...to the personal blog of Kynan Pearson. You might know me from my work on the Metroid Prime Series, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Halo 4. This blog is here so I can share some of my design philosophies, dump some ideas and post some of my random art. These are all my views and do not represent those of my employer.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Good Idea, Bad Idea

When making games how do you tell the difference between a good idea and a bad idea? I was once told that when you describe a good idea to someone they can’t stop thinking of the ways in which it could be used and what they could do with it. When you describe a bad idea to someone they have trouble thinking of more than one way to use it or they require more information. While this might not mean the idea is actually “bad” there might be better ideas for the amount of time or resources you have to make something. This may all seem like common sense but sometimes common sense isn’t so common. Something can sound good and then end up being bad so you’ll still have to use your best judgment.

This brings me to the way in which I found that this good idea recognition philosphy can work. Some of the best ideas are things which require little effort and provide big results. Take for instance the Brick in Super Mario Bros. The brick is an amazing idea in that it’s simple and complex.
·         You can stand on them.
·         You can bump them from below to kill enemies on top.
·         You can break them when you are large.
·         You can hide them in thin air so that they are only revealed when jumping into them.
·         You can hide pickups in them secretly.
·         You can put “?” on the side to make them special.
·         You can hide secret vines in them that take you to bonus levels.
·         You can build an entire game worth of content with Bricks alone!
It seems simple but the brick is an amazing idea. How about we look at a different game like Donkey Kong Country! DKC includes devices called barrel cannons. This is just a simple object that sucks you in and spits you out but it’s incredibly versatile.
·         You can shoot from barrel to barrel.
·         You can shoot in a straight line.
·         You can shoot with an arc.
·         You can shoot past obstacles.
·         You can shoot through enemies.
·         You can bounce off of enemies.
·         You can shoot into and out of the screen.
·         They can rotate.
·         They can move.
·         They can blow up after being used.
·         You can build an entire game worth of content with Barrel Cannons alone!
There’s even more things you can do with them but you get the point. Now let’s look at Angry Birds. I’ll save you the bullet point list this time. The entire game is made from simple breakable physics objects and pigs put into any number of variations. There is a small quantity of pieces to use but you can make an infinite variation of levels off of those pieces. What a great idea.
Minecraft also shares this style of content. The entire game revolves around nothing more than placing and removing blocks and yet you can build an entire game worth of content with those blocks. These are all great ideas.
If you were making these games you wouldn’t be able to run out of ideas on how to use these components because they are versatile. I’m sure you’re now able to think of any number of other games with good ideas executed in ways that let them create a lot from very little. Portal, Journey, Street Fighter, Cut the Rope, Canabalt and Tetris are all built on good ideas.
Good ideas are still just ideas and have to be executed on well in order to become a reality. This concept of good idea recognition isn’t restricted to just mechanics, gimmicks and objects. It works on stories and all of the other content that goes into games. The good idea can also be the creation of a tool that allows you to make varied content easier.
Hopefully you’ve found this helpful but remember that this is just a philosophy and not a hard rule. Good ideas inspire you to think about all of the things that can be done with them but even ideas which can only be used once can still be good, they just might not as helpful in the end. Some say there’s no such thing as a bad idea. While this might be true I would still advise you to seek an idea that might be better just in case. J

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