Distilling your ideas.

I was browing around the UNITY forums on the weekend, and took a good look at the forums where guys are looking for collaborations. Something ive noticed is that many of them fall into the same trap.

They start off with the idea that they want to create the next *insert AAA game here*, and want to either copy, or expand on what they see as the successful elements of those larger projects. Now I do understand the want to create something like that. AAA titles can be very inspirational…but you are trying to compete against something with a 4 year development cycle, and 200 constant staff members-many of whom are at the top of their game.

So what can we do?

Play to your strengths!

I’m personally driven by stories, so for me it was natural to come up with a story, and then wrap a game around it. I didnt start with the idea to create an adventure game. I started off with the desire to explore this incredible environment I had in my head. To really look at what a huge, abandoned space ship would look like. In fact, initially I just wanted to do a series of envionments to explore, and then through the natrual evolution that art goes through, the story of John came into being.

Wrapping that story in an adventure game came about when going back to my original idea. How to tell a story in this world. But no matter what genre I chose, the core idea would have remained the same.

Now when people come through with massive ideas, and the want to create a ‘Zombie MMORPG’, they are really missing the point. A large company can work backwards…come up with ‘Large Zombie MMORPG’, and then start to create test builds, experiment, and see what works. They have the manpower to build multiple prototypes before choosing one. BIOSHOCK was originally set in a twisted WW2 hospital. Then evolved into taking on the role of a Cult De programmer, sent into a cult to find a girl. From there, they started to build the game into the one we love, by pushing forward the idea of codependent relationships between enemy characters (the Big Daddys and the little sisters), and then pushed the game design in that direction.
But they have that luxury. We don’t. So how would I go about it? Well, work backwards.

Distil your idea.

Strip your idea down to its absolute core. Lets say you want to do a zombie game (which seems to be the rage). You arent going to create the CALL OF DUTY of zombie games-but what you can do is take ONE element, one FUN element, and build your game around that. As I said, start off with a single core idea.Lets say its survival.

Suddenly your massive zombie game, is a zombie survival game. It has some set boundaries that you can work around. Now you can distil your idea even further. The survival of your family. Or rather, the survival of you, and a single family member. Now you have a really nice CORE idea.

Now we need the mechanics.

You have your core idea. You need to survive in a zombie infected world with a single family member. Lets say its a father and son. Build a simple mechanic AROUND THAT SIMPLE IDEA.

Your son is helpless, and you have to protect him. If that is the core idea, the game has to do everything it can do put up obstacles to prevent that. To me that says a frantic click fest…zombie coming from all angles, as you shield your son from them. Perhaps its a case of trying to move from cover to cover, hiding your son in cupboards/holes in the wall/anywhere he can fit. Suddenly you can see where this type of game could go.

Ive spoken before about designing reusable systems, and keeping things SIMPLE. Its something that I have been guilty of, and something that has cost me many weeks of development time, which for an Indie is a MASSIVE thing.

Now go forth, and come up with awesome shit!

-Chris

Are there any things you would like to see in future blogs? Articles on Sound Design, Music, Graphics? Either drop me a mail, or pop in a comment below!