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Creating games based on existing IP

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Joined: 01/17/2016

I joined the forum a year ago to get some ideas on what the potential path was to licensing a major IP (Star Trek) either on your own or by partnering with a company better resourced to do so and I got some ideas, but also a lot of sentiments asking this question: Why?

As it was explained to me, and this makes sense, why invest time in building a game set in some one else's world when you could build your own world avoiding issues of loss of creative control, securing licenses or their expiry and profit erosion. I was asked, can't this Star Trek game just be re-skinned thematically into something else?

I thought long and hard about that one. I've been designing games since I was a kid, though have never tried to bring one to market before. Many of my games are based on original concepts of my own design, but at least a quarter of them have been based on original IPs. This never struck me as a bad thing, because generally speaking what motivated me to design a game for a specific IP was because I really loved said IP and there was not a game available that offered the thematic experience I was looking for.

This is not always the case. Fantasy Flight makes a wonderful Battlestar Galactica game, which I own and love playing. The theme is so wonderfully captured that I really FEEL BSG when I play that game. Consequently I have zero motivation to design a game about or in the BSG universe, even though it is an IP I really like.

I understand the practical constraints about using IP but was wondering how other people feel about this. Have you designed games for other IPs, even if they never had a life outside of your immediate play circle? Are there IPs you would love to design for and why? How do the strong thematic material present in many of the IPs we love pose radically different challenges to game designers because of the need to balance playability and thematic consistency or faithfulness?

lewpuls's picture
Joined: 04/04/2009
This question comes up

This question comes up frequently.

If you're designing for yourself, sure, use someone's IP if you want.

If you want to sell it, DO NOT use someone else's IP. You would then be at the mercy of whichever publisher has licensed the IP, and they're more likely to have commissioned a game from someone they know, or to have their own people make the game.

I've never heard of a well-known designer making a game based on someone's IP, on speculation. Too risky.

Joined: 01/17/2016
Fair enough and I appreciate

Fair enough and I appreciate you putting forth the pragmatic, commercial argument right off the bat.

I searched the boards for insight on this issue last year, and found it hadn't come up much, at least not a lot of methodical or nuanced discussion around this. It might be helpful if someone with a greater degree of expertise composed a blog post, summary, guide, etc. on this issue so that newcomers like myself have somewhere to go rather than asking questions which have been asked a dozen times before.

Notwithstanding the commercial argument, is every game that everyone designs intended to be sold? For me, the game I designed around the Star Trek IP was NOT intended for sale, but as the game matured I discovered that I and my playtesters were enjoying it so much that I began to wonder if there was a way to bring it to market to share it with a larger audience. If that answer is no, so be it.

But I am curious if I am alone in feeling the desire to sometimes design for an existing IP because of a void in the existing licensed product line, i.e. make the game I wish existed as a fan of the IP and a gamer in general. Or does pragmatism reign supreme? Perhaps it should, I really don't have an answer to that.

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