Are good ideas important?

marbeltoast

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I believe that, as content creators, we must all at some point come to terms with the idea that ideas are cheap, plentiful, and, to a greater or lesser extent, worthless. Rather, it is the execution of these ideas which makes them good or bad.

To provide an example, the fundamental idea behind Mario is that a plumber from italy gets teleported into mushroom land and must eat flowers to throw fire, smash bricks with his head to get gold coins, and jump on plants and bullets to rescue the princess from a fire breathing turtle. If it wasn't already a success, it would sound like the ravings of a madman.

Here's another: Sonic is a blue hedgehog in red sneakers who eats chilli dogs and runs very fast, and his goal is to use 7 glowing rocks to defeat "Eggman" and his army of robots with animals inside. None of it's wrong, all of it sounds silly when phrased like this, and yet Sonic is a household name among people who don't even play games at all.

But this thinking could hypothetically lead someone to the conclusion that ideas don't ever matter, and I do disagree with that, to a point. So, I was wondering, where do you devs, artists, programmers, composers, and anybody else I'm missing come down on ideas, from a sort of abstract point of view? They don't strictly have to be game ideas, they could be ideas for songs, or art pieces, or anything, really.
 

Finnuval

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Well when I draw (and I'm pretty sure the same thing goes for writers too) the idea is the core necessity... without it there will be nothing to execute. If I don't have an idea on a concept it doesn't matter how well I can execute anything... as there isn't anything to execute.

Now ideas can be both good and bad, sure but polishing a bad idea only gets you to a certain level and never beyond there. However what constitutes a 'good' idea... now that's a discussion for the ages haha
You use Mario and Sonic as examples of bad ideas executed well (or so it seems to me) but are they bad ideas? Apparently not as they became household names. Silly? Sure! Nonsensical? Definitely! but bad as a concept?... don't think so. Is this due solely to the execution, I don't think so... There have been many games over the years (even back then lol) that had a similar execution but never made it... so why's that if not for the bad idea or I should say lack of good idea at its core?

Now I could go on forever but I won't haha Anyway, that's my two cents :)
 

dragoonwys

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I think that good ideas are important, but what constitutes as a good idea?
Anyone can say "I want to draw a picture of a flower" Flowers are nice, so does that make a good idea? No, not really. XD
You will need to think further than just "A flower" if you want to make that picture good.
Personally, I think a good idea is a well connected group of ideas. With a group of solid ideas, you will usually have more accurate or better execution if you have the means or ability to do so. Can't draw? Practice. Got money? Commission. As long as its a solid idea, it will eventually be up there, done by you or someone else who also had the same line of thought.

As silly as Mario or Sonic sounds at a glance, you can see that it's a cluster of ideas together.
Mario: "Plumber in a magical world" "Save the princess story" "Have power ups via items" "Have breakable items"
Sonic: "Running simulator" "Defeat the bad guy story" "Collection item puzzle" "Robot animal enemies"

And from there you can break down even more ideas.
"Have power ups via items" > "What kind of items " > "Why does this item gives this power up" > "How does this power up enhance my gameplay" etc

I can say its the same with making art, games and music. You can boil them down to the most silly of sentences, but by the end of the day if you put enough thought into it, you can even make a game where you play as a trash can look amusing. Yes that is an actual RPG game
 

futrchamp

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I absolutely agree with you that, when broken down to their most fundamental descriptions, a lot of successful games and franchises seem to be built off of ideas that seem like they'd never work. I think in the end the experience of the player (focusing on games) comes down much more to the execution of the idea, the tone and style of the other elements of the experience, and the effort/thought put into implementing the idea into something tangible.

As a musician, I can also testify that the same holds true for composing. An idea on its own is practically nothing - even if you imagine a beautiful fragment of a melody, it's more or less hypothetical until you write it down and put it into context in a song. The contextualization is the part that trips a lot of people up, and it's where simply having an idea won't solve your problems. Specifically with music, even the best ideas for individual parts can be ineffective on their own, and it's only through the composer's development of the idea, and by connecting it to other ideas, that anything solid comes from it.

Beyond that, there are countless other dimensions of music that need to be attended to in order to best serve an idea, from creating complementary layers and accompaniment to mixing/producing the exact sounds in a way that brings out the qualities the composer desires. Very often I find that the strength of a musical idea can't be fully recognized until it's put into context, and its interaction with other ideas brings out the true quality of the initial one...if that makes sense lol. The same could be said to apply to game development or art in general - as creators, we always have ideas bouncing around in our heads, and very frequently they're beautiful, innovative and profound. But the meaning of those ideas to us, their implications and associations, are clear only to ourselves unless we choose to create a way for someone else to experience them. So in the end, an idea alone is worth nothing - it's a thought, like any other, that if not acted upon will eventually fade away, forgotten.

More on topic to the OP, I think that a good practice for creative people in general is: instead of waiting, revising, and creating countless "first sketches" in search of the best possible idea, pick one idea you're passionate about, even if it doesn't seem to be the absolute peak of what you could come up with. The experience of following through with an idea and developing it into something tangible is invaluable, and in fact I think that devs who's constantly in search of the best idea before starting a project are holding themselves back - because when you do come across a once-in-a-lifetime idea, having experience completing things will make it dramatically easier to execute. A decent idea developed by a master may ultimately create something of greater impact than an amazing idea executed by someone less experienced. Therefore, imo creators should strive to gain experience finishing projects even if the ideas seem weak, so that when the truly big idea comes along, they have the perspective, experience and skills to bring it to life in exactly the way they want to.
 
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Finnuval

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I think in the end the experience of the player (focusing on games) comes down much more to the execution of the idea
To this, especially with games, I fully agree. The experience the player has is based more on execution then the idea.

As a musician, I can also testify that the same holds true for composing
This I must disagree with for this simple reason : If you draw a total blank you won't even be making a bad song... you'll probably won't even hit three notes... I agree that on its own an idea is nothing but I also think an idea is the core of anything you do so essential.

What further makes the difference to me is that the execution (drawing, composing, writing, etc) can be learned and improved upon with training, discipline, experience, etc. and even forced (deadlines lol) The same, in my opinion, can not be said for having an idea. If you draw a blank...that's it. No amount of training and/or forcing is gonna change that.

A decent idea developed by a master may ultimately create something of greater impact than an amazing idea executed by someone less experienced
Therefore I think they would pretty much and up at the same level dependent on what it is you are judging it by... so when gaming is concerned you probably are right here but when it comes to something more abstract like art...

Anyway, we all have our opinions and they are all wrong :D
 

mobiusclimber

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I think you're mistaking storyline for idea. With games like Mario and Sonic, the story itself isn't the idea. Rather, the gameplay mechanics are the ideas. With an RPG or adventure (not action/adventure) game, then storyline is usually the idea. It really depends on the game, but the idea is the most important thing. Even games that shoot for the stars but don't live up to their potential are better than games that aim to be middle of the road pablum compiled by committee from parts of other, better games.
 

Wavelength

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Good ideas are cheap and they're plentiful and everyone has them, but no amount of flawless execution can save a bad idea!

Step one is coming up with good ideas, step two is figuring out which ones you can feasibly make happen and choose the best one, and step three - by far the hardest - is building a product (or service or game or place or work of art) from that idea.

Like @mobiusclimber pointed out, you have mistakenly equated the Big Idea with plot and objectives. A common, but bad mistake to make! Creative directors like to talk about the Big Idea, the "Wow" that a project provides. Taking Sonic as an example, it's not about the blue hedgehog in red sneakers, it's not about using the Chaos Emeralds, etc. The Big Idea of Sonic is that it's a Platformer at 90 Miles Per Hour.

It's a platformer designed around breakneck speed, around continuous movement and forward motion - as if you were taking an interesting action-adventure game, turning it into a race, and stripping out everything that didn't belong (like puzzles and repeatable jumping sequences). You feel like you're blazing through places, almost flying. Every few seconds, you have to take on something else, and there's no time to prepare yourself. It's hectic, it's wild, it puts you at the edge of your seat and never slows down to a plod.

That's the Big Idea of Sonic - not all of the details you mentioned. And yes, this can be done really well or really poorly, and when it's done poorly it results in a bad game, which is why some Sonic games have been treasure and others have been trash. But because this Big Idea is so cool, and because (at their best) the Sonic games are developed with a singular focus on Speed, they became something so much more than the many other games that may have been well-executed but didn't have a great Big Idea at their core.

That's true for everything from the iPhone to Disney World to Picasso's Guernica.
 
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marbeltoast

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Like @mobiusclimber pointed out, you have mistakenly equated the Big Idea with plot and objectives. A common, but bad mistake to make!
Well then, it's probably for the best that I made it in a vacuum, rather than in a project!

To the rest of you, thanks! You've given me a lot to think about.
 

Kes

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@Wavelength Please edit your post to have something other than red text.
Thanks
 

TheoAllen

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All these talks about the big idea are what I called it "the vision". The vision is the general big idea of what you want it to be. The vision then can be broken down into smaller chunks called missions. The mission is where you build the fundamental part of the concept like how is the story. But the vision is like the guide on how to build your concept.

The vision can be something amazing or something silly. "I want to create an anthropomorphism of the world war warships". "How about mashing up the real-life mythology into one game together?", "I want to create a monster catching game", "What if farming simulator mixed together with battle elements?".

To answer the question by the title of this thread, yes it's important. I'm talking about the vision, because if your vision is not clear enough of what you want it to be, it may never be good. A lack of vision is for example when the dev is constantly adding features in their game because they have no idea what they want to make. They're at lost, so they tried everything, mashed up everything, and created a mess. If you have a more clear vision, you don't necessarily add more features/game mechanic that may only clog up your games. So the vision can also act as the limiter to stop you from going too far ahead.

I believe that stands true for other aspects of creativity.
 

marbeltoast

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So, I've been thinking, and there's a common thread among these replies that I'd like to follow up on:
but polishing a bad idea only gets you to a certain level and never beyond there
no amount of flawless execution can save a bad idea!
If this is the case, then it would be important to have clearly defined criteria to tell a good idea from a bad one.

So, what criteria do you friendly folks use to determine when an idea is bad?
 

Countyoungblood

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An abstract idea is called a concept and the small outlining details about mario or sonic are arbitrary. Mario could of been an electrician and sonic could of been a squirell it wouldnt of mattered. the design of these games goes much deeper than superficial labels/sprites the mechanics and their layout/delivery sold the product and it was offered at the right time with little competition.
 

Wavelength

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If this is the case, then it would be important to have clearly defined criteria to tell a good idea from a bad one.

So, what criteria do you friendly folks use to determine when an idea is bad?
It depends on the goals that the idea set out to solve. If the idea - efficiently developed and brought to life - still wouldn't provide enough value (to its creators, audience, or other stakeholders) to justify the resources and effort required - then it's a bad idea.

That probably sounds super vague, but it almost needs to be in order to encompass the whole world of good ideas vs. bad ideas, because they're going to look so different in each type of pursuit. I think it holds up when you think of examples, though. The ideas that were doomed from the start are the ones that fall into that criteria above. The rest of the failures (which I'd say make up a majority of failures) result from poor execution, unforeseeable circumstance, or not staying true to the idea.
 

marbeltoast

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the small outlining details about mario or sonic are arbitrary.
the design of these games goes much deeper
I'm not sure whether I was being too vague, but what you're saying here? This was my point. The superficial details don't matter. All that truely matters is the experience that the player recieves.

To provide a contrasting example: There was a game I played as a kid called Ghost Master. In it, you played as the commander of an army of ghosts that went about to diffrent locations in the world of the living, adding more ghosts to their ranks by completing mini-quests for them and scaring the mortals, sometimes to the point of insanity.

The problem is, this game was pretty poorly designed. For one thing, when all the other humans in a level were either scared or insane, all that was left to do was move the camera to the last man standing and just drop ghosts on top of them over and over until they broke. It wasn't actually all that fun, especially since a design choice led to certain ghosts being able to only tie themselves to certain types of object in the game world, which ment that you'd either need to always bring the one ghost who could go anywhere or just wait for that last human to waddle somewhere more convenient, which, because of a design choice, they did at a reduced pace when they were scared... the list goes on and on.

An idea that sounds cool may be truly awful if you don't execute it well, and an idea that sounds foolish might just go on to be a world spanning best seller with enough effort and forethought, so you shouldn't stress too much over having a perfect idea. That was the point I was trying to make. Sorry if it wasn't very clear :kaoswt2:
 

marbeltoast

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If the idea - efficiently developed and brought to life - still wouldn't provide enough value (to its creators, audience, or other stakeholders) to justify the resources and effort required...
I know I might be asking the impossible, but is there a way to know this, and I mean Rene Descartes style know this, that doesn't require developing the idea and finding out the hard way?
 

Wavelength

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I know I might be asking the impossible, but is there a way to know this, and I mean Rene Descartes style know this, that doesn't require developing the idea and finding out the hard way?
No, but the more experience you have, the more confident you can be in your instinct. Which means that people with a lot of experience developing ideas into realities are great people to ask if you don't have that experience yourself.
 

Finnuval

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What wavelenght said.
 

marbeltoast

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Wavelength Well put, sir!
 

TheoAllen

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I know I might be asking the impossible, but is there a way to know this, and I mean Rene Descartes style know this, that doesn't require developing the idea and finding out the hard way?
Adding to what Wavelength said, this is why an early prototyping is important. Heck, this is even why prototyping exists in the first place. Nobody knows how good is the idea until you try it. Some idea may sound cool on paper but can be awful in actual implementation. Some experienced user may share their experience with the others that these and those ideas may have some issues. This is why general discussion and mechanic discussion exist.

Speaking of prototyping, some people also resort a paper prototyping as an early prototype to test their idea since code may take time and it also requires technical skills to do so.
 

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@TheoAllen summed it up well. If you have an idea make the prototype. I've had many an idea that I've opened up a new project in RPGMaker, and then as much placeholder information as I can to focus on the prototype. Some of them I dropped as terrible after I made a short version of the prototype. Some looked promising so I shelved them as a possible future game idea.

But the thing is, don't be afraid to discard your prototype. During the 2014 IGMC my first attempt at making a game for that I discarded it 10 days in and started over as what I had was just not working. Sure, it stunk losing 10 days, but I think what I got in the end was better than what I would have had if I had stuck it out with the original idea.
 

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