Please read the older news to understand this post
No news about game development in this post unfortunately ! With how much attention my trademark issue with inXile Entertainment has recently taken, I would like to give more explanations about my exchange with them about the title of the game, to clear up the situation.
Despite what they said, I would not call the way how inXile reached me to be 'friendly'. When someone drops you an email "You may not be aware but wasteland is a registered trademark so The Alien Wasteland from a licensing perspective is no different from the Alien Call of Duty or something similar, and is infringing on our trademark", the first impression wasn't really sympathy but why someone would bother me for using a such word used to describe an environment, like desert, forest or mountains ?!
The purpose of a trademark is to prevent someone from maliciously using a brand in order to create confusion and trick consumers into buying a product thinking it was another one. I have been starting to spend a lot of time writing emails to explain them that Wasteland 2 is a post-apocalyptic turn-based role playing game with a top view, while my game The Alien Wasteland is an action first person shooter with destructible environments featuring aliens. Just looking at the logo artwork of each game is enough to see that there aren't any attempts to mislead consumers.
I though it would be enough to show them that there were no worries about this, but all these efforts were useless since every replies I received from them were just standing around the same point "US trademark law dictates that if a company (us) does not defend their mark, they stand risk of losing it or losing the right to defend against malicious use down" and implying the use of lawyer. This would make the first 'friendly email' more of a 'friendly cease and desist email'.
Despite their claims to look for an amicable solution, no clear offers was ever made in their emails, they just sent me a blog post of Vlambeer's game 'Nuclear Throne' where Vlambeer announces that he is changing the name of his game originally called Wasteland Kings due to a trademark conflict with inXile. I had to find out later in the comments that it was in exchange of a short media coverage from inXile in their social networks.
Changing the name of a game may not be an issue when it is still in development like it was the case with Vlambeer, but it is much more difficult to change it when it is known for years. It makes loosing all the referencing on search engines, then requires building it all over again with a new name, editing every text and graphic asset containing the title, which is including many graphic assets inside the game itself but also the multiple ones on Steam, Indie Gala Store, Indie Game Stand, Itchio, IndieDB, Facebook, Twitter, etc... on the trailer, on the Steam trading cards, etc... and also taking the risk to have the title change badly interpreted by the public. This is a hard and long work for a supposed trademark infringement which was looking quite insane to me, especially when I was already extremely busy with game development.
But arguing was going nowhere because of the "US trademark law dictates" reason, I had pretty much no choice but to change the title to cease the annoyance. So I have been thinking about a solution which would be a real win-win solution instead of a 'friendly' win-lose solution. I offered to change the name of the game on Steam and do as much as I could to change it everywhere else in exchange of a compensation to help me cover all the costs and the time involved into this painful process. Let me clear it up that the compensation I asked is absolutely nothing compared to the millions of US dollars inXile has earned through their kickstarter campaigns and sales on Steam.
Awaiting for their feedbacks about this offer, not even a single reply or attempt to negotiate was ever sent, despite they have been claiming since the beginning to be looking for an amicable solution. Instead I received a cease and desist letter from their lawyer asking not only to "cease the use of the 'wasteland' mark", but to completely "cease making available in any form or any website The Alien Wasteland game", and that "inXile reserve its rights with respect to your use of the mark, including its right to seek damages, lost profits, your profits, injunctive relief, attorneys' fees and costs, and treble damages, as authorized by the Federal Lanham Act and state law."
The initial version of my game was basically a shooter featuring aliens on a wasteland, hence why I found the title 'The Alien Wasteland' to be fitting to the game. Before choosing this title, I have been searching for a while on Steam and the Internet to make sure no games was titled 'The Alien Wasteland'. The full title since the beginning has always been 'The Alien Wasteland' with a 'The' in order to make it even more distinct. I never thought there could have been any issues with inXile's RPG Wasteland 2.
Last but not least, during my exchange of emails with inXile, I had to send them a list of games using 'wasteland' in their titles. While they had their reasons to not pursue most of them, they have let me know that they are considering one game of the list is infringing their trademark the same way as mine. I wouldn't name this game to not put the developer behind it or inXile in an even more uncomfortable situation, but if inXile is really following its logic of "US trademark law dictates", then a cease and desist letter should be sent soon to another indie developer, if not already.
So this is pretty much all I have to say about this issue for now. Thanks for reading and to everyone who offered me some legal help.
UPDATE 13 September 2016 : I finally decided to throw up the list of all games and games-related things I could find which have "wasteland" in their names :
- Fallout 4 Wasteland Workshops : http://fallout.wikia.com/wiki/Wasteland_Workshop
- Wasteland Angel : http://store.steampowered.com/app/46520/
- Wasteland Bar-Fight : http://wbf.kybernesis.com
- Wasteland Game Studio : http://www.wastelandgamestudio.com/
- The Waste Land : http://store.steampowered.com/app/316970/
- A3Wasteland : http://a3wasteland.com
- Call of Ctuhulhu: The Wasted Land : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_of_Cthulhu:_The_Wasted_Land
- Wild Wasteland : http://www.kongregate.com/games/kashur/wild-wasteland
- Project Wasteland : http://armorgames.com/play/7203/project-wasteland-0
- Wasteland Siege : http://www.miniclip.com/games/wasteland-siege/en/
- Motor Wars Wasteland : http://www.martiangames.com/index.php?params=game/542/Motor-Wars-Wasteland/
- Wasteland Jumper : http://www.gamesfreak.net/games/Wasteland-Jumper_5652.html
- Tony Hawk's American Wasteland : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Hawk's_American_Wasteland
- Wasteland Gaming : http://www.thewastelandgaming.com/ ...
All these games are infringing Inxile trademarks right ? So following this logic, what are they waiting to "friendly" contact all these people and send them some cease-and-desist letters ? Rubbish...
Adding of the survival mode !
In the last update, one of the main feature which has been added was the perk system and the upgraded weapons unlockable with points earned when defeating aliens. To make this feature even more enjoyable, 2 maps with a survival game mode have now been added to the game !
These 2 maps are different from the previous ones in the way that the goal is no more to find and collect some items or complete some objectives, but instead it is to hold on against an endless stream of aliens for as long as possible to achieve the maximum score !
Unlocking perks and upgraded weapons will have all it's sense here since firing explosive ammo with the ability of making high jumps will obviously help you to survive longer !
These new maps are set in a similar environment as the previous one, and are of course fully destructible ! They are however smaller in order to concentrate the action in few hotspots.
Thanks to the help of a Steam user, with this update the game can now also be played with a xbox-like controller ! This will give a different gameplay experience compared to the classic mouse/keyboard combo. Also, a bunch of bug fixes and overall optimisations were made.
Changing the title of the game from The Alien Wasteland to Action Alien
Otherwise, an important thing you may have noticed is that the title of the game has changed from The Alien Wasteland to Action Alien. The reason behind this is simple ; a developer from inXile Entertainment, the company which released the RPG Wasteland 2 has contacted me claiming that titling my game "The Alien Wasteland" was an infringement to their trademark "Wasteland".
Because both games have almost nothing in common and no case of confusion was ever reported for almost two years since my game was first announced, I have calmly explained through long emails why we should have no worries about this. But I finally ended up receiving a cease and desist letter from their lawyer asking to either stop using "wasteland" or to prepare facing legal actions against me.
Since I don't have the time nor the strength to deal with legal actions from this developer and its lawyers, or even taking the risk of having my game to be taken down from Steam, I decided to change the title to solve this issue, even though this has been a great loss in time and efforts for a very questionable complaint.
So I decided to choose for the new title Action Alien, which gives a good idea of what the game is about ! This is just one of the many headaches in game development, but at least the game is now much more complete with this update !
Thanks for reading.
UPDATE - 05 MAY 2016 Since my trademark issue with inXile Entertainment has been taking much more attention than I thought, I have written a more detailed post about my exchange with them to clarify the situation : http://www.indiedb.com/games/the-alien-wasteland/news/regarding-the-trademark-issue-with-inxile-entertainment
With the idea of extending the playability of the game, I have added many features that will enhance the overall gameplay and make the game more integrated into Steam !
Here are the main features coming with this update :
About 19 Steam achievements were added and are now unlockable ! These achievements vary from making distinguished actions during combats to completing levels and killing a number of aliens in a specific manner like with grenades or leg kicks, etc...
The game has now 6 trading cards on Steam which will unlock many backgrounds related to the game to customize an user profile on Steam, as well as many emoticons usable on the forums. There are also 6 different badges starting from "Armed Hitchhiker" to "Legend of the Wasteland" !
Now each time you play and manage to defeat some aliens, you will earn at the end of the game an amount of points based on your actions during combats. Then with these points, you can increase from the menu your health, speed, jumps, melee kicks, etc... up to 3 levels making it possible to beat larger hordes of aliens !
With these same points, you can also unlock more powerful versions of the weapons of the game. There are 2 unlockable levels for each weapon, the first being the "upgraded" version and the second being the "golden" version. Upgraded weapons often consist of simply greater magazines, fire rates and damages, but golden weapons can have some real powerful abilities like the golden shotgun firing a large amount of explosive shrapnel or the golden grenade launcher firing multiples grenades in one shot !
All these progress will be saved on the Steam cloud when you are online so if you change your computer or if your HDD had an issue the progress won't be lost !
All these features will be of course improved over the time !
So it's pretty much all for this update, apart of some minor fixes and some improvements for the menu, the website has also been updated too.
What is now coming next is a bunch of small maps with a new game mode named "Survival", where the goal consist of resisting as long as possible against waves of aliens by using the increased perks and the new powerful unlockable weapons !
This next update should come soon.
Thanks for reading.
After adding the wasteland map in the last update, I decided to work back on the tropical island map to improve its graphics and on the initial map of the game which required redesigning to fit the new gameplay.
The main work on the tropical island map was to add more foliages and more types of plants while keeping a good frame rate. This has required a lot of optimisation for the assets. Foliage collisions were also an issue since AIs were consuming a lot of UC to generate paths but hopefully, I managed to fix it by creating a smart collision system !
I have of course re-used all these optimisations and improvements for the wasteland map. Along as adding more details, I have also added more weapons and grenades to make them more easy to find during combats. I have also fixed AI paths so the aliens move more smoothly over the buildings and their environments.
There was also a lot of improvements on the destruction system of the game. The destruction of buildings and environments in the game is now more realistic, with sounds and particles effects. Some walls can be broken by any aliens while some others can only be broken by big aliens or with explosives. It is now also possible to tweak with the settings in the menu the complexity of the destruction such as how much chunks to spawn.
You can also watch the new trailer I uploaded to see some in-game action.
This is pretty much all for this update and the game contains now 3 large open-area maps, each one guided in a narrative style with subtitles and story progress ! However it is not over yet since more maps and content will be added with the next updates I am preparing for The Alien Wasteland !
Thanks for reading.