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Designer's Block

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Anonymous

I've really wanted to design a game lately, but I can't think of any ideas. My question is, where do you guys get your ideas?

Scurra
Scurra's picture
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Joined: 09/11/2008
Designer's Block

Not being facetious or anything, but:
http://spotlightongames.com/list/challenge.html
is a surprisingly good way to kick-start your creative juices.
(Although it seems a little wonky at the moment - I only seem to be getting single mechanics out of it, whatever I choose.)

Another helpful way is to give yourself an artificial limitation as well (like a deck of cards, or XXOOCC's microgame spec mentioned elsewhere).

Sebastian
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Joined: 07/27/2008
Designer's Block

Usually by thinking 'there should be a game about XYZ', finding that there isn't, and setting out to solve that problem.

andresen
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Joined: 10/05/2008
Designer's Block

Scurra wrote:
Not being facetious or anything, but:
http://spotlightongames.com/list/challenge.html
is a surprisingly good way to kick-start your creative juices.
(Although it seems a little wonky at the moment - I only seem to be getting single mechanics out of it, whatever I choose.)

If you remove all of the %0A's in the URL that is provided after clicking the 2 or 3 mechanisms buttons, so that the end of the URL either says '?bsubmit=2' or '?bsubmit=3', it should provide you with a challenge with the selected number of mechanisms.

- Martin

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Designer's Block

Yup, weird problem.

Here are fixed links:

Two Mechanisms

Three Mechanisms If you just Refresh the page you'll get a whole new set with the same number of mechanisms.

-- Matthew

[/]
Nazhuret
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Designer's Block

hey that's a cool little gizmo of a web page. i just went to check it out for about five seconds and stayed for fifteen minutes and came away with two ideas i'm probably going to work on.

if you think about it that page itself could be a game...

Anonymous
Designer's Block

I've been toying with an idea and this webpage would be very helpful. You're a board game designer trying to build and sell a game. You draw cards that add a mechanic or theme to your game. Different mechanics and themes either add or subract from a few properties of your game (like Fun, Strategy, Complexity, or Tactics). Other cards allow you to sell units of your game if your game has enough F,S,T, or C. You spend the money making more copies of your game (what else would you spend it on?). In addition to being able to change your own game most of the mechanic cards would be playable on the MetaGame. So if you put the "Bid for Cards" mechanic on the Metagame, the players would bid for the rights to a card, ala El Grande.

Of course, this is not a game I plan to market. Not exactly a large target audience. It's mostly just for fun and practice. All the pieces would be stolen from other games. If you play the "Meeples!" card, you better go grab Carcassone. I'm just trying to figure out how to include Tile laying into the game. :)

Anonymous
designers block

I have a two techniques I use to generate ideas; juxtaposition and word substitution.

Juxtaposition is very much like the website already mentioned. Create a list of great bits from your favorite games. Could be a about game play (such as 'simultaneous trading a la Pit), a scoring mechanism (growing multipliers a la Carcassonne or Acquire), or component (mimer timer in Guesstures). Anything. Also through other fun 'play' items or values such as Magic 8 Ball, or squirt guns. This is an ongoing list, you will always be adding new stuff.

Then mix up the list anyway you see fit. My list, in MS Excel, with some 800+ items, I sort alphabetically, or cut and paste, or random code sort, or roll dice to generate numbers, whatever to put unusual things together.

Play with the list until something clicks, usually won't take longer than 5 minutes.

As for Word Substitution. I take some existing game or toy, and write a long sentence describing what it is and its play value, somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 - 20 words. Then I randomly start picking 'key' words in the sentence and seeing what I can replace that word with. For example, I not too long ago took the kids game of Jacks.
"A children's game where you bounce a ball and grab an increasing number of jacks before the ball lands." One of the first words I substituted was Adult for Children's, which tickled my fancy, so I went with it. Then I started messing with 'ball' and 'jacks' trying to come up with something more adult. I ended up with Pub Jacks, a game playable in a bar from a bar stool using oversized poppers and bottle caps. Haven't sold it yet, but a cute idea whose time will come.

- Keith
KM Creative

Anonymous
Designer's Block

If you don't mind my 2 cents... A method I sometimes use is called Mind Mapping.

Think of an some object. First thing that comes to your mind. Let's say it is "Mexican Sombrero." Draw a circle around it with a line leading away. Write or draw something at the end of that line that a Mexican Sombrero makes you think of. Say it is a "Bean Burrito." Circle it and draw a line away from that. Write or draw something else that a Bean Burrito makes you think of. Say it is "Mexican Food." Another line away from that leads to "Ingredients Found In Mexican Food." Keep going until you run of ideas or run out of room.

Go back to "Mexcian Sombrero" and start a new line of thought. Do this as many times as necessary. Now go look over what you have done. Follow the threads and see if any of them jump out. Perhaps there are new words or pictures you hadn't thought of. Start a new line of thought. You can do this from anywhere in the Mind Map. Sometimes this process works best with two or more people as it allows you to play off one another's ideas.

Out of the examples above, I just came up with an idea for a simple card game called Bean Burrito. Object of the game is to build a Mexican dish by trying to collect all the necessary ingredients (hey, don't steal my idea now :lol: ).

The hard part is now to come up with some game mechanism/s for the game that is both fun and unique. There are a lot of possibilities, but keep in mind the target audience or you'll wind up with a childrens game only adults can play. This part takes a lot more work than the process we followed above, but then, that's what usually makes the difference between a so-so game and a great game.

Hope this helps.

-Carey

Anonymous
Too Many Ideas

I find the exact opposite the issue. I never have designer's block, I have designer's overload.

First, I think about interesting themes for which I've not seen any really successful games. For example, one idea I've been toying with is a Mafia game. Now, of course, there are organized crime type games and some of them may have been popular at one time or another. It's just that I haven't experienced any of these games and, therefore, have no preconceived notions about how one might play. If I were to try to think up a plantation management type game, I might find myself being drawn back to my experience with Puerto Rico.

Second, I take that theme and try to envision a game setting and core mechanic and overall goals for my design. For example, is the game setting about drawing and placing tiles (a la Carcassonne) or is it a card game about laying sets or something altogether different? After giving thought to this setting, do any core mechanics emerge which seem to suit the theme? Lastly, what do I want my players to labor over in their decision making process? What about that though process is interesting? These questions help me derive some of my goals.

For example, I might decide that the setting is a board laying out the downtown of a major city and that each crime family (player) starts off with zones/areas in over which he controls the organized crime. The players work to expand the boundaries of their regions until they start to butt up against or overlap the areas of other crime families.

From their I try to consider other dimensions. For example, perhaps each crime family is composed of a set number of family members (say 6) and that each of the members bring various strengths (unique game play advantages) to the running of the family business. Then perhaps there is a way to put hit contracts out and to attempt to assassinate the family members of a competing family. Now the players find themselves in a balancing act of trying to expand and maintain their business while trying to avoid hits. This balancing act creates complexities and tension in one's decision making. At least this might be one of my goals.

I don't want to belabor my example. It's just that for me the ideas are limitless. You could almost pick up a random magazine and flip open to any page and find something, some topic, around which a game could be designed. I think the key is to quickly narrow the constraints for the design and to try to find creative ways to work within them.

I guess the real question to ask yourself is, "What in the world interests you?"

Pt314
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Designer's Block

This is one of the better ones I got. It has already given me an idea for a competitive oil-drilling game in Alaska, with contracts with other players. It might be too political however.

Theme:

Polar Wastes
Mechanisms:

Voting
Partnerships
Memory

Start Player Rule:

Random

Anonymous
Designer's Block

Sebastian wrote:
Usually by thinking 'there should be a game about XYZ', finding that there isn't, and setting out to solve that problem.

I have to agree with that... Most of my ideas almost seem too obvious when they hit me... I also have alot of my game ideas from other games or products (or tv shows..)...
I have a tendency to buy a game, look at it and play it and say... "I could have done that better".. then I set out to do just that.... (Just as my Unofficial Nodwick Card game... I was made when I bought the official one, it's about 20 cards duplicated about 100 times... so-so game mechanics.. but really, if I wanted an easy to play/learn game that didn't have alot of text.. I'd have bought UNO... )

I also end up making alot of 'expantions' for games that allready exsist... (such as Film Frenzy, Age of Mythology and the like..)

But really, if you don't have the ideas allready pouring out of every orifice you should look into something similar but not quite design... Such as creating a company that will prototype games (in small quanities) cheaply (heck.. after being around here a few months it's be a big success... I'd sign up... ) or even starting a company that just sells blank perferated sheets of paper (all stock) for people like us... or maybe blank perforated counters (like small blank disks/squares for prototypes..).. I've often thought of just doing this instead of trying to get a company to do it for me...

Satori

Verseboy
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Designer's Block

I keep a folder in my computer with files for every game idea that has ever popped into my head. Many are just snippets that merit a sentence or two in a common file. Some are ideas that are fleshed out a little more and have their own files. Some are ideas that have been codified into numerous varying rule sets. These have their own subfolders.

Most of these ideas are never going to see the light of day, but I hang on to them anyway. I never know when I might come up with just the right answer to make an idea work. Or perhaps one of these little ideas will later be incorporated into another project.

Where do I get my ideas? A lot of them come from combining elements from other games. For instance, I have been working on a detection game. I started with the question, "How can I make a game that can be compared to Clue (thus drawing in all of the people who would be willing to buy or play Clue), but would be more interesting and challenging than Clue? I came up with the idea of combining many of the Clue mechanics with those of another game I've played, thus creating something easy to learn, interesting to play, and unique. So I put together a down-and-dirty prototype and played a simulated game with my son, where we each acted as two different people. My new game stunk! Then, after fiddling with it for awhile, I think I have come up with the means of effectively combining the elements. I haven't had a chance to test it yet, but I'm hopeful it will work.

Other ideas have come from:
*listening to a Manic Street Preachers CD while I was working
*a flash from nowhere kind of idea one morning while I was walking downstairs to make coffee
*a funny title my brother gave me
*simply thinking of themes that I haven't seen done or overdone

The idea for my most commercial game idea (and closest to fruition) came at the dinner table one evening as we were topping each other in silly oneupmanship.

On and on. The ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. The key is keeping your mind open to the possiblities and recording them as they come. Keep asking yourself, "What would happen if I did this?" or "Wouldn't it be cool to have a game about _____?"

Good luck.

Steve

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