We normally try to avoid political discussion down at the We Got This Covered bunker (mostly over a horrible disagreement that currently has us at war with a hyper-intelligent race of ferrets), but every so often, something comes up that we have to touch upon.
Kickstarter has been a hot bed for video games ever since Double Fine was able to fully fund its project a few weeks back. In this most recent case, programmer Daniel Williams turned to the masses to fuel his dream project, a Ron Paul video game. While this at its surface is a somewhat admirable thing, somebody that invested in a candidate and thinks he found a format to help him, the true story is much more diabolical. The truth is that Daniel is simply a guy who likes Ron Paul and has access to a basic tutorial on game creation. He was just lucky enough to convince people to give him nearly $10,000. One way to look at this is that Paul supporters are getting a nice taste of the “free market” they support; a shoddy product with work ripped off from others.
The official mission statement for Williams’ Ron Paul: The Road To Revolution Kickstarter stated that
The Road to REVOLution is a sidescrolling platformer action/adventure game, reminiscent of console classics like Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog. You play the role of Ron Paul and make your way across all 50 states collecting Gold (sound money) and Delegates. The game is full of original artwork and gameplay mechanics. Indie Game Development at its finest, the game is designed, programmed, conceived, and produced by me, D.S. Williams.
The reason that this is a big deal is that Williams isn’t filling those promises remotely. Since Williams was polite (read: foolish) enough to have open directories on his server, allowing anyone to access his source code, the Internet wanted to see exactly where all that money had been going. The results were a bit less than impressive. In fact, they’re embarrassing.
Williams has been following this tutorial,taking him through how to create a video game step-by-step. Now, before you rush to defend him, this isn’t someone trying to learn how to program. This isn’t even someone just seeing if he can put it together. This is someone who sold a product on the basis of creating something new, when in fact he is essentially copying and pasting directly from a tutorial. Williams is blatantly attempting to pass off everything he’s taking from other people as his own work (without having the courtesy of removing the original author’s watermarks.) Maybe I just don’t understand the free market, but this screams theft to me.
But wait! There’s more!
Not only is the coding ripped off other people, but the “original artwork” is also stolen. Looking at the screenshot below. It’s outright obvious to anyone paying attention.
The mob scene itself has been directly lifted from Earthbound (although he did at least have the artistic vision to give them signs.) The Ron Paul sprite is a badly recolored Walugi sprite from the sprite sheet conveniently left among the source code, which ironically enough reads, “100% custom made by NO Body (NO Body the Dragon) and this time GIVE CREDIT.” I suppose Williams couldn’t be bothered with that. And, to complete the trifecta of intellectual property theft, the monster is a recolored Monstar from Braid.
Williams has been quick to defend himself, claiming that this is a rough draft, however that excuse doesn’t hold water. While I will accept that the Earthbound mob is probably a place holder, the other sprites have had an impressive amount of work done in order to cover up the theft. At this point, if he were to be switching out stolen property for his own intellectual ideas, he would essentially be rewriting the entire game.
David Williams has done something with this project that I haven’t been able to do for months: prove that Ron Paul supporters will buy into anything with his name on it regardless of whether or not they understand it. As a final sign off, I’m going to quote Williams one more time:
“Indie Gaming, I hope, will thrive in the face of dull, spiritless, cloned, big-budget games.”
I couldn’t have said it any better.
Special thanks to our friends at Something Awful for their awesome investigative journalism.