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Clone Me #001 - Elements by QB9

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A few weeks ago I mentioned the possibility of having a weekly (or maybe every 2 weeks) community exercise where we examine a simple but commercially successful game and discuss how we would go about cloning it and possibly improving upon it. For the trial run of this activity I have chosen the game Elements by QB9: http://www.qb9.net/g...?title=elements

BigFish sells this game and offers a 1 hour free trial: http://www.bigfishga...ents/index.html
(I am generally going to be sticking to BigFish for games to use as subjects for this "clone me" exercise because the hour free trial is a convenient way I can make sure you all are able to examine a commercially sold game.)

So, what is Elements? Elements is a turn-based solitaire game, one of the simplest types of computer game, but produced nicely enough to be worth paying for. It has a fun Alchemy theme, cool-looking playing pieces, nice music and special effects. It also has some obvious ways in which is could be improved, but I'll leave those to you all to think about and discuss.

So, what should you all do?
1. Play the game
2. Reverse-engineer a brief game design doc for this game and post it here.
3. Add your comments about what you like, why parts work or don't work, and what you would change.
4. Discuss with other members how you would go about creating a similar original game, from design through development to sales.

I will also take suggestions for future games to be the subject of this exercise. Edited by sunandshadow

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BigFish games are boring, tedious and all the same, you can't learn much from these... Make it clone Civilization, Heroes of Might & Magic, Sim City, etc. Something that is good and popular. Cloning a mediocre game no one knows and no one cares about is unfun.

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BigFish games are boring, tedious and all the same, you can't learn much from these... Make it clone Civilization, Heroes of Might & Magic, Sim City, etc. Something that is good and popular. Cloning a mediocre game no one knows and no one cares about is unfun.

Erm, you realize BigFish is only a distributor? The games they distribute come from a wide variety of developers, and include relatively famous games like World of Goo and a fairly wide variety of genres, though the lion's share are adventure games. I was intending to choose a sims 1-like game for one of the next few examples. Games like Civ, M&M, and Sim City are not available without purchasing them, and overly complex for this exercise - you'd have to spend most of a week just on the playing and reverse engineering part. The idea is that the games chosen for this exercise do one thing well enough to sell and could be cloned in a relatively small amount of time by a small team, perhaps even a single person. They could also be produced as minigames to go within a larger game, or a designer could combine features from two or more of the games examined here to assemble a more complex game. It's just much easier to study a feature in the relative isolation of a small game than in the jungle of a big complex game.

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I'm interested in the exercise, but a confluence of a holiday weekend, a new job, and a sinus infection have kept me from engaging in much lately.

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Ditto on the timing, but good idea overall. I know this has come up before, could you point us in the direction of a game design template please?

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Am interested - though will have to setup and play the game (elements) on my bare bones system due to the antivirus software having marked this website as a source of malicious software provision. (This may also be a reason for hesitancy amongst potential participants). Will get back to you in about a week with my thoughts once the antibiotics have kicked this lung infection of mine into submission.

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Am interested - though will have to setup and play the game (elements) on my bare bones system due to the antivirus software having marked this website as a source of malicious software provision. (This may also be a reason for hesitancy amongst potential participants). Will get back to you in about a week with my thoughts once the antibiotics have kicked this lung infection of mine into submission.

Which of the two sites gave an alert with which antivirus? I have bought several games from big fish and haven't had any virus problems - the only problem I've had with them at all is their game manager tends to crash on close, which is about the most unimportant time something could crash.

I can certainly let this run another week if timing was a widespread problem.

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[quote name='Stormynature' timestamp='1338515849' post='4945164']
Am interested - though will have to setup and play the game (elements) on my bare bones system due to the antivirus software having marked this website as a source of malicious software provision. (This may also be a reason for hesitancy amongst potential participants). Will get back to you in about a week with my thoughts once the antibiotics have kicked this lung infection of mine into submission.

Which of the two sites gave an alert with which antivirus? I have bought several games from big fish and haven't had any virus problems - the only problem I've had with them at all is their game manager tends to crash on close, which is about the most unimportant time something could crash.

I can certainly let this run another week if timing was a widespread problem.
[/quote]

My apologies -- I had not even observed the fact that you had linked 2 sites. I completely blame the sneezing and watery eyes!:

QB9 site is the one that popped the message up for me when I clicked on the download -- routed me to a trymedia link jumped on by trend.

Have downloaded via Bigfish link you used - no issue

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Ditto on the timing, but good idea overall. I know this has come up before, could you point us in the direction of a game design template please?

There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all game design document because different genres of game have quite different features, modes, units, etc. If you google for game design documents you will find tons of them, you could look for one that has a similar genre and features.

But here's a really basic template:

1. Title Page and publication info
2. Table of Contents of Design Doc
3. Brief description of the game in ordinary easy-to-read language; design goals if any.
4. Basic information: genre, perspective, platform(s), controls, list of game modes
5+. A subsection for each game mode, describing the game's behavior and the player's goals and options
N. Story, if any.
Appendices: Lists of Locations, NPCs, Units, Items, graphical resources such as sprites, animations, audio resources, etc. Edited by sunandshadow

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Oh, one other idea - should I provide a list of games I intend to use as future examples? That way if someone hated Elements but wanted to do the exercise they could pick another game off the list. I wasn't sure if that would create too much confusion in the discussion, though.

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