Ideas are a dime a dozen...

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SinisterPride 101 Jan 19, 2013 at 09:43

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At one point in my life I had a naive and somewhat delusional sense of what the game industry must be like. I thought an idea (and ideas in general) were the bread and butter, the sole resource, the industry ran on. Obviously, all great developments and designs start as ideas. However, it took some harsh realizations and shifts in perspective to note that ideas are the least sought after commodity within the industry. This insight came largely in the form of articles written or suggested by Sir Tom Sloper.

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I shed a large portion of the arrogance that followed the way I envisioned the role I wanted to play within the design and development of a video game. Part of me believed I could waltz into a publisher or design studio with what I thought was a great idea, lay out my thoughts and if I was lucky enough, gain the resources as well as control over a project to develop said idea. I never wanted to pass off an idea and just have someone make my game for me but even so my proposal was unrealistic to say the least. I now know that completed work, and in essence, “fleshing out” of a project is far more sought after than how innovative the idea behind said project may be. In fact, ideas that are too far from the norm tend to be deemed risky or too much of a gamble from a publishers perspective.

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Dispirited and at a loss of hope I started to give up on the notion of becoming a game designer. The climb necessary to be in a position where I COULD put my own ideas into play didn’t seem appealing so it was realistically out of reach. After shattering the narrow goals and naive career path I had once thought existed I settled on following one of my strengths, writing. I had always found it easy to convey my ideas as well as paint vivid imagery with only written words. Deciding that I may still want to be a part of the game industry as a story or dialogue writer I was able to mentally revisit my design ideas from a different perspective. This all left me thinking “well, what CAN I do with my ideas?”. I’ve always thought story mechanics/plots were simple to come about if you have the imagination for that sort of thing. In my opinion, the only things that set the greats apart is the creative attention to detail as well as diverse exposure/inspiration. I had always focused on game play mechanics and environmental interactions/properties due to this stand on story development.

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Although I didn’t feel like I could get much of anything worthwhile down if it only pertained to story and lore I started simmering in my ideas again. I didn’t have the same goal of one day presenting it to some company or even working through the DIY method to bring it to life; As arrogant as it may sound the scope/scale of my ideas could never come about efficiently/effectively with limited resources. With my renewed interest in game design and a more humble/modest approach I reread a lot of the articles which had, in a sense, broken my spirit. This time around I realized something that had been obscure to me before with my delusional sense of things which should have also been obvious. Ideas are nothing in and of themselves, this much is true, if they are all you have. As Sir Sloper had said (paraphrasing here) an idea is nothing, it takes dozens and dozens of ideas to even get the ball rolling. In all these years of thinking up concepts and “designs” I had never once wrote anything down. I kept my ideas vivid by revisiting them constantly which kept them alive and partially let them grow. Nonetheless it was a key error because what is an idea when its just sitting in your head? Nothing but a dream. But if you can coherently write them down for someone ELSE to make sense of…

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My ideas were developing to some extent since about 2001. They took a sudden halt when I found a game that had almost all of the things I originally sought after while designing and conceptualizing. I no longer felt the need to develop a game with some concepts which weren’t mainstream due to this game. That game was Fable, with its announcement my ideas seemed to have been played out closely enough. A lot of the things I had wished for were coming into the industry in one form or another so why should I keep developing them? Others would eventually think of everything I had so why not sit back and enjoy it right? I didn’t feel cheated or bitter as some would think when it was released, I was glad I could enjoy the things I wanted for so long. After playing Fable (and eventually all of its successors) I realized the experience was satisfying but didn’t quite quench my thirst. It added loads for me to build on and furthered many of my original concept. Yet, I still felt I had more to offer.

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With the ideas instilled by Sir Sloper and many others I finally decided to start writing. I wrote the basis of my ideas down in a coherent manner which anyone (even a non-gamer) could grasp. The more I wrote the clearer things became. I was determined to, if nothing else, write the building blocks for what I wanted. It didn’t have to be technical or specific (as in for the programmers or graphic artist) but I just wanted it to be understandable across the board from designers to artist to programmers. I later realized I had started on what is known as a GDD (game design document). The skeleton on which everything is mounted on. Even though ideas were worth nothing, I now had plenty of ideas piled on one another which, in my opinion, could realistically start something meaningful. After I had written all I thought summarized what I wanted and essentially sown the seeds which could grow into a game, something resounded in a part of an article I read. I had recently read something similar, to what had resounded within me, about writing books (for a somewhat separate project; my story/my book~~). What I had remembered was that Sir Sloper said something along the lines of “why would a company want to hire you for one idea/game?”. They want someone who has the ability to develop ideas and manage projects effectively, not someone who has an idea to develop. The article on writing said that it is unwise to try and one shot a masterpiece/your life’s work. Tolkiens don’t write the Lord of the Rings and Rowlings don’t write Harry Potter in one shot or one part. For multiple reasons this made sense. Proving your worth with lesser projects, cutting down how daunting the scope of your project must be into manageable portions, building a fan base as well as learning from trial and error in technique/approach to a project itself.~~

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At this point I decided to halt any further mental/written development of my concept/design. I was to partition my three main “innovative/trademark” ideas into three projects. Since then I have developed and documented those three ideas decently enough but all of my writing still feels like just that, ideas. I know I can’t realistically take it any further because it would be time consuming to get any concrete progress done with “indie”/home brew methods. So I guess my reason for this post is simply for opinions. I know I will reach the same point I originally did and “sow the seeds” for what would be needed to start an actual project. But then what? If I am to believe what I’ve read from experienced veterans in the field, the chances of me even getting a meeting to pitch my thoughts are slim to none. So what hope do I have in actually succeeding at getting my ideas into reality? I’ve accepted that my work could never see the light of day but positive feedback from anyone I’ve shared with has lead me to think I should pursue it a bit more actively.

Open to opinions/suggestions,
Alfred
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fireside 141 Jan 19, 2013 at 11:21

The only way someone will listen is to do something that they can see and which makes an impression on people, which probably means indy work. Take a look at games like “To the Moon”, which was extremely low budget but made an impression on people.

http://freebirdgames.com/to_the_moon/

There are plenty of indie wannabe’s that are lacking in ideas, so you can probably post on a site like Unity community, or an rpg or adventure game community. Generally, though, it’s a good idea to have some programming experience, so it’s a skill you should think about, at least a scripting language. Another thing to try might be a game mod from a popular game.

This will probably mean you need to pare down your ideas to a smaller game, or possibly put them on the shelf and design a new, smaller game. No one starts at the top designing a AAA game. There aren’t that many game designers at a game company. Most of them are doing programming or modeling work, so you are seeking a job with very few openings except in the indy market, and even there, most developers have their own ideas already.

I’ve seen a lot of cases of people trying to either develop or design games that are way beyond what they can carry out. All it leads to is frustration and eventually giving up. Start small.