Trust me. There has never been a better time to be a game designer. I wrote my first game, Red Hot Poker when Microsoft released their Xbox Live Indie Games. The issue I had at the time is that the tools were too basic although the examples they provided were excellent. Well, fast forward a few years and you have no shortage of free tools to select like Unity, Unreal Engine, Source, Crytek, etc. The problem with each of the engines though is that you need content. I believe Unity and Unreal solved these problems by having a marketplace available. The marketplace is an innovation which was desperately needed. I’ve been using Unreal Engine for almost three years now for Nerepis and the sole reason I started the game was because of the marketplace.
It’s too much to ask a person to be an expert in game-design, programming, 3d modelling, animation, texture creation, music creation, etc, etc. The list just keeps going. There are a handful of people out there which can do these sort of things. I’m not one of them. However, what I am great at is taking complex systems and integrating them into a great user experience. I am also well-versed in gaming and understand the core of what’s required for a good game but I’m also into adding features and game play which go outside of the norm. While I can’t really share the features until I release the game my point is that you must look at game design from a beginner point of view. Rather can copy a hot game and make a clone, why not take your favourite genre and innovate on it. As an example, PUBG and Fortnite innovate on the concept of find things and defend your self which DayZ started. Notice that both of those games are not zombie games.
So, how does a person innovate on their game? The first thing is to settle on a clear vision of your game. Hideo Kojima said he created Metal Gear in his mind and has still not achieved what he wanted due to technical limitations. That’s pretty impressive and I know what he means. Some things you think of don’t even exist today and if so, how do you build something you’ve never seen before. You need to take steps toward building what you’ve thought of and you also need to give yourself plenty of time to see the pros and cons of what you’re designing. Innovative features are quite simply a small improvement upon an existing feature. So, if you make something better, over time, you are innovating. The key though is understanding when to stop innovating because you want the customer to understand the innovation and why it’s needed. The alternative is that the customer is confused about the innovation and this is never a good thing. Confusion leads to unhappy customers and bad game reviews. There is a sweet spot, and the innovator needs to find it.