Maker, but even if there was an enforceable law for products made with it, it would only apply to that program itself.
Same goes for the exporter. The implied agreement only works for programs that are purchased from the Yoyo.
If there was no purchase, then there was no agreement.

Its a virtual Pandora's box. Yoyo put the box out there and somebody opened it.
Now they want them to close it even though that's an impossibility.

Frankly they should be looking at this differently, yes they will lose sales of their exporter, but now they will have an even larger market to sell Game Maker to.
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Post » Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:58 pm

YoYo LAMES.

</contribution>
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Post » Wed Jan 05, 2011 9:18 pm

[quote="Sandy Duncan":3axp3mjn]There is no doubt that the people involved are potentially committing a criminal offense...[/quote:3axp3mjn]

Um... If the criminal offense is "potential," as in it may or may not be a criminal offense, then logically speaking there is doubt...

Anyway, Mr. Duncan seems seems like he's just blowing a lot of hot air. From what I can see they don't really have any legal grounds for a lawsuit. They're just upset because they'll be losing money. I'm sure Adobe is upset about FlashDevelop/Flashpunk and the like, but what can they do about it? Not much.

Anyway, it's not going to do anything but hurt GM's reputation further if they continue to pursue this.
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Post » Thu Jan 06, 2011 4:11 am

[quote="Ashley":35dpdwvg]The official response by Sandy Duncan basically says copyright prevents you copying any Game Maker software and that decompilation of YoYo Games software is also illegal. Legal threats are made.[/quote:35dpdwvg]

Wasn't he on "The Hogan Family"?
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Post » Thu Jan 06, 2011 4:26 am

[quote="Caspis Sinclair":r99b0orv]Wasn't he on "The Hogan Family"?[/quote:r99b0orv]
... as well as a one eyed Peter Pan.

.... No relation to deadeye(ASFAIK)
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Post » Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:28 am

I'm no lawyer either, but I don't think scoffing at them is very nice, either (not a comment directed at the topic creator, but more the comments below). What they did was expected, and frankly, it seems perfectly reasonable.

Everyone here probably already knows all of this, but I'll go into it anyway.

As I understand it, Game Maker creates games essentially by attaching the scripts / code people write and all the resources they create to a generic "runner" application that then reads all that code and makes the game go. This is a double edged sword; it makes the games very easy to port from one system to another, since all you need is a runner that runs on that system, but it also leaves "compiled" games wide open for being ripped open to have all the raw assets stolen. This is great for when you've accidentally deleted a source file. And awful for anyone who wants to use Game Maker for any real work.

When YoYoGames took over Game Maker, they had a big task ahead of them - the program needed to be made vastly more profitable to pay for their game hosting service, as well as for support for the registration system and for making future changes /updates to the program. Somehow, YYG needed to monetize the system in a new way, and what they settled on is creating new runners for many different platforms, particularly handheld gaming devices, for which they would become part-time game publishers.

It's actually a pretty good plan, really - with a growing community of people creating and uploading tons of games, there's bound to be something good now and then, and many of Game Maker's users would jump at the chance to take their mostly hobbyist projects into the greater arena of professional, marketable, and profitable gaming.

So that's what they did, and they are halfway into setting up their submission system and getting Game Maker games ported over to iOS and Android, with some games already released for iOS.

Decompilers have always been a problem for the Game Maker community, because it takes control of a game's resources out of the hands of the person who created them. Judging from the opinions voiced above, I'm sure many here will disagree with me, but I think that if someone wants to keep the resources they created for a game (code, images, sounds, etc.) private, that should be their choice. Discussing anything decompiler-related on the Game Maker forums was prohibited, but up until now, decompiling games has been nothing but a tiny thorn in the side of Game Maker users - I doubt that YYG cared much about it at all, before.

Now however, they have a vested interest in keeping the innards of a compiled Game Maker game private - not only can a game's resources be ripped out, but also the attached runner - particularly, the iOS runner, which is not (and will not) be available to the public... because YYG's business model depends on it not being available to the public. How could they remain the sole publisher of Game Maker games on iOS and other platforms if anyone can attach a rogue iOS runner to their code and instantly have an iOS game?

One thing that YYG has always maintained since they took over (and added a shiny new EULA to Game Maker) was that the resources of a game are the creator's property, but everything else, including the runner, remain theirs. This means that reverse engineering a Game Maker game, ripping out the runner, and then distributing it is illegal, because it's not yours to distribute. I know that the internet community generally scoffs the at the idea of intellectual property, but when you consider that their entire business is on the line, can you blame them for being defensive about it?

I have no doubts that they are quite serious with their legal threats; they are reasonable and completely easy to prove if anyone gets caught trying to submit a rogue Game Maker game to the app store. What's funny is that even if YYG couldn't work out something with Apple to block any non-official use of the GM iOS runner, they could use the same decompiler to find games that use it, and from there, it would be easy to get the app taken down and the revenue stream forked or stopped.

Obviously, there's not much they can do about random people online trading homebrew iOS games made with Game Maker and the decompiler / recompiler, but I don't think anyone should consider actually using it for a commercial project - because the law is indeed on YYG's side, and as long as they have the money to do so, I am sure they will do what they can to keep that from happening.

Whew - hell of a first post for me. I'm not trying to make anyone mad, troll, etc. here - I'm just giving you my take as someone who's been using Game Maker for about a decade, and who spends a fair amount of time on the official forum. Cheers guys. :D
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Post » Thu Jan 06, 2011 10:12 am

hello everyone,

It has been an age since I have wrote anything (but I always read the forums) but respectfully I would like to disagree with the poster above. First of all I must state that I am not a lawyer (Is anyone on this site one?) but I have read up/ researched copyright law for certain assignments I have done in the past. In an attempt to keep this post short I wont go into detail unless someone insists, but my understanding of copyright law is to protect intellectual endeavour rather than the idea. For example, if someone created a Doom like game and called it "devil spank" and this game had similar characters, similar layout similar bosses etc, but could demonstrate that it was his own work and had not stolen any assets from doom then, it is likely that no copyright infringement has occurred. Even is the basic storyline is very similar, if the similarity is at such a high abstract level then courts will probably not convict as the case between the person who wrote the da vinci code and the story he guy who was suing him (Google it if you want to know more) demontrates. Basicly the judge agreed the book was probably copied but because it was only the general storyline he could not find in his favour. So back to our doom example, if someone had used ids engine without permission then that would be enough proof for a conviction. Anything else would be harder to prove.

So if someone has wrote a translating tool that has not used any code from YYG then I see no copy right infringement. Even if they have, if they can argue that they have independently wrote the code and it is coincidence that the code is similar, then the law allows for that. I would assume that if you are writing a program that translates from one format to another it is likely that two competent programmers would tackle it in a similar way (Ashley could you comment on this because I am not a programmer).

So unfortunately the law is not on YYG side. They would have to jump some very high hurdles to get a conviction. High hurdles means lots of time preparing the case and lots of solicitors costs with no guarantee of conviction.

Again let me put this disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, this is my understanding of it, so if a proper solicitor decides to comment defer to his opinion.
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Post » Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:52 am

[quote:3dtpz5jw]Is anyone on this site one?[/quote:3dtpz5jw]

where's Rich?
He would probably know about this
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Post » Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:20 pm

[quote="abhilash2863":32awfch3]where's Rich?[/quote:32awfch3]

He was eaten by a goose.
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