How to make a game when you don't have any good ideas

Great ideas are a labor of love, and come with time and constant iteration and diligence.

We all need this in our office! 😄 Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Drill Down and You’ll Eventually Find Gold

Nothing beats a brainstorming session. If you have a concept or theme in mind, drill down on the individual components of that theme. Let’s say you want to make a strategy game, the next level down would be “a spaceship battle strategy game”, and another level would be “manage ship placement, fuel, ammunition, and crew health”. Notice how a genre became actionable game mechanics? You’re well on your way to crafting a Game Design Document at this rate!

An image of the game “FTL” — a strategy spaceship battle game.
An image of the game “FTL” — a strategy spaceship battle game.
The game idea may sound similar to FTL: Faster Than Light. But two games with the same premise are not guaranteed to play the exact same way. Source, https://subsetgames.com/presskit

Can’t Make Music or Art? No Problem!

Many game developers get stuck when they consider the amount of art, music or sound design they need to pull off their game idea. Just because your idea needs assets does not mean its a bad idea! If you are indie game developer working alone, it may feel even more daunting to create all the art for your game. To start, focus on simple art and music styles. There are plenty of game genres and types of art that do not require professional training as a graphic designer to pull off!

A screenshot of the game “among us”, at the moment where one player betrays another.
A screenshot of the game “among us”, at the moment where one player betrays another.
There’s nothing wrong with the art in Among Us. But their simplistic, representational designs are inspiring — you don’t need tons of detail to make a masterpiece! Source, https://www.igdb.com/games/among-us/presskit

Visit the Tire Shop Instead of Reinventing the Wheel

If you don’t feel comfortable creating art or music, you can always visit an open source website like OpenGameArt.org, or your IDE’s asset store (e.g. the Unity Asset Store). There is no shame to start from an existing template, asset or plugin. Your goal should be to actualize your idea and deliver on your theme and core premise — how you get there is almost never the concern of your players.

Just Finish!

Just finish your game. It’s as simple as that. When I am working on a personal project, it almost never gets completed unless I constantly remind myself that the goal is to get it in the hands of players. The best game ever created can be sitting on your hard drive, or in your brain, and will never become anything until it’s in a deliverable state.

Hm, maybe they’re onto something. Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

Iterate or Obliterate

Feel free to borrow this phrase that I just came up with. Once your game is in a playable, deliverable state, you need to hand it off to players to try out and provide feedback. You need to play your own game as well. Tweak the things that work, scrap the things that don’t work. That includes the entire game. Yes, the whole thing. If it’s not fun, stop working on it and get back to brainstorming.

Get started brainstorming your next game project today. Ideas are just waiting to be discovered! Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Conclusion

If you only walk away with three points from this article, they should be:

  • Don’t introduce too many concepts at once
  • Iterate or obliterate

Freelance game designer / developer. Full stack developer. Board game geek and cat tamer.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store