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

107 posts in this topic

Unfortunately I'm just an 'idea guy' but do hope to work to being something more in the future (Understand the trouble getting the motivation for it)

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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?


GDDs are not blueprints, they're a communication and documentation tool.

If you're cloning an existing game then yes, you do have to stick to the rules(it wouldn't be a clone if you didn't), If you are making something new(Which really is what game design is about) you would have to be extremely arrogant to reject any possible improvements before you've had several people play the game and give feedback on it. Edited by SimonForsman
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Call me when somebody finds an 'idea' guy has skills outside his ideas and has produced a completed game that has gone to market. The "idea" of the "idea guy" is nothing more than children trying to justify their lack of real work on real products. Learn to code, to create artwork, and see a game through to the end. Only THEN are you allowed to tell anyone else what value ideas have.
 
If you've never made a game, either individually or as part of a team, then you're not an idea guy. You're audience.


So accually it seams that a ideaguy can nothing other be then audience outside game industry. And be that anyone can have idea's even outside the industry. And because that is so accesable part of game making. The very first fase where it starts. It so abundant as water in the ocean. So the value of ideaguy and there idea's is like nothing. The only backdoor entrance I see if the idea guy could fund a full team where he/ she can be only the idea guy or gall. Also my definition of a idea is the spark of a game vision. At most a concept on paper. So still far of of a GDD wich lead to TDD or even prototyping.
In the game industry it also very difficult to pitch your own idea. Even if you are profesional game designer or lead programmer. But then your arent a pure ideaguy, but a game designer making his own games.
And there is that independant branch of the industry. Well the problem there is. No room for idea guy. Teams are so small you need to bring in one but even more skills to fulfill small team needs to make your game idea.

They say making games is aiming at a moving target so you iterate playtest to get it right. But cloning is different espacialy if you on the same thing often. That it more a routine job. So a TDD might be closer to a final blueprint.
The idea of chess is a clone idea.

Discusion of art is not relevant to idea guy problem. Games and a rockband are very different forms.

There are buildings wich have a monumental artistic value. So that a merge of art and architectual knowlege.
Games are huge part just software enginering.
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Call me when somebody finds an 'idea' guy has skills outside his ideas and has produced a completed game that has gone to market. The "idea" of the "idea guy" is nothing more than children trying to justify their lack of real work on real products. Learn to code, to create artwork, and see a game through to the end. Only THEN are you allowed to tell anyone else what value ideas have.

I think the fundamental problem with "idea guys" is that they assume that, since a game can't really be made without an idea, ideas themselves must be inherently valuable.

Unfortunately, ideas are like air. Air is vital to us; in order to survive, we need a pretty much constant supply of it. But air is everywhere, all around us, and all we need to do to get some is inhale - and because of this, air is utterly worthless.

Professional game designers typically have dozens, if not hundreds, of ideas, most of which will never get made. Most other people who work in the industry have ideas of their own. I myself have a stack of notebooks 2 1/2 feet (76 cm) high filled with game ideas (many of which are not worth making, and soveral of which are way beyond my capacity to make).

Furthermore, "idea guys" often overestimate how much the core idea influences the quality of the resulting product, not realizing that a poor execution can ruin a great idea, and conversely great execution can even make a good game out of a bad idea. For example, "fighting game parody using only two buttons" I would say is a bad idea, and in most people's hands would probably make a terrible game, but because the people responsible for Divekick are experienced competitive fighting game players, they are able to make a surprisingly deep game out of what was initially meant to be just a joke.

Sadly, every field of creative endeavour is positively swarmed with people who believe they have great ideas and assume that they can sell their ideas to other other people to implement, completely unaware that the hard part of creation is not coming up with ideas in the first place, it's making them into reality.
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GDDs are not blueprints, they're a communication and documentation tool.

 

I see. I was under the impression that a GDD should contain as much information as possible so it could essentially be used as a blueprint to create a game. I was unaware of just how much revamping and interpretation the original ideas undergo during the development process when everyone else on the team is involved. In that case, does it really have to be this way? Wouldn't the ideal scenario be for the game designer to work on his idea alone for months, figure out as many details as possible, weed out the flaws, refine it, create a working prototype, test play it (with other people of course) and get feedback - all of this before even starting the actual production of the final game with the entire development team?

 

Coming from an artistic background, the process of refining and revamping ideas during the production process seems a little like putting the cart before the horse. Since the painter analogy has been made several times on this thread, I'll use it again as an example. A painter does not begin the process of making a painting by applying the paint to a blank canvas. He begins it by thinking of an idea, then by creating pencil sketches of it and even a few colour studies. After much refining, he will then create a final, pencil draft that he will copy onto the blank canvas to paint over.

 

So when does he begin creating the final painting? After every detail about the painting has been finalized. The painter does not decide halfway through the painting process to add something. All of that has been decided upon in the drafting phase.

 

This is why it doesn't make much sense to me why a concept for a game goes through so much change and is up for so much interpretation during the production process. What are the artists doing while the concept is still in the process of development? Are they creating the graphical assets for a level that might - or might not be in the final game? Are the composers creating music for a certain cutscene that may or may not exist? Are the programmers implementing the core mechanics that could possibly undergo many changes? All of those scenarios are very wasteful, and could have been avoided if the design process had been more thorough.

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If you were making a clone then yes you would be correct. But then you wouldn't be an ideas guy or have a new idea if you implementing an existing game.

 

In my original post where I used chess as an example, I said a game "such as chess". I did not mean to clone chess, but rather to create an original game with mechanics as rigid as chess - sorry for any confusion.

 

My original point was that the mechanics of a game such as this could be worked out and refined on paper rather than creating a digital prototype to get feedback. In other words - it's something the game designer could do alone (with some feedback by play testers, of course) before even presenting the idea to a game studio.

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See Daniel Cook's thoughts in his article "Why you should share your game designs":

A game starts out with 1% game design and end up 100% production and polish. During the production and polish stages of the title, the game design is likely to change dramatically. For example, there was once a genre busting game design by a famous designer that involved a magic hammer and was described as an epic fantasy action RPG. Something very interesting happened along the way to creating the title. First, they did what every good team does in the early stages. They prototyped the concept and evolved what worked. The grand initial design ended up turning into an intense FPS shooter. What was this fantasy RPG? It was a little title called Quake.
 
When a team gets a hold of a game design, they change it in ways unique to that team. Give 5 teams the same game design document and I guarantee that you will get 5 distinctly different games. A game design ends up being closer to a movie script than it is to a blue print. The director who executes your design has a major impact on the ultimate results.

 
 
...and a column by Ernest Adams on "Why Design Documents Matter":
 

[...]
Another common objection is that, as most games are prototyped first
[...]
In practice, milestone schedules always change, and the feature list almost always changes too.
[...]
The vast majority of design consists of figuring out the details. Although you'll always change those details later in testing and tuning, you have to start with something.
[...]

Obviously I picked out a few relevant points, but the rest of the article is also a great read and goes into some detail on what a design document is used for in practice. Edited by jbadams
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Unfortunately I'm just an 'idea guy' but do hope to work to being something more in the future (Understand the trouble getting the motivation for it)

 

I have seen some your posts and you are not an idea guy.

An idea guy would be someone who has an idea and wants someone else to make it without dirtying his own hands (here are the perfect blueprints I made, now you make it reality). What you do is reply to topics with ideas of other people and try to give feedback/ideas based on the constraints provided. You are more like taking part in the refining proces Cornstalks mentiones.

 

To me it does not count as an idea guy at all :)


 

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i didnt bother reading the whole stuff until i raged down to write a reply and here it is:

 

I personaly think that what makes any film, book or game-idea be "worhty", have "dignity" and a right to be made is if the idea/story is original and anti-cliche. I think for amateurs today, the key to breaking into the industry isnt to make superb visuals (movies) and good gameplay (games), but good STORY!

Thats your way in. Because THAT, the STORY, is what critics today are so unhappy about today:

bad stories

 

my opinions are mine alone

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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?

 

There is a point when an idea gains value: When it starts generating money.

 

As I said before, a thing is worth what someone will pay for it. When we say ideas are worthless, it's not because there is some giant price list somewhere that says "Idea: $0", it's because we know from experience that they're unsaleable. Can you ever imagine buying an idea off someone else?

 

As you embellish that idea, flesh it out and begin to turn it into an implementation, then the probability of being able to sell it to someone, and the amount they might pay for it - increases. You need to focus on aspects that reduce the buyer's risk and increase their potential reward, in order to make it an attractive investment.

 

FWIW, a giant monolithic GDD is far riskier and therefore much less attractive than a simple, buggy, but playable and fun prototype with no GDD whatsoever. Getting something implemented is therefore a far better use of your time than refining your GDD to the microscopic levels of detail.

Edited by Sandman
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I've read through all of the replies on this topic since my last post and, for obvious reasons, won't bother with quoting them all. In stead I will tell you where I stand on the issue now, after your input and some reflection on my part.

 

I have concluded that the points raised in my initial post might have been a bit miguided, if not wrong.

It's obvious that I don't have much real experience in game development and I don't think I ever tried to claim otherwise.

I will try to rephrase some of my views to better fit how I feel now.

 

One thing the gaming business seems to rely on very heavily is iterative processes. This is of course very understandable given the complexity of an average, let alone a large, game. It also seems that these iterative processes mostly come into play during the implementation. And that's where I have a bit of a problem. Of course it is unavoidable that there will be a significant amount of iteration during implementation, but I am of the opinion that starting from an idea that has been thought out to great extent and will thus require less iteration will result in a product with more integrity. Furthermore I feel like the need for iterative processes are a shame. In a way, it reduces people to components of a machine, each with their own specific functions. This is good for implementation, but not ideal for refining ideas. In stead of working as one creative person, you work more like a computer program.

 

Another thing I'd like to comment on is that I notice that a lot of people seem to object to the game designer being the true artist at work in game design. Even stating that you can't be a game designer without other relevant skills. All I can really say is that I disagree. I think it is sad that it is froyned upon that some people want t get into the gaming business without art or programming skills. Game design is a very real skill set and good game designers are just as rare (if not rarer) and intergral to a game as good programmers and artist. (and writers and composers and animators etc.)

 

So here's what I now think the value of an initial idea is: I think the value of an initial idea lies in how it can make a game designer passionate about it. If a good game designer thinks of or gets a hold of a game idea and falls in love with it. I think he should, depending on the type of idea, refine it as much as he can without even taking steps to developing it. And when he feels he has done all he can to make it perfect in his mind, he can start on implementing. He can do that alone or with some friends or with a hundred man team. And I personally believe that at this stage, sticking to your idea can sometimes be more important than listening to everyone who has a way of optimizing it. Of course you can consider every suggestion, but weigh the possible benefit against how it fits with the integrity of your game.

 

Thanks for all the replies on this thread, I really appreciate them. If I offended anyone with one of my posts here, please know that I purposely took a bit of an extreme stance and didn't mean to insult anyone. I'm not done thinking about this subject yet but I think this thread has helped a lot.

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i didnt bother reading the whole stuff until i raged down to write a reply and here it is:

 

I personaly think that what makes any film, book or game-idea be "worhty", have "dignity" and a right to be made is if the idea/story is original and anti-cliche. I think for amateurs today, the key to breaking into the industry isnt to make superb visuals (movies) and good gameplay (games), but good STORY!

Thats your way in. Because THAT, the STORY, is what critics today are so unhappy about today:

bad stories

 

my opinions are mine alone

You people with all your analogies have never written a book or painted a painting have you? You better not take this shit to a writers' forum and expect to impress people.

 

Do you know what editors are? Do you know what drafts are? What you wrote a 10 page paper in college and got an A and expect people to give a shit? Look, go to a writers' forum and make a post like this about books and when everyone agrees with you get back to me.

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If a good game designer thinks of or gets a hold of a game idea and falls in love with it. I think he should, depending on the type of idea, refine it as much as he can without even taking steps to developing it. And when he feels he has done all he can to make it perfect in his mind, he can start on implementing.

What advantage is there to refining an idea in the abstract, rather than in a concrete series of prototypes (also know as "implementation")? Game development isn't Socratic philosophy, you know...

 

Another thing I'd like to comment on is that I notice that a lot of people seem to object to the game designer being the true artist at work in game design. Even stating that you can't be a game designer without other relevant skills.

Collaboration is a relevant skill, I'd settle for that. No one likes a diva, which appears to be what you are describing.

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Another thing I'd like to comment on is that I notice that a lot of people seem to object to the game designer being the true artist at work in game design.

 

i+am+an+artist.JPG

 

biggrin.png

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i didnt bother reading the whole stuff until i raged down to write a reply and here it is:

 

I personaly think that what makes any film, book or game-idea be "worhty", have "dignity" and a right to be made is if the idea/story is original and anti-cliche. I think for amateurs today, the key to breaking into the industry isnt to make superb visuals (movies) and good gameplay (games), but good STORY!

Thats your way in. Because THAT, the STORY, is what critics today are so unhappy about today:

bad stories

 

my opinions are mine alone

You people with all your analogies have never written a book or painted a painting have you? You better not take this shit to a writers' forum and expect to impress people.

 

Do you know what editors are? Do you know what drafts are? What you wrote a 10 page paper in college and got an A and expect people to give a shit? Look, go to a writers' forum and make a post like this about books and when everyone agrees with you get back to me.

 

watch your mouth and be diplomatic

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If a good game designer thinks of or gets a hold of a game idea and falls in love with it. I think he should, depending on the type of idea, refine it as much as he can without even taking steps to developing it. And when he feels he has done all he can to make it perfect in his mind, he can start on implementing.

What advantage is there to refining an idea in the abstract, rather than in a concrete series of prototypes (also know as "implementation")? Game development isn't Socratic philosophy, you know...

 

 

>Another thing I'd like to comment on is that I notice that a lot of people seem to object to the game designer being the true artist at work in game design. Even stating that you can't be a game designer without other relevant skills.

Collaboration is a relevant skill, I'd settle for that. No one likes a diva, which appears to be what you are describing.

 

 

I feel like implementation will take you away from what you want to achieve with your game and drag you into teh question of what you can achieve. I'm not saying tehre is something wrong in principle with doing it that way, I just don't get why refining it in abstract seems to be frowned upon. Is knowing your game and what you want to achieve with it through and through by the time you have to deal with practical problems really such a horrible thing that's not only not worth the time you'd spend on it but just a plain bad idea?

 

As for a game designer having to eb able to collaborate, of course that's an important skill. But if you as a programmer suggest a game mechanic and he doesn't see howm it fits in his design, why would it be a bad thing if he doesn't want to change it? There's a difference between being a diva and knowing what you want your game to be.

 

 

Another thing I'd like to comment on is that I notice that a lot of people seem to object to the game designer being the true artist at work in game design.

 

-picture-

 

biggrin.png

 

Note that I never said I see myself as an artist, I don't think I have it in me.

You have a really cynical view of artists though.

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You have a really cynical view of artists though.

 

In case it wasn't obvious, I posted the image as a comment on your 'ideas guy as an artist' stance, rather than a comment on artists in general.

 

As for the 'real meaning' of the image, (which was created by an artist, presumably) that, like all art, is open to interpretation. 

 

On the subject of artists, have you ever watched an artist at work? Because they don't always get things right first time. They prototype, iterate etc. just like developers.

Edited by Sandman
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Wouldn't the ideal scenario be for the game designer to work on his idea alone for months, figure out as many details as possible, weed out the flaws, refine it, create a working prototype, test play it (with other people of course) and get feedback - all of this before even starting the actual production of the final game with the entire development team?

To what end? If we're looking for an "auteur" style game, we could force it that way, but even then I don't believe such a severe approach is strictly necessary. An experienced lead game designer with a strong vision and a willing team should be equally capable, I think.

 

Coming from an artistic background, the process of refining and revamping ideas during the production process seems a little like putting the cart before the horse. Since the painter analogy has been made several times on this thread, I'll use it again as an example. A painter does not begin the process of making a painting by applying the paint to a blank canvas. He begins it by thinking of an idea, then by creating pencil sketches of it and even a few colour studies. After much refining, he will then create a final, pencil draft that he will copy onto the blank canvas to paint over.

 

So when does he begin creating the final painting? After every detail about the painting has been finalized. The painter does not decide halfway through the painting process to add something. All of that has been decided upon in the drafting phase.

While I am not a professional painter, I certainly add or remove elements of a painting as I work through the process. That said, I think a better analogy would instead be that each sketch/study would map to a particular iteration in a iterative game design project.

 

In any case, the pencil sketches and colour studies, or game prototypes, are all tools only available to someone who has the skills to implement the task. An "idea" artist cannot create these sketches or studies without having developed practical skills. Likewise, to prototype a game one needs to have at least some ability to actually make, rather than describe, a game.

 

My original point was that the mechanics of a game such as this could be worked out and refined on paper rather than creating a digital prototype to get feedback. In other words - it's something the game designer could do alone (with some feedback by play testers, of course) before even presenting the idea to a game studio.

To refine the mechanics of a game such as chess, you can either build a game prototype or prototypes until it gets to the point where you can sufficiently test the mechanics to the point of having confidence in them (and, incidentally,  prove yourself to be more than an "idea person" ), or not make a playable game and essentially invest a lot of time and resources into a very specific design without being able to understand how it plays.

 

I think this is the core argument in the thread. It is not that an up front design is worthless, but that an unproven design is incredibly risky relative to a design that has been prototyped. To prototype a design we need people with the skills to execute the idea.

 

The combination of supply and demand (we have no idea shortage) with this risk , results in the valuation of such ideas without implementation as worthless. A pure "idea person", lacking the skills to prove their ideas, is facing an uphill battle to convince those who have the skills (and their own ideas) to work with them to prove their design.

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As for a game designer having to eb able to collaborate, of course that's an important skill. But if you as a programmer suggest a game mechanic and he doesn't see howm it fits in his design, why would it be a bad thing if he doesn't want to change it? There's a difference between being a diva and knowing what you want your game to be.

Nobody is suggesting this. A critical skill for a lead game designer is knowing which ideas and changes to incorporate and which to leave out, and when to remove ideas that sounded good but that aren't working out.

 

The main thing we are suggesting is that the lead game designer must be willing and able to apply the same process equally to their own ideas and those of others.

 

Game design doesn't have to be a democracy, and it probably shouldn't be. A benevolent dictator will work fine.

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You have a really cynical view of artists though.

 

In case it wasn't obvious, I posted the image as a comment on your 'ideas guy as an artist' stance, rather than a comment on artists in general.

 

As for the 'real meaning' of the image, (which was created by an artist, presumably) that, like all art, is open to interpretation. 

 

On the subject of artists, have you ever watched an artist at work? Because they don't always get things right first time. They prototype, iterate etc. just like developers.

 

I did mean an ideas guy who is also the lead game designer, I don't see why he shouldn't be considered an artist.

Yes, artist don't always get it right on the first try, but they try to get it right without getting too distracted from what they were originally trying to convey.

 

As for a game designer having to eb able to collaborate, of course that's an important skill. But if you as a programmer suggest a game mechanic and he doesn't see howm it fits in his design, why would it be a bad thing if he doesn't want to change it? There's a difference between being a diva and knowing what you want your game to be.

Nobody is suggesting this. A critical skill for a lead game designer is knowing which ideas and changes to incorporate and which to leave out, and when to remove ideas that sounded good but that aren't working out.

 

The main thing we are suggesting is that the lead game designer must be willing and able to apply the same process equally to their own ideas and those of others.

 

Game design doesn't have to be a democracy, and it probably shouldn't be. A benevolent dictator will work fine.

 

I fully agree with you there, the only thing we have slightly different opinions on is to which extent a game designer should deviate from his original idea to optimize it.

And to which degree his original idea is worth anything. (I do think it's only worth anything in the hands of a capable and passionate designer with the possibility of actually making it.)

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Buster2000, on 13 May 2013 - 01:01, said:
It would probably be a good guess that chess was actually an iterative process and the rules were not created first but evolved over several years and in several different directions in different countries.

pretty much correct. Chess started out in 6th-century India as a game called Chaturanga, which is the ultimate ancestor of all chess-like games (such as Shogi in Japan). Various changes occured over the years (the movement patterns of the queen and bishops, the addition of castling and en passant capture, the ability of pawns to move two spaces on their first movement), and the modern chess ruleset appears around the 15th century. (Modern chess tactics, on the other hand, don't appear until the late 19th century.)

Of course, modern chess is probably the least-changed descendant of Chaturanga, along with Makruk - although it's worth noting that the queen in chess is the single strongest piece in any Chaturanga descendant - as others change the starting layout, add more pieces, or change the board size.
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It depends. It is good to hold on to your vision dispote feedback from the team. Only if it is about choices. Espacily conflicting ones.
Example. Aktion horror vs survival horror. If you initial vision was one or the other. Team member put there preference in.
So some time its good to be more dictator.
But wenn team members see a flaw instead a choice. And you stick to it like dictator then it hurt your game.

Because a idea guy with a realy super godlike idea is so rare. But lots of idea guy think they have gold. But they realy have not.
So there is this problem of arogance vs openness for positive critism. And on top of it people who want to bent your game vision to there preference.

Next example CoD. To Quick scope or not to quickscope is preference.

Some comment on bad UI design. Like X series. That no choice but a flaw.
Or mixing micro managment with fast aktion.
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I work for an idea guy. He did quite a bit of design and development on his first idea and was successful. Now, he hires designers and developers to flesh out his ideas.

 

It's a good job.

 

How much are the initial ideas worth? Revenue minus the cost of development. Some are more valuable than others.

 

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned 'idea guys' like Blow, Molyneaux, Fish...

 

I think the quality of Braid and Fez comes from the fundamental ideas that preceded development. Great ideas.

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Perhaps relevant...Ed Catmull (Pixar) on collective creativity:

 

http://www.resourceful-humans.com/Documents/Catmull-CollectiveCreativity.pdf

 

First paragraph:

 

A few years ago, I had lunch with the head of a major motion picture studio, who declared that his central problem was not finding good people—it was finding good ideas. Since then, when giving talks, I’ve asked audiences whether they agree with him. Almost always there’s a 50/50 split, which has astounded me because I couldn’t disagree more with the studio executive. His belief is rooted in a misguided view of creativity that exaggerates the importance of the initial idea in creating an original product. And it reflects a profound misunderstanding of how to manage the large risks inherent in producing breakthroughs.

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