Dan Dias

| Blog and Portfolio
May 20 2017

I have switched projects again. I’m now working on a 2D space roguelike. Anyone who knows me knows this happens a lot for me. I don’t necessarily need to explain why I’m switching projects; I do this as a hobby so whatever is fun is what I want to do. However, I have noticed there’s more to it than that.

Urge to create

Since I do game development as a hobby, I have a predilection to want to spend my free time doing things people would consider work. I can’t help it. I have this urge to create something I want to see exist. However, my mind tends to want something at a high level. When I see another work that comes out with something that matches my high level idea, my urge to create it lessens.

Que Solar, Solar 2

After I graduated with my degree in Game and Simulation Programming in 2011, I got together with a couple talented people I had met in classes. We formed a group with friends who filled in gaps in our talents. We started pitching game ideas to each other. The pitch I worked on with a good friend of mine involved the concept of managing the life, growth and eventual demise of a plant and/or solar system. That same month, Solar 2 came out. Watching someone play it, alarm bells went off in my head. This was pretty much what I had pitched and what I wanted to exist. Now it did. Should I still bother making something like it? The game was probably better than we would be able to make. I bought it, played a ton and enjoyed it. I lost my desire to pursue making something like it.

Copycat’s Meow

This is always something that pops into my head as I see things similar to my ideas. Will someone see this and assume what I’m doing isn’t unique? Will my work be compared to this and be looked at as a knock off? These aren’t useful thoughts. Intellectually, I know that unless you completely copy a work intentionally, what comes out of you vs someone else is going to be different. That concept is my favorite part of most game jams; same prompt, different ideas and executions. This may stem from my brief experience as a Max Payne modder.

Dodge This Cease and Desist

As every adolescent in the early 2000s, I was pretty into the ideas and aesthetic of The Matrix. It seems Remedy Entertainment was as well, since the defining mechanic of the game Max Payne was the shoot dodge ability. At the end of high school, I fell in with a group of modders who were similarly interested in adding to the shoot dodge everything else that The Matrix had. We started the mod, Dodge This. We got a lot of people interested in what we were doing. We even had a small block of text and a screenshot in PC Gamer UK’s November 2001 issue, page 107.
Dodge This PC Gamer UK, November 2001, pg. 107
Among the people interested was the copyright holders. Our team leader got a Cease and Desist letter from their legal team. I don’t remember all the details, but it killed our progress and people left the team. We tried to pick up the pieces, I assumed leadership, changed the mod to a Matrix inspired mod. I soon found I was steering a burning ship into an iceberg.

Analysis Paralysis

Could that experience be what ruined me and made me afraid of doing anything closely resembling anything else? I did work on MineMatcher, but I had a lot of back and forth with Paul, one of the co creators, about including Minecraft assets. I deferred to his judgement in the end though.

What is my takeaway from this (hopefully not boring) exploration of a large reason I lose interest in making something that resembles something else that exists? Part of me is scared, the other part is satisfied by what already exists. There’s the old saying: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” So does it matter? I know I’m not alone in this feeling. I would love to hear someone else’s perspective on this subject of needing to create something that they feel is unique. Leave a comment below!

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