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

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1. What's the true worth of an initial game idea?
2. "Can video games be art?"
3. who is the painter?

1. $.008333
2. "Yes."
3. The entire team, including the producer.

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You're exactly right, someone with enthusiasm suggests how they think things should be and someone worn down by the industry talks beside the question by stating how things are.

 

Unfortunately, even with all the enthusiasm in the world, the lack of experience basically means your idea of 'how things should be' may not very well rooted in reality.

 

Let's suppose though, for the sake of argument, you're right. Idea Guys are a downtrodden and under-appreciated font of creativity, and games developers should make better use of them.

 

How do you propose we harness their untapped potential? Should studios start hiring Idea Guys? What are you actually proposing here?

 

How about this, you move from huge projects being the standard to medium sized projects. You give the game designer an even bigger say and have him work form an idea he came up with himself or is extremely passionate about. The problem of course is, who in their right mind would finance that over some sequel or rehashed game that is a guaranteed moneymaker? It might turn out to be a flop, it will definitely not appeal to as large an audience as AAA games do, but the end product will have a hell of a lot more integrity.

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1. What's the true worth of an initial game idea?
2. "Can video games be art?"
3. who is the painter?

1. $.008333
2. "Yes."
3. The entire team, including the producer.

I couldn't disagree more.

How can a game have any personality what so ever if everyone involved gets a real say as to what direction the game goes in.

Furthermore, do you really think everyone in the gaming industry has good ideas about what games should be like and how a good game is designed?

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When I first discovered gamedev I was shocked

there was virtually NOTHING about real video game design

nothing about how to entertain people

nothing about how to create pleasure in peoples' brains

 

there was some rubbish about rewards and so forth, completely missing the point IMO

 

in essence nothing describing the most important stuff (which is psych-stuff)

 

instead it is all about "how it looks"

 

Probably because we do not possess the language to describe what goes on in the human brain

and all the really good stuff that could happen is "invisible"

 

Instead we focus on what we can see and describe "how it looks"

which is just a "comfort zone" as long as it looks good nobody can complain ... and we don't have to feel ashamed about our creations

 

That is why I use the word "boring"

 

Even the most impressive video games are not stimulating my brain in an interesting way

 

Many of them are just saying "look at me, look how clever I am"

 

Which leaves me with an empty bored feeling ...

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You're exactly right, someone with enthusiasm suggests how they think things should be and someone worn down by the industry talks beside the question by stating how things are.

 

Unfortunately, even with all the enthusiasm in the world, the lack of experience basically means your idea of 'how things should be' may not very well rooted in reality.

 

Let's suppose though, for the sake of argument, you're right. Idea Guys are a downtrodden and under-appreciated font of creativity, and games developers should make better use of them.

 

How do you propose we harness their untapped potential? Should studios start hiring Idea Guys? What are you actually proposing here?

 

How about this, you move from huge projects being the standard to medium sized projects. You give the game designer an even bigger say and have him work form an idea he came up with himself or is extremely passionate about. The problem of course is, who in their right mind would finance that over some sequel or rehashed game that is a guaranteed moneymaker? It might turn out to be a flop, it will definitely not appeal to as large an audience as AAA games do, but the end product will have a hell of a lot more integrity.

 

This has nothing to do with 'Idea Guys'. It's more about how games get funded. And in case you hadn't noticed, what you describe here is kind of already happening.

 

Non-traditional, incremental release models are made feasible by the ubiquity of high speed broadband. Crowdfunding models such as Kickstarter offer an alternative to the traditional publisher model, with digital distribution sites like Steam providing a strong platform for distribution even for small indie studios.

 

A number of well known developers have turned to Kickstarter in order to make the game they want to make, rather than the game their publishers want them to make. Isn't this what you are talking about?

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This has nothing to do with 'Idea Guys'. It's more about how games get funded. And in case you hadn't noticed, what you describe here is kind of already happening.

 

Non-traditional, incremental release models are made feasible by the ubiquity of high speed broadband. Crowdfunding models such as Kickstarter offer an alternative to the traditional publisher model, with digital distribution sites like Steam providing a strong platform for distribution even for small indie studios.

 

A number of well known developers have turned to Kickstarter in order to make the game they want to make, rather than the game their publishers want them to make. Isn't this what you are talking about?

 

While I think that this is a positive evolution, it's still a bit lacking. In stead of trying to please a publisher, the game designers are now trying to please the end users. This is of course a significant improvement but not the way to go if you want to make art. Don't get me wrong by the way, by far not every video game should strive to be high art.

Another thing that the crowdfunding model doesn't address is how much say the game designer gets in all aspects of the game. The open nature of the model seems to promote that everyone gets to contribute to the project, even the consumers. And since when do consumers of art know anything about the creation of art?

 

What I will say for the crowdfunding model is that it enables passionate people to work on the ideas they are passionate about. But they still have to adjust them in a way that they will sell well rather than stay true to the original meaning.

 

As to what it has to do with idea guys, some people are simply better idea guys than other people, those people should be recognised and encouraged to learn about game design and possibly other aspects involved in game making, because that person could be the Rembrandt of the game industry. As opposed to a very talented programmer or 3d artist.

Edited by overactor

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overactor, on 11 May 2013 - 06:04, said:
1. What's the true worth of an initial game idea?
2. "Can video games be art?"
3. who is the painter?
1. $.008333
2. "Yes."
3. The entire team, including the producer.

 

Perhaps to big companies an idea is worth very little. The idea guy doesn't exist in pro game development, but in an indie situation, your sudden idea in the middle of the night could be what gets you started, adding on to that idea in the following months of development is the next step, but you needed that first spark.

You wont get paid for having ideas and only ideas, but if you have ideas and can execute them you are in a good situation.

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As to what it has to do with idea guys, some people are simply better idea guys than other people, those people should be recognised and encouraged to learn about game design and possibly other aspects involved in game making, because that person could be the Rembrandt of the game industry. As opposed to a very talented programmer or 3d artist.

The people who tend to be better "idea guys" than other people don't need to be encouranged to learn real skills, they've allready learned them.

Those people aren't called idea guys, they're called programmers, artists, game designers, etc.

Almost all of us started out as "Idea guys", i was an idea guy when i was 10, when i was 11 i started programming to turn those ideas into playable games and on the way i picked up some basic art skills and got pretty decent at proper game design. (I still struggle a bit with level design, especially for puzzle style games (Getting a fun basic mechanic is easier than getting a smooth, challenging learning curve imo, its quite difficult to judge the relative difficulty of puzzles you know the solution to)

Indie developers don't need or want people with ideas for the "WoW killer MMORPG/RTS/FPS hybrid with zombies and cowboy chickens, they need and want ideas for games that they can actually implement, polish and release in a fairly short amount of time, and usually those ideas come from people with the actual skills required to implement them, people who understand the constraints that apply and the skills of the people involved.

When we say that ideas are worth $0.00833333 thats really refering to our own ideas(Which we have hundreds of), ideas of people without experience and understanding of the constraints often have negative value, even listening to them tend to be a waste of time. Edited by SimonForsman

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While I think that this is a positive evolution, it's still a bit lacking. In stead of trying to please a publisher, the game designers are now trying to please the end users. This is of course a significant improvement but not the way to go if you want to make art. Don't get me wrong by the way, by far not every video game should strive to be high art.

How do you know this is what happens? Publishers won't make much money if they don't care about pleasing the end user. Yeah some games may not turn out to be the best, but that doesn't mean that they didn't try. It's hard to implement a good game. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

As to what it has to do with idea guys, some people are simply better idea guys than other people, those people should be recognised and encouraged to learn about game design and possibly other aspects involved in game making, because that person could be the Rembrandt of the game industry. As opposed to a very talented programmer or 3d artist.

Making a video game with a team is not like making a painting with one person. It's comparing apples to oranges. If you want to be the Rembrandt of game development, you'll have to make the complete game alone. Then it's a fair comparison. Artist, programmers, musicians, etc are creative people. There's no way to stop them from adding their ideas. This happens automatically in the creative process. Yes, programmers are creative.

In your opinion, what does the idea guy do? Don't give general statements. Can you give a detailed list with say 10 to 20 bullet points? You have to move from philosophy to real world. If you can not write down those bullet points, you don't adequately know how to express the idea and are not qualified to tell ideas to programmers or artist.

In the real world, everyone has to pay their dues (unless you have a lot of money). Someone may have good ideas, but it doesn't matter if noone believes. Designers need to prove themselves, build prototypes and refine their craft.

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There's a few issues being mixed up here, relating to the process by which a design changes over the development lifecycle.
1) Involvement of "non-design" staff.
2) Deviation from the original design.
 
Neither of these have anything to do with the premise of the thread -- which is the value of an initial idea, these tangents are about the way in which ideas are evolved.
 
To address the second one first, let's pretend for a moment that none of the other staff ever speak to the designer, and only implement his wishes.
 
Let's also say that the game project has a 3 month pre-production period, where the initial draft of the GDD is created and the project schedule/budget is decided upon, followed by 18 months of production. We'll also say that everyone is on $80k per anumn, that there is 1 designer and 2 dozen implementers.
The game designer's wages during pre-prodcution, where he's writing the initial GDD come to $20,000.
The game designer's wages during production, where he is revising the GDD and guiding the implementation come to $120,000.
From this we can see that the initial idea is not that valuable, and that most of the expense is in refining the original idea and guiding it's implementation.
The first rule of capitalism is, expenses wouldn't exist unless they are necessary. If the initial game design was the most valuable part, and didn't need to be refined, then businesses would save $120,000 by not keeping the designer around for the production phase of the project. In reality, the most important work done by the designer occurs in the production phase, and his pre-production work is not actually that important in the grand scheme of things.
This part is off-topic, but to put things in perspective, the cost of implementation is $1.44 million... if a good implementation wasn't important, then businesses would hire inexperienced staff for half the price and cut that down to half a mil... but doing so would compromise the value of the game, so they generally don't.
 
 
Going back to the first part -- you seem to think that because staff from other disciplines have any input into the process at all, then this means that the designer's vision has been compromised, or that the designer does not have the final say on every little thing. This is not true.
You can still have a dictatorial designer, controlling every little aspect of the game and making constant demands of the implementers  but the implementers would still have to have creative input.
Again: if the designer's work contains a complete specification of exactly how the computational game state should change from frame-to-frame, then the designer is actually writing code! The designer is not writing code, so there will necessarily be small holes that must be filled by an implementer, which takes creativity on their part to come up with the computations, variables and algorithms that best fit with the designer's vision. The way that these gaps are filled can be reviewed (i.e. played) by the designer as they are implemented, allowing him to now see his own design with more clarity and make even more specific requests (such as changes to the way these holes were filled - the algorithms and code can be explained to him, so he can further tweak them).
 
 
Going all the way back to the original premise, about the value of an initial design --
Let's compare game design with architecture for a moment. In architecture, the designer (architect) draws up plans for a house, hoping to create something aesthetically pleasingfunctional, structurally sound, and inexpensive. All of these goals can be evaluated during pre-production (before building the house). The designer can create drawings of the house, or model it inside a computer, so see exactly what the final product will be like. Once the blueprints are perfect, then production (construction) can begin, with few or no changes to the initial design.
 
Video game design cannot work this way.
 
A game designer draws up plans for a game, hoping to create something interactive that is fun, or something that delivers a certain experience.
You cannot write the design for Super Mario Bros. in a word document and then evaluate how fun it is or what the experience is like. To evaluate the design, you need to be able to play it.
For some certain categories of games, a pure designer can prototype parts of the game by himself -- e.g. implementing turn based combat mechanics using cardboard, scissors, pens, etc... -- but for many kinds of games, there is no way that the design can be prototyped outside of a computer.
 
Due to the fact that the designer cannot evaluate the merit of his designs, this makes his job very different from that of an architect, etc. A game designer literally has no way to design a perfect game in isolation in his initial draft. Great games have to evolve over the course of their development. As the first implementations of the game come into existence, the designer is finally granted the ability to evaluate his initial design and make changes to his design as necessary.
It's the inability to evaluate the success of an initial design that makes them nearly worthless. Before you can tell if a design is fun, it has to be implemented in some form (whether that's a tabletop prototype or a computer prototype). An initial design is just a sketch, a draft, and the real hard work done by a real game designer happens during implementation, not during the first draft.
 

You need artists and nerds to make video games
unfortunately neither artists nor nerds have the right personality for making entertaining video games ...

The people I've worked with in the industry are ridiculously diverse. They've come from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Ireland, England, France, Sweden, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Russia, Poland, Iraq, India, Pakistan, Canada, USA, Brazil, Chile, and so many more I've forgotten. They've been trained as classical oil painters or self educated coders, destitute and homeless in foreign lands or married to fine wine reviewers, sneaker enthusiasts or mechanics, electricians or psychologists, they've fought in middle eastern wars or acted as UN peacekeepers, spoken four languages or just one, been reality TV cooks or even meth-amphetamine cooks, been shot and stabbed in bad cities or worldwide surfer dudes, operated bars/pubs or built missile guidance systems, been stuntmen for TV shows or pilots or teachers, and so on... but yeah, I guess they're all just boring nerds with the same bland personality rolleyes.gif Edited by Hodgman

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I have read numerous times about how ideas are a dime a dozen and just about worthless, but is there ever a point when an idea gains value? What if that idea has been refined over the course of months, or even years, to the point where just about every detail of the game can be explained in words precisely, down to each minute aspect? What if the design document is so comprehensive that it can be followed to a T, with little need for interpretation? Say, for instance, this "idea guy" was making an RPG, and in his GDD he has descriptions of every combat mechanic, formulas for every kind of calculation, tables of every item in the game (along with stats, descriptions, etc.), drop tables, blueprints of every map, the storyline progression, detail of each quest, and so on...

Even after all that, would that idea still be just about worthless, or would it have gained some value by then?

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I have read numerous times about how ideas are a dime a dozen and just about worthless, but is there ever a point when an idea gains value? What if that idea has been refined over the course of months, or even years, to the point where just about every detail of the game can be explained in words precisely, down to each minute aspect? What if the design document is so comprehensive that it can be followed to a T, with little need for interpretation? Say, for instance, this "idea guy" was making an RPG, and in his GDD he has descriptions of every combat mechanic, formulas for every kind of calculation, tables of every item in the game (along with stats, descriptions, etc.), drop tables, blueprints of every map, the storyline progression, detail of each quest, and so on...

Even after all that, would that idea still be just about worthless, or would it have gained some value by then?

 

You've basically described a computer program and the data it loads.

 

Programmers only really do two things:  Take a rough idea and fill in ALL of the blanks and solve every constraint and conflict (the hard part), and convert it into their favorite programming language (the trivial part).

Edited by Nypyren

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Say, for instance, this "idea guy" was making an RPG, and in his GDD he has descriptions of every combat mechanic, formulas for every kind of calculation, tables of every item in the game (along with stats, descriptions, etc.), drop tables, blueprints of every map, the storyline progression, detail of each quest, and so on...

At that point, even if you don't have it in a computerized form, you've got yourself a tabletop RPG. You'd actually be able to play the game.
So at that point, it's not just "an idea for a game", it actually is a game, just not yet computerized and depicted with fancy graphics.

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If the initial idea successfully describes how to entertain people in a way that can actually be implemented - it would be the *most* valuable contribution

 

Everything else is just manual labour

 

This is the kind of thing gamedev.net should be full of:

 

http://www.gamedev.net/page/resources/_/creative/game-design/mechanics-dynamics-aesthetics-r2983

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If the initial idea successfully describes how to entertain people in a way that can actually be implemented - it would be the *most* valuable contribution

Everything else is just manual labour

I respect designers and I think they can do a lot, but comments like this show no respect for programmers. I will no longer comment on this topic. An idea guy can't lead people that he doesn't repect. Programming is difficult and requires a lot of creative effort.

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How can a game have any personality what so ever if everyone involved gets a real say as to what direction the game goes in.

Are you suggesting that the industry has never produced a game with "personality"?

 

There may be a lot of blandness out there, and a lot of games that aren't to your liking, but in the overwhelming majority of cases most if not all participants in a games creation have some impact on the direction of the final product, and I'd say there are definitely some games that have real character that have resulted from this process.

 

Compare it to music -- which is typically considered an art -- and where it's common-place for multiple people to collaborate on the writing and production of a song to produce the final product.  There's no reason you must have a single artist to produce a piece with "character" or to stick to a vision, and music provides thousands of examples of that -- even in Classical music where the composer has dictated the entire piece note-for-note and often includes additional instructions, performances can vary greatly based on nuances introduced both by the conductor and by individual musicians.  Songs are also often covered by bands with completely different styles who produce an entirely different take on the original piece, or remixed to produce an entirely new piece of music.  All of this is widely accepted as art, and all of it is the product not of a single individual's vision, but of a collaboration between many people who all contribute.

 

If music is art produced by collaborations then why can't games be the same?  Perhaps the solution is not for individual designers to establish dictatorial control as you're suggesting, but for teams to learn to work better together with a shared vision.

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What if that idea has been refined over the course of months, or even years, to the point where just about every detail of the game can be explained in words precisely, down to each minute aspect? What if the design document is so comprehensive that it can be followed to a T, with little need for interpretation?

But that's the whole point. It can never, ever be done (well, except if you are making an exact Tetris clone, but that's more like a reverse engineering than design). The problem with idea guys is that they believe it can be written down as some sort of blueprint to follow and then a game can be build based on it alone. It can't. It's not possible. It won't work.

 

If you disagree, please provide the name of the game you finished this way :) Because so far I have not met a single dev who managed to make a design doc that was sufficient to make a whole game without any need for interpretation (or even changes!) upon implementing.

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But that's the whole point. It can never, ever be done (well, except if you are making an exact Tetris clone, but that's more like a reverse engineering than design). The problem with idea guys is that they believe it can be written down as some sort of blueprint to follow and then a game can be build based on it alone. It can't. It's not possible. It won't work.



If you disagree, please provide the name of the game you finished this way smile.png Because so far I have not met a single dev who managed to make a design doc that was sufficient to make a whole game without any need for interpretation (or even changes!) upon implementing.

 

While I don't entirely disagree, this seems to only become more and more true if the game has an "open" nature to it. That is, if it's made of components that aren't very predictable and are very difficult to describe with words or simple mathematical formulas (such as complex physics engines and advanced AI). If the game is more closed and rule oriented (like Tetris, as you mentioned) then there becomes less room for interpretation or deviation. Hodgman made a very good point about my RPG idea example, that once that idea reaches the level of detail I described, it's possible to play it in a pen and paper, D&D format - and at that point it already is a game. There would be little deviation if this was turned into a digital game

 

As for an example of a GDD that is sufficient to make a whole game without any need for interpretation, there is no need to look any further than the myriad of games based on physical, tabletop games (or even a board game such as chess). The rules of these games serve as the GDD's for their digital counterparts. There is no need to interpret the rules and the mechanics of the game. Of course, there's room for interpretation with the visuals (and obviously sound), but these are for superficial aspects that have little impact on the game's core mechanics. So as for the names of the games I've finished this way: Tic-tac-toe, and also Connect Four.

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   Hello everyone, please excuse my poor English & naive character

 

   I must say I was intrigued by this conversation. You see people consider me an artist, as I'm part of a rock band that's started back in 1995 and I happen to write both the music and the lyrics of our songs. I just felt like sharing with you my thoughts on that. If we seek to answer the question "can a game be considered art?", we must first answer the question "what is art?". As I perceive it through my years of observation to all forms of art but mainly music, art started out as the initial wish of man towards self awareness. The tendency to reveal and embrace universal or fundamental truths of once existence. Now, unfortunately or fortunately art in our days is more of entertainment than of a quest towards revelation. Some people perceive art only as craft, like the fact that someone painted a painting with those specific brush strokes or someone played the guitar by doing awesome "tapping" for X seconds and say: "what an artist". Bottom line is that since we people think subjectively, we won't agree unanimously to what art is. As for me I choose to believe that art should be an expression of once strive for self awareness and redemption because I want to place art as a sacred expression for the person who performs it. Craft is just the practical part of it and something you need to do at least pretty well in order to have a beautiful outcome.

 

   Now, the video gaming industry, from day one was all about entertainment. So, no matter how many years I've spent playing video games, I must say that I had to deal with the conclusion that in the end, video games tented to act as drag in my life.

 

Now, if art is a craft then video games are art

If art is entertainment then video games are also art

If art is a journey to self awareness then video games are not art

 

   As for the "idea guy", I believe that the fact that most of the people have ideas that they think are great but actually isn't or have a general idea and nothing more, gave the "idea guy" the bad reputation he/she bares today. I consider myself to be an "idea guy hybrid" if you allow me to invent the title, because at least I've written down every single detail of my game (points, awards, rounds and penalties algorithms) starting small for an expansion on a title that had some hardcore fans and tested it for two years in order to see the flaws and fix it till it's viable. I say this in order to try and save me being "word punched" to death after I press "post"! ph34r.png        

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The problem I have with the "idea guy" is that the people I have met that take that role, usually have tons of "good ideas" but they lack any real skill/talent/motivation to actually MAKE a game. Because they have never tried or been involved they don't know what it takes, or how hard it is do even the "simple" things sometimes. So its really hard to listen to someone talk about all their great ideas for games, when they have not even tried to make one. 

 

Its like that for any part of life though, its hard to respect someones ideas/opinions when they are not educated, or founded on experience on the subject. Its no different with game design/ implementation. 

 

 

Thats my $0.02. 

Edited by tharealjohn

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Now, if art is a craft then video games are art
If art is entertainment then video games are also art
If art is a journey to self awareness then video games are not art

When using the last definition, there is a big difference between "no game that I've yet played is art" and "games cannot be art".

 

Just as how most popular music is not at all art when using this definition while there is a smaller amount of music that does fit the definition, games are the same. Most popular games may just be entertainment in this definition (just like pop music is), but there are also a small collection of games out there that are capable of and designed with the express intention imparting a large emotional impact impact on the viewer that changes their way of thinking about themselves.

Edited by Hodgman

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As for an example of a GDD that is sufficient to make a whole game without any need for interpretation, there is no need to look any further than the myriad of games based on physical, tabletop games (or even a board game such as chess). The rules of these games serve as the GDD's for their digital counterparts. There is no need to interpret the rules and the mechanics of the game.

This demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the field of design. The rules of chess are not a GDD, they are (in and of themselves) a complete implementation of the game of chess.

 

The GDD for a digital version of chess would require significantly more content than the mere rules. Where in the rules of chess does it specify if the user interface is 2D or 3D? Where does it specify whether input is via mouse or keyboard? Where does it specify the AI necessary to provide a computer opponent?

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To answer the title's question of "What's the true worth of an initial game idea?": nothing.

 

The initial idea in and of itself is not worth anything. Initial ideas are incomplete, flawed, and vague.

 

Refined ideas that are complete, specific, etc. might be worth something though. But it's not the initial idea that gives them worth. It's the refining process that gives them worth. That refining process takes time and involves feedback from those doing the actual implementation. It takes good communication skills, and requires a smart and creative mind to work around legal and physical constraints and limitations that might come up when implementing the actual game. It requires the ability to look at the initial idea from different perspectives and fill in holes and missing details.

 

In short, you don't pay the idea man for his initial idea. You pay the idea man for his ability to refine his initial idea into a full fledged game (at which point he's no longer an "idea man" but a proper game designer).

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This demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the field of design. The rules of chess are not a GDD, they are (in and of themselves) a complete implementation of the game of chess.

 

Yes, you're right. I suppose this was a poor choice of wording on my part. I should have said the rules of chess would be a fundamental part of the GDD, not the GDD by them selves. Still, my point stands - the programmers would be required to implement these rules exactly as stated. It would be these rules that guide the programming process of the game mechanics. There is little room for interpretation. Am I wrong? Is the GDD in fact only meant to be a guideline that is up for interpretation and deviation by the rest of the development team? Can it not include any hard rules about how the core mechanics work?

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