By Erik.B.Skjoldhaug, Co-Founder at Lumi Games AS.
I can only speak for myself, but for me game design and being in the game industry is about creating what you dream about. Be creative and actually shape and mold your dreams into stories and gameplay. For me it’s not worth making a game if you don’t have a personal attachment to it.
There are a lot of people or companies that blatantly copy other peoples’ dreams/games and sell them as their own. Flappy bird and all the hundreds if not thousands of copies are an extreme example of that. The same goes for all the games a certain company starting with the letter “Z” has copied, and of course all the “Match three candies, jellies or whatever to get points”-games that are out there. A few of them are copies of Bejeweled, and the rest are copies of copies of Bejeweled.
Of course if you are in the game industry for one thing, and one thing only, to make cash, you can do as “Z” and plenty of others and copy original ideas, but I guess you will only reach so far by doing that in the long run.
We have extreme examples like King where they have been really successful by copying other peoples game and just put it in a different setting/theme. You can earn a lot of money like that, but that’s not the real motivation for me – but I can only speak for myself.
As a designer, it’s important for me to actually design a game from scratch, and of course I too look at other games for ideas and “solutions” on how they “do-it”, that’s only natural and human to do, but it’s important for me to stick with my idea and actually create and design my own thing. It’s also important for me that people can look at a game I’ve designed and actually see that it is my game.
Many of the people who read this blog are familiar with the designer of Braid and the Witness, Jonathan Blow. If not, check him out for ideas and tips on how to approach a game idea, and how to actually stimulate your brain to get ideas for games. I found it funny that he has the same approach that we at Lumi Games have been using for two years now, and many years before we actually began making games full-time.
I will mention how I get my ideas, and how I stimulate my brain to be creative, if it is of any interest for anyone.
Well, first of all:
* Get away from the computer when you are not working, go out for a walk in the mountains, go fishing, go exploring or anything else that you think is fun.
Maybe you like hiking or mountain climbing?
* Take a shower in complete darkness. This really stimulates your imagination.
* MEDITATE! This if beyond amazing when it comes to getting ideas.
If you have NO experience with meditation, you should start today. This really stimulates your brain activity in a totally different way, you feel relaxed and your brain starts to wonder off. You may not get ideas while meditating (because you shouldn’t think to much), but afterwards or during the coming night they may be flowing in, you better have a pen and paper next to your bed.
I have no idea if this works for everyone, but it works for me, and it seems to be working for A LOT of other people too.
* “Pen and paper”. ALWAYS have pen and paper beside your bed, or with you wherever you go, so you can take notes whenever you get ideas. They seem to fly away as fast as they land, so you better be prepared. And if you`re like me, who wakes up 4-5 times every night, you really should have pen and paper ready. I often write down my dreams, and its much easier to remember if you retell the dreams to yourself every time you wake up.
* Surround yourself with people who actually believe in you and support you. You do not need negativity and people who bring you down while you are trying to be creative and create something. (You don’t need that at all any aspect of your life really). So choose the people you have in your life carefully.
* If you start a company, or work together with other people, be sure to be on the same page when it comes to motivation and the need to finish a project. Choose your partners carefully, they will be your friend/family for a long time, so get along.
These things helps me remember and keep track of my ideas. Things that may seem irrelevant there and then may be something you can use someday in the future.
I wanted to talk a little bit about the design and the concept of our first game on IOS/Android PAX HD!
For those who have played it, you may have noticed it’s a really simple game. Not easy to get a high score, but simple to understand and play but still challenging. A game where we didn’t hold your hand through the whole game and explained every little detail to the player, but that the player actually had to find out how they wanted to play the game.
For those who haven’t played PAX HD!, it is a totally free game where you control a little spaceship with your finger, in a “Tetris-like” environment. Your job is to avoid the blocks hurling towards you in an increasing speed while collecting two kinds of Powerups, the “warp speed”, which creates a shield around your ship and increase speed for a few seconds, making you invincible. And the “Healthbox” which gives you more life (max 3), but also give you a good score bonus if you already have max lives. As I said, it’s really simple to understand, but it’s still challenging and you have to find out for yourself what’s the ultimate way to play the game.
The idea for PAX HD! came out of the idea of making a retro kind of game, and we actually based the concept loosely on the game Frogger, where you jump over the street and avoid getting hit by cars. It’s actually the same kind of game, only you control a spaceship, collecting Powerups and try to avoid blocks moving towards you, but in a very different setting and style, and of course other elements implemented.
We are working on getting a patch done in 2014 after our next game is out in the App-store. There you will be able to select from a variety of ships. We also have a few ideas on how to make the gameplay a bit more interesting and challenging
As some of you may already know, we at Lumi Games have been developing a game called ParticleBOOM! for a couple of years now. Finally it looks like we are closing in on the light in the end of a 2 year long and dark tunnel.
We are also working on a puzzle game called “Tetra” (working title), where you combine two numbers of the same colors to a larger number to get more points. (Sounds like a game King would have made you say?). It’s a very different game then the regular “Match three candies to get points”-games, Tetra is a fast paced puzzle game that is very simple to understand but REALLY hard to master. Your mission is to remove objects that are hindering other blocks to merge, but you can only remove a certain colored block each time. So there is little room for mistakes.
But that’s how games should be right? Easy to understand but hard to master.
I wanted to take some time talking about what to do and what not to do when you are a freshly started Indie game developer, and I hope you will find it useful.
* Save up a lot of money or work part time
* Start a small game as your first game
* If you start a bigger game, you should maybe think about making it a early access game so that you can get paid while developing it
* Look for investors or organizations which can support you financially
* Choose your partners carefully
* Get in touch with other Indie game developers in your country or online so you can build a relationship and maybe get some tips
* Believe in yourself and what you are doing
* Have a plan on how to promote your game. There are thousands of games and apps being developed every day, so why would anyone choose your game or app over someone else`s.
* Don’t start a Indie game company with the intension of making the new GTA or COD if you are a one man show. (Be realistic)
* Don’t think you will be able to do everything by yourself. You most likely need a good graphical designer, programmer or a marketing guy
* Don’t believe its easy to make a game, so be prepared that its most likely going to take much more time then you think
* Don’t copy other peoples games and think of yourself as a game designer
* Don’t give up. Ever!
Lumi Games went straight into the trap of starting a game that was to big, and we are still not done two years after. ParticleBOOM! didn’t actually start out as a huge game, but it soon escalated into one very quickly. We are actually glad it did, because it’s a much more interesting and diverse game now then when we started it.
It was actually planned out to be a really small chain reaction game that would have taken about 3-4 months to develop.
Not everyone can actually afford a game to escalate like PartcileBOOM! did, so one have to be really careful letting it get to that. It can very easily get way out of hand, and you end up never getting it done.
We are working on making small tutorials where we go through the development of a game from sketches to a playable product, both from a programmer and a game designer/graphical artist view.
If our early games will do well enough, this is something we will start doing on a regular basis. I truly hope that’s an idea people will find interesting.
I hope you enjoyed my little presentation on a Game designers approach and how I think and how i get my ideas, and hopefully you find it useful.