Brainstorming ideas is never an easy feat. Bringing an idea into corporeal form is a challenging process that requires iterating, scrapping and reconsidering ideas until you find on that sticks. For the games I have made to a brief in Studio 1, I have used a brief to seed my ideas, later producing PR Nightmare and Triage. I wanted to share with you how my ideas propagate, from a brief into a game design document.
Step 1: Consider the Brief
The bottom-level part of your idea must always serve the brief. Using the brief, I brainstorm a number of scenarios that fit the requirements. For example, in PR Nightmare, I used the scenario of being a PR team for a not-so-professional mayor to initiate the idea for the game itself. Triage came about after I chose its setting from a list of settings, and provided a good combination of scope and interesting systems.
It’s here that I also make sure to ask myself “How would this apply in real-life?”. I want my systems to be diegetic and simplistic, and prefer concepts that reflect processes or actions in real-life. PR Nightmare, for example, was designed after considering what an actual discussion between PR people might be like, and Triage was conceived after I considered what someone in a hospital waiting room would actually do there.
Step 2: Adapting the Idea to Make a Game
We humans aren’t limitless. When taking an idea further through the conception process, the scenario needs to be scrutinised for it to fit within a game. Here is where you begin thinking of your scenario as a ‘game’.
Adapting the idea for a game usually requires a whiteboard and a few others to bounce ideas from. Using the whiteboard, I will draw a mindmap of ideas using the single scenario. Starting from the core of the idea itself, I will draw out other ideas, terrible or good, so long as they provide a wealth of potential games to draw from. It’s here that other people can help. The more ideas you put on that board, the better. Your teammates will want to add suggestions to your ideas as well, and vice versa. Here, there is safety in numbers and the more ideas you have, the more ammunition you have at your disposal when deciding on your final array of ideas.
Drawing Ideas Together
Here I start to select the best and most interesting ideas and add them to a list. The list of ideas will begin to form the final game concept. During this process, I will begin drawing flowcharts and diagrams to demonstrate systems and gameplay loops to provide a birds-eye view of the concept, as well as a general idea of the feel and look of the game. It’s here that you want to
It’s here that you want to very critical of your own and others’ work. You should have your team with you to break down any inconsistencies and cultivate any suggestions and concerns. Keeping your team in the loop will help them gain some ownership over the idea and ensure they are aware of your reasoning, also ensuring your ideas are possible within their own disciplines.
If your idea is broken apart during this process, there’s no harm in trying again. I will keep up the pace until everybody is happy with an idea. For Triage and PR Nightmare, these ideas often go through many iterations and perfections until we agree on a rock-solid idea that fits our limitations, abides by the brief, and we believe will be an engaging experience. It’s important to keep all of your limitations in mind when brainstorming, you don’t want ideas you can’t produce.
Keeping the right pace during these meetings is very important. You want to remain fast and fluid, and don’t let yourself discard your own ideas. The critical aspect of bringing together your idea is to allow as many ideas as possible to go unfiltered onto the whiteboard. With a bit of thought and creativity, your ‘dumb’ idea could become a great one; you’ll never know if you discard it altogether
Step 3: Setting in Stone
After everybody agrees on an idea, it’s time to set it in stone. This process will require creating an HCD to highlight your game’s concept, and later a GDD to lay out your idea clearly and precisely for your team to work from. You will find when writing these that your original idea doesn’t provide all of the details you need to build your idea fully into a GDD, which only means you need to consult your team and your own ideas further. GDDs are living documents, and all throughout the process you will be making changes as your idea develops.
Don’t forget to have fun during this process. Don’t choose an idea you aren’t passionate about, or you don’t believe in. You won’t make a fun game if you can’t find the fun in it yourself.