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Ever have an idea for something that someone else ends up turning into a reality, completely independent from you? The minecraft thread in EE reminded me of a weird thing - back in 2006 or so, I had an idea for a game that basically was Minecraft. I even started work on a prototype. The game was set on a randomly generated island, and the idea was that you were stranded there and had to figure out how to survive. This involved collecting resources to build things. For instance, you needed to sleep every night, so you had to collect wood to build a shelter. You also needed to collect food to replenish your hunger meter. I then had the idea that you could build other things - for instance, wood could also be used to build bridges to cross bodies of water, or tools to hunt and defend yourself from predators.
Now, my idea never got far... I never even implemented the animals and weapons I had planned, but I had the basics of collecting wood, building shelters, and even bridges, as well as figuring out how to randomly generate an island. But even then, looking at it, it amazes me how much Minecraft reminds me of my own idea. There are differences, to be sure - while you could build things in my game, it wasn't to the same degree of freedom - you couldn't, say, dig up stones and build a fortress, or a giant penis statue. Also, my game was in 2D and played more like the Legend of Zelda. But still, I find it interesting that someone essentially took my initial idea and actually expanded it into a full game, and really it was kind of along the lines of what I was aiming for - having the initial goal being of survival, but also having the freedom to do pretty much whatever you wanted. I just thought it was kind of funny how somehow I ended up with the game I had wanted all along, even though I'm 100% positive my game did not influence the creation of Minecraft in the slightest (mostly 'cause I never even really told anyone about my idea).
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Almost ANYTHING that you can think of will have been conceived and perhaps even experimented with at some point -especially easy with computer programming and videogames. Perhaps as a prototype, or with a much less refined presentation.
From that point of view, no videogame in existence is truly original down to the last bit -it just builds and improves on a pre-existing idea, which, for various reasons, never took off, has been forgotten, or is simply not current anymore.
E.g. take Angry Birds: is there anything original in a game where you simply aim a projectile at a target, and let go of it? Certainly not, and artillery games with this kind of gameplay existed since the early 80s, if not late 70s. But throw in a bit of modern bling on it (Physics engine, touchscreens, mobile devices...) and you have something that the original Artillery game (or even something like Worms) could have never been, during their heyday.
As for "God Sims", "build your own world" type of games, those existed aplenty on other platforms too. But there wasn't this whole "online" and "multiplayer" factor to make them as appealing as Minecraft, nor were they nearly as free/open sandboxes.
Turning a common/beaten to death idea into a commercial success by pushing just the right buttons is what separates e.g. the Derek Smarts from the Sandy Petersens and the John Romeros ;-)
Or the Armor Games ("Crush the Castle") from the Rovios ("Angry Birds"), if you prefer a more recent example.
Tribute act festivals and making a movie with a bunch of old 80s action heroes (the Expendables) were both ideas I had and was then amused to see them become an actuality.
Obviously, I'm aware that ideas alone are worth very little and that both things would have been ideas for many others as well.
Following on from the Expendables, my new prediction is a movie starring a bunch of former child stars. Probably a gore porn horror.