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How To Keep An Ideas List

I have a bit of a process (not much) with my game development. It works roughly like this, I have one game that’s in main development, that’s the one that I’ll be Kickstarting next. Behind that I have three or four games that are prototypes that I like the idea of being the game after that. The step back from there is a shelf of ten or twelve prototypes, which come from a folder of fleshed out ideas, which in turn come from a list of short ideas. These days I then have folders of expansion ideas and future development for the games that have gone through Kickstarter or publication. In this blog I want to talk about that ideas list, though I’ll touch on other parts of the process.

There are lots of ways of keeping an ideas list, but I think that a well maintained one is an absolute necessity for a game designer. Personally, I keep my ideas list as a single piece of A4 paper. I keep a notebook in which bits of ideas get scribbled down, half parts of mechanics, phrases and thoughts. Some people keep useful ideas in a notebook, but I find I don’t have the discipline for that, my notebook is for the idea that I have to write down right then or it will melt away. Sometimes its for a chance to develop an idea when I’m at a loose end waiting for something or on a train etc, but generally the things scribbled in there are not for long term storage. Often, they’re in a form that will make little or no sense two or three days after. If the idea is a mechanic without a home, I’ll later write it up into a paragraph or two of as much detail as I possibly can, given that it’s a loose part, and it gets kept in a loose-leaf folder. Sometimes those mechanics will get slotted into something, sometimes they’ll get developed into a full game, sometimes they’ll get culled out as not really leading anywhere. If the idea is a germ of a game idea, it goes on the idea list.