How to Kill Your Babies. Or: Letting Go of Ideas That Don’t Work

When sitting down to brainstorm for game ideas, you are sure to come up with dozens. Easily. When we brainstorm, we usually start with relatively “normal” ideas and as we warm up and let our creativity loose the ideas get wackier and wackier. It’s tons of fun and we laugh our asses off. The truth is this is my favourite part of the long and complex creative process called game design. Well, I’m sure having millions of people play your game beats that, but I’ll have to get back to you on that matter. But putting the fun (which is very important!) aside, finding a viable idea for a game among those dozens is not that easy, and almost all of them are discarded immediately or shortly after the initial brainstorm. Deciding to throw an idea away or put it aside takes a lot of willpower as we get emotionally attached to our ideas. But it is very important to be able to do that. You can’t possibly develop them all!!

We started developing our current game idea along with a couple other ideas we had. We really wanted to do something with sheep (who doesn’t love sheep?), so all of the ideas had that element in them in different shapes and forms. This is our first game as Mooi Studios (and my first game ever as I mentioned in the last blog post), so we wanted to keep it simple. We made a couple of simple prototypes on paper and noticed that all of the ideas were relatively complex, except one: Sheep in Space. I really liked the name “Space Sheep” (like spaceship, but sheep, right??!!). So we started developing a space shooter with sheep, and left the rest of the ideas on the side burner.

Sheep prototypes
Some of the first sketches and prototypes of the sheep

We developed the idea of “Space Sheep” for a while. We decided that we wanted to make a retro-style space shooter (more on that decision in next week’s post) with top view. The sheep floating in space looked kind of ridiculous in that camera view, and we just couldn’t make it work. Putting the sheep in a spaceship or UFO didn’t help because then the player couldn’t really see the sheep. That is how the sheep became obsolete. It doesn’t really make sense to have the main theme of a game unnecessary for the actual gameplay. So somehow “Space Sheep” became just “Space”, and my beloved “baby”- the concept of making a game about sheep- disappeared. It wasn’t easy letting “Space Sheep” go, but common sense won. The sheep will have to wait.

Example of the top view and spaceship, as they look today
Example of the top view and spaceship, as they look today

It is very important to be able to let your ideas go if they aren’t solid enough, as much as you love them! Many people get stuck trying to find a way to make their idea work. But like they say- it’s like trying to milk a dead cow. The sooner you realise that your idea has too many holes in it, the better. Don’t throw the idea away- you might find a way to fill those holes in the future, but now you should focus your energy on an idea that has more chance of becoming a fun and playable game.

In next week’s post I will talk about the inspiration for the look & feel and gameplay of our Space Shooter (still nameless after the departure of the sheep). Sign up for update emails in the top right menu and stay tuned!

Written by Liran, one half of Mooi Studios

How to Kill Your Babies. Or: Letting Go of Ideas That Don’t Work