Thoughts on Game Ideas

Battle Chef Brigade started as a simple, vague idea. The concept of a fantasy cooking game has been pondered thousands of times; indeed, there are already plenty of games the combine eating with fantasy. That’s all to say that ideas themselves aren’t particularly valuable. That seems to be generally accepted, especially by entrepreneurs. The argument is usually that ideas are common while execution – with all its problem solving, time, and twists – actually creates the product. Even better, it’s much harder to copy a product than an idea. [1] Not everyone can make a first person shooter MMO, even if they can conceive and design the most brilliant game in their mind. Most importantly to us, we can’t sell game ideas on Steam yet! [2]

 

An idea does have quite a bit of implicit value, though, once you’ve demonstrated the capability to bring it to life. Showing that you’re ready to tame an idea and build it is really, really hard. For every Google, there are dozens of companies that start and end in the same garage. Nevertheless, games like Hyper Light Drifter or entities like Tim Schafer’s eyes and beard have that power to build trust. Some game ideas are so ridiculous that it takes a long time and a lot of playtests to convince gamers that the developers aren’t crazy. That seems to have been the case with Octodad: Dadliest Catch, which proved itself first as a free student project and then as a crowd-magnet PAX standby.

 

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As credibility for your team grows, there’s a point where your idea jumps in value. At that point, the idea can perform all sorts of services for you! The biggest is the quick sell, also know as the elevator pitch, one-liner, or hook. For Color Sheep, it was “Sheep that fires lasers!”, which we’d yell at everyone who passed by our booths at PAX East last year. That shout was only a portion of the true idea for the game, but it was intriguing enough to lead to the rest. “Fantasy Iron Chef” is our one-liner for Battle Chef Brigade. Outside of conventions, it’s crucial to be able to succinctly describe our project. We don’t ride elevators too often, but even in the most laid-back of social situations there’s only a small window available to garner attention for your game.

 

One place that crystallizes the dual requirement of idea and credibility is the fearsome press email. As concisely as possible, that email must convince a journalist that your email is different from the previous hundred they received that day. Your game idea must pique interest while the rest of the email exudes professionalism, confidence, and polish. In our emails, art leads the way in establishing Trinket as worthy of attention. A trinketstudios.com email address, solid grammar, and a Wideload/Disney mention complete our (so far) effective pitch. [3]

 

I remain a firm believer in the importance of execution over ideas, but the reception of Battle Chef Brigade’s pitch has been eye-opening. Gamers and press alike seem thrilled that a team is trying to bring the flavor of cooking competitions into a game.

 

[1] Game cloning is a particular problem on mobile, though, which contributes to (hopefully temporary) consumer confusion and undervaluation of remarkably good games.
[2] Of course, Greenlight and Early Access are moving the purchase point a little earlier in the development cycle. Kickstarter moves it even further!
[3] I also put in a limerick to the BCB email because I felt we didn’t push ourselves enough in our Color Sheep and Orion’s Forge emails. I’ve no idea if it worked in our favor or not!

 

Dragons don’t like to be eaten,
But all monsters can be beaten.
So go fight a drake,
Get a nice steak,
And pair it with orange to sweeten!

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