What Inspires Game Developers?

Great Game ideas, where do they come from?

It was a dark cold night, the museum was silent. Within seconds a parade of mean looking characters in black jackets caring loud boom boxes came prancing in.  They start to spray paint over priceless works of art.  In the middle of the group is the Joker, played by Jack Nicholson.

After a few minutes of this display of disrespect and vandalism the cold crusader comes swooping in.  He uses an array of gadgets like bat-a-rangs and grappling hooks to deal out justice.  After he disarms the vigilantes he alerts the cops.  Signaling the Bat car, he makes a dramatic exit and leaves the posse of bad guys to the authorities.

The Joker looks over a balcony and says the iconic line “where does he get all those wonderful toys?”

So what can a scene from this classic Batman movie (Batman, Warner Brothers, 1989) have to do with video games?

Shigeru Miyamoto at the developers conference. Image provided by WikipediaShigeru Miyamoto (shown on the right. Original photo taken by Vincent Diamante on March 7th 2007) was a name I did not know until I was in my late twenties though he is responsible for so much happiness for me and countless other children of the 1980s.  He created the worlds of Super Mario brothers and the Legion of Zelda.  Two of the most coveted and enjoyed series from the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Though what fascinates me about the man is how he dreamed up these worlds.  Creativity and inspiration is available to all though very few of us know how to use it. When it comes to Shigeru Miyamoto, I can't help ans ask myself:

"Where does he get all those wonderful ideas?"

Miniature Garden

Miyamoto got the idea of the expansive world of Zelda from a childhood memory.  He remembers wandering around a garden, as he went around a few bends he discovered a lake that was hiding just beyond the trees.

Link in a garden.This made him think and inspired what would become The Legend of Zelda, Miyamoto described his idea as a "miniature garden that they can put inside their drawer" (Vestal, Andrew; Cliff O'Neill; Brad Shoemaker (2000-11-14). "History of Zelda". GameSpot. Retrieved 2006-09-30.)

The nonlinear gameplay came out of this concept of being able to walk around like you would in a large garden, to be able to discover nooks and crannies on your own is a staple in RPG games.  This might seem worlds away from games such as Skyrim, which boasted back in 2010 before its release that ‘you could walk to that mountain and find something there’.  With games such as Grand Theft Auto V, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Red Dead Redemption you can see the importance this concept of nonlinear exploration has had.

Living in a Post-Minecaft World

Looking at the Steam storefront, I see many games based off the same concepts.  There are at least 20 different games based off of Minecraft.  Dozens emulate the retro, eight-bit style providing games from the super dual and repetitive to awe-inspiring; Shovel Knight is an example of one of the better games in this style.  Many rogue-like and rogue-like-lights are available as well.  Don’t get me started on the zombie games. Needless to say, many games try to do what popular games have done before it without improving it in some way or doing it differently.

Many new people have access to putting up their passion game on Steam for sale. I love that I live in an age that people whom always wanted to publish a game can. Though that doesn’t mean those passion works are any good. This is becoming a bit of a rabbit trail and deserves its own article, though I wanted to touch on this topic as it relates to the influx of ever new supply of Games especially on PC.  

Games based off of popular genres are well and good.  Some are excellent games; some depend too highly on nostalgic value and what worked so well for those other games.  The term “eating its own tail” works well here. This YouTube video does a good job at illustrating my point.

Luftrauser's plane sailing in the air with lots of firing of other planes around it.While I was in art school teachers kept reminding me to go outside and sketch.  You have better success drawing from the real thing then you do from what you think it looks like. If you want to draw a duck, go out and find a real one or at lest a photograph of one. Everything else is someone's interpretation. Though observation and personal memories are not the only alternative areas Game Developers look for ideas. History is a pool of possibilities. 

Luftrausers by Vlambeer got it's fire from looking at the development of Super weapons  between WW2 and through the cold war.

In an interview with Rami Ismail of Vlambeer, for a morning show (Bombing the AM with the Wolf and Scoops), he talked lovely about weaponized dolphins and airplanes being launched from subs.  You can't dream up some of this stuff. 

This video has the episode, it is fasinating. If you have the time I'd recommend you to watch it. Follow this link if you just want to see the part in which I allude to in this article.

Good development in games comes from pioneers, from creators willing to think differently and jump up to catch something unusual. People want something new and different... They want added features, something new to explore, a new way of thinking presented in a game.

Contributor

Bob is an Artist, Illustrator and Cartoonist with a Geek bent. He enjoys playing video games and writing and drawing about them.

Published Aug. 5th 2014
  • Chai Chien Liang
    Contributor
    With indie games on the rise there will be more surprises in the future from game developers

    Personally I am intrigued by the inspiration that led to games like Portal, Wasteland, and FTL
  • Bob Nat
    Contributor
    Great comment.
    Yes I am very hopeful and looking forward to new and exciting projects coming from Indie developers and seeing what they do. There is a space on PC gaming for some very new and fun ideas to see the light of day.
    My hope with this article is that people interested in going into game develop would walk away with is that I as a gamer like seeing their Ideas not clones of past great ideas.

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