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You Have an Idea for a Game - Here's Why Nobody Cares
by Adrian Chmielarz on 05/09/13 09:02:00 am   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I guess this blog post was inevitable. I am sure that it’s not the first or the last post on the subject of wanna be game designers, but I am not sure if we were particularly honest with ourselves before.

And by “honest” I mean “brutally honest”.

The answer is that yes, we were. Like, here and here. And yet nothing ever changes. Every game developer’s inbox is full of emails from people who “have this brilliant idea for a game”. So it seems like we need to keep saying this every single year: nobody cares about your game idea.

But let’s begin with a fun story about a game developer’s life.

Meet Marek Panczyk. He is a programmer at Big Daddy's Creations. His studio was about to release their new game, Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy. But after four months of an insane non-stop crunch, he needed a break, and his family needed him. So they all went on a little vacation to this cute quiet little place far away from the city. Marek still planned to do some work, though. I mean, it’s Internet and cellphones, we are all connected, so what could go wrong?

As it turned out, everything.

Now, trust me, the entire story is amazeballs, but to keep this blog post’s lengths sane, let’s just say that the game was released a bit earlier than anticipated and Marek had to deal with an onslaught of emails. Except the reception was so bad in the area, that the only place he could get a signal was in the middle of a random meadow.

Take a good look at this picture.

Game Idea - Marek Panczyk

What you can see here is Marek with his dog (who just chased away two deer), working on his iPad, with the iPhone serving as a hotspot. This is how Marek spent the first day of May: sitting on the ground in the middle of nowhere, freezing his ass off, and writing tons of email on a clunky keyboard of a touch device. One tick attached itself to his temple, and the other to his neck, but he did the job he needed to do.

This is real world game making. It’s a lot of hard work, and it requires passion and dedication, and Marek’s adventure is a perfect metaphor for it all. Except it’s not even a metaphor. It really happened.

And you expect people like him or thousands of other game developers to drop everything and jump on your game idea, even though they have no clue who you are, they have no need to know who you are, and they have ten million more important things to deal with. All because you promise that your game idea is “great and unlike anything else out there”.

Now I could explain it to you how an established studio without tons of their own ideas to keep them busy until the end of time does not exist. And that they have no need for any external ideas whatsoever, even if they are looking for game designers to help them bring the ideas they already have to life. And that you have no idea how a game is made, and how a game studio operates, because if you did, you would have never contacted us about making your game.

But there are two way more important reasons why we ignore your emails, or reply with a template, or sometimes reply in person just so you don’t hate us on gaming forums.

First, you are clearly insane.

Second, and get ready, because this one is really going to hurt, you don’t actually want to be making games.

I'll let you in on a little secret. The very fact that you email someone proposing they make a game based on your design is the reason why they will never make your game. Because only delusional people believe they can get their game done this way, and why should we trust delusional people?

Think about it this way. Someone knocks at your door in the middle of the night. It’s man in dressed as a parrot. He says he can make you rich if you allow him to handle your finances. What do you do?

Getting en email or being grabbed at a random conference by someone saying they have a fantastic idea for a game feels exactly like meeting the parrot man. You know he is out of touch with reality, so you won’t give him any money or time.

It does not matter what you have to offer. You are clearly insane. And who wants to do business with insane people?

Game Idea - Parrot

Tell me, how many e-mails from people you never met who promise you “a great return on your investment” have you answered?

Tell me, how does your email, asking us to give your game idea money and resources, differ from the above?

“Because these emails are a scam, and I am an honest man”, you say?

No. There is no difference, really.

The chance that the “we will wisely invest your money” email is not a scam is, let’s say, 1%.

The chance that you, who have never made a game before, have come up with a phenomenal game design is exactly the same, 1%.

Okay, more like 0.001%.

Why?

Because bad designers don’t know they are bad designers, just like those ridiculous amateurs on American Idol have no idea they cannot sing to save their life. Just as you laugh at these fools when you watch the show, we sometimes read your designs for shits and giggles. Because the truth is, we have never seen a random design being any good or original, but they do provide for a good entertainment.

Because there is not a single success story where a random stranger emails a game studio with his game idea and boom, they make a game based on his design. And yet somehow you don’t know that. And if you lack basic Google skills, how can we trust your game designs?

Because the world is full of people who believe they can write books, make movies or design video games, but they have never proven they can. It’s just what they love to think when they are old and bitter and look back at their life and think “Man, I wish I pursued that writing career, I had this great idea for a book”.

Yeah. Why the hell didn’t they write that book?

Because the truth is, they never really had it in them.

And you don’t have it either.

Let me tell you how I got into this business.

Almost everybody in the communist Poland was poor, but my family was a bit poorer. I’m not fishing for sympathy here, I am just explaining the background. The only way I could get access to a computer was if I visited a friend with one. In order to convince them to let me touch it, I always offered to write a game we could play together. Then I made a game in an hour or two, we played it for half an hour, then we turned the computer off and the game was lost forever.

Later, I got a way to sell some of my games. Yes, I was making and selling games before I had a computer. Of course with the first money I’ve earned I got me one.

Game Idea - ZX Spectrum

How did I learn how to make games? In the 1980s there was this magazine in Poland that published lessons about the low-level programming language for ZX Spectrum. The magazine had nothing to do with computing or gaming, but hey, this was 1980s Poland, and life was weird. Anyway, this was long before any printing service in Poland used computers, so the entire process was manual and analogue. Because the compositors had no idea what they were looking at, they were screwing up a lot of the examples in these articles. For example, something like this:

10. PRINT “HELLO WORLD”

In the magazine looked something like this:

100, PRNT ‘HELO WORLD

Now, assuming you have no idea about the assembly language for ZX Spectrum, tell me what is wrong with this bit of code:

EX DE, HL

INC L

AND 15

RMCA

DJNZ Loop

Black voodoo magic? Yes, exactly, that’s what it was to me. Not only I had no idea what the assembly language was, but the code samples I had were all screwed up. I was like an archeologist who was trying to decipher an ancient book that was written in an unknown language by a dyslexic alien.

But I did it. I learned how to code, how to make graphics, how to make sounds, and how to design.

And now you have the Internet, games with editors, game making tools, free graphics and audio libraries, and a PC with a hard drive.

So don’t tell me it can’t be fucking done.

If you want to be making games, don’t send me an email you want someone else to do it for you.

Make a game.

It’s that simple.

Except of course it’s not that simple and 99% of you will never start making a game, and if you do, you will never finish it.

This is where you have to realize something. You don’t want to be making games. You just love games and have something to say about them, and they inspire you. But you are not a creator. You have as much passion for game making as I have for an electric guitar: I want to rock the stadiums that look like a sky full of lighters, but I sure as hell will never learn how to play one.

You won’t be marketing your game sitting in the middle of a cold meadow. You won’t be making your game on a friend’s computer, looking at the code samples from a magazine full of printing errors.

It’s fine. You’ll find something else that genuinely works for you.

And if I sounded angry in this blog post, I am sorry. Obviously I know you are not literally insane, you are just naïve and fresh, and you love video games deeply. But when I stare at yet another email from someone like you, it just hurts. You are like a child who painted this atrocious picture and wants his neighbor to frame it and hang in the living room. And it pains the neighbor to tell the kid the truth, but at the same he surely doesn’t want to have the picture hanged on any of the walls, even if it’s the basement.

Game making is just not for you, man. It’s all right.

The remaining 1% who have finished a game or a mod? Welcome to the club. Step one: complete.

Are you ready for a hundred more?

 


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Comments


Casey Dockendorf
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Great write up! I meet people all the day who "want" and "wish" and complain that no one will give them their big break or listen to their great ideas, but the reality is: if they really wanted it, and I mean REALLY wanted it, they would have had it by now. The only thing stopping those people from making their dreams become realities is themselves. Plain and simple.

Jonathan Jennings
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The best way to take this article is as an urgent request for those who truly believe they want to make games...to actually go out and do it. Adrian makes an excellent point between tools like game maker, construct 2, and unity and the mountains of tutorials helpful Devs post all over youtube , 3D buzz, and the rest of the internet there's little stopping anyone from learning to make the game of their dreams and actually go out there and do it. Good post!

Amanda Lange
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The timing on this post is interesting for me because I'm working with a team right now trying to address this problem.

The root issue is that lots of people just aren't sure where games come from. They aren't sure what the first steps are. They have at least a vague idea that a movie might come out of a screenplay, but how would a game even get started? "Just learn to program" is one answer, but that answer doesn't really help lots of people. What they picture in their head is so far away from that first line of code, or that first Gamemaker demo. It's overwhelming.

We're trying something new at Schell Games called GameSprout. It's designed for people who want to be game designers but don't know the first steps. We hope it will inspire a lot of people who just have those game ideas, but don't know how games are really made. People will be able to submit those game ideas and learn the process for creating prototypes. Users will comment and vote on ideas to try to improve the design (or just tell people what will and won't work). It's going to be a dose of reality for lots of users - who just don't realize how much work can go into a game - but, also hopefully a real motivator for users who just want to know what it takes to take something from a concept into something more concrete. Even in alpha testing, we've had some pretty good ideas from people who were otherwise outsiders.

Luke Putman
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''Because bad designers don’t know they are bad designers, just like those ridiculous amateurs on American Idol have no idea they cannot sing to save their life.''

That may be true in a lot of cases, but you don't really think it's impossible for someone to create their own intricate GDD that has potential for success, do you? What if someone actually DID send you something fantastic on the level of Portal, Half-Life, or Call of Duty? It's possible, isn't it? A creative-director-in-the-making could have outstanding ideas for the next block-buster game(s), but just not know how to program. Why do you feel the need to bash not only the lack of programming skills, but also the designs you haven't even seen yet?

Games used to be one-man affairs, where there was one programmer and one conceptual designer. But those days are almost completely over. New engines are being created that make programming less-essential, like Unreal 4. Indie games are exploding as the tools become available to the common man. If game development were as simple as just being a programmer, why are there so many roles to fill in AAA development, the most essential of which is the creative director?

I'm not saying it wouldn't be hard enter the industry without programming skills; I just disagree with the way you go about acknowledging the introduction of innovation.

Taro Omiya
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"Tell me, how many e-mails from people you never met who promise you “a great return on your investment” have you answered?

Tell me, how does your email, asking us to give your game idea money and resources, differ from the above?"

I am now going to steal these lines. I greatly appreciate this article!

Emilio Lopez
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I'm not Polish, but I lived in Poland as a kid for four years back in 1990-1994 - a year after the communists left Poland, and your story brought me childhood memories from back then. Gray and sad memories indeed, although it did leave a permanent imprint on me.

I very much like your article and your story - both inspirational and true. I myself am climbing (or trying very hard to do so) the ladder you once walked. Naturally it's a very different setting than the one you lived. For your story, dziekuje bardzo.

Jon Baginski
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Good points. Our game (Jetbot) was made on the road at Cafe's or at home. It took a good solid 12 months just to get the game to a solid standard, after which more visual features were added to help the game match up against app store competition. Even now we are working hard on marketing which is proving just as difficult a task as creating the game itself. After finishing the game, numerous people were approaching us with app and game ideas, but as I'm standing there nodding... I'm picturing myself running out of the building :)
Game is art, and I like to compare it to a painting that takes 2 years to finish. Not everyone will know how long it took to produce and will always think they have a great or better idea. However, instead of shutting them down (as someone once did to me) I tell them the most important thing is to focus on their idea and just do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Games might be an extremely difficult art form to create, but the payoff is there and even if you don't make much money, you will be proud of seeing it in the app store, ready for someone on the other side of the world to download and play.
One thing the article does not mention much is how forming a team is important. I could not have made the game myself plain and simple. By the time I would have learned xcode, android would probably have been the new market.
Find a coder/artist and talk about an idea together. And don't forget to find a sound guy!

Curtiss Murphy
profile image
Great addition to the 'nobody cares about your stupid game idea' library. Goes well with this one: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/128569/Opinion_No_One_Cares_Ab
out_Your_Cool_Game_Idea.php

Enjoyed it!


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