Recently there have been some threads about ‘how to get inspiration’ on the Gamedev.net forums. Sometimes it feels as if every good idea is already taken, and that every addition or twist you come up with turns out wrong.
That was written in a game design board, but I’ve also seen it come up many times on level-design forums. Take Counter-Strike for example: so many custom maps have been created that there’s virtually no original setting left. Or Half-Life 2: try to come up with an original physics-based puzzle for once. That’s harder than it looks.
Here’s how I handle it
I used to have the same problem, but I’ve found a way around it. It’s actually fairly easy. I simply write down every idea I come up with, or I create some sketches or concept images or whatever. I then store these ideas somewhere. Whether it’s a slice of paper, a word document, a blog entry or a concept image doesn’t matter. I am still trying to get it all organized in one central place, but for now that’s not the most important thing.
What’s important is how I use this idea library. Every now and then I go through it to check up on some old ideas. Each time, I come in with a different mindset. I’ve read new things since the last visit, I’m thinking about different things than last time, and so on. These old ideas, combined with new thoughts, can sometimes result in pretty interesting results. Guess what? I’ll write them down, too.
And how I move on beyond ideas
Whenever I’ve got something that looks particularly interesting – and technically possible – I start prototyping it. This usually takes a few days and contains only the core gameplay mechanics. After all, I don’t want to waste time prettying up something that may turn out to be boring. While I’m prototyping, I often get new ideas, too, and I’m actively trying to find out how I can improve on the original idea.
Once I’ve got something working, I start playing it. If I think it has enough potential, I ask some friends, relatives and strangers to play it too. Maybe they come up with some interesting suggestions. Or maybe they’ll tell me it’s just plain boring. Or they’ll really like it. Whatever it is, I’m usually able to figure it out relatively early. Of course, it’s good practice to make notes about the results, for future reference.
This is just how I’m encouraging my creativity. I started writing down ideas a year or 2 ago and it’s really working in my favor now. However, every person is different, so this may not work equally well for everyone. But perhaps this post has given you some inspiration.