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Article - 'BoS1- Getting An Idea' by SMOPHWoD.Y

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Jul 26, 2004

Blurb

Basics of Stories 1- Mr. Y walks you through getting an idea and determining it's good!

Body

It's been awhile since I've written about the parts of a game that are all summed up as "storyline". What I want to write about in this new series is my basic approach to storywriting. Lately I've been getting more artsy-fartsy and going all over the place. In one project, Rebel Dreams, my partner Faust and I are going heavy on the characters and symbolism. In another, just titled Community Game for now, Woman and I have focused right in on humor and gameplay. However, there has always been a basic approach for me which I still rely on.

In this article, I'm just going to write about getting an idea. For a lot of people, brainstorming for the premise of a new amateur game is tough. For a lot of other people, it's easy to do, but even easier to get a rotten idea. Some folks are better with getting good ideas than others. Heck, there are amateur gamemakers who are so good that they can make a decent game out of any idea. I'd rate myself fairly well on game ideas, but I do get rotten ideas myself occasionally. What's important is that I spot most of them and throw them out before I waste my time on them.

Now, I've heard the argument before- "No idea for a game is stupid, it's up to the individual gamemakers to make good stuff out of their ideas". Well, okay, that's a fair thing to say. But it's also fair to say that some ideas are better than others, and more likely to be successful (By successful, I mean making the finished amateur game popular). The better ideas are Good, the worse ideas are Bad. Oye. Let's concentrate on eliminating the worse ideas, and making nothing but good ideas.

My first and only tip when it comes to brainstorming for a new game idea- don't brainstorm for a new game idea. If you want to make [b]a[/b] game, but haven't got an idea of what you'd like to make, dwell on it. I believe you're more likely to get a bad idea if you sit down at a desk or table and just start writing up whatever you think of at that moment.

What I recommend is to just think up and shuffle through your ideas while you're out doing things. I hope you don't spend all of every day sitting behind the keyboard, and I know most of you don't anyways. So go do some activities! I recommend just doing some hobbies that aren't very difficult or require a lot of conscious effort. For me, I enjoy reading books, riding a bicycle, driving a car, and working out (Privately, not talking with other guys). I don't talk to other people while doing this, because I keep my mind wandering on whatever I can think of. I think about people, books, television, movies, music, politics, religion... basically whatever I've seen or heard lately.

While doing this, I pull thoughts apart and put them together, imagining events and scenarios in my head. What if the United States was divided between the Democrats and Republicans and extremely polarized, and an extremely close election touched off a modern-day civil war? What if all the "end of the world" scenarios predicted by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were all fulfilled in a series of cataclysmic events? I shuffle through ideas, and either keep them or shove them out. I don't have to pick any one of them at any point- I can just keep ideas hanging around in case I'll use them later.

I have fairly bad memory, and that's why I often leave a small notepad and pencil in my car, and paper and pens around the house. Whenever I randomly think up a new idea that I really like, I write it down and try to save it for later. Just writing down things, even if you don't keep the paper, will help you memorize ideas. Also, if you have a memorized idea, you should feel more than welcome to work on it as you go. In fact, you should try to combine and mix whatever ideas you have collected in your head, and see if you can make anything you like.

The important thing is to never rush an idea. Just being patient and thinking over your idea will help you out a lot. Always move to the next step prepared, and never too soon!

But, before you do move forward with creating a game from an idea you really like... check with somebody else. As a matter of fact, check with a lot of somebody elses. I'm not saying you have to go create a topic in GW's Game Ideas forum, or you even have to prepare your idea that much beforehand. But go to your friends and privately throw the idea at them.

"Say hey, Bill! Will you listen to my idea for my game?"
"Golly, Fred, I sure would appreciate that!"
"It's a game about the end of the world and the fulfillment of prophecies from all the Jews, Christians, and Muslims!"
"Why, Fred, that idea's dumb, don't make that."

Always double-check your work with others. It's perhaps the healthiest thing you can do when making an amateur game. Try to be specific- the better you describe it, the more accurately they can help you. Also, be sure to get opinions from different groups of people, and not just one group. I re-learned this the hard way not so long ago when a D.O.P. team game, DOD:ZERO, was nearing completion, and I posted a long, proud preview topic on another forum (Which I'll leave unnamed, *cough*) to get some reactions. At D.O.P. we thought we had on our hands a hilarious piece of work, but we got an awful, awful first reaction. People thought the game sounded too silly and crappy to be fun. Had we focused too much on poor presentation for laughs?

Well, we did what you should do. We got negative criticism, and while we kinda felt like merely bulldozing through it by calling the critics idiots, flamers, or misunderstanders, we took the harsh words and worked from them. Now we plan for an extensive playthrough of the game by critics from as many gamemaking communities as possible, so they can check for bugs and bad humor. Then, we're just going to bite the bullet and fix whatever we did wrong, no matter how long it takes. Yeah, it sucks to have to go back and fix the problems you don't see. But, when you finally release the game and everyone is pleased, it is so worthwhile.

That's all for this first article. I hope not too much of the reading was rudimentary, but I'm just trying to lay a foundation for the newest gamemakers so they understand my later articles in this series. Thanks for reading, sahs!