Game design starts with an idea, but I have not found a single course or book which talks about how to generate ideas and how to get better at producing ideas. I spent some time studying the question, and I identified four techniques that game designers can use to creating ideas. There are, of course, more techniques, but many of them are designed to solve problems rather than to generate ideas.
The techniques are:
This method is the most common, and we are all able to use it, without any training. You merely think until you have an idea.
But even this technique has its characteristics, which I learned from one biochemist, named Motonari Uesugi, who had a course in biochemistry.
He talked about a scientist who developed DNA cloning. The road to the research center, where the scientist worked, was walking along a rocky, winding road running along the shore of the ocean. Every day, on the way to and from work, a lot of excellent ideas were visited, while at the same time he could not come up with anything at work. He put forward the assumption that thinking in a stationary atmosphere a person will always come to the same ideas, but being in a changing atmosphere, a person will generate different ideas.
Further research has shown that any changes in the environment positively affect the generation of ideas: To ride an unknown route, take a walk in an unusual time for you and so on. Further, it turned out that not only did the change of environment influence the generation of ideas, but you may also discover entirely new ideas. Curious people that are always learning something new can generate ideas better. Therefore, for the game designer, curiosity and constant study of something new are vitally important.
It is the most common and well-known method in the industry. Many companies use this technique, and this is the only method that I learned about from the games industry.
All you need for this method is 10-20 people and a suitable location. Divide people into two groups: Participants and The Commission. There are three stages.
Statement of the Task
The participants take part in this stage. In the case of creating games, the task is constrained mainly by the number of resources: the amount of money, the number of team members and their specialization, the amount of time to develop. All the collected information on resources can adequately create an idea of what kind of project the team can produce.
Generation of Ideas
Again, the participants carry this out. People begin to offer and build upon each other's ideas. Collect and record any suggestions, even the most delusional ideas, for example, a plumber saving a princess or a super fast blue hedgehog. Once you have collected all the ideas, it is time to move on to the third stage.
Grouping and Selection
The commission carries out the third and final stage. Here the second group evaluates the collected ideas and chooses the most suitable.
For this method, it is essential that the group of people for the brainstorming be as diverse as possible. Therefore, many companies also strive to collect a diverse team (different races, nationalities, social status, history, gender). Additionally, if participants in the brainstorming session are members of the game development team, the idea and concept of the game will be perceived as the result of the collective work of the team. This improves morale and will increase the motivation of team members.
It is a straightforward and convenient method. It is especially useful when working with genres that are unfamiliar or which you don't personally enjoy. It is effortless to use and almost always brings results. In fact, this is not one method, but a whole set of techniques that the game designer changes in turn until he finds his idea. Each of the letters is a reference to one of the methods of generating ideas. In this case, it is better to disassemble each of the methods separately.
Replace. You replace something in an existing project and see how everything will look now. In the case of games, you need to change the mechanics in the game.
Think: What if I replace it?
Example: Noitu Love 2
In this game, there are three game characters that open in their time. The plot and most levels are the same for all characters. But by including different games for each character, the game begins to feel completely different. The reason for this is the different mechanics of each of the characters.
Sometimes, it seems that these are different games, although the levels and behavior of the enemies remained the same. I can talk a lot about this topic, but it will be better if you sit down and try it yourself.
Combine. You take two genres that already exist and try to mix them.
Think about it. What if you take these two or more genres of games and cross?
This series of games is a combination of shooter and RPG. From the shooter game got a first-person view and the main combat mechanics. From RPG the game got a level system, experience, pumping, all sorts of equipment with different indicators and special abilities that a player can learn and use in combat.
Adapt. To do this, you take existing old and forgotten mechanics and update them to new technologies and time.
Think about it. What old mechanics can I use? Where to use it? And how will this mechanic change?
Example: AR and old educational games.
We all know the game Pokemon GO. But few people know that the mechanics it is based on were created long before the advent of mobile phones. Eric Klopfer talked about an educational game that used maps and real places for learning. But these mechanics did not find its popularity because of its inconvenience. But over time, there were mobile devices that could use this mechanic without unnecessary problems. Since 2012, this mechanics has returned with the name Augmented Reality.
Edit. Here you refer all the games with a change in the aesthetics and level of the objects of the game. Unlike "replace" here the aesthetics of the game changes more than its mechanics.
Think about it. What if you make such a game about something more significant or something less, perhaps something else?
Examples: The Sims and SimCity.
In the first case, we have a simulator for managing the family of people and their dwelling, and in the second, a simulator controlling the city and its inhabitants. The concept of the game has remained the same; it is an economic and spatial simulator. The difference in games is only in the levels of objects: in the first case it is just a house with a small family, and in the second it is a city.
Apply. You just take the existing mechanics and find a new application for it.
Think about it. How else can you use these mechanics?
In the case of Undertale, there is a system of experience and levels, but it has an entirely different meaning than in other games. If in most games these indicators show the power and development of the character during the game, then in this game this mechanics and characteristics is the player's karma.
Exclude. This method requires the game designer to cut and exclude some mechanics in the already existing type of games.
Think about it. What can you cut out of the game and how will it work then?
Example: Ultimate Epic Battle
We all know the strategists: we collect resources, build the base, build the army, destroy the enemy army, destroy the enemy base and win. But if we exclude everything related to the collection of resources, construction and development base. What's left? And there will be Ultimate Epic Battle, here you just generate armies on the battlefield and watch them fight.
Expand. The games industry is also flexible to the action of stereotypes, like any other information sphere. And sometimes breaking these stereotypes can result in fascinating projects.
Think about it. What if we do what everyone else has done? What if we did the opposite?
Example: Overlord and Dungeon Keeper.
In most fantasy games, the main character is a positive character saving the world from evil. But in the above games, you will play the villain. This made them much more interesting than most other projects in fantasy style.
The Ramsey method
This is the most difficult of the methods. This method was taught to me by psychologists and so is complicated and heavily populated. But you will need it, too, if you want to become a high-class specialist. Why would you use this method? One day you will be hired as a game designer and your director will ask to create a game on a very specific topic, for example, to create a game about Einstein, fairy tales of the Brothers Grim, or "Alice in Wonderland." And you immediately rested against the wall.
Ramsey wrote a theory that, if you take a significant amount of information and start looking at it closely and manically, you can find new information or find inconspicuous links. This explains why people with various psychological disorders, like paranoia and schizophrenia, can see evidence everywhere of their rightness and their theories. This theory can also be used in the opposite direction, creating previously unobtrusive concepts at first glance.
The essence of this method is that you collect the maximum amount of information on the topic that you need to assemble the games. And then you start to study this data, looking for hidden connotations and imperceptible connections in it until the concept of the game is collected from these pieces. The effectiveness of this method depends only on two factors: the amount of information received and the effort spent studying this information.
Let me give you a couple of examples.
The game about Einstein is Braid. Two years after I played the game, I accidentally took the book "Einstein's Easy Lessons." My brain just exploded, many moments, phrases and mechanics were described throughout the book.
The game about the Brothers Grimm - American McGee's Grimm. In the beginning, I did not understand why in these games the twisting and dullness of fairy tales. But then I met one person. He told me that the fairy-tale brothers' tales had changed a lot since that time they were in the original. It was darker times and tales, respectively, were much gloomier, but over time, the adaptation of fairy tales to a new time was in progress. As a result, after reading the original tales of the brothers' make-up and the current editions, the person will have a vivid sense of contrast. This is shown in the game. This is a sense of contrast between the fairy tales we know and how they were initially written.
The game about "Alice in Wonderland" - American McGee's Alice and Alice: Madness Returns.
In the game you will meet most of the characters from the book, and you will visit Wonderland. The game designer tried to imagine what happened to the main character so that Wonderland appeared in her head. For the main character, Wonderland is the inner world of her mind. As a result, the story began to consist not only of events in Wonderland but also the events of real life, which is mirrored in the Wonderland of Alice.
As you have noticed, most of such a game plan can be called unusual and sometimes strange, which does not make them bad. So if your director wants to create a game based on his favorite music group or his favorite book, now you know what to use.
This is my first article, and I hope that it has been useful to you.