How To Start Your Own Games Studio, Pt 1

Written by Mark Morris

April 9, 2008 | 07:06

Tags: #darwinia #develop #guide #how-to #how-to-start-your-own-games-studio #independant #mark-morris #multiwinia #uplink #writing

Companies: #defcon #indie #introversion

Ideas for Games

People often ask about our sources of inspiration and the creative method we go through, but the truth is that ideas come from all around us. We have no idea when an idea will hit or what will trigger a thought process that ends in an embryonic game design, but we need to be ready to capture it when it does arrive.

What we also know is that the more we experience, the more we expose ourselves to and therefore the higher our creative potential. Chris, the creative mastermind of Introversion, describes this as feeding his inner creativity. If that part of his mind becomes starved then the ideas begin to dry up.

So perhaps the first piece of advice I will impart is to expose yourself to as much stimulation as possible. Read books, play games, watch films, get out there and give your brain something to work with. The more tools you have in your toolbox, the better your work can be.

Most people know all that though. Many people don’t need too much help coming up with ideas and if they do, well then they tend to be more interested in being accountants than working in the video game industry. In fact, most people who want to start a games company already have a game idea, but it seems to me that many of them don’t seem to be able to tell when their game is crap.

Now I need to be very careful at this point. It wasn’t that long ago that we experienced around twenty publishers telling us that Uplink was crap and wouldn’t sell. A few years later we were looking for distributors to shift boxes of Darwinia however it took as a long time to find someone who didn’t think it was crap. By the time we released DEFCON we’d pretty much given up on publishers, but we thought we’d give it one last go, but I think you can probably guess the response we received.

How To Start Your Own Games Studio, Pt 1 Idea Generation
Introversion is currently working on brand new project...

We’re not publishers and I try to be as positive as I can about new game concepts (even if I don’t understand them), but there are some features of an idea that make it bad. If we can avoid those obvious pitfalls than perhaps we have something worth taking forward.

Firstly, don’t make a game that only you are going to play.

In order to be successful there has to be some market potential. Perhaps that market can be very small – with a team of three people, ten thousand sales can be a good result, but you still need some people to want to play your game. If you get your rocks off thinking about a third-person bunny slaughter set in a steam-punked Tehran then fair enough, but you need to ask yourself what non-freaks will make of this idea.

Secondly, don’t try to beat the big boys at their own game. “It’s like Call of Duty but better”…is not a good way to begin a pitch.

The big companies spend millions developing their games and you and your mates are not going to be able to get anywhere near the production quality of these AAA titles.

How To Start Your Own Games Studio, Pt 1 Idea Generation
Cultivating a niche is always a good way to go...

It’s like a cross between Doom and WoW”, is another great way to shoot yourself in the foot. These are massive franchises with established players and if you create a second rate blend you’re not going to attract either group of fans. Ask yourself, what am I doing to convince a player to put down what he is playing and pick up my game?

Finally, make sure that your idea is feasible. Figure out how much work it will take to complete your game.

Figure out how much work your team can complete in a day and figure out how many days it will take to get to the end of your project. Double that number. What you end up with is a realistic estimate of the time taken to get your game out the door. While you’re at it, if you find that you are looking at several years of development than you really need to find out if you are committed to the concept.

All too often student teams have ideas that are way beyond their practical reach – don’t make that mistake. Keep the scope small, and sleep safe in the knowledge that you can always put more of the cool stuff in the sequel. And if your idea passes those three tests than you are on to something. What exactly you are onto is yet to be seen, but at least you know that you cleared the first hurdle!

So, there we go. Here beginneth the advice – and there’ll be much more to follow as we carry on looking at how to set up a new independent games studio. For now, let us know your thoughts in the forum.
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