Nothing new to make? Nothing new to make?
The shareware archives are full of Ultima 3 knock-offs, Space Invaders
knock-offs, and -- for the really creative -- Civilization knock-offs.
What *hasn't* been done before? How about a role-playing game without
swords, where you construct spells out of working algorithmic parts and
try to sneak around the enemy's defenses instead of wearing them down? How
about an empire-building game where logistics is more important than
producing armies? How about a one-on-one fighting game where each player
has the ability to travel through time, and the sneakiest move is to sneak
up behind your opponent while he's busy punching you in the stomach?
Bonus points if you can name the computer game, board game, or book that
inspired each of those thoughts. So, why aren't you reading those books
and playing those games yourself? All things come to he who researches.
Played RoboRally? Is the principle of pre-programming a sequence of moves
applicable to multiplayer Tetris? Or that jumping-pegs thing? Or a
On the bookshelf across from me is a spiky plastic ball in a cage; the
puzzle is getting it out. It's tricky. Can that be translated to a game on
a 2-D screen? What would the mouse interface be like?
Last week I sat down with a chess board and a bunch of wooden triangles,
and pointed them at each other until I had some rules. I tested it tonight
with some friends. It's fun. I may code it.
Last week I bought a set of those colored one-centimeter rods that they
use to teach first-grade math. I haven't decided what to do with them yet.
Maybe build a tower, or push them around the table like little trains. If
it's enough fun, it's worth designing a game. Did you play in the mud when
you were a kid? Ever turn the garden hose on a sandcastle and watch it
melt? If so, is there a computer game like that? If not, what's wrong with
Bryce 4 is $200 retail price. (A clever person could find a rebate.) It
lets you build beautiful rendered landscape images, with objects in them.
Ever wanted to write a game like Myst? It'll be a year's work. If ten
shareware programmers write short graphical adventure games, I guarantee
three of them will be more interesting and original than the crap that the
big studios crank out. Are you one of those three, or would you rather
give up in advance?
RPG baking game? (The Princess isn't happy until the cookie dough comes
out just right. Flour is easy, but gooseberries only grow in the vales of
the Giant Goose... Later, you discover what *else* the skills of
measuring, mixing, and precise heating can be used for.)
Hyperspace navigation? There are dozens of books that describe in florid
prose how hard it is to map your way through jumpspace, and why it's
better than sex. Implement this. You can leave the sex out if you want. If
you're stuck for a mathematical underpinning, go look up that weird
chemical reaction that forms spirals. Someone implemented it about ten
years ago for a Siggraph paper -- reaction-diffusion textures. ("Space
cookies!") Prodding that with a stick could be interesting.
Figure out rules for creating an infinite number of Chinese puzzle-boxes.
Bonus points if they're physically realizable -- have an option to print
A multiplayer game where people all over the world can push pixels around
a board, trying to create artistic and eye-catching patterns. Competitive
cooperation. License the resulting designs as logos and letterhead for
pretentious Internet startups. Get rich.
Core-War-style program fragments fighting in a memory space of random
data. Set up a web site and let people bet money on the results. See what
Chris "Balance of Power" Crawford keeps trying to invent a system for
dynamic characters to interact with each other, and the player, generating
a storyline as they go. So far, he's produced nothing coherent. Figure out
what he's doing wrong; fix it. One seminal game, and people will be
writing knock-offs of *your* idea.
Or, you could write something with big explosions.
Everything has already been done -- once, and in the least interesting
way. Do it again, but get it right. If you combine two ideas you've seen
in *different* places, you're a genius. If you use commas and apostrophes
correctly in the documentation, you're a creative visionary. It's raining
soup, as the good Uncle said; don't sit there using your soup bowl to keep
your hair dry.