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When Blatant Clones Attack: Developer Clones Canabalt, Likely With Its Own Source Code [UPDATED]

Free Running is not only similar to Canabalt--it's a carbon-copy.

UPDATE: Free Running is no longer on the App Store, due to a request by Semi Secret. If it's still showing up for you, that won't last for very long. Adding insult to injury, not even the icon for Free Running was produced by PLD Soft; the art was stolen from "cliq" at Deviant Art.

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No doubt, the team at Apple filtering the thousands of submissions to its App Store have their work cut out for them, but that doesn't make the instances where crap slips through the cracks any less infuriating. For example, Free Running showed up on the App Store today, looking suspiciously like Semi Secret Software's Canabalt, a game that basically kicked off the whole genre of touch-based running games.

Free Running doesn't just appear suspiciously like Canabalt, either--it looks and plays the same, too. Can you tell the difference between these two games? I captured both on my iPhone this afternoon.

One of these is Canabalt. The other is Free Running. Take your pick! 
What's different? The name, the intro graphic (the original recommended headphones, while Free Running simply has a stylized painting of a city), the connections to social networks to share high scores--and the proper attribution of anyone who worked on the original project and its iOS porting. Oh, that.

This is theft, and I won't dignify the act by linking to it, but who's behind it?

== TEASER == The publisher of Free Running is listed as PLD Soft, and it's not hard to imagine how the company pulled this off; back in December, Semi Secret Software made Canabalt open source. The success of Canabalt on iOS devices, plus a cool $25,000 the studio raised for charity, encouraged the decision.

 The official app icon for Free Running.
"Canabalt has been a crazy ride for us," said co-founder Adam Saltsman late last year. "It's helped keep the lights on and pay for our health insurance, and allowed us to take the kind of risks that indie devs love to take. But, in the spirit of the Humble Indie Bundle, the holidays, and a (likely) bout of temporary insanity, it's time to open our trenchcoat and show everybody what we've got going on under there!"

Going open source meant other developers could use their technology to care their own games, but there was just one catch: don't use anything specific to Canabalt, code, art, music--whatever.

It appears PLD Soft simply took what Semi Secret Software made available, changed a few pieces to avoid name confusion with the still-available Canabalt, compiled it and submitted to Apple. And then Apple gave the software approval to appear in its App Store. Right now, it's still available for $0.99.

"We're doing what we can to take care of it," said Semi Secret Software in a statement to me today.

Free Running's listing on the App Store goes above and beyond simply trying to profit off ignorance; the listing text is mostly copy-and-paste job from Canabalt's existing listing, press quotes and all.

"Free Running is pure genius." -necessarygames.com -- Free Running's listing
"Canabalt is pure genius." -necessarygames.com -- Canabalt's listing


This isn't the first time PLD Soft has encountered criticism for its submissions to the App Store, either. App Advice recently highlighted another PLD Soft creation, Flash Video Guide, as a scam. The description for Flash Video Guide was reportedly vague but appeared to promise support for Flash Video on iOS devices. No iOS devices natively support Flash in any capacity, a public stance by CEO Steve Jobs.

"Overall, we’re recommending that readers not buy Flash Video Guide," wrote App Advice back in March. "It appears as if this application is a scam – a blatant attempt to rip App Store users off. For this reason, we’re not listing it in our 'Mentioned Apps' section at the bottom of this article."

There's no way to contact PLD Soft, either. Nothing's listed on the App Store page for Free Running and the company has no other software currently available in the App Store. A Google search for PLD Soft, however, does turn up a Twitter account that has no description and has never been updated.

I purchased Free Running before running this article to directly compare the experience with Canabalt. I could delete either one and unless I was really checking, not notice the difference.

Fortunately, it appears most App Store customers are aware of Free Running's origins, as the reviews are incredibly vocal about the actual nature of the source material. Clones are not new to the App Store, which means stories like this will likely (hopefully) result in Apple quickly pulling the game down. Patrick Klepek on Google+
68 Comments
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Posted by Parsnip

Didn't I just read a story about a similar thing in some other site?

Posted by blacklab

A gorilla like yo mother is mighty weeeeeak

Posted by JOURN3Y

I just saw this on Kotaku. Its great to see Giantbomb being linked on those bigger news sites. Keep up the good work!

Posted by dvorak
@JOURN3Y
I just saw this on Kotaku. Its great to see Giantbomb being linked on those bigger news sites. Keep up the good work!
What's even better is how it's not the other way around. Like it was before.

I'm literally overwhelmed with headlines I actualy want to read now. I usually skip over anything but the articles by the core editors but not anymore.
Posted by DrPockets000

I love how the icon randomly says "Parkour" at the bottom.  Reminds me of the Office episode.

Posted by bongoboy

That is absolutely disgusting. 

I love Canabalt!
Posted by wolf_blitzer85
@Xeiphyer said:
WHAT IS THE SECRET OF THE WINDOWS?!?!?!?!
The Venetian Blinds know, but as of now they are nowhere to be seen.
Posted by captainslender

Does Apple/Semi-Secret demand money from the sales of this copy? Is Apple strict enough on bringing the hammer down on these fools in order to discourage this sort of behavior? I can imagine people spotting an opportunity to make a quick buck, and if it manages to worm into Apple's Top 10 or gain any form of popularity, they could sneak away a few thousand bucks without anything but a slap on the wrist from Apple.

Online
Posted by LordAndrew
@DrPockets000 said:
" I love how the icon randomly says "Parkour" at the bottom.  Reminds me of the Office episode. "
I wonder where they ripped the icon off from.
Posted by nivi
@MrKlorox:  Wait, you find it 'insulting' that no ungrateful developers have done their obvious responsibility and converted the (mostly) Objective-C into Java or something that runs on Android? And make a whole bunch of art and music and levels? Is it actually offensive to you?
I suppose that's fair, you're obviously entitled to it. And porting is easy. That's why there's a Windows version of Compiz.
Posted by MrKlorox
@nivi:  You do know that was a joke, right? The absurdity of the notion should be pretty obvious.
Posted by nivi
@MrKlorox: Oh you are no fun at all.
Posted by SparkEngineer

Apple allow many clones on their store. the amount of stolen work on their is staggering, yet it hasn't stopped them before.

Posted by Soap

I'm just surprised this wasn't made by GameLoft ;)

Posted by SpudBug

The future of gaming, ladies and gentlemen

Posted by BlazeHedgehog

This is getting to be a big problem with indie developers. Fortresscraft, anyone?

Posted by DrJota

Just goes to show that if you give people an inch,they'll take a mile...

Posted by Branthog

Finally, a demonstration of a game that is even less clever and original than Angry Birds.