Last August 28, Project PIGI kicked off its series of live game development talks. Starting off with the exciting topic of game conceptualization, this series aims to shed light on the fascinating but tricky world of the business of game development.
Our distinguished panel covered some of the most important things to take note of when kick-starting your game-making journey. The speakers Erick Garayblas (Kuyi Mobile, Choo Choo Apps, Popsicle Games), Luna Javier (Altitude Games) and Solon Chen (Kooapps) shared their experience and opinions on starting out and ideating your game to give your dream project a running start.
With the number of ideas and influences encountered in the world of entertainment, knowing where to start and what kind of game to make is an overwhelming task. This is especially because games are often seen as a combination of artistic expression and commercial product. The speakers walked us through their real-life experience and learnings from their own professional and personal game development journeys.
How did you decide what kind of game to make?
An initial game concept is a combination of several factors and questions that you might want to ask yourself:
What are you/your team excited about?
What genres do you have the skills and resources for?
What is the publisher we are pitching to looking for?
Which platform are you most comfortable with (PC, mobile, etc.)?
What is the purpose of your game (creative expression, money-maker)?
You might find that it’s easier to come up with game ideas when you place certain limitations on your concept. Market research on similar games will also be helpful to narrow down your ideas.
If you want to stay long in this industry, then you should consider games that are sustainable in the long run. Think of a Venn diagram, where you want to find the intersection of games that you enjoy playing, games that you have the skills and resources available to make, and games that will generate revenue.
What are the tools that you used to study the game marketplace?
There are various websites and tools today that can help you know which direction your game concept should take.
First off are your game marketplaces, which display the top charts and trending games. Check out the iOS App Store and Google Play Store daily, read player reviews, and track those games that have staying power in the charts and can be monetized well.
It’s also important to know which region you are targeting when using this method, because top charts vary from country to country. Sites like Storeglide and GameIntel help for the US market. Sites like GameRefinery have free market data on player motivation and competitor performance. Read sites like App Annie and SensorTower for market intelligence.
Of course, it’s not all about being on trend, because you don’t have to be number one in the charts to make money. It’s more of knowing whether your idea has an audience and enough audience.
Where do you get the inspiration for your games when you conceptualize?
Our panelists agree that the personal life experience of the designer is the number one inspiration for any game concept. If you take a peek into today’s hypercasual mobile space, you will realize that there’s a game for all life experiences, no matter how small. It’s really about being open-minded.
Childhood is one of key inspirations for thinking of fun game concepts. It helps to watch films and TV, and read books and comics. It’s also ideal for designers to try and play games that they don’t like. Game ideas can come from anywhere and you don’t know when inspiration will strike!
Because of this, game designers must be very observant, and willing to experience new things. A great game designer can make a game out of anything.
The audience also had an opportunity to ask the experts their burning game conceptualization questions:
How do you know if your concept for a game is worth pursuing?
When you have an abstract idea, there’s really no way of knowing the answer to that question. The first step is drawing and diagramming. The second step is having a small prototype that people can play and try out. Be sure to get others' feedback and opinion. From there, you can decide whether the idea is worth pursuing or not. Check similar games in the market and see how your game ideas differ from theirs and how you could do better.
How can game conceptualization and monetization be taught better at schools?
Exercises such as unbalancing and rebalancing a game, tracking in-game activity of games that you don’t like. Study new tools, like Machinations.io, a free game systems and balancing tool. There are a lot of tools to explore right now.
Do you think focusing your game to target the Philippine market is worth it?
The Philippine market is one of the noisiest markets and it’s relatively easy to make some games go viral in the country. On the flipside, Filipinos don’t like to pay for their games, and the audience is not likely to turn a profit even on the ad revenue side. However, testing your game concept in the Philippine market is ideal because the audience is very vocal and supportive, since they give reviews and ratings, making it a useful testing game before a global launch.
What is your favorite game and game designer?
Luna: Mass Effect series
Solon: Castlevania: Symphony of the Knight
What are the things you wish you would have known when you were starting out conceptualizing a game?
Game designers have very good ideas and concepts right off the bat, but they have the tendency to get defensive and possessive of their projects. It’s important to remember that great ideas come from anywhere, and the best ones may not actually come from you. Also, the game should be something that everyone wants to play - not just you! You need to be open to the possibilities.
Another wish was to have more awareness of the business side of games and to normalize failed games. After all, if you want to stay longer in the industry, you need to sustain your games and your team. You don’t want your first game to be your last.
What is your advice to our aspiring game developers?
Luna: The best way to learn how to make a game is to make it. Whatever it is, even if it’s bad, just make it. You won’t get better if you haven’t tried and failed. Make as many as you can and you will get better with time.
Solon: Be prepared when things don’t turn out the way you expected – it’s kind of expected in this industry! Don’t be surprised if things don’t turn out that way, treat it as something normal. It takes trial-and-error and a little bit of luck. You need to sustain yourself and keep on making games.
Erick: Take that first step – fail fast. If you fail, you’ll learn something out of it.
As we continue through our series of game development talks, we would like to invite aspiring game developers to register for the Project PIGI and jumpstart their career and passion. You can view the full session of the game conceptualization here.
Written by: Kenzie Du Games reviewer and journalist at VirtualSEA. Currently works as a mobile game project manager at IGG Philippines.