“Ideas represent one tiny percentage of your game. It’s not the core. It’s only a spark—a source of motivation to make you sit down and work in front of your computer.” -Lach, Co-Founder of Berzerk Studio
Your game idea is terrible. However, everyone’s game ideas are terrible, so that’s perfectly okay. Stop wasting your time needlessly hoarding your game ideas, or waste hours of your life writing 100 pages of design documents. Just sit down, start working on your game, and learn from the process.
A game is simply just not playable until it is put into action, and thus is inherently worthless in it’s design document form. No matter how carefully crafted your documentation may be, there are a myriad of reasons why your brilliant idea can fail when it comes to execution. Some of these possible reasons could be lack of technical skill, not enough budget, time constraints, lack of personal motivation, poorly thought out or balanced game mechanics, or a host of other issues that you will undoubtedly run into when you start the process of getting to work on a game.
A game developer’s goal is to design a satisfying game experience, and even assuming the most basic mechanics possible, the execution of this design can be derailed at many points in the development cycle. The design must translate his idea through the minds of everyone else who has touched the project, and who will have many different ideas regarding what’s feasible within the given scope of the project. A design document does not hold a candle to the months and years of hard work required to complete a game, no matter how intricately designed the document.
If a game is successfully shipped, it’s thanks to the effort of the entire development team as a whole.
This involves navigating through the ungodly amount of programming and debugging work, insane hours of refining art, writing, quality assurance, music production, voice acting, trailer production, dealing with countless man-hours of marketing, figuring out the logistics of running a synchronized skeleton crew. The game idea? Sure it can be used as a catalyst to get the work done, but the actual development process will more often than not shred apart the initial idea, as the logistics behind creating and releasing a game that is fun and polished will interfere with the design documentation that was written before the actual development process.
The notion that a game idea is valuable and must be cherished before the prototype stage is amazingly out of touch with the oftentimes grueling development process. Many fledgling game designers have a similar notion of: “I have this amazing idea. It’s absolutely brilliant and will sell hundreds of thousands of copies and make me rich. I want to onboard a team to make this game for me with a revenue share model. I’m scared that people may steal my game idea and get rich off of it.”
The honest truth? No one will ever steal your game idea. You don’t need to worry about your precious game idea ever being stolen because even if someone did take it, they’d still have to spend countless hours building it, fine tuning it’s gameplay, figure out a path to market it, then spend countless more hours polishing it to the point where it’s suitable for release. By the time this happens, it would most likely be dramatically different than the initial idea, as it is inherently impossible to design a complete and perfect game on paper without putting in the hours and getting into the meat and potatoes of development.
Don’t get me wrong, without game ideas there wouldn’t be any games. However, the game idea itself is a microscopic part of the entire game development process, and should be treated as such.
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