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What is the best way in your opinion to find new ideas for games? I want to invent something really new (like Gish, World of Goo, Crayon Physics etc), but I'm having problems coming up with new, creative ideas.

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12 Answers 12

The best way to get really good ideas -- ideas that will become great games -- is to make lots of games. You should brainstorm up lots of stuff and make prototypes. You will not make good games without lots of trying things and failing with some and iterating on what works. World of Goo and Crayon Physics both started out as small, quick prototypes (not sure about Gish).

Prototyping allows you the freedom to try out wild ideas, figure out how to make them shine or figure out that they don't work, and not spend years of your life doing it. The years of your life come when it's time to make a real game.

I'm not sure what your specialty is, but prototypes come in various forms. The two big ones I see a lot are quick and dirty videogame prototypes and paper (or boardgame) prototypes. Do the simplest, smallest thing possible and make that. See whether it works and what needs to change. Iterate. Then go and do the same exercise with a new idea. Eventually, you'll have a prototype that you MUST MAKE: something you feel really strongly about.

Make that.

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How long do you spend on a typical prototype? –  configurator Aug 21 '10 at 2:04
    
A prototype need not be a vertical slice of the entire experience. More likely it is just some simple aspect of an unpolished product, like some new mechanic that needs to be proved to be feasible and fun. Therefore, the time to prototype an idea can easily range between an hour and a month depending on the complexity of the idea and the skills and tools you can leverage to get it done. –  jpaver Aug 21 '10 at 6:00
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kloonigames.com/blog is "the experimental monthly game project". Always SDL+box2D, always just a few hours/days. It eventually created World Of Goo. Hope this answers you question :) –  Calvin1602 Aug 22 '10 at 18:17

There is no NEW ideas, only different combinations of old ideas.

Idea generation is also known as Ideation. You have several ways to generate ideas such as...

  • Brain-storming sessions
  • Mindmapping
  • Problem Solving
  • Metaphorical Thinking
  • Thinking Hats / Ego Alter
  • SCAMPER
  • Using Random Media To Stimulate Thoughts
  • Forced Associations
  • Changing Perspective Or Place
  • Collaborative
  • Experimentation
  • Vision Circle

Most idea generation techniques can be done by yourself, or with a group. When in a group you have the opportunity to feed off each other, and come up with more unique ideas because of the different perspectives. Don't underestimate other people, even "non-creatives" can have great ideas.

Also see

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"There is no NEW ideas, only different combinations of old ideas." I couldn't disagree more. –  Jop Vernooij Feb 26 at 16:31
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@Jop Just saying you disagree is not constructive and does not help anyone. If you have strong opinions why don't you elaborate and communicate your thoughts. –  Adam Harte Feb 27 at 0:33
    
There isn't really anything to say about the matter. It's just a false and scandalous statement. –  Jop Vernooij Jun 30 at 14:43

One informal way is to observe the world around you. Watch the kind of objects and interactions you have every day. See what makes people happy or what captivates them. Is there any way that can be used as the basis of a game? Or can you add it to an existing game in a way that makes something new? Mull it over, try playing a mini prototype in your head. If it doesn't have potential, move on. If it does, make a real prototype.

Spend a lot of time thinking and observing. Eventually you will have a lot of ideas that aren't good enough and some that are.

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+1 just for reminding people to look outside of games for ideas. Game designs are all too often just based on other games. –  Kylotan Aug 20 '10 at 17:11

I think the best thing to do is partner up with someone and start brainstorming ideas, they don't have to be a programmer or a hardcore gamer, they just have to be enthusiastic about games in general.

I'd recommend taking part in a few game jams and participating in The Experimental Gameplay Project.

Sometimes placing restrictions on your design or building a game around a theme will yield some interesting ideas. How would a game about candles play? What would a game in which you could only use black and white look like? How can you exploit that restriction in terms of a game mechanic?

Other than that, just keep playing games of all kinds.

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My usual solution is to hit the random page link on Wikipedia a few dozen times until I find some amusing pages and then build something from that. My last "big" game was inspired by the page on moss (it ended up being about magnets, so do take things too literally).

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I take most inspiration from things completely unrelated to games. It's better to go out and do stuff: travel, watch movies, read novels, do sport, just walk around downtown, etcetera. The more time I spend in front of my computer, the less creative I become. Moreover, if I try to take inspiration from games, I can only think of derivative clones of the games I play, it really harms my creativity.

Also, my best ideas come when I am not trying to think about them. In the shower, while commuting to work, having a nice walk in the park, or when sleeping. Always have a notebook and a pen with you, wherever you go, whatever you do. When you're sitting back in front of the computer the ideas will be gone if you had not written them down.

You are asking for methods. My method is this: Turn off the computer, leave my home, go somewhere and do something interesting. Then I write a note telling my thoughts to myself.

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The good news: if you've got game development skills (programming, art, audio, etc.), there are MANY designers who would absolutely LOVE to bring you in to work on their project. Usually, ideas for games are not the limiting factor, but rather the time it takes to turn even one game into something playable.

If your question is, how do you learn to come up with these ideas yourself:

The task of doing this is called "game design" - so start by using that as your search topic.

Many universities offer classes in game design (though make sure they are really teaching what you want to learn, as the term is misused a lot). Gamasutra.com has an entire section devoted to the design of games. I may as well also plug my free online course: http://gamedesignconcepts.wordpress.com

There are many books on game design. Most of them are really bad. A few are really good. There's a question about that here: http://gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/497/good-game-design-books

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Open the dictionary on a random page. Randomly choose one of the words.

Try to come up with 10 bad game ideas for that topic.

Usually after 5-8 bad ideas you will have a really good one.

Try to implement the essence of that idea over 2 or 3 days, setting a strict deadline before you start. Toss the result away and do it again.

From there on it's just execution...

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You could take an approach like Shigeru Miyamoto did with game such as Legend of Zelda and Pikmin.

His inspiration for Legend of Zelda was when he used to play in the woods as a kid and as for Pikmin, he got his inspiration from watching ants.

What I'm trying to say is take inspiration from something in real life.

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Plenty of answers already about building ideas in general, but I'll address the issue of new/creative ideas within the game context.

When you try to create any new creative content you tend to mix and match from your various influences. It's natural to draw on the things that inspire you to piece together a new concept. One of the reasons so many games have similar content is that the range of influences among designers tends to be very similar. Most people who are into games are also into similar movies, similar music, similar literature and so on. If your inspiration is coming from the same set of sources as everyone else, you shouldn't be surprised that the games that spring to mind end up looking a lot like ones that already exist.

If you really want to shake things up, go spend some time studying anything that you normally wouldn't.

  • Go to the ballet or an opera.
  • Watch a foreign film in a genre you normally wouldn't.
  • Take a trip somewhere you've never been.
  • Wander into a part of the book store/library that you avoid.

Game concepts can be inspired by anything. But if you want to make something people haven't seen, you need to source if from places they haven't been.

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Don't be afraid that your ideas aren't original enough would be the key.

Many highly successful games are simply refinements of previous games, figuring out what makes players enjoy a certain playstyle and then enhancing or providing better gameplay. WoW is a great example, taking cues from previous MMOs and tweaking things for the "common" gamer, and even casual gamers.

WoW took from Everquest, which enhanced ideas from MUDs, which were taken from adventure games mixed with old school paper and pencil Dungeons and Dragons which took from J.R.R. Tolkein. Basically, all the old things are new again in the right hands.

Take an idea or two that you like from games and think about the process that might make a game better that would use those ideas. Plot out what a player would do in order to start playing the game, and what kinds of things would be fun for a player to do. Many new designers simply take ideas and steal them directly, not giving much thought to what the player is supposed to do that differentiates their game, or why they should be fun. In order to stand out, you must improve on the gameplay that you decide is part of the core fun.

For example:

Diablo & Diablo II

In D2, they decided one way to improve the gameplay was to improve animations and graphics. This is almost expected but a few games get away with using the same artwork depending on the timeliness of releases.

They also decided to increase the amount of character customization through skill trees instead of the few skills you could get. Waypoints were introduced allowing easier access to a larger world (another improvement). I could go on , but I believe you can make your own judgments from here on.

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Ideas for games are actually very easy to generate (in fact, most 8 year old gamers have a plentiful supply). Unfortunately the only ways to know if an idea is good is (1) experience, and (2) to prototype it and see if people want to play. Both of these are expensive, so good ideas are relatively rare.

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