Eduardo Baraf
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My background is in video games and for the last 5 years free-to-play and mobile games.

Something that is often a conversation in that space is derivative and copycat games which are essentially knockoffs. At the same time, we often talk about taking core, proven mechanics and using them as the basis for something new. You know, that whole "there are only 7 stories ever written" thing.

I don't think you see the knockoff type games quite as much in boardgames (i could be wrong), but as designers what do people see as derivative development? Where is the line drawn, etc?

Cheers!
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Drew Hicks
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Two words: worker placement.

In all seriousness, I think that it's less of an issue in board gaming because the stakes are lower and players are rabid omnivores. There are a few trends (worker placement, deckbuildr, werewolf with bells on) that are troubling but are nowhere near as toxic as in the video game arena. I heard someone say that AAA games aren't designed, just marketed. I think even the most derivative hobby game is designed, at least moreso than a Call of Duty reskin or a Match 3 clone.
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Eduardo Baraf
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AnEvenWeirderMove wrote:
Two words: worker placement.

In all seriousness, I think that it's less of an issue in board gaming because the stakes are lower and players are rabid omnivores. There are a few trends (worker placement, deckbuildr, werewolf with bells on) that are troubling but are nowhere near as toxic as in the video game arena. I heard someone say that AAA games aren't designed, just marketed. I think even the most derivative hobby game is designed, at least moreso than a Call of Duty reskin or a Match 3 clone.


Yeah, a big part of it is probably that there is no money to be had by doing it. But still, on the other side, what ways do people leverage games they like, or inspired by, into new designs?
 
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Nat Levan
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I think some of the trending core concepts like worker placement and deckbuilding are derivative, but only in the same way that in the realm of video games all platformers are derivatives of Mario Bros or adventure games are derivatives of Legend of Zelda.
I think there are basically 3 approaches to making a derivative game. You think you can do something different, you think you can do something better, and you think you can do something too.
Most boardgames fall into the first category, and is just inspiration. A small number are the second, where you only want to make a few changes, but the goal is to provide a better product. Very few are the third, which is the "knockoff": neither better nor different. This breakdown is because the boardgame market is so small that the first game meets the needs of the consumer. Most people don't need 5 copies of Monopoly or Love Letter with different art. The second is rare because it's hard enough to market any game, let alone marketing as "better than game X" (plus that runs into trademark and copyright trouble). The margins don't support spending any time on duplicating something.
With video games, on the other hand. There is relatively little cost to duplicate, and the market is so large that even if you get a small part of it, you can make money.

I wrote a series of articles a while back about how and why to steal ideas from other games that might also be relevant here.
Part 1:
http://oakleafgames.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/stealing-from-e...
Part 2:
http://oakleafgames.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/stealing-from-e...
Part 3:
https://oakleafgames.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/stealing-from-...
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Drew Hicks
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Sivilized wrote:
I think some of the trending core concepts like worker placement and deckbuilding are derivative, but only in the same way that in the realm of video games all platformers are derivatives of Mario Bros or adventure games are derivatives of Legend of Zelda.
I think there are basically 3 approaches to making a derivative game. You think you can do something different, you think you can do something better, and you think you can do something too.
Most boardgames fall into the first category, and is just inspiration. A small number are the second, where you only want to make a few changes, but the goal is to provide a better product. Very few are the third, which is the "knockoff": neither better nor different. This breakdown is because the boardgame market is so small that the first game meets the needs of the consumer. Most people don't need 5 copies of Monopoly or Love Letter with different art. The second is rare because it's hard enough to market any game, let alone marketing as "better than game X" (plus that runs into trademark and copyright trouble). The margins don't support spending any time on duplicating something.
With video games, on the other hand. There is relatively little cost to duplicate, and the market is so large that even if you get a small part of it, you can make money.

I wrote a series of articles a while back about how and why to steal ideas from other games that might also be relevant here.
Part 1:
http://oakleafgames.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/stealing-from-e...
Part 2:
http://oakleafgames.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/stealing-from-e...
Part 3:
https://oakleafgames.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/stealing-from-...


I think there are a lot more of the second/third category than you think. Not that those games are 'bad games' since they're usually small variants on existing VERY good games. Especially with Worker Placement and Deck-Building I think there are a good number of games that are basically Agricola or Dominion with a house-rule or two and a re-theming that's either intended to improve the existing foundation, or to differentiate the game so it's not immediately recognized as a shallow copy...
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Nat Levan
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Quite possible. I've heard that Tanto Cuore is basically a Dominion clone, and there were several Coin Age clones when that got big. But I'd bet that for the most part, those games fade into obscurity.
I guess the overall point I was trying to make with that is that even among derivative games, the ones that are loosely derivative greatly outweigh the highly derivative games. And that difference is market-driven.

To the OP's question, there's very little that isn't derivative in some way, so game design is all about putting your own spin on something. Taking a part of something else without adding to it or giving attribution to it is wrong.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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In my opinion, even if you are able to put yourself in a "vacuum" -- that is, free of influence of other games -- most of the ideas you'll come up will be things that many others would already have explored; some might even already be published games.

It's like saying that you'll go and discover a new island on a world that is covered by hundreds of satellites. Sure, there's a rare chance for it; but most of the islands you'll "discover" will probably already have a bed&breakfast on it. (Speaking in hyperbole here, but you catch my drift.)


That said, why not save yourself the time, play existing games, learn from other people's experiences from it, and just improve on existing ideas?
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Eduardo Baraf
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To everyone who has commented above - fabulous information. Really in line with my thoughts, considerations.

For me, when developing a video game as a product, which is to say something intended for market, a surprising amount of your success comes down to the Quarles Risk Matrix (names after the CFO who outlined it first to my knowledge).

This is the idea, that any product has a number of risk areas, most of these are applicable to board games as well. For example:

- Team Experience (individual and as a group)
- Technology (slightly less relevant to boardgames)
- Theme/Market (How crazy is the theme, how popular
- Gameplay: Moment to moment (how novel / original is the game)
- Gameplay: F2P/Monetization system (proven?)
- Timeline: (this is more about big IP)

Then basically you assess the risk associated with each of these. If you have more than 1 category in high risk, you may have trouble. New Team + New Technology. New Theme + New gameplay, etc. These all reduce your predictable and increase the likely hood of collateral or exponential risk. Your tech is on the floor, so you gameplay doesn't work, so you change your gameplay, swirl swirl.

The way I like to think about this in a positive way (as opposed to a conservative way) is to say - You MUST take risks to find great success, so what is the most crazy innovative thing I want to do? For a game I'm working on, I decided I wanted to make a novel, unproven match 3 puzzle type. Then I say, ok, how can I de-risk the other categories. For example, rather than creating some funky menuing system I use the standard fair vanilla one. People are going to have a hard time wrapping their heads around my puzzles, so I don't want to risk them having a hard time with my menus. Some with business model.

I always go back to this, because as a creator I always do things my own may / with my own rules. More often than not I deal with that exponential risk problem. (see: Lift Off http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/161681/lift-get-me-planet Lots of examples there where I didn't listen to my own advice. Love the game, but maybe I could have saved a few grey hairs!!
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