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Cloning or Genre?

When is a game a clone of another game and when does it merely belong to a genre?

Krister Karlsson, Blogger

December 15, 2014

3 Min Read


A while ago now King was taking a rightful beating in the gaming media for cloning games. I think what stuck out most to me was the mail where they asked a developer team to copy Scamper Ghost for them. A couple of years ago I read the same thing about Zynga. Obviously I’m quite upset about this type of behavior, for several reasons and I clearly don’t like it. At the same time I reacted to someones comment, in regards to the Candy crush and Candy swipe debate, on a post which read something like this: “King copy blatantly because they have no creative talent.” This is obviously not true and I started to think a bit about when something is a clone of another title?

The "shoot 'em up genre"
This leads me to our current project - 1993 Space Machine. It is an old school space shooter, done the classic pixelated way. Trying to count the number of different space shooters out there would be quite a feet. But I doubt that no one would call any of these games a clone of the titles they were inspired from.

shmups collage

The most common and basic ingredients in these titles are: spaceships, aliens, extra satellite like weapons, enemy attack waves,and complex end bosses. Even specifics like enemy bullets which most of the time are round and hot glowing is almost part of the genre. The graphic style of these games also remind of each other a lot with dark spacy backgrounds and brighter alien or techie foregrounds. Oftentimes the palette is quite vivid and I dare say that no space shooter is complete without any number of glass orbs and big alien eyes. So when is something a clone and when is it merely part of a genre? I’d say that when the number of a certain type of game starts to grow big we have a genre.

Our latest game: The Spookening is now on Steams Greenlight and someone commented there that it was a rip off of an old Sega game with a ghostly theme. Now, our game looks nothing like the game referred and the gameplay mechanics are completely different too. But just because we chose a theme and game play that few have seen or played, some people like to think it’s a rip off. I suspect that if we chose to make a racing game we would not get a comment like that because there are so many games of that sort making it a genre.
I remember when Doom was the hottest game in town. Similar games showed up shortly after and people referred to them as Doom clones. Today they’re referred to as fps-games.


Then we have a genre that is actually referring to one specific game in its very classification - 'Rougelikes'. These are the type of games that playes the same way as the game "Rouge". This is what Wikipedia has to say about its genre: "Roguelikes descend from the 1980 game Rogue, particularly mirroring Rogue 's character-or sprite-based graphics, turn-based gameplay that gives the player the time to plan each move, permanent death and randomization." Pretty specific and niched I'd say.

Other media
Obviously this goes for more than games too. I can imagine that when Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath paved new ways in rock many bands after them were labeled copy cats. Today it’s just rock or metal.

A new genre?
So will puzzle games with a candy theme be a genre like space shooters became one? Not unlikely if it continues to show the same popularity as it has done, then more studios wants to get on the same train to make a buck. Just look at what happened when Flappy Bird disappeared from the market.

Any thoughts on this?

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