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Vampire Survivor's Greatest Achievement and the Importance of “Clones”

Vampire Survivor's Greatest Achievement and the Importance of “Clones”

The videogame industry has grown exponentially — specifically over the last seven years, which saw the number of gamers increase a whopping one billion over this time period, according to explodingtopics.com. Considering that we know there are about 3.09 billion gamers worldwide, one billion makes up for 32% of this increase alone.

With it, videogames have grown a lot, too. We saw the very beginning — Tennis For Two — grow into forms of art, with the likes of God of War (2018) providing a movie-like experience mixed in with gameplay elements. It has spawned events that beat other industries, with 2022 seeing an all-time low for the Oscars at 16.6 million views and The Game Awards netting 103 million. It has led to controversies that have split the world, with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice raising various voices about difficulty in gaming. And finally, it has even raised several millions of dollars in charity every year, making changes not only to its own industry, but struggling charities and causes that could benefit from these very well.

Videogaming continues to grow, even if we don't actively see this happening at times. Although we're peaking in graphics, with Unreal Engine 5 thinning the line between reality and video evermore, the industry's growth isn't seen only there. Indie developers continue to find new and innovative ways to create games, and solo developers shake the world with fantastic genre-bending titles that define an entire era of gaming, if even for a while.

One of the latest developers to join this prestigious title is none other than poncle, the genius mind behind Vampire Survivors, who won several Game of the Year awards, including here on this very outlet! These successes are no small matter, but arguably, there is an even greater achievement that poncle managed, more than just bending a whole new genre, such as ConcernedApe’s Stardew Valley did back in 2016 — poncle introduced a new generation to the genre.

This isn't unheard of, but as the gaming industry advances, it becomes more difficult to create something so "unique" that it revolutionises the industry. While other titles like Among Us brought attention to the obscure social deduction genre and Stardew Valley brought new life (and thus, new competitors) to the life simulation genre, poncle managed to succeed in a sphere that hadn’t seen this type of game before (similarly to MiHoYo’s success in PC despite being a mobile title).

Now, it's worth noting that although innovative and enjoyable, Vampire Survivors is not the first of its kind. Luca Galante, the developer of the game, mentioned that he was working on the title in his spare time and was playing a mobile game on Android called Magic Survival. This would become the inspiration for Vampire Survivors and its subsequent success on PC via Steam. Although it doesn't — entirely — create a new genre because there was already one of its kind on mobile devices, it introduced the PC and console world to something unlike ever before, and something that Steam didn't have exact tags to describe it. Henceforth, Vampire Survivors will continue spawning clones of it for years to come, technically birthing a new genre of games and a new era in gaming. That will forever be its greatest achievement.

And although Vampire Survivors might have revolutionised the genre in a way that introduced it to a brand-new generation, it brings up a problem that the industry has seen over the years — the habit of “clones” that succeed the original idea. Back in the eras when Mojang first created Minecraft, the voxel genre blew up and clones of the same type of game spawned by the dozens; many of these were shameless cash grabs in an attempt to siphon a splash of the original game’s success. Even nowadays, Hytale (despite its silence for so long) is still in development and is set up to be the “Minecraft killer” (if it manages to do that despite Minecraft’s reinvention as of recent months, but a different topic for a different article).

Even when the genre isn’t revolutionary but reintroduced, in the way of Stardew Valley, these clones start appearing, and many start claiming them as “cheap” and “unimaginative” repetitions of something we’ve already seen. Despite how innovative and ingenious the original product might be, the existence and growth of others within the same genre does not invalidate the original success of the first; instead, it should build upon it.

Genres, as a whole, are fickle. Either due to their ever-changing nature or because of the need to create “new” ones when new ideas are brought about, these are always evolving and leaving previous generations to become simple and brainless versions of themselves. In terms of evolution and natural progression of industries, it’s not only normal that some things should grow old, but it’s also expected.

After the great success of Vampire Survivors, the survivors genre has exploded into new variations that have become “clones” of the original. Now, developers are offering their unique spins and ideas for the genre, including cooperative gameplay, abilities, aimed attacks (which is technically bullet hell, but we’ll let it slide for now)... these innovations will eventually see a greater version that builds on Vampire Survivors so much that it becomes its progeny — a spiritual successor that thrives where the original might have failed.

Despite how much the industry has notoriously hated clones, these have brought about the best versions of genres and continue to evolve our favourites. Stardew Valley would be nothing without Animal Crossing and — most importantly — Harvest MoonSekiro: Shadows Die Twice innovated on the soulslike dodge roll mechanics for parry-focused gameplay, something that Lies Of P now seeks to build upon more. Even old-time greats like FarmVille (remember that one?) took from Farm TownAngry Birds built from Crush the Castle and, yes, even gaming’s first-ever Tennis for Two was surpassed by its much more famous clone, Pong.

Competition breeds innovation, and innovation leads to success. Vampire Survivors will forever have guided the world to what we now call the survivors genre, but much like Christopher Columbus, poncle merely rediscovered something great and worked as a pioneer to ensure the success of the genre. 

Artura Dawn

Artura Dawn

Staff Writer

Writes in her sleep, can you tell?

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