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Making Fan Games vs. Making Original Games


Crobat Appreciator
So, a thing that's been on my mind a lot is if I should switch to making my fan game into an independent game, separate from the base of Pokémon. Things I've noticed as positives from independent works over fan works is that you can promote it as much as you want without the concern of a C&D or other legal notices due to being in a legal gray area. Another thing I've heard, at least regarding fan art (rather than fan games) is that often times, your fans may only be there for the fandom and when you present your original stuff, your following drops compared to when you share work relevant to that fandom. While it is likely less extreme in fan games since you can still (somewhat) provide a closer feel to the source material than artwork, I wouldn't doubt that this same sort of fake following exists in the fan game scene. Along with concerns about the popularity of original games over fan games, I also worry about translating parts of my fan game into something of my own. While I think I could probably keep the basic gist of my story with some editing, the short-term goal of gyms, the original sort of "hook" that brings the player into the plot in the first place is sort of lost. In my current outline for my plot, the player is having a fun journey around the region with their older brother before the main conflict becomes more prevalent. Even though it's still possible for me to try to carry the game with the story and characters without gyms as a motivator to travel, I still feel like it'd be kind of boring without additional gameplay elements and would work better more as a passive experience than an active one. I could be very well wrong, but that's my main dilemma at the moment.


Rainbow Mage
This is in a way a double-edged blade.

On the Side of Fan Games:
There's ease of concept understanding and you can get the concept out as well as being able to get suggestions to make the game deeper.

On the ediS of Fan Games:
Yea, the C&D hammer is looming over and you know the moment it hits your game ends with its light snuffed out without anywhere to go.

I personally will say that it depends on the game type. For me, I feel more emboldened to go with the game type I like even if it is more licensed but is going at an aspect that is normally ignored by most of the fanbase.


As someone who does both (Super Pokemon Eevee Edition and DOT Debug)
... theres's ups and downs.

Making a fangame is great fun, it gives you an existing framework to work off (great for new devs especially)
and it's easier to get an audience since there's already existing fans of the original product looking for a game.
Pokemon fans are passionate, and if you can get a good product out, they'll stick around.
The downsides is that you can never make money off your game, and there's a likely you get C&D'd...
It feels like you're always walking on eggshells hoping you can straddle the line between getting a fanbase, while avoiding nintendo's eyes.
and... personally, I got that feeling of not being a "real" developer when I was only making a fangame.

Make an original creation is liberating by comparison, because it's your own product. no-one can ever take it away from you.
The creative freedom is great, but the lack of an exisitng framework can make it very hard to make something compelling.
even if you do figure it out, creating the game is the easy part. getting your game noticed is VERY difficult.
if you did create fangames previously, you do get that fanbase drop-off, I wouldn't call them "fake fans" at all, because they are real fans of your product, but they did come for a very specific thing. It's like when your favourite band decides to switch genres.
The goal, when moving on from fangames, is to hopefully get a portion of them
to be passionate about not only your fangame, but you as a developer.

So yeah... basically, from my personal experience, fangames is a good learning experience, and a good way to get an initial audience.
But at the end of the day, I think most developers want to "make their own baby" so to speak.
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A wild Minun appeared!
I think making fan games is limited to being a hobby. It's the opportunity to use an existing universe and make it into what you want it to be. Making the game is your hobby as playing football or any other hobby. The tradeoff is you're getting easy access to assets and a comunity that helps you and plays your game which makes deving something everyone can do. Thanks to Essentials you can basically make a full Pokémon game with just plug and play which let's you see progress instantly. I guess most of the people start making their first fan game just like that with next to no knowledge and skill and then scrap/rework it once they know more into deving because the just start with mapping + eventing is probably the least efficient way to go about making a game. Also since you're making a Pokémon fan game the people in the community are mostly passionate about Pokémon too. So the probability of you getting along is quite high.

When making your own game you don't have all that but it's leagal and you can make money off it. Not meaning it cannot be a hobby. But fandeving is easier and quicker to be fun.


Have they found the One Piece yet
Time to make it sound like I know what I'm talking about! I've had this thread open in my browser since Monday but haven't been able to decide how I want to answer it until now.

I like fan games.

For one, they're hecking cool, because you get to try out ideas that wouldn't get any piece of the finite development resources in a professional setting where you need to meet sales expectations (see: most Jam games). For another, they're a neat way for someone to get started with development, since the annoying parts like "how will this game mechanic work?" are things you don't have to worry about, because they've already been figured out.

Fan games will never be more than a hobby.

Nintendo has a long track record of not really understanding how the Internet works, so it's probably a safe bet that it was their idea to do the various takedowns fan games have seen over the years and not their lawyers'. But if by some miracle they actually didn't care, you can bet your left buttocks that their lawyers would have gone banging on their door going "yo, you need to do something about this ASAP" because that's how intellectual property works. Situations like Sonic Mania are way, way, way the exception, and do not accurately reflect what happens in the business world in any way, shape or form. This is a gray area at absolute best, and most people who know things about IP would tell you that it's flat-out illegal. Even if money doesn't change hands, you're probably living life on the edge.

Video games aren't really old enough for people to have figured out when their copyrights, etc expire, but it's probably going to be more complicated than books and music because they tend to be created by entire teams instead of individuals, but in a hundred years when we've figured that out the situation might be different. Which I'm looking forward to, but probably won't be around to see.

I've "retired" from fan games.

Which is a bit sad, I know. I still like them, and I still play them sometimes, because whether or not a game is allowed to be made has no bearing on how fun it is.

It runs deeper than the legal thingies, though. I'm not a teenager anymore, and I need things that I can show to people who have money, because I need to persuade them to give me their money in exchange for doing things, which I can do by making stuff that indicates that I know what I'm doing. I probably don't need to tell most of you that fan games don't connotate a very high art form to people who aren't already interested in fan games.

Which is a shame. I really want to break the standard model of Pokémon in a bunch of different ways to see what other kinds of games it'd work well with. Anyone remember my Zelda-like from a bunch of years ago?

Another thing I've heard, at least regarding fan art (rather than fan games) is that often times, your fans may only be there for the fandom and when you present your original stuff, your following drops compared to when you share work relevant to that fandom.
This happens a lot with people who are known for making one thing who attempt to transition to making a different thing. In my world, if a YouTuber gets famous by playing Minecraft and they try to move on to something different like Final Fantasy when they've had enough, most of their audience is going to evaporate overnight. heck, that's already happened to me.


Crobat Appreciator
personally, I got that feeling of not being a "real" developer when I was only making a fangame.
Yeah I sort of feel this too. I kinda hate how if I want to tell someone I'm working on my game that I also have to be like "hey but it's a Pokémon fan game." I think I'm more comfortable doing fan game stuff because of having a structure already there to work with whereas with original IPs you don't.


Dev of Hunter & Raymond
I just joined the video game development club at my college and I can definitely say that there is a huge jump from Pokemon fangames to developing things in other game engines, ie Unity. While I am learning more and more I definitely feel that my experience creating fangames is becoming less relevant. While I feel proud when I release a fangame that I am proud of finishing, I'm going to guess that completing something original is going to make me feel much more proud.


Overseer of the Abyss
The concept of making a fangame doesn't make someone not a real developer. Would you tell the people who made AM2R that they weren't developers because they made a fan-made remake of Metroid 2? Fangame developers still have the word developer in them, and are no less or more of a developer than those working on Original IPs. They can work just as hard as someone working on an Original IP can. It's like saying someone isn't a writer because all they do is fanfiction. It's still writing, right? The same thing applies here. J

Furthermore, fangame development is how some people actually manage to break into the industry. If we want some of the bigger, more prominent examples; it was a group of Sonic rom hackers that were the ones who made Sonic Mania. Toby Fox, the developer of Undertale, got his start romhacking Earthbound. The skills you gain from working on fangames benefit you in the long run, as the evidence shows very, very blatantly.

Truthfully, the way I see it, the whole "Fangame Developers aren't real developers" thing stems from the philosophy that "if you can't market it, it's useless in the world", which very much isn't true. There are some things in this world that just can't be marketed, but the execution of them doesn't make them any less valuable or needed in society. Society as a whole has trained people to believe that "time is money, and if you aren't making money your time is wasted" and that "you should be working toward the benefit of your employer, or society as a whole". It's a very faulty mindset to get caught in, as it ignores the wants and desires of the individual, and their own unique skills, which may or may not "contribute" to society. That mindset leads to a continued stigma against the arts as a whole- "when has art ever served society in a beneficial way over working in a hospital". A life without impassioned art is a bleak life.

I've kind of gone off on a small tangent, but the two topics do correlate, because it's a similar mindset to "If you aren't making original games, you're wasting your time." And it's... really sad to see that type of mindset. It invalidates all the time and effort that people put into their passion projects. It tells them that unless they don't meet some impossible standards, their work has no merit. And I think that's very sad. All work has merit, whether it be original or fan-made.


A wild Minun appeared!
I feel that another thing hat makes people not like to show off their Pokémon fangame is because Pokémon is widely looked down upon as a game for children. So in fear of people judging one for being a Pokemon fan people forget to be proud about making a game.

Also the perception that fangames are not real games (or fan devs not real devs) is just plain wrong. Both strive to make the player have a good time playing them.


Crobat Appreciator
I mean, I'm using Unity (as my own thing, not Pokémon Unity) to make a 3D fan game, but as Leilou said, the fact that it's Pokémon sort of undermines the work I do such as modeling or my writing because it's Pokémon.
Make whatever you want to make. Look at the fan games that you can play today and you'll see how different they are from one another. Different developers bring their own flavor to their fan games, you could compare two eight gym games and they could be radically different. Don't discount your ideas because it's a Pokemon fan game, just focus on what you want to make. Certain trends or concepts might be more well received or gain more popularity in the community (longer games with all the Pokemon vs shorter games, for example) but I always felt like those sort of trends aren't worth pursuing for a hobby. Making a fan game just for popularity is a big waste of time.

Look at it this way, you could be having the same dilemma, not being sure if you want an aforementioned eight gym game or a game with no gyms. Is there a right answer to this question? No. Does it really matter if a fan game has Charizard in it? No. I don't really think it matters if something in a fan game feels different from the official Pokemon games. Pokemon Reborn can be pretty polarizing with the tone it takes, but Amethyst (presumably) enjoyed making it, and there's people who really enjoy it. You're the one who is going to spend the most time with your game making it than someone will take playing it, you should be the one to decide to make something you enjoy.

My point with all of this is don't be afraid to make a fan game that's outside the norm if you really want to make a fan game. By all means, make an original game if you feel like that's the way to go. Other folks in the thread have talked about making a fan game vs an original game, but you're a developer no matter what you're working on. Whether or not you want to take this hobby further as a career, you should be enjoying the part where you're honing your craft first. Don't even worry about chasing a following. Make cool shit, talk about the cool shit you make, and eventually people will be interested. Don't trouble yourself with stories of success or failure with audience retention and the like. The three people who stick with your creative endeavors out of the three hundred that took interest are the ones to work towards.