Every so often I go into Apple’s App Store (primarily for the iPad) and look for new apps to try. I’m typically looking for new games – time killers – that I can enjoy and relax with, and maybe share with the kids as well. App discovery isn’t great, and I usually don’t end up downloading anything.
Last week I found a game that I’m completely in love with: Silversword RPG.
It’s very reminiscent of The Bard’s Tale, which came out in 1985 on the Apple II. I started playing The Bard’s Tale on the PC (so must have been 1986 or 1987). There were a couple sequels as well. I loved The Bard’s Tale, along with the Ultima and Might & Magic series.
I always assumed there’d be a similar game made available on the iPad at some point, and I found it with Silversword.
Sure, games like Infinity Blade that push the iOS hardware and have ridiculously amazing graphics are fun too (Infinity Blade was also hugely successful), but beautiful graphics don’t automatically make a game fun. It’s the same with movies that have lots of special effects, they can still fall short.
Game designers (and startups in other areas too) have long been “copying” what works in an effort to capture the same level of success as predecessors. But cloning or copying something isn’t easy. You can copy what you see – the features, gameplay, graphics – but you can’t easily capture the essence of a game and replicate that. Copying the emotional connection someone feels to something is extremely difficult. In Silversword’s case, the game developer Mario Gaida has done a fantastic job. He clearly understands why people were such huge fans of The Bard’s Tale and other predecessors. There are homages to those games inside Silversword, both acknowledging the lineage and his appreciation for them.
Copying the learning a startup has done is basically impossible. You can’t know what someone else knows unless you’ve gone through it already and in the same way. So you might see something that looks good, seems to be getting traction and decide it’s working well, but those that are ahead and learning (if they’re doing it properly!) have already moved on.
Some brands have incredible staying power. Mario Brothers for example. My kids are playing Mario Brothers now on Flash websites. They love Mario, even though they have no clue where he came from or when he started. Every generation discovers The Beatles right?
Copying what makes a brand special is damn near impossible. There’s so much more that goes into it than mechanics, gameplay and graphics. Even successful brands have to re-invent themselves, while still trying to maintain the level of emotion and connection people felt to the originals. Nostalgia plays a big role; many of us like re-connecting to our past. I think that’s a big part of human nature, we like looking backwards and feeling good. In games this makes complete sense, because we remember how much we enjoyed them as kids. We get that same emotional high we got when we first put a floppy disk into a computer and were amazed.