My Little Pony: Fighting is Magic hit with Cease & Desist
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has become something of a…divisive internet phenomenon. However there was absolutely no denying that fan-made fighting game Fighting is Magic looked impressive.
In fact, this game is the only reason me and many of my friends even bothered giving the show a chance! With its entry as a potential game for EVO and a front page GameSpot article, it was receiving a lot of attention.
However, after two years of development and the game nearing completion, Hasbro hit the team with a Cease & Desist letter.
Now normally this would be expected. However, Hasbro had traditionally been very accepting (and even supportive) of fan works like this. They even allowed episodes of the show to be hosted on YouTube because to them it was “free advertising”. So this does come as a shock. Especially when the game has been in very high profile development for two years.
The good news is that last year’s EVO build (the one featured in the combo video) was leaked so the game can be played weather Hasbro likes it or not. The bad news is that the more polished version with Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy in it has not. Unlike most free fan projects, this one has been very closed. The team took great pride in their work and refused to release it until they had the 6 main characters complete. So much so, in fact, that they found the leak of the EVO build quite devastating.
My point is, I don’t expect the full game to be leaked.
Now one could take one look at this and say “Hasbro should just buy them out and sell the game for real” or “they should just reskin the game with different characters”. In fact the former creator of the show, Lauren Faust, even offered to make characters for the game. Quite the nice gesture indeed, but there’s a massive problem:
This is a Fighter Maker game.
Yes, as has been stated many times in the past, the game is made with Enterbrain’s Fighter Maker 2k engine. It’s an incredibly versatile engine and every fighter made with it feels unique. Other examples of Fighter Maker games include the astonishing looking Vanguard Princess:
Which you can get for free right here: http://wiki.mizuumi.net/w/Vanguard_Princess
…or for another unlicensed fangame version there’s Pokemon Type: Wild
Which you can find here: http://www.pokesho.com/typewild/download.html
(though you’ll need to have a Japanese system location set up to run it)
An old favorite of mine though was the unfinished but awesome Destruction Desire
(You’ll have to search around to find a download link of that)
As you can see it is an incredibly versatile engine. None of those feel like the same fighting game with a different skin but like completely unique games.
However, what this means is that the Fighting is Magic team cannot just “release the engine” and the art assets are a huge part of the game. I’d say about 75% of the game is so deeply ingrained with the art that putting in different characters is nearly impossible. Someone would have to make quadruped characters that fit into the same hit boxes and use the same number of animation frames. Then someone would have to spend another 2 years actually animating those characters. In short: It’s not gonna happen.
This also means that Hasbro simply “buying” the game and selling it is also impossible. They would have to negotiate with EnterBrain to be able to use the engine in a for-profit game.
…and did I mention that Fighter Maker 2K was never released in America, meaning the game was probably made on a pirated version of the software?
In short in order to release the game on consoles or Steam as a real sellable game, someone would have to build an entirely new engine from scratch. Amazingly, this would actually be easier than redoing all the artwork. Not that it would be easy though.
Considering how many other fan games exist, considering the game is completely free and non-profit like every game made with Fighter Maker, and considering the existence of other fan made Fighter Maker games, this is a real dick move. The game should really be viewed as fanart and nothing more.
Hopefully though an agreement could be reached. Perhaps a few name changes, recolorations, and the removal of the cutie marks could do the trick. Ponies: Fighting is Mystical with Twinkle Sunset, Cakey Pink, Jackie Apples, Shyla, and Ruby would still be just as awesome. Here’s hoping they consider that route.
Having said that, this is why projects like Pokemon Type: Wild release frequent public Betas rather than hoarding their game for two years until it is “ready”. Should Nintendo ever shut down Pokemon Type: Wild, it can still exist in the hands of fans and none of the hard work put into it goes to waste. If nothing else, this should become a cautionary tale for makers of fan games.