Creating a game concept
If there is no more place to go,
it does not mean we have finished our way.
Many beginners and even professional developers doubt the necessity of writing a concept of the game. The concept is written for the following purposes:
— To interest potential participants in the project, investors, journalists.
— To streamline both the author's and other people's vision of the game.
— To estimate, however roughly, time and effort required to develop the game.
If you have already achieved these goals, you do not need the concept indeed. But usually your self-assurance plays against you:
— Lack of interest due to vague understanding of the idea by other people. The idea may be rejected even before the author tells the potential players about the rich features of the still imaginary game.
— Disagreements arise due to different vision of the project by its participants.
— Difficulties in implementing the intended features and features added later force the developers to delay the release again and again.
Creating a concept of one or two pages enables people to see the real advantages of the project, give a reasonable estimate of efforts required and the possible result. And it will certainly stimulate new ideas!
Title for a textbook of obscene words:
"A Comprehensive Curse of Literature"
Suggested names for the project.
The project needs a name so that people would not call it "something about WWII" or "another adventure game". It must be clearly identifiable by potential investors and players. Names consisting of two or three words are preferrable. The name should form an association "name — first impression of the game".
Television was not invented to make human beings vacuous,
but is an emanation of their vacuity.
Focus is the core of game's concept. It answers 5 groups of questions in one or two plain sentences:
— Impression. What will be the first impression? What is the most attractive in the game for the player? What he will notice about the game first?
— Feeling. What feelings will the game give to the player? What will he feel like?
— Results. What will the player get from the game? What results he will have after each game session? And after he completes the game?
— Uniqueness. What is there unique in the game, making it different from other games? What will the gamer say, if asked "What's the thing you remember most about this game?", "What's better in this game than in other games?"
— Actions. What is the main method of gamer's interaction with the game environment? What actions will be the most frequent in the game?
Though the questions seem different and too numerous, the focus is usually composed quite easily. This many questions mainly help to simplify the understanding of what aspect should be described. A typical focus will have the form "Get Impressive Feelings from Unique achievement of Results by Actions". After creating the focus sentence, keep the answers to the questions as you will need them later.
Musical: a spoken genre for those who cannot sing,
and a musical genre for those who cannot speak.
A genre to which the game belongs, briefly proved by a description of game principles. Gamer's viewpoint is an important part of genre attribution (e.g. first-person, third-person, view from above, isometric projection etc.).
The notion of genre itself is very different from its traditional understanding when applied to games. In games, it embraces:
— A set of internal parameters of the game, having little to do with the name of the genre itself.
— An attempt to position the game in the view of potential players.
Take, for example, RTS games: anyone who sees games of this genre is surprised how few strategic decisions there is to make; the game focuses more on tactical decisions. Nevertheless, the modern tradition of game distribution requires any project to belong to a genre. Inventing a new genre is considered as an attempt to force one's own ways.
Viewpoint. Different players want to see the action in different ways. Some gamers want realism, a first-person perspective, as though from the eyes. Some gamers want to see the protagonist's interaction with the environment, and a third-person view ("behind the shoulder") is the most convenient for them. Besides, the viewpoint influences the required development efforts: the closer a player may view objects, the more detailed it should be and more complex to make.
Topic, environment, story
A good novel is several hundred aphorisms
connected by a common story.
The concept should state the general picture without any long and detailed descriptions. Ideally, every aspect should be described by no more than a paragraph.
— Topic: information on the game world, its global laws and structure. The reader should be able to imagine the world in general, compare it to similar worlds.
— Environment: by moving on to particular features (from the topic to the environment), you should give the reader an idea about the game's arena and circumstances under which the player will act.
— Story: explain the situation and motivation for the past and future events. A brief summary of the complete story of the game.
Audience and distribution
Acting before the full auditorium with people who feel the same way as you
is the same as singing in a hall with good acoustics.
Basing on the answers used to compose the focus sentence, you describe the target audience and the secondary audience of the game. The target audience is attracted by answers to all five groups of questions, but only a part of these answers is important for the secondary audience. Consequently, there may be a number of secondary audiences; it is reasonable to describe the most promising ones.
A proposed method of distributing the game should also be stated. Here the focus sentence and additional questions will help you again. Kids cannot make a micropayment via text messaging because they do not have a cell phone; or, for example, many adults do not mind violence or erotic scenes, but they actively oppose showing this to kids.
Examples of distribution methods:
— Retail: selling boxes with a pre-recorded copy of the game in shops, making profit from the box price.
— Online distribution: selling copies of game via the Internet, making profit from copy activation.
— Free2play: the game is free to play, and the developer gets profit from additional paid services or ads.
— Subscribe: a limited-term subscription giving full or partial access to the features of the game.
Democracy is a process for the people to
democratically elect a scapegoat.
The most important and the largest section of the game concept. The description of the game should use, expand and add points about the game process. In several paragraphs, freely describe the following aspects of the game process:
— Space where the game takes place, e.g. area map for RTS, location for quests. What game opportunities does the space give and what limitations does it impose?
— Objects. Any separate objects – describe their features, capabilities, relationships. For RTS, it is units, buildings, discoveries. For quests, it is characters, objects.
— Tools to influence the situation in the game. These are actions that the gamer can take to change the game process. For RTS, these are selecting a place of troops stationing or assigning a unit a target to attack. For quests, these are conversations, usage of objects.
— Information (given to the player about the situation). In RTS, he sees a mini-map, user interface, a sector of the map, objects in this sector. In quests, he sees a location, characters in it, inventory, various data.
— Rules for the beginning, course of action and ending of the game:
— Beginning of a game session: what the player has, where the objects are located and their state.
— Course of action: what rules and conditions should be obeyed or taken into account.
— Ending: when the game session is considered over, what are the results.
Numerical specifications of devices claimed by
the manufacturer should be multiplied by 0.5.
(Artur Bloch, Murphy Laws)
Any numerical parameters required to evaluate the game, e.g. 10 types of enemies, 3 protagonists, etc.
Besides allowing to estimate the amount of work, it gives the player an idea of game's scale. The most impressive numbers from this section are often printed on the box and used in advertising.
Similar games and competitors
The role of personality in history and
the role of character in situation are identical.
The more competitors, the higher the podium.
This section depends on the impression the reader has about the game. One or two sentences about each project mentioned is enough.
Descriptions of similar games complement the vision of the concept. What are the similarities and differences of existing projects from the proposed concept?
Information about the competitors helps the developer to single out the commercial uniqueness of this project more precisely and brightly, and the reader will be able to make a comparison easily. When describing the competitors, mention the points of competition and emphasize the advantages of the proposed concept.
Commercial uniqueness (USP)
An offer you cannot refuse is made
when you cannot agree with it.
(A Murphy law)
USP means Unique Selling Point (Points) — a unique selling proposition.
Commercial uniqueness is a peculiarity of the project due to which the game will be purchased and valued. Without the rest of the concept, particularly "Focus sentence", "Game process", "Similar games and competitors", this section is useless.
There can be several peculiarities (up to three), but if there is too many of them, it means lack of precise focus in the project, lack of uniqueness of the peculiarities described, or an attempt to create an excessively large-scale game.
Technical details and timeframe
Technological progress has merely provided us
with more efficient means for going backwards.
Any delivery time should be multiplied by 2.0.
(Artur Bloch, Murphy Laws)
What technologies will be used or developed? What are the advantages of the selected technology or approach to implementation?
What are the projected timeframes for the following:
— Game prototype (basic game process is implemented)
— Alpha version with all features implemented, ready for a closed test by a limited number of players
— Beta versions with all the game content implemented, ready for an open beta testing by any players
— Release (launch of the product)
— Release of add-ons