The Key to Design – Part 2) Innovation

31 10 2009

Innovation is an important thing in the Indie world, without it games become stale and boring. The problem is though how do you innovate, how do you be original and come up with a £1,000,000 idea? The answer is no amount of conscious thought can come up with that £1,000,000. You just can’t force creativity, but there’s some things you can do to help.

  1. Get inspired – People nowadays have this problem where they never get inspired, they just sit staring at a blank computer screen willing it to make a game. Without inspiration there is no creativity. So what inspires you? if you don’t know then think about where is the best place you get ideas from or what do you get ideas from. My answer would probably be taking a walk in the countryside with my dog. With the time to think and nature around me I can come up with some killer ideas, some of them never see the light of day but others do. So whatever inspires you, it may be music, art, nature etc. As long as it’s creative it can be used to inspire. One thing to remember though is; set yourself limits, you probably won’t get inspired by watching endless Mario parodies and eating Dorito’s.

    Un-inspirational: It's been done before!!!

  2. Make a creative environment –  You need somewhere where you can express ideas and be creative. Without it’s very hard to come up with ideas. For example nobody has ever come up with a world changing decision while sitting in a swivel chair. You need creativity around you, maybe some friends to bounce ideas off, or a place you can just think and be yourself.
  3. Experimentation – The definition of insanity is “someone who always does the same thing and expects different results each time.” In the same way you will never come up with anything new if you never try anything new. Experiment with styles, ideas and objects. Try out new gadgets and items because you never know what will inspire you. Go out with new people and get a new haircut. Just do something to get out of that rut of uncreativity. (Is that a real word).
  4. Borrow – Borrow ideas from other places, people and things. If you look almost everything that has ever been made is a replica of something in nature. Houses are no more than classy caves, trees are like umbrellas and computers are like a brain. Do not be afraid to borrow ideas, if someone has made a game with an original idea but it sucks you could always remake it. (Asking for their permission would be the nice thing to do, but it almost never happens). Be on the lookout for things to help you create good games and never stop looking. For there’s always some new technology to adapt be it iPhones, open source engines or an idea. Borrow.
  5. Don’t ask people – People are nice but when it comes to it they spew out some of the most random crap. Henry Ford the founder of Ford Motor Company once said that “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse”. People don’t generally know what they want, ask people for opinions but never totally discard ideas just because someone says it’s crap.

And that is the start to innovation. Now the ideas are up to you.

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The Key to Design: Simplicity – Part 1) Games

26 10 2009

In ‘The Key to Design’ series I’m going to be investigating what makes a killer design. The first key I’m going to discuss is simplicity.

Simplicity in games is what can either make or break a game. When people open up a game they do not want to drown under masses of instructions of how to jump, how to double jump, how to triple mega, super-duper, ultra jump while doing a backflip. You get the idea. People want a game not just to be fun, but to be able to get the hang of in a few short moments. I’m not saying to cut out everything, just ease people in. And here’s how:

  1. The introduction. – A games introduction is one of the most important things about it. An intro normally consists of a menu with a few buttons. This kind of introduction is a good one because if I can either choose between “Play”, “Options” and “More Games” then I’m obviously going to choose play. I mean I could choose “Options” but if I haven’t played yet then I don’t even know if I want to change anything. Or if I could choose “More Games” but I haven’t even played this game yet, never-mind others. So I’m going to play the game. If on the other hand I’m introduced to a menu that gives me options of “Play Blitz Mode”, “Play Mega Mode”, “Play Another Mode Which Will Waste Your Time” etc. then I’m not going to know what to pick and likeliness is I won’t enjoy it as much because I’ll pick the wrong mode to start with. The best way to get around this problem is to have a “More” menu where advanced users can play all their fidgety modes. An example of a good menu design is in the game “Spewer”. It has a lot of depth to the game but in order to find all those extra-options I need to access the pause menu in game, which if I’m enjoying the game, won’t find too long to find.
    Spewer Menu

    Spewer Menu

     

  2. The gameplay. – The gameplay is what makes a game. If game play isn’t right then the game probably isn’t going anywhere. Now one of the easiest ways to go wrong in gameplay is being too complicated. Certain games such as RPG’s and Strategy games need a lot of depth, but to be honest your “Asteroids” clone does not need 132 types of enemy’s with 100 different weapons. When it comes to most games too much complexity can kill. The best games of all times such as Mario and Tetris never got much further than jumping and spinning blocks. It’s about quality, not quantity. So if you’re making a game and you do have a lot of content, go over the contents again, decide what does and doesn’t need to be there, then spread the introduction of elements out a bit so as to not overload people with info.
  3. The controls. – The controls to a game are crucial, no game needs to use more than roughly 10 buttons. For example, a,s,w,d to move. That’s 4. Then the number keys 1,2,3,4 to select weapons, that’s 8 the space to fire and p to pause. You do not need all these endless controls and moves to remember. If you have a lot of move’s in a game for example use button combinations, it’s a whole lot easier than typing in endless keys to walk in a straight line.

And that is how to start making a game simpler. The key is pruning, keep that in mind.

-Nathan