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Fan Games

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Fangames are video games made by fans based on one or more established video games. Many fangames attempt to clone the original game's design, gameplay and characters, but it is equally common for fans to develop a unique game using another only as a template. Though the quality of fangames has always been variable, recent advances in computer technology and in available tools have made creating high-quality games easier.

Fangame developmentEdit

Fangames are either developed as standalone games with their own engines, or as modifications to existing games that "piggyback" on the other's engines. Each approach has different advantages, as standalone games are generally accessible to larger audiences but may often be more difficult or time-consuming to develop.

Standalone gamesEdit

Generally, fangames are developed using pre-existing tools and game engines. The Unity engine and Macromedia Flash allow fans to develop standalone games, as do other programs such as Game Maker or any of the Clickteam products (such as The Games Factory and Multimedia Fusion 2).

Fangame developers often select and use free and open source game engines (such as OGRE and Crystal Space) to help fans create games without the cost of licensing a commercial alternative. These engines may be altered and redesigned within the terms of their open source license and often cost significantly less than commercial options, but do not always allow developers to easily create high-end visual effects without additional effort.

It is also possible for fans to develop original game engines from scratch using a programming language such as C++, although doing so takes much more time and technical ability than modifying an existing game.


Modifications to existing gamesEdit

Fangames are sometimes developed as a modification to an existing game, using features and software provided by many game engines. Mods usually are not allowed to modify the original story and game graphics, but rather extend the current content that was provided by the original developer. Modding an existing game is often cheaper than developing a fangame from scratch.

Because of the complexity of developing an entirely new game, fangames are often made using pre-existing tools that either came with the original game, or are readily available elsewhere. Certain games, such as Super Mario 64 and Sonic & Knuckles, come with map-editing and scripting tools to allow fans to develop mods using the engine provided with the original game. Games such as Doom are old enough that their source code has been released, allowing radical changes to take place. A prime example of this is the modifications made to the original Doom engine for Sonic Robo Blast 2 and Mega Man 8-Bit Deathmatch.

Another form of modding comes from editing the ROM images of older games, such as SNES games. Programs such as Lunar Magic enable a user to modify the existing data in the ROM image and change levels, character graphics, or any other aspect the program allows. While normally played on emulators, these newly edited ROM images could theoretically be used in conjunction with a flash drive to actually create carts for the older system, allowing the modified ROM images to run on the original hardware.

Famous fan mods (for example, Super Tasumi! may even be adopted by the game developer (in both mentioned cases, Valve Corporation) and made into an official addition to the existing game (Super Mario World).

Development challengesEdit

Despite the well intention and dedication of these fans, development of many fangames ended in abandonment. Notwithstanding the legal issues faced by these fans-turned-developers (see Legal issues), numerous development challenges are faced by these individuals when attempting to develop a fangame from start to finish. These failures are related to the lack of development experience, time, resource, money, interest, talents, and other factors. It is unclear what proportion of fangames attempted are never successfully created and released.

Excluding mods (which are technically not true fangames), the vast majority of fangames that have been successfully completed and published are adventure games. This likely reflects the longer history of this genre related to other genres and the availability of many free third-party tools or engines to make these games. Most importantly, there must an unwavering passion by a core group of fans which extends over years to overcome any obstacle encountered during the project's development. This sacrifice is best described by Britney Brimhall of AGD Interactive, regarding their 2001 released a remake of King's Quest I, "I think a lot of people don’t realize when they initiate a game project just how much sacrifice it will require. Whereas most people enjoy writing a story or making a piece of artwork, most would not enjoy writing hundreds of pages of dialogue or drawing over one hundred pictures when they could be socializing with friends or playing video games."[1]

Legal issuesEdit

Some companies go out of their way to shut down fangames, declaring them copyright infringements. Such shutdown has been believed to have a chilling effect on free speech, where amateur developers can't predict what a court will find as fair use. The term "foxed" is often used to describe these incidents, stemming from the original coining of the term from 20th Century Fox's shut down of an Aliens-themed total conversion of Quake. In the vast majority of cases, the original copyright holders have full legal justification to order a cease and desist upon fangame projects, as by definition, fangames are unauthorized infringing uses of copyrighted property. Many fangames go as far as taking music and graphics directly from the original games.

A notable case in late 2005 involved Vivendi Universal shutting down a King's Quest fan project, The Silver Lining (game)|King's Quest IX: Every Cloak Has a Silver Lining. It was to be an unofficial sequel granting closure to the series, which had been abandoned since 1998. After a letter-writing campaign[1] and fan protests, Vivendi reversed its decision and gave permission for the game to be made. As part of the negotiations, the developers were required to remove "King's Quest" from the title.[2] Conversely, fan protests for the shutting down of Chrono Resurrection (a remake demo of Chrono Trigger) in 2004 have yielded no result on Square Enix's action to block the project.[3]

Other times, companies have endorsed fangames. Very few companies have ever officially made comments on fangaming, however. This is seen through a Myst fangame, called The Ages of Ilathid, where Cyan Worlds, the original creators of Myst, had given permission to the creators of the fangame. [4]. This also sometimes happens with fan remakes, for example Monolith Productions has granted the use of Blood assets to be used in the DarkPlaces remake Transfusion.[2] Meanwhile, Capcom has featured Peter Sjöstrand's Mega Man 2.5D fangame in their community site more than once.[3][4] Current developers of the Command & Conquer series EA often promote and feature fanmade games, maps and mods on their websites, even releasing programs and source material to ease the construction of such games. Most companies that don't outwardly promote or challenge fangames have in the past exacted a de facto policy of non-involvement or neutrality, officially stating that their copyrighted material may not be used without permission, but refusing to prosecute fangamers for doing so, in much the same way as fanfiction is tolerated.

Because fangames are developed with a relatively low budget, rarely is a fangame available on a console system; licensing fees are too prohibitive for fangames, even if the game is made with original content. However, homebrew fangames can occasionally make it onto consoles with prolific homebrew gaming, such as the Dreamcast, PlayStation Portable and Game Boy Advance.


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