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Game Mechanics and Originality

I mentioned in a recent entry that I fell into a funk after playing Sentinels of the Multiverse.  The thing that I found frustrating was the fact that Greater Than Games had done what I wanted to do with Age of Heroes, but had done it better.  I fell out of the funk, however, when I reflected on my intentions with the game and with the mechanics.

For example, I have been working on a “4-sided equipping” scheme for one of my game projects.  The idea stemmed from an idea that I had for a CCG a few years ago.  At the time, my thought was that each character should have 4 traits defining which equipment cards that character could use.  It looked something like this:

Left side – Weapons (Melee, Ranged, and Magical)
Right side – Armor (Light, Heavy, and Magical)
Top side – Skill (Artisan, Sage, and Leader)
Bottom side – Powers (Combat, Devine, Arcane)

Playtesting showed that this mechanic was WAY too complicated for a CCG; in fact, it could have possibly been the foundation for an RPG system.  Anyway, the biggest problem was the complexity of the combinations.  By having 3 sub-categories for each category, I created 81 possible combinations of characters with no repeats.  That, coupled with the other ideas  that I had for splitting all of the equipment cards into two card “halves” made for ridiculously complicated game states.

Nonetheless, I knew that the fundamental principle could be made to work, even if my application was off.  The idea was that cards would be arranged around the character cards in such a way that they each showed something that the character could equip, so what if I took away the sub-categories? The arrangement that I have been working on looks like this:

Left side – weapons
Right Side – Armor
Top side – Spells
Bottom side – Magic Items

So imagine my surprise when watched Tom Vasel’s review of Super Dungeon Explore.  Check it out.

See the similarity? Once again, I found myself in a funk; how could I release a game with this mechanic without looking like a complete rip-off?

As it is, I realized two things.  First, I realized that the overall structure of Super Dungeon Explore is nothing like my game; it is simply this mechanic that is similar.  Second, after looking back through my notes, I remembered that my idea wasn’t completely original either; a similar mechanic was used in Seaborn Games’ “Hunting Party.”  In Hunting Party, it was only the title of the cards that were arranged on all 4 sides, but this arrangement was what created the whole idea.

Here’s a demo:

Hunting Party Demo – Seaborn Games

So I guess the lesson here is that there are really no new ideas; there are simply new ways to implement them.  I just need to get my product out there and see what the customers think.

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