Your idea may not be new, and that’s OK
In any creative line of work (or, to be fair, any line of work or craft) a lot of people at certain moments in time can experience doubt about their output – that it’s derivative, not original, not good enough, people have already seen it, need to create something new. There were times when I have gone through this, I’ve seen other people experience this as well. I guess it’s only natural because we all want to leave a mark in the field we dedicate our careers to. A breakthrough, advancement in technology or design, something big. A ripple in the ocean.
But big breakthroughs happen not just because of ideas, concept or talent (though that certainly matters). There’s also all the other factors like timing, circumstances, and just simple pure luck. And yet, when some popular game appears, or some new trend in a particular design detail, or things like that, there are people who feel, ‘I could’ve thought of this, why didn’t I?’, and in some cases, ‘I did think about this, why couldn’t I push it further?!’
And regarding the matter, I want to say this. You should keep pushing to stride for greatness. That’s how you get better at your craft. But it’s ok if you don’t come up with anything new. ‘New’ is very relative, every concept is just a combination of things or knowledge or observations that already exist, there’s nothing really new in the world.
Let me tell you about one game. I would describe it as soccer with cars. There are two teams, five cars each, playing on a large soccer field with the main goal of blasting a large metal ball into the gate of the enemy team. The match ends, however, when all cars of one team are destroyed (after which the final score is compared). This is inevitable at some point, as you have tire and fuel gauges which, when reach 0, make your car go boom.
Before every match, you can select the formation and roles of every team member. There’s Striker (who’s the person responsible for making the goal), Killer (focuses on destroying other cars), Blocker (focuses on protecting Striker), Flanker (focuses on getting the ball to the opponent’s side), and Gatekeeper (protects your gates).
During the match, at random points there are many things happening on the arena itself that can either help or hinder you. There’s bonuses you can get that repair your tires and refill fuel. There’s some that increase speed or really slow you down. Sometimes an ice area appears that makes it really hard to steer. The most hectic one probably is ‘multi-ball’, when for a limited amount of time the metal ball gets cloned into four.
Now, chances are high, that when I mentioned ‘soccer with cars’, the first thing you thought about was Rocket League, or its a bit more obscure predecessor, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars. Except you’d be very confused when I’d start mentioning things like car roles, fuel and tire gauges, multi-ball.
That’s because I’m not talking about Rocket League at all. But rather about a game from 1990 called Wild Wheels.
That’s three decades before Psyonix’s games, which the media calls “bizarre, unique and never have been done before”.
Don’t get me wrong, Rocket League is amazing and I love it, but I just want to point out, how a similar concept has been done long ago before it. I’ve played tons of Wild Wheels when I was a kid. In fact, for the longest time, one of the concepts I wanted to eventually make was a spiritual successor to it. That is, before I found out about Rocket League (and SARPBC respectively).
Wild Wheels didn’t become as popular as Rocket League, or one of the games that defined the early nineties. Most people don’t know about it, I don’t think even people who have made Rocket League know about it (at least, judging by interviews).
Despite the similar general concepts, the two games still have many differences and their own style, mood, and gameplay specifics. And being first/earlier didn’t help Wild Wheels to blast into popularity, while being second/later didn’t hinder Rocket League’s rise to be one of the biggest breakthrough games released in 2015.
While there are things to consider like sales, visibility, getting the money invested back and building up a community of dedicated fans, when it comes to the creative output itself your focus should be on providing great experience, even if there are a lot of borrowed/existing elements from other games or if the whole concept is borrowed/existing. It’s quality that matters.
Ultimately, both Wild Wheels and Rocket League have left a mark on me and other players by providing great gaming experience at different points in time. Both titles matter. And that’s a very nice thought, I think.
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