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The confusing difference between a clone and a coincidence

A new Offworld feature delves into a discomfiting game dev problem: How can you tell when someone has cloned your game, and when they've simply come up with a similar idea by chance?
"I tend to think of game mechanics as if they're things that are already out there in the world, independent of individual human beings -- that we're discovering something, rather than coming up with it all by ourselves."

- Developer Naomi Clark ruminates on why two designers might independently create very similar games. 

The practice of cloning popular games for profit is well-established, but a new Offworld feature delves into a discomfiting game dev problem: How can you tell when someone has cloned your game, and when they've simply come up with a similar idea by chance?

Offworld chief (and former Gamasutra editor) Leigh Alexander lays out the case of Devine Lu Linvega's Donsol (pictured), the recently-released mobile edition of a card game designed by Sony employee John Eternal that happens to bear a striking resemblance to Zach Gage's 2011 game Scoundrel

"Donsol is almost exactly like Zach Gage's Scoundrel," writes Alexander. "Was malicious copying afoot, or is it just that there's only so much you can do with a deck of cards after all?"

Unlike the various Threes clones that cropped up last year, this seems to be a case of coincidence; Gage publicly expressed discomfort at the resemblance and confidence that it was unintentional, while Alexander notes that "both [Linvega and Eternal] were more than happy to offer Gage a credit on their App Store game."

With input from Linvega and developer Naomi Clark, Alexander uses the incident to dig into a deeper issue: are game mechanics created -- or discovered? 

You can (and should) read the full article over on Offworld for more insight.

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