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How to transform your idea into a game without coding or art experience.

peter van Zon, Blogger

January 27, 2016

7 Min Read


I have read many articles from potential game designers or ‘ideas guys’ asking how they can transform their ideas into a game. Almost without fail the response is pretty forcefully “learn to code” or “learn to art”. Most of the responses also highlight game developers want to make their own ideas into games, not yours. So what’s the answer?

I’m going to write about my experience as a game designer and how I transformed my idea, TRAP FALL Adventures, into a game. I don’t know how to code or ‘art’ but I have a knack with developing game concepts. If you believe as strongly as I do about your own ideas and think it should be made into a game then this article could inspire your own journey. The avenue I chose was backing myself and outsourcing the game development entirely. I’ll talk about my process because an idea is not good enough.

If you Google game design/development there is a lot of information and what I’m going to discuss is not new but for those with no background it is a good starting place. There were many phases to developing TRAP FALL Adventures, some I didn’t know about until they smacked me in the face. Next time round, I will be better prepared! This should prepare you too.

Phase 1: Visualisation (something I like to call…idea smithing!)

This was the second most important step (behind testing) for me. From wherever your idea springs, it is only the seed that will grow into something much bigger. However and I have learnt this the hard way, you need to capture the idea before it drifts away on the winds of distraction. Now, unlike most people I have a memory of a gold fish (it drives my wife insane). As soon as an idea springs into my mind, I have to capture the little critter and write it down.

Then start smithing that idea via the medium of visualisation. Having a strong/hyperactive imagination really helps here. I whack the idea with my imaginary idea hammer “WHACK!” What are the major components of game play? “WHACK!”  What genre would it be? “WHACK!”  Are there any key characters or units that need to be in the game? “WHACK, WHACK, WHACK!!” Once I’ve done some visualising, I catch all this information on a piece of toilet paper….or word document. (Hey don’t judge! A man does some good thinking on the toilet! That’s why we take so long!)

Finally, I let the idea sit in my mind and swill around in the dense oak barrel I call my brain. Like good bourbon it sits there and ages. Like a bad bourbon it stays a couple of days and is released. During the settling period, other ideas, variations and changes are made. By the end, I can visualise how the game will work, actually see it in my mind as if I were playing it. Imagination is everything in this phase.

Phase 2: Developing your idea into a concept

This is the easy part as I’ve done most of the thinking already. I then put all the information down into a logically sequenced document that lays out my ideas and allows me to expand on them.

There are a lot of game design templates out there. I personally use the Baldwin Game Design document created by Mark Baldwin (link at end of article). It’s an excellent document that allows you to fully flesh out your idea into a concept and if you’re going to develop your idea into a game, this is critical for the development team to work with. Think of it as builders working off an architect’s plan. You’re not going to build a house off just an idea...are you?

Phase 3: Scoping

When you start this phase, it is critically important to have a very good idea of your budget. Scoping essentially means figuring out what is required to make your concept a reality and then applying that budget to what requires payment throughout the whole project’s life.

This needs due consideration so you can avoid those moments of “WTF?!?!? Where did this $10,000 bill come from?” or “Damn it I completely forgot the audio development costs! Jeez!!!”.

It also gives you a great idea of what you can accept for a fixed price contract. Going open ended is risky unless money is not an issue. Open ended means you pay per hour and if the project goes over time, you’re out of pocket, the funds dry up, development grinds to a halt and you have no game. Getting a fixed price contract puts the onus back on the developers to do a full analysis of your game design document and gives you an accurate quote and development program. It is also the reason you need to put a herculean effort into phase 2 because changes outside the scope of the project will cost you.

If you outsource development like we have, then scoping will be done by the company you have decided upon to develop your game. Which leads me into…

Phase 4: Development

This is where it all comes together. There are different models you can use to develop your idea from concept into reality without learning to code or ‘art’. You can develop it yourself, which is what most people tell you to do, outsource components of the development or outsource the complete project. Which is what we did.

If you outsource completely make sure you do your research. Otherwise you could lose your money, have no game or your idea stolen. Once you have selected a company make sure you get a non-disclosure agreement signed before submitting your idea.

TRAP FALL Adventures was completely outsourced and developed by Logic Simplified who are a great team of professionals based in Dehradun, India. India has rapidly become one of the world’s leaders in software development and there are hundreds of companies that offer these services. Trying to find a reputable and experienced company can be daunting as there are ‘bad news stories’ around. After spending two months researching, we approached Logic Simplified and have not looked back. The team at Logic Simplified are professional, energetic, diligent and experienced. I highly recommend Logic Simplified for any company who wishes to outsource development.

Phase 5: Testing

After learning by doing, it seems that testing is the most frustrating but most critical phase of all.

Ironing out all the bugs and doing rigorous testing is vital to the game’s success. If there is just one obvious bug it could be enough to lose thousands of potential players. The gaming market is fickle and demanding. If their gaming experience is hindered, they will go play something else. Do your best to “HULK SMASH” those bugs! If you have made it this far, have spent hours working with the development team and invested your own money, then you need to be prepared to spend your time doing this throughout the whole game development process. It’s your idea, you’re the best person for the job.

Phase 6: Game release and marketing

The marketing part of this phase can happen concurrently with development depending on your budget. Since TRAP FALL Adventures was our first game we started marketing just before it was released. It’s best if you start marketing beforehand to build hype but do that once you have something to show, like concept art. Once the game is released the work has only just begun. Building awareness of your game is demanding and takes a lot of your time to drive it.

Developing a game is not for everyone, it requires a lot of your own time and money. Return on your investment is never guaranteed but if you believe your idea is great and you don’t want to make it yourself, then this avenue could turn your great idea into reality.

If you want to see our final product then click the links below to see what you can achieve too.


What is Trap Fall – http://www.vanzongames.com/what-is-trap-fall-adventuresminesweeper-gorillas-in-the-mist-or-indiana-jones/

YOUTUBE Link Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cJxwolEsBM

Website link - http://www.vanzongames.com/

Twitter - https://twitter.com/vanzongames

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Van-Zon-Games/835222546547198

Baldwin Game Design document - https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:aZcuCuE7eqAJ:https://www.kth.se/social/files/545bbfadf276545bbefa9cf6/BaldwinGameDesignDocumentTemplate.doc+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=au


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