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Really??? You beat me to my own game???

Saturday, at 4 in the morning, I finished v3.0 of my game (to which I believe will be the final version). I was looking at the newest Game Trade Magazine after I got off of work that afternoon and read through all the new games coming out.

I come across this game coming out in May 2011 called "Letter Flipz", "Flip Cardz", or something to that effect.

"A game in which players frantically flip over cards with letters printed on them to create words as fast as possible."

***** Expletive removed *****

Well, my game night buds watched as I threw the magazine and threw my game. I think this would be the strongest and only nail I need in the coffin to seal it. Nothing was going to stop me from making this game and now this happened. I'm trying to convince myself that my game will be different and that this creator couldn't have known about my game since boardgames supposedly take months to create, balance, pitch, manufacture, and distribute. Due to the simplistic nature of the game, I'd say create and balance took a weekend which gives a whole 4 months from when I first worked on it.

I don't even want to buy this game, but I want to know how similar this game is to mine. So far, it looks like my original design for the game, but with double sided cards, so you have to flip them over if the letter displayed isn't one you need. I don't want to put out a similar product, which is my main concern, but right now I'm thinking about all the Dominion biters that came along soon after. "Just put it out there and let people say what they will" , right?


Parallel Development

I have experienced this before - most notably/recently with Merchants and Marauders. I have a notebook full of thoughts on a game that is essentially the same exact thing - a few significant differences, but similar enough I don't even want to think about that game any more, there's no point because Merchants and Marauders exists.

Just look at how themes seem to follow patterns - at Essen last year a whole bunch of games about wine making came out - not what you'd call a popular theme before that! It happens in movies too, though there you have to wonder if a studio doesn't catch wind of an upcoming movie (like Armageddon), and try to rush something similar through (like Deep Impact) through to compete... I don't think that happens so much in board games.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

The more familiar you become with a field, the more likely you will be exposed to the same knowledge, discussions, debates and benchmarks as your colleagues. Since most advancements in knowledge extend a pre-existing corpus of knowledge, it is not too surprising to find co-development occur frequently.

For my part, I believe I've had this happen three times in the past year. Fortunately I discovered this not too soon after I started exploration, so little was lost. But damn is it frustrating! I totally hear you.

I think the only way we could ever truly avoid this is to destroy our telecommunications. Though even primitive societies developed lots of similar technologies in isolation. So... It's not a fix. But if you're the first caveman in the neighborhood to invent a bones game, you can be pretty sure you'll get the credit for it.


Thanks Sedjtroll, I was going to make the "2 movies of the same genre" comment, but I was too tired after all the hate I expelled.

@rcjames14 Yeah, I'm wondering if putting my idea on this site had anything to with it. That's all I care about really.

Evil ColSanders wrote:I'm

Evil ColSanders wrote:
I'm wondering if putting my idea on this site had anything to with it. That's all I care about really.

While it's entirely possible, I SINCERELY doubt it. These forums are riddled with threads explaining why that kind of theft really isn't much of a concern. Of course, that doesn't mean it can't happen!

As you can probably tell, my personal philosophy does not preclude my discussing game designs I'm working on in public forums!

sedjtroll wrote: It happens

sedjtroll wrote:
It happens in movies too, though there you have to wonder if a studio doesn't catch wind of an upcoming movie (like Armageddon), and try to rush something similar through (like Deep Impact) through to compete... I don't think that happens so much in board games.

Actually, this is how it happens. Everyone in Hollywood knows what each other is working on, scripts are generally floated around to everyone...there's really not much secret to it, except that due to the costs of things, everyone is REALLY scared to do something new.

Then, suddenly, one studio decides to greenlight a asteroid-kills-the-earth movie, and all the other studio people then become "oh, so-and-so is working on THAT kind of story, we better have a version of that too in case it hits big."

If you want to watch a good movie on the subject, rent "The Big Picture."

As far as the hobby games are concerned, I doubt that it happens to this extent, or to the extent that someone actually steals something (the Deflexion / Khet case is an exception). But I can see an occasion where someone takes a prototype to some convention based on a theme that is sort of new like Vikings or Wine, or whatever, and that kernel of an idea starts getting passed around through "the network" or message boards. And then you've got 4 or 5 people working independently of each other on the hot new theme of the year.

Sort of happened to me

I was working on a wild west themed worker placement game called Cactus Creek. Part way through development Carson City gets released and I admit I lost enthusiasm.

I've deliberately not played Carson City, or read the rules, or even read any reviews. Once I've finished the projects I'm currently working on (Cthulhu retheme of Forbidden Island at the moment) then I hope to return to Cactus Creek later in the year with fresh ideas and fresh enthusiasm.

Two Versions of Follow the Leader

On the one hand, there are the copycat designs. When a game is a 'big hit' or a studio gets wind of a movie which could be a 'big hit' and everyone else wants to get in on the action, you see a flurry of 'me too' designs. Sometimes, the second or third versions are actually better than the original. But, Magic is still the king of CCG and Dominion the king of deck-building. But, all the genres in video gaming develop precisely because one studio believes that it can do it better than another or wants to get in on the action.

On the other hand, there are the designs (or advancements in knowledge) that appear to pop up simultaneously. This phenomena is much harder to explain and leads lots of people to look for conspiracies, piracy or some other intentional action to explain why one thing looks strikingly similar to another. In some case, there is good support for the 'theft' model. Considering how many people actually get convicted of corporate espionage or insider trading, the practice must be prevalent. And, there are just way too many NDAs in the world because business people feel paranoid that someone is going to take their valuable idea.

But, I think that there are lots of complex reasons why co-development occurs. Part of them have to do with the fact that most new things are extensions off of existing things. So, if you and someone else both know everything there is about X (fuel cell technology, massive multiplayer online games, the logistics system in China, etc...), then you are both going to see the same problems and consider some of the same possible solutions. This is the standing on the shoulder of giants argument that knowledge builds upon knowledge.

But, network science is beginning to help us understand how memes, information and ideas spread through a network. One of the games that I thought about last year was called Toonish. It was a cartoon version of Apples to Apples. You match quotes to scenes. Since it is not too much different than Dixit or Apples to Apples, it is reasonable to assume someone else might have the same idea. But, in addition to that, after discussing the project with someone who used to work at Hasbro, I discovered that Hasbro had considered something similar two years ago and abandoned the project. If he was telling me about it now, then it's possible that he told someone else about it before then, or that someone else on the project pursued it elsewhere once Hasbro deep-sixed it. Then, lo and behold, in November, I saw a commercial for Bubble Talk... which looks very very similar to the idea I had.

Considering that it was just released for Christmas, it is almost certain that Bubble Talk was designed before I even had the idea for the game. But, word spreads in unpredictable and complex ways. So, who's to say that Toonish wasn't influenced by it somewhere down the line. I actually think it may or may not be the reason that I started thinking about Lawn Wars (a tower defense game about lawn ornaments) around Christmas. While recording sound effects for Nuts, my sound editor made some comments about how some of the sounds reminded her of gnomes marching. And, the idea was born. But, at this same time, Disney was in post-production for Gnomeo and Juliet, so who's to say that she didn't get the idea from something that she saw on the internet.

Suffice to say, the reason why games or any other idea get co-developed are very complex. And, unless you are doing something really really different, it is safe to assume that there is someone else doing something similar. Even if it is really really different, you probably will discover after you start looking, that it isn't as different as you thought. So, it can be discouraging.

But, in some strange way, we don't really own even our own ideas. Society owns them and we just give birth to them. So, when someone else gives birth to the same idea, it seems to me to be an opportunity to marvel at our insignificance and yet at the same time congratulate ourselves on thinking about something worthy of being made. It is also an opportunity to find someone else who thinks just like we do and make connections.

At least that's how I see it after I stop cursing. :)


What's the name of the game? I've not only been working on something close to what you've mentioned, it's been in publisher's hands and has been circulating the rounds for the last 4 years.

I would really appreciate it as I might have a similar beef if one of the publishers that I pitched to is bringing this to market.

Willi B

Found it

After reading the description, I am satisfied that my game is different enough to theirs.

Maybe your design will be as well... good luck!


Thanks for finding it! The GTM I read only had 2 sentences, thus making it sound REALLY similar to my game. Now I see it's just turn-based with a timer for each person. I can now work on my game again without worry! HOORAY!


I love happy endings.

As for the lawn defense game, ever played or heard of Plants vs. Zombies? Its pretty cool.

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