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Nozyspy

A Nobody with a good idea - Why cant we have a crack at game design too?

120 posts in this topic

Quote:
Original post by drakostar
The US (assuming you're American) is probably the best place in the world to start a small business. Okay, maybe not right this very moment. But the legal/tax situation makes it fairly easy.

You have an idea for a product. It's difficult/impossible to sell the idea to someone else, unless you already have connections. So join the many (and yes, mostly failed) entrepreneurs who have attempted to realize their ideas. There are a ton of books and web resources to help you get started.


Agreed. Scale down your grand idea, then hire freelancers (one programmer and one artist will suffice, if you reduce your idea to its essence) and turn it into reality. You can make it happen with a few thousand bucks if you know what you are doing and conserve your resources.
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Fascinating, most fascinating… I am pleased to see that your reactions are balanced and not simply “get lost punk”. For the most part I have found your replies to be reasonable and also helpful. However there are few points I would like to make further.

When I said I had a “good idea”, I didn’t mean the proverbial few scribbles on the back of a napkin, rather a lot of thought has gone into this, and I get the impression that some of you think this is a bit of a whim. A ‘portfolio’ of ideas would be no problem, just time consuming is all. Nevertheless, an excellent point there!

Now to answer a few points directly;

Working with technical limitations.

Personally I don’t see this as such a great problem for ‘my idea’. I do level design for a (nearly) 6 year old engine. Believe me I know all about the infuriating limitations such a thing imposes upon your original vision. I also have experience on how to find loopholes to get around them.

Really all I need is a second hand game engine (I have two in mind, which may be suitable), rather than going to the trouble of creating everything from scratch.

Game Assets.

Yes, of course for a large title an equally large development team is needed, however, the advantage with having your idea already planned out in full is that it should be quicker to progress with the more technical aspects of production. I honestly wasn’t joking when I said I could have a full story done within a week! ;)

True, the story is not all of the game. However I very strongly disagree with anyone who says that the story is one of the less important aspects of game design. Fewer games that are merely ‘point, shoot, kill’ and more games that actually involve the player in a deep and rich story line would be a good thing in my opinion.

As for working in a team… yes I understand that game development is a team effort, but the thing is that the actual story and design of the game is dictated more by the designer (and unfortunately also by the executives) rather than the rest of the ‘minions’. At least as I understand it anyway. Afterall, if everyone was suggesting things to put in it, nothing would get done would it, there has to be someone up top who keeps on the course that was originally set. It’s like a director, the director doesn’t actually do any of the acting (normally) nor does he set up all the lights and such.

He has people that do that for him. He goes to the lighting guy and says “I want the lighting and mood to be like this…and this and feel like this…” maybe showing him an example. Same thing with the actors. They then go off and try to create in reality what the director sees in his mind.

The point is I would be useless at actually doing coding, animating, or 3d modelling. Unless of course I spent many years learning such. BUT, I could very easily and simply express my ideas to people who do know how to do those things, giving them examples and describing it in detail, so that they could then try and make that into reality. I will give you an example; I can’t use 3Dmax or such things, but for the particular engine I make levels for I know what I am doing. I could very quickly make a simple mock-up of the general layout of the level, complete with architecture and notations. All that would be needed is to refine and sculpt it using the actual game engine being used.

Its just that I get the sense again…that you think what I’m talking about is just standing infront of a bunch of people and telling them what to do. If I had an opportunity do make my ‘idea’ I would be right in there with the concept art, story script, dialogue, motion capture, acting. You name it; I have no problem with that. I can’t think of anything worse for a team’s morale that to have some inexperienced fool barking orders at them!

Making your own game.
Don’t worry, I have already downloaded a few of those ‘make your own game’ programs, and intend to investigate them. I am happy to make plenty of effort, but what I do feel is that I would be useless as a minion, and might to better in more of an oversight role. But that’s just my opinion.

Pitch your idea

In reply to the person who asked how exactly such a system of pitching ideas to game studios would work…look no further than ‘Dragons Den’.

To make it plain, I loathe that program. The idea of having people embarrassed and made fools of on national television is most distasteful. However, the actual system, used in private, could work quite well.

Envision it; three people maybe, an exec, a game designer and someone who is an all rounder. They have one day a week where you can make an appointment, and you get to tell them about your idea, they can then sift through the people they see and find the people they think have really good ideas. Similar to how the ‘X Factor’ works. At least the ‘nobody’s’ get to have a go, even if they don’t get any further! Afterall, it is better to try and fail, than to not try at all!

Noz
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Yeah, the usual oversight role. That's like a lot of projects here where people post for help, and envision themselves as the supervisor, where all these people come and spend their spare time laboring away to make someone else's vision.

This is no different than wanting to supervise people building your dream house. Like 25 people are going to show up, bring their own materials, and start building. You need to buy land, get the permits, supply the materials, and pay the workers.

But you keep talking as if no one gave you a viable option to design your game. I gave you several. If you get good with XNA, Mircosoft even holds a design / build / play contest every year that publishes the winning entry.

You can self publish. You can publish through XBox Live Community Games.

The tech knowledge and talent is up to you. The only thing holding you back here is yourself.
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Quote:
Original post by Daaark
Yeah, the usual oversight role. That's like a lot of projects here where people post for help, and envision themselves as the supervisor, where all these people come and spend their spare time laboring away to make someone else's vision.


As far as i am aware, having a person(s) with a vision and then finding people to make that into reality is usually how it works with game design / film directing.

Quote:
But you keep talking as if no one gave you a viable option to design your game. I gave you several. If you get good with XNA, Mircosoft even holds a design / build / play contest every year that publishes the winning entry.


Yes, i appreciate that, but the catch there is get good. Learning a whole new program and then 'getting good' at it before you can even bring to fruition the other 80% of the game (plot, characters, gametype, leveldesign, texture art, player motivation etc.) is the bit that takes a long time. Hence why I (and a good many others!) would like to be able to pitch ideas to game studios, so that the people who have alrady learned and excelled in those fields can be put to use doing what they were trained to do.

Anyway, like i said, i have already downloaded a few programs and intend to invesigate them further.

Thanks for the advice guys!
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Quote:
Original post by Nozyspy
Quote:
Original post by Daaark
Yeah, the usual oversight role. That's like a lot of projects here where people post for help, and envision themselves as the supervisor, where all these people come and spend their spare time laboring away to make someone else's vision.
As far as i am aware, having a person(s) with a vision and then finding people to make that into reality is usually how it works with game design / film directing.
Yes, and this over seer has the appropriate money and resources.

Quote:
Yes, i appreciate that, but the catch there is get good.
You have to get good at anything you want to do in life.
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Quote:
Original post by Nozyspy
When I said I had a “good idea”, I didn’t mean the proverbial few scribbles on the back of a napkin, rather a lot of thought has gone into this, and I get the impression that some of you think this is a bit of a whim.

It's more the fact that saying you have a great idea is not the same as having a great idea. Nobody ever claims to have a bad idea. So it's not that we don't believe you, it's just that trying to convince us that your idea is great carries no weight at all.

Quote:
I honestly wasn’t joking when I said I could have a full story done within a week! ;)

That's ok, I could have a story done by the end of the day. Creative people tend to have a lot of stories ready to burst onto the page (or word processor) at most times.

Quote:
True, the story is not all of the game. However I very strongly disagree with anyone who says that the story is one of the less important aspects of game design. Fewer games that are merely ‘point, shoot, kill’ and more games that actually involve the player in a deep and rich story line would be a good thing in my opinion.

This is a strawman argument. Nobody is arguing that stories in games have no value, but the fact is that as far as games are concerned, games can be great without any story at all, but they cannot be great with an amazing story and poor execution. It would be like having a book where half of the text is smudged or too small to read, full of typing errors, and the chapters out of order. Execution is everything. So for your game to have worth, story or no story, you need to address the rest of the product, which is the input and output interface, the resource management, the performance, the soundtrack, etc. These are not minor details to be left to a lackey implementing your vision. They are as important a part of the design as the story is.

Quote:
It’s like a director, the director doesn’t actually do any of the acting (normally) nor does he set up all the lights and such.

He has people that do that for him. He goes to the lighting guy and says “I want the lighting and mood to be like this…and this and feel like this…” maybe showing him an example. Same thing with the actors. They then go off and try to create in reality what the director sees in his mind.

It would be best for you to not speculate too much on how you think game development works, when there are many people here who actually know the truth. ;)

One important point is that nobody puts someone in charge of such an operation unless they understand the roles below them. You can't just get any person with an inspirational idea and have them effectively delegate to teams of professionals. Nobody would take you seriously. Unless you're waving a huge amount of money at them, in which case they'd at least pretend to take you seriously until the project was over.

Quote:
The point is I would be useless at actually doing coding, animating, or 3d modelling. Unless of course I spent many years learning such. BUT, I could very easily and simply express my ideas to people who do know how to do those things, giving them examples and describing it in detail, so that they could then try and make that into reality.

Again, all the "Idea Guys" that come onto this forum make this same claim. Yet firstly, they cannot ever prove that they would be good enough at this. Secondly, they can never show why anybody would actually want someone performing this role. Artists, coders, level designers, all have absolutely no lack of people who would like to direct them to making this thing or that thing. Why should you be at the top of that pile? That's the key.

Quote:
I am happy to make plenty of effort, but what I do feel is that I would be useless as a minion, and might to better in more of an oversight role. But that’s just my opinion.

I hope you revise your opinion, because it will stop you achieving your dreams. You are looking at people who have worked hard to gain their privileged positions, noting that they don't get their hands dirty at the moment, and wishing you could have their current job. But it doesn't work that way.

Steven Spielberg - started off doing his own camera work and screenwriting, followed by working as an intern for a while.

Peter Jackson - in his early films, he'd not just direct, but write the screenplay, do the cinematography, editing, and also act!

Will Wright - before being able to come up with lofty ideas like Spore, he programmed his own games on the Commodore 64.

Quote:
In reply to the person who asked how exactly such a system of pitching ideas to game studios would work…look no further than ‘Dragons Den’.

The people the 'Dragons' invest in usually come up with a completely new idea or service, which carries a lot of value due to standing out of the crowd or cornering a market niche. Merely having a really cool story (even perhaps the best story ever) for a computer game is unfortunately not anywhere near that sort of status. Besides which, the amount of money that the Dragons Den people typically invest in these schemes is actually far short of what you would need to develop a AAA game anyway! By a factor of about 10.

Quote:
As far as i am aware, having a person(s) with a vision and then finding people to make that into reality is usually how it works with game design / film directing.

Not really. Game design is more about established teams working together on an agreed title, often a title dictated to them by the publishers directly or indirectly. Film directing is very different because you assemble ad hoc teams, typically of contractors, for individual projects. But even then the director is not as all-important as you make it sound - he or she typically still has to rely on whoever writes the screenplay, and the director also is reliant on the producer to fund and organise the project. Only the best directors get to pick their producers; the others have to try and pitch their project accordingly and bend to commercial whim to get it made.

Quote:
Hence why I (and a good many others!) would like to be able to pitch ideas to game studios, so that the people who have alrady learned and excelled in those fields can be put to use doing what they were trained to do.

All creative people would love to be able to pitch ideas and have other people spend time and money making them. The world doesn't work that way though, sadly. Not in film, not in games, not in anything really.
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However I very strongly disagree with anyone who says that the story is one of the less important aspects of game design.


Story has nothing to do with game design.

It's part of the art design, but does nothing to the rules of the game. Warcraft is warcraft if the units are orcs or zerg or tanks or religious space marines.

Again, you say nothing as to the rules of your 'game'. Go write a book. Getting published has a much lower barrier to entry, especially since it seems as though you could have a full novel done and polished in a week.
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Alot of engines dont require a uni education to build a game these days, use one of them and build a game, you should be able to build something that will show of your designs, which would then encourage people to help you to add custom elements to the engine to separate your idea further

I went to uni, still dont think im mature enough in my skills to bring my ideas to life, 3 years coding at uni, is only a step it doesn't put you at the end of the path.

Writing is just as hard, it does have some good points, in that its mostly solo, until if it gets to a publisher, but you have to be able to write something worth reading, its hard especially when your new to something to see how truly behind you are.
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spy wrote:
>Envision it; three people maybe, an exec, a game designer and someone who is an all rounder. They have one day a week where you can make an appointment, and you get to tell them about your idea, they can then sift through the people they see and find the people they think have really good ideas. Similar to how the ‘X Factor’ works. At least the ‘nobody’s’ get to have a go, even if they don’t get any further! Afterall, it is better to try and fail, than to not try at all!

Don't have to envision it. Every game company has a submissions manager and a submission process (http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson21.htm and http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson35.htm). Some companies DO accept amateur submissions. It's up to YOU to find them.

Original post by Daaark:
>>Yeah, the usual oversight role. That's like a lot of projects here where people ... envision themselves as the supervisor, where all these people come and spend their spare time laboring away to make someone else's vision.

So spy replied:
>As far as i am aware, having a person(s) with a vision and then finding people to make that into reality is usually how it works with game design / film directing.

You missed his point entirely. Of course someone on the project has the vision. And of course someone on the project supervises. His point was that there's all these amateurs like you, thinking they're gonna be able to jump in without any experience or skill and take both roles. Or that the game industry owes "idea amateurs" that opportunity. And his point furthermore is that this is an unrealistic expectation.

> but the catch there is get good.

That's a LIFE "catch." Not an unfairness specific to the game industry. Your post is a classic case of the "street corner Joe" who thinks the world owes him a break. In this world, you have to make your own breaks. And I thank you for your post, by the way -- it's excellent base material for my writing and teaching.

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Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
Story has nothing to do with game design.

This is absolutely true. However! Some of the highest-rated games of all time, including Half-Life 2 and BioShock, are so rated almost entirely because of their stories and high production values. This applies to almost all adventure games as well: story/dialogue/humor come first, and good puzzles integrate with the story.

You could, arguably, create a game based entirely on an existing engine with no new gameplay mechanics, and still succeed in making a new game that people would buy. Outside the shooter and adventure genres, though, most expect a little more *game*.
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Original post by Nozyspy


Pitch your idea

In reply to the person who asked how exactly such a system of pitching ideas to game studios would work…look no further than ‘Dragons Den’.


Not even in "Dragons' Den" do we see *just* some random ideas being floated and winning money: the 'Dragons' invariably expect at least some evidence that you know what you're doing and have done your homework first. At the very least, you'd better have a business plan of some sort. (In many cases, there's already a business in place and the pitch is for more investment to grow said business.) In fact, it's usually the "Please buy my idea off me!" people who make the worst impressions and produce the most best TV 'moments' of humiliation.

The same applies in game design (and any other profession). Note the second word there: "design". Complete design documents (note the plural) for a major, AAA game can easily reach over a million words. That's roughly equivalent to TEN complete novels! That's after redrafting and editing. And, unlike a novel, a game design will be updated and maintained during the development lifecycle of the project. It's a hell of a lot of work.

This is what separates the somebody from the nobody.

There's an infinity of ideas, but only a finite amount of money, time and resources to spend on them. That's why professionals constantly repeat the mantra that the "idea" alone is utterly worthless. It's the execution of that idea which matters.

(J. K. Rowling's first novel took over a *decade* to reach the bookstores. She didn't throw it together in an afternoon and even after it was written, it was still rejected by many publishers before she found one who were willing to take it on.)

Quote:

Envision it; three people maybe, an exec, a game designer and someone who is an all rounder. They have one day a week where you can make an appointment, and you get to tell them about your idea, they can then sift through the people they see and find the people they think have really good ideas. Similar to how the ‘X Factor’ works. At least the ‘nobody’s’ get to have a go, even if they don’t get any further! Afterall, it is better to try and fail, than to not try at all!


One day a week? How many publishers are developing entirely new 50 games (i.e. not platform ports) per year? I can't think of any. Not even the mighty EA and Microsoft have that kind of money to spend. Even a 'casual' game these days can cost over $100K and take six months to produce! 50 of those would be $5 million and the equivalent of 25 *years* of development time!

Remember, a game's overall production budget is roughly 50% development. The other 50% goes on marketing. If each and every major publisher were cranking out the equivalent of one game per week, we'd be swamped with advertising for games... resulting in very few sales. There are only so many advertising slots available on TV; so many posters you can put up; so many magazine pages you can use to pimp your product. And you're fighting with all your rivals' games too.

Not even Hollywood is stupid enough to put out more than a couple of big, blockbuster movies at the same time, hence the next "Harry Potter" film's release being put back until next year.
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Nozyspy:
I consider myself a good programmer. Not great, really good or brilliant, but good. I'm probably among the better ones you can get for free. Because you know what? I would totally join you and help you envision your dream *if* I had the time over which I haven't since another guy with a vision snapped me up already.

But assuming I had that time, here is what I look for in hobby projects, speaking only from my very own personal experience:

- Awesomeness! Sell me a design/idea! This is usually done through a great design document or something similar that contains as much information as possible about the game. I'm a little confused why you come here complaining about why no one will make a game out of your great idea when you don't even tell us your idea. And no, a paragraph or two doesn't count. We want sketches of game screens, gameplay features, character bios and monster details (or whatever your game contains), etc. If you can sell your idea to developers, then you can probably sell it to players (with sell here meaning convincing them to download and try it). Most people here know that coming up with a couple of paragraphs is ridicolously easy while filling in all the details is fricking hard. From what you have said here, I cannot envision a game, there is just not enough information. And if I cannot envision a game, I will not be inspired. And if I'm not inspired, I'll not work for free.

- I want to do what I think is funny. If I sign up to program the game, I don't want to do manual writing or playtesting or marketing or art or sound engineering or something else. And the artist will probably only want to make art. You have basically three ways to make people work on your dream. You can sell your dream so well that it becomes their dream too (see above), you can pay them or you can make sure they have fun while working on it. This probably means that YOU will have to do a lot of stuff that nobody else likes to do, like playtesting, documenting,

What I'm trying to say is that if you can show us a great idea for a game (Not just telling us you have it, I also have several.) and promise us that you will take care of everything and just let us get on with programming/art making/music composing or whatever we want to do, then I think you will find willing recruits. Which means you'll be both designer, manager and producer. And all these three roles are just as hard and probably harder to be good at than being a good programmer or artist.
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Oh and another thing.

If you're strong on storytelling, go for a game with a strong story element, definitely. I played Homeworld almost exclusively for the story. Also a game with a simple yet fun gameplay can be vastly improved by a good story. At least in my book.
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Quote:
Original post by drakostar
Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
Story has nothing to do with game design.

This is absolutely true. However! Some of the highest-rated games of all time, including Half-Life 2 and BioShock, are so rated almost entirely because of their stories and high production values.


This isn't strictly accurate. They're highly rated because they're good games. The story elements are an ingredient. In the case of HL2 the story works precisely *because* it's a good *game* first and foremost. The story elements are integrated into the game, not merely nailed on as a last-minute addition. You don't feel as if you're having your joystick yanked out of your grasp and forced to watch a bit of movie; the story feels like part of the gaming process itself. The story emerges from the play. As it bloody well should.

When a designer places Story at the top of their list, they're already making a big mistake. Games aren't Story. They're Play. When a designer starts with a linear story and plot structure and tries to spot-weld a game onto it, the end result is (more often than not) a movie which demands you complete a task -- a level, a sub-game, a mission, a puzzle -- in order to view the next bit of the movie. The movie itself is treated as a 'reward'; the game itself becomes secondary and often feels tacked on.

If you're not putting Play at the very top of your list, you're doing it wrong.

Quote:
This applies to almost all adventure games as well: story/dialogue/humor come first, and good puzzles integrate with the story.


This is because stories (in the traditional sense) are essentially mysteries. They're games in their own right and do include an element of (subtle) interaction: the writer needs to latch onto their readers' innate curiosity, tease it, hook it onto their line and keep them wanting to know more. Different readers are attracted by different mysteries: some like it up-front, in the form of a juicy whodunnit; others like it more subtle, perhaps preferring to study relationships (chick-lit), or the reasons for a celebrity's life choices (biography). Others might be interested in engineering puzzles, such as why an aircraft crashed or a ship sank. Yet more are interested in untangling the social threads behind industry, big business and so on.

In other words: while the particular *kind* of mystery that attracts our curiosity will vary, the fact that there *is* a mystery involved at some level is what makes a story a story. Unravelling that mystery teaches us something; a process that dates right back to Story's original purpose as a teaching tool.

Quote:

You could, arguably, create a game based entirely on an existing engine with no new gameplay mechanics, and still succeed in making a new game that people would buy. Outside the shooter and adventure genres, though, most expect a little more *game*.


I'm not so sure about that. Most simulation-centred games have remained much the same for years, improving only in visual and physical simulation aspects.

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I think I'll throw in my two cents here.

I currently work at Firaxis Games (of Sid Meier's Civilization fame) where I design and program game systems. I got this job straight out of college, and I'll share with you some of the things I learned along the way.

Be different

There are lots of people just like you with the next great idea and no relevant skills beyond the fact that you play games all day. You have to fix this. Work toward gaining a skill set that nobody else has. I went to art school (not trade school, mind you) and at the same time, learned how to program on my own. Four years later, I'm a programmer with a BFA. This rather unorthodox set of skills and education made me stand out.

Stop playing games

Okay, maybe not, but if you're not spending more time making games than playing them, maybe this job isn't right for you. Don't let your lack of technical skill keep you from building games. Board games and card games are awesome things to have in a portfolio when applying for game design gigs, and require no more overhead than a trip to Hobby Lobby. Stop worrying about your magnum opus and make smaller games - focus on play instead of narrative. Here's some homework: buy a deck of playing cards and make a new game with them every week. Write a blog about it.

Start coding

Programming is the game designer's brush and canvas. If you can't acquire substantial skill in this area, you're out of luck. At Firaxis, all of the game designers are programmers - they write all of the core game play themselves. This changes from studio to studio, of course, but those that can't muster up some reasonable skill in C++ or a scripting language need not apply. This is not to say you need to become an engineer or something. I'm certainly not, but what I do every day at work is write code.

To get you started, here are some of the books I found very helpful when teaching myself to program:
C++ Primer Plus (5th Edition) by Stephen Prata
Game Programming in C++: Start to Finish by Erik Yuzwa - This one is a great place to start
Mathematics for 3D Game Programming & Computer Graphics by Eric Lengyel
Real-Time Rendering, Third Edition by by Tomas Akenine-Moller , Eric Haines, and Naty Hoffman
3D Game Engine Architecture by David Eberly

Do an internship

The summer before my Junior year in college, I landed an internship at Harmonix Music Systems as a technical artist on Guitar Hero II. I 'cold-called' them so to speak (email, actually - don't ever call a studio), and because of my diverse skill set and an extraordinary amount of luck, I had my foot in the door. Internships are actually not that hard to get - just apply. Check out http://www.gamedevmap.com/. Apply to as many as you can find.

It's all about who you know

This is probably the most important thing I have learned so far. I have only gotten one job through the 'proper' channels. Networking is so important in this business, and it's actually not really hard to do, considering how small the games industry is compared to many others. GameDev.net is a great place to start. The International Game Developers Association is also another great resource. IGDA meetings are fantastic places to meet people and share your ideas. Look for a chapter near you. If you have the means, going to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) is also an excellent idea.


Good luck! I hope all that helps.

[Edited by - geolycosa on September 20, 2008 1:44:12 PM]
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I think that there is a common thread to be found throughout all of this; every single person who posted here has their own brilliant idea. You have an idea, stimarco has an idea, kekko has an idea, drakostar, Tom Sloper, Daaark, and so on. But what does this mean? If everyone has their own idea, what can you do?

What you can do, is present your idea in such a way that it seems more logical, more detailed, more finished, than their own. But the idea has to be more than just a single element, more than just one factor among many, it has to be a complete and logical product that you can set before them. If you can say "oh, and by the way, check out that Design Document/Website/Art Gallery/Demo/Prototype/Synopsis that I gave you, should answer all your questions." when talking to someone you are trying to recruit, you already have the first few pavers down for your personal yellow brick road. Because the more things that you do, means you have a better chance for others to help with the rest.

But that also goes two ways. The more you do, the less they can try do to. Which means that people will start to feel left out, if you do not open your project up to flexibility. For a small example, I tend to use wonky, yet still technically correct, grammar and perspective when writing documents. If I don't watch myself, I can turn an otherwise logical document into something that is completely unapproachable by the rest of my team. If I wanted to, I could tell them to buck up and deal with it, or I could make the small concession, and use a readable, approachable, writing style. Simple things like that can make or break a team, so imagine what it means to take a hard line with the entire design. To give you an idea of our outlook on input, our unofficial motto is "Makin' games an' stealin' brains."

But in order to have brains to steal (and question ceaselessly) you must first have bait. The project that my team and I are working on happens to have a development forum, a dedicated website, and a blog, (if you want links, just send me a pm) while you have a few paragraphs. You can see why your idea does not have much of a hook; nobody knows what your idea is. As others have said, it is 50% development and 50% advertising, and until people can see that your idea is in fact a solid one, you will be pretty much stonewalled.
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Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
stimarco has an idea


Lies! Right now, I have a filthy cold, so what passes for my brain is in test card mode. I won't start having ideas again until I'm off the 'Sudafed Day & Night'.


Aside from that, I agree.
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I'm going to go ahead and say it, because the others seem too polite. I apologize in advance for being so blunt about it, but: Quit acting like an arrogant prick. You seem to think that you know everything there is to know about game design and as such believe that it is your right to have your vision made.

You don't even know how much you don't know. You have no experience, no way of knowing the pitfalls of the real development process, no way to know how to deal with unforeseen problems, no way to know how to deal with outright failure. Thats why you have to work your way up, its a learning process as well as a way to prove yourself.

Incidentally, this:
Quote:
Here's some homework: buy a deck of playing cards and make a new game with them every week. Write a blog about it.

is the greatest idea ever. Be sure to do a full postmortem analysis of each game to maximize the learning. Seriously, I love this idea.

I don't necessarily agree with the "stop playing so many games" thing though. You can learn a whole lot from other designer's successes, and even more from their mistakes. I'd say play lots of games, and don't be picky about which ones you try, but don't spend very long on any given one. Its about exposing yourself to a variety of ideas and thinking about why the work or, more often, don't work.
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Please review the following quoted phrases...

Quote:
Original post by Nozyspy
I have a reasonably good idea (I think...)


Quote:

I really don't want to sound arrogant or anything, because believe me that is not my intention at all...


Quote:

Please don't think that what I am about to say I say out of arrogance or ignorance, I am not that type of person.


Quote:

Phew... I do apologise of that seemed a bit of a rant...


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I really do have NO experience in, so I'm not sure that would go too well!


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...or if you simply want me to get lost..


Quote:

I look forward with somewhat fearful anticipation...


See a pattern? Please stop loading your sentences with these conditional statements which come off as insecure and self-deprecating. It will get you no where in life.

Trust me, this is coming from someone who used to do the same thing.

Quote:

I honestly think I could do most of the brain work for that single-handedly.


If you believe that, then do so. Put it on paper, then let it sit. Comeback to it in a week, or even a month. Don't be surprised to find your idea wasn't as good as you originally thought. But that's okay. You can work to improve it, or you can let your mind move onto the next idea. Don't fall into the trap of being fixated on an idea until you flesh it out on paper thoroughly.

Let me clarify what I mean by "on paper thoroughly." Imagine writing a game design document that fully explains, in great detail, all aspects of your game that it could be made without your further involvement. This will take hundreds of pages, if not thousands, depending on the complexity and scope of your vision. And even with a good design document, the finished product would most likely not match the vision you imagined.

Quote:

...designed to cover an arc of three games / books / movies whatever...
.
.
.
Overall story arc, covering multiple 'episodes' if necessary whilst still having each game as a story in its own right...


You're thinking too big! Forget about arcs, forget about franchises. Games, books, movies? Those are three different fields, buddy. It seems that you're not sure what you want to do. Do you want to write a book? Or are you designing a game? Are you making a film, a cartoon, a comic strip? You need to pick one media, one art form, and give that a shot. It's premature to be focusing on different media when you don't have your ideas incorporated in at least one completed media format.

Quote:

How do you get five minutes with the boss of a games studio?


Short answer: you don't.

As others suggested, forget about a studio picking up your idea. Rather, focus on getting your idea out of your mind and into a presentable format that others can read. Even if no one but yourself reads it, you will find it invaluable to see your idea on paper. It will help you catch a bad idea before you invest too much time in it. It will help you take good ideas and make them better.

Once you're confident that you have a great idea, fully fleshed out in such great detail that the average 8th grader can read and understand it, you have only one true option: build it yourself.

Yes, you read that correctly. As others have stated, even if you have a great idea, even if you have hundreds of pages of coherent, precise, and detailed documentation, people will be hesitant of joining a project without a working prototype.

Remember, you will not be building the entire game yourself. You will build a prototype, something that demonstrates your game's core gameplay. Others have listed various engines, frameworks, and game creation tools to get you started.

The key to prototyping is to forget about fancy artwork, large budget cut scenes, voice overs, and other polish. Concentrate on the gameplay mechanics and how your story integrates with it. Keep things simple, and release it to the community as soon as possible, even if it ends up only being 10 minutes of gameplay.

Once you get something out there, something people can play with, you can start to recruit volunteer talent to help you continue.

Just remember, even if you followed this advice to the letter and got to the goal of a working prototype, it doesn't necessarily mean people will want to work on your project. You either continue to build your prototype and try again, or give it a rest. It's a risk you need to willingly take.
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Quote:
Original post by drakostar
It's not that great ideas are a dime a dozen. But they're (quite literally) worthless without some kind of execution.

I do believe that ideas are a "dime a dozen" because literally everyone on your team is going to have a good idea or two. Heck, a random person off the street is going to have some good ideas. I think anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding himself. What separates a good designer and a not so good designer is that the good designer is going to be aware of these ideas. A single great idea doesn't make a game. A whole bunch of great ideas put together into a working system by a team makes a great game. Awesome execution of an idea does NOT come from just an idea, it comes from multiple people on a team working together, with their own ideas of how to get this concept to kick ass, and executing.

Quote:
Nozyspy
How do you get five minutes with the boss of a games studio?

I think a lot of other people have spelled out pretty clear answers to most of your questions, though it does seem that it all breezed right past you. In answer to this particular question the answer is simple: just get a job working at a game company, because then you can just have chats with the CEO at the company all the time.

Quote:
As for working in a team… yes I understand that game development is a team effort, but the thing is that the actual story and design of the game is dictated more by the designer (and unfortunately also by the executives) rather than the rest of the ‘minions’. At least as I understand it anyway. Afterall, if everyone was suggesting things to put in it, nothing would get done would it, there has to be someone up top who keeps on the course that was originally set. It’s like a director, the director doesn’t actually do any of the acting (normally) nor does he set up all the lights and such.

Uhmm .... no. At least in my experience anyways, and from chatting with other developers, the only studios that operate that way tend to go down hill pretty quickly. A coworker of mine's last company he worked at that operated that way went bankrupt, actually, because the CEO/Creative Director thought that his ideas were perfect and made his team stay true to his "grand design". Well, that design sucked and the customers in the end thought it sucked as well, so didn't buy the game.

[Edited by - zer0wolf on September 21, 2008 1:54:40 AM]
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I've read through the thread and I didn't see this mentioned very much.

Even with the above thoughts that you have to be able to prove that you can design the game, execute that design on a budget and lead/inspire a team, you also have to be able to prove that the game will sell; and not just a few copies.

The game has to make back all development costs, support costs, advertising costs, etc. plus a percentage of return that is greater than if the company had just invested the money.

Effectively, in addition to everything else, you'd need to put together a business plan cover who are the target demographic(s), how often do they buy games, how often do they pirate games, how much expendable cash do they have, what's the usual cost of a game for this demographic, what other games are being marketed and sold to this demographic, are they direct competators, if so what will differentiate your game, etc. etc. etc. and the list goes on.

One important question you should always be prepared to answer is what genre is your game and what are the sales of similar games on the market.

Game companies are extremely risk averse, which is why you see so many rehashes and sequels. They would much rather spend their money on a game with a known return than gamble on a new idea which could have a large return but also lose a ton of money.

So, if you're game idea is so totally out there that you can't relate it to existing games, it's very unlikely (if with experience and a fully developed idea) that you'll be able to get any significant amount of funding.
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I like geolycosa's suggestion of designing small board and card games. This will allow you to put your money where your mouth is. If you haven't already, take a look at Formal Abstract Design Tools and a system called Mechanics, Design, Aesthetics. (Here's an article I wrote about it a few years ago)

I'd also like to challenge you to use this forum as a testbed. Take a look at posts here to see how others have solicited feedback on specific implementations of certain ideas. Do the same for the Game Writing forum.

I think this will help you build skills by exposing you to real criticism. It's easy to be a legend in our own minds, especially where art is concerned. If you have concerns about giving your ideas away, challenge yourself to come up with something that you can care about but that you can also walk away from.

Above all, please don't let yourself end up like the small legion of people I met when I worked in the game industry-- people who were so narcissistic that they could not see beyond their own perspective. The most common theme with them was to blame rather than face reality and get something (ANYTHING!) done.

EDIT: One other thing I meant to add. The strength of your vision and your communication ability may attract people to your work, which is why it's all the more important to put it out there. Even if the project goes nowhere (as most do) you will still learn about all of the things you don't know-- even that which you don't know you don't know.
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Quote:
Original post by zer0wolf
Quote:
Original post by drakostar
It's not that great ideas are a dime a dozen. But they're (quite literally) worthless without some kind of execution.

I do believe that ideas are a "dime a dozen" because literally everyone on your team is going to have a good idea or two. Heck, a random person off the street is going to have some good ideas.

Good != great. In my mind, a great idea for a game would be something novel that also provides a solid foundation to build upon. Not just something that sounds good but fizzles when you try to flesh it out, or a smaller idea for a gameplay mechanic or a puzzle or a level.

It's on the same level as coming up with an idea for a new product that could be successfully developed, manufactured, and sold. It's not extraordinary, but it's not exactly easy or common either.
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Quote:
Original post by zer0wolf
I do believe that ideas are a "dime a dozen" because literally everyone on your team is going to have a good idea or two. Heck, a random person off the street is going to have some good ideas. I think anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding himself.


This reminded me of Half-Life's Cabal design process.

Quote:

Throughout the first 11 months of the project we searched for an official "game designer," — someone who could show up and make it all come together. We looked at hundreds of resumes and interviewed a lot of promising applicants, but no one we looked at had enough of the qualities we wanted for us to seriously consider them the overall godlike "game designer" that we were told we needed. In the end, we came to the conclusion that this ideal person didn’t actually exist. Instead, we would create our own ideal by combining the strengths of a cross section of the company, putting them together in a group we called the "Cabal."


Obviously not all companies do it that way, and I'm not even sure Half-Life 2 was done using the Cabal, but what's fascinating is just how many people throughout the company had good ideas.

I found the same thing when I put together game design sessions at one place I worked. It kind of knocks you off your pedestal.
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Yeah, the Cabal process used by Valve is exactly what I'm talking about here. I've read up on Valve's current processes and they're still doing exactly the same thing and have in fact pushed this concept for figuring out all of the processes of development, not just design. Look at the quality of their games and I would say it is pretty obvious this works quite well.

The company I work for wasn't really using this process when I started there a year ago, so I butted heads a bit with a few of the people who were used to running the show their way. However, due to my aggressive push on this mentality I gained a lot of respect from the rest of the team and now I am working as the Lead Designer on a 4 platform launch of a triple A title, the company's first.

drakostar, I don't really think in the world of game design there is that big of a difference between a good idea and a great idea. The big difference between the two has to do with timing and resources. Take Super Mario galaxy for instance. This game sold a gazillion copies, but actually didn't really have what I would call unique or innovative ideas. Everything they did in that game has been seen before in other games. What it did have was a bunch of good ideas put together by a hard working team that had a lot of faith in each other. One person has an idea for the concept of small worlds with their own gravities that Mario can jump around, another guy has an idea how to engineer it, and another guy has an idea on how to layout the levels and make this fun. This synergy of ideas and implementation is what made the game, and the idea, into a fun game.
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