What is worse than creating something? Creating nothing. How can you create something while at the same time creating nothing? Well you simply copy. Artistically a copy is nothing, or close to nothing. I once heard that the definition of art is to create something new and unique aka being creative and if you just copy, you are not being creative or artistic by definition and therefore a remake game, or clone is not good game design, as nothing or not much new is actually created.
I noticed this trend quite some time ago in the industry where the focus was on creating remakes, clones, sequels etc instead of actually creating real new games. At first I was not sure, if I should not write an article about each one in those categories, but then decided to put them all into one, since I want to get done with this series somehow and the issue with all of those is kind of similar. Of course to some degree making remakes, clones, sequels etc is legit, but if it becomes all you can do, you actually can do nothing or close to nothing.
Of course creating art almost always involves taking something that exist and modifying and combining it to create something new, this is art, but the difference to non-art is, that art is actually created, while a pure remaker only takes things that exist, copies them, modify them a bit and claim he has created something, while in reality he just stole something.
I'm not condemn remakes, clones, sequels etc in general, it is more a gradual issue, like other things I wrote about before, like the previous invisible walls, you sometimes have to use them, but in general it is a bad design choice and this issue is the same, you sometimes have to steal or copy, but in general it is the worse choice, sometimes even a good choice, if you copy the right and good elements.
Let me do some brainstorming what we have:
This one is quite bad, those are often done by "the community" aka fanboys of the original game, that are tired of the company that created their favorite product does not care about them, so they decide to take things into their own hands, but not realizing, that could take things into their own hands for real and instead chose to just copy the original and the worst part, the result is often worse than the original, that is why this is so stupid. Sometimes fan remakes turn out quite good, but I still think in many cases that time could have been better spend to create something new and original, so the creators can build up their own business and portfolio, instead of defining their existence as a copycat. Sometimes also the original companies that made the original or other "professional" game developers do those kind of remakes, the result is probably better, but it is still a bad design choice, since they often just try to simply profit from someone else's popularity and save themselves the time to create something artistic themselves and instead copy something that worked before.
The difference to a remake is that even less new is created and an original game is just being recycled, mostly by the original company and less from the community. This is probably the cheapest method on milking more money from the people with doing as little as possible work, often they just take the original cheap game, crank up the graphic settings, that have been intentionally cranked down when it was released to fit the computer processing power at that time to now fit the new generation of gaming PCs which results in better graphics and eventually include some community created content, like mods, improvements, bugfixes, then combine everything and sell it again as some kind of new innovation for a now very high price again. Kind of genius, selling the same thing again without actually creating anything.
Clones are similar to remakes, with the difference that they are more artistic, as more new things are created, while the thing that was cloned from was "only" used as a basis for the clone. The cloner at least tries to hide more or less the thing he is copying, while a remake maker copies some game directly without bringing new or much new innovation, without trying to hide it. However the cloner just mediocre like tries to hind the fact that he is copying something, since often it is still obvious that it is a clone.
The rip-off is another variation of the clone which is a variation of the remake, the difference is, that the rip-off is worse. A rip-off game just tries to steal an original game, re-brand it and try to take the fame and profit for their own. This is mostly done by competing game development companies to destroy their competition or to just make easy money and ride on the newest trend. This is bad game design, as they do not care to create anything their own, the primary goal is to invest as little work as possible, while making as much profit as possible.
This is kind of a more legit way of doing it, those are mostly done by the original company that created the original game, to profit from their success. If done right this is fine, if done bad it will look like a cheap way to make profit by milking the fanboys. I'm kind of undecided about this one, it is like half the sequels turn out to be good or better than the original and the other half turn out to be worse, however it is still kind of a bad design choice, since creating something new and original is almost always the better choice and many artists put all their creations into the same universe anyway, but the audience often does not realize it, this is how genius artists do it, everything they create totally feels and looks like something unique, while in reality, it is all in the same universe.
I just came up with this as a sub category to remastered, a recycled game is the same as a remastered game, the only difference is, that it is not remastered, but taken as it is and put on the market again to make more money. This often is done by the original company that created the original game when the game has become very old and abandoned ware, then they sometimes just take it and put it on the market again for a relatively high price while before it was often available for free. This is combined with appealing to the mobile market, since old games are kind of ideal to recycle them to the mobile market as I already wrote about in bad game design choices mobile games.
This is kind of a more rare case as it is mostly limited to the open-source game "developer" (rip-off) scene. A re-implementation is nothing of the above, as nothing is remade, remastered, cloned etc all they try to do is create a new open source framework to run the old game with, in other words they simply try to steal the original proprietary game in the illusion to make it free software. However this stays an illusion and is just insanity, because the proprietary game will always be proprietary, the result is hardly ever better as the original and in most cases the projects fail anyway or get never done and are stuck in eternal development hell.
I try to summarize the different mindsets that stand behind each of those atrocities of game design:
The remaker thinks: "Oh this game is so great and perfect, all I can do is copy it and maybe improve the graphics or so, but I cannot change anything, because the original is already perfect and changing anything would be heresy. Only the game dev gods of the old could create real original games, now we and nobody else can create things again and doing so would be heresy, so all we can do is remake, what is already perfect"
The remasterer thinks: "That game is fine and people still love it, let me upgrade it a bit, steal the content the community has created and sell the same thing again and milk even more money from the idiots, the fun part is, that we actually sell the content the community created back to them, as if we created everything"
The cloner thinks: "That game is great, I would like to have something similar, for myself, but I admit, that I'm just stealing and I'm not trying to hide it, I'm semi powerless and the only way to create something is to take inspiration from real creators. The remaker is partly wrong, the old game dev gods were only semi perfect, we can still improve on them a bit, but also we cannot create anything completely new and original on our own, we need to base everything on the creation of the gods"
The rip-offer thinks: "Damn that competitors product is so great, we need to steal it, they are not allowed to be the only people to profit from their invention, we abide by the copyright laws, but we can just work around it and pretend we created something new and original on our own, while in reality it is a direct re-branded copy of someone else"
The sequel maker things: "The original works fine, let us create the same thing again. Why create anything new, if what we got still sells well. Creating anything new for real is always a risk, so better go with what worked in the past and as long as this works, we do not need to create anything new"
The recycler thinks: "Let us sell the same product to people again as if it was a new product, especially to the mobile gamer idiots." Well often the recycler is not the same person as the original creator, the recycler just takes someone else's work and re-sells it, but the original creator is fine with it, since earning money for nothing is always fine.
The re-implementer thinks: "Proprietary software is evil, we need to create technology to steal everything from the evil proprietary companies, so everything will become free and somehow better. The companies are powerful, but evil, because their power enables them to produce things for real, we however are powerless and good, but we cannot create anything, because we are powerless, but this is somehow good and to make up for us being powerless, incompetent and useless, we need to steal from the evil creators to give to the useless, which makes things somehow more good, free and moral"
The conclusion is that these all are bad design choices, because everything of those mean a reduction of artistic value as less new and unique is created, with the exception of the sequel which can be a legit thing. The core problem is the duality of the world or the problem every artist faces of having the choice of being true to himself and actually create something new and original what is in his heart or if he just rides the trend to be popular and compromises his integrity by doing so. I just realize now that I could have called this series of articles differently, because in the core it is about integrity and good vs bad art, but bad game design choices is good enough and I have already started calling it like this and if you did not understand the gist of it before, you probably understand it now.