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Subject: What should you do if someone copies mechanics from your game? rss

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seth van orden
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I know it's often said that in the board game design world don't worry about someone stealing your game idea, because they won't. I agree with this advice because it rarely ever happens. Probably because most ideas are bad and because it's not worth the effort to look for ideas to copy.

Recently I have found out that someone who has play tested my game, has come up with a prototype that uses the same basic unique game mechanic at its core. The theme of the game is different, and quite a few rules are different too. We are taking our game to kickstarter. They are currently working with a small publisher on the game.

Do I say anything? Should I just take it as flattery and move on? Thoughts?

Thanks
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Craig McRoberts
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Before reading your post, I came in to say, "Feel flattered and make a better game."
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Luke Morris
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Say all you want, shout it out, let people know, that's groovy.

However I think it's very unlikely you can actually do anything LEGAL about it.

It's a shame that someone would so blatantly take the mechanism after playtesting.

Unless it's a pretty mainstream mechanism like drafting, or worker placement, or flicking, or dice rolling or something.
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Paul DeStefano
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Bryan Goodwin
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Mind posting the details of your mechanic?

Possibility 1: It may not be as unique as you think!

Possibility 2: Mechanic is unique, they were inspired by it. I'd recommend letting it go and keeping focus on making your game the best it can be. It's not a zero-sum situation (assuming your game is more than a simple implementation of your mechanic), and the other game may drive interest to yours based on the shared mechanic.
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Drew NA
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Simply put, there is really nothing wrong with taking a mechanic from another game. Now, I design my own unique mechanics, and I can understand why you would feel frustrated. But look at the games you have made. Have you borrowed any mechanics from other games? I guarantee you have.

If they took the mechanic, put a new theme, have mostly new rules, etc. then I would say there is nothing you can do. It's no different than borrowing something like a worker placement mechanic for instance. These mechanics all start as unique at some point. They become mainstream when other games borrow that mechanic, but generally from what I've seen the first game that uses that mechanic gets the most respect for it.

If you are really bothered by it, your best shot IMO is to talk to the person politely, and ask them not to use your unique mechanic. They might listen, they might not, but I think that's your best chance. Making it ugly is a lose-lose IMO, but you're free to do as you please.

I cannot give legal advice, and none of this is legal advice.
-Drew
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Andrew
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Commiserate with Donald X
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Anthony Simons
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sethvanorden wrote:
Do I say anything? Should I just take it as flattery and move on? Thoughts?

Suck it up and move on.

I have to ask, though; does the other game seem better to you?
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seth van orden
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First off I have no intention of taking any legal action! I do like the person who used my idea and the publisher! I'm just curious how to I might talk to them about it.

Quote:
Have you borrowed any mechanics from other games? I guarantee you have.


It's true I have. Is there a difference if the game has been published yet. I feel like there is or should be. Meaning comparing the Deck Building mechanic. It doesn't bother me at all that a game like thunderstone and tons others have used that same mechanic like dominion, but would it have been the same if thunderstone used that idea from them and published the game before dominion.

Is it the same?

Quote:
Mind posting the details of your mechanic?


It's a poison pile mechanic like Coloretto, but with with placing cards face up and face down. There's a little more to it, but that's the basics. And as you might think, well isn't this me borrowing parts for another game? (probably) I'm sure we've all been influence by previous games, but the question it raise like I said earlier. Is it the same to take from a game the published as it is from an unpublished game?
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Forest Cole
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If they're successful you might use that to promote your own game or if you're still on good terms, even try to work out some kind of mutual promotion.
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seth van orden
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Quote:
I have to ask, though; does the other game seem better to you?


No, but it uses a more approachable theme for some. Meaning I know that my game with be a tough sell at because it's themed around the stock market.

We chose to use this theme even though it may be a though sell because it integrates really well with the mechanic and it doesn't alienate the more main stream players.

The second game is fantasy themed. So naturally that will be more appeal to a certain crowd by far.

As far as the other rules of their game vs mine, I think mine are superior but that may just be my bias.
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Jeremy
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What you need is a small bit of rope. A couple feet should be fine and two knives. So you tie your wrists... have you heard this before?
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Jeremy Lennert
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All games are inspired from somewhere, and "core mechanics" are reused constantly. As long as there are substantial differences between the games in other areas, there's nothing inherently wrong with that.

This is a somewhat weird case, though, because he got privileged access to your game (I assume) before it was available to the general public. If your mechanic is strikingly original, and he uses that access to beat you to market, that might impact your commercial success, which could maybe be considered an abuse of trust. That seems like a question of marketing etiquette rather than design etiquette, though, and I don't know if there are accepted norms for that sort of thing.
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seth van orden
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Antistone wrote:
All games are inspired from somewhere, and "core mechanics" are reused constantly. As long as there are substantial differences between the games in other areas, there's nothing inherently wrong with that.

This is a somewhat weird case, though, because he got privileged access to your game (I assume) before it was available to the general public. If your mechanic is strikingly original, and he uses that access to beat you to market, that might impact your commercial success, which could maybe be considered an abuse of trust. That seems like a question of marketing etiquette rather than design etiquette, though, and I don't know if there are accepted norms for that sort of thing.


Agreed
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Jeremy Lennert
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sethvanorden wrote:
It's a poison pile mechanic like Coloretto, but with with placing cards face up and face down. There's a little more to it, but that's the basics.

If the best way to describe your mechanic is "like (other game) except..."--and especially when the "except" bit doesn't make sense to people who haven't played (other game)--then I think your mechanic is probably not going to set the sky on fire with its uniqueness.

I'm no marketing guru, but that doesn't seem like the kind of thing where being first to market is going to make or break your sales.
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Matthew Proper-Lee
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sethvanorden wrote:

Quote:
Mind posting the details of your mechanic?


It's a poison pile mechanic like Coloretto, but with with placing cards face up and face down. There's a little more to it, but that's the basics.


Sounds a lot like the market mechanic in Cleopatra and the Society of Architects

Let's not forget that mechanics are often independently conceived and implemented, so it would be difficult to prove someone took a mechanic from a specific place for sure. I'm sure many designers came up with or were influenced by other things and may not even remember where inspiration came from.
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seth van orden
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Antistone wrote:
sethvanorden wrote:
It's a poison pile mechanic like Coloretto, but with with placing cards face up and face down. There's a little more to it, but that's the basics.

If the best way to describe your mechanic is "like (other game) except..."--and especially when the "except" bit doesn't make sense to people who haven't played (other game)--then I think your mechanic is probably not going to set the sky on fire with its uniqueness.

I'm no marketing guru, but that doesn't seem like the kind of thing where being first to market is going to make or break your sales.


True, that's NOT how I usually describe it, but I want to make that connect that it shares similarities to another existing game. (less similarities than my description makes it sound like) For the sake of this forum, my purpose wasn't to truly describe the mechanic or make it seem as attractive as possible. It was for the purpose the discussion of how to approach those who use your ideas, and the morality of this. I also didn't want to make myself look like I was better than using ideas from other people's games. Hopefully I only take from published games.

If you are really curious and want to discus the uniqueness of the mechanic, the rules for the game are found here:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/gyihufexa1xnlo3/AADl-78wb5y8ExQIJ...


along with some of the other basic print and play files. I'd be more than happy to discuss it.
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Jeremy Lennert
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If you're allowing anyone with an Internet connection to read your rulebook, then I don't think you've got much room to claim that someone designing a new game based on it is abusing playtester access. I feel that any details you've made public are fair game, whether the game is "published" or not.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Antistone wrote:
If you're allowing anyone with an Internet connection to read your rulebook, then I don't think you've got much room to claim that someone designing a new game based on it is abusing playtester access. I feel that any details you've made public are fair game, whether the game is "published" or not.


Yeah. But a playtester swiping and reselling your mechanics is a bit different from the joe on the street taking your PNP and pulling a mechanic out and using it in their game.

The first instance is really bad as it generates a potentially real distrust of playtesters. Which was how I felt when back in the 90s a playtester stole one of my race designs and published it first claiming it was his design all along. Which blocked me from using it for years thereafter.

Still. This is a very rare occurrence. But I'd name who did it and the company that is publishing it. I DO NOT want to take up playtesters with that sort of low mentality.
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Nat Levan
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Maybe talk to them directly about it. "Hey, I saw that you used some of the same mechanics I used in my game, after we played. Did my game inspire you?"

Before you attack the person directly, consider the possibility that this person had the game already in progress, and wanted to play your game because he felt your mechanics were similar, and wanted to see what you did with them instead.

Another thing to consider is whether there a real danger of your games being in direct competition? The timescale for publishers and Kickstarter are often completely different. Unique ideas are good, but unless you have the next Dominion, execution is much more important.

If you can't resolve the issue with the other person directly, maybe talk to the publisher and say that you feel your trust in the other designer was mishandled. The industry is small, which discourages accepting bad behavior, so the publisher might not want to continue working with a designer known to steal. Don't make threats, though, because that puts you in a bad position instead.
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I'm one for open source. If it's out in the open, everyone can benefit from it, no matter who thought of it "first". Does your game employ "card drawing", "playing a card face up", "playing a card face down", have a "discard pile"? You're already using many mechanics from other games. Does it involve a dice roll? Does it involve player turns or tokens? See where I'm going with this? Sure the game on kickstarter right now has a unique move of move the pawn surfboard over the marbles on the playing board. Now that's a unique mechanic I haven't seen before, but maybe some other cool games will be developed because of it too!

If John patents his earth saving idea, what good does it do if the earth is destroyed before he makes his millions on it because he never told anyone about it before he could sell it? The technology learning curve was heading up at an astonishing rate but I fear that patents have made it plateau because there are thousands of great ideas out there that nobody else knows about. Put your idea out to the public or die with it, your choice.
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Jake Staines
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sethvanorden wrote:
We are taking our game to kickstarter. They are currently working with a small publisher on the game.


Surely the chap going to Kickstarter (you) is most likely going to be first to market in the meaningful public-interest sense anyway? With KS you can put your game concept, core mechanic and rulebook in front of the boardgaming hobbyist crowd before you're that close to actually having the game ready to ship - most KS projects take six to twelve months to deliver. A small publisher is going to want to wait until the game is within a few weeks of hitting shops to start marketing it, because otherwise they'll lose people's interest before the game is actually available.
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Jeremy Lennert
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Omega2064 wrote:
Yeah. But a playtester swiping and reselling your mechanics is a bit different from the joe on the street taking your PNP and pulling a mechanic out and using it in their game.

The first instance is really bad as it generates a potentially real distrust of playtesters. Which was how I felt when back in the 90s a playtester stole one of my race designs and published it first claiming it was his design all along. Which blocked me from using it for years thereafter.

Wholesale copying of an entire design and pretending its your own is extremely naughty, whether it's public or not (though it may be harder to prove--and thus more annoying--if the design wasn't public).

But assuming this is a level of copying we're willing to say is typically OK (copying one mechanic, and putting it in a substantially different game), I don't see how it matters whether a playtester takes the idea from your PNP or "Joe on the street" takes the same idea from your same PNP. You seem to be implying that Joe loses the right to make derivatives of public material if he also volunteers to playtest it?
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Tony Go
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In terms of intellectual property (which I am pre-supposing this issue falls in to) the best thing to do is assume that your idea/mechanic/design has already been stolen and you simply have to, as the progenitor, do it better and faster than the everyone else. If something is unique (and novel- used in the patent term) enough, as the creator you should be capable of doing it best.

Reading through the lines, I think one of your concerns is- the person who "borrowed" your idea stands to obtain more commercial success. And that is a valid concern for sure, but as a designer one of your goals should be to design a fun experience that brings pleasure to the user. Whether or not that experience led to personal credit or financial gain is a separate entity.

You can always contact the publisher and let them know. There is honor among thieves after all...
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John "Omega" Williams
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[q="Antistone"But assuming this is a level of copying we're willing to say is typically OK (copying one mechanic, and putting it in a substantially different game), I don't see how it matters whether a playtester takes the idea from your PNP or "Joe on the street" takes the same idea from your same PNP. You seem to be implying that Joe loses the right to make derivatives of public material if he also volunteers to playtest it?[/q]

No. I am saying that the playtester violated the general rule of playtesting and turned around and ganked some part of the game and SOLD it to someone else while the original was still in development. This is beyond low. And may possibly violate the creators copyright.
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