Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Let's Make a Game! - Part 1: Ideas, Man

I'm going to mix it up this week. Instead of talking about professional games that already exist, we're going to peer inside the head of a game designer as they actually work. I've been 'volunteered' as a live test subject for this experiment. We'll follow the train of thought that takes place to get from an idea to a game.

It's full of delicious ideas!

The first step is to sit down and have an idea. This can often be the hardest step. You've got to think of an interesting character, a cool setting or a new way to play. Many ideas won't even make it past this first step, but it's important to write down everything you think of. If you don't use that awesome Gorilla-with-a-Jetpack idea in this game, it might fit in something else.

Or maybe your idea is simply to improve on something that you've already seen. Far from plagiarising, this is actually a fairly common fact of game design. Everyone can make games about soldiers and guns, but what if you were a firefighter and your gun was a firehose? Innovating and building upon existing ideas can be just as valid and important as (and often easier than) coming up with something completely new. The trick is to emphasise what makes this game unique, not what makes it just like everything else.

We're going to start with an idea from a book. One of the benefits that comes from teaching game design is that it's so easy to tie in whichever fantasy book your class is currently reading. We'll take The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Take a moment and try to think back to what happens. What exciting things happen to the main characters? What difficult things befall them? What choices do they have to make?

Remember when Lucy gets lost in snow-covered Narnia and has to find her way back to the street lamp that serves as the signpost back to the wardrobe? Or how about when Edward has to escape from the White Witch after she tricked him into coming back to her castle with the promises of power and turkish delight?

It's full of delicious power!

What other exciting events happened in the book?

Once we've found a couple of cool story ideas you've got to stop and ask yourself a question. "It was exciting when I was reading about this, but how would it feel if this was really happening to me?" This is the key distinction between a book and a game. In a book, the reader is rarely a character in the book, rather they are a detached observer. In a game, the player is the star. They are front and centre when things go well and when disaster strikes.

When the player feels scared it's because there's scary things in front of them. When they feel victorious it's because they've struggled and succeeded against difficult puzzles and obstacles. Emotions are very personal for the player. How would you feel if you were lost in Narnia hunting for the lamppost? How would you feel if you had been tricked and kidnapped by the evil White Witch?

You want your player to feel exactly like that.

But that's enough for this week. We'll start next week with a pile of good ideas that are ready to be poked and prodded into something resembling a game.

Stay Tuned!


No comments:

Post a Comment