The Initial Idea!
"Even if your game doesn't turn out the way you'd like, it can give you ideas for other games."
Christopher Chance (K-Power Magazine, April 1984)
Today I'm writing about the initial idea for a game, and how to go about it. I will be using 'project stained with magic' as an example throughout the short article.
Firstly, it is crucial to know that the purpose of design is too solve problems. Game design being no exception in this case. Having a clear idea and the ability to state the problem you are designing a solution to is key here. For example, do you want to tell a story with strong historic themes or do you want to create a new fun way to allow players to run their own restaurant? With this in mind, we can come up with a solution easily, with brainstorming.
Brainstorming ideas can be difficult. With that, here are a few tips to get you started. One, create a mood board. A collection of media related to the problem you are trying to solve. Example, Stained with Magic is set in a near future-magic world setting. I spent my time gathering dark themed images related to magic and technology. As well as playing games such as Steins;Gate and Fate/stay Night. Two, always write every idea that you make. Even if its rubbish. You never know when it can be useful. Three, do something that gets your creative juices flowing. Play some music, play a game, watch a movie or read a book. Ideas can come to you at unexpected times. You never know when you may be stuck with something great. I hope these tips help, but remember they may not work for everyone.
Next step, you have a few plans and ideas ready to go. But, you are not quite ready yet. You need to know, from my experiences, the first few raw ideas are often rubbish. Now, you must keep thinking up more ideas or refine the ones you have already. In my best opinion, refining one of your earlier ideas is the best move to make. Stained with Magic was one of my first ideas to pop into my head. Since then, the story has gone through three iterations (small fact: stained with magic was originally going to be set in a high school).
Another piece of advice I often hear from other developers, is that the first five ideas you come up with will always suck and make terrible games. I don't fully agree with this statement. I say it depends on how you refine and experiment with your ideas. Play around and see what you can come up with. But, don't be afraid to kill your babies (ideas) if they suck.
One final piece of thought, I would say is crucial when developing your ideas. Is to apply your idea with Schell's four elements of game design, Mechanics, Aesthetics, Story and Technology. Let's apply my project to each element for an example.
Mechanics: This refers to the rules that generate game play. In my case, this was the rules and formatting for visual novels. As well as the values for determining the progress of player interaction.
Aesthetics: The visual and emotional feel of the game. Here, I chose a dark setting with digital art that would highlight this mood.
Story: Narrative that is going to used in the game. I stated the game will have a branching story set across three volumes, allowing for the player to make choices to change the course of the story.
Technology: The resources needed to make the game. For my project, a computer with the game engine Ren'py was what I needed.
If you can check off the above four points with confidence. Meaning you have a strong refined idea to make a game.
Next week, I will talk about how Hikage Studios formed, and give you advice with forming your own team. Now, I will leave you with a quote by Jon Freeman relating to today's topic.
"We have a good idea where the game is going and what it will look like at the beginning, but there's a lot of fine-tuning that can only be done after the game has started to take concrete form. The design is not something cast in stone that has to be followed to the letter--it's more of a guideline."
Jon Freeman (Compute Magazine, February 1985)