This article originally appeared on Gamesbrief.com on 20th November 2013.
Here is an article based on a statement that could easily be an article all to itself, if not a book. Here it is. I find myself constantly bemused by the huge risks games companies are will to take - in the name of managing risk - by never trying anything new, ever. Copying what works can yield results, Candy Crush Saga take a bow, but the number of ideas we have no data on because no-one used them exceeds the number of hydrogen molecules in the sun.
So here are some vaguely newish ideas that I wish were being ruthlessly exploited by risk-adverse game developers with no imagination.
Always Never Bet On Salty Bet
You’ve all heard of Salty Bet because you’re cutting edge types. Right? Well if you haven’t, you should go there now and kook at it, because it is weirdly awesome. It uses the MUGEN fighting game engine to match up fighters from various classic fighting game titles, as well as loads of insane other things they just threw in (giant disembodied Tiger Woods’ head, perhaps?), played by the AI, then stream the fights as video and let players bet on the outcome and shout at each other in a chat window. Salty Bet is a love-letter to fighting games, but also it is hate-mail at the same time.
The lesson? Make games with core loops that broadly or entirely play themselves, and concentrate on the social and meta-game loops. The individual player experience is (sometimes) not as important as the communal player experience. So try making a game that only has the bigger, broader loops, and doesn’t have any player agency at all in its core. You might learn something valuable/make millions of dollars.
This is where the Facebook/Zynga chimera went most of the way but then stopped short of the final form. The difference between ‘play together’ and ‘be together while playing’. One of the reasons why World of Warcraft did so well is that it’s a great single player game. With chat! Kongregate features games that do exactly this, but so far nothing noteworthy on iOS. It’s an open goal. Snapchat/Whatsapp, the game.
Test Your World First
Spent a lot of time and money on creating beautiful art assets or a rich story for your game? Make an eBook. And, now here’s the kicker - release it first. And, maybe this is madness, if you want to find an aesthetic that people like, a world people want to be in, try releasing a few different ones and see what sticks.
Then, not only will you get some money for eBooks and learn about making and releasing such things, you’ll find out which look/world/story/characters people actually like. And maybe even better (sneakier) you’ll also set fans perceptions of value at eBook pricing (not free) rather than game pricing (free). Or you can give them away free and gain some marketing. Or whatever else you fancy trying. But whatever you do, you’ll be getting much better value out of your art assets and learning new money making techniques to boot.
Probably 80s Pop Bands and Detergent Brands
Supercell and GungHo getting into a bunk-up for mutual fun and profit is a clear indication that WORLD DOMINATION is now pretty much the end game for mobile. There are very few games of any sort that have really achieved genuine world-wide success (hey Nintendo!) so how are you, not a billion dollar company, possibly supposed to pull that trick off?
Buy a license to make a game on a subject that no-one believes could possibly work as a game, but is popular the world over. What cultural properties work in the East and West already, don’t have games attached and are weird enough that they could be licensed relatively cheaply? Iron Maiden. I’m going to guess there are quite a few other ones, but you can go check that out yourself.
Send Them Down The Mine
My very favourite thing at the moment is Icoplay’s Icominer, which uses spare GPU cycles on users machines to mine Bitcoins for you.
I wonder, however, if this isn’t just the first step. What else could you use a users machine for while they’re off enjoying themselves doing, you know, that thing you got them to do with your game? And while we’re at it, what else could users themselves be doing? There’s been much coverage of gamers CURING CANCER and IDENTIFYING SPACE THINGS in games designed for the good of humanity and science. But what about if you just want to make money? Can a game bring in money via gameplay that has mechanical turk-like side-effects?
Sure it can.
Shamelessly Stealing Stuff Off The Telly
It’s a mystery to me why things that work on TV aren’t immediately turned into games for a mass audience. Because that mass audience has already suggested that this thing is cool and that they like it, so you’re already a long way down the path. Why not make games about - and these are some low-hanging fruit here people -
Running an ad agency in the 1960s
Running an ever growing meth operation
Baking cakes and tarts and that
Judging a ballroom dancing competition
Being a serial killer that only kills other serial killers - and also a cop!
On that note, literally any kind of weird cop or strange detective you can imagine
Please will someone make a game where I get to be Schmidt from New Girl already?
Sure, the joy in a show comes from the writing and performances, not the setting, but the joy of a game comes from the gameplay, not the setting, so why not make life easier for yourself and nick a setting that is simultaneously new to games while being wholly familiar to your target audience ie. everybody.