How to come up with that great Game idea & the resources that we use to inspire us. Looking at the world around you, using the App Store for inspiration, TV & Films, online resources. This is one of the lessons taken from our Platinum standard foundation course available to all Academy members.
- Looking at the World Around You ( 0.33 )
- Using the App Store for Inspiration ( 1.53 )
- Television / Films ( 2.37 )
- Online Resources ( 3.45 )
Ideas & Prototyping
It can be in the strangest places where game ideas can come from, and every morning Jilly and I will take about an hours walk around the local lake. Although we generally talk about the schedule for that day, many game ideas have come from simply taking ourselves out of the office, and getting out and about.
The World Around You
You’d be surprised at how much you can absorb just by being in a different environment. I recently spoke at Carter Thomas’s Bluecloud Live Event in Amsterdam, and just four days before I was due to leave, Jilly realised my passport was out of date, oops! Thanks Jilly!
So as I made my way to the emergency passport office, I arrived at Westminster, London, by train. The architecture in the underground tube station was incredible and immediately caught my eye, and instantly a game was conceived in my head.
This is just one example of how different environments can spark such an idea.
As I stood taking in this unfamiliar location, my mind wandered into game mode. I was getting my fair share of strange and funny looks, but I didn’t care, as a game designer, training your brain to see opportunities in the world around you, can be highly beneficial. Looking at the pipe structures, steelwork and cubby holes I could imagine a character running across these, maybe dodging bullets, jumping obstacles and leaping from escalators. Of course this was just a seed of an idea, but an idea none the less. There are literally dozens of these moments that happen every single day, if you choose to identify them.
Landscape Vs Portrait
Another great strategy for improving your game ideas is to simply download some of the top Games In the App Store, and draw inspiration from them.
What’s a favourite game you’re playing at the moment? Have you ever tried turning the screen on it its side? For instance if it’s landscape game, try turning it to portrait. Just seeing the mechanics in a different way can be enough to spawn something new.Another great strategy for improving your game ideas is to simply download some of the top Games In the App Store, and draw inspiration from them.
Whilst this can be very effective, it’s also incredibly difficult not to simply end up copy an existing game, your job here is to find the mechanic that you can modify and make your own.
By garnering inspiration from other sources first, you can create a hybrid of some of the popular successful games in the App Store, and fuse them together to create something unique and commercially proven.
Inspiration can also come from television and especially films. I can’t say how many times I’ve been watching a sci-fi film where just a small subsection of the movie could potentially be turned into a game itself.
Most of the famous blockbusters are usually incredibly high budget projects and are visually Epic experiences. These are designed by world class set designers and production teams, and we can learn a lot by studying these award winning film makers.
Such inspiring moments can manifest themselves literally infinite times and in many different scenarios and spawn new ideas if you train your brain to look for this.
Often browsing Google images can also be a quick way to identify classic film moments and iconic scenes. As I was putting this lesson together I did a quick search for Matte Paintings and Concept Art. There are literally 1000’s and here’s just one that caught my eye. It’s a very cool Sci-fi scene of what could be a skyscraper with some people looking out onto a futuristic city.
I took a quick screen grab and overlaid my concept idea directly into photoshop. I think there’s a decent idea here and will definitely work some more on this.
Online Gaming Sites
We also often look at online gaming sites to see if we can touch upon any unique gameplay mechanics, or stumble across games from the past.
Sites like GameJolt.com are often packed with unique game mechanics, and although they’re usually little more than rough demos with poor graphics, you can often find a few gems on there.
itch.io is another similar site dedicated to the indie community but the quality is far superior.
You’ll probably recognise some of the games on here, and the sites popularity and constant evolution, continues to make this a great source of inspiration with regular updates.
Game Jam Videos can also reveal some interesting ideas and you can find a ton of these on Youtube. Just type in ‘Game Jams’ into Google and plenty of videos both old and new will appear. These can definitely be worth a watch. It must be said there’s an awful of rubbish in these, but just occasionally, they may spark your imagination and uncover a strange type of gameplay.
In general, there is no particular quick way to surf through these sites, however if you are stuck for ideas I’d recommend spending some research time on these. Every once in awhile we will stumble across something that we can flesh out and start to prototype.
Once we have got that seed of an idea, we usually start sketching, be it in our sketchbooks, or on a white board. Our sketchbooks can also be an awesome resource when ideas are a little thin on the ground.
Browsing old sketches with fresh eyes, or even sometimes looking at rough drawings and scribbles upside down or back to front, can be enough to ignite an idea.
One of the other successful ways for us however, is to just dive straight into Buildbox.com, with maybe just a small idea that we’ve been thinking on.
Many times whilst trying to create a particular function for a game, or by making a character move in a certain way, we’ll do something by mistake, and this can create one of those lucky, happy accidents and take the project in a completely different direction. By having such a fluid and organic development process, prototyping based on one of our existing games can be a great way to form ideas.
Much like ‘writers block’ is a well-known phrase in the world of writing, in terms of game development we refer to this as “blank screen syndrome”. Of course we still have our days like everyone, but using a combination of the techniques above, we have now for the most part eliminated this “blank screen syndrome”.
If you are ever truly stuck and nothing seems to be happening, get your self out and about, go watch a film or even take a shower. Usually some of our best ideas come when you’re not consciously thinking about games at all.
- Looking at the world around you and how you can draw ideas from your environment.
- Using the App Store for Inspiration, by simply playing successful games and thinking about how by just tweaking and twisting the gameplay, you can create something fresh and new.
- Television & Films, especially of the science fiction and fantasy genre, are huge resources to draw from once you can see through your game makers eyes.
- How Online Resources such as GameJolt.com, itch.io and Game Jam Videos, often contain weird and wonderful new mechanics, which can be the foundation and starting blocks to your new game.
• Get out into the world
Go for an hours walk in an unfamiliar place, ideally a nature spot of some description. Be really present in the environment. Look out for any shapes, patterns, or movement around you.
Some examples could be a reflection in water, or the way the light hits an object. It could be a shape in the trees or clouds, or just like when I was travelling and noticed the architecture around me. Take your phone to capture a picture, or ideally a notepad, to record a quick sketch. It doesn’t matter how badly drawn it is, but by physically jotting these down, it really starts to build your “little treasure book of ideas”.
• Watch a Fantasy or Sci-fi Film
If you have a favourite Science Fiction or Fantasy film, then load that up and watch it through your new game makers eyes. Just like when going for your walk, and as you saw in the examples I gave, look out for scenes and moments that are interesting to you. Keep your sketchbook to hand or take a photo of your screen.
• Visit GameJolt & iTch.io
Head over to these sites and start browsing around. Bookmark anything that catches your eye, be it a gameplay mechanic or art style. See if by fusing 2 or more of these games, you can create something unique and fun. Remember, do not simply copy, all these exercises are designed to start building your creativity.