December 27th, 2006

All about creativity

Graphics, gameplay, music are all important aspects of a computer game, but without a good deal of creativity your game world still won’t be much special. There are plenty rip-offs around, so how gather enough inspiration and creativity to make a gaming environment that is both distinct and original?


First of all, I’d like to start out that I am not an avatar creativity and that my theories and advices are likely not the perfect guideline for everyone. I’m just a guy who gets a lot of weird ideas and concepts, both good and warped. Ask my friends my friends if you wish.
There are two ways to create an original game. There is an easy way, which will give a fairly original game and there is a very hard way, which will result in an extremely original and sometimes an even completely “alien” game. There may be more ways, but I’m not aware of them. If you are, then I’m willing to add them in this article.

The easy way: creativity by combination

A very common-used method to create something distinct is by combining existing pieces of work. Reproducing games doesn’t exactly result in an unique piece, hence many people take different parts from different games and mix these into a new concept. A good example would be all the variants on the classic pinball game. Games like Sonic Spinball or the pokemon pinball game are quite obvious examples of this. You just combine the idea of pinball with some elements from a classic adventure game.
As I mentioned, this is an easy way to create something original. Though games like these rarely become a true “killer game” it is a relatively risk-free way, especially if you combine elements from pretty successful games.
So how do you combine the right things and how much should you combine? That isn’t easy, but perhaps these three guidelines help a little:
-More combining is better.
Combining 5 different elements from other games results in a more original game than when you just combine two games.
-Try to minimize direct ripping.
Unless you plan on making an enhanced or different version of an existing game, try to rip as little as possible! An occasional name or graphic is acceptable, but anything more than that usually isn’t. For example, combine names instead of using existing names directly.
-Combine things that you would appreciate as a player.
Seems pretty obvious, but many people try to make their games to suit other people (I’ve caught myself doing this multiple times). This is not the way to go! It’s your game, and if you don’t like it, how on earth can you be motivated enough to complete it?
Sounds good and all, but what if you really want to put something of yourself in the game?

The very hard way: creativity by sheer inspiration

To begin with: The most distinct and original games aren’t necessarily the most popular games so if you just want to get many hits on your site and a big popular project, then the easy way may well work out better. The very hard way focuses purely on creativity and inspiration in their purest forms. But how do you get creativity and inspiration and how on earth do you avoid getting drained of it (“writers block”)? That’s not easy, as it is often about not doing stuff. Allow me to bring forth some helpful points:
-The best ideas appear on the most strange places.
If you need inspiration, then try doing something you barely do. Get away from that computer and go take a hike to someplace you’ve seldom been before. Just some completely weird place where you couldn’t do anything you deem useful. You want examples? Well, my best ideas entered my head at the following moments: whilst biking near Schiphol airport, somewhere on a big construction yard (my hometown is more construction yard than civilization 8P) and when I sat in a ski-lift in Switzerland. sometimes you get spontaneous ideas, often these are silly ones but even silly ideas form a motivation to work on your project, how odd it may sound…
-Feedback is bad!
Yes, even the most positive feedback. You get a good feeling when someone compliments you about your project, but the big problem with feedback is that you shift your mind from the project itself to the feedback. At times where you were pondering about the game, you instead start thinking of all the wonderful (or terrible) feedback about your project. It is true that positive feedback motivates, but most of the time you just feel good about the game instead of actually contributing to it.
-Take your time.
Stop caring about progress or deadlines. If you don’t want to work on your project, then don’t. If you really do like your own project, there will come a moment where you feel the urge to pick up the work again. Pressure is a creativity killer! My most impressive advancements were made after I had not worked on my project for two months.

Well, I’ve mentioned that there are two different “ways” to think of ideas. Now I didn’t do it like this for you to “pick” a way and follow it but show the two extremes of developing game ideas. To develop a game to your liking without becoming unmotivated you probably have to take a bit from both, ripping a little and tapping some stuff from sheer inspiration. Well, one way or another, I hope you have found some useful stuff from this article..

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