In game development, like in many other forms of art and creative engineering, everything begins with an idea. It doesn’t need to be very complicated. It doesn’t need to be original. But there has to be one.
That idea will guide the lone programmer or the game team during the long process of building the game. It will evolve through numerous iterations, it will spawn new ideas and become a concept, a vision. It will materialise line by line, pixel by pixel, it will change again and again and one day, hopefully, it will become a game.
The fact is that every aspiring game developer has some sort of an idea about the “next amazing game”. Almost every gamer can visualise how his/her favourite game “should be, if it had been done right”. And that’s pretty much how it works.
Some times people play a game they like and then they realise that there are aspects of that game that could have been done better. Or perhaps the technology has progressed on some aspect of the game (graphics, game controllers, speed of CPU etc) that allows an improvement to an existing genre. And then there are those rare cases when someone comes up with a new game concept that introduces a completely new genre.
There are plenty of ideas, good and bad alike. And even though an idea is necessary for a game to be created, it is far from the most important factor in the whole process.
So what constitutes a viable game idea?
The original concept is just that: a spark that will ignite the creative process. But the aspiring creator needs to molten it to something that can be manageable and achievable. The definition of achievable of course, depends on the resources that are available for the creation of the game. If you have a 150 people strong team of software developers, designers and artists at your disposal there are many more ideas that can be implemented. If you are a lone developer (like me) you have to constrain your idea to something more err… realistic.
But even with a large team and huge funding there are still limitations to what can be achieved. And a game developer has to respect that and embrace those constrains. Because eventually something magical happens: they feed back to the idea and they make it stronger, they remove distractions and force everyone to focus on what is most important. And the more you focus on the core idea the more likely it is that you will end up with a game that is fun to play with.
And that should be the primary purpose of making a game: to have fun playing it!