Last time we talked about why I think conceptual game design is important. I controversially said “Execution means nothing if you don’t have a great idea.”
(Ok, it’s only controversially in theory. Nobody read it and is up in arms about it.)
That’s all fine and good, but how does a great idea come together?
Well, it’s not magic. But it’s also not that easy to define. And is likely fairly subjective. But, let’s try anyway.
Maybe appropriately, my mind treats this exercise like a playground. The explicit goal isn’t to dig and find the one and only great idea. Instead, put yourself in the most advantageous position you can to let as many ideas come and go. The process should be relatively fluid, and you should be prepared to attach and detach yourself from nuggets of ideas as they come.
Sometimes I use certain techniques to kickstart the flow, and other times it sort of happens organically, maybe from practice. Let’s try kickstarting one right now:
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I might start by thinking about the most recent game I played. I am playing between 3 and 7 games in any given month, so the selection is relatively varied for me. The most recent thing I played was Diablo III.
If it’s the first time I’ve played the game or is relatively new to me, I can often just think about it generally and go from there. Otherwise, I think about a specific aspect of it. I’ve played Diablo III a lot, so let’s find something specific.
Typically I’ll think about some aspect that stood out to me. That might be something special, some amazing moment I had, or something that made me feel inquisitive. It might also be something I dislike about the game, a bad game design choice, something that annoyed me, or some bug or broken piece.
Last time I was playing, I remember going through a certain section of the game with one set of abilities, and then later on going through that same section with different abilities. It’s fun, but I was struggling to decide which of the times through was more effective and efficient (and fun). Maybe the game could have better specific tracking of your real-time damage per second, or have some sort of end-of-level recap screen that helps you understand how well you did in reality, not just based on theoretical item stat numbers.
There it is, an idea for a game post, and potentially an entire game if developed further. Just from thinking.
If that idea came up and it didn’t feel like it was substantial or interesting enough to write about or develop further, I would let it pass by and grasp onto the next idea that comes, which might be something totally new or (most likely) might be something that I was led to from having first thought of the initial idea. And that can go on and on down the line, until you land on something.
Or, if you want to get crazy, grab onto that first idea, jot it down, and then continue down that rabbit hole anyway, seeing if it leads you to any more ideas.
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We’ll talk more in a future post about some other reliable go-to ideation methods I have.
[ Today I Was Playing: nothing… ]
April 25, 2017
Foster Douglas is a game designer, entrepreneur, and a wannabe Japanese-Italian. He’s been posting a new idea each day in this blog for over 2 years.