How far does something have to go (in terms of storytelling and art) for it to leave the realm of homage or simple inspiration, and becomes a blatant rip off? I'm rather confused on what to think of this, so I'd like your in put! :)
Effort, really. Ripping off is minimal effort. Inspiration/homage is putting in a decent amount of effort and originality/creativity of your own.
It's one of those "I know it when I see it" things that have no strict definition.
I think that's something that's considered to be fairly subjective. I think it's a ratio between borrowed ideas and new ones to an extent, though what specifically is being borrowed might also play a factor. I met a composer who joked that composing is the art of "stealing without looking like you're stealing," in the sense that you use ideas that you like, but in a way where people cannot immediately tell that you're borrowing.
Even the earliest of western music often borrowed older melodies though, with the earliest polyphony pretty much always being settings of Gregorian Chant. People also ended up borrowing works that borrowed off of the chants, and then those works were borrowed, and so on. Granted, there is plenty of material that was not completely based off of older works, but this concept of borrowing has been a pretty significant practice for a long time.
I don't know where I really stand on this, but I do feel that effort and the incorporation of enough new ideas to expand on the old makes a work feel less derivative.
Yeah, this kind of thing is hard to pinpoint.
I think it comes down to the intent of the person making it. You'd have someone genuinely being a big fan of the original thing wanting to make a "loving homage" to the original work, and they added similar elements because they genuinely love those elements. The opposite of this is the person who is thinking "Damn I could really ride off the success of this. I'm gonna make something similar to compete with the original / profit from the original."
Unfortunately, it's difficult to know the real intent, and there's rarely such a clear cut difference. They could just lie about it and we'd never know. The biggest redeeming action is if the "copy" explicitly says that their work is a tribute and provides a link or reference to the original so that the viewer/player can see the original for themselves.