*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
January 29, 2023, 09:15:43 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 143 - most online ever: 660 (January 18, 2023, 03:22:41 PM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Mechanics: How Derivative is Too Derivative, and am I?  (Read 4361 times)
FLEB
Member

Posts: 20


WWW
« on: July 14, 2005, 09:48:11 PM »

Well, first off, I hope I'm with in the bounds of this thread here. This is for a game mechanic I'm developing, although I'm still in the infant first-draft stages of it. A gentle swat with a rolled-up paper and a pointer to the right direction should set me right if I misposted.

Anyhow, the system I'm working on (and trying to think of a better name than "Multichanic" for) is that holiest of grails, a generic RPG mechanic. It's going along decently (There's a working character-sheet snapshot at http://rpg.pixelsaredead.com/microsystem/rev_g.pdf if you're interested).

I'm just a bit worried about it being too derivative, in the sense that I'd be setting myself up for a legal, or even ethical, Cease-and-Desist situation in my future. Although my motivation is more of a "scratch my own itch" than "professional aspirations", I'd still like to do this right. I may find someone who's interested enough to want it.

My, shall we say "inspiration" for the mechanic is the White Wolf (older editions) series of games. (Okay, I admit it, I haven't really been around the block much. My gaming experience consists of some AD&D, Shadowrun, WW, and a bit of D6 Cthulu and D&D-D20.)

Here's the idea... see if I have anything to worry about:

I like the idea of five-dot stats and associated dice-pool instead of, which is really the biggest thing that might be seen as a ripoff. (The sheet shows four, but I think I'll be upping it to 5 for more granularity)

Basic stats (the "big 3" Strength/Perception/Interaction) and most weapon ratings actually have two sets of stats, a "Speed" and "Effectiveness" rating. It just simplifies things into fewer stats. There is an all-purpose money system (which I have to simplify-- right now it looks like a Form 1040), and from there, it's all as generic as it can be.

Skill types go from generalized skills/knowledge "medical", through specific skills "epidemiology", to very specific per-character situations "worked with the CDC, knows this illness". Although there might be a list of possible skills on a per-game-type basis, the mechanic itself introduces nothing beyond the "big three" for pre-filled skills, leaving it open to whatever type of game you may wish to play. (Of course, as with all types of games, it does suit itself better to certain types of games. This is made more for simpler, average-Joe characters, not complexly "enhanced" types, as those are not the types of games I'm thinking of creating.)

Gameplay itself is still vague at this point, as I tend to use a character sheet to "map out" the general feel, before I get into the grit of rules. I had some gameplay rules, but they got into a bit of a car-crash with themselves, and I really need to rewrite. Here are the general concepts I'm working off:

I intend for this to be as light on rules as possible. I'm trying to scrap the "initiative" and "combat mode" concept, except for cases where two players specifically vie for first go in a scene. As for actions, the players would simply call off a set of skills relevant to the task (A general skill, a specific skill, and/or a situation modifier, as they have them). The GM would either accept or reject these as relevant to the task, and it would be a standard-issue d10 "dice pool" roll (with a few extra rolls regading weapon stats and the like).


I realize a lot of this was fuzzy, but with what I have here, would you consider any "inspired" aspects of the mechanic to be too derivative?

Thanks, all! Links and references are more than welcome.
Logged

If you *really* don't want to call me FLEB, go ahead and call me Rudy Fleminger... I guess... because I like you.
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2591


WWW
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2005, 03:12:12 AM »

Quote from: FLEB

I realize a lot of this was fuzzy, but with what I have here, would you consider any "inspired" aspects of the mechanic to be too derivative?


Not at all. This excitement over innovation and originality has been something of a fad here lately. I don't know why, I don't see how it benefits anyone's design to worry about it. Should be the least of your worries as long as the game is still unwritten.

Consider:
- If you're making the best game you can, and a particular mechanic you need for it is already used somewhere, how does originality in that case make your game better?
- Considering that legally ideas, including game mechanics, cannot be copyrighted, do you disagree with the sentiment? Do you think that designers have a moral right to control game mechanics, even when the law doesn't?
- Statistically nine in ten aspiring game design projects fail because the designer gets bored or lacks the craft to put it all together. In this light, could this worry over "originality" be a way to get social reinforcement and get to talk about the project without actually concentrating on writing it? Perhaps a way to bow out graciously from a project or postpone it?
- Considering the history of roleplaying to date, we can name arguably no game that was actually original in the sense of not following an evolution from Dungeons & Dragons. Being that the great majority of all these games were created through playing and adapting older games, why is your case in particular such that you have to be original about it?

I invite anybody else who worries over these things to answer the questions. Perhaps the answers prove enlightening.

For reference, I think that your general goal of writing an universal system is much more damning than the specific idea of using skills and die pools. There are powerful, robust, universal systems already, like GURPS, Tri-Stat, Fudge and Hero System, so the niche is pretty competed already. The question is not one of mechanical originality (none of those uses the exact dice mechanic you do), but one of utility. Steal as much as you like from other games, as long as your end product is better than anything you stole from. That's evolution, and generally the only way game design progresses.

As a next step, I suggest reading Tri-Stat, which I see as essentially identical to your plan as far as goals and mechanical approach goes. It's available for free, too. After that, either continue your gaming studies with some actually different games (say, Universalis, the ultimate universal system), or start answering important design questions about your own game. What do the players do in it? What do the characters do? What is actually the source of entertainment in the game? How the rules support the players in achieving that source? What are the exact duties of different players? Do you use a GM and why? Those for starters, come back when you've answered those.

For a closure, here's what I know of copyright law as regards game design: law differentiates between the representation of an idea, and the idea itself. Specifically nobody can have copyright over an idea, only the way it is represented. Thus nobody can own a philosophy, mathematical formula, programming technique, feeling, theme or anything like that. On the other hand, you can own, and do own, the text you write, the painting you paint, the music you make and so on. These basic principles hold for game design, as well: you cannot legally own concepts like adding numbers together or rolling a die and comparing it to a score. You can only own the particular arrangement of game terminology, and even that is largely content-free in many cases. Many basic game design concepts, like abilities and skills, are de facto public domain at this point, even if somebody could have claimed copyright when they were first invented (although I'd interpret stuff like skills in roleplaying to be ideas first and representation second). If you familiarize yourself with the degree of plagiarism found in early D&D clones, and consider that for the most part they are perfectly legal, you perhaps gain a smidgen of an idea about how close you can actually skirt to another game design before committing copyright infringement. Compared to these realities, the anxieties we get here from aspiring designers are usually rather tame. Likely you'll be a disgustingly unoriginal plagiarist long before you actually break copyright law, as long as you don't actually copy-paste any text from another game.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2005, 06:25:30 AM »

Hello!

Everyone who's anxious about this whole originality/plagiarism issue needs to check out Plagiarism. Good plagiarism. and most especially Internet piracy of documents, which has many important threads linked inside it.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Adam Dray
Member

Posts: 676


WWW
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2005, 06:49:25 AM »

Welcome to the Forge, FLEB! Got a real name we can use?

Eero summed it up pretty well, I think. Don't sweat it. If you're not stealing text from another game, you're generally not violating any copyrights, though you can get in trouble if your thing is too much like someone else's thing. Generally in game design, people borrow ideas from each other all the time.

Take something, improve it, and share it. If your work is popular, people may borrow stuff from you!

Quote from: Euro

Statistically nine in ten aspiring game design projects fail because the designer gets bored or lacks the craft to put it all together. In this light, could this worry over "originality" be a way to get social reinforcement and get to talk about the project without actually concentrating on writing it? Perhaps a way to bow out graciously from a project or postpone it?


I had concerns about originality when I started Verge. There's definitely a social aspect to it, but for me it wasn't a procrastination or avoidance tactic. I was more afraid that I'd unwittingly produce something that someone else had already done. No one wants to pour their heart and soul (and days of work) into a game design and then have the public go, "yeah, you just reinvented GameX, but not as good." If you'd seen GameX before writing your own game, you may have improved upon it.

It turns out that my game was similar in many ways to Fastlane. Reading it helped me understand what my own game's strengths and weaknesses were and helped me differentiate Verge. I tightened up the core risk mechanic and made it something pretty unique. I decided to focus on cyberpunk. I didn't use roulette wheel. ;) In the end, I think Verge stands on its own, though people may draw comparisons to Fastlane.

Actually, Andy K. has described it as "basically a blend of Prime Time Adventures (framing scenes) and Dogs in the Vineyard." Where I once might have worried that I wasn't original enough, now I can't imagine better praise!
Logged

Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2005, 07:01:08 AM »

Check out my post in the similar thread new system needs plagiarism check.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Adam Dray
Member

Posts: 676


WWW
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2005, 08:19:56 AM »

Ron, I don't see a post by you there. Am I missing something?
Logged

Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2005, 08:31:54 AM »

No, I fucked it up. My plan was to put that post into that thread, directing people here. My next step is to untangle my brain and re-implement that plan.

Best,
Ron
Logged
FLEB
Member

Posts: 20


WWW
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2005, 08:40:34 AM »

Quote from: AdamDray
Welcome to the Forge, FLEB! Got a real name we can use?


Well, I s'pose you can call me Rudy Fleminger. It works just as well.

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
As a next step, I suggest reading Tri-Stat, which I see as essentially identical to your plan as far as goals and mechanical approach goes.


Will do. I had an inkling there was probably something out there similar to what I had.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Everyone who's anxious about this whole originality/plagiarism issue needs to check out Plagiarism. Good plagiarism. and most especially Internet piracy of documents, which has many important threads linked inside it.


Read, read, and read. Exactly the sort of info and opinions I was looking for.
Logged

If you *really* don't want to call me FLEB, go ahead and call me Rudy Fleminger... I guess... because I like you.
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!