Time for every developer's favorite topic: "Where's the line between inspiration and theft?"
I posed this question on twitter, but I figured I'd pose this question here as well. I will always freely admit to you that one of the many sources of inspiration for my game is Super Meat Boy - in fact, I think it's pretty safe to say that Super Meat Boy will probably be influencing platformers for a long time to come.
As many of you likely know, in SMB, one of the primary obstacles are an over abundance of buzz saws. While at first glance, it may seem that buzzsaws are simply an aesthetic choice - platformers have long since relied on the infamous spike to kill you, and it just seems like Tommy and Edmund picked buzzsaws to be your arch nemesis rather than spikes. If you go and play SMB, you realize they actually serve an extremely FUNCTIONAL decision. Naturally, in a platformer, your jump makes an arch. Also, naturally, a buzzsaw is circular. So, what occurs when you make a jump over a buzzsaw is you ascend as you approach, always just barely staying above the spinning blade. Then your jump peaks directly above the saw. Finally, you begin to descend on the other side, never being more than a hair away from certain death. It's thrilling, and it makes for amazing platforming. Likewise, this same principle applies when wall jumping up past the saws.
I would like a similar thing for my game. I'm not happy with just jumping over a pit of spikes. I want you to jump over a pit of death, and just the jump alone always makes you feel as if you're skirting death. Like a buzzsaw, it seems to me that the natural solution is to have some sort of circular obstacle to recreate this. The obvious solution? Well - seems to me it's a buzzsaw!
But that's where you run into problems. While I think it's unlikely that SMB was the first game to use a buzzsaw in this way, it's certainly the game that seemed to use it heavily. So much so that it seems like any inclusion of a spinning saw in a game would almost evoke thoughts of Super Meat Boy. As an example, I remember several months back, an iOS game came out called Tobar - in it, the character was basically a white square, and he had to jump over saws as one of his primary obstacles. Destructoid ran an article in which they basically more or less frowned at the game for "ripping off Super Meat Boy" (though in the article, they had asked Edmund McMillen how he felt, and he said he was cool with it).
I've thought long and hard about this problem, and tried a few solutions. About the only thing that I feel like maybe comes close is adding a series of spikes that generally form a circular pattern (ie: spikes in the middle of the cluster are raised higher than the ones on the edges). It basically works, but it doesn't really feel like it's the same effect (the dynamic nature of a spinning buzzsaw adds a sense of tension that you don't get with spikes as well). Also, spikes rarely move in games - so if I wanted a moving death hazard that had all these properties, I'd need to come up with something else (spikes that jut out of the floor, then return maybe?)
What do you think the reaction would be if I did choose to use buzzsaws in my game? I feel like people would look at it and say "Ugh, Super Meat Boy ripoff." It makes me EXTREMELY reluctant to do it. However, I also don't want to miss out on the functional purpose I've mentioned above. I'm sure that thanks to Super Meat Boy, the buzzsaw is going to become a staple of platformers, much as the spike did, and in five years this won't be such a large concern. But I'd really like to not be a ripoff too, which is how I feel a lot of people would feel.
I'll continue to try to think up ideas, but I wanted to get people's opinions: where do you fall on this argument? Is it a ripoff? Or did SMB simply set a new mechanic standard for platformers that is bound to be emulated?