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What's the true worth of an initial game idea?


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#81 ChaosEngine   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2473

Posted 13 May 2013 - 08:19 PM

I always laugh at this topic. The very concept of an "idea guy" as artist is ridiculous.

 

Have you ever heard a painter/writer/photographer/director/sculptor say "I have a really great idea for a painting/story/photo/movie/sculpture" and then expect someone else to do all the work for them? 

 

No, you have value when you produce something. 


if you think programming is like sex, you probably haven't done much of either.-------------- - capn_midnight

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#82 Ectara   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3020

Posted 13 May 2013 - 09:17 PM

I must say, a lot of the words exchanged in favor of this show little understanding of how any of the technical or artistic side of game development.

 

I'll try to throw my opinion in here, without restating what's said before too much.

 

Interpreting the words literally, an "initial game idea" has a worth of near nothing, and I'll tell you why: only the end result of proving the concept has value, and most "idea guys" come up with the same ideas that both artists and programmers can come up with, and need to fix.

 

I hold not value in the ideas of someone that has no hand in any other aspect of the game development process for one good reason: "idea guys" who have a hand in actually implementing ideas are the ones who come up with really good ideas. I get so many friends and acquaintances that suggest either making clones, or making games that are ridiculously impractical games and cannot be convinced that what they are suggesting will take a lot more effort than they think for the amount of reward that they want.

 

Don't get me wrong, there is a chance that someone who has no idea what goes into making a game can come up with a good idea, but people that are experienced can expedite the process of hammering away at the faults of the idea, by already knowing what needs work before drawing up the original plans.

 

In this region, "nerd" is a derogatory term for someone in the information technology field, typically used by people with no respect for them. If you feel that most gamers are boring people, then I think that you might be in the profession for the wrong reason, like a social worker thinking that people down on their luck are lazy, or a chef thinking that people that eat at a restaurant are lacking merit. If you have no respect for the people that you work with, or the people that buy your product, then I would have a hard time imagining what joy you might find in the field.

 

Now, back on topic, the way most people see an "idea guy" is a person that wants something either already done or not worth doing, but wants no part in actually doing it, and expects others to do it for free. The truth is, most idea guys don't have enough of an idea to actually put forth a game. Their idea spans a single page, at most, and leaves a ton of details out, that the programmer is expected to come up with. I'll give you a quick example:

"A game like Pokemon, but different: people can see each other in the fields, and battle each other, and there world will be expanding through downloadable updates, with new areas."

 

Pokemon clones are very popular. However, there is a lot missing. In fact, the whole game. How exactly do players interact? How does the battle system prevent cheating? How do you prevent too many people from being in the same area, since there are only a certain number of tiles in an area? How will the network be laid out? There's a lot of work in "just letting everyone see each other at once and interact in real-time". How will the downloadable data be handled? Is it done with a scripting language, to allow events and such? What capabilities should it have, to allow more than what you've imagined right now? Routes in Pokemon have a finite amount of exits; adding another area requires modifying areas that previously existed on one's local machine. How do you handle a player that was last in a location that was modified in an update? Perhaps they are now in a tile that is not walkable, or they're surfing where there's no longer water. Updates don't just happen for new content; if the map has a bug, that needs to be reworked. How does one "save"? If they simply return to the last position they were when they logged off, how do you prevent people from reappearing in the same coordinate when they log on at the same time? If they are merely bumped to the next tile, what if that isn't possible? How do you prevent more people from reappearing in the same area, either by exiting a building or logging back on, than the limit imposed on that area? If they get dropped at a neutral starting point, what happens if that is full?

 

The list is nearly infinite, full tiny details in that one simple idea the idea guy had. Most of them only concerned one topic. Most people that only provide ideas are usually incapable of figuring all this out, and instead leave it to the "nerds" to hash out essentially the whole game. People look for you to provide an equal amount of work relative to everyone else on the team. If your idea of design is giving a starting point, and having everyone that implements it figure it out, they you aren't the idea guy, you're a muse, and everyone else is the idea guy, that started from your idea.

 

If you can provide a fully fleshed out idea, covering just about all aspects (which requires experience in the field), and can produce a many paged proposition and design, following the life cycle from start to finish, then you are more welcomed on the team as a distinct role.

 

Put another way, if the programmers and artists can come to you with problems in the design and implementation, and you can resolve those problems, then you'd be worth something to the team. If you provide an idea, and you can't give anything more than that, then your role is very limited.

 

Providing an analogy, a lot of programmers look at "idea guys" the same way that that web developers look at people who want a website done, but want it done by Friday, and also want it to have a giant Flash slideshow on the homepage with Comic Sans font for all of the tabs that make a "Whoosh!" sound, and make it look just like their competitor's site.



#83 PosthasteGames   Members   -  Reputation: 123

Posted 13 May 2013 - 09:24 PM

I always laugh at this topic. The very concept of an "idea guy" as artist is ridiculous.

 

Have you ever heard a painter/writer/photographer/director/sculptor say "I have a really great idea for a painting/story/photo/movie/sculpture" and then expect someone else to do all the work for them? 

 

No, you have value when you produce something. 

 

where did you get that from? did anyone here claim that?


"Woud you rather make a game with a preliminary originality, or a game that shocks the people and maybe even politicians?" - Posthaste Games


#84 ChaosEngine   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2473

Posted 13 May 2013 - 09:49 PM

I always laugh at this topic. The very concept of an "idea guy" as artist is ridiculous.

 

Have you ever heard a painter/writer/photographer/director/sculptor say "I have a really great idea for a painting/story/photo/movie/sculpture" and then expect someone else to do all the work for them? 

 

No, you have value when you produce something. 

 

where did you get that from? did anyone here claim that?

 

Yep. "But i still hold my view that possessing a skill set does not make an artist, it is necessary, but not essential."

 

Besides, it's pretty much the central tenet of this argument. The "idea guy" has a grand vision and it's left to the artists, programmers, etc to get on with the boring and menial task of turning the Best Game Idea Ever ™ into a reality.

 

Hell, in this topic, the programmers and artists don't even rate as hired help, they're "the manufacturer of the paint"


if you think programming is like sex, you probably haven't done much of either.-------------- - capn_midnight

#85 szecs   Members   -  Reputation: 2177

Posted 13 May 2013 - 10:21 PM


 

While it is certainly true that you can produce a painting in a free and almost improvisational manner and make up the details as you go, this is not how the Old Master painters created most of their works. Perhaps you don't quite understand the scale of their paintings or the techniques they used. Take for example, Rembrandt's "The Night Watch" - it is a painting on a massive scale. Before he applied a single stroke of paint, he had already worked out just about every single detail of the painting with the use of many pencil sketches and colour studies. He would have then created a final pencil draft with all of the details in place (except, perhaps for mechanical details such as textures of cloth. But even then, he would have worked these details out in his head at this point) He would then transfer this drawing onto the large canvas, up-scaling it in the process. Then, and only then would he begin to apply the paint, but still working from that final pencil draft he created earlier. Also, for the painting process itself he would have used something similar to the Flemish technique for applying the oil paints. With this technique he would have built the painting up in layers, letting the paint dry in-between layers before applying a new layer.

 

This is what iteration and prototyping means. No one said that you have to start implement the final application from the beginning. This means tons of thrown away code, and (in an ideal world) none of the prototype code will stay in the final code. Sometimes (very sometimes) after everything is fell into place, the whole thing is reprogrammed from zero (...).

 

The painters did not only make all the details in their mind, they actually implemented tons of the ideas and iterated through/on them (sketches and color studies) and they were not physically used in the final product.
 

In programming, sketches mean not only art sketches and game-play idea sketches, but sketches mean some playable stuff too. Be it a table game or actual coding.

 

 

You are stuck to the painter analogy too literally.



#86 Ludus   Members   -  Reputation: 970

Posted 13 May 2013 - 11:56 PM


 

I believe that people working in game development could take a lesson from this process - and possibly give something like it a try. The concept of the game should be worked out, prototyped, and refined until all of the mechanics become finalized (this prototype is essentially the "pencil draft"). This would preferably done by the game designer alone (though probably with play testers for some feedback). Only after this process would the game be taken to the studio, where the production team of artists, programmers, and composers, and QA staff should come in to create the final product (the "painting").






This is a wasteful and time consuming process. Many Game Designers are not programmers and would struggle to create suitable prototypes on their own. Even those that are programmers would struggle to create prototypes for non-trivial designs alone, in a reasonable time frame.

 

 

To me, a game designer who cannot create a working game on his own is like a composer who cannot play an instrument and thus cannot play his own pieces. Just as it's necessary to be able to play music in order to compose good music, it's also necessary to create games in order to design good games. That immediate feedback loop is necessary to develop the skills you need for either area. Also, who said anything about programming? Creating a working table-top, pen and paper game is also sufficient as a prototype. Sure, it's quite limiting in what kind of game can be made, but if it's all the game designer can do then it's what he should stick to. Furthermore, it's easier than ever today to create a game with little to no programming knowledge. With the ever increasing number of programs designed to allow one to get a game up and working quickly, there is no excuse for a game designer who cannot create a working prototype on their own.

 

Also, it's only time consuming for the game designer. But how is it wasteful? When the concept for the game has been finalized in all of it's details and it begins production at the studio, all of the artists, programmers, sound design, and composers know exactly what they have to work on. There is no time and effort wasted on guessing and waiting. In a previous post I asked this:

"What are the artists doing while the concept is still in the process of development? Are they creating the graphical assets for a level that might - or might not be in the final game? Are the composers creating music for a certain cutscene that may or may not exist? Are the programmers implementing the core mechanics that could possibly undergo many changes?"

No one answered to this, but I believe most of us know the answer is yes to all of those questions. There is a bunch of wasted time and effort caused by not have a detailed design to follow. Heck, there's even an entire website dedicated to unused content that exists in the code of retail games - everything from art assets, animations, weapons/items, sound effects, entire soundtracks, unused AI code (as well as a bunch of other code), and in some cases entire unused levels - and this is only what's left in the game's data. I can only imagine what gets cut out entirely during the whole development process.

 

 

Games can already take a lot of time and money to create. What do you think we would gain from this rigid process that merits increasing this time and cost - and increased uncertainty in terms of overall budgeting and timescales that come with such an inflexible approach to development - even further?

 

How can what I suggest be much worse than the development process as it already exists, which is already quite messy and wasteful? Why would this rigid process merit increasing cost and time? If anything it would cut costs as production would be far more focused and thus take less time. Of course, there is the game designer who has to do all of the draft and prototype work before the production begins at the studio, but I imagine that the publisher would commission him to do this work.

 

On this thread it seems there are many people who are staunch defenders of the way games are currently being developed. I merely suggest a different way that games could be developed - whether or not it would actually work is debatable, but would at least need to be tested for any informed conclusions. Do not forget that video games are a very new medium. Who's to say that we've already found the best way to create video games? Who's to say that there won't be any large paradigm shifts in the way games are developed? Because of recent developments such as Kickstarter, we have already seen massive changes in the way games are being made.


Edited by Ludus, 14 May 2013 - 12:09 AM.


#87 SuperG   Members   -  Reputation: 545

Posted 13 May 2013 - 11:59 PM

True there is this anoligy problem. First I do not think in the clasical artist field there are idea guy. The problem game development has is a huge coolness factor so lot of young people want to go into this branch. So to the lazy once and cleuless once and with huge arrogance. In hordes. Also the serious hard working once who get into this make huge competition.
The core of a idea guy is that they deliver just idea. If they go further to the next fase then they truly break trough and are beyound just that idea guy barrier. But it just that first step.

Those people are also asking for easy way in. And recognisable to the opinion that the want to sell there materpiece idea for a game.
Because it a large group of people with similair question some devs make website for them to give them clues advive and
Put them in the right direction.
like the Tom Sloper website.

Where do I fall in. Not clueless not arrogent but more lazy dreamer.

#88 Ludus   Members   -  Reputation: 970

Posted 14 May 2013 - 12:02 AM

In programming, sketches mean not only art sketches and game-play idea sketches, but sketches mean some playable stuff too. Be it a table game or actual coding.

 

As I mentioned before, the game designer is the person who is making the playable prototype of the game - just as the artist is the person who's making the sketches and pencil drafts.


Edited by Ludus, 14 May 2013 - 12:44 AM.


#89 overactor   Members   -  Reputation: 198

Posted 14 May 2013 - 12:08 AM

Yep. "But i still hold my view that possessing a skill set does not make an artist, it is necessary, but not essential."

 

Besides, it's pretty much the central tenet of this argument. The "idea guy" has a grand vision and it's left to the artists, programmers, etc to get on with the boring and menial task of turning the Best Game Idea Ever ™ into a reality.

 

Hell, in this topic, the programmers and artists don't even rate as hired help, they're "the manufacturer of the paint"

 

I said it is necessary, didn't I? All I implied was that it's not the most important thing for an artist.

 

It was just a metaphor and I never claimed it was entirely accurate, it talks more about their artistic contribution to the game than the amount of work they put in. They could very well be considered artist and their lines of code or drawings could be art in their own right, but ideally, they don't change what the game is in a significant way. Unless of course they are better game designers than the game designer.

 

 

Why does everyone here always focus on monetary value by the way?


"You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood."

"What mood is that?"

"Last-minute panic."


#90 Ectara   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3020

Posted 14 May 2013 - 12:08 AM

As something to think about, there is something that a game developer calls someone who provides only an idea, and lets the rest do the "manual labor": a client.



#91 Ludus   Members   -  Reputation: 970

Posted 14 May 2013 - 01:13 AM

Besides, it's pretty much the central tenet of this argument. The "idea guy" has a grand vision and it's left to the artists, programmers, etc to get on with the boring and menial task of turning the Best Game Idea Ever ™ into a reality.



Hell, in this topic, the programmers and artists don't even rate as hired help, they're "the manufacturer of the paint"

 

Even in this case, the artists, programmers, and composers still have a great deal of room for artistic interpretation (except when in comes to core gameplay stuff, such as the game mechanics). And even still, this would be far less boring and less menial than just about every other job on the planet (does a desk job leave much room for artistic interpretation?) But yes, you're right - the OP's analogy is unfair and undermines the amount of work that everyone else puts into a project. A much better analogy is that the production team is like a group of painters working on a single, huge painting - and the game designer is the artist who has drawn the composition in pencil on the canvas for the rest of the team to follow.

 

 

Just as an aside, many of the Old Master painters created their own paint by purchasing the ingredients and doing all the crushing and mixing by themselves. Many artists still do this today.


Edited by Ludus, 14 May 2013 - 01:29 AM.


#92 Buster2000   Members   -  Reputation: 1740

Posted 14 May 2013 - 01:53 AM

Have you ever heard a painter/writer/photographer/director/sculptor say "I have a really great idea for a painting/story/photo/movie/sculpture" and then expect someone else to do all the work for them?



No, you have value when you produce something.

 

Actually I have heard of artists doing this.   A lot of sulptures are created this way.   Examples would be Banksy, Damian Hirst, Tracy Emin and lots of other artists who design large sculptures.  That isn't to say that these aren't all very accomplished artists.  Just that once they make it big enough to run their own studios they can take a step back and just make the initial design.

 

Another example would be fashion design.  I really don't think Stella McCartney or Vera Wang actually stitch the dresses together and in the case of some celebrity designers such as Kate Moss or Victoria Beckham I doubt that they even have much input in the actual design.

 

Closer to the games industry there are designers who, once they have made it big don't actually do the design work.  An example is that I worked on a high profile game that said it was designed by Hideo Kojima and developed by Kojima studios when in actual fact the game contracted out with an initial idea and then designed and developed by a small independant team in the north of England.  The only other input from Kojima studios was QA support.

 

I am just trying to play the devils advocat here.  I don't personally think there is much room for the ideas guy.  And I guess from these examples above the the thing that these ideas people are bringing to the table is finances and a trusted brand name.



#93 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2910

Posted 14 May 2013 - 02:55 AM

No plan, no matter how detailed, will survive contact with reality.

If you are not willing to adapt, you will perish.

 

That is a very old wisdom, and I don't really think you need to say more in this topic.



#94 Sandman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 2136

Posted 14 May 2013 - 03:16 AM

To me, a game designer who cannot create a working game on his own is like a composer who cannot play an instrument and thus cannot play his own pieces. Just as it's necessary to be able to play music in order to compose good music, it's also necessary to create games in order to design good games.

 

Orchestral pieces require many different instruments all working together simultaneously. Even the most skilled musician can't play an entire orchestra by himself, he needs some help.

 

FWIW I don't object to the idea of prototyping up front. In fact I think it's very important. But I'm of the opinion that you choose the best man for the job for any given task. Why shouldn't the designer work in collaboration with a couple of developers to get a much better prototype in a shorter space of time? 

 

 

On this thread it seems there are many people who are staunch defenders of the way games are currently being developed. I merely suggest a different way that games could be developed - whether or not it would actually work is debatable, but would at least need to be tested for any informed conclusions. Do not forget that video games are a very new medium. Who's to say that we've already found the best way to create video games?

 

The thing is, what you are describing has already been tested. It's how pretty much all software was developed, until people began to realise it was a horrible way to develop software and switched to more iterative approaches.

 

There will always been unforeseen circumstances that crop up during development, however detailed your initial plan. Well, unless your initial plan was a complete development in it's own right. Software development processes need to be flexible enough to adapt to these issues. 


Edited by Sandman, 14 May 2013 - 03:17 AM.


#95 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2910

Posted 14 May 2013 - 03:25 AM

Why does everyone here always focus on monetary value by the way?

 

Maybe because for many of us, creating games is what pays our bills and put food on our table smile.png

 

But thats not all the meaning of "valuable". Your life is quite short, you have to carefully consider what you spend your time on.

A very detailed design that hasn't gone through any prototyping and has been dreamed up without any input is most likely a waste of time you can better spend on creating a better game.

 

And if you involve the team in the creative process, they will feel an ownership of the ideas, and be more passionate about them.

You can't create great works without a passionate team, that do MORE then just what you tell them to.


Edited by Olof Hedman, 14 May 2013 - 03:26 AM.


#96 phantom   Moderators   -  Reputation: 7433

Posted 14 May 2013 - 04:41 AM

From The Trenches.

The reason why the 'go away and write a document that describes fun' isn't used is because it simply doesn't work - what seems like a good idea on paper does not always transfer to game play.

A few years ago I was working on a game which was made up of a series of mini-games; each game had to last no more than a couple of minutes at best.

Someone sat down to design one of those mini-games. He thought out the game, the mechcanics, mocked up screens, and gave all the details needed to make it happen. The myself and an artist sat down and implemented this plan.

Two weeks later, when all the work came together (bugs cleared etc) myself and the artist sat and tried the mini-game out properly and realised something; it wasn't fun.

We called the designer over, showed him what was done and let him have a play and he came to the same conclusion we had.

We tried fiddling with the pacing, the interaction, some of the core elements to it... nope, nothing doing.

The mini-game got dropped.
(About the only thing of value to come out of the work was an upgrade to our scripting system.)

By contrast we had another mini-game which turned out to be more fun when implemented than even the paper design led us to believe it would be.

Both mini-games were implemented by the same designer, artist and coder group.

The take away; a grand vision thought up as an idea isn't fun until it is tried in the wild and found to be fun.

Secondary point; the moment you start implementing something to test out the game play etc you are no longer an 'idea person'.

#97 Barzai   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 660

Posted 14 May 2013 - 09:01 AM

The premise of this thread greatly undervalues the editing process.

 

I think I've read it here, but I'm not exactly sure where, that one of the most important skills for a game designer is knowing when something doesn't work and being willing to throw that part out.  In a world where it's ultimately important to maintain the purity of the original concept, that just doesn't happen.

 

Editing is valuable pretty much everywhere, not just in game design.  Sure, you occasionally hear about an album that gets recorded because the musicians just hit the studio one week and everything clicked.  That's pretty rare though.

 

Painting, writing, heck, even manufacturing new equipment, everything needs editing.  There is no such thing as the awesome perfect master idea that needs to be preserved.



#98 jms bc   Members   -  Reputation: 439

Posted 14 May 2013 - 09:21 AM

There's a different consensus in the forums of www.gameideaguy.net


The Four Horsemen of Happiness have left.


#99 FLeBlanc   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3109

Posted 14 May 2013 - 10:42 AM

There's a different consensus in the forums of www.gameideaguy.net

I am tempted to start that site. It would be the most hilarious pile of fail ever.

Seriously, are we really spending this much time debating this? If the waterfall process were truly the best method it would have risen to the top over more agile and iterative processes, rather than being relegated to the annals of history. Believe it or not, there are some companies out there that want to make fun and artistic games, and there are designers who have great ideas. Some of these even have the money to push their vision. Very, very few of these (I would put my money on "none" personally) are diva-run dictatorial regimes built to serve the demands of a single designer with great ideas. If this were a valid paradigm, there would be more money in it. (Yes, money is a good indicator of the quality of a game development paradigm. It's really the only concrete qualifier we have to judge things by, at any rate. If you can come up with a good mathematical model for "fun" or for "artistic integrity" I'd be delighted to see it so I could ridicule it and point out its flaws.)

For better or worse, agile practices are here to stay. They are proven to help fallible humans create better products. If humans were good at building the best possible product (creative, engineering or other) on the first try then we would all still be driving Model Ts because there would have been no point in iterating on the automobile any further.

I understand that it just chaps some folks' hide that they can't be little mini-dictators handing out decrees to see their pure, untainted vision be given life in all its splendor and wondrous magnificence, gracing the world with a grand and spectacular artistic endeavour. Tough shit. Learn to iterate and listen to your specialists unless you want to turn out shitty, unfinished games. It's the real world we live in, not some little artists' utopia.

#100 Ludus   Members   -  Reputation: 970

Posted 14 May 2013 - 11:47 AM

Orchestral pieces require many different instruments all working together simultaneously. Even the most skilled musician can't play an entire orchestra by himself, he needs some help.

 

No, a musician may not be able to play every instrument in the orchestra by himself. However, the composer of that orchestral piece had to learn how to write music for each instrument. This requires learning about what each instrument can do, what they sound like, and the technical limitations of each instrument. As a composer, there are few things worse than the violist coming to you after the first rehearsal of your new piece, with the sheet music in hand and sternly saying to you "this note is not on my instrument".

 

 

The thing is, what you are describing has already been tested. It's how pretty much all software was developed, until people began to realise it was a horrible way to develop software and switched to more iterative approaches.

 

Then perhaps the reason why this approach does not work is simply due to the current state of knowledge about game design. The solution could be that we need game designers who are more knowledgeable about design - as well as a general increase in knowledge about design by all people in game development. This will happen, as we try more and more to approach game design in a scientific and analytical manner. This will lead to the identification of common patterns in design as well as naming standardization for those patterns. As this happens, game designers as well as all the other developers will be able to grasp and put together high level designs that work - and they'll be able to do so very quickly and efficiently, as well as being able to communicate these designs among each other - all because these patterns of design will be a standard part of their vocabulary.

 

This is precisely what happened in music with the development of music theory. By learning about music theory (which is a standard part of music school) one learns about all of the guidelines about how to compose music that sounds good. One learns about all of the patterns in harmony, voice leading, chord progressions, structures, and the like. By using a set of rules which consist of patterns that have been time tested, this takes away a huge amount of guess work in the process of composing a piece. With music theory, it's possible to compose a piece that sounds good without ever needing to sit down at an instrument to hear it. When the same thing happens to game design, it will take away the need for all of that guess work, trial and error, and iteration that happens in the studio. It will be possible to put together a detailed design document of a game that works great before even needing to step foot in the production studio. This process of developing game design theory is already happening, with the help of people such as those at Extra Credits, and Errant Signal.


Edited by Ludus, 14 May 2013 - 11:57 AM.





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