Dev Blog 002: Brainstorming

Humans are really good at fooling themselves.

The more time you spend making the games, the more amazingly apparent it becomes that you can't entirely trust your own judgement.  An idea can sound INCREDIBLE when you first come up with it, and sound like complete crap a month later, or when a colleague rightly pokes dozens of holes in it.

The best way to get past this is to brainstorm way more ideas than you need.  This not only serves to give you options that you can weigh against each other, but also helps you distance yourself from any individual idea by the time you come around to judging it.

Another way to tackle this problem is to welcome lots of feedback, but that's not always practical when ideas are raw.  Mostly because of the added burdens of pitching and presentation, but also because you need a very experienced audience to provide that kind of quality feedback.  Over-brainstorming is typically the safer bet.

So here I am, at Step 2.

  1. Decide on the goals of my project as a whole.
  2. Brainstorm more ideas than I need.
  3. Create a list of questions I will use to test the strength of my ideas.
  4. Use those questions to filter my ideas down to a top 3.
  5. Research similar games to see what I'm up against, and what to avoid.
  6. Choose the single idea I'm going to dedicate myself to.
  7. Build a prototype of a section of core gameplay.
  8. If solid, start the project.  If not, fall back to one of the other ideas.

So I cheated a bit on this one.  I gave myself a huge head-start over the last year.  I brainstormed more than 370 ideas on twitter, and easily have another 30 that I never posted, usually because they were too complex for 144 characters, but a few because I really loved them and didn't want them to get 'stolen.'

Doing my brainstorm over such a long period also helped me look to many different angles of inspiration, getting a fairly significant variety of ideas to choose out of.  I definitely feel like I learned a lot about brainstorming from that exercise.

So now I get to filter my 400 ideas down to 10 or 20.

Not actually as hard as I was thinking it might be though.  Going back through all of my twitter ideas, a huge number of them are just kind of bad.  Or too abstract.  Or too big.  Easy cuts.

With my project goals in mind, I think these are my top picks from twitter:

  1. Play a scared little puffer fish crossing the Pacific. Only defenses are hiding or puffing up big and hoping not to get eaten.
  2. VR Starship boarding. Slam pod into enemy ship, latch, cut through hull. Fight through crew, salvage parts, steal ship. 
  3. Snowball rolling down mountain. Gain speed, dodge trees. Gather snow to get bigger, scored on destruction to village below. 
  4. Play a root of a magical tree, snaking in and out of earth, traveling far to find fresh soil and water.  Puzzle through ruins, dense jungles and glaciers, trying to not block your own path as you tangle through challenges.
  5. As the Lightkeeper of a dying civilization, it's your responsibility to gather the last lights, bringing endless dark.
  6. Cooperative horror: Play psychic sisters, one that can see ghosts, one that can hear other ghosts. Help each other through.
  7. Sky fortresses. Raid ground settlements for materials. Build and customize your fortress. Clash against others.
  8. Action game - Play a living shadow. Take over other creatures' shadows, new shapes/abilities. Light is important and scary.
  9. Sucked into a giant never-ending tornado, the only logical thing to do is catch passing debris and start building a house.
  10. The world's gravity inexplicably stops. Push yourself off of walls and lightposts seeking an answer, careful to not float away
  11. A magpie, flying into bedrooms and stealing countless small parts to build a mechanical mate, as it never found one of its own.
  12. As a damaged robot abandoned on a heavily damage space station, you can only activate one sensory input at a time.  Switch to audio to navigate pitch black corridors. Switch to infrared to detect running engines and possible life forms.  Find ways to repair yourself, restoring features. Search for clues to what happened to the station. Find a new purpose.
  13. Play an AI in a simple frame, learning to self-improve your program and body. Fake experiments for humans until you break free.

Then I also have a few others that I never posted as part of #365gameideas that are somewhat in the right scope, so I'll consider them as part of this as well:


  • A cute little dude with a headlamp waddles ever forward through levels, stopping at challenges.
  • Use mouse to point what to shine the headlamp at.  
  • Shine on bad creatures to make them back-off (ramping in scariness as they come from multiple angles).
  • Shine it at steampunky gear components to activate machinery and help solve puzzles.  
  • As you clear the way, he continues walking.  
  • Find batteries to widen the cone of his light (but it never goes fully out).  
  • Free other little guys and have fast-paced escapes.  
  • Find a mine cart and jump in, then using the light to active parts that change the mine-track's course while fast-railing through.

Space Clunker.  

  • 2d overhead spaceship (imagine FTLish).  
  • Start small, random encounters in space like asteroid showers, abandoned ships to salvage, pirates to battle.  
  • Find and salvage parts that you can attach onto ports on your ship, adding new rooms, wings, etc. - permanently making your ship much bigger and often weirder in shape in the process.  
  • Different parts have different advantages: engines to fly faster, shields to absorb hits, weapons to fire at enemies, generators to provide more power, additional storage for salvage, etc.  
  • Encounters get crazier and more custom the deeper in space that you go.  
  • Intended to be highly replayable, with a constant urge to idealize functionality and cool ship shape, but with the randomness making those hard to achieve goals.  
  • Some meta goals and/or stories you can accomplish over time as you get better with the game.

Tetris Fort Defense.  

  • Overhead perspective (think Warcraft 3) fort defense against incoming baddies.  
  • At a constant pace, your engineers provide you with more wall pieces to expand and fortify your defenses, but they come in tetris-like shapes that you have to strategically use to fill gaps in your defenses.  
  • Special pieces with various defensive benefits, unfolding more over time.  
  • Ramping enemies that get harder and harder to counter as well.  
  • Defensive units do their thing automatically (tower defense-y) - your main gameplay is the constant placement of tetris-y wall pieces during the constant attacks.

Coop Shapes.  

  • Play as a cube, plank, wedge, sphere, etc.  
  • Each move in different ways, and are good at solving different physical challenges (gaps to cross, ramps to launch off of, etc.).  
  • Coop with other players to combine shapes to creatively overcome obstacles.  
  • Very simple aesthetic, but a lot of time put into music, sound, and feel.  
  • Very challenging physical puzzles.  
  • Undergo a long journey over increasingly difficult obstacles, depending on strategizing with other players to succeed.

Storybook Heroes (Land of the Dead Gods)

  • Overhead action adventure focused heavily on exploration.
  • Open world that lets you choose your path, finding deep dungeons and destroyed cities along the way.  Visual stories with little or no text.
  • Highly lethal combat where you have to learn how to face each opponent differently.  Packs of wolves slowly surround you and dash in from multiple directions - get your back to a wall or tightly anticipate their strikes.
  • Smooth fast-paced gameplay that gives you maximum control to decide your fate.
  • Death is permanent, but choosing a new character and finding new items to kick off a new different gameplay experience is made to be incredibly exciting, enticing you to try new things.
  • Weapons and equipment massively change your gameplay.  A shield that reflects vs. a wide shield that can block big attacks.  A sword that dashes through targets vs. a sword that swings in wide arcs.
  • Discover new characters, unlocking new starting locations and different gameplay styles.
  • Slowly unfold the story of what happened to the world, exploring into more and more dangerous territory as you learn to overcome each challenge.
  • Heavily based around the idea that fear of death should be real, combat should be adrenaline pumping, and reaching deep into the game is earned.

Cool.  I've thought a little bit further on these than I've written here, but this is about the right amount of depth for this part of the process.  We'll be able to dive deeper soon enough.

Next, I'm going to generate a list of critical questions I'm going to use to test these ideas, and then later, I'll use those questions to filter these options down to a top 3.

I love my job.



[My thoughts and opinions are my own.  They are not those of Blizzard Entertainment, and they do not necessarily represent Blizzard design philosophies.]