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Coping with Comparison
by Miko Charbonneau on 05/10/13 04:20:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Sometimes, you are your own worst enemy. It’s easy to love your game when it’s still a fresh-faced newborn idea, but as it evolves into an awkward adolescent prototype, the tender feelings may slip away. And that can lead to panic, or wondering if you should just quit. We can destroy ourselves by giving up before our game is even fully formed.

One inevitable contribution to mid-development despair is being faced with the similarities between your game and others in the same genre. Such comparisons are inevitable, and not necessarily a bad thing. Being able to pitch your game as “It’s X meets Y” gives people an instant reference point for understanding what you’re trying to accomplish.

But there are two scenarios which can make you hesitate. The first is when a very similar game is announced (or worse, released) while you are creating yours. You can easily drive yourself crazy trying to imagine all the possible outcomes. The other game might have more funding, a bigger development team, or more press. Even if it doesn’t, you can’t help but worry about how people will compare the two.

Or maybe the problem is your friends. People like to connect their thoughts, and they often respond with references to other things during conversation. They probably don’t mean to throw you off your pitch, but it can be frustrating hearing how awesome this other game is, when in your mind yours will be much different.

So how do you cope with being compared? Here are some things I keep in mind when my shiny new idea starts to feel redundant.

You still love your game.

If you and your game were floating alone in sensory deprivation room, with your memory wiped of all knowledge of other games, would you still love it? If yes, then you should relax a little. If you feel good about your creation, no matter what other people say or think of it, you’ll stay proud and confident.

Have a champion.

Find someone that will support you with positive feedback. Sometimes this person is an alpha reader or a loved one. That doesn’t mean they never criticize you, but you need someone that will fight you when you’re thinking of giving up. It’s easier to keep going if you know at least one person is looking forward to playing it!

Comparison is a compliment.

Your idea was so good that other people are riding the same wavelengths. They are even suggesting your game is similar to some of their favorite games. Look on the bright side, because that means people are interested in this space!

Players consume faster than we create.

In general, what takes months or years for the development team only takes a few hours or days for most players. That should give you a huge amount of comfort, because players that like a certain style or gameplay will be looking for something new to enjoy when they finish their other favorites, and they might choose yours because of the similarities.

Think of it as a marketing challenge.

Why is your game so different than these others? Respond out loud (preferably while alone, the first few times). If you fumble your words for fifteen minutes, that might be a wake up call that you wouldn’t have an eloquent response in an interview or pitch video. This is an opportunity to be prepared for the questions people might ask you. Having a simple response that doesn’t come across as defensive or derogatory is always impressive to players and other developers.

Why do you care?

In many cases, what it boils down to is being more concerned with what others think over what you think. It’s normal to worry about your audience, how the game will be marketed, or what people might complain about. But if you compare these worries to the benefits of getting your game done, you’ll find they just don’t measure up. You started this game for a reason, whether it be to express a passionate idea, make something that you always wanted to play, or learn new skills.

Don’t let the fear of what may happen get in the way of finishing what you started.

 

This article was reposted from my game design and writing blog "Miko Writes Miko Games". You can learn more about my indie game development at http://www.prettysmartgames.com or follow me @Evaliation on twitter.


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Comments


Dillon Rogers
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Interesting read.

It can be tempting to fall into the hole of changing mechanics/qualities about your game in order to immediately differentiate it from games of the same genre. Sometimes it may bear fruit, but other times it may just confuse and dilute the game experience.

Not every game needs to reinvent the wheel. In fact, games have become massively successful just by changing one or two of the spokes (ie Minecraft). It's important to think about whether a game is truly delivering a distinct experience or if it's just being different for the sake of being different.

Mark Slabinski
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I really liked this. It reminds me of something Chuck Wendig said about the getting feedback on novels. His advice was essentially yours, but focused to a pinpoint laser of righteous confidence (even when part of his mind was screaming at him otherwise) and what I can only describe as cynicism pressed into a berserker rage of desire to put words on paper and to damn what anybody else might think, just as long as enough people bought it to let him survive long enough to write another one. You take what's valuable, discard what is not, learn for the next time.

Chris Estevez
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Really liked the article. I went through that stage of comparison panic some months ago. I'm creating a puzzle platformer which uses physics, and even worse, gravity! A lot of people said: another gravity platformer? Really? And I said: yes, its a gravity platformer, but its different from the others out there. And I truly belive it is. But what I feared from the start is people prejudge the game because of the genre and don't give it an opportunity to demonstrate what makes it a bit different. I'll release gameplay videos soon, will see...

Marius Holstad
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One thing that works for me is thinking that this game is something I trully want to express to the world.
Knowing that my message would someday be important in some peoples lives, warms my heart and makes me work even harder!

Lihim Sidhe
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As vapid as this may sound if one's game is paying the bills, then it doesn't matter. If it isn't paying the bills, then whip out that think tank and figure out how you can keep pursuing your craft and not flipping burgers.

Bejeweled didn't stop Candy Crush. Doom didn't stop Call of Duty. Everquest sure as hell didn't stop WoW (and WoW ironically birthed League of Legends). Also... Infiniminer didn't stop Notch from making his own meal ticket out of the mundane into his own destiny.

If I made a game that was called a clone of every game ever made but I'm having fun and I'm living comfortably... I'll try not to let the comments of the haters bother me when I'm flying to France for French Toast.

Until then... Ramen. :(


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