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Keeping On Track

8 replies [Last post]
Joined: 02/22/2009

I am just starting out in game design and am finding myself flooded with so many ideas for various games and so many idea when i sit down to work out some mechanics or rules etc. The problem is keeping on track and getting distracted with new ideas leaving others unfinished. what methods or ideas do you use to keep on track and how do you get past the idea on paper and into the steps where you are play testing your ideas your self?

I know another bunch of questions from a newbie.

Thanks for the help.


Lucas.Castro's picture
Joined: 10/22/2008
Cross-medium Advice

My advice actually comes from what I do as a writer, but it fits your situation perfectly. I get ideas for creative writing at all kinds of times, and in all kinds of ways; sometimes the idea is as basic as "The same story told from the point of view of 4 people" (which can be a fascinating challenge to implement successfully); other times, I could fill pages of details that I suddenly thought of.

In all cases what I do is keep a journal/log of ideas. The minute I get an idea (and have access to the journal or other piece of paper) I write it down. Sometimes I write the idea down in a Google Document, so that I have easy access to it from any computer. At the end of the day, the point is to get the idea written down.

You would be amazed how much of a relief it is to get the idea down. In my opinion, a major reason why new ideas can derail your current project is the panic you may feel that you will forget the idea and/or any details you've thought of. So write down as much as you have thought of: there is no such a thing as too much detail in this case.

Try it, and see if it helps!

InvisibleJon's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
Stay organized. Don't get hung up on details.

devilindesign wrote:
What methods or ideas do you use to keep on track?
I have a computer that I do all of my work on. I have a folder titled "Games" that I keep all the work I do for all of my games in. Inside that folder, there is one folder for every game I'm working on. There is also a "Completed" folder that I put the folders for completed games in.

When I have an idea for a new game, I open a word processor and start writing down all of the ideas I have, and my sources of inspiration. Depending on how definite the ideas are, I may take notes on how play flows, the kind of feelings I want the players to experience, or the lessons the game is trying to teach. Once all the ideas are down, I create a new folder in the Games folder, labeled with the working title for the game. I save the document in that folder as, "[Game Name] initial ideas."

When I'm away from my computer, I always have a notepad and four-color pen. If I think of something, I take a note about it and include the date and time. When I'm at my computer, I review my notebook and transfer anything that needs to be transfered to my computer.

devilindesign wrote:
How do you get past the idea on paper and into the steps where you are play testing?
Once I have a good sense of what the game is about, I typically focus on the flow of play in a turn. I try to think about the things that I want the player to do, the things that the game lets the player do, the goals that the player has, and what the player is likely to do to reach those goals.

Once I have something that looks like it could work, I gather and print out what I think I'll need to play the game and try to play it. As I do this, I keep my computer or a paper copy of the rules/notes nearby so I can take notes and make adjustments while playing. The important point here is that you don't have to have the game perfectly figured out before you playtest it. You don't need perfect rules, finished cards, or any of that. You just need to have a general idea of what the game should be like to play. In fact, playtesting often helps you figure out what you need to do next. It helps to have good rules and a finished game, but don't let a lack of these stop you from jumping in and trying it out for real.

Note: You do have to have your game perfectly figured out before a blind playtest, but that's a different beast altogether.

I hope this helps!

The Magician
Joined: 12/23/2008
This happens to me a lot and

This happens to me a lot and many others. I keep my ideas in a big fat notebook that has tabs and different sections along with plastic sleeves in each section. I organize my ideas in this and on my computer files. I also write single aspects of my games like different mechanics and so on, on note cards. These notecards I use to weed out unnecessary features and prioritize the important onse. They get filed with each separate game idea. As long as you keep organised, you can effectively use all these ideas that flood in, and just may find your self with several realised game concepts.

Joined: 01/21/2009
Organization and Lack Thereof

I used to keep my ideas in my head or in a set of graph paper pads. I prefer graph paper to ordinary paper, because I can't draw without gridlines and I am borderline-dysgraphic. I can barely read my own handwriting (so instead I type very very fast.) I know have a google doc entitled "Game Bash [Universal Sandbox]" which contains all of my ideas. I have separate docs for ideas that have developed beyond a page. I use the [Sandbox] tag to indicate a doc that is nothing but pages of notes. Proper rules and things go in other places. However, the good stuff is in the Bash Doc. It is no order whatsoever. It's organized by game, but it has mechanics, mad theories, a little bit of social commentary, and some vague ideas that are only vaguely game-related. (Not the really weird stuff, that goes in a doc called "Freefall.") I add things to the end and middle of this list, but not the beginning very often.

MatthewF's picture
Joined: 07/22/2008
Similarly, I use paper

Similarly, I use paper notebooks for ideas and for much of the game development process, turning to the computer only when I start prototyping. Many pages of the journal are devoted to an interesting mechanism I came up with without any note as to what game or kind of game it might fit in.

Getting it down on paper lets me let go of it so I can focus back on the game at hand.

The Magician
Joined: 12/23/2008
Note cards

I recently started using note cards on which I write my game objects seperately for each card and list the objects properties on it's card. I like this because not only can I weed out extranious mechanics and featurs, it's easy to change individual mechanics and anylise how each one relates to the other to form my game system.

For example I'be got a card titled "vortexes" and all the properties of the vortexes as one of my game objects. I am working out some problems with the properties and tweaking some things. It's easy to just make a new card with it's modified mechanics. So I switch out this card for a new one. This way it helping me a lot in keeping me organised.

Joined: 02/06/2009
For the first version of my

For the first version of my game, I lovingly made beautiful cards with pictures I created myself and flavor text. I wrote the rules into a well formated document agonising over clairity. Then I had my first playtest. And started to change things. All the cards are rearranged, most of the originals are just gone. The rules have all but completely changed. Basically, 90% of the work I did on my first prototype was for nothing.

Now, when I make a prototype, I think, "What do I NEED for the next playtest?" What critical nessisary changes did I identify from the last play test, and how do I test these with the fewest card changes possible. I haven't had a complete version of the rules for three versions now, just a quick referance card. If there are any rules questions during the test, I make up an answer on the spot and write it down.

So, my recommendation.
Call your friends, set up a play test for sometime next week, and then just get ready for the test. Having a date and a social obligation pushes you to focus like nothing else. Then just create the skeleton to test your core concepts and mechanics. Also, promise to buy them pizza.

The Magician
Joined: 12/23/2008
board on the go

When I had my prototype board copied, I had the copyer make several versions that are half the size of my 3'x3' board. So I have several 18" paper boards. I carry one of these smaller boards to work with me. My job allows me time for game design and I pull out this small paper board and use little beads as game peices. This way I have my board there to work out problems.

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