Tim Langdell Still Being A Jerk—Resues Edge iPhone Game Maker Over Rights Issues

Sort-of-UPDATE 3: And for anyone wondering whether the games featured in this post really do use true isometric projection, Adam Banks discusses this in a blog post.

UPDATE 2: At the time of writing (10:51 GMT+1), EDGE has now been pulled—again—from the App Store, this time on a worldwide basis. We now have a fuller story on this development.

UPDATE: I spoke to David Papazian of Mobigame, who told us that during discussions with Langdell, with the aim of settling amicably, Langdell not only proposed conditions unacceptable to Mobigame, but also stated the company had set out to copy one of EDGE’s most popular titles, Bobby Bearing. When Mobigame mentioned Marble Madness, Langdell even claimed his 1986 effort was actually completed before 1984’s Marble Madness and that Atari’s game is the clone. (I myself interviewed Marble Madness creator Mark Cerny a year or so back, and given the nature of how that game came to be—it actually started life as a mini-golf game—I find it hugely unlikely that this could be the case, even when you don’t take into account the two or more years between the games’ release dates.)

During investigative conversations between Mobigame and Bobby Bearing’s creators, questions have been raised as to rights ownership, with the game’s creators claiming they own the rights, not EDGE Games; furthermore, they do not consider Bobby Bearing and Edge similar games, which, having played both, I entirely agree with. Even on a superficial basis, there’s little similarity, bar the viewpoint.

Compromise was almost reached in May with Mobigames saying they’d rename their game Edgy in some territories, but discussions broke down, culminating in Langdell registering that trademark himself in the USA. Here’s hoping the ‘macho posturing’ doesn’t lead to Edge being removed from the store again. The $4.99 effort is one of the finest titles we’ve played this month. [Edge App Store link]

Oh, how we all love you, Tim Langdell. You sit there on the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) board, and boast about your 30 years of experience in the gaming industry. And yet you seemingly spend your life suing the crap out of anyone with the audacity to use the word ‘edge’ in gaming, due to trademark ownership relating to your videogame company, EDGE Games.

For this reason, Mobigame’s Edge was pulled from the App Store in May (it’s now returned), and Langdell now has his sights set on console game Edge of Twilight (no, we’re not kidding, sadly). Unfortunately, he’s also not quite done with the Edge iPhone game.

On Twitter, Mobigame reported “Tim Langdell is threatening us again… is this love?”, and a report on FingerGaming notes that Mobigame’s David Papazien says Langdell’s now not only affirming his rights to the Edge trademark, but claiming Edge ripped off an ancient EDGE game, Bobby Bearing. Sorry for the italics, but this statement actually make me nearly choke on my cup of tea.

I’m somewhat oldish, and I remember playing Bobby Bearing. (I also remember paying ten quid for the cassette version and discovering that the idiots at EDGE had shipped it entirely without sound—thanks, Tim!) In fact, here’s a screen grab, taken from C64 gaming website Lemon64:

It's Bobby Bearing, a 1980s isometric arcade game!

It's Bobby Bearing, an 'isometric' arcade game from 1986!

And here’s Edge, taken from the Mobigame website:

Edge - a fun iPhone isometric game from 2009!

Edge - a fun iPhone isometric game from 2009!

On the face of it, you might, if you hadn’t actually played the games, argue that Langdell has a point. Both games use an axonometric projection viewpoint, commonly referred to as ‘isometric’ in the games industry. Also, both have you controlling a small geometric character around a blocky, retro-oriented videogame world where you can move reasonably freely in several directions.

But wait! I’m sure I’ve seen something like this before somewhere…

Hey, kids! It's Atari's Marble Madness, from 1984!

Hey, kids! It's Atari's Marble Madness, from 1984!

Oh, look! A game with an axonometric projection viewpoint, where you control a small geometric  character around a blocky, retro-oriented videogame world where you can move reasonably freely in several directions! From 1984! Plus, when you actually play Edge, you realise how little it has in common with Bobby Bearing (and, indeed, Marble Madness) anyway…

Having done some digging, it wouldn’t entirely shock us to discover that Langdell’s aggression and, well, ‘jerkness’ are in part down to Bobby Bearing Remix for iPod touch being on its way. But with Edge already being available and great, the fab Marble Madness due soon for Apple portables (and Atari’s iPod touch games being rather good) and Bobby Bearing these days being slightly less fun than being repeatedly punched in the face by someone wearing an extra-large boxing glove stuffed with a brick, we’d suggest, Tim, that you put your energy into actually making your old, tired IP into a decent game, rather than suing the perceived competition. And here’s another free tip: just try suing Atari over Marble Madness. (No, really, please do, because it’d be really funny and we’d love to see you try.)

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About the author

Craig GrannellCraig Grannell is Cult of Mac's designer and an occasional contributor. He also runs iPhoneTiny.com, a Twitter-driven reviews site for iPhone apps and games. Follow Craig on Twitter @CraigGrannell and visit his website, Snub Communications.

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