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I'm developing a 2D physics platformer game, with commercial purposes. Almost everything is finished:

  • An original game concept
  • The whole 2D self-written game engine
  • A level interpreter to read xml levels
  • A level editor with an advanced GUI to generate levels in xml
  • An advanced level object system
  • Profile manager (load & save game progress)
  • etc ...

But, my problems are of course inspiration for levels...

Is it possible to publish my game concept and ask community for level designs? And still keep my game concept save from being copied by others. Do I have copyrights on a game concept for a game which isn't officially released?

And if I should ask community, should I do an action like, for everyone who submits an approved level design (not the xml, but only a sketch), they receive one cent per sold copy of the game?

What do you think? Tips, pitfalls?

Thank you in advance!


For the interested people, here is a screenshot from the level-editor:

Fullscreen image enter image description here

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what is you Github.com repository? There are hell lots to learn from you. I often put +1 :) –  YumYumYum Jan 29 '12 at 15:07
1  
@Google: This project is not public. Once, I thought to become rich from it. In fact, I really should continue this project... –  Martijn Courteaux Jan 29 '12 at 16:27

4 Answers 4

There are multiple questions here, but I'll only answer a couple.

Do you have copyrights? Yes. In most countries, you have copyright over anything you create ever as soon as you create it. Of course, this only applies to the code and assets; the game concept is not protected by copyright.

Is your game concept safe? It doesn't matter. The true success of a game is in the implementation, not the idea. The only games that get cloned exactly are those which are already successful. Any decent game designer will have a hundred unmade ideas of their own, and no one will be able to implement your concept better than you.

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Basically, you lack the only interesting thing which people actually play platformers for. All these technical stuff you've listed can be done rather quickly compared to the interesting game levels. Levels need a lot of thought, work and polish, also they tend to spawn features when some idea cannot be expressed by existing components. So if you don't have the levels, you don't have the game.

Summing up, you're basically going to publish a specialized game engine and ask people to make your game for you in return for a small fee while forbidding them to use this engine for anything but your own idea. Capitalism, ho! I've never seen it's done, considering how hard it would be to make a consistent game out of levels made by many different people. Just remember how nicely levels were themed in "World of Goo" versus list of abrupt challenges in "N".

If you don't mind these things, I guess it could work in theory, lets consider criteria for the best case:

  • Community around your soon-to-be-game is large, so percent of creative people with nothing to do is high.
  • Your concept and engine are heavenly good and/or money share is really tempting and/or it's otherwise attractive, so said people will want to become involved. Chances are, if you have troubles using your concept after the first level, it would be difficult for others to use it as well.
  • It's would be frustrating for a community member to create a level only to find out that it won't be inserted into a game. You'll need to make this custom levels playable one way or another, or invent some other form of compensation for wasted time.
  • You will spend a lot of time by helping lots of people with your toolset.
  • You will spend a lot of time by sending feedback and doing overall community management, since you will receive lots of low and mediocre quality levels.

All points considered, it might be best to employ a "level-driven development" (think of possible cool applications of game mechanics, then build levels around them) or find yourself a level designer to do it for you. Also if your concept is good, it will be stolen regardless of what you do. Don't worry about it, real value lies not in a concept but in what you do with it.

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Let's take the basic legal first. Your copyright applies no matter if you have released the game or not. You do not have copyright for a concept, only for the very game you made. Except for extreme plagiarism you do not have means for stopping other people from making a similar game.

Given that you basically have no community, and is unlikely to get one unless you have a good game, it would be hard to ask them. The better a game you have already made, the easier it will be to persuade other people to build upon it.

For now, if you can't make levels on your own, I think you'll have to pay someone, and for a physics game it's probably a pretty big job, good or bad levels tend to really make or break those.

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  • Is it possible to publish my game concept and ask community for level designs? Yes.
  • And still keep my game concept save from being copied by others. No, once you release your game, anyone can copy your concept.
  • Do I have copyrights on a game concept for a game which isn't officially released? As eBusiness said, you can't copyright a concept, just the specific elements of your game (mostly, art, music, and code)
  • And if I should ask community, should I do an action like, for everyone who submits an approved level design (not the xml, but only a sketch), they receive one cent per sold copy of the game? No, because if 100 people submit level sketches and you want to sell the game for $10, then you'd be sending all your income to the level designers.

Unless you already have a community of people waiting to play your game, you're going to have a hard time getting people to design levels for you. And if your concept is truly original, then people are going to have a hard time designing good levels, because they don't know how your game works.

The best solution (or at least, the one that's been done many, many times before with decent success) is to release your game with a set of levels made by you (or possibly a friend, or a level designer that you hire, if you can afford one), and then release the tools used to make those levels. If people like your game, then they'll build levels for it, and if you encourage this, you'll have all sorts of people making content for your game with very little effort on your part. Done properly, this can extend the life of your game and encourage new people to buy it.

The trick to all of this is to have a good set of levels to start with, which will encourage people to buy the game. One possible idea is to give the game (and level editor) away for free, but make it so that you have to buy the game to play more levels.

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6  
1 cent given out 100 times is a dollar, not 10. Your point is still valid though :) –  Joe Aug 21 '11 at 15:48
    
Thanks for the answer. But if I give away the game for free, people will share the resources folder of my game. This way, the non-payers also have all the levels. –  Martijn Courteaux Aug 21 '11 at 16:40
    
If people want to copy your game, they will. If you charge for the game and people want to steal it, they will share the whole game with each other. Discouraging piracy is fine, but it's not a reason against trying an interesting business strategy. –  Gregory Avery-Weir Aug 22 '11 at 15:32

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