Friday, February 19, 2010

Terminology for the New

I've poked that this before with a sharp stick, but not everything new is innovative. Designing a game based on reading sheep entrails (call it the Haruspex System!)may be new, but newness in and of itself does not equate to innovation. I distinguish three separate levels of the new:


This is what most people mean when they talk about innovation. If something has not been done before, it is a Novelty. It may be more, but it is definitely at least Novel. A Novel mechanic can be good, bad, or indifferent, but so long as it's new, it's Novel. The Haruspex System iss very certainly Novel.


This level pertains to fitness of use. If a Novelty is well made, and useful for its intended purpose, it is also Original. Originality is the highest quality of newness which can be judged immediately. The Haruspex System, if well crafted and useful, may also be Original, delighting its fans with the verisimilitude and setting engagement it provides for Primus Inter Pares, a Roman political game.


This level can only be judged long after a mechanic or other concept is released. If it is copied, imitated, mutated, and used in other games by other designers, then it becomes Innovative. It has changed the nature of game design by its creation. The Haruspex System is very unlikely to be Innovative, tied as strongly as it is to the Roman setting it was created for, but perhaps the principles of how it works can be applied to inkblots or tea leaves or other semi-random things. If so, it may become widely used and Innovative in spite of itself.



  1. I would add that there is a much broader category you ignored, the new by assemblege. That is, nothing new, but put together in a different way. This happens so much it is scary, and is mistaken for innovation. I think, mostly, because folks want to think of being a part of innovation, whether on the consumer side or the creation side. I would also say, this is the least interesting form of creation.

    Spot on as usual man.

  2. New by assemblage is mostly what I do. I put things that have been done before together in different ways. On the other hand, I never claim to be innovative, and try my best to stomp any such claim out.

    I think it's part of the craft, building on what others have done before. I may not be tall, but I stand on the shoulders of giants. I look for stuff that works, and try to blend it all in with other stuff that works.

    My air combat system may actually end up being innovative, as Levi is basing Havoc on it's principles, and other game designers have asked me about it, but I think right now it's at the "original" stage, which is more than I've ever done before.