Limbo of the Lost is the gaming meme of the month: three pub mates from provincial England coming together to produce an old-school adventure game years in the making, and landing a big U.S. publishing deal. And then it all going horribly wrong as a result, because the world then discovers that their game’s backgrounds are swiped from every second triple-A title from the last decade.
The publisher, humiliated by its own lack of oversight, can’t seem to get a response from them. And neither, sadly, can the local paper that penned a proud summary of their success in May. Helen Wagstaff reports that they’re “reluctant to comment at the moment,” writing a short overview of the game’s woes in the Kent Messenger.
There is a certain tragedy to it; the game got good reviews, after all, and as the work of three non-pros, amounted to proof that you can make it in this business without awe-inspiring truckfuls of capital – they even used an off-the-shelf game creation system, Wintermute. Limbo of the Lost could have been proof that artistic imagination and dedication alone were enough – were it not for the fact that so much of their art was from others’ works.
Think how it could have been different: a local art student bumped into at the pub, for example, paid a fair bag for a few dozen original backdrops. Hell, they could have just grabbed appropriately licensed work, free of charge, from the Creative Commons!
I wonder if the situation isn’t simply that an amateur project, little different in spirit from the countless online animations, mashups and flash games that rip sprites, music and other assets from classic games, didn’t just get way out of hand. The moment of truth, of course, didn’t really come in the last few weeks. It came a long time ago: when Steve Bovis, Tim Croucher and Laurence Francis took a breath, then signed on the dotted line.