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Innovation Vs Proven Concepts


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#1 Nuhaine   Members   -  Reputation: 120

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 02:35 AM

Now, as a beginning Indie Game Designer, I have had quite the adventure since reading Tom Sloper's site, Sloperama last year. I had the pleasure of leading a small team recently, a group of young adults who wished to create their own MOBA. Now, I knew the project would fall out from the beginning and openly stated so- none of them had any real skills to place on the table. Regardless, I knew I would enjoy the experience I would receive from attempting this, and agreed to oversee the project.

 

Within the project I was Lead Designer, Project Manager, and Marketer. I ended up being in three roles, and followed several guides on setting up the team and managing the project properly. We made good progress, even with such unskilled people. Now, three months since the project ended I have finally put the project to rest, with a great amount of experience under my belt due to the issues that we encountered, and all the research I had done. Even if there was no real result, the experience was worth the time.

 

Now, it could have kept going if I had brought in developers with more experience. The framework for the project was still there, but I didn't feel like going on without the friends I had made, in a project which they struggled to help create. So thus, i'm on the road again, taking the next step.

 

In design, I often find my best creative motivation in the Sandbox, Dungeon Crawler, and Turn-Based-Strategy genres. I have so many ideas on how to use new technologies to pave a new road forwards. A part of me finds it a challenge to avoid taking old concepts and using them without innovating them into something else. Should I be cautious of the direction this takes me?

 

I find myself at an impasse. My mind wanders towards innovation, often to a high degree. But is that really such a great thing? I find myself wondering if making the advanced simple, or vice-versa would be beneficial in design. I have so many ideas, such a broad focus, but do I need to further broaden my gaze to include old innovations?

 

In summary, is it better to favor an old mechanic or feature that has already been done frequently in design? It applies to all categories, everything from UI, to Combat, and Economics. My suspicions for this are that I notice many games frequently use proven designs, as opposed to new ones. My guess would be that companies tend to favor proven concepts or reuse existing files to make development easier, but is straying away from this such a bad idea?


Edited by Nuhaine, 05 November 2013 - 02:45 AM.


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#2 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3718

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 04:24 AM

I suppose I will add more question than answers smile.png

 

Chris Crawford, he made a good point about advantages of "grand leap creativity" (as opposed to "incremental creativity"), also his whip act was quite convincing, it all made sense smile.png

But, later he did his "Dragon Speech", which simply put, he said he quits making games smile.png Also, did he made any good games? Except Balance of Power (which was extremely famous, yet not very playable) and maybe Eastern Front, not really...

So, would I want to be like him? I'm not sure...

 

Notch with his Minecraft. Was it original or just an innovation of Infiminer? I guess both. He took an existing mechanic (building blocks and team fighting in destructible terrain) and then REMOVED everything that was not about building anything you desire with these blocks. So, his innovation was not adding anything, but removing, that was the key to the huge success of the game. Was it a grand leap creativity? Or just the lame incremental creativity?

 

Marketing for indies, well, the popular rumour says its pointless to make good games. Because you won't be able to market them (as opposed to AAA titles where you have marketing budget and you can make standard games). You need to make viral games. Which means either excellent or pathetic, but never, ever good or mediocre ones smile.png

 

My expereince as a dev. When I compare my successful games with unsuccessful ones, I see the ones more into the direction of a clone being simply better than those that were very unique. Althrough, I'm not sure if that's the deciding factor, the successful ones also had other interesting characteristics (like a very strict and short deadline, me liking them as a player, strong core activity).


Edited by Acharis, 05 November 2013 - 04:25 AM.

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#3 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 18609

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 05:17 AM

Daniel Cook (of Spry Fox) suggests in his article "plagiarism as a moral choice" that remaining a plagiarist rather than evolving new innovations is "to waste your very limited time on this planet", and that to do so results in ending up as a "wage slave".  I'd suggest a read of the full article, but the relevant advice summed up at the end is:

What's the alternative? Why not start up a small prototyping project? Knock a genre down to its most basic element. Give yourself constraints so you intentionally do not replicate games of the past. Rebuild your game from that simple foundation, borrowing elements from the entire breadth of game history. Finish a game that has a half dozen influences from widely disparate games that in the end create a player experience that is uniquely yours. This is how you stop being a plagiarist and start becoming a master game designer.  There is still time to create something amazing and new.

 

He also linked to a post at the bottom titled "Inspiration vs. Immitation", but unfortunately his link is broken -- I've linked to the up-to-date version though.

 

 

In short, don't just imitate, but absolutely be inspired! :)



#4 Navezof   Members   -  Reputation: 1266

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 06:27 AM

Your whole game doesn't need to be new. Even if it's only one part of your game which is new. For exemple, you have Limbo, it's just a basic platformer (you run, jump, resolve enigma, etc...) but the graphic tone, and atmoshpere are really unique.

I would associate innovative with Indie game dev, and old/refined with big production. But, there is the case of "Candy Crush", a game on mobile platform which is (oldyl) a very big success. But the concept is a very old and used one. (I even have the same type of game on my old phone which is something like 10 years old!)

But ot answer your question, I will say ; "both". Take some proven concept from there and there, mix, bring your own inspiration, mix again, and pray that this will become something cool ^^'


In short, don't just imitate, but absolutely be inspired!


I second :)

#5 Nuhaine   Members   -  Reputation: 120

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 06:36 AM

Marketing for indies, well, the popular rumour says its pointless to make good games. Because you won't be able to market them (as opposed to AAA titles where you have marketing budget and you can make standard games). You need to make viral games. Which means either excellent or pathetic, but never, ever good or mediocre ones smile.png

 

Very true! I began to research Marketing and study the different crowds of gamers for exactly this purpose. Games like popular Apps (Cookie Clicker, Mafia Wars) are examples of poor or simple concepts which went viral. I have been looking into these extensively, piecing them apart to find out what makes them popular or more desirable over other identical games for a good deal of time. It also takes a certain level of polish. A simple game might have a higher level of polish than a mediocre game. A mediocre game might become an excellent game with polish. However, going 'viral' is the primary way for it to be a marginal success.

 

I'm glad to see that creativity seems to be favored, and that my original method of reinventing an idea was the way to go. Thanks to both of you for the articles and information you linked, I found them quite enlightening on the subject. I find myself already doing many of the things Daniel Cook already suggests. I am not inspired by but one title, but many titles. Arguably, though, my greatest inspirations are derived from Mortal Online, and the Diablo franchise. Not just for the gameplay content, but the lessons they teach in design.

 

As to the last bit of the article, which you quoted, J. B. Adams, I have already made steps in that direction. I already pull mechanics from a multitude of games and then evolve them, without much of a foundation to start from. I have a few practice Game Design Documents where I have done so. I find most of my ideas turn out quite original, with the amount of work invested. However, I am always conscious of what crowd I am aiming for with my designs. Unfortunately, i'm not yet ready to make the leap and start a full-on-project yet. I still need to keep learning, and learn not just design, but finish learning other useful skills as well.


Edited by Nuhaine, 05 November 2013 - 06:39 AM.


#6 3Ddreamer   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3156

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 09:21 AM

Hi,

 

Innovation should be guided by market research, such as end-user surveys, reading, and beta testing, in my opinion.  This is not only my view but that of many of the leaders in game development organizations.

 

All successful game developers have at least one person in their organization who wants much more innovation. Looking at proven methods is part of the market research which is healthy to mitigate the passions for innovation which can potentially result in disaster for a company.  Just because there is a great innovation does not mean that it translates to better gameplay and fun for the end-user.  Market research helps greatly to find that balance.

 

In larger game development corporations, game designers represent only one category among others.  There may be several project managers each assigned to the development of a particular game, each game development having at least one game designer, lead programmers, lead artists, and lead testers.  Designers tend to have a more artistic mind and want to push the boundaries of innovation from a gameplay perspective while programmers must deal with the realities of time and budget constraints over them.

 

One must conclude that a system of checks and balances is healthy for a company to have in order to manage innovation compared to proven methods. Market research helps leaders of the company settle the issues, after all, and what the end-users like must be balanced with resources available.   Mostly reusing the same libraries with some customization, which is very efficient from a business viewpoint, must be balanced with the costs and risks of innovation.   Market research resolves many things like this.


Edited by 3Ddreamer, 05 November 2013 - 09:24 AM.

Personal life and your private thoughts always effect your career. Research is the intellectual backbone of game development and the first order. Version Control is crucial for full management of applications and software.  The better the workflow pipeline, then the greater the potential output for a quality game.  Completing projects is the last but finest order.

 

by Clinton, 3Ddreamer


#7 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9878

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 09:34 AM

is it better to favor an old mechanic or feature that has already been done frequently


It depends.
Do both.
(FAQ 52.)

Sometimes, for some features, go with the familiar and comfortable (don't use the "P" key for "jump"). Some part of your game has to be innovative.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#8 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3718

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 03:19 PM


Daniel Cook (of Spry Fox) suggests in his article "plagiarism as a moral choice" that remaining a plagiarist rather than evolving new innovations is "to waste your very limited time on this planet", and that to do so results in ending up as a "wage slave". I'd suggest a read of the full article, but the relevant advice summed up at the end is:
It's not that I disagree (I have no opinion on this subject) but I find it suspicious. I mean, sure, it all sounds great, but show me the game.

 

Do you have examples of these superb innovative games? Were these successful (I don't even ask for financial success, it could be by nother criterias). Would *I* (not some critics that write reviews) find such game FUN?

 

When I chek my list of favourite games, I don't see there so much ground breaking revolution... I like Civilization 4 (clone of Civ3, Civ2, Civ1, Empire), MasterOfOrion2 (pretty standard 4x genre), when I was younger I played tons of RPGs (all of them pretty much the same mechanic wise, even almost identical character stats and skills and spell names :D), recently I really enyoed Deponia (a 100% traditional, absolute traditional, point & click).

The only exception I can think of right now is Crepper World (althrough it's based on tower defence genre so I'm not sure if people would count it as that innovative).

 

As I see it, I enjoy MUCH more games that are traditional and polished and executed well, than super creative yet not so fun ones. And I hate it, I wanted to be the one who rewards creativity :D

 

 


Innovation should be guided by market research, such as end-user surveys, reading, and beta testing, in my opinion. This is not only my view but that of many of the leaders in game development organizations.
I disagree. Strongly. It's a suicide. I was doing it in the past and I almost got bankrupt. "Thou shall not make a game the way market research says, do it the way YOU feel is right instead". I don't know if this is an universal truth but surely it's my personal truth and I would first eat my keyboard before I make another game based on market research :)

 

And as for those "leaders in game development organizations", I wonder how many of those got bankrupt by now :)


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#9 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 18609

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 06:15 PM


Do you have examples of these superb innovative games?

Triple Town is a pretty popular and reasonably (though not brilliantly) successful indie game.  It's a well polished match-3 game, with the key innovation that you combine items to create better ones rather than eliminating them, with the objective of building the best possible town.  It was also originally released on a platform (one of the early Kindles) that was widely thought to be a poor choice of gaming platform thanks to a monochrome display and very slow update rate.

 

Spelunky is a well polished and very popular "rogue-like inspired platformer", most of which is the simple but very well polished combination of elements already found in previous games.  Simply combining these elements in this way is impressive by itself and may even be considered a small form of innovation, but the game also includes a very popular daily challenge feature that I haven't seen done on such a scale (rather than for small puzzles) before.

 

Realm of The Mad God is a free-to-play browser-based co-op bullet-hell fantasy MMO featuring real-time combat and perma-death.  It uses procedurally generated maps and player-created enemies and items to continuously generate new content at extremely minimal (or no) cost to the developers.  Again this are all elements we've seen before to at least some extent, but never in this particular combination or on the same scale.

 

 

I'm sure there are loads more examples -- and probably even ones that are a lot more innovative than these -- but I'll leave it there to note that I actually agree with you! In the overwhelming majority of cases a well polished game will be more successful than one that is merely innovative.  I would also agree with Daniel Cook's idea that we should continue to strive for better rather than settling for a successful clone of an existing game.

 

 

 

 

I also feel like this is an appropriate time to mention the concept of "iterative design" as explained in the article "evolutionary design: a practical process for creating great game designs".  By iterating over rapid prototypes of ideas you can quickly "find the fun", or stop yourself from wasting too much time if an idea turns out to be boring or uninteresting.



#10 3Ddreamer   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3156

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 10:01 PM


3Ddreamer, on 05 Nov 2013 - 10:21 AM, said:


Innovation should be guided by market research, such as end-user surveys, reading, and beta testing, in my opinion. This is not only my view but that of many of the leaders in game development organizations.

I disagree. Strongly. It's a suicide. I was doing it in the past and I almost got bankrupt. "Thou shall not make a game the way market research says, do it the way YOU feel is right instead". I don't know if this is an universal truth but surely it's my personal truth and I would first eat my keyboard before I make another game based on market research

 

 

I feel that you misunderstood.    In my post there with the other comments I talked about checks and balances and just plain balance in general.   For a fact many a game development company went bankrupt because they did not pay attention to the likes and dislikes of the end-users, which is a risk that market research is supposed to help prevent as far as end-user issues if done right.  Problem is that many game devs either are incompetent with market research or they tend to ignore the realities which it reveals.  Any resource which informs the developer is a good thing if handled right and not bad.


Personal life and your private thoughts always effect your career. Research is the intellectual backbone of game development and the first order. Version Control is crucial for full management of applications and software.  The better the workflow pipeline, then the greater the potential output for a quality game.  Completing projects is the last but finest order.

 

by Clinton, 3Ddreamer


#11 Nuhaine   Members   -  Reputation: 120

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 10:54 PM

I think the best course of action is to use marketing information based on the results of opinions about certain mechanics within the game, not the entire direction of the game itself. An example would be making a small crafting change which could upset or improve how crafting is perceived, such as making the UI easier, or making it more intuitive/less of a grind.

 

I'm not entirely sure if Marketing would be useful in the very beginning, as targeting a crowd using specific features based on results from now will be different from a year or more later when the industry standards or preferences have changed. It is certainly useful to see what the Developers should focus on, but I believe it would be something to keep in mind as opposed to a scripture one must have and then follow.. They may not realize something is clearly broken or being abused, but reports or opinions taken from the community can bring this to light. It is thus certainly helpful, but not entirely required until at least halfway into development.

 

This is why I would prefer to aim towards an audience, and cater to them, as opposed to catering to the market. I would still keep information on parts of my game, and use that information to change certain things that are receiving negative attention, or alter mechanics which may seem pointless or repetitive.

 

An example would be the current Dungeon Crawler I am writing up. It utilizes a crafting system where players defeat an enemy, which spawns a crafting table and materials as loot. The Crafting Table adds its own modifiers to the end result of crafting. One table might add '+10% Weapon Damage' to the result of what you craft with it. Some may be able to take more materials than others. Using this system I basically added Min-Maxing in a light way. However, I am conscious about having the Crafting Table be an interaction or an item. Would I force them to run by a mediocre crafting table with poor modifiers? Or would I allow them to pick it up and save it for later in case they need it. This decision could be influenced by users via polls, which would tell me what the users wanted out of this mechanic. It may even bring in new observations, the idea might be too redundant or too much of a hassle. I may have to remove the mechanic altogether to satisfy the user.



#12 3Ddreamer   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3156

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 11:19 PM


This is why I would prefer to aim towards an audience, and cater to them, as opposed to catering to the market. I would still keep information on parts of my game, and use that information to change certain things that are receiving negative attention, or alter mechanics which may seem pointless or repetitive.

 

Yes.  This is exactly the kind of things that market research is designed to assist.  The total scope of the gaming market is huge, with many segments showing trends and special tastes for game features. 

 

If I design a game for a certain genre, perhaps even unknowing for lack of awareness, but I market it for another segment of the gamers, then probability is that I under-achieve in launching the product.  For example, if I include with the game a bunch of settings options, I mean a lot of them, and they are very innovative, but the game actually targets mainly end-users in the 14-20 year range, then perhaps that age group will not have the attention span or interest to use the many configuration settings of the game.  In such a case, I likely wasted a lot of time, money, and resources in developing such features which the end-user target market doesn't like to use.


Personal life and your private thoughts always effect your career. Research is the intellectual backbone of game development and the first order. Version Control is crucial for full management of applications and software.  The better the workflow pipeline, then the greater the potential output for a quality game.  Completing projects is the last but finest order.

 

by Clinton, 3Ddreamer


#13 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3718

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 11:48 AM


but I'll leave it there to note that I actually agree with you! In the overwhelming majority of cases a well polished game will be more successful than one that is merely innovative. I would also agree with Daniel Cook's idea that we should continue to strive for better rather than settling for a successful clone of an existing game.
But then, I wonder about the definition of "strive for better". If incremental creativity is more fun to the player and results in a better game, then what's the point of going for grand leap creativity? What is "better" in this? Wouldn't making a more fun game be striving for better? Is creativite better just for the sake of creativity?

I don't know, it sounds to me a bit like art for the sake of art :)

 

Similarly, I would debate the "morality of plagiarism". Assuming it results in a better, more fun game (just an assumption), wouldn't it be actually more moral? Wouldn't making fun games be moral while making unfun (where the player is tricked into buying and wastes both money and time and regrets it) be actually immoral?

 

What comes first? The player (and his fun) or the creativity/originality?


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#14 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 18609

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 05:42 PM

I don't think there's any real benefit to outweigh the massive risk of "grand leap" rather than incremental innovation, and I think the games I chose as illustrations of innovative gameplay demonstrate that.

At the same time however, I'm not personally comfortable with having players pay good money for something with NO innovation, as although there may be proven fun to be had I feel like that's just re-packaging games they've already bought and paid for.


Through iterative design we can ensure our innovations aren't "losing the fun" at a reasonably minimised cost, and through basic market research and can ensure it's something there's at least some small market for. Polish is simply a matter of putting in enough time and effort and maintaining a standard. Given that, I say "why not both?; through incremental innovation we can continue to deliver new experiences to players whilst still maintaining the familiar from previous titles and offering a well polished experience.

(Posted from mobile. )

#15 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3718

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Posted 07 November 2013 - 06:39 AM

I think we should use 3 categories not 2.

1) Grand leap innovation

2) Incremental innovation

3) Clone

 

And then we could let the evil clone take all the blame while we could make the fun playable partial clones and name it an incremental innovation :D


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#16 ActiveUnique   Members   -  Reputation: 835

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Posted 08 November 2013 - 03:51 PM

Both indies and huge companies are limited.

 

Indie developers feel the need to be innovative, and without anything holding them back they'll try. Innovative results? Sporadic.

 

Big companies can push meaningless clone games with frugal DLC and varying enjoyability accepting bad press, and they hold their sponsors' hands and keep making whatever they're told is ok. Innovative results? Sporadic.

 

In both cases the central idea of any game might as well be one person's. Their rate of success is determined by a seemingly invisible acceptance quota decided by opinionated humans.


I've read about the idea guy. It's a serious misnomer. You really want to avoid the lazy team.


#17 Norman Barrows   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2134

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Posted 08 November 2013 - 11:37 PM


is it better to favor an old mechanic or feature that has already been done frequently in design?

 

its best to favor whatever is best.

 

be it old, new, innovative, clone, whatever.

 

but it should be selected because its best, not because its innovative, or the "accepted way of doing things", or any other reason.

 

there can be an advantages to following familiar conventions (like WASD input). but these should only be considered as far as they go towards making that way of doing something the "best way" to do something,  IE don't pick conventional simply because its conventional. only choose it if the conventional way is the BEST way.


Norm Barrows

Rockland Software Productions

"Building PC games since 1988"

 

rocklandsoftware.net

 





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