Sunday, April 17, 2011

Quick Concept Format: A Method for Developing Game Concepts

I use this method along with other ideation methods (i.e. brainstorming). Why do I use it?
  • It’s better suited for iteration.
  • It’s focused on creating a game concept, not a bunch of loose random ideas for features.
  • It lets the individual take time to germinate game concepts.
    The first part of this method believes that the concept process should be iterative. While many sources talk about iterative approaches to design and development, I believe this should be an universal approach—  from ideation-to-design-to-tuning of a game. Having a method that allows participants to create quick game concepts by using a template, provides an easy way to keep track of concepts and facilitates an iterative process.

    Ideation if not focused correctly can develop concepts but leave the important questions that lead to a design unanswered. For that reason the this method focuses on the creation game concepts, not just a bunch of loose ideas for features. Too often, concepts are chosen that are too vague, which result in a series of brainstorms, design sessions, meetings and pitches. Generally, the concept is then reinvented, during a pseudo design-ideation period, which translate into a waste of time and loss of focus.

    Most brainstorming methods focus on fast-group-procreation of concepts, this method encourages slow-individual-germination of game concepts. Allowing people to have time to let ideas “sink in” and “pop-up” is essential to this method. The goal of the method is to allow individuals to collect ideas and guide them towards a game concept.

You can access the Quick Concept Format worksheet here.

How to use:
  1. Give your concept a working title. 
  2. Use the QCF to write a few sentences per category about your game concept. (Note: It is okay if you can't fill it all in, maybe someone else will help provide that part of the concept or you can barrow from someone else's concept.) 
  3. Allow participants to take this home over one night or even a few days. 
  4. Allow participants to present their concepts. 
  5. Follow this up with selection of a game concept or a new round of brainstorming sessions.
The QCF is the result of four years of iterations on a concept that uses a framework to communicate elements of a game and its design. Up to now it has been used during the development of three serious games and several workshops. I recommend this method in combination with worksheets, emails, forums, wikis, blogs, concept documentation, and mind maps.

    The QCF is also an excellent tool for aiding designers in structuring discussions about design. This helps to avoid situations where you as a designer here something like, “ I don’t like zombies”. The QCF helps to determine what this objection is really about. Is it just the theme? Is it how most game progress during a zombie game? Is it in relation to the core mechanics? Is some subjective association the person has with zombie games in general? Is it a issue with how your technology handles the concept behind zombies?