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Similar games and originality

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Gimmy
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Joined: 12/31/1969

hi there all, new here (:
I'm working now on 3 games. two of them were betatested this week.
the thing is that when my friends tested these games they allways compared it to games they know. even though I didn't thought of these games when I designt mine.
the knowladge my testers have about games is little, in the deduction category they know only "clue" while here I assume that every second user heard of other deduction games . as testers they helped but they bought up an important question...
When we create a game that is similar in a way to another game. when the game become totally unoriginal, and when we as players can say that
although the game is similar, it's still have something uniqe, or different.

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Similar games and originality

Hello, welcome to the forum!

I think it's normal that testers compare prototypes to existing games. At least, that's what my testers do all the time as well!

I think it's tough to say when a game becomes too much like another game. Sometimes similarities are purely superficial. For example, I have a prototype where there's a ship sailing along a pre-determined route, visiting cities along the coast of the Med Sea. A casual onlooker might think "hey, it's like Oltre Mare / Hansa", but the mechanics and the overall feel of the game is totally different.

Sometimes, you have a single mechanic that is like a mechanic from another game. For example, in a design of mine I have a mechanic where players may acquire mission cards during the game. If they have fulfilled these missions by the end of the game they score points, otherwise they lose points. A tester might point out that this is similar too the ticket cards in Ticket to Ride, and rightly so, but the rest of the game has nothing in common with Ticket to Ride, and provides a different playing experience.

The troubles come, in my opinion, when you have both mechanics, a look and a theme that is similar to another game. Colonizing an island, a map made up of hexagons and rolling dice to produce resources? Well, that is too close to Settlers in my opinion, even when the game plays completely different in all other regards. You may say it's still a unique game, because of all the other aspects, but you are fighting an uphill battle against people's prejudice. It's simply easier to avoid that and come up with something slightly more original.

Then again, I think this is something you should not worry about too much. You have to accept that your game will have similarities with other games, whether you put them there intentionally or not. Players will notice these similarities, and comment upon them, but let them play the game and ask them afterwards if they still feel the game is too much like another game. It's very important to be able to put a tester's comments into perspective. If they haven't had much experience with other games and they say your game is too much like Clue, because that is also a deduction game, and they have no other arguments, then I wouldn't worry too much about it. If someone says it's too much like Clue, because the questioning mechanic and the look of teh game are the same, then that is something to look into.

Gimmy
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Joined: 12/31/1969
here's the case

If you look at the "clue" and "Mystery of the Abbey" they both look the same, and has the same mechanic in heart.
And people's like "Mystery of the Abbey" more.
yet again they have so much in common

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Re: Similar games and originality

Welcome!

Gimmy wrote:
even though I didn't thought of these games when I designt mine.

"Accidental copying" happens all the time. It is completely innocent, but unfortunately, the fact that you came up with a mechanic on your own doesn't remove the similarity to the existing game. I put a game up for discussion in the Game Design Workshop (the thread is here) and a few months later, a game called "Maya" was released with a virtually identical bidding mechanic. There's no possible way that I stole from them or that they stole from me; it was just a coincidence, and it does happen.

Quote:

When we create a game that is similar in a way to another game. when the game become totally unoriginal, and when we as players can say that
although the game is similar, it's still have something uniqe, or different.

I don't think there's a hard and fast answer to this, but it may help to look at a few constituencies. If you're looking to sell the game commercially, it matters a great deal what consumers think. If they feel that your game is too similar to some other existing game, then they won't buy it. Of course, if your goals are more modest and you just want to create a fun game for family and friends to enjoy, then the similarities matter less, as long as no one in your group is bothered by them. And of course, your own views as a designer matter the most; how much borrowing is ok with you?

For myself, I tend to be an "extreme originalist"; I dislike using mechanics that have appeared in other games except at great need. On the other hand, there are folks who borrow very liberally from other games, and this can work quite well. Puerto Rico is one of my favorite games, yet many of its systems can be found in games that had previously been published.

I think the key is to make sure that if you're borrowing mechanics that you have more than one source. For whatever reason, assembling pieces of several games into a new whole is more acceptable than emulating a single game.

I sympathize with you about not getting the kind of feedback from your players that you'd like. But at the same time, I think they may be helping you. If they're pointing out similarities to games that you're not aware of, then you can go and read about or play those games and try to understand your friends' comments. In so doing, you'll broaden your perspective about other games that are out there, as well as see how other designers have approached similar themes or challenges. It's very hard to design in a vacuum. Knowing what else is out there is of tremendous importance.

Good luck,

Jeff

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: here's the case

Gimmy wrote:
If you look at the "clue" and "Mystery of the Abbey" they both look the same, and has the same mechanic in heart.
And people's like "Mystery of the Abbey" more.
yet again they have so much in common

Well, they are both deduction games, but in Clue you need to find out three missing cards, in Mystery of the Abbey there's only one missing card. Both games take place on a (very pretty) illustrated map of the location. That's about where the similarities end.

The movement mechanic is different. In Clue you roll a die and move that many spaces. In MotA you move a fixed number of spaces.

The biggest difference is in the questioning mechanic. In Clue you must always question your left hand opponent first and what you can question is every limited: a room, a weapon, a person. In MotA you can question any player (based on where they are on the board) and you can ask basically any question with very few restrictions. This, to me, makes it a completely different game.

Also, in MotA every few turns cards are passed around, diluting the value of the information you've gathered which, combined with various event cards, make it a more chaotic experience than Clue which is a more abstract game.

Finally, the winner in MotA is not determined by who guesses the missing card first (although it does usually come to that), there's a victory point system which allows a player to win in another way (correct revelations). This is a poorly executed mechanic in my opinion, but it is a significant difference from Clue.

I wouldn't say people like MotA more than Clue, I know I don't. I prefer the simplicity of Clue over the chaos of MotA, despite the fact that MotA has tons of atmosphere and I really like the idea of free form questioning.

Bottomline is, whenever you create a boardgame, there will be people who see similarities with other game, intended or not. It is good that people tell you these similarities exist, so you can check it out and see how much of it is true. Form your own opinion on this matter, and make up for yourself how close you want your games to be to other games. If you think MotA and Clue are quite alike eachother, then you see that in practice it is OK to have certain similarities between games. In the end, go with whatever you think is right.

Rick-Holzgrafe
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Joined: 07/22/2008
Re: Similar games and originality

jwarrend wrote:
For whatever reason, assembling pieces of several games into a new whole is more acceptable than emulating a single game.

I agree with Jeff on this point. But I'm going to offer one story that presents a different view anyway, because I found it quite surprising.

My family and I are big fans of Christian Petersen's A Game of Thrones. My biggest complaint about it is that it requires more time and players than I can conveniently get together. So I set out to design a game based on AGoT that would be playable with fewer players and in less time, purely for my family's enjoyment. The game I made was called Brimstone, and you can click the link for photos and discussion.

Now, Brimstone was a complete rip-off of AGoT from the get-go, and deliberately so. I never intended to try to get it published; I felt that the only company that could publish it with a clean conscience would be Petersen's own Fantasy Flight Games. (And for the record, no, I never thought they'd be interested.) But I was pretty pleased with the result, and I entered it into the Game Design Contest at Kublacon to see what their panel of reviewers and judges would think of it.

They found a couple of nice things to say about it, but overall they simply didn't like it. (Oh, well!) But here's the surprise: I pointed out that it was a rip-off of AGoT and asked if they had taken off points for that -- and they said no! They were aware of Brimstone's roots (I had made that plain in my submission) but they felt that I had messed with AGoT's mechanics enough to have produced a different game: not very original, but enough to pass muster.

So there you have it: a game I deliberately derived from another game was still different enough to be publishable. What did I change? I removed a bunch of AGoT mechanics which I deemed unnecessary in the smaller game; adjusted a number of other mechanics (such as supply, combat, and economics) in relatively minor ways; and (perhaps the biggest change) used a modular, random board instead of AGoT's fixed map. Oh, and I changed the theme from fantasy to sci-fi.

I still feel like Brimstone is too obviously similar to AGoT to be publishable (ignoring, for the sake of argument, the fact that it's not good enough to be publishable). But at least one set of professionals disagree.

So I guess as long as your game has enough original or disparate elements, its remaining similarities to any existing game are no barrier.

sedjtroll
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Joined: 07/21/2008
Re: Similar games and originality

jwarrend wrote:
For whatever reason, assembling pieces of several games into a new whole is more acceptable than emulating a single game.

Well, the reason for that is simple... a game system is a complete package. I'm sure you'd be the first to agree with me that a single mechanic does not a game system make...

Emulating a particular game is copying the system, which will likely give the same experience as the original. Emulating different parts of differnt games and combining them can very easily give a wildly different experience than any of the original combinations of 'borrowed' mechanics. Case in point: Puerto Rico.

When you play Puerto Rico, and you choose your role, there's a chance you'll be reminded of playing Verrater and doingin likewise... but the meat of Puerto Rico is not in selecting your role, it's in building buildings and shipping goods. In other words there's a lot more to it than that.

So it's fairly obvious (to me) why borrowing various parts of various games is 'more acceptable' in game design than emulating agame system - it's simply because copying parts of a game can make a different game system, which is a different experience, and by definition a different game.

Sen
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Joined: 12/20/2010
Similar games and originality

A lot of this is also depending on your micro or macro view of a game.

At a very silly level, you could say that Hearts and Solitaire are the same because they use a 52 card deck. But as you continuously step back to view the bigger picture, you eventually get to the point where they are obviously different.

Many games aren't so simple, but I think the above analysis of MotA and Clue is spot on. If you look at things at a very basic level, MotA is Clue with Monks. That's about the middle view. Taking things on a more micro or more macro level will show the differences. It's all dependent on context and point of view.

So, my advice to you is take it all in stride and ask your playtesters to be a bit more specific.

What was like [game x]? The whole game? A single mechanic? The artwork? The premis?
What wasn't like [game x]?
What did you like about this game vs. [game x] and vice versa?

It's important to know what your playtesters think, but also WHY they think it. Some people may not be able to verbalize all of that / justify their reasoning, but some will. The ones that can are the ones that you want to keep up in the front of your head, but that doesn't make the opinions of the others invalid.

Something I'm going to try to come up with soon (and you guys can help!) is some sort of feedback form / exit interview questionnaire for playtesters. I would find such a thing hugely helpful.

Gimmy
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Similar games and originality

ThanX for all of you're opinions, you really helped me alot.
This forum is the perfect place for me. ^_^

Hedge-o-Matic
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Joined: 07/30/2008
Similar games and originality

I'm sure that had Aristotle turned his attention to games and game design, we would all be more comfortable with the concept of a perpetual reorganization of architypical elements, as we are in fiction writing. But catagorizing and analysing game mechanics is a new field, and so we're all touchy about concepts of originality, thinking that using a mechanic found elsewhere is, after a certain point, suspect.

But, as in writing, the same elements appear over and over, and few would call Sherlock Holmes a ripoff of the traditional Chinese character of Judge Dei, though both go around solving crimes by deduction.

I say, unless a game is an intentional repackaging of someone else's product in an attempt to pass it off as original, designers shouldn't worry. Unlike writing, game design is a Darwinian process, and sometimes there is a convergence on mechanics for the simple reason that they work the best in a given circumstance.

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