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How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

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Anonymous

Hello all, first post here so please go easy. :)

I've pretty much played games my whole life since childhood, whether it be sports, boardgames, or video/pc games. Now at the tender age of 34, I'm fairly tired of my trend, which is to brainstorm some really neat ideas or themes(to me, at least), and then after a couple weeks I'll drop my ideas and moving on to something else. I do this with pretty much all of my creative talents, pencilling, writing, creating. I'm a dreamer, and up to this point, it's about all I've done.

Any of you like that, or have a history like that that maybe you've shaken? I still feel like a kid in some fashion; even though I've been married for 10 years, have two wonderful kids, I get the impression that other people think of me like that, you know? That dreamer, the guy who does 'kid stuff', the guy who hasn't really done anything.

I'd be interested in seeing responses. I'd like to be able to complete some of these things that I start.

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

Hello Wulfen and welcome to the boards.

Your problem sounds familiar. I'm als more of a dreamer who likes to linger in the brainstorm phase than someone who gets his act to gether and finishes things. I do have "finished" a few designs, though. Here are some things that helped me:

Make prototyping easy for yourself. After the brainstorm phase, prototyping is the next step. I don't like prototyping a lot, yet it is something that has to be done to be able to finish a game. I learned how to use various graphic tools on the computer, so that I can easily make and print out tiles and custom cards. I got myself all kinds of prototyping material such as colored paper, dice, cardboard, card sleeves, spray adhesive and various wooden bits. There's nothing more frustrating than coming up with an idea and not having the appropriate bits to put a prototype together, so make sure you have all the material you might need before you get an idea for a game.

Write down the ideas. I found it helpful to write down the game ideas I have. It's a nice idea to start a journal here. Putting it into words makes an idea more concrete and makes it easier to weed out the bad ideas from the good. Let the ideas marinate for a while. After a time it's easier to see which ideas will actually work, and which ideas won't.

Team up with someone. Work on the game with a friend. You can keep eachother motivated and nag eachother to actually get the thing going. This has worked great for me in the past, to get my first design "done". If you are the "thinker" it's a good idea to team up with a "do-er".

Keep it simple. I noticed that often the first design of a lot of novice designers is very ambitious. They want to make the next Puerto Rico, Civilization or World in Flames on their first try. It's much easier to start off with simple, one mechanic games and see how that works, rather than taking the plunge into the deep right away. It's also much easier prototyping and playtesting a game using a set of standard cards, than a game with all kinds of custom made bits.

I hope this advice will help you some. Good luck!

nickdanger
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How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

I think quite a few people fall into that "dreamer" trap. Let's face it, that's the easy part of game design and the part that pulls a lot of wannabe game designers in. It's doesn't take a lot of work to watch a show, read a comic, or have some other experience and thinkj "Wow, that would be a cool idea for a game!"

The hard part (also the fun part for most of us) is taking that inspiration and actually turning it into a working design. I also think this is one of the traps of thinking about game design in terms of theme first. A position that many will probably take issue with. To me, thinking up ideas or themes to a game doesn't take much work or creativity (looks around for flying objects heading my way).

To get past the freamer phase, start dreaming about game mechanisms. When you have something in mind that seems to work in theory you'll most likely have no trouble finding the motivation in cranking out some type of protype to see if your idea indeed works. I know for myself, I never get any motivation from a theme idea, but if an idea for a game mechanicism hits me I'm at the computer or scribbling in my notepad in no time working out the details.

--
Nick

MattMiller
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How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

One thing that cracked this problem for me was to simply start getting up extremely early in the morning to work on whatever project I'd chosen. I found I'd work very hard on the project because, if I didn't, then I got out of bed at 4:00am or 5:00am for nothing!

'Course, some people can't function in the morning, so this might not work for them. But I think if you make some serious effort to set aside a period of time each day for your project, you'll find yourself doing something constructive in that time.

Good luck!

-- Matt

Anonymous
How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

All good suggestions, thanks for the replies.

I'm currently working on a futuristic sport-type game, once I get a bit more down I'll see what you all think of it.

zobmie
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Joined: 12/31/1969
How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

Wulfen

I am in the same boat as you.

I've come up with about 3 playable game designs, and as soon as ive got them to the point where i could start manufacturing, prototyping, and possibly selling i come up with another idea that i will obsess over. I lose interest in what i am working on, not because i dont like it, just because the new idea is more shiny and new.

hopefully i'll dig all those old boards, pieces, and cards out of the closet someday and actually finish what i've started.

Anonymous
Ditto

Basically what everyone else has been saying, I found the same thing for me as both an aspiring writer and game designer. Pick smaller, simpler ideas and force yourself to flesh them out. Just start writing rules. Even if it's horrible. Write out the game objective, and the structure of turns. Start writing up the cards in a simple table in your word processing program of choice.

Also, I'm learning to pay attention to successful games. What are common mechanisms? There are some common 'patterns' (to use a programming term) that can be abstracted from good games. Such as:

*Make the game a mix of luck and strategy. Someone experienced with the game should do better, but a beginner should still have a shot

*Easy instructions. I should be able to skim them in less than five minutes and start playing (consulting them when I need more)

There are also components (dice, boards, cards, limited 'budgets' of items like gold or health, etc.) that can serve as a 'toolkit' to build your game from.

Best of luck!

HRPuffenstuf
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Joined: 12/31/1969
the next step

I decided to tell my network of friends that I was planning on making a game and I intended to see it through. I have now brought "outsiders" into the mix which will mean I'm nothing more than a talker if I don't see it through. I was ready anyway: however, this is my "peer pressure" that will make me focus and hopefully realize one dream instead of accomplishing nothing with many dreams.

HR Puff

DSfan
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Joined: 12/31/1969
How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

I have always been more of a dreamer than really a do-er, coming up with designs all the time (As most people can tell you on this board :wink:) and never finishing them.

Right now I have one major idea, that I am trying to improve on a day-to-day basis, and even getting people to playtest for me. But when a new design stikes, as Darrowmere did (read my journal, Darrowmere: A Strategy game) I work on that, throwing my other design "into the closet" and taking breaks. (I also am not very persistant/patient, I blame being 13 for that)

Which what I think helps me. Breaks leave the game alone to marinate for awhile, so that when I come back it will be tasty! (Fresh)

Another thing that helps me is that I want to be an Architect when I get older, I think designing different board games will help me to become one, as you design (Draw layouts... I do at least :wink:) and find out what will, and won't work (This beam won't hold up this part, relating to This mechanic doesn't work well)

Now Hungry for something marinated, (Steak?)
-Justin

HRPuffenstuf
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dsfan

Justin,

I thought you were 13 the other day. did you have a Birthday or is the hormonal changes making you already forget your age? :)

HR Puff

DSfan
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How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

HRPuffenstuf wrote:
I thought you were 13 the other day. Did you have a Birthday or is the hormonal changes making you already forget your age? :)

No birthday. It must be those hormones like you said or all those videos are messing with my head...

Is it to early for me to say "I'm getting to old for this" ;)
-Justin

Zzzzz
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How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

First off I would never force a design. There may be times when putting a game to the side is best choice. As with most creative projects, you cannot force creativity. But of course you can always go back to designing a game that you still have sitting on the shelf.

But with that said, I do have a list that I try to stick to when designing a new game.

Create Rules Rough Draft
Make a rough draft (or a couple of rough drafts) to get the basic rules and ideas down. During this phase I consider goals, mechanic and theme. I also try to think about how these 3 things work togther as part of my design process.

Create a Rough Prototype
Make a playable prototype. No it does not have to be that one great prototype, just something that will allow me (and friends) to give it those first few test drives. During this phase I think about how the various components of the game support the goals, mehcanics and theme. This often gives me insight into potential problems and I go back and modify the rough draft of the rules.

Seek out competitions/GDW submission
Once you have an idea and some basic rules down. Go find a contest or request a submission into the BGDF GDW. I always seem to get past the hump of my design/protyping when I have a deadline. Once i put myself into this type of situation I head to the next item on my list of todos.

Create Polished Rules Document
At this point if the game survived the random prototype testing, I will sit down with various notes i jotted down during the playtest sessions and attempt to create a polished rules document.

Create usable prototype
I now go through the process of making a decent prototype[s] that can be used by additional playtesting sessions. The major reason for creating a better prototype, blind playtesting.

More playtest and blind playtesting
Start the never edning playtest/blind playtesting sessions. For a while just play the game. Hopefully no major changes are needed, if changes are needed, make them.

I guess what I am getting at, structure seems to help me get things done. I think if I do not have a structured schedule/list of what I am trying to accomplish, I drift. Drifting is bad, not to mention RL tends to interrupt the schedule, often!

Anonymous
How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

I have that exact same problem, and it carries over into almost everything I do. In fact, I've even had the problem with attending this website!

I have a lot of interests, and what usually happens to me is I get really fired up about something (a game idea, a game I want to run, comic books, radio controlled combat tanks, websites, etc.) and go like the blazes on it for a while, but then something else captures my interest and I move on ... leaving a half done tank in the garage.

I haven't beaten that problem yet, but I'm getting closer to doing so. I just wish I could have beaten it before my friends started kidding me about never finishing things :)

Hedge-o-Matic
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How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

Until you begin to finish projects, you'll never realize that the greatest satisfaction is finishing a long, labor-intensive project. Sure, the initial tingle of excitement is great, but setting down a finished product beats it by many orders of magnitude.

Like the others here, I suggest starting off with a project that your current endurance level can complete. After you've got a jolt of completion energy, you'll be able to spend longer on the next one, and the next after that. But finishing that first project will feel the hardest.

Persistance is everything. Creativity, unrealized, counts for nothing at all. I hate to say it, but really, if you never finish an idea, you may as well never have had it in the first place. Don't stop a project when your enthusiasm for one particular phase of it flags. Tough it out, to go to the next phase of development. You'll get a fresh boost of excitement at every stage, just like you got in the intitial "brainstorm" phase. If the boost isn't enough to carry you through, though, grit your teeth and forge on.

You'll thank yourself.

hpox
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How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

What Hedge-o-Matic just said might seem obvious. But, altough it hurts, this sentence is particularly eye-opening:

Quote:
Creativity, unrealized, counts for nothing at all

Not all is lost though... The discarded ideas or projects can be used later. They also give you some knowledge and insight about the topic.

For myself, focus is really the problem. Too many projects, too many things to do. Too many things that I want to do. Too many things I wish I could do. In between that, a lot of time is lost moving from projects to projects. Sometimes even restarting from scratch each time I get back on it.

As for my boardgame career, I can say I have completed a simple game. Have I felt that satisfaction? Don't know. It's cool receiving email from people playing your game and some wanting to buy it. Is this project finished or not? I guess the next stage would be to try to submit it to compagnies...

Anonymous
How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

Zzzzz wrote:
First off I would never force a design.

I agree with Zzzzz here-- this is vital! The opposite extreme is to have a lot of ideas, work with them while your muse is with you, and then stop when she leaves, moving on to the next project when she reappears. This extreme leads to stacks of unfinished ideas sitting around.

One trick I have to vault this pitfall is to make sure that I constantly remind myself of what ideas I have sitting around unfinished. I do this by going over a list of them every time I step into the shower. :) This might seem a little odd at first, but think about it: you step into the shower every day (normally), and it's not exactly an intellect-heavy activity.

Just by keeping the ideas churning in my head, and refreshing them every day, they stay on the top level of my consciousness, ready to tangle with whatever new ideas I encounter during the day. I've seriously come out of the shower with some really great ideas this way AND I'm clean.

-Peter-

Anonymous
How to focus instead of constantly dreaming up ideas?

Well, it seems I have the opposite problem. I have a projekt which I've been busy with for the last two or three YEARS. This may seem a long time, but the current version shares only the theme, and three completely different core mechanics has been discarded / set aside for another game along the way.

I'm spending more and more time with this one, offen threating my "more important" activities (school, job), and sometimes I have to force myself to start thinking on some other idea, because the urge to finish it is so great, that I'm force forgeing it until I'm braindead, and it's pointless to spend more time with it at that time.

My girlfriend, the hobby psichologyst pointed out, that maybe on a subconscious level, I don't want to finish it EVER. (but she ain't right)

Good thing I just got to the prototype phase :lol:

What I think is, that most of us underestimate the power of a simple notebook. I keep all my ideas documented, even the smallest one. First, writing something down helps you to thinkclearer about it. Second, in time, the seperate little ideas start to support each other, and I offen discover, that a previously discarded little mechanic just fits in wonderfully into another one.

soooooo dizzy, logging out

Anonymous
Work in the box

I am tackling it, well, backasswards.

Here is a point... A game publisher is more likely to consider your game for publication with lower risk. In other words, if it costs a bundle to make your game, your odds of getting the ear of a publisher is very slim indeed. Bringing a new game to market from an unknown game designer is a risk and a good, solid game that can be made inexpensively will have a better chance of getting looked at.

Anyhow, I am currently looking at games within lower price points just to get a good idea of how much materials I would have at my disposal. For example, at $14.95 retail I might expect to have a small game board, a sheet of counters limited by the box size which is small, a deck of cards, a handful of tokens, and a couple of dice. And what I just listed may still be too much for the target price point - the deck of cards or the counters might have to go...

The task is to design within the constraints of, well, reality. I think of it as working inside the box and it gets a lot harder when you do it.

This started as a post about remaining focused. I find that knowing what I cannot do because I am working inside the box tends to eliminate most of the nonsensical ideas that I had in the early going. Every physical object that you add to a game increases it's price and reduces your chances of it ever seeing publication. Remembering this will kill 99% of your ideas before they ever hit paper.

Tim

Anonymous
Finally

I never was able to keep focused. I then attempted several Yahoo Groups and attempted to create games through collaboration, but I needed to develop my management skills and take the time necessary to find the right people. I now have a small group of truly quality people and new ones are coming in daily. We are designing two games to distribute online and I myself have 10 more waiting. I am always looking for people with ideas and willing to work. If you need help and have a desire to do something..anyone contact me and lets talk.

Troy

visit:
http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/phoenixgrp/

to get a little idea of what we are about. Anyone interested after that should contact me at:

tmd2005@optonline.net

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Re: Finally

tmd2005 wrote:
I now have a small group of truly quality people and new ones are coming in daily. We are designing two games to distribute online and I myself have 10 more waiting. I am always looking for people with ideas and willing to work. If you need help and have a desire to do something..anyone contact me and lets talk.

Troy, we get it. You have a yahoo group, 10 game ideas, a great team, and want people to email you. Please don't paste the exact same paragraph in every single thread you can find, or, if you must, add it to your signature so that it just appears at the bottom of your posts, and is separate from the actual substance of your post. Anyone interested in joining your wargame group will easily be able to find it from your recent forum post on the subject.

Thanks,

Jeff

Anonymous
No problem

Sorry-

No problem!

Troy

Chip
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: the next step

HRPuffenstuf wrote:
I decided to tell my network of friends that I was planning on making a game and I intended to see it through. I have now brought "outsiders" into the mix which will mean I'm nothing more than a talker if I don't see it through. I was ready anyway: however, this is my "peer pressure" that will make me focus and hopefully realize one dream instead of accomplishing nothing with many dreams.

HR Puff

Having someone else hold you accountable for what you do is probably the best motivating factor out there. I knew when I started aggressively testing my first game and making my intentions known to people other than the voices in my head, that I needed to demonstrate "progress" on the game. I needed to be able to tell people what was new on the game front, what the next steps were, and so on. People would ask questions and I needed an answer. It wasn't okay for me to just let it the idea/game die after lots of people were aware of what was going on. If you have nothing new to tell people, you'll feel like an idiot.

I can think of only one other thing that is a better motivator than "accountability/peer pressure." Start taking orders on a game that hasn't been manufactured yet and tell those that put in an order that the game will be available for Christmas. I guarantee you that you'll then do everything in your power to finish the project.

"The only thing that comes to dreamers, is dreams." - Tevin Campbell

Chip

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