This article is part of the ongoing series, “Our Ship It Journal”. Written by the team directly involved, the series looks at the full, uncut journey of creating an independent game studio.
Every game begins with an idea. And as the Dual Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling was truly saying, the best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of them.
But remember, everybody knows nothing happens with just the "good enough" level, therefore you want your idea to be great.
Where do you get your ideas?
From everywhere! As rule of thumb, nothing is completely original. Every new idea is just a mix of previous ideas.
All creative work builds on what came before, so stop trying to make something out of nothing and start fuelling your imagination. Feed on old games, new games, indie or AAA games, movies, books, history, sunshines, clouds and dreams. Everything that resonates with inspiration. In the end, mix them in the game you want to play.
How to run an effective brainstorming?
While there are never-ending discussions around the best brainstorming techniques, it’s important to remember that you don’t need a fancy process to generate ideas. Focus more on creativity and less on tools, as they may be around today and be gone by tomorrow.
For our first game, we set the goal to gather 99 ideas. We felt the traditional brainstorming as being annoying and too rigid—spending hours in a meeting, assuming that everyone is set in creative mode, at the same time, doesn’t really work in reality.
So we decided that, for about a week or so, we would individually write down all of our ideas. We used Candor, a very nice web app, to record all of our thoughts before discussing them in the group. It was all that we needed.
And it really worked! It gave everyone more time to think over their ideas and proved to be more effective to think before hearing anyone else’s point of view. This helped us to boost idea diversity and eliminate the anchoring effect of being unconsciously influenced by the first ideas presented.
Turning fantasies into reality
Having 99 ideas to choose from, the next step was to embrace creativity one more time.
We got inspired by Disney's Creative Strategy, a tool for creative thinking that was inspired by Walt Disney's ability to explore creativity and convert ideas into reality. According to a close associate “there were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler. You never knew which one was coming to the meeting.”
The model is based on three stages. In each stage the team would take on a specific role and approach the process of generating ideas from the vantage point of the dreamer, the realist and the critic.
1. The Dreamer
In this first stage the team focuses on describing the ideas through questions such as::
- What are you trying to make or achieve?
- What excites and inspires you about it?
- If you could wave a magic wand and do anything you like, what would you create? How would it look? What could you do with it? How would that make you feel?
2. The Realist
This stage includes questions like:
- What resources do you need to make this happen—people, money, materials, what about technology?
- What’s the plan?
- What obstacles will you need to face? How will you get around them?
3. The Critic
In this stage, the team asks this type of questions:
- How does this look? What about the big picture? And the fine details? How do I feel when I examine it?
- How would it look to an user? A member of the audience? How about to an expert in this field?
- Is this the best we can do? Are there other ways we could make it better?
One Last Thing (Spoiler Alert!)
One of the challenges you will face with most of these ideas is figuring out how to filter them out. Some will be good, but most won’t.
In the next blog post (9 Questions To Challenge Your Game Idea) we will share some useful techniques we learned for filtering good ideas from the bad.