Define a clear concept along with the level of quality that you want the game has to have for narrative, game and play.
There are many ways to get ideas. These range from getting a revelation while walking down the street or doing the dishes, to working structured with tools and methods in collaborative sessions. I like to capture as many ideas, tell as many people about them as possible, and formulate the ideas so your peers can easily understand them.
This is the first in a series of articles on how to simplify game development based on my master thesis on game production. I hope that game developers will be able to simplify game production with these ideas in mind.
Share the Concept Early and Often
Any notion can be made into a game, but the hard part is to conceptualize and develop the idea. Initially the idea don’t need to be formulated more than enough to remember it. However, if I leave my ideas too long in the notebook, I tend to forget what the essence of them was. So it is a good idea to soon start to collaborate with other people on the ideas, start formulating it and specify the little details that make the idea appealing and different from other ideas.
In my experience it is important to share the concept – the sooner the better. Some people are afraid of others “stealing” their idea, but in my world an idea cannot be stolen. It cannot be owned until there have been put work into it. I.e. time to develop the idea into something more than thoughts and words on a paper. An idea is a free entity until it has become a concept in the sense that it has been formalized and captured in a form that specify it enough to be differentiated from finished products. Anyway this is an issue for lawyers – not me, and the benefit from sharing an idea is far more worth than the work it takes to “steal” an idea. I guess the point is that execution is what gives value to the concept.
Set Boundaries for Your Game Concept
Once you have started collaborating your idea with others, you should start elaborating the little details makes it appealing. This is where catch phrases as KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid), “less is more”, etc., can be used actively to test the quality of the idea. There is a reason that these phrases are so popular. The exercise is to start simple, by formulating the idea with as few words as possible – in Reality Lag, we use a for we call Power Docs which has a simple and strict form for capturing an idea. The limit is one page describing the idea and it has to be playable in the mind of the reader.
Test the Concept With Players
Test the idea! Ask people if they would play the game. They may ask about or add to the idea, which is golden. Elaborate on your idea, draw the idea, build a simple prototype. If the idea is dependent on a story, write a simple plot outline, describe a part of the world and a few of the characters or their relation. Then test the idea again. Expose it to your peers and see if they get your point, think it is interesting etc. The goal is to get feedback.
The next is to start developing the toy and narrative of the game.