How to come up with ideas

Original author: Thomas Palef
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Since I started my “one game a week” challenge on lessmilk.com , I noticed that the most common question I received in my mail was “how do you come up with new interesting ideas every week?” Therefore, I decided to try to answer this question here.

This post will tell about the process of finding ideas for my games by me, but I think that this can also be applied to almost any creative work.

Use restrictions


When you know that you want to create something, the next step is to decide what exactly to create. However, there are so many possibilities and so many choices to do this that it is difficult to find a specific idea. Because of this, many people change their minds again and again and end up with nothing.

One powerful tool to circumvent this trap is to use restrictions. With limitations, you artificially get rid of many ideas and having fewer opportunities means that choosing an idea is easier. Therefore, instead of focusing on your idea, try to pick up restrictions that you find interesting.

Here are the limitations that I have so far used to make 12 games:

  • Each game should be done in approximately 7 days.
  • Each game uses retro graphics that I create myself
  • Each game will follow a theme that I will determine in advance (for example: a platform game)


People might think that having these limitations makes my work harder, but in fact the opposite is true.

Get started now


At this point, you should have a vague idea of ​​what you want to do, but nothing concrete. Do you have to start brainstorming in order to find a great idea? Well, there is one problem: you may not find the perfect idea.

Instead of brainstorming, start realizing your bare idea right now. Make something really simple or be inspired by something like that. In any case, since you do not know exactly what you are creating, it is likely to end with something unimportant. And this is normal, you will worry about making your idea interesting later.

For my platform game, I quickly started coding the most basic elements of the game:

  • Loading and displaying a map on the screen
  • The presence of a character moving around the map
  • The ability to die and complete the level


No original ideas were involved. The game was pretty bad, but I had something to play with.

Iterate


Now that you have a complete bare prototype, it is time to improve it. This part may turn out to be the most difficult and long in the creation process, but it is also the most interesting.

Here's how it works: there is a small idea, implement it, test, improve and repeat again. Some ideas will turn out to be bad, some will need a lot of fine-tuning, while others will be great. Just keep iterating with new ideas until you have what you like.

I will try to show you this process on one of my ideas that I had for my platform game:

  • Adding coins to games gives interest, so I encoded the coins
  • It looked nice, but it was wrong because the coins weren’t used anywhere.
  • To fix this, I changed the rules of the game: to complete the level you must collect all the coins
  • It got much better, but now I had to redo some of the levels to account for this change


Just a small idea, like “adding coins,” ended with a complete change in my entire game. If you want, you can play my platformer here .

Conclusion


Summary: use constraints, get started now and iterate.

With such a system, finding ideas is actually not so difficult. To do this, you still need to work and apply imagination, but in the end you will have ideas and, more importantly, you will have something that you like.

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