I did say that AltDevBlogADay was full of good articles, though one I posted was not a great representation of that. Well, let me balance the books a little by posting something better.
First though, stop me if you’ve ever met this guy.
Excited Hobbiest Developer : “Guys! Me and a few collaborators have decided to make a game. It’s gonna be awesome and we’re looking to take on talented people. Message me if you’re interested!”
Mildly Interested Person : “What’s it about?”
Excited Hobbiest Developer : “All I can say is, it’s a post-apocalyptic game with some really unique twists. It’s really going to shake up the market!”
Mildly Interested Person : “Like what twists?”
Excited Hobbiest Developer : “Look, I can’t really say, I don’t want to give away any secrets. These ideas are so unique, so fun that they’re going to make whoever creates this game rich! If you’re interested in getting in on this, message me with a sample of your portfolio and I’ll send you an NDA to sign!”
Excited Hobbiest Developer : “Hello? Anyone…is anyone there?”
If you’ve been a game developer for any length of time, or hung around on enthusiast forums, chances are you’ve met this guy. The guy who thinks that his idea is so revolutionary, so obviously awesome that anyone, upon reading the idea, will immediately see the potential riches to be made and attempt to steal the idea and implement it first.
Truth is, there is no market for ideas*. There is only a market for implementation of ideas. Just like there isn’t a market for a synopsis of a book plot, there is only a market for the book itself.
Take some wildly successful book, Harry Potter or something. Summarize the plot into 2 pages, say. What you’ve got describes a possibility space of potential stories about wizards in high school and so on. I read a number of stories with very similar themes when I was younger, none with the acclaim or fanbase of Harry Potter. The right implementation (and perhaps the right time/place), is what counts.
Truth is, every gamer has their own ‘dream game’. They’re not going to want to steal yours. It is unlikely in the extreme that, should you post up your idea on a forum somewhere, someone who has the skills, time, motivation and teammates to pull off the idea but who isn’t already working on their own idea, will come along and steal yours. Ideas are only stolen when they’re already proven hits and someone is looking to cash-in on that, ie when someone releases a game that makes a lot of money (Minecraft) and people rush to copy the formula on other platforms(Fortresscraft).
And, just as there is no market for ideas, there is no market for “idea guys”. This is a myth that is common amoungst gamers, that people like Will Wright are so famous because they have amazing game ideas. Having the idea is part of it, but it’s only the start. It is, again, about implementing the idea. Which is why famous designers command respect, they’ve proven their ability to deliver, ie to implement.
To read on about what the true role of a game designer is, I now refer you to the excellent AltDevBlogADay post.
To end off, to any Excited Hobbiest Developers out there, don’t be afraid to talk about your ideas. In detail, in public. The enemy is not people stealing your ideas, the enemy is people not even noticing you exist amoungst all the other things competing for their attention. You need to stand up and tell a persuasive story, and keep telling it so that your audience grows and maybe some people are inspired enough to offer you their skills so you have a chance to try implementing those ideas. 😉
*This is not -totally- accurate. There is a market for ideas from proven sources. When J.K. Rowling goes to a publisher with a book idea, they’re probably going to sign on eagerly and give her an advance. But the thing that they’re actually signing up for is not the idea, no matter how much they praise it, they’re signing up with Rowling the author. An unknown author would not generally be able to get a contract just for an idea, they would need a rough draft for a publisher to read. Likewise, if you get your game to an alpha stage, you’ll find that many publishers who were previously disinterested are now willing to talk to you, especially if you’ve built up an audience while doing so.