Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How to Brainstorm

When I was a little kid (well, relatively speaking, I'm still young) I subscribed to a silly romantic theory that I myself created. I thought that ideas for games would just come to me. I would lay down in my bed, put on some Pink Floyd, and think abstract, crazy thoughts, thinking some awesome game idea would come to me.

Obviously, that was ridiculous.

Here are some suggestions to help you create and organize your ideas- things that I've learned over time, and I obviously still have a ton to learn (so please leave comments on what you do to brainstorm!)

1. Start a game-idea journal!
I use a Word document for this. You could use an actual notebook, a chalkboard, or anything for your idea journal. I have a format that all of my entires follow (I like to be organized) but you don't have to be like that. The point of the journal is to make sure all of your ideas end up being recorded somehow. Additionally, it's important to have a sort of library for ideas, a place where you can come back to and your past ideas.

2. Come up with a chunk of ideas at a time.
I have a decent amount of ideas in my game idea journal. Around 50% of those ideas are from one day. It wasn't that I was in the perfect mood to make ideas, it was just that I forced myself to keep writing stuff down. I just kept writing idea after idea on that one day. It was exhausting, and some ideas were crap. However, I had some keepers, including the idea for Leap of Faith.

3. Start with a genre.
They always say to make the games you want to make- your ideas should belong to genres that you like. A large majority of my games are platformers. So most of my ideas are platformers. This is something that you can't just go back and change, so it's very important. Sometimes I combine genres, so go crazy with that kind of thing. After all, this is supposed to be fun.

4. Decide on a graphic style.
This is important because if you choose a retro, uber-pixelated style, then you are already picking what kind of people will play the game (awesome people! But sometimes you need to get losers to play your game too). If you pick an uber-realistic style, then you are choosing a different following. So think about this when you're choosing the graphic style- "who do I want to play my game?"

5. Come up with a tag-line, or a gimmick.
You are being held at gunpoint by a big publishing company. They want your best game idea or you'll die. Do you think it would be smart to give them a giant summary? No. You'd say something like "Italian plumber jumps and breaks stuff and saves a princess," or "partially eaten pizza is being chased by ghosts and picks up dots." Bad examples, but... point is, you need a simple gimmick that will create hype for the game and separate it from the pack.

6. Write a large description of the gameplay.
If you want to make the plot before you write the gameplay, go to step 7 before you do this step.
Explain the gameplay so someone could get a complete understanding of it. Be clear and precise, and make sure that it's good enough to be shared.

7. Write a large description of the plot.
If you want to make the plot before you write up the gameplay, go back to step 6 after this.
Not much to say here- just write a plot description.

8. Make a name.
For me, this is the last step, but for you it could even be the first. I just suck at making names. The good thing about it is that you can get a name from the gimmick, gameplay, and plot. You could even name it after the main character. So there's a lot of room to do something cool here. But there's also the chance that you make a bad name that just flops. And I've done that many times before.

Well, there you have it. That's how I brainstorm... I'm all about being organized. I've come a long way from sitting in my bed, listening to Dark Side of the Moon (or Meddle) and waiting for the next great game to pop into my head.

Thanks for reading.

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