Imagining a Game
game game development concept brainstorming creativity inspiration
In the introductory blog post about this new series of articles, A Game Developer’s Experience, I talked briefly about game development. As promised, every now and then I’ll be tackling a new aspect of building a game. This week, I'll be taking a closer look at the very first stage of game development – the concept stage.
Game development deals with the inner workings of a game and the process to publish a video game, but before any of this happens, there has to be an idea for a game. A very general idea which answers an essential question – what’s the game about? But why is this stage so important?
The time when a developer is brainstorming for a game concept is crucial for any studio. Since development takes months, the wrong idea could often be a breaking point for a professional studio. There are also certain ideals which should be reached – for example the developer has to be sure that he has the expertise needed to finish the game.
We’ve all played games which have previously-undeveloped mechanics to thank for their success, as was the case with Braid. Others, such as Minecraft, were the catalysts for new, emerging graphical styles. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a general formula which determines or predicts a game’s future success. So what makes an idea stand out?
Innovation is an important aspect in indie gaming. Many indie games’ success is attributed to the way they pick a basic mechanic and give it a personal twist, or perfect it in a unique way. On an even more fundamental level, the basic mechanics have to be fun and engaging for players. Although the game is still just an idea, these points have to be examined and, if possible, added to the basic idea as early as possible.
Coming up with fresh ideas could take time, and inspiration plays an important part. You might remember Nyphoon’s barren spell last year after I dropped The Ark: Relaunch. So how do indie developers come up with ideas for their next project? As I wrote last year for IGDA, inspiration can be rather elusive. There are many aspects in indie game development which make it rather tricky for developers to come up with distinguishing ideas.
The concept of Winter’s Coming came about in one instant, but before that there had been months without any form of inspiration. Playing video games certainly helps fuel inspiration, yet everyone has his own methods of capturing ideas. Before finalizing an idea and deciding whether to take it up or not, I find it helpful to analyze each one – sometimes it’s just a mental exercise, other times I feel the need to put pen to paper. And when an idea finally hits home, it’s time to build upon it.
As was the case with Winter’s Coming, after the general idea is chosen it’s time to lay down the basic mechanics – the foundation of the game. You have an exceptional idea, yet it’s often a fragment of a game’s concept. At this stage, the mechanics are the bare minimum, but it usually determines what the player’s goal is in the game. In the next post, I’ll be examining the thought-processes and exercises to change an abstract idea into something more practical.
P.S. Big things are coming next week to commemorate Nyphoon’s 6th birthday, so remember to follow Nyphoon on Twitter, Facebook or by subscribing to the RSS Feed!