I’ve just begun getting back into IF, checking out the Inform language, after several false starts with other languages. The trouble is, I find I have more ideas for interactive fiction games and settings than I have time to execute them.
What do you do when you have a surplus of ideas? Are there people out there who have the IF-coding skills but few game ideas?
The problem I see with trying to “outsource” a surplus of ideas is this:
It’s your idea. I find that trying to implant my ideas in other people’s heads seldom works at all.
I’ve found that the best bet is just to write down extra ideas and get to them later.
I can’t imagine what would have happened if I tried to convey my ideas for a game to someone else. 99% of the time I get the seed of an idea, and it evolves as I write it. I rarely get a full-fledged game suddenly pop into my head.
I find that the problem isn’t having ideas, it’s figuring out which ones are the “good” ones – that is, the ones that I (at least) think are worth throwing my time after.
Outsourcing ideas is problematic in my mind because (aside from the difficulty of finding someone with more time than ideas, or the monetary toll of paying someone else to foster your idea) by the time you’ve adequately defined your idea such that someone else can act on it in precisely the way that you’ve envisioned it, you’ve more or less instantiated the idea yourself.
I’ve started a million and one projects and finished about half a dozen. I still have no idea which ones are going to prove fruitful - although it’s often indicated by the “completeness” of the idea after I’ve been working on the project for a while. If after a couple of weeks I haven’t figured out where the end is, I typically won’t get there.
But although it’s good to know when to cut your losses on a project that’s going nowhere, never consider an idea lost. You may be able to incorporate it into another project, or it may come back with a vengeance and much better formed than last time. My current WIP is something I’ve been trying to get started for a couple of years now - but I could never figure out a good implementation or story arc. A few weeks back, a combination of unrelated ideas suddenly inspired the perfect way to do it.
EDIT: Or to address the OP specifically: write down your ideas. Keep a notebook or a ring binder or a database or a scrapbook. Just because you can’t get it done right this minute, doesn’t mean that you need to panic (although I know just where you’re coming from).
This sounds like good advice. I’ve been trying to combine my many unsuccessful ideas to come up with a plan for one game. Twice now, doing so has produced another concept with more potential than the others. The first of these combinations didn’t work out, and I no longer think I can make an IF game out of it. However, I still like the story and theme that I came up with. Only God knows if I’ll ever be able to do anything with it one day. Now, I’m sort of working on a fantasy-themed game, and I’ve designed the setting based on many ideas I’ve had in the past – not just failed IF projects, but also maps of imaginary worlds that I drew when I was younger, dreaming of the epic struggles of good and evil within them. And I’m pleased to report that I can call this project my current WIP, because I now have four rooms implemented!
Hertz, go back to your personal motivation for wanting to create anything at all, and then look for all the genuine nuggets of potential in your many ideas. Eventually, you and I will come to our breakthroughs, I think.
Trying to combine a multitude of ideas into one project is fraught with peril. Usually what happens is a confused story that doesn’t know what it is or what it wants to be. One strong idea should survive the others (ideas are Darwinian in nature).
As far as out-sourcing goes, it requires a change of perspective. It’s no longer your idea. It now belongs to your team - you and the programmer. This is the way I work with artists when writing a children’s book - that way both people are invested and give their best. And it’s amazing how another brain can help strengthen an idea.
Generally true, but sometimes not … and you won’t know until you’ve tried combining things! Two years ago I sold a story to Asimov’s (“Leaving the Station”) that started out as two separate stories. It was the collision between them that set off sparks.
In IF, a couple of times I’ve had puzzles from an abandoned work that found their way into a game that I completed.
Never throw away your notes on any game or story idea! If it isn’t working, set it aside and maybe come back to it later. (I have 30-year-old notebooks in the garage that I really ought to run through the shredder before I die…)
Right now I’m developing an idea for a game that I first looked at at least 3 years ago. I couldn’t figure out what to do with it – it went wandering through a lot of tangled bits and tied itself in knots. Now suddenly it’s making a lot of sense, because I turned it sideways and pruned away some of the accumulated deadwood.
My motto has always been: Ideas are cheap and plentiful. What’s neither cheap nor plentiful is the time and energy (and the insight) with which to develop them into completed works.