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

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### #21rip-off  Moderators

Posted 11 May 2013 - 07:55 AM

What about a good game with good implementation where every element implemented was carefully considered by someone who is very passionate about the project and is a talented game designer?

For a good game, this is usually the case. But I think your unstated assumption is that this "someone" is/should be one individual. For smaller games, maybe. For larger games, this is impractical.

There is nothing wrong with tinkering with a formula when it is necessary, but every step away from the original idea is likely going to detract somewhat from its personality. Of course it can improve the end product but it seems obvious  that starting out with an idea that needs a minimal amount of tinkering and having said tinkering done by the person who originally came up with the idea will result in a game with more soul.

It depends. The "soul" and "personality" include how open to collaboration you are, how you handle other people's creative inputs and willing to compromise when you might be wrong or misguided. A game designed by a tyrannical dictator may certainly have a strong soul, and you probably would feel it through the end product.

This is a very idealistic view of game design, I just think that there is nothing wrong with the ideal itself. And that it could be strived for a bit more in the gaming industry, especially the indie community.

Perhaps. I don't think it is the most pressing game design problem in the game industry, indie or not.

### #22skytiger  Members

Posted 11 May 2013 - 08:02 AM

You need artists and nerds to make video games

unfortunately neither artists nor nerds have the right personality for making entertaining video games ...

You need gamers to buy video games

unfortunately gamers are generally boring people

so the video game industry makes boring games for boring people to buy

That is why current video games are so boring

Making video games is 100x more fun than playing them

### #23minibutmany  Members

Posted 11 May 2013 - 08:19 AM

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

Most people don't have one description to their personality. Game programmers usually get interested in game programming because they have an idea(good or bad) for a game that they want to make. Artists tend to be creative people that can be creative not only visually but also in writing, and a project vision. There are also plenty of programmers that are also artists that are also very generally creative people.

You need gamers to buy video games
unfortunately gamers are generally boring people
so the video game industry makes boring games for boring people to buy

Again, most "gamers" are average people that have other hobbies too. Not everybody that plays games does it in their underwear in their Mom's garage sipping coke all day.

Of course, with anything, there are the people who have become obsessed, but they could still be very interesting people that have been trapped in their virtual worlds.

That is why current video games are so boring

I do think that most of the new triple-A shoot em-up games have been pretty generic and boring, but there is a whole world of great indie developers, made up of programmers and artists, most of which are creative people, almost all of which where at won point "gamers" because that's how they got interested in it in the first place.

Are games art?

This reminds of the argument made in "Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud about if comic books are art.

It is in the eye of the beholder.

But art could also be defined as anything that humans have made which is not systematically created. Something with a creative process.

Making video games is 100x more fun than playing them

Agreed. Games, like watching TV, aren't fulfilling after you turn them off. But accomplishment gives me a great fuzzy feeling for a long time.

Stay gold, Pony Boy.

### #24AltarofScience  Members

Posted 11 May 2013 - 08:30 AM

Making video games is 100x more fun than playing them

Agreed. Games, like watching TV, aren't fulfilling after you turn them off.

I submit that you are playing the wrong games.

### #25Sandman  Members

Posted 11 May 2013 - 09:51 AM

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?

### #26Tom Sloper  Moderators

Posted 11 May 2013 - 10:07 AM

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

1. $.008333 2. "Yes." 3. The entire team, including the producer. -- Tom Sloper Sloperama Productions Making games fun and getting them done. www.sloperama.com Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice. ### #27overactor Members Posted 11 May 2013 - 10:22 AM You're exactly right, someone with enthusiasm suggests how they think things should be and someone worn down by the industry talks beside the question by stating how things are. Unfortunately, even with all the enthusiasm in the world, the lack of experience basically means your idea of 'how things should be' may not very well rooted in reality. Let's suppose though, for the sake of argument, you're right. Idea Guys are a downtrodden and under-appreciated font of creativity, and games developers should make better use of them. How do you propose we harness their untapped potential? Should studios start hiring Idea Guys? What are you actually proposing here? How about this, you move from huge projects being the standard to medium sized projects. You give the game designer an even bigger say and have him work form an idea he came up with himself or is extremely passionate about. The problem of course is, who in their right mind would finance that over some sequel or rehashed game that is a guaranteed moneymaker? It might turn out to be a flop, it will definitely not appeal to as large an audience as AAA games do, but the end product will have a hell of a lot more integrity. "You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood." "What mood is that?" "Last-minute panic." ### #28overactor Members Posted 11 May 2013 - 10:27 AM 1. What's the true worth of an initial game idea? 2. "Can video games be art?" 3. who is the painter? 1.$.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?

"You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood."

"What mood is that?"

"Last-minute panic."

### #29skytiger  Members

Posted 11 May 2013 - 11:25 AM

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)

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 ...

### #30Sandman  Members

Posted 11 May 2013 - 11:31 AM

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?

### #31overactor  Members

Posted 11 May 2013 - 11:42 AM

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, 11 May 2013 - 11:45 AM.

"You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood."

"What mood is that?"

"Last-minute panic."

### #32minibutmany  Members

Posted 11 May 2013 - 01:23 PM

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. Stay gold, Pony Boy. ### #33SimonForsman Members Posted 11 May 2013 - 01:39 PM 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, 11 May 2013 - 01:42 PM.

I don't suffer from insanity, I'm enjoying every minute of it.
The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

### #34Squared'D  Members

Posted 11 May 2013 - 08:49 PM

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.

Learn all about my current projects and watch some of the game development videos that I've made.

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### #35Hodgman  Moderators

Posted 11 May 2013 - 08:52 PM

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

Edited by Hodgman, 11 May 2013 - 09:16 PM.

### #36Ludus  Members

Posted 12 May 2013 - 12:54 AM

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?

### #37Nypyren  Members

Posted 12 May 2013 - 01:27 AM

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, 12 May 2013 - 01:33 AM.

### #38Hodgman  Moderators

Posted 12 May 2013 - 02:07 AM

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.

### #39skytiger  Members

Posted 12 May 2013 - 02:29 AM

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

### #40Squared'D  Members

Posted 12 May 2013 - 03:22 AM

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.

Learn all about my current projects and watch some of the game development videos that I've made.

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