E. Darwin Hartshorn: //Boilerplate

Dev Game 02: Stand on the Shoulders of Giants

Theodore Beale is a groundbreaking game designer and Satan Incarnate (the ground he broke was the invention of the FPS escort mission).  He’s teaching a 10-session online course through a technical college in Zürich on game development and, by the looks of things so far, it will be worth your while to sign up for the eight remaining courses.  I’m not going to write up a full report in this space, since the organizers surely deserve remuneration, but I plan on writing up a takeaway each week.

This week’s takeaway is stand on the shoulders of giants.

One of Mr. Beale’s little factoids was this: Grand Theft Auto is Pac-Man.

You’re Pac-Man, your mission destinations are the dots, and the cops are the ghosts.

There is nothing truly original.

It’s rare for a game designer to come up with something new to the world of game design.  And even then, it wasn’t new to the world at large.  Before there was Pac-Man, there were physical, meatspace games like tag and capture-the-flag.  Innovation comes not from inventing new things, but combining old things (tag + TV screens = Pac-Man).

How to make an original game:

My wife pointed out a monster catching and raising game on iOS with the question, “Isn’t this what you’re trying to do?”

No.  It’s not.  See, here’s my design philosophy:  I make the games I want to play.   If someone else has made it already, I don’t have that unrequited desire to make the game, as I can requite said desire any time I like.  Or at least as soon as I save up the cash to buy it.

Ergo, every game I intend to make has never been done before.  Most are variations on things that have been done before.  But all are, in some way, original.

As I gain skill and a feel for the market, I intend to expand my rubric: I intend to make games that lots of people, including myself, want to play.  Once again, games they want to play because they don’t exist yet.