Tales from the Dev Side: The Game Industry Needs More Clones by DJ Arcas
July 3, 2012 23 Comments
Games similar to Minecraft dominate the sales charts of Xbox Live Indie Games. Four of the top-10 selling games in platform’s history fall into that category. The first games on XBLIG to gross $1,000,000 USD are both what are refereed to as “Minecraft Clones.” I’ve not yet played any of those top-selling games, but I understand why they exist. The gaming industry has always followed-the-leader.
When Pong first hit the world in 1972, it was immediately imitated, copied, cloned, or outright pirated world-wide. Even Atari cloned its own baby, releasing such titles as Super Pong, Doubles Pong, Doctor Pong, Puppy Pong, Hong Pong Phooey, and Pong Arm of the Law. This continued with Breakout (itself referred to during development as “one-player Pong”), Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Defender, Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, Street Fighter II, Doom, Bejeweled, Resident Evil, World of Warcraft, and Angry Birds. Think about it. There are major studios out there right now who saw the first trailers for Watch Dogs or The Last of Us at E3 and said “guys, we need our own version of that and we need it by Holiday of 2013. Get to work.”
In an industry where there are few trend setters, it has kind of surprised me how much animosity there is for those that are simply doing what the major studios are doing. But the bitterness is there. DJ Arcas, creator of FortressCraft, has dealt with it. Last year, FortressCraft was the first Xbox Live Indie Game to gross $1,000,000. I really ought to get around to reviewing it. But while the first XBLIG-made millionaire continues to tweak his creation, he also has had to deal with the criticism that his game is merely a knock-off of a game that happens to be absurdly trendy right now. I did once joke that Xbox Live Indie Games needs some form of a 6th Day Law, but DJ has another thought. Maybe clones aren’t so bad after all.
The Game Industry Needs More Clones
By DJ Arcas, Creator of FortressCraft
The game industry needs more clones. Controversial words, I know. But let’s start at the very beginning, with defining a few words.
- Clone(n). A game with a very heavy and obvious influence from an existing game. If Mega Fighters game is clone of Awesome Fighter 3, and you like Awesome Fighters 3, you’re likely to want to play Mega Fighters!
Example: Final Fight is a Clone of Double Dragon
These two games are almost identical; if anything, Final Fight is a little bit of a step backwards in fight complexity, tho it does add the ‘Press both buttons to do a spinny attack and lose some health’ – hell, they even have the same basic story!
- Carbon Copy. This almost never exists. This is a literal and identical copy of a game. These usually run into major copyright issues a few seconds after anyone finds out it exists. Even the most famous of these, Hangly-Man, had different levels!
- Reskin(n). An identical copy of a game, changing only the graphics. I’ve not run into many of these, but one notable one was this game, which was a reskin of the quite awesome Army of Darkness game:
Now THAT is a ripoff (see below). “But it looks nothing like it!”, I hear you shout. No, indeed it doesn’t. Looking like another game usually has very little to do with anything. The internet is full of forumites, shouting “gameplay is king”, but at the end of the day, people compare things based on how they look. Oh! Monster is… mind-boggling. The game is the same. I don’t mean this with any sense of hyperbole; the game is the same. In Army of Darkness, you have a gun that clears a small amount of area in front of you. In Oh! Monster, you have a mallet that does the same. In Army of Darkness, you get a book, that you throw on the ground, that sucks in monsters. In Oh! Monster, you get a magic item, that you throw on the ground that sucks in monsters. Army of Darkness’ ultimate weapon is the car Ash used in the film, which ploughs through enemies. In Oh! Monster, you get a school bus that acts identically. The balancing is the same. The levels are the same. The cost of items are the same. The order you unlock things in is the same. My mind was blown that someone would copy a game and not evolve it at all. Looks different tho. Is that important?
- Ripoff(n). A derogatory term used by angry fanboys, often with very little basis in reality. By any yardstick, Avatar is a ripoff of Pocahontas.
Only, it’s not, is it? It’s completely nonsensical to say that James Cameron *really* wanted to do Pocahontas in space. There’s only a finite number of ideas out there, and have been for a very long time. Any completely original book, game, story or film is likely to be so detached from mainstream audience as to be unenjoyable.
Quite an interesting recent ‘rip off’ was the hooha between Ninja Fishing and Radical Fishing. Ninja Fishing is the same game as Radical Fishing, only it adds in the fruit ninja-style slashing for the killing of the fish. That’s not a rip-off – that’s an evolution (Not MUCH of an evolution, mind you, but the ‘original’ Radical Fishing was so simple as to barely be a game in the first place)
Now, let’s be honest; the only real difference between many of these term is intent; people seem to relish ‘originality’ in games, but without any real innovation or originality in the games industry, this term has come to mean next to nothing. Almost every game has some originality, some speck of new and different – this much is self-evident. Why pay for a carbon-copy of a game you already love? You already HAVE that game! Gameloft have often been accused of ‘ripping off’ popular games, but even here, they aren’t stealing anything more than a vague overall feel (plus anyone who claims that anyone stole anything from StarCraft needs to be beaten with a copy of the Warhammer 40k rulebook).
Which brings me neatly onto my point; we need more clones.
I wandered into Game at lunchtime; sequel after sequel after sequel (the most basic form of a clone!). But that’s not the worst of it. Racing game, racing game, first person shooter, 3rd person shooter…
Where are my Gauntlet clones? Where are the RTS games? Why is the industry obsessed with cloning the massively popular games, right until the point where people get utterly sick of them?
The 80’s was a golden time of gaming for many; if you look back a little more objectively, it was full of platformers and Gauntlet clones. I miss those days. I love Gauntlet.
These days, we just saw the release of Diablo III, which managed 5 million players on a PC game, on day 1! That’s awesome, right? So, I’ve completed Diablo III. I’d like my clone now, please. The industry seems to be remarkably silent on this. Here’s my 50 quid. Give me a great Diablo 3 clone, and you can have it. (Yes, there’s Grim Dawn, Path of Exile and Torchlight 2. 3 games, and none of them on consoles, and none of them released. Apparently they couldn’t ‘fit’ Torchlight 2 into 512 megs….pathetic). And the last 10 years has been surprisingly silent in the way of dungeon crawlers (Torchlight, Titan Quest and Dungeon Siege being notable exceptions. I think they might be the ONLY exceptions, tho!)
I love Trials HD. Where’s the clones there? There should be 10 of them on XBLA by now; the Monster truck one, the one with missiles, the one in space, the post-apocalyptic one…
DarkSiders was popular enough to warrant a sequel, shameless God Of War clone that it was. What else is there in that particular sub genre? I’ve got the choice of Devil May Cry or…. nothing.
Where’s my Borderlands clones? Cooperative FPS games with procedural loot? Yummy, yes please.
I love Pikmin enough to run out and buy a Wii-U just to play Pikmin 3 on. Why aren’t there any other Pikmin-style games? I don’t play the game for the exciting adventure of Olimar-in-a-garden, I play it for the awesome swarm-based gameplay.
Space Pirates and Zombies was brilliant, tons and tons of fun. Yet I can’t find another game like it.
Terraria was a smash hit, hugely played and great (right until the developers decided they’d made enough money and started on a new game instead of working on it); why does a search for “Terraria-style game” not bring back a plethora of delights for me to spend my money on?
I’ve got £50 right here. Why does my only choice seem to be between Boring Racer 3 and Generic First Person Shooter 6? There’s always the Indie Game scene, but there’s few places to help me easily wade through the masses of crappy My First Games and get at the ones worth the money.
All I want to do is buy my Borderlands-meets-Terraria game. Sadly, it appears I’m stuck with writing that myself.
I hate the games industry sometimes.
BlazeJam is a benefit taking part July 6-8 to benefit victims of the recent wildfires in Colorado. A gaming event to show that we’re not just about T-Bagging hobos in Saints Row. Visit BlazeJam.com for more info.