Thursday, 14 October 2010

Idea Generation

Included in the business plan are six concept documents, all of them my original ideas, and this had me thinking. What, if it exists, is the most productive method of generating ideas? I suppose this branches out across all creative media, but I'm obviously going to focus here on idea generation in relation to games.

Toward the end of my second year at uni I had an assignment based around the Unreal engine. We were given a list of elements to include (a switch operated mover, a constantly rotating mover, etc.) And we had to use all our own assets, but other than that we had free reign. Now personally I know a problem of mine is a tendency to take the first half decent idea I have and run with it, and so I now work hard to try and explore as many different ideas as possible before settling.

This wasn't one of those times, and as such the first thing that had popped into my head was the idea of playing the Easter bunny causing havoc in Santa's workshop, and I ran with it. Now that I write that down it actually seems like a pretty cool idea and something I might actually do in the UDK, but at the time I hated it. Because I'd just gone with this first idea, not really looking at whether my heart was in it, I found myself just plodding along, paint-by-numbers style, and ridiculously bored. So fairly late into development I thought "screw it." Without another idea yet I figured I'd just relax and take a break, another idea would come to me surely?

It didn't. After a week I began to panic, racking my brain for inspiration. Leaving my student house I decided a walk would clear my head and maybe something would come to me. Making my way to the docks, I saw from a distance the masts of all the boats. They looked a little like cranes on a construction site, and bingo! I had my idea. You can see what I ended up making here -

The lesson I took, and the point I'm trying to make, is that this stuff will come at you from wherever and whenever, and as creatives its important to be able to take note of it when it does. You never know, you may encounter the right combination of environmental elements for your brain to take and twist into the next big thing.

My process that I turn to when I need to generate a new idea, indeed the process by which I came up with all the Noisy Badger games concepts, I call, "The Wikiway."

I pretty much just try and relax, sit down at the computer with a pad, and head over to wikipedia. Once there, I hit the random article button repeatedly, and really just let the articles wash over me. I don't read much of what comes up, just do a quick scan, spending no more than five seconds per article, and jot down anything interesting that surfaces. It could be a place, an event, even an obscure Russian name that rhymes with something completely irrelevant, but it might spark something.

I find this method equally useful for generating completely new ideas and also cultivating existing ideas, like when you've come up with a cool game mechanic and need a story or world to "wrap it" in.

Hopefully this has been informative and provided an insight into the start of the creative process at Noisy Badger, has anyone out there got any other idea generation methods they'd like to share?

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