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When I talk to aspiring game designers, I often notice some strange behavior. They're evasive about their ideas, almost coy, as if they've stumbled across a secret gold mine. They stamp obtrusive watermarks all over their concept drawings, and ask me to sign NDAs.

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When I talk to aspiring game designers, I often notice some strange behavior. They're evasive about their ideas, almost coy, as if they've stumbled across a secret gold mine. They stamp obtrusive watermarks all over their concept drawings, and ask me to sign NDAs. Otherwise, they believe, someone would certainly steal their idea and unfairly profit from it. They usually want to be the 'idea man' for a team, and find some artists and programmers willing to implement their ideas for a percentage of the profits.

The only explanation for this behavior is the belief that game ideas are extremely valuable in the game industry. This may be true in a limited sense, but nobody is going to steal your idea (or do all the work to implement it) -- they have their own ideas! Most game developers started off as gamers who dreamed of new games that nobody had made yet. They are all full of their own ideas, and would rather implement those than try and steal someone else's. Personally, I have lists of thousands of eclectic game ideas -- far more than I could implement in my lifetime. I will think of a few more right now, with pixel art illustrations by Aubrey.

TELEPORTATION ERROR 354

Werewolf detective

By 2036, teleporters were starting to enter the mainstream after a powerful marketing effort by Transeo. Matthew Cooper was heading to work one morning, as he did every morning. When he entered his office address and pressed the 'teleport' button, an alarm went off. He tried to open the door, but the screen kept flashing 'TELEPORTATION ERROR 354'. He was trapped in the booth until two company representatives pried open the door and carried him roughly into a van. The teleporter had created a copy of him on the other side, but failed to disintegrate him on this side. The technicians now were taking him away to be disintegrated, since this error would be very bad PR! He managed to get a message out to his other self, and they had to work together to save his life, and expose this murderous policy!

Hasker Boundville - Werewolf Detective

Werewolf detective

In 1888, Hasker was a constable in the police force, investigating a series of grisly prostitute murders. On a bright, moonlit night, he followed a suspect downtown, and watched him enter a secluded brothel. Soon after, unearthly screams cut through the night. Hasker blew his whistle and threw open the door. He stood frozen by the sight within. A salivating monster looked up from a fresh corpse, and bounded for the door -- bowling the constable over in the process! As Hasker picked himself up, he noticed that he had sustained a large scratch across his arm. Over the next few weeks, he started noticing changes in his body... changes he had to learn to control. He struggled to use his new form to catch killers, and not commit murder himself!

The Mystic Healers of the Jade Cross

Mystic healing

You are a new initiate of the Jade Cross, a group dedicated to treating the grievous wounds inflicted on adventurers by vicious monsters and evil wizards. You can choose from one of three disciplines: the Bonesaws are masters of physical surgery, the Kneelers trade favors with the Gods to bestow holy reparations, and the Weavers use arcane magic to knit flesh from the inside out. As usual, there's a dire threat facing the Land, and as usual, it's up to you to heal broken adventurers until they can finally defeat it! They will get all the credit, but you know you are the true heroes.

Turning Ideas Into Games


The quality of a game is 10% idea, and 90% execution. Let's look at two major games that are both about a time-traveler with a magical sword: Daikatana, and The Legend of Zelda. One of these games was a career-shattering flop, and the other spawned one of the most successful game franchises in history. The game idea and theme are really just spice for the core mechanics. Okami is an excellent game with a totally different idea: the player is the sun goddess Amaterasu incarnated as a wolf, restoring color to the world. However, at its core, it's almost the same game as The Legend of Zelda.

If you want to turn your ideas into games, you need to prove that you can execute them well! You have to learn at least basic programming and artistic skills, and keep making games until they're good. Once others see that you're serious about making games, and have useful skills, they will join your team. Then, finally, you can do justice to your ideas!


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Comments
Ryswick17
Ryswick17

arn't only 2 of the 14ish zelda games about travelling through time though?

The latest one being released around 9 years ago...

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Ryswick17
Ryswick17

Plus OoT didn't exactly "spawn" the zelda series

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wazanator
wazanator

I think the point is that its not just the idea of the game that makes it a success its the actual mechanics

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Ryswick17
Ryswick17

I don't see how that's relevant to anything i said.

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Tallon_hunteR
Tallon_hunteR

actually, its 3. OoT, MM, and oracle of ages

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wazanator
wazanator

A very inspiring article very nice :)

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Assaultman67
Assaultman67

Ive noticed this too, people i talk to who don't have any particular development get extremely protective of their ideas ...

I think i was like that too at one time, but after i started trying to make those ideas come to life i soon realized that ideas are pretty easy to come by and i started giving them away :P ...

I like the teleporter idea though ... it would be cool if the player played both characters in singleplayer via a ghost recon like style and there would be parts in the game where they have to split up to do different tasks "simeltaneously" (maybe you have to press two buttons at the same time in different areas, maybe you have to break yourself out of prison ... stuff like that)

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awesomepossum
awesomepossum

You should try the UT3 mod Prometheus. They use duplicates of yourself moving around at the same time as the main mechanic of gameplay. Its very well done and lots of fun. And the two of yourself pushing buttons at the same time is the simplest form of puzzle they have.

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Armageddon104
Armageddon104

THe teleportation thing is a cool idea :D

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dandi8
dandi8

Yeah, the teleportation thing would make for a great game. Even though I've seen about 3-4 movies about that ;)

Although I agree with the general point of the article, the stories provided are generic. They're only a 'setup' for a bigger plot. And it's how you develop your story that decides if it's any good.

IMO game design is 50% good story and 50% implementation. If you give implementation more percentage, results may vary. (And ofc that's a major simplification, audio, graphics etc. all have a very big impact on deciding if a game is good).

For example, I played through Beyond Good & Evil from start to finish, even though I used to hate stealth games. More than that, I finished the game twice! Would I have done that if the game didn't have such an awesome and touching story? No.

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dandi8
dandi8

cont.
Imagine Half-Life. Now imagine that Gordon Freeman is called John Doe, a fat janitor in an underground toy shop that was overrun by aliens that look like those aliens from the 80's. Would you like that game better? Probably not, and if you would it just proves my point even more - story impacts game quality.

Story is a very important part of a game. You can make a steak without spice. It's really hard to make a good game without a story.

And though it's technically possible (and proven, see Geometry Wars for one example) that you in fact can make a game without a story, imagine how bland the game industry would be without them. Imagine Trine without a story, for example. Even damn Space Invaders has a story!

What I'm trying to say is don't underestimate:
1) The power of story-telling
2) The amount of time (and talent) it takes to make a good, original story (as much as I like them, the stories in this article were only basic fundaments for a story and they were actually generic)

Ofcourse, the stories of people that are so 'protective' about them are mostly unfinished crap.

Am I protective about my stories? Yes, I kind of am. But only in my mind. I worked hard on something and so my mind thinks it's 'valuable'. But I'm aware of that so I wouldn't make you sign any NDAs before showing you my stuff. I actually ask people on the internet if my stories are good ;)

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Text_Fish
Text_Fish

Dandi8, I think the over-reliance on storylines is exactly what propagates bad game design these days. Sure there are some fine examples of decent storytelling in games, but when you look back could you honestly say that the story would stand up in its own right as a novel or film? I'd say usually not. Gameplay should ALWAYS be the priority in a game design.

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dandi8
dandi8

I never said today's games were very good. But all of the games that I loved, their stories would make great novels. Example - Beyond Good & Evil :) Another good example from what I see is "Time Gentlemen, Please!", a small indie game I just bought from Steam that was made in Adventure Game Studio. The graphics are crap, it's a point and click game but I really like the story, no matter how much of a rip-off from other titles it is :P

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GamerWolfOps
GamerWolfOps

note not all game designers have artistic skills some do.

to be a game designer you really don't need artistic skills, just some programming skills and other skills, if you got artistic skills that's fine, just so you know not all people are born with artistic skills

game designers usually work as in a team so to work an idea out you need to make them understand on what that idea will became and will it work.

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Ryswick17
Ryswick17

you're implying that people are born with artistic skills

thats like saying you are born with programming skills

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death_fly
death_fly

I agree with what you're saying, but I think you've used bad examples. You've just presented a couple stories, but those aren't total ideas. I mean, executing on a story is important too, but I think it's just a foolish to be the idea man who says 'oh, we should have a gun with a rainbow laser on it and it can help you go through puzzles'. Stories are a dime a dozen. Full game ideas are a little more, maybe a cent a piece, but it's execution that is hard to come by. There you are right.

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Noremakk
Noremakk

Thank you so much for shooting down all those "developers" who know nothing of how games are actually made; they were beginning to annoy me, and I'm glad someone so tastefully wrote something to bring them back to earth.

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R_Yell
R_Yell

Execution is the main thing in game creation, great ideas turn into poor games easily, I agree completely. However there's still needed a good idea to begin with, and they are rare.

BTW, I find funny the phrase "nobody is going to steal your idea" when this industry is about copy/clone/evolve gameplay concepts found in public domain. The better is the idea, the more chances it's being used by someone else. And IFAIK, you can't even protect legally gameplay concepts. You can copyright characters, art, story, but not the main thing which is something I don't understand at all.

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dandi8
dandi8

Sony just patented a system that could potentially recognize if someone is smiling. You can protect everything. You just gotta register a patent for your idea ;)

And I doubt this article will help much as in make people be less 'protective'. It's just a well done dev rant ;)

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R_Yell
R_Yell

No well, I think I didn't explained it correctly. Let's say someone wants to do a Halo clone, I mean the exact gameplay mechanics, they just would need to change the story/characters/art to avoid legal issues. A real world example: I remember a korean game announced not so long ago with many similarities to TF2.

I don't think you can copyright some features in such cases because they are hard to define or catalog I guess, how to tell if a specific gameplay mechanic is original or not in first place.

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Text_Fish
Text_Fish

R_Yell, Broadly speaking, Halo is a generic FPS and TF2 is a generic team-based multi-player FPS, but both of them have smaller, more individual aspects that make them what they are as a whole. TF2 is a gray area because it started out as a mod and has appeared in multiple guises for years, but if a company were to remake Halo and the only difference were to be the nomenclature then I believe there would be the potential for a lawsuit.

What it often comes down to in the end is whether the 'remake' is a tribute/parody that actually favours/compliments the original or whether it's a rip-off that is trying to draw interest away from the original.

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Text_Fish
Text_Fish

Interesting article. I agree that a prospective games developer needs more than just an imagination [if nothing else, to ensure that their precious idea gets accurately realized], but I think you've unintentionally highlighted a more grievous error on these peoples parts -- that what they think are "game ideas" are in reality just a little backstory with the vague promise of some interactive entertainment after the initial cutscene. A good game idea should probably be 10% backstory and 90% interesting gameplay mechanics/details about how it will work and what the player will get out of it.

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DOLBYdigital
DOLBYdigital

Great article and its something I notice about many creative areas of life. People tend to hold their ideas as special and to themselves especially if they feel like someone else may take that idea, use it, and get credit for it.

I have to admit that I am guilty of this with my music. I don't like playing my music for people until I have it nailed down. Mainly because it does bother me when someone copies a riff or melody I made and makes a song out of it. If I have it nailed down in an 'unofficial' song though I feel like I can let it go because I have it recorded.
I know I'm crazy ;)

I should dig up all my old writings on game ideas and update them with some new ideas... Would be a good mental exercise if nothing else

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ATIXIUM
ATIXIUM

You forgot to mention dedication :P But I'm sticking with a community idea, it's better to have opinions from a large audience than to keep the idea to yourself -_- as they can find flaws in your concept

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CoHach
CoHach

I think if everyone just compared how many ideas for games/mods they had to how many games/mod they have released they would understand this easier.

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AlexCrafter
AlexCrafter

I'm weird, I've decided I want to just map and have someone else come up with ideas, I'll work with the details, let someone else take care of the larger concept.

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Dra6o0n
Dra6o0n

When he said 10% idea and 90% execution, Ideas doesn't always represent STORY!

People keep confusing ideas to story, content, etc. and thinks that too much "idea" or "content" may break the game development...

There are basically 2 kinds of development:
1) Moderately paced but provides new contents and updates at times, Slow start but can develop neat content over the period of time... And no rushing the developer when this is decided. MMO uses this.

2) Fast paced and uses the method most group use to create a game, all the ideas are rolled into one game and is released at a deadline. Can have addons in the shape of DLCs and Updates, but very slow. Console/PC gaming uses this.

#1 usually have beta testing thus they get more time to work on developing it's contents, while #2 is usually mandatory and has a deadline. Both has different risks...

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dandi8
dandi8

We're not the one that confused ideas with story. Story is presented as the ultimate example to ideas in this article ;) Also the 'idea' of how the game works is in many cases largely dependent on what the story is like.

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salem5
salem5

I am going to steal "TELEPORTATION ERROR 354" now ;)
Me beeing an aspiring gamedesigner, caught myself writing as my Design-Documents footline something like "Not for Non-illegal sheep production-personell" XD
I think its very much an existencial thing, with talented Artists (Programmer,Musictech.,Artists) beside one. Everyone can deliver an idea for a game, so you're automaticly treasure one you find exceptionally good.

All in all, comming up with an idea is the easiest part and everyone can do that. Writing it down for others than you and igniting your teams motivation, modifying it as development goes on and still keeping what's supposed to make fun until the game has a bigger number than zero prior the dot, that is the real deal. And THAT can't be done by everyone, with many games not making it to the end or a lot beeing "Fun as a conzept, but failing in execution".

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Sph!nx
Sph!nx

That was a nice read!

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