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The Blank Canvas

The first blog in a series on finding commercial success for your game. This blog covers how creating boundaries can create focus and can actually allow creativity to flow.

David Cardenas, Blogger

August 18, 2017

6 Min Read

Over the next few weeks I will be posting about some key topics that I believe will be useful to those
that are thinking about making a successful game, or have made one and are looking for ways to
improve their craft.

Some of the topics that I will be covering may also be relevant to those involved within a creative
industry that wish to find commercial success.
As a creator, success may take many forms and is primarily dictated by your goals when making your

Success to you could be recognition by peers, lessons learned from the development process or simply
seeing something through from start to finish.

While these are all great goals that shouldn’t be undervalued, if you are looking to make a living from
being a creator then making your creation(s) a commercial success is paramount to making it an ongoing

The best place to start anything new and in a correct manner is at the beginning. By making a framework
or methodology by which you can structure your workflow, you can create efficiencies and make sure
that you are covering off on essential aspects.

It all starts with an idea that may have come from some inspiration drawn from an experience, a story
that you read, movie you watched or even a game you played. Your aim may be then to evoke the same
feelings of jubilation or sorrow that you experienced and communicate this to your audience.

During this initial inspired stage, it is easy to get carried away and allow your imagination to take over.
While it is important to foster creativity (and I would recommend you write down all your ideas while
you are on a roll), it is equally important to be able to sift through it all to determine which ones have
legs and which don’t make the cut.

In giving your project every chance of commercial success, you need to be strict and disciplined enough
to decipher through the good and the bad. You need to be able to remove yourself from the project and
look at it through an analytical lense. After all, you only have so much time on your hands. Isn’t it better
spent on making successful games, so that you can continue making more successful games?

Your best guide to success will be the criteria you set as a boundary to work within. We can sometimes
see these boundaries as limitations, but funnily enough it is these very same limitations that can help us
focus. Having limitations can actually promote further creativity, as we can be forced to find creative
ways to make things work within their confines. It can also enable us to find intuitive or artistic ways to
make our creation unique and stand out from the crowd, or even an innovative solution to a problem.

Some of the boundaries you might set for yourself can include:

- What genre of game will you be making?
- What demographic are you targeting (age, seasoned gamer etc.)?
- What platform do you plan on releasing the game on?

By doing this exercise you start to paint a picture of who it is that you are targeting with your game. So
based on the boundaries above I can go from a blank idea to wanting to make a sci-fi based adventure
game that will target those 15 years and over that can be played by veterans and new-comers. As you
can see, the project starts to have focus and despite the boundaries we have set, there are still a lot of
aspects that we have freedom to cover including character and story development.
Another way of thinking of this process is this being the Scoping stage of a project, and can be best
illustrated as follows:

The sifter represents the research you perform and the parameters you set for yourself. The more thought out your research and parameters, the more refined your ideas will be, and the more chance of success you will be giving yourself.

Ideas need to move through key filters in order to sift through the good and the bad, otherwise there
will be no real way to determine what is worth investing your time and energy into. The more
parameters you create, the further you can focus your research efforts, and in turn be able to refine and
benchmark your results better.

As you start to progress further down it is important to keep in mind the goal of the creation as well as
your audience. Above I mentioned the main idea stemming from a story or feeling you want to
communicate to your audience, but how well do you know your audience and will they be receptive to
the type of game you are making.

Are you making a game for those that like adventure games with a sci-fi story attached, or a sci-fi story
with some adventure aspects? You might be thinking that they are the same thing, but can inherently be
different depending on how you deliver the content. The audiences don’t have to be mutually exclusive
either and they can cross-over. However, whether the emphasis is placed on the story or on the
gameplay can give quite a different result, both in the type of game that you create and the audience
that will be most receptive to it.

I hope the above has provided some practical advice on how boundaries and filters can be useful in
providing focus for an idea. On my next post I will be diving deeper into market research, including
researching into what games are already in the marketplace, the different kinds of target audiences,
how to identify and segment them and how to use this data to make your game sellable.

One final note:
Being a creative person, you can make a game about whatever you want, but without the intent and
right framework, simply hoping for a commercially successful game is like playing the lottery. Thankfully,
you can improve your odds significantly by being deliberate and more thoughtful about your approach.
Have thoughts or comments? Feel free to drop us a line in the comments below.

P.S. Shout out to my lovely wife for designing the cutesy characters featured above

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