I recently had the idea to make a game inspired by Pokemon, but with a quite different theme/concept. At the same time, it would be almost the same game mechanics as Pokemon and borrow quite a few conceptual ideas. So that got me thinking...where's the line between a fangame and a "game inspired by another game"? To elaborate and exemplify my question, I'll go into a bit more detail about my game idea, and then ask whether it would be considered a Pokemon fangame or a separate game inspired by Pokemon.
Game Idea For Example And Discussion
The game, tentatively called Breachers, takes place at an unspecified time period. Many years before, people began seeing strange creatures, alien to humans, appearing seemingly out of thin air. As scientists studied them, we learned that they originated from many different alternate universes, and had "breached" into our universe. The breaching was sometimes intentional, but usually accidental; somehow, our universe had become a nexus for all other universes to converge on. The creatures that came through, known as Breachers, ranged from alien to bestial, intelligent to mindless, natural to almost magical. As more Breachers arrived, it soon became clear that there were not nearly enough resources or space to sustain them all, and soon war broke out among both Breachers and humans alike. United against a host of common enemies, humans began to find ways to use the Breachers for their own purposes, using technologically-enhanced Shackles, which force their wearers to obey you. But not all humans agree on how to rid the world of the Breachers, or even on which Breachers should stay.
You have just come of age and are now an official Breacher Commander. Using your shackles, you set out to capture as many Breachers as possible and use them to battle other Breachers, both wild and recruited, and save your universe in the way you believe it should be saved.
Of course, the Breachers are basically Pokemon--or, more accurately, Fakemon--and the Commanders are trainers. Encounters and battles would work just like in the Pokemon games, with the exception that instead of PP, each Breacher has a set amount of stamina, and each move consumes a set amount of stamina. Stamina regenerates very slowly each turn of a battle and each step outside of battle, but the rate at which it does is usually not enough to counter moderate or heavy move spamming.
The Breacher type system would be similar to Pokemon's in mechanics, but very different in theme, as follows:
Spirit Breachers - Caught between universes, Spirit Breachers have ghostly abilities. These include shifting, which uses a move/turn but guarantees the opponent will miss their next move, and can be used out of battle to pass through certain materials in walls or floors. Other similar abilities mean that Spirit Breachers focus mainly on evasion, stalling out opponents until they run out of stamina and can be taken down with otherwise weak moves.
Mental Breachers - Psychic-type, basically. They rarely use damaging moves, instead focusing on battle manipulation. For example, they may cause the opponent to use their next move on themselves, alter the stats or stamina of an opponent, make an opponent temporarily forget a move, or even cause the opponent to switch out or the battle to be forefeited. They can also help persuade wild Breachers to join your party without wasting a Shackle attempt.
Body Breachers - Similar to fighting/normal types, these guys focus on brute force. So high-attack, high-defense, but low special (both attack and defense).
Tech Breachers - Creations of other Breachers and, sometimes, humans, Tech Breachers have high defense and otherwise average stats. They are immune to Mental attacks, but weak to other Tech attacks. They can learn moves which help you outside of battle, for things like hacking or data access (i.e. getting into new areas, disabling traps, etc.)
Illusury Breachers - Masters of illusion, these guys focus on manipulating accuracy. They can create distractions that lower opponents' accuracy, or paint targets in the air to help allies hit their opponents better. They can even frighten opponents into flinching.
Chemical Breachers - These guys focus on chemical attacks, either because they naturally produce toxins or because they're smart enough to invent chemical weapons. Chemical attacks usually afflict status effects on their targets.
Thermal Breachers - Combination fire/ice type moves can be learned by them. Generally about freezing, burning, and direct damage.
Aquatic Breachers - Obviously water-type moves. Some of these deal damage, while many move things around, manipulating turn order or forcing an opponent to swap out to a different Breacher, or even moving an opponent to your side of the battlefield causing them to miss you and hit their allies instead. Some Aquatic Breachers can't survive out of the water, so if you send them out in a land battle, they'll take suffocation damage each turn.
Beast Breachers - Nature-based, they have high attack and low defense. They're very offensive, direct-damage types. They're also the best type for utilizing the environment, i.e. learning moves that are affected by weather, or climbing nearby trees to increase evasion, or using rocks or sticks on the ground as weapons to increase attack, etc. (Every Breacher can learn some of these types of moves, but Beasts can learn many more than the others.) Additionally, Beasts are the only type that can learn moves which manipulate the environment, i.e. growing trees for protection, creating rain to boost water attacks, creating sun to boost fire attacks, etc.
Healing Breachers - They rarely attack, preferring to be a healing support for your allies and healing themselves as well. Of course, to heal, they have to come out onto the battlefield, where they can be a target for enemies, so use them strategically.
So with those details, the question remains: would something like that be considered a Pokemon fangame, with all its creatures and those borrowed mechanics, or is it considered too different and more like an independent game inspired by Pokemon? And where exactly is that line?
Interesting. I don't think there's really any way to figure out exactly where the line separating fangame and inspired game is, at least not in some mathematical sense of "knowing the location of the line." I'd call your game "inspired by Pokémon".
I think the biggest factor is just whether or not you call it a Pokémon game. If you don't, then it's not. There are several other games that feature battling styles similar to Pokémon, so despite the fact that Pokémon is far and away the most popular, I wouldn't merely call your game a fangame for including certain elements common to this class of RPGs.
On an unrelated note, I really like the descriptions you've written for each typeclass breacher. Good work!
So I guess now the question becomes a bit more of a practical one: the games posted in subforums here are all Pokemon fan games. If a game like the one I'm working on isn't really a fan game, would it be appropriate to be posted here anyway, since it's still inspired by Pokemon?
You have a point about the title of the forum. But other than a single Digimon game, literally every thread in the completed or progressing games subforums is a Pokemon fan game XD (The farthest thing from a Pokemon fan game is one thread of a fan game for a Pokemon ROM hack, which is basically the same thing as a Pokemon fan game ).
Which is why I was wondering whether a non-fan game, but one inspired by Pokemon, would fit in cohesively with the rest of the games in development here. Depending on whether it does or not, that sort of helps classify it as one category or the other.