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makuto

Is it wise to look up games similar to your idea?

17 posts in this topic

Yup, bug testing is a game designers job all through production.

 

The first job of any game tester is to search the database once they find a bug and ensure another tester hasn't already found that issue.

 

This applies in game design since most games are "works of inspiration" so to speak and often the weaknesses and strengths of a game design already exist in other games. Your game design has bugs, the sooner you identify them the sooner your game can be fun.

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Definitely look at similar games.  If your game design is that similar to an existing one that you see no point in making yours, it's a sign you haven't done enough design work to come up with something memorable.

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Good question. There are ways to increase the originality of your game...

It all starts with you(or the project leader) where you explore what interests you and use that as a foundation. For example, the guy who came up with Zelda used to play in caves near his home when he was a child(or something like that). Mike Singleton was mad about Lord of the Rings, and made Lords of Midnight. At this stage you need forget about games altogether and go with your own influences from perhaps personal experiences and media(that is not game related).

Here was an interesting design challenge I gave myself last year(just for a laugh and without actually making the game): Design a game based on Jaws. Now, before turning to the net, I just wrote down what I liked about the film. Then, I watched the film again(luck had it that it was on at the Cinema again! Hurrah!) and wrote down just about everything that happened in the film...

From what appeared at first to be a film with little scope for a game, it turned out that there was a wealth of ideas and concepts that could be used.. To cut a long story short, I laid out the differences between the three male leads, the victims, the reactions of the locals and those from out of town, the different boats and equipment, and even the autopsy scene. I also noted my own emotions toward the film. There certainly was no lack of mechanics to make for an interesting game!

That's even before thinking about it as a computer game. The good thing about this approach is that you are not distracted by what has already been done, but exploring dreams, ideas and possibilities. Sometimes you may feel you have come up with an original design, but find another game has beaten you to the punch...well, great minds think alike! But sometimes when you play their game, you find its not quite what you were after...

Going back to the Jaws example, I found an old MS-DOS Jaws game where it was about resource management and hunting down sharks. Quite a few of the ideas I had hit upon were already implemented in that game. But then I looked at what was different and then ran with that. The DOS game felt like a shark Hunting simulator whereas the design I had come up with was a baywatch sim, C&C and Cryo adventure combo.

So my advice is not to be discouraged when finding something similar, but to see where the differences lie and focus on them and what you personally want - not what is before you.

Long winded reply, I apologise, but its an interesting question you pose and I couldn't resist! ^_^ Edited by Anri
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Also, don't rule out games that aren't so similar to yours in core mechanics. Just because your game isn't, for example, an RTS doesn't mean an RTS you are aware of can't use some kind of mechanic that you may wish to consider for use in your game.

I wrote a milestone project review for a developer a few weeks ago, and as part of it I was asked to rate their game against more than a dozen others for different topics. Audio elements from a few games, In App Purchase drive and incentive from others, art style from three games of wildly different genres, etc.

Remember to not only consider what does work, but also what isn't working.
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You should not only "research on the internet" relevant games, but actually play and analyze them.

On the overall design level, you can realize what variations and features are neglected in the existing games, and figure out what you can do differently.

For instance, hybrids of racing and combat are usually shown in overhead perspective (e.g. Death Rally, Micro Machines) and aiming controls are typically nonexistent (shooting forward, dropping mines, etc.): can they work with a more common 3D view and/or with more complex aiming?

At worst, you'll realize that doing well the kind of game you intend to do is too difficult and expensive, or that all valid design options have already been explored and you don't feel like cloning old games: changing plans before starting surely beats abandoning development later.

On a finer scale, analysis will teach you design pitfalls and good design patterns for the kind of game you chose, saving you a significant amount of rework and despair.

For example, a number of mostly simple and inexpensive graphical touches in 2D shoot'em ups need to be seen to understand how good they look compared to the respective crude alternatives: banking spaceship sprites left and right to show their direction of movement, animating rocket engine flames to show when they are turned on, drawing overlapping bullets in a consistent order to avoid popping, drawing enemy bullets on top of everything else because they are what the player most needs to see.

Apart from things that you should copy from other games because the right way to do them has already been discovered, there are some you should copy on principle: standard user interface controls, genre conventions, etc.  

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Totally agree with all the above, great question OP and great responses.  I personally research other games, not only because of the wealth of ideas to think about but even more importantly, sometimes they are fun to play themselves! smile.png

 

 

I'll add a little personal story.

 

Back in 1996-1997 for my senior software engineer project at undergrad school I wrote a game prototype.  In fact, that was the most recent game I've worked on besides my current game, I took a 15 year break but am back in this with a passion! smile.png

 

My project at the time was a 2D tile-based graphical MUD / multi-player game.  It took me a year but I successfully completed the prototype.  It wasn't a complete game, but it was playable in terms of movement, a few basic monsters and attacks, and some early sandbox features.  A talented high-school art student worked with me and did a great job with the 2D graphics.   It supported 50 players per instance or so and was UDP based.   A top-selling game publisher was impressed enough to consider hiring me as a junior game programmer but for various reasons that didn't work out. 

 

I graduated college and was planning to continue working on my game another year in my part-time and releasing it.  But, then I learned about a new game called Ultimate Online was coming out soon.  That discouraged me enough to immediately stop, as I didn't think I could compete with a professional game studio working on something similar to what I wanted to create.

 

Looking back, my game concept was actually much closer to Minecraft than UO, and there is some non-zero chance had I just kept at it another year or two it would of turned into something like Minecraft but 10 years earlier.  Now of course that is all very speculative; good games take a lot of work and my point isn't to say I would of been successful.  Rather my point is to say sometimes your games are not as close to others as you think and they are original and innovative in their own way even while sharing a lot of overlap.

Edited by starbasecitadel
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Hello Makuto smile.png

I've had similar expieriences with what you are describing and asking. 

 

In fact my first post brings it up to a certain degree: 

 

My ideas were developing to some extent since about 2001. They took a sudden halt when I found a game that had almost all of the things I originally sought after while designing and conceptualizing. I no longer felt the need to develop a game with some concepts which weren't mainstream due to this game. That game was Fable, with its announcement my ideas seemed to have been played out closely enough. A lot of the things I had wished for were coming into the industry in one form or another so why should I keep developing them? Others would eventually think of everything I had so why not sit back and enjoy it right? I didn't feel cheated or bitter as some would think when it was released, I was glad I could enjoy the things I wanted for so long.

 

Like you said, theres nothing wrong with seeing where other similar games succeeded or where they were lacking. I mentioned this too within my first post:

 

After playing Fable (and eventually all of its successors) I realized the experience was satisfying but didn't quite quench my thirst. It added loads for me to build on and furthered many of my original concept. Yet, I still felt I had more to offer.

 

 

The things you feel were done correctly can be implemented within your design, built/expanded on, and ultimately (ideally I should say) you will further innovate (or at the very least tailor to your liking) what others have already proven to be a good concept. If you feel something was lacking and could be improved, that there is your motivation. It will be the reason for exposing yourself to similar concepts to begin with. As everyone has unanimously agreed, exposure and experience with things similiar to what you have envisioned/wish to create is one of the ultimate tools. If you know where others have failed and where they have succeeded you get a clearer web/map of what you should/shouldn't do. biggrin.png

 

Hope this proves useful,

Sin ?§•??§?

 

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Thanks for all the replies!

 

Anri, on your experiment with Jaws: This is similar to what Mr. Schell says in The Art of Game Design: when looking for an original game idea, don't look to games, but look to your own experiences and other forms of media.

 

I suppose it comes to what wheels you really need to reinvent, like LorenzoGatti was saying about the very fine points of graphics for side scrolling shooters. After all, a large amount of FPS games take what the competition/previous games did and improve on one point of it. 

 

SinisterPride & StarbaseCitdatel: I think I've had a similar experience when I thought of a game that ended up very similar to Skyrim & the other Elder Scrolls games. After finally playing Morrowind and Oblivion, my idea shares quite a few similarities but the general feel of the game would be drastically different.  

 

If it is difficult to find a game similar to your idea, should you jump on that idea? (example: three years ago you wouldn't find many voxel sandbox games)

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I think you answered your own question quite well with your quote.

 

 

when looking for an original game idea, don't look to games, but look to your own experiences and other forms of media.

 

 

When there is no relatable content within the genre of media you're examining its best to look elsewhere (other forms of media) as well as within your own experiences.

 

Da Vinci found motivation in everything he witnessed and examined. This day and age we are jaded due to all the information that is readily available. We shouldn't have to look beyond ourselves to find inspiration in what we observe and experience.

Edited by SinisterPride
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[quote name='SinisterPride' timestamp='1358733936' post='5023728']
When there is no relatable content within the genre of media you're examining its best to look elsewhere (other forms of media) as well as within your own experiences.
[/quote] This is a good pointer. You should also try and limit the amount of things you share similar with games, and maybe increase similarity with other, more matured, mediums such as writing and board games. For example, the majority of RPG's and action games pit the player character into some sort of archetypal role (i.e. hero, general, killer, soldier, badass, adventurer, etc.) or a combination of these, and most games' storylines and mechanics (at least in today's AAA market) are nothing more than primitive. Sure you have notable exceptions, like BioShock, Portal, and Dishonored, who themselves have flaws, but they are drowned out by the primitive story lines like Call of Duty, Fable, Crysis, Battlefield, Medal of Honor, Assassins Creed, World of Warcraft, Tomb Raider, and the list goes on. Yes, these are great games, but their stories and mechanics are all similar, and all primitive. How many bestselling novels are about a soldier embarking on a Michael Bay bro-tastic explosion festival in Iraq? An adolescent hero that goes to a "hero academy" and has to defeat a big bad guy? An assassin that goes back in time and kills people? If my point isn't clear, what I'm saying is that for a game to truly be unique and engaging, it has to draw on more advanced elements rather than just shooting, swordfighting, killing, etc. This doesn't just go for story, it also goes for gameplay and even music, to an extent. Try to see if there is something similar you can do to a board game, something that isn't overused like violence to achieve everything, or a type of story outline you can base your story on from a good novel (or real event, for that matter).

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If my point isn't clear, what I'm saying is that for a game to truly be unique and engaging, it has to draw on more advanced elements rather than just shooting, swordfighting, killing, etc. This doesn't just go for story, it also goes for gameplay and even music, to an extent.

 

 

Great, solid, sound advice. Spoken like a true renaissant happy.png

 

Saying it alone takes away from it and I did over simplify the sentence as it is, but I said something in my first thread which pertains to this.

 

In my opinion, the only things that set the greats apart is the creative attention to detail as well as diverse exposure/inspiration.

 

I always say I won't ever aim nor will I ever claim to be original, different or unique. 

 

However, I will always "Strive to blur the defining lines around my creations." and "Push the boundries of its percieved genre in hopes of spilling over into others."

 

I doubt I'm the first to say something along the lines, but those are things that are hardwired in my being, a part of my creed in a sense. ?§•??§?

Edited by SinisterPride
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I always look up games of the same genre/idea to mine. I learn off it, what went wrong? what made it un-realistic? What can I do better make sure its a game you actually like though, that's my advice.

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Think of it as part of the constructive process.

If you find a game similar to your concept, consider questions like-

How can I differentiate my game from this one? Art style, setting, background story, characters, a new mechanic, humor, violence, there are plenty if ways to offer a different experience.

And the best question I think you can ask is- what does their game get WRONG?
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