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Backyard Monsters becomes Facebook-exclusive

Backyard Monsters will no longer run on any gaming portal outside of Facebook, Kixeye has announced. Players from Kongregate, which had separate servers for the game, are being offered account transfers until Feb 18th.

The move brings an end to the controversy sparked as far back as 2011 when Kixeye refused customer support to players on other portals. After a wave of bugs and hackings, players found themselves fighting fire with fire using player-created fixes to restore their game worlds.

There is a growing suspicion among some players that the Facebook version of the game has seen a significant drop in numbers, which may have prompted the move. However, Kixeye’s support for the game outside Facebook has always been extremely limited, and consolidating servers may be simply to alleviate this responsibility entirely.

Players interested in the account transfer should check out the full Kixeye announcement.

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jmtb02 leaves Armor Games; becomes Kongregate’s newest employee

John Cooney, developer of games including Achievement Unlocked and This Is The Only Level, has joined Kongregate fulltime, ending his long association with Armor Games.

Better known as jmtb02, Cooney has spent the past 8 years working with Armor Games, where his trademark “elephant games” became a hallmark of the site. He was hired as their Head of Game Development, a role he held until his move to Kongregate was finalized.

In a statement about the move, Cooney said:

“Armor Games was an amazing company to work for, full of talented and amazing people.  During my time there I produced somewhere around 50-60 games.  I am very thankful for the time I had at Armor and leaving was not an easy choice.  I am taking up a new role (still making games!) at Kongregate and I can’t wait to see what’s in store”

Kongregate also commented that:

Don’t worry, we’re not turning him into a project manager or something. He’s going to continue making great games, but now he’s doing it for us!”

Armor Games has not announced a replacement for the post, and there is speculation they may remove the role and increase sponsorship funding instead.

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Point’n'click gaming blog LazyLaces shuts its doors, possibly forever

The escape game blog Lazylaces has announced an “extended hiatus”, which appears to translate to an end to the site.

Lazylaces, a key destination for point’n'click game fans over the past 10 years, stood out from similar blogs due to being almost entirely adfree, with each game receiving a personalized description as it was posted. The genuine interest shown in each new game added to the site created a strong community, and readers are invited to continue to chat on the blog’s Facebook page, which will remain open.

In a final post to the site, the site’s sole author Graeme said offline commitments were taking too much of his time to be able to continue with updates.

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Unity 4 released, finally supports Linux

The new release of Unity brings new features and partial support for the Linux OS.

Although Linux users are still unable to play Unity games in their browser, downloadable games can now be run on a Linux desktop. Anyone who hasn’t yet experienced the unicorns and rainbows sheer terror of Slender now has no excuse.

Other improvements in the new Unity version include DirectX 11 APIs, an improved particle engine, and many improvements for mobile gaming. More information is available on the Unity website.

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Meltdown at Zynga as three studios close

A number of studios have been closed and employees let go at social gaming giants Zynga.

Reportedly, around 150 staff in total were released as offices in the UK, Boston, and Japan were closed. The Texas office was also affected but remains open, although with fewer staff. Sources have claimed that employees were given just two hours to clear their desks and say their goodbyes.

Zynga have not commented on the situation, but the company appears to be in a precarious position, facing lawsuits from all sides, and a stock value that continues to drop, now sitting at just $2.12 per share.

The company hasn’t endeared itself to many in the development community, with frequent allegations of plagiarism directed at the company being handwaved as “iteration”. With a new project apparently cancelled, and work scaled back on other franchises including The Ville, perhaps at least the barrage of lawsuits will slow.

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Zynga and Kixeye square up in new lawsuit

Zynga is filing suit against a former manager who jumped ship to Kixeye, claiming he took company assests and data with him.

Cityville manager Alan Patmore is alleged to have uploaded information about the city building sim to a Dropbox account before leaving the company. Zynga also note he refused to sign a termination certificate, which would have bound him not to steal such data.

A Zynga spokesman said the data taken “could be used to improve a competitor’s internal understanding and know-how of core game mechanics and monetization techniques, its execution, and ultimately its market standing to compete more effectively with Zynga.”

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Settlement in Spry Fox vs LOLApps case

An important court ruling has prompted a settlement in the Spry Fox vs LOLApps court case.

Spry Fox filed the lawsuit claiming that LOLApps had plagiarized their game Triple Town, an allegation LOLApps denied. Last week, a court threw out a motion by LOLApps to have the case dismissed. The court said:

A video game, much like a screenplay expressed in a film, also has elements of plot, theme, dialogue, mood, setting, pace and character. Spry Fox took the idea underlying Triple Town and expressed it with its own characters, its own setting, and more. These objective elements of expression are within the scope of Spry Fox’s copyright.

From this point it was clear that LOLApps no longer had a case, and it was announced today that the parties had settled out of court.

The ruling may be far more important than a single court case suggests, however. Until now, games have been treated as “ideas” – non-copyrightable, provided the code and graphics were different.  Jack Schecter, a lawyer with Sunstein, Kann, Murphy & Timbers LLP, has an indepth look at why that’s important.

It’s clear that games need more backing behind their copyright, and hopefully this is a step in the right direction. But it would be a shame for the first developer of an idea to control it entirely, something we already saw when every variation of an Atari mechanic was forced off the App Store.  Hopefully clearer laws will allow games to share mechanics while preventing all-out theft. The one to watch now is EA vs Zynga.

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Atari announces Pong Indie Developer Challenge winners

The results are in, and Atari have awarded first place in the Pong Indie Developer Challenge to zGames, who came up with the game trailered below. You can check out the runners up and trailers for all the entries on Atari’s site.


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EA sues Zynga, says it’s “making a stand” on behalf of indies as well as itself

When we reported on the launch of The Ville, Zynga’s “most social game ever”, we noted it sounds a lot like The Sims. Too much like The Sims, apparently, as EA are alleging that it’s a clone of their game The Sims Social.

EA Maxis have stated they feel they are the studio with the resources to stand up to Zynga, on behalf of everyone else, and absolutely gone to town in their lawsuit, not only claiming for their grievance with Zynga, but outlining every other claim of plagiarism ever made against the company, including the recent controversy involving Nimblebit’s TinyTower.

“EA believes and therefore alleges that Zynga did not achieve its success in online social gaming through creative game design and innovation. To the contrary, it is widely reported, and EA believes and therefore alleges, that Zynga explicitly discourages innovation in game design and instead watches successful games, plays and analyzes those games, and then creates its own games that closely follow the games of its competitors.”

For their part, Zynga have issued a statement that sounds suspiciously similar to their usual response to plagiarism claims.

Via Reggie Davis, the company said EA has “a lack of understanding of basic copyright principles” and claimed The Ville “builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today.”

Zynga also suggested that Sim City Social is a clone of Cityville, one of Zynga’s other franchises.

You can read EA’s complaint in full here.

It’s unusual for EA to stand up for anyone other than itself – are you convinced? Who’s side are you on?

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Jay Is Games launches Casual Gameplay Design Compettion #10; $1k top prize

Feel like great escape games have been in short supply recently? Or maybe you’re a developer looking for some extra exposure on one of the biggest casual gaming websites.

Jay Is Games has you covered either way with the launch of CGDC#10. The theme this time around is ‘Escape’, and the top prize is $1,000. Additionally, entrants will all receive personal coaching from none other than Mateus Skutnik of Submachine fame.

The full press release is below.

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