Sunday 19 March 2017

Well-Executed Derivative Ideas Are Better Than Poorly Executed Unique Ideas

Take two.

So look, before anything else I want to say that by no means am I saying that totally unique ideas are bad, or should even be discouraged. Games such as “Papers, Please” would likely not exist if the developers had not put thought and effort into creating an innovative game mechanic.

However, much more importantly to “Papers, Please"'s success was the strong art style and the emotional impact it makes on the player. These were instrumental- without them, I find it hard to believe that the game would have made it very far at all. If you don’t believe me, you can verify this by looking at two or three reviews for the game. The majority of them hardly praise the passport-checking mechanic at all, especially given that the rest of the article is usually focused on the art style.

This brings me to the main point of this post: unique ideas are cool and often helpful, but it’s a lot more important to execute a given idea well. Any poorly executed idea is not likely to perform well. I have first hand experience in this, as I once created a very poorly executed game called “Don’t Be Still”.

The unique idea at the core of this game was that you had a “stillness meter”, and any time you spent being still or taking damage from enemies would deplete this meter. I think I can safely self-assess here to say that this idea was fine and a suitable game could be built on this mechanic. Unfortunately, I did the exact opposite of build a suitable game. With about 3 seconds of graphical design and no more than a day or so of programming, I threw together something which I cringe to call any more than a prototype. This idea was executed dreadfully, and as such it suffered at launch.

Ultimately, the execution of an idea comes down to a mixture of skill, effort and personal tendencies.

Don’t Be Still” was primarily gated by the first two, as I can’t speak much to personal tendencies for an engine I was just beginning with. This engine was the Phaser engine. Phaser is a Javascript framework which easily integrates with either WebGL or the HTML5 Canvas. Point is- “Don’t Be Still” was the first project that I’d ever made in Phaser, and I was still getting to grips with how it worked.

Needless to say, I effectively had no idea how Phaser worked even after completing Don’t Be Still, hence why the game is the actual dumpster that it is today. Partly because of the aforementioned and partly just because I was enamoured with the idea that hey- I could make games now, I only spent about a week on it in total before uploading it online.

The take-away from this post (assuming you’ve read up to this point) is that if you’re a newer game developer or if you’re struggling, don’t chase a single unique idea, because in all likelihood it won’t make a bad game good. Take a small idea and polish the hell out of it until it’s something that you’re proud of.

If you have done, thanks for reading.

Also, holy shit I have been lazy for the past week two weeks three weeks. If you're a repeat reader, thank you but more importantly, be sure to keep an eye out. I have something to say about the fate of Solasi, and it isn't good.

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