I was looking through my old game prototypes the other day and realized just how many of them could be expanded into full games. Most of the ideas I revisited are suitable for short-form downloadable games or what Andy Moore of Steambirds fame calls “marketable prototypes.” I clearly remember dismissing many of those prototypes as experiments and that nothing more would come out of them. I would like to share some observations I made while going through mine and hopefully encourage other designers to take another look at their shelved prototypes.
The best prototypes teach you something
When I’m coming up with an original game concept I almost always try to come up with something distinctly different or innovative from games I’ve played. It just has to be something interesting to me as a game designer but it is usually the hook for the game as well. These kind of prototypes always teach me something as a game designer and spark my interest when revisiting them.
Getting a new perspective
When designing games I get pretty caught up in the current design direction and it is sometimes difficult to see the game from an objective point of view. By shelving the game idea for enough time it becomes much easier to look at it objectively; just don’t forget to look at it again. If you decide to shelve the prototype, make sure you do not analyse it in detail until you have a more objective perspective. That analysis stays in your mind and may give you a false conclusion that there is nothing more you can do with it. What if you don’t want to wait that long? Show your game to your designer friends and get their perspective on it.
Start by focusing on what you liked the most
Rather than starting with the negatives, try to find that germ of an idea you worked so tirelessly to create in the first place. It may not work yet but you should at least be able to see the potential of it. Sometimes there is just one missing ingredient that would turn the idea from mediocre to great.
What bugged you the most?
Usually the difference between an okay prototype and one that has a lot of potential is fixing that one thing you couldn’t figure out. Sometimes this requires significantly changing the game but almost never does it require changing the thing you liked the most.