How can I get a video game made?
August 18, 2005 2:38 PM   Subscribe

I have a great idea for a video game. And not just a vague concept either, but specific notes on everything, down to the finest details. I've documented exactly how the game should look and feel, and I've played countless hours of it in my head. I'm not a game programmer, nor do I know any, but I'd like this game to get made (if only so I won't have to keep playing exclusively in my head). I've searched the web, and the general consensus is that I'm pretty much out of luck; video game companies just don't buy game ideas. Am I out of luck? Is this a lost cause?
posted by feaverish to Media & Arts (19 answers total)
Why not find a programmer to make the game for you first. If it's a good game, then you've got something more than just an idea in hand.
posted by gfrobe at 2:45 PM on August 18, 2005

Ideas are magnifiers of effort. So without a game actually developed, the idea is of no real dollar value.

This means that to see the game in real life you either need to develop the game yourself (or hire others to do it), or you need to give away the idea.
posted by wackybrit at 2:48 PM on August 18, 2005

Somewhere online, there's a site that lets you present feature requests to the open-source community, with a dollar value of what you'd be willing to pay for said feature. Other people then contribute monetarily to your feature request, and when someone programs the solution, everyone chips in to pay for it.

I only heard about this from groklaw, and I'm not sure if it was a functional site yet, but maybe this is the way to go?
posted by odinsdream at 2:59 PM on August 18, 2005

What type of game is this? Shooter, role playing, etc? What games exist that are of similar play type? Not necessarily the content of the game, but how the user interacts and what gets shown on the screen.

I ask because there is the Torque Engine which at $100 is hard to beat and has a lot of usability for non-programmers. You still can't make a game without learning what you're doing but you can often find other indie game makers who you can collaborate with. However it is not suited for certain kinds of games.
posted by phearlez at 3:04 PM on August 18, 2005

post there. Seek out a programmer and whip up a demo or test. scale it down, try it in something simple like flash? could it translate to a tabletop or board game for some simple testing?
posted by darkpony at 3:06 PM on August 18, 2005

garage games communtiy section
posted by darkpony at 3:07 PM on August 18, 2005

feaverish: Get yourself to the nearest university CS department! If they have a gaming software engineering curriculum, present your idea to whoever runs it.

Also, many colleges have a club whose sole purpose is programming games.
posted by mischief at 3:12 PM on August 18, 2005

Penny Arcade's Pax game expo includes a segment where people get to field their ideas to industry bigwhigs who tell them whether it's sink or swim. Coming up pretty soon too.
posted by furtive at 3:22 PM on August 18, 2005

If the idea is really that good and you want to make money off it, you need to make a formal contract with whomever you hire or collaborate with to develop a model I think the view in the gaming world is that the real value is in the execution, since there are really only a few "kinds" of games and endless variations on them. Once in a while a new genre of game appears -- I think Sims -- and that's different. But here's a thought. If you're really hardcore about how good the idea is, why don't you take the programming courses and learn to develop it at least partially yourself. Otherwise, you need a non-disclosure and limited rights agreement with anyone you work with, or better yet a full parntership agreement (you'll more likely find someone good if they can expect to share in the profits, if gaming is like other creative tech fields I know better). If you put the idea out there in public, don't expect to retain control over it even if you copyright it in some form. And you should definitely register relevant copyright and patent/trademark rights, for which you need (probably specialized to the gaming industry) legal advice if you have dreams of a big score. Good luck!
posted by realcountrymusic at 3:43 PM on August 18, 2005

Don't forget that is coming up too.
posted by SpecialK at 3:43 PM on August 18, 2005

I'm not a game programmer

If you're interested in becoming one you might want to look at something like pygame, which seems to give decent results, as well as python being a particularly easy language to learn. However, I have the impression that the real problem isn't going to be the programming, but rather the art (unless you're an artist, or willing to accept low-fi graphics*).

* this actually isn't a bad idea, since greater depth of gameplay will be in your immediate reach. Individuals are making quite sophisticated games in inform, for instance.
posted by advil at 3:52 PM on August 18, 2005

Thanks for all the great advice, everybody. I'd never heard of the Torque Engine or Garage Games.
posted by feaverish at 5:50 PM on August 18, 2005

The general consensus in the game development community is that good ideas are cheap, executing them is difficult.

So, now that you have a good idea, there are two paths to take:

a) You will take the initiative to drive this idea into reality. You will push it, pay for it, hire someone to create it, make it happen by the sheer force of your will, coerce or bribe someone into creating it, learn to program yourself and build it yourself, or

b) It will die and disappear, like untold good ideas before yours.

So, which will it be?
posted by jellicle at 5:56 PM on August 18, 2005

A lot easier to make games with than the Torque engine (albeit more expensive, US $250) is The Unity Engine. Still in somewhat early stages of development (Latest build is v 1.1b), the physics engine is built, programming is done with JavaScript, C# or a Python-Like language called Boo. A really nice group of folks on their forums too. A two week trial is available.

I am looking to get into the game development business myself, in a graphics and design capacity, let me know if you are interested...
posted by Scoo at 6:14 PM on August 18, 2005

It will be difficult (read: nearly impossible) to sell the idea with nothing on paper or some kind of playable demo. Once you've got that, you can start shopping it around to companies; my place of employment gets similar submissions on a regular basis. However, the people who will be passing judgement on your idea need to be able to see it, play with it, and read about it before they'll give it a moment's thought.
posted by Miss Bitchy Pants at 7:49 AM on August 19, 2005

If you have never heard of Torque you likely have heard of the games it was built on: Tribes & Tribes2.

caveat: Torque as sold is not exactly what made T/T2 - the codebase was sold to the people who are now Garage Games and some parts were stripped out, which shows in odd places in the codebase.
posted by phearlez at 10:49 AM on August 19, 2005

Ideas are magnifiers of effort

Other way around, surely?
posted by IndigoJones at 12:01 PM on August 19, 2005

Reasonably, you need to have a working prototype of a game to really understand if the game is going to work, and you need to be able to get that prototype executed somehow. If your vision is Grand, you are in essence screwed. (Will Wright can make Spore because, well, he's Will Wright.)

If the idea can, on the other hand, be created in skeleton form with the aid of one good programmer and some elbow grease (can you generate workable art and sound [either yourself or via a computer-friendly artist friend, or another contracter]?), you can start from there. Reasonably speaking, you could -- with a great and not-Hollywood-scale idea -- create an indie game on a tiny budget that would pay itself off in indie-scale sales. If that's a satisfying idea, I say go for it.

Look at folks like Popcap and Chronic Logic to see what can be achieved on a sub-mainstream level in game development, perhaps.
posted by cortex at 4:00 PM on August 19, 2005

As far as the game engine goes, I'm not looking to reinvent anything here. I can think of a number of game engines that would work just fine for what I have in mind.

I've documented everything, exhaustively, so it seems like from what you're all saying the next step is to get something visual and interactive working. Something a potential buyer could see and play with.
posted by feaverish at 5:13 PM on August 19, 2005

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