You want to make a game but you don’t know exactly what that game might be. Well don’t worry, plenty of people have been in that boat. Coming up with ideas from thin air might seem daunting but there’s actually plenty of advice we can give on how to start that process and get your imagination going. Once you’ve got your ideas, we can also help with where you might take them next…
A beginner’s guide to game ideas
Square 1. If you want to come up with a video game idea but you don’t know where to start, we can help. Below is a list of the steps to take to generate game ideas, with explanations below. So here’s our 5 steps to creating your own video game idea:
- Pick a theme
- Select a genre
1. Get your theme parked. While you might not want to box yourself in, a good place to start is thinking about what theme your game will have. Even if you want to do something that is out-of-the-box, or that transcends normal categories, it’s still good to consider some of the staples:
2. Genre-defining. Once you know the theme of the game you’re making, you need to figure out how your game will play. The genre of game you’re designing will usually also determine your mechanics to a certain extent. Examples of genres include:
- Role playing games:
- Point-and-click adventures
- Visual novels
- So-called ‘walking simulators’
- Shooters (FPS, 3rd-person)
- Platform games (2D, 2.5D, 3D)
- Survival (Open-world survival, survival horror)
- Turn-based strategy
Genres aren’t always mutually-exclusive and can often be combined. For example, most survival horror games include puzzles, many RPG subgenres can also be turn-based etc. For a longer list, check out Wikipedia’s list of game genres.
3. 💡💡💡 So you’ve decided on a massively-multiplayer online survival horror with rogue-like elements. Sounds good! What’s next? Well, now you need to start coming up with all the individual ideas and design elements that make up the larger game idea you want to flesh out. Examples include:
How do you do this? There’s no right way to come up with ideas, so find a way that works for you. A good place to start might be writing down all the ideas you already have about what you want your game to be, categorising them, and then working from there. As you think up and record more ideas, it will be clear what’s missing and how you can fill in the gaps. See our section below on ‘coming up with unique video game ideas’ for more insight.
4. Prototype it up 🛠️ Once you’ve got all your ideas together, you need to put them into action. Not only will this help you see which of your ideas work and which don’t, you’ll be able to see how they fit together and interact with each other. SpaceDraft is a great, affordable tool for prototyping if you’re not sure how to get started.
5. View again, re-view. Once you’ve got ideas in place, set aside time to review them. This should definitely be done for your idea as a whole once it’s ready, but also along the way as well. At each stage, for each decision you make, on every idea you’ve come up with, make space to revisit them and either confirm or tweak as needed.
Coming up with unique video game ideas
In order to guarantee your ideas lead to a successful game, you need to ensure your ideas are novel. People always want something new. Even if you’re making a game in a genre and format that already exists, there’s still plenty of room for innovation. Below are some ways we suggest to help you produce unique ideas for your game design.
📚 Literature – read around the subject. It’s a no-brainer since there’s plenty of writing out there on game design. Our SpaceDraft knowledge base could be a good place for you to start. But, regardless of what you’re reading, make sure to…
🔬 Research – even if you don’t have the budget for a large-scale study, there’s still plenty of free ways to explore what other people have to say on game ideas. Quora and Reddit are good places to go to ask the public questions. Or, you could generate a free survey with a tool like Survey Monkey and circulate in on your social media networks.
🎮 Inspiration – chances are if you’re in game design you’ve probably played one or two yourself. Drawing from things you love in game and adapting them may not sound like the best way to come up with unique ideas, but it’s easy to take something you like and improve on it, changing it enough so that it feels novel. Don’t limit yourself to video gaming either. Board games can provide inspiration for mechanics, movies and books can inspire stories, even travel can inspire game environments.
🔎 Search online – obviously searching online for literature and inspiration makes sense. But, it’s also a good idea to search for an idea you’ve come up with to see if someone else has already had it. It would be a shame to get most of the way through the design process only to realise you’re accidentally ripping off an existing game!
⚡ Video game idea generators – don’t expect a tool to generate a complete gaming idea for you, or even one that makes complete sense, but tools like dashnet.org’s game generator tool can help. Even just as a jumping off point, using a tool that generates randomly assembled game ideas can give you a unique place to start your game ideation process from.
Our tips for game ideas
- Try putting a new spin on something that already exists
- Bounce ideas off people in your life
- Keep an idea journal that you can bring out whenever an idea pops up
- Schedule time to think, and time off too
- Start writing, and don’t delete anything unless you’re sure it’s useless
- Create your own top 10 lists of ideas you enjoy in games you’ve played
Ideas for naming your game
Would a rose by any other name play as sweet? 🥀 While a great game might still be popular with a name that doesn’t make sense *cough Final Fantasy 27 cough*, or else one that isn’t especially good *cough First Encounter Assault Recon (FEAR) cough cough*, that doesn’t mean naming your game won’t matter.
Your game’s name will be one of the first impressions a person gets of it, and as a result it can be a make or break scenario; whether someone clicks a link to it from an online store or Google it when they hear it mentioned. Naming a game is an exercise in design and marketing and needs some consideration.
What to consider when naming your game 💭 :
- Is it easy to remember and spell across all target regions?
- Does another game or product sound similar?
- Does it have a lot of competition on search engines?
- Is there an available domain name?
- Does it fit the theme and genre?
- Would it appeal to the target audience?
Do I just mash keys? Coming up with the name itself can be tricky. Having had a quick look at name generators that are available for brands/products, we’d advise against bothering. Instead, open a new document and start playing around. Try some of the following:
- Start with descriptive words for your game, like foggy, rapid, tense, struggle etc.
- Play around with sound. Try rhyming, alliteration, onomatopoeia (bang!).
- Look into etymology (where words come from). You don’t have to go straight to Latin but definitely do some research.
- Go on the hunt. Look at baby names, chemical names, place names, colour names. Anything that might spark something off for you.
- Make noises. Just start making vowel sounds, humming, tapping things. Get the auditory parts of your brain firing.
How to patent/pitch/publish your game idea
Where in the world to start? 🌏 Exactly where you are. Your first step is figuring out your country’s intellectual property office. Luckily the WIPO has a list of offices by country. Since SpaceDraft is based in Australia, we’ll use it as an example.
IP Australia is the place to go to apply for a patent in Australia. You can apply for provisional and international patents here too. If you want to market your game globally then international patents will be relevant to you. IP Australia also advises getting an attorney involved to improve your chances of getting a patent successfully.
Considerations for patenting:
- Is it worth the money? Patents can be resource intensive and usually have to be renewed, which costs money. If there’s little chance of your intellectual property rights being infringed upon, it may not be worth the hassle.
- Is there time? If you want to launch ASAP, then you may have to do so without a patent in place. If your game doesn’t stay relevant for long enough then it may also be redundant to patent.
- Is your idea actually unique? Unless the game you’ve created includes mechanics or design elements seen nowhere else, a patent may not be appropriate.
- Is copywriting alone enough? You automatically receive copyright protection for a piece of original work. Unless you want to protect a concept that you won’t be adapting into a game right away, then copywriting should automatically cover you.
If you’re pitching, who’s up to bat? 🏏 How you pitch your game idea depends on who you’re pitching to. If it’s to a designer, it will be a different pitch to one you make to potential players. If you’re not sure who to go to first, check out this list of video game publishers on Wikipedia.
Still, regardless on who’s on the receiving end, here’s some general tips for pitching a game:
- Research who you’re pitching to.
- Make sure every pitch is tailored to the audience (generic pitches are easy to sniff out and less impactful).
- Make it concise and top level. Often when pitching you don’t have the undivided attention of your audience so you need to cut through the noise with snappy, informative pitching.
- Tell them why it matters and what’s in it for them. Unfortunately people aren’t as interested in what your game means to you, just what it could mean for them.
- Make it engaging with visual aids, examples, prototyping if possible – anything that will help hammer home your message.
Is it the final draft? There are a lot of steps between having a video game idea and publishing. Designing and building the game for instance, and then also playtesting. If you need help to design and build your game then a publisher may also be able to help with that too, in which case you might need to think about pitching instead (see above).
Ready and set to go ⏩ If your game is in a finished format, then it is time to consider publishing. There’s a few options to choose from:
- Indie publishing – if you’re going it alone then most people will need to find a platform they can publish on. Steam, Humble Bundle, and Kongregate are a few examples.
- Working with a publisher – the more expensive option, but working with a publisher brings with it the marketing and sales expertise that you may lack. See the ‘pitching’ section above for more info on reaching publishers.
- Co-production – this gives you the option of a larger budget and resources to make a bigger, more marketable game.