Your First Ten Games Are Going To Suck

Posted: February 15, 2009 in Games
Tags: ,

So get them out of the way.  Shigeru Miyamoto said that in “Design Secrets of the Sages” or he did roughly, I’m most likely paraphrasing.  So while I’d love him to be wrong, he’s most likely right.  So what should I do about it?

In the words of another designer, “DESIGN! DESIGN! DESIGN!”.   While this is the most obvious answer, it is also the best and hardest.  It’s easy to think that one is brilliant or has ideas better than most.  In reality, you’re most likely within one standard deviation of the norm and your ideas are similar to everyone else with similar histories.  I grew up on Star Wars, loved science fiction and thought Half-Life was the best game ever.  Sure enough, there’s a lot of others out there like me.  Which means, my ideas are going to be similar, or at best, stranger than the rest of them. 

It’s unlikely I’ll come up with a big idea that’s going to be so compelling it’s going to make a game all on its own.  Before I go and abandon all hope, I should take solace in the the title above.  If I can make a good game at all I’ll be ahead of the curve.  If I can make a game that resonates with people or inspires them, I’ll be well ahead of the curve.  But to do this with only average ideas, I’ll have to push myself harder and  make more games.  I’ll make a game a month!  A game a week!

If only that were true.  The only problem is that only finished games count.  The scale of the game is relevant to the design as well.  As a high concept is relevant, and design docs are useful, they don’t contain all the hard decisions you have to make to complete a game.  All the little decisions, the ones that end up being preference or subjective are some of the hardest to make.  And once it’s done, it is often very different than where you started.  Making small games gives you some learnings of games in general, but they give you more learnings on small games.  As you double the scale of the game, it more than doubles the challenge in making it. 

So, the first game I ever made was a tetris clone, and it did indeed suck.  The next  bunch only count as one, and even then I’m stretching it because all I did was get them 20% of the way there.  An X-Com clone, a robot programming game, a Mighty Empires clone, a Comand and Conquer clone, a Counter-Strike clone all made up a pattern of failure.  I was trying to clone great games instead of make something that came from me.  The problem with me was that all I wanted to do was make games most of my life.  Most of my inspiration sources were games or movies and most of the games I wanted to make were for me (and already existed).  There was no way I was going to improve on X-Com or Counter-Strike (although somedays I still think I can).

Now I make games for an audience.  I design for people not just clone existing experiences.  And the faster I do this, the more design I complete, the better it will be for everyone.  Hopefully, at some point I’ll make something worth a damn and there will be an audience for games by Ryan.

  1. Eric says:

    Kill him.

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