Narrowing down and refining your ideas

Narrowing down and refining your ideas

Part 2 โ€“ From idea to game: A beginner's guide to creating games with Unity

Jan 23, 2023ยท

8 min read

In the first article of the series, I covered techniques, tools and tips on how you can generate game ideas. So at this stage, you should have a bunch of game ideas ready to explore. I will help you pick the right idea for you, and show you how you can refine the idea.

To narrow down your ideas, you will have to consider a couple of questions.

What is the goal of your game? ๐ŸŽฏ

A mountain peak with a flag planted at the summit, symbolising a challenging goal to be achieved

Perhaps you are aiming to provide a unique and innovative experience, learn and develop your knowledge, commercial success, or tell a compelling story. Defining the goal for your project will help you select the right idea. You can imagine that telling a compelling story can be harder in an arcade-like arena shooter (Such as Quake III Arena), than in a choices-based story game (Such as Telltale's The Walking Dead). I want to be clear that I do not want to steer you away from anything challenging, but having a goal in mind will help you make the right choice for yourself.

For me, that goal is very clear. I want to grow. I want to learn. I want to know the world of game development. Therefore, I had a look at my ideas and eliminated the ideas for which I could not think of a challenging mechanic or system to develop. Which resulted in most of the simpler ideas being removed from my list of ideas.

Who is your target audience? ๐Ÿ‘ฅ

Two PS5 controllers, one held by two female hands and one held by two male hands, as they play a soccer game on a television in the background, representing the variety in target audience

I will be honest. This is one of the hardest questions when working on development projects for me. In my experience, it rarely happens that the target audience is really clear. Sure, there is always "somewhat" of an idea, and I guess, for a passion project that is good enough. But, depending on your goals, it is important to think about the demographics of the people you want to reach. Consider factors such as age group, gender, and interests.

Knowing your target audience can help you focus on game ideas that are likely to appeal to them. Additionally, consider the platform(s) on which you plan to publish your game. You have to make sure this is in line with your target audience.

For example, if your target audience is children, you might want to focus on colourful game ideas, feature larger elements, and are often more "casual". While if your target audience is older, you can consider having moral dilemmas, darker topics, or different visuals.

In my case, while I am primarily making this game for myself to improve my skills and knowledge, I also want to ensure that it is accessible and enjoyable for others. Therefore, I looked for game ideas that had somewhat of a broad appeal and were suitable for all ages.

How much time, knowledge and resources do you have to devote to the project? โฑ

An hourglass with blue sand, tilted on a bed of small stones, representing the importance of being aware of time constraints

When it comes to committing time, knowledge and resources to your project, it is important to be realistic about what you can achieve. Consider how much time you have available to work on the project, your current level of knowledge and expertise, and any resources you have access to. This will help you focus on game ideas that are within the scope of what you can realistically achieve.

For example, if you have a full-time job and other commitments like being a dad, you may have limited time to devote to the project. In this case, it would be wise to focus on game ideas that have a relatively small scope and can be completed within a reasonable timeframe.

However, it is important to be flexible and open to changing your plan. Sometimes, you may find that you underestimated the time, knowledge or resources needed to complete the project. Or maybe something changed during the process. In this case, you may need to adjust your game idea (Or reduce the scope) or plan accordingly to ensure that you can complete the project within the available time, knowledge, and resources.

In my situation, I know I have limited time available to work on the project. I am a dad first and foremost and am working a full-time job. In addition, I also have to write these articles, stay in shape, socialise, etc. Therefore, it would be wise for me to focus on game ideas that have a relatively small scope and can be completed within a reasonable timeframe. So all the bigger ideas are now removed from my pool of ideas.

Choosing the right idea for your project ๐Ÿ‘‰

Two shoes standing on the ground, with white arrows pointing in opposite directions, representing the concept of choice and the need to make a decision

After considering the goal, target audience, and available resources for the project, I ultimately decided to move forward with the chaotic fish frenzy idea. Not only does this idea align with my goal of learning and growing in the world of game development, but it is also suitable for all ages and can therefore attract a wider audience.

This is how I described the idea in the first article:

The best way I can describe it is Insaniquarium on steroids. A chaotic, fast-paced fish simulation game with over-the-top mechanics and gameplay. Much faster that the aforementioned example, and with space for humour, silliness and other creativity.

One of the key reasons I chose this idea was its simplicity. The game requires no story, which means I can focus on mastering Unity and improving my C# skills, rather than also learning story writing. Additionally, I see several challenging elements in this idea that I am excited to tackle, such as efficient resource management, game balancing, and design.

The scope of the game is also easy to adjust based on the time, knowledge, and resources available. If I find that I have more time available than I think at this stage, I can expand on the gameplay mechanics or add more features to the game. On the other hand, if I find that I have less time or resources available than I thought, I can scale back the scope of the game to ensure that I can still complete it within a reasonable timeframe.

Overall, the chaotic fish frenzy idea checks all the boxes of the previous sections for me and leaves room for growth and expansion in the future.

Refining your idea ๐Ÿ’Ž

A hand taking notes on the other side of a glass pane, representing the brainstorming of ideas and giving creativity a boost

Now that you have a game idea, it is time to refine it so that we can start planning. Fear not, the planning will only happen in the next article. So for now focus on the refinement. You are going to need a list of mechanics and features that you can include in your game. Where are you going to find such a list you ask? That is right! It is time for some more brainstorming!

This can be a fun and creative exercise, as it allows you to think about all the different elements that will make the game unique and fun. I already highlighted methods, tools and tips in the first article, so you can apply what you have learned there again.

I used Whimsical this time, and you can see the result below. Please note, the positions are random. Some of the notes have nothing to do with the ones next to them.

A collage of colourful notes with various game ideas and mechanics written on them, representing the brainstorming and idea generation process in game development

Next, you have to organise the creative mess you have created. It is time to cluster ideas that are similar together. It does not have to be perfect, but it helps to understand how mechanics might work together, once we get to the development stages. Additionally, I assume that by this stage, you might have an idea of how the basic gameplay loop will work. Here is how I clustered my ideas.

colourful sticky notes, depicting various game ideas and mechanics. The notes are grouped together in clusters, representing the organisation of ideas during the game development process.

You might look at the ideas above and think "Well that is not a complete game there, you are missing XYZ.". And you would be right! The goal is not to capture everything at this stage of the project. All you need is a solid understanding of your idea, and roughly where you want to go to. For example, I never wrote down that fish should be able to move in the final game. Does that mean they will be frozen in place? Of course not! Game development is an iterative process. There is a good chance you will change course multiple times during your project, and that is fine. But what we are doing now, is creating a base, a vision of where you want to go, to which you can always refer back.

In the next article of this series (And the last one before we dive into Unity!), I will help you plan the development process. However, if you feel like you do not quite have enough ideas to move on yet, take a step back, generate some more ideas and then move on.

Overall, the process of refining a game idea is a crucial step in the development process. By taking the time to think through the mechanics and features that you want to include, you can ensure that your game is fun and engaging!

It would be amazing if you would share your progress in the comments below! I would also like to ask you to leave a comment if you have any clarifying questions or feedback on the article!

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