Musicians start out playing other people’s songs before learning to write and perform their own. Game developers on the other hand often jump in the deep end, attempting to implement original ideas without much regard for what came before. In game dev, the analogous step to playing old songs is to remake old games, pejoratively known as cloning. Given the endless number of copycats who operate odiously in the mobile space, it’s no surprise that this negative sense precedes it. Despite this, its value as an educational resource as opposed to a commercial practice should not be overlooked.
Let’s stretch the music analogy a little further. Game development is to game design, what musical performance is to composition. By game development I mean the craft of making games — i.e. the programming and asset creation (art + sounds/music) that together go into making a videogame. In contrast, game design looks to captivate players by arranging these constituent pieces in interesting, sometimes systemic ways.
The point of making this distinction here is to show that game development and game design are two disciplines, not one, and therefore can be studied in isolation from each other. Remaking existing games is one way of doing just this. By borrowing somebody else’s design blueprint we can focus all of our attention on development, without being encumbered by the more nebulous problems of design.
Copycat Games is an initiative for putting the above into practice. You can play our first clone, a remake of the mobile classic ‘Snake’, here.