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The Budget Game Designer

How to Create a Game: The Idea Process

If you ask people about this part of their journey, you will get a lot of mixed answers.

There are those that want to reinvent a game. They know the mechanics to run the game, but not what world to create or what story they want to tell.

Then there are those that decide after watching “Game of Thrones”, they are going to create the greatest fantasy game ever seen, but don’t know where to start.

Sadly, I was neither of these people.

I was a third kid, who created his own stories in video games, never finishing a game I bought. I would design new decks in popular TCG’s my friends would play, rather than invest in collecting and playing myself.

Well what do you know? One day it hit me. I had created numerous stories for games in my head and had designed new mechanics over and over again for some of the most popular games.

Why don’t I just make my own game…? And the next day the process began.

I don’t know which of the above you are, but that’s for you to know, and me to figure out as we go.

Which brings us to the true reason you are here, you want to know how to create the best new idea ever. If I knew how to do that, you would see a big Dieselator Games sign up by Apple.

Something to work towards.

Starting out you need to figure out either the theme or mechanics of the game. In the gaming world I have found this to be the chicken or the egg argument of which came first. Many people have to create one before the other and are not able to reverse the process. You will want to loosely design one before moving to the other though, to give yourself a foundation to build from.

Since I am the writer, we will do it my way.

For me, theme is always first. I like to think of myself as a storyteller -not a good one- but a teller of stories all the same.

The best part about the theme is there are unlimited possibilities.

What are you interested in?

Do you like the past, present, or future?

Fiction or nonfiction?

What excites you? History? Fantasy? Travel? Cats? Anything will work.

Just start piecing together the things you love and that is your new theme. Maybe you said “I like past and future equally, a fictional world, and my favorite thing in this planet is food.”

You have just created the theme of your dreams. Race through time and space as you work to create the greatest restaurant known to this galaxy, creating new locations and customers depending on the year or world you are currently in… there is your game.

Sounds a little crazy, but crazy works. Standing out is hard when you use a common theme like space or medieval- everyone has done it. That does not mean you can’t do it too, but your mechanics will have to do more of the standing out to make your game unique.

Either way, don’t sit back and say you’re waiting for the perfect idea. Any idea can fill that space once you get up and start.

I didn’t have a name for the game at the beginning, but the theme was created years ago, through writing I had done and had hidden away on a computer never to be found again. This half of the design process is what made creating a game worth it to me.

The rest is my true love-hate relationship: development of mechanics. This is how your game is going to function. The nuts and bolts of the project.

What type of games do you love to play, or what can you make better? Collectible cards? Party games? War and strategy games? Memory and puzzles? Maybe you are going to create a new style all together.

Remember, you never want to steal others ideas, but always look at other games that you can gain inspiration from. A great quote by W. H. Davenport Adams says it all:

“To imitate was commendable, but to steal was unworthy.”

You should always use whatever you can find to create better content. Don’t think of that as cheating, it’s the only way to improve what has already been made.

Another thing I have found is it is easier to add too much to the game at first, and as you try to play it, figure out what parts work and what things can be removed. I had to change many more concepts to add a new rule in than I did to take something out, but that is just how it worked for me.

You will have to play around with everything much more than you thought was possible. Eventually a remarkable feeling will hit you that makes everything worth it. You start to see it all come together, if only for a moment.

Cherish that moment. When you get to play tests with other people, all of that goes to hell. That's important though, you want the input. Remember to always consider the criticism you receive and decide for yourself what works.

Now it’s your turn. Write down ideas that you find interesting. If you start on one, even just for fun with your friends, I think you will be happily surprised at the outcome.

With that I’ll say goodbye. I hope to hear from you guys about ideas you’ve started before my next post. If you have any questions for me you know where to look. I would love to help in any way I can.

Talk to you guys soon!

Written by
Joe Rozier
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