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To Prototype or not... that is the question.

4 replies [Last post]
Joined: 08/05/2009

Hello everyone. I thought I would post a few theories or schools of thoughts on prototyping.

Originally, I adhered to the belief of "create a a phenomenal, knock out prototype and make it look as if it were on the shelf for sale." The idea being that it would put them (The buyers you are pitching to) in a sales mode rather than an R&D mode. They can not only picture it, feel it, and play it but can see it on the shelves. They can also do a cost analysis's more accurately. (A go or no go pinnacle).

Problems with that are obvious - it costs a hell of a lot of money-especially if you can't do it all yourself and have to farm some or all of it out. And then what happens if you put $2500 into the prototype and they say, "Hey that looks nice but no thanks." And what happens if like me you have over 200 concepts in your portfolio? You can't do them all. Even narrowed to your top 10 let alone top 3 can be an expensive undertaking.

The other train of thought is to just do market renderings or illustrations. They are great for presentations, easy to transport etc. The problem with that is that they don't buy ideas. They buy products.

We pitched a ton of concepts this way to Spinmaster. They loved 4 of them but opted not to take them. why? Because they were not proven. They would have to be made and tested and they were not willing to take on the risk of that expense. And at the time I didn't have the estimated $32k to make them.

BTW, as you move further along in your career and credibilty levels, the above situation is many times non existent because you become a proven commodity and so they will sometimes partner with you. Hasbro has offered that with me. Don't expect that right away however.

The next thing is a cheap "cocktail napkin" prototype. A step up from a simple drawing. This might be made of glued together foam board, paint/stickers and standard token pieces. Twenty buck prototypes. These can go a long way if made well enough. (And you can make them really well this way) One that comes to mind was one I can't reveal too much about because we are revamping it. But Hasbro looked at it and got so excited they said we created a whole new industry. They told us if we could make it smaller, and adapt it to one of their most popular games they were going to to do it as the next clone or cannibal product (Not their terminology - mine)!

Unfortunately, as good as it was it fell through the cracks of the process and fell out of the running. Too bad it wasn't before I spent 3 months of my time, energy and money and 12 prototypes later. They had me running through hoops.... at my expense. (Another lesson learned. If they want it-make them pay for it. They have to pay in house so make them pay you).

And the last would be to do a Sell Sheet, Tear Sheet, etc. A one page, one sided brochure of your concept. Picture of it, picture in use, a description,and a list of the benefits (the most important) and features and why it would serve them well. Not to wordy or crowded and with lots of "white" space.

I recommend the last choice for you for every single concept BUT, not as a stand alone. At least not at your beginning stages. I would combine it with a market rendering as well as with the "Twenty Dollar Prototype." Later on, as you develop the relationship (either with the Agent or the company) a sell sheet can be sufficient.

Hope some of this hits home, makes a difference and makes someone out there reading this lots of money.

Solomon's Thoughts, Inc

Willi B
Joined: 07/28/2008
Good stuff!

I really am liking the "stories from the road" that you are able to share - let me know if you have a blog or anything similar.

As for prototypes, I think you have to hand in a working model. As far as non-electronic games, that shouldn't cost too much, but anything that requires programming or electronic features and you suddenly are in a different ballpark. I have quite a few ideas for those, but I don't have the $$$ to pursue them at this time.

There are people willing to do that work, but those are contacts I don't have. I think of all possibilities, this is where I would bring in an agent - one that has experience in making electronic prototypes.

MatthewF's picture
Joined: 07/22/2008
Except for very simple games

Except for very simple games (which may be what you're pitching, RDR, based on who you're pitching to), prototyping is an essential part of good game development. There's only one practical way to determine how well a game plays and that is to play it. Sell sheets are great for pitching, but certainly do nothing to ensure the game is good.

Joined: 08/05/2009
Hi Wilie

Thanks for the compliments. If I understand what you are saying I thought I should clear it up:

Agents as a rule do not put money into a clients project. If you know of any please let me know. I will send them all kinds of stiff! What you should do for those concepts that need a lot of money to develop and or prototype, is to find an investor(s). That is what I did on a number of them in the beginning. A piece of the pie is better than none and it can give you the cash to later do your own all the way (should it of course be successful).


Solomon's Thoughts, Inc.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
In the book I am currently

In the book I am currently reading, they say that game development follows an itterative design like in software development.

First you determine the risks: "what can go wrong with my game". Then you make a prototype, as cheap as possible, to see if this risk actually shows up. If it does, you need to redesign, determine risk and prototype again.

Prototype is not necessarly for the whole game, you can test parts of games too.

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