Art and science both come into play in videogame development. Look beyond simple aesthetics and into the raw components of any game and you'll find complex machinery at work, nudging you towards the next checkpoint or daring you to take a little extra risk for a little extra reward. Game concepts are the easy part, says our gang of eShop developers: get past that initial stage and the real work begins.
Keith Co is the brains behind Amoebattle, a forthcoming eShop game from Intrinsic Games. "A game idea could fly through your head at any moment," he tells ONM. "It could be inspired by art or movies, or be based on a life experience. You could take a game or genre you liked and then look for ways to improve upon it.
"Whenever I get an idea, I immediately write it down and keep it somewhere. It might be terrible, but a game designer usually has a bunch of concepts just filed away and a great game could be born from one or a combination of these random ideas. Amoebattle was inspired by an educational game I played as a kid involving amoebas."
Manfred Linzner is bossman at Shin'en Multimedia, creator of FAST Racing League, Jett Rocket and the extremely enthusiastically named Fun! Fun! Minigolf Touch! "We talk everyday about new ideas and concepts," he says. "They are then floating until they get tested or abandoned. Often we find inspiration from things that have nothing to do with games."
How do you sift through all these disparate ideas, though? From here it's a process of identifying the strongest ideas and trialling them from there. "When deciding what the next project would be, each person was allowed to bring forth any number of ideas for consideration," explains Intrinsic's Keith Co. "Around eight wildly different ideas were considered and Amoebattle was eventually picked from the bunch. Anyone is allowed to pitch an idea, so everyone is involved."
As creative director of the studio, Nnooo's Nic Watt takes the lead on new game ideas. "Before we develop any idea, it rattles around in my head for a long time," he tells ONM.
"I visualise it and play about with it until I feel happy that it will be fun and we can achieve it. The very early stages can take months, or years, as they float around in my head being pushed and pulled apart. Spirit Hunters Inc (an AR-based DSiWare game) is an idea I have been nurturing for over eight years."
Shin'en's process is a little different. "You really have to try the ideas you have," says Linzner. "Without trying you will never know for sure if they work. We don't believe in writing documents about our games. "Our documents are never bigger than a two pager. We feel that would be wasting time that ought to be spent trying to see if it's working, so often a project gets greenlit when the prototype looks promising."
Prototyping is the next phase for Intrinsic, too. "Each person brings their perspective to the table," says Co. "The programmer looks at potential complexity, the designer looks at game systems and the fun factor, and then the producer thinks about the scope and size of the project.
"The consensus was that Amoebattle would be a good idea to start with and we were given a few weeks to prototype it. It took around four months before the main game systems of Amoebattle were finally locked down."