I have decided to write this blog post for two reasons. Firstly, to show people how I organise my designs and secondly, to remind myself to take my own advice and start organising my own designs better!
I have two notebooks I use to jot down ideas, one for my work at Soshi and the other for all my other ideas. I have so many ideas that I need to make sure that the best ones are captured so that I can refer back to them easily and even the not-so-great ones should be noted down in case they spawn a better idea further down the line.
Tip #1. Write down every idea.
Even seemingly stupid ideas may turn out to be gold after a bit of cultivating or with the announcement of a new console or peripheral that suddenly becomes the perfect vehicle for that idea.
Tip #2. Don’t restrict yourself.
Even if you start with the intention of jotting down some ideas for a simple mobile game, don’t restrict yourself from designing an epic back story for a AAA console game if that’s where your ideas take you.
Tip #3. Use a contents page.
There’s no point in writing down hundreds of amazing design ideas if you can’t find them later. I dedicate the first page of my notebooks to a contents page, which I update as I add more content. Make a note of each page number and try and give a general theme to each page or section, such as ‘Enemy Sketches’ or ‘Power-ups’.
Tip #4. Be creative!
Designing games is fun, so go crazy with your notebook. If you’ve followed tip #3 you’ll be able to find your ideas again so jump between ideas and go off at tangents. Don’t restrict yourself to keeping all your NPC characters on consecutive pages, within your ten page characters allocation.
Tip #5. Make it happen.
If you feel like you’ve got a great idea you need to make sure that you do everything you can to make it happen. Nobody gets paid in the games industry just for coming up with ideas, contrary to popular belief.
Obviously if your best design is for a AAA MMORPG you’re going to struggle to make that on your own, but you can use freeware like GameMaker to test out specific features or interactive storylines. At the very least you can create a detailed design document.
If you have any other techniques that work for you, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.