Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Idea Development and Sanity Test

So I've already linked to the trello board.   About some game called Mage Tower.  Well what is it about?

You're a lone mage, defending his master's tower.

Seems a little bland?   Well it's supposed to, I'm keeping the idea generic to make this easier to show you how to develop and sanity test ideas.

I did originally play around with this idea because I already tested some elements out that may fit well into a type of game like this.

I took this idea to my students and pitched it.  Wasn't that impressive as I thought.  How do you tell when something is impressive?  When you pitch your idea to people and 50+% of people's faces light up with excitement as you are describing it.

That's what you should aim for.  You don't absolutely need it though.  Extra Credits has a pretty good segment on this:

So I came up with a slightly better story that involved items being stolen from the  tower's vault, with you being the aprentice charged to take care of his master's tower for the 7 days he's gone.   I pitched that, and it also got "meh".

I was going too generic.   Typically for a great idea you need a really interesting twist in initial concept.    I broke out a mindmap and just dumped ideas.  No idea was too stupid. (And that's a very important part.)  I came up with close to 50 potential twists on the story concept.     Then I went over those ideas again with the class.    Some of the more ridiculous ones got some traction.  They were funny, or they made you think.

Some of the more amusing ones:
  • You were sleeping with the wizard's daughter
  • You have periodic megalomania
  • The tower is actually a sanitarium
  • Medieval magical version of the game clue
  • The whole thing is a musical
  • You're aquaman (you're "special" but with a laughable super power)
 So I had some ones that made the idea stand out.   A few of them were simply out of scope (as cool as they were).  I decided to incorperate the insanity and sleeping with the wizard's daughter in the next pitch.

So I did so, and it came out a little better, but the pitch was now too long.  And I didn't even properly incorporate the insanity into it.  All this would require a bit of exposition in this game, and I realize I didn't really have the time for that.    So it's back to the original idea.

If I get some extra time I'll incorporate those elements back in.  But for now I'm...

Your own Idea Forming

One more thing.  Too many people are worried about telling people as they have this "unbelievable" idea that people will steal if they tell them.   And yes this does happen.  But it's still absolute garbage.

Here's why.
  • Are you Insane? - If you are going to go through all the pain and cost of development without even taking 15 minutes checking if the people you are making the game for actually like the idea, you are INSANE.  This is why I call verification with others a "sanity test".
  • Would you buy it? - It's even sillier if you want to SELL your game and expect people to pay money for something they may not even care for.
  • It's how you do it - Game development is 10% idea 90% implementation.  Even if someone does steal your idea, if you implement it better you'll easily win out. 
  • Simpsons Did It! - You have to face the fact that every idea worth doing has been considered before.  I've even seen people who've had no way of communicating with one another come up with very similar "unique" ideas. 
  • Are you creative? - If you are trying to be a game designer you ARE creative.  You can come up with more than one idea.  

Call to Action

Your turn.  Use the process below to come up with your own idea.

  1. Write down your initial game concept
  2. Sanity Test it with a number of people within the game's target audience
  3. Refine the idea
  4. Sanity Test Again
  5. If needed mindmap a bunch of random initial twists
  6. Sanity Test Again
  7. Scope out the ideas you are certain you can do within the time. (If this is your first time, do the absolute simplest ones.)

You now should have very well formed idea.  The more you refine and sanity test the better off it will be off course.  But don't spend longer than a week or two doing this at very most!


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  2. This one was fun and very informative, What do you think about the approach of making the game you want and people will follow?

    1. If you are making games for yourself strictly then make them for yourself. There is nothing wrong with this. Don't expect everyone else will love them. (They still may, but you certainly shouldn't expect it.)

      If you are making games for an audience you HAVE to ensure a target group of people really do like the idea. This doesn't mean you should produce something you don't like, but find something other will like first, then ensure it has enough elements to keep it interesting for you.


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