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The value of ideas

Ideas are worth nothing. Half the people you ask will say they’d never ever be able to come up with a movie, a book or a game. The other half are brimming with ideas… and half the humanity is a lot of people. If gold or diamonds are so valuable because of their scarcity, by the same rule ideas are worthless – there are too many.

And you’ll say, if there are so many presumably good ideas, why are there so many bad movies, so much mediocre literature, such clichéd videogames? Because the tricky part is to turn a good idea into a good finished product. How many promising trailers hide boring movies? How many interesting back covers sell out bad literature? A good synopsis does not guarantee a good story. Walking the walk is more difficult than talking the talk.

When one wants to prove themselves good writers they must prove their worth through a good novel or story collection – sometimes only one is not even enough. That’s also why so many aspiring scriptwriters film their own shorts. The same rule applies if you want to write videogames. by making games you’ll prove that not only have you good ideas but also know what to do with them, how to integrate them in a playable environment, how to engage the player, how to use interactivity, how to define a whole coherent world.

In theory, many of these tasks are for programmers, graphic designers and the lot, and indeed in practice, in a professional environment, tasks will be apropriately distributed. But in order to enter that market, you’ll have to show insiders that you know how to integrate your work with the rest of the team, in a word – that you know the format.

The only way to make it is to learn other abilities that allow you, if not to make the whole game yourself, at least to develop a part of the technical requirements of the process. As we’ve been saying all week, all elements in a videogame are intimately related, and the more of them you explore, the better you’ll know how they relate to each other and the more coherent the result will be. And above all, the more work you can take in your hands, the more interesting it will be for others to work with you. If you want to surround yourself with a team of graphic artists, musicians and programmers that help you realize your project, you’ll need to offer them something beyond “an idea”. The more knowledge and abilities you bring in, the more chances you’ll have that serious people take you seriously and jump in a colaboration with you.

Take into account you don’t need to start from scratch. There are numerous engines desgined to help you create games. Here’s someone more knowledgeable on the topic, my friend David García “Xander“, to suggest a few:

Renpy, RPG Maker and GameMaker are the most famous (together with one for fighting games, but I don’t think we can tell stories with that ;-). Many people make games in Flash. Then there’s the possibility of building MODs for PC games. Some companies make theit games’ development kits available for users to modify or make completely new games. For example there’s Valve with their Source engine from “Half-Life” or Bioware with the tools from “Neverwinter Nights 2”. The latter is quite famous, easy to use and, coming for a Western RPG, applis well to storytelling. There’s also the recent “Dragon Age”, also by Bioware, with some capabilities for cinematics. For shooters there are the tools from games like “Gears of War”, “Crisis” or “FarCry 3”. Even “StarCraft 2” have released their kit and I hear it’s quite powerful, allowing you even to change the genre and build an action game, instead of strategy, for example. In a word, there’s a lot to choose from.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one has to work hard. Many amateurs think it’s easy: I’ll write, he’ll draw, she’ll write the code… In practice, this never works, because illustrators and programmers will rather work on their own ideas and direct their own projects. And here goes one of those big truths that make the work of a professional scriptwriter on any audiovisual medium, so difficult:

Everybody thinks they can write.

And if you don’t believe me, I’ll tell you more next time.

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