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How close is too close? And what then?

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Zomulgustar
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Joined: 07/31/2008

Some of you may have seen my GDW rules for last week. I've been playtesting earlier versions of this game for several years, but until tonight no-one ever mentioned "Tony and Tino", a game which I had heard the name of but never heard described.

Despite the fact that the games play out completely differently, the similarities, both superficial and scoringwise, are very disturbing, and leave me with even less idea how to proceed than I had before last week...so I ask you...how can you tell if your design is too close to somone else's to be publishable? And what do you do when you've sunk many months of work into a game that looks like it is too close for comfort? Just throw the whole mess out and start from scratch? Start changing things that you've tuned over hundreds of playtests just because someone else got a similar answer? Go begging for sympathy on a public forum?

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Re: How close is too close? And what then?

Zomulgustar wrote:

how can you tell if your design is too close to somone else's to be publishable?

I don't know if there's an objective way to answer this; certainly, the decision to publish will rest with the publisher, so it will largely be up to them.

Quote:

And what do you do when you've sunk many months of work into a game that looks like it is too close for comfort? Just throw the whole mess out and start from scratch? Start changing things that you've tuned over hundreds of playtests just because someone else got a similar answer?

Welcome to the market economy -- you get zero points for coming up with a good idea independently, unless you also come up with it first.

I think the thing to do here is to reevaluate priorities. First, we all must recognize that the chances of any of our games getting published are very, very slim. In that sense, you could equally well be asking, a few months from now, "hey, I just submitted to a publisher and it got rejected; now what do I do?" The context is different, but the substance is the same; what to do with an unpublishable game?

The answer, I think, is "play it!" If you've spent a lot of time honing a fun game that you and your friends enjoy playing, then cherish the fruit of your labors and play the thing! Take satisfaction in what you've created. If one can only find satisfaction as a designer if one's games are published, then one is very likely to be unsatisfied, I think.

All that said, I definitely sympathize with you. I came up with a "semi-blind" bidding mechanic that I thought was pretty cool, only to see a virtually identical mechanic published in a different game a couple months late. I think that my game is salvageable, but that certainly took the wind out of my sails on that design. Luckily, I had enough other projects that it wasn't too big a deal. So, diversity can also be a good key to handling an impasse in one design, whatever the nature of the impasse.

I would say, definitely don't jettison the thing, and don't change a good, working game just so that it becomes publishable. But that's the craftsman in me talking; the businessman might say something different!

Good luck!

-Jeff

prophx
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Joined: 08/13/2008
How close is too close? And what then?

Early on when I started designing games I, as probably everyone else here, had ambitions of a creating a game that the whole world would love and span generations. My thinking was quickly corrected thanks to this forum and now I see that the important thing is doing something that you love and sharing it with those around you. It is cool to be playing one of my games at a family get together and have one of the players say to someone watching, "This is actually a great game!". That is payment enough. A game doesn't have to be bought to be a fun experience.

Recently I have been finding quite a few good free print and play board games on the Internet which are close to production quality. I appreciate those more than the published games and have decided to make all of my games available soon. There is an innocence to the free games as well as more creativity. The heart of the creator is more readily seen which also makes printing, building, and playing these games that much more of an experience. I feel that we as game designers are always hiding... why? We all know there is basically no money in it. Do it for the joy of others!

Sorry for rambling on, but this has really been on my mind as of late.

rob

Zomulgustar
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Joined: 07/31/2008
How close is too close? And what then?

Thanks for the replies...I just feel the need to add that my desire to get published has nothing whatsoever to do with money. Heck, I'd take out a second mortgage on this place before you could say "doghouse" if I knew that would result in my success. I just need the validation...I've been a game designer 'wannabe' for ten years, and I'm always going to be published 'someday...' I guess I feel on some level that I'm not 'really' a game designer until my game is on the shelf somewhere within shouting distance of RK. And I stop using 'excessive quotes'...

Joe_Huber
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Joined: 12/31/1969
How close is too close? And what then?

Prophx wrote:
Recently I have been finding quite a few good free print and play board games on the Internet which are close to production quality. I appreciate those more than the published games and have decided to make all of my games available soon. There is an innocence to the free games as well as more creativity. The heart of the creator is more readily seen which also makes printing, building, and playing these games that much more of an experience. I feel that we as game designers are always hiding... why? We all know there is basically no money in it. Do it for the joy of others!

Absolutely. One of the most enjoyable bits of game design I do is designing a new game to give away at each Gulf Games. I've now designed 5 games for this venue (plus a couple of others for specific Gulf Gamers), and it's great fun to design without regard to much of anything...

Joe

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