Hello dear LusiSlaves. I just purchased Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3. This purchase was made for two reasons. The first is that I like class-based 2D turn-based comedy RPGs. The second reason is that I am making a class-based 2D turn-based comedy RPG. While I have had the idea for Lusipurr’s Fountain of Perpetual Disappointment and unusual class names for a while, the fact is that Zeboyd is faster at making RPGs than any other company on the planet. The team certainly cannot be faulted for that.
At the same time, I find myself a little frustrated that if I do not compare that game with my own to weed out things that are too similar, it is likely that my game would be faulted for being “derivative” of Zeboyd’s. This is not a frustration with the existence of the Penny Arcade game, but rather an ongoing frustration with criticism in general. Friends, I believe that the term “derivative” in and of itself is not a criticism.
It has been said many times and in many forms, but it is perhaps phrased best in Ecclesiastes 1:9 which states that “there is nothing new under the sun”. I truly do not understand why pointing out similarities between games is so often taken as an automatic negative. Of course, that does not exclude the negative possibility. Using an idea from another game can stem from a lack of creativity or an excess of laziness. But it can also stem from inspiration to improve an idea, significantly or marginally.
I can understand the circumstance in which a gamer may be fatigued of certain premises, gameplay or art styles, or genres, but that gamer’s legitimate fatigue should not factor into the assessment of a game’s quality.
The original Final Fantasy is derivative of Dragon Quest and thank goodness. It took good ideas and – in my opinion – made them better. Final Fantasy VI is derivative of all previous Final Fantasy games and it was the best one at the time. The entire premise of Final Fantasy IX was that it was derivative and it is the best one in my opinion. Final Fantasy XIII‘s art style is derivative of VIII‘s art style, but is the better for it. XIII improved the art style and placed it in a better game.
A fantastic non-Final Fantasy example of this is Darksiders. This Penny-Arcade comic touches on a few of my points. Darksiders is very obviously similar to the God of War and Zelda series’, but in doing so creates an experience that is not replicated in any other game. The inspiration is obvious, but the result is very fun and good groundwork for a new series. It is a very derivative game, but I do not see that as a negative in the least.
It is exciting and novel to try new experiences – just look at my heavily mocked love affair with Flower – but the new experiences will eventually become old and will need to be (and should be) retread to be perfected and to help us find new ways to express old ideas.