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Making games with the same logic, different skin

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by imaginaryhuman, Aug 28, 2022.

  1. imaginaryhuman


    Mar 21, 2010
    I think one of the major pitfalls that so many game developers fall into, which also ties into the "copying" of other people's games, and therefore even the development of "genres" to an extent, is that people don't recognize that all they're doing is "re-skinning" a basic system.

    What this boils down to is that people think that if something LOOKS DIFFERENT, ie the form it takes visually is different, then it is a different game. So you may have a tower defense game with the "basic elements", the paths, the towers, etc... and if this is kind of formulaic, then many of them will seem the same, forming a "genre".

    I see this even more with e.g. 2d platformers which are a dime a dozen. I can't tell you how many times people are excited to show off their new platformer as if it's something new and exciting, and... well, you've got running and jumping, and wall jumps, and double jumps, and .... just like all the rest of them. The visuals may be different. The subtle details may be different. The animation and color may be different.

    But here's the problem. The human brain/mind tends to learn, and it becomes familiar with things. And as it does so, it also learns to "weed out" or ignore aspects of what it sees as "irrelevant". Over time, as you "learn the game", you learn what really matters and what doesn't. And generally speaking this means that after a while you get that sense of "I've seen it all before", its "nothing new", or the levels become repetitive and boring, because they literally are not showing anything "new".

    The brain pays much more attention when what it experience is unexpected, different, unique, unpredictable, even to the extent of "unlearnable" as is the case with procedural generation etc. Which is partly why it's becoming more popular for people too do the "rogue-like" (stupid term) procedural-generation approaches to "spicing things up". Keeping it fresh, adding variety, etc, to try to keep the illusion going that these differences really matter.

    See after a while you learn what does and doesn't matter in terms of reaching a goal. I can remember playing guitar hero and it has all the background animations of people singing on a stage in a band etc, and after there's all this bling and stuff of the notes coming toward you. But after a while you find that you've learned the basic fact ..... all that matters, is that you press a certain key when a certain 'dot' on the screen reaches a certain point. That's the whole game. So after a while I found myself TOTALLY screening out the whole rest of the screen, not even looking at the rest of it, because my whole focus HAD to be on the foreground "moment" where the dots were converging with when I have to press a key. So like the whole game devolved into a very basic control mechanism, button-synchronization affair, and the entire thematic backdrop and visuals and so on were really completely POINTLESS.

    The risk that we have to be careful of in making games is really the fact that, we are trying to create illusions that the game is NOT like the others. And we tend to do that with more deception, special effects, fireworks, different looks, styles, atmosphere, story, whatever, trying to build up this fake idea that the game truly is DIFFERENT. And this is especially the case with the higher-end visuals, AAA, putting ever more money into really fleshing out that the "form" that objects appear to take really distinguishes it and makes it unique. To create more illusion that forms really matter. Because your brain knows they don't. And sooner or later you'll figure out what really matters and what doesn't and ignore the rest.

    This also ties into why gameplay is so important. Why mechanics are important. Why control systems are VERY important. Because if all you're doing is taking another "done 1000 times" control system and are "decorating it" with fancy graphics which... ok... visual bling, distracting, but ultimately not really adding to the CORE of the game.... then you are just making the same game but with a different skin on it. And that's often why there's such a sense of "this has been done before" with so many games. Why most platformers end up more or less identical. Why most shootemups are so formulaic. Why most genres even tend to just repeat the same basic rules and systems over and over again.

    You have to be careful with relying too much on "appearances" to try to give a sense of a game being different. People see through it. They fall for it for a while, especially if you have a huge environment and tons of distracting forms and it all SEEMS different enough, varied enough, then you may keep people's attention for longer. But when you start to get that "there's nothing new" feeling creeping in, it's because there actually isn't. Your mind is seeing through the lies that are being shown visually, to try to tell you that this particular scenario or these objects are somehow different to other ones, just because they look different.

    Don't get me wrong, cus I like cool art and effects and stuff as much as anyone, but I also know that our experience of "reality" entails also focusing and filtering and isolating and tending to weed out what's important. The brain becomes familiar through memory. It's the same reason why with many games, movies, tv shows etc, you kind of don't want to usually watch it again right after because you remember it too well, and if you give it more time to "forget" it, you can watch it again and enjoy it more. The brain is there to learn, it's not passive. So it has to either be constantly deceived/distracted by things which appear unique in some way, challenges, difficulties etc, or it's going to get "bored". Which basically means, you failed to tempt them to believe that there was something "new" to be experienced.

    Long story short, be careful in thinking that "it looks different" is the same thing as "it is unique" because people can see through appearances pretty fast and they just become window dressing. It has to have more depth, more substance, something to get "into", more challenge or interesting mechanics or unique control systems or whatever. Because sooner or later, what might at first appear to be a wonderful looking illusion, is seen through and categorized as "nothing".
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2022
    Billy4184 and Socrates like this.
  2. unitedone3D


    Jul 29, 2017
    Dear imaginaryhuman, just a 2 cents. TL FR : it's hard to say in 4 lines...

    I agree/share your view (I'm not writing just because I agree; I could write even to say I don't agree (but I might not...because no need too and don't wannna debate now or debate with you at all..); it's just, it happens, I do and is thus 2c). And it's a very thoughful and well explained situation. Well, 'situation'...I mean, the way things are about the game industry, largely. Some don,t see it a situation/problem...but I think you bring sold points/pointers that show what is happening for 99% of game industry.

    But/and, I think, it's because...that there are 1 dzillion many games; mobile games - 1 billion...of 'em..
    At the 1B's's starting to 'look alike' 'quite a bit'. And, as such the thing is ; ''All - has been - Made - and - Invented''. not much new...'left' to find/invent/discover.

    IT's getting reallllly hard to make something Fresh and New. We have to Fight/Compete with thse 1 Billion games that were made Before Us. And have the advantage of 'having been made/existing'..when our game will 'be birthed'..

    Most likley, it will suffer of Twin-ism...(I'm a twin, myself; my twin sis, is my age (obviously), same day of birth); or called 'Clones/Clonification/Ripoffs'...but theere is lots of ambiguity and exagerration..I mean, Everything right now (or almost everying) 'has been done' 'been made' 'by someone somewhere -- before you -- before you were born''.

    Thus, we only inspire ourselves from our ancestors --- who made it alll, before us. We try to 'walk in their feets/shadows'. Obviously, wer e 'overshadowed' by their 'genuiness - invention- First' the first Creators of these New ides ('back then' in the past). By, ancestors...I mean it can be anybody (large term..) to mean, a person that made that idea before you. Thought- of it before you. 'Found It' -- 'eureka' idea before yo.

    Ideas are a 'dime a dozen' (like mobile game platformers); or more..a 'dime a million'
    Thus, you are right (I agree with you) that we have to 'differentiate ourselves' and it's Very Hard. Because it's a That Special's hard to find it. That -- Idea. Novel Idea---> Innovation.

    Hence, we use 'old tricks'...beautiful graphics, or some genre that people like....
    but, as you'S been done to death.

    So what else is there left to Be Authentic Genuine/'s so rare now..that there is 100% ORiginal Art...'made by me solely aLone...' has also devolved with the word 'derivation'...derivation is pejorative for some. It can be not a bad thing...almost everything is derived/'based on'/'inspired of'....we all base ourselves of our past/recollections..what we learned and the memories that affected us -left a mark; it's how you can build 'new ideas' you remember things and make 'new associations' (in your mind/brainstorm ideas).

    The saying is: ''All stories have been told...we only tell these same stories...a little differently''.

    The other saying is: ''33% same/old + 33% new + 33% forgot that + 1% the you = 100% Perfection'' --> Innovation.
    You wish to Be Familiar Enough, But Not Alienate neither (obscure niche one wants); thus, some 'same ol' can be food (Familiar); but it'S not enough; you must make a 'spin' on old stuff; newnewss/innovate on an old idea.
    Even That -- is hard to do. So image coming up with 100% Original Content. It's now stuff of unicorns...

    Just a 2 cents.

    PS: What we need to STardew Valley..he remade Moon Harvest...becauise he loved that game...I'm doing soert of the asme thing like him..there are games that I liked/loevd...and I could never 'replace''s just inspiration and I certainly don't have This Idea --- that Transforms Everything and Super Fresh New....
    it's rare now (as said...when 1 bilion games...yes they are 'All the same' Suffer of 'Same-itis'...but that's the thnig....there are 1 billion games...'all is made and done'.
  3. jeroll3d


    Nov 6, 2010
    Everything in this world is the result of accumulated and, above all, social knowledge. The simplest picture painted in a cave to the writing of complete ogarithms. Individual in this world, I regret to inform, only death - and yet, something common to all organic and inorganic matter.

    Obviously I'm not talking here about things that invade or go beyond copyright, copying such and such a thing exactly as if it is such a thing, but nothing or almost nothing in this world is created 'out of nothing'.

    Putting an end to this romantic and knowledge-deprived idea, in the most general sense, I have no problem developing previous ideas.

    A pianist interpreter does not 'copy' Rachmaninnoff, he interprets it according to the score and his, from the interpreter, knowledge accumulated through years of study and, in his presentation, he is able to play a certain work of this author with incredible originality.

    But, as I said and I reaffirm it, as long as it does not invade established rights, such as copyright as stipulated by the laws of each country and international commercial agreements.