Development Pre-release, early development : Being overcautious / paranoid?

CruelBus

Member
Over the years I've seen great game ideas come out, do well, and then get 500 clones of the game show up within a year. The original games still do well, but it certainly shows that there are loads of little studios all over the place that stand by, fully staffed, funded and ready, to nearly duplicate whatever game seems to be performing well. I have also seen awesome game ideas in early development get hijacked by more capable studios who release a similar, sometimes "better" version of the game before the original game is released.

I really want to put some screen shots, videos and plans for my current and next game out there, but I am genuinely concerned that a team will take the idea and run with it before I can have anything to show. At the same time, I understand that for a game to do well in this market, visibility is key, and the sooner you start, the better. I just can't get past the above concerns.

Yes, I enjoy the creative process of game development, and in some hopeful future, where I would have my own development studio, I would probably hire managers since I just want to be on the creative end instead of the organizational end. This is a "hobby" of sorts for now, but my intent is to have that development studio, which would mean my financial welfare, and that of my team members (which to me is more important), will definitely be dependent upon an income stream from released games. As such, it very much matters that a more developed team would beat me to the punch. Is that a risk that everyone just takes and commits 4+ years of development in wide open public view? For large studios, I know it's not such a big deal, since their goal is to create something different than the other large studios are creating. For the thousands of smaller studios, my feeling is that it's pretty cutthroat. Based on that feeling, I have chosen to remain in the shadows until just before release. That secrecy comes at a cost, I'm sure.

I don't even want to disclose the names of the games, it's that bad. Any input from the teams out there?
 
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CruelBus

Member
If my first game does moderately well, I already have about a year's worth of updates for it pre-planned and space made for them in the design, so that should help maintain interest. Ideally, the revenue from that game would be enough to contract an artist for my next game.

Overcautious in advance?
My next game is going to be such a large undertaking that I will have to, at the very least, contract several people to do work. I just can't possibly do all of it. I was thinking a kickstarter would be the way to generate early funds to contract those artists. A kickstarter means I would have to clearly reveal the game concept to the public, and just based on the very limited interactions I've had with others about this next game idea, it definitely would have appeal to certain types of players. So investors and other competitive entities would see the profit potential and run with it, and at the end of the day, the contracted artists get paid, and I release several years after a different studio has been on the market.

Now... I also can accept that perhaps my ideas are actually not "all that" and I should just put a halt to what could appear to be an ego issue, and get out there. (insert paranoia) BUT, I would expect any competitive small studio that had run out of ideas, to use that logic to get others to disclose their ideas in order to capitalize on them.
 
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If you are planning to make any money from your game, I think you are shooting yourself in the foot if you don't advertise heavily for an extended period of time. The indie problem is not one of their games getting stolen (it does happen, but it's extremely rare compared to the number of indie games that come out), the indie problem is one of visibility. There are at least 20 games coming out on Steam every day, and that number grows constantly. Factor in itch.io, gamejolt, epic store, gog, and ALLL the other marketplaces and there are literally hundreds of games coming out per day. You have to compete in an extremely crowded marketplace, against some of the best artists and designers who've ever lived. No matter how good your game is, people have to know it exists to play it and the overwhelming flood of games and marketing for games that courses through the internet is desperate to drown all mention of your game.
If my first game does moderately well, I already have about a year's worth of updates for it pre-planned and space made for them in the design, so that should help maintain interest. Ideally, the revenue from that game would be enough to contract an artist for my next game.
If you look at the statistics, something like 95% of games released only just make enough money back to pay for the $100 steam fee it costs to upload a game to steam, if that. If you are serious about making money, and you hope to make enough money to not only earn the fee back, but to pay for development costs AND future development costs, you are going to have to do an extremely good job at both marketing and making your game. If this is your first game release, I would very much dial back expectations. On average, game companies don't start making any money until their 3rd or 4th release. This is because there's a huge amount of information to learn about releasing a game, from early market research, to understanding how best to target marketing efforts, to delivering a great final product, to cultivating player bases, etc, etc. The people who make money have generally released multiple games and have a good idea of what is necessary for a game's success (even the people who seem to make a lot of money out of nowhere have generally released many games beforehand, those games were just either free or had no impact at all and so no one had heard of them). Making money from a game isn't about having a good idea, it's about executing on a good idea from start to finish really well and effectively promoting that game to the public. If a company asset flipping your game idea makes more money than you, then generally your execution wasn't that great.

If you're still extremely paranoid about people stealing your game idea (which, really, there's billion of game ideas out there, no individual idea is completely special or unique), then try to structure your marketing so that you are effectively showing off the promise of the idea without completely spilling all the details about the execution of the idea.

Sorry if this seems like a bit of a downer, but I think a part of learning about releasing games is making sure your expectation is not wildly different from what the reality will be and the reality for almost all indie games is that they won't make money, not because their idea was stolen, but because they got lost in the flood and released to empty stands at the stadium.

EDIT: I would also caution against dumping a lot of time and money into your first release. Your first release should be considered a learning and growing experience, it shouldn't be your magnum opus. If I were you, I would keep the idea on the backburner and make a few smaller games that take less than a year (or even shorter than that, like 6-9 months) so that you can learn the ropes of what goes into releasing and promoting a game before you try to release "the big one".
 

CruelBus

Member
If I were you, I would keep the idea on the backburner and make a few smaller games
I was literally just thinking about this while taking a little break a few minutes ago. So for this first game, yes, I am definitely taking it as a learning experience, and seeing some of the great things other people are doing here on just this platform, my game certainly isn't going to look so fine and polished. It's just a different style... my style perhaps. Even the next game will be "my style" whatever that means. Sorta pixel, sorta semi-realistic, but none of the awesome flashy effects everyone has.

I have a few other smaller game ideas I came up with over the past few months that would be fun to do. I'm not expecting to make bank on this game, and the most I'm hoping for is that players will consider it as a "fun timewaster." Other than the cost of GMS1.4 and GMS2.x Mobile and Windows, I'm out nothing really but time. I have so many 3d and 2d assets from when I had a 3D animation company back in the 90s that I don't have to buy anything like that. I *can* make my own music, but it's all a matter of time, as I have a fulltime job with a basically "on call" schedule. Would I quit that job if I could live off of game development? You betcha.

If I won the lottery, I'd start a studio and not worry about it, and a select few would have fun for the duration. Right now, I expect this first game to go mostly unnoticed. The original version was intentionally designed to be offensive and get negative publicity, but everyone is so fragile these days that I'm sure Google wouldn't even allow it to exist on their site. I had thought about getting with the Southpark crew and seeing about offering it through their website.

I could put together a clunky demo here to get some pier reviews but 90% if not more of the visuals are place holders (well, unrefined anyway.) Actually, I will within the next few months when I get something a little more cohesive. My "bug list" is pages long. It's not easy being the EVERYTHING in a game, and I'm not an expert at any aspect of it.

I don't consider any of what you said to be a downer, I just have very little insight into this whole arena and am thankful for any info I can get. I have 6 years very very part time working on this, took about 2 years off, so really 4 years, and a double data crash where I lost both my primary and backup drive with all of the original source materials, including 20 years of digital effects and data. OUCH. Paid $2500 for the best recovery I could find and it was a flawless recovery.

Not sure I have a magnum opus, maybe the next game. I just need to get SOMETHING out the door, win or lose, and go from there.
 
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Yal

🐧 *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
One aspect that hasn't been brought up is that if you start advertising your game early (social media etc), you have proof you came up with the idea first if someone were to release something similar. If your main concern is that someone's gonna steal the idea, this would offer some protection (even if it makes the idea more exposed).
 

Rob

Member
Get to work fixin dem bugs man. The days are long gone when you can just brush that stuff under the rug.
 
Ideas are pointless without execution! And execution is pointless without planning. If you want to make money you have to go BIG. Nowadays small games just don't sell at all. There are tons of unique and interesting games out there but many are just small games. Without the promise of a long-term experience for the player, most people will simply move to the next game on the list.

Lastly get GitHub setup! Free online private backups. FREE! Imagine not having to spend thousands of dollars on recovery.
 

O.Stogden

Member
Yeah, have to agree with the others here.

Most game developers that "make it" have indeed made many games before, you just didn't know about them because 99.99% of indie games you will never hear of. Which is the problem we all face.

Marketing is really important, so that should take over any fear you have of someone stealing your idea. There are plenty of developers who stream on Twitch and don't worry their idea is being stolen, and they are exposing their code etc. to everyone. (To be honest, @Seabass (The Human) and @RefresherTowel both have games that seem to have similar ideas related to elements, you been watching Seabass, Refresher???)

Like others have said, it's rare to have a truly unique idea, nearly everything has been done before, and current games are usually just refining what has already been done. And even if 2 people worked off the same premise/idea, they would still end up with different games.

At least Seabass, Refresher and myself have released on Steam, and we've all struggled with the visibility issue. So take our words for it that you really need to shout about your game, rather loudly. Definitely do not hide it. :p
 

nicognito

Member
Part of the thread reminded me of a French fable from centuries ago, about a milkmaid carrying a milk jug, thinking that she could sell the milk to buy eggs, with the grown chicken she'd buy a pig because she's scared foxes would eat them; and after the pig is fat enough, she'd get enough money to buy a cow and maybe a veal. But then the milk jug falls and breaks... 'Farewell, veal, cow, pig and chicken' 😅 (La Laitière et le Pot au Lait, from La Fontaine). I guess the morale of this fable is about not over dreaming or planning ahead, or maybe about lowering your expectation, or about execution. 🙄

I haven't really released any game, and I also think I have a pretty original idea (hope it's not the same as yours :p ) and feel paranoid about showing it to the world; somehow I'm a bit scared about the idea being stolen (although I know it has some technical challenges to replicate it). However, I know that I need feedback because I'm pretty biased, and I've been showing my early prototype to people I trust, such as family, friends and even some coworkers :) Feedback, feedback, feedback... and feedback. If not from the game developer community, at least from your inner circle. You want to know if your game as a chance to succeed, if it's fun and enjoyable to gamers, if there's improvement to do...

I have no released game experience, but I agree with what people say above. Something you could consider as well is consulting with intellectual property lawyers, specialized in gaming. I was reading this post on reddit recently: https://www.reddit.com/r/gamedev/comments/5pxldd . It will probably cost you money but you could trademark your game name for example; but maybe do it when you know you "have" something.
 
Thought I'd already replied to this, but apparently, I didn't. @O.Stogden, yeah, I've checked out Bring Me Hope (which is the one I assume you're talking about). It looks great! But if you wanna see some real close game design to mine, there's this game that I see on reddit all the time: Elementallis. Very similar concept, but still executed in a very different way. I think that's an important point to remember, even if seeing your idea does give someone else inspiration for a game, that doesn't mean they are going to copy you. When I want to make a game that's inspired by another game, it's because I feel there are important areas that I think should be changed and different directions I want to take the concept in, it's not just "I want to make this game exactly".

Another point is that games in the same genre aren't competing. They're actually supportive of each other. No one is super into Sim-City and decides not to buy City Skylines because "I already own Sim City". If someone's into a genre, they usually want to play more of that genre and so seeing other games that are similar with different twists is actually exciting to the player, rather than being ignored. This is why cross-promotion works so well, it's why Steam does the "RPG sales week" or "GameMaker sales week" because people are going to find multiple things within the same "space of games" that they want to play.
 

Yal

🐧 *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
Another point is that games in the same genre aren't competing. They're actually supportive of each other. No one is super into Sim-City and decides not to buy City Skylines because "I already own Sim City". If someone's into a genre, they usually want to play more of that genre and so seeing other games that are similar with different twists is actually exciting to the player, rather than being ignored.
It's worth pointing out that this logic only works for traditional single-player games, with live services / MMORPGs the games are usually designed so that you won't have time to play more than one at a time (which is why we don't have a million of successful World of Warcraft clones despite decades of attempts at making one). Getting one player to try something new in the vein of the stuff they like isn't impossible, but getting them to make all their friends switch over is a gargantuan task. Not that I think most GM users need to care about MMORPG playerbase considerations, but hey, nitpick for completiveness.
 

Elodman

Member
Over the years I've seen great game ideas come out, do well, and then get 500 clones of the game show up within a year. The original games still do well, but it certainly shows that there are loads of little studios all over the place that stand by, fully staffed, funded and ready, to nearly duplicate whatever game seems to be performing well. I have also seen awesome game ideas in early development get hijacked by more capable studios who release a similar, sometimes "better" version of the game before the original game is released.

I really want to put some screen shots, videos and plans for my current and next game out there, but I am genuinely concerned that a team will take the idea and run with it before I can have anything to show. At the same time, I understand that for a game to do well in this market, visibility is key, and the sooner you start, the better. I just can't get past the above concerns.
Mirrors my concerns too, when we think about a rare kind of, quite genuine game.
Methinks, that is why (AAA) games have been made secretly, hidden till press date.

That just makes me nervous especially now, that we have a Game - sponsorship compo.

edit: - So Indie life must not be without its hurdles, risking a few years' work. Or I am misguided... :rolleyes:
 
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Yal

🐧 *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
Methinks, that is why (AAA) games have been made secretly, hidden till press date.
AAA games has a different situation entirely; people are watching the big companies, and they're quick to go sour if they don't like what they're seeing (see: Mighty No. 9, the Diablo mobile game, etc), so it's important for companies to control exactly what the public is allowed to see and when so they can build hype and get people excited for their releases. Also, if they cancel a project that doesn't pan out well, and people knew about it from before... they're gonna get disappointed and make the company look bad, but that won't happen if the project was always confidental.

(Cyberpunk 2077 is also an interesting example: the game only was in actual development for about 2 years, but the concept was around for much longer, and the hype basically went out of control resulting in expectations that were basically impossible to meet - a lot of the backlash was because unfinished alpha features were advertised, and then cut when they didn't work out - this is probably a big reason why most AAA games only have cinematic cutscene trailers and not actual gameplay)
 

CheesiMoon

Member
Like the others have said, I think this isn't something you need to be too concerned about. It can be an issue, but I think time would be better spent marketing your game and making the game good. The pros of advertising heavily outweigh the cons of it because indie games are so common, you want to make sure others are excited and looking forward to your game, something you won't get if you don't let the world know you're making a cool game.

Also ideas are a dime a dozen, it's 99% all about how those ideas are executed in game. So, I highly recommend to focus on making the game good and spreading word about it, whether it be social media, or paid adverts, rather than worrying about someone else stealing your idea.
 
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