Long Vo is the Cofounder and Creative Director of Hiptic Games, the studio behind Go Ninja. The game was recently recognized as the Corona App of the Week and received a number of additional accolades, including stellar reviews in both VentureBeat and AppAdvice.
In today’s indy dev scene, there are so many tools that help us create games. Software Dev Kits like Corona make it not only easy, but inexpensive to produce high quality games for mobile. When we see that we have all kinds of access to this kind of tech, it’s really easy to jump right in and get lost in the possibilities. We tinker, toy with and make stuff. Oftentimes, we get lost in that part of it. We play with tutorials and stumble upon neat things. Next thing you know, you have this mechanism to assemble puzzle blocks or the basis for a paralaxing background. What you’ve created is “game-like” for sure, but is it something you can release to the public and call a finished game?
Let’s take a step back. The technology is simply a tool. Tools are used to create things. So ask yourself one question, what do you want to make?
Making games is similar to making movies, TV or any kind of entertainment media. All of these things share one thing in common, they all began with an idea, a concept– a pitch. Think of a pitch as a single sentence you can use to describe your game to someone you don’t know.
Most people think that the pitch is just to get your foot in the door to get your idea produced. What they don’t realize is that it’s this pitch that guides every aspect of what you’ll be making for the development cycle of your game.
GO Ninja Go Ninja Go!
With Go Ninja, we started by looking at endless runners and began to explore how we could do things a little differently. The sense of motion, aerial acrobatics, speed and being unstoppable were all things that came to mind. And they all felt totally NINJA.
So, we ran with the idea of making our game a badass Ninja Simulator – a sort of Canabalt meets Ninja Gaiden.
Our pitch was this:
“A single ninja slicing through an unstoppable army of demon samurai.”
You’ll notice that this isn’t the same as a story pitch, but more so a pitch for the scenario of the game. Once we had that notion in our minds, we began to brainstorm how to achieve that. Sense of speed. Jumping on rooftops. Sword slicing Samurai in half. Decaps. Busting through walls. Busting through roofs. Quick teleport. Stealth kills.
The list goes on and on.
Being mindful of our pitch, were able to quickly come up with a ton of elements and things we needed to do in order to execute on it.
A pitch is a mission statement that keeps you focused.
Of course, having all of these ideas, you have to be wary of feature creep and adding too many things that steer you off course from your goal. For example, in Go Ninja, we had this idea where other rival ninjas attack you between rounds. It was a neat idea and would have been a cool addition. However, we asked ourselves whether or not that idea was in line with our pitch. The answer was that, while cool, it took away from the idea of a single ninja versus an army of samurai. We cut it, saved ourselves time and used that time to polish all of the other mechanics in the game that involved making you feel like a badass Ninja.
Games are a place where we play out the fantasies in our heads, where we can be challenged to be more than we can be, to solve problems and stimulate our senses. Almost every game is a scenario or series of scenarios that give us a feeling in the same way that scenes in a movie challenge us or make us feel something.
For me personally, the games that stick with me are the ones that made me feel something — whether it be feeling like a badass, feeling accomplished because I solved a puzzle, feeling sad because my virtual love interest died, or feeling frustrated enough to throw my controller through a wall. I’ve had moments in games that stood out clearly to me the same way scenes in a movie or the chorus of a song would. There is a love for the art that goes into that.
As game creators, we have access to tools to elicit these emotions in people. On mobile, there are so many games right now that seemed to be made just to be in the market. Clones of clones made to capitalize on a money making scheme. Making games is big business and yes, we all have to make money to live. But is it really impossible to be able to make a game that you truly enjoy yourself?
An easy way to test this is to pitch yourself on your own idea. If you’re not sold on your pitch, how can you expect anyone else to be?
So let’s try this once again… with feeling.
-Long Vo – Cofounder, Creative Director of Hiptic Games
Hiptic Games is a two-man team based in the Bay Area, CA comprised of serial entrepreneurs Long Vo (Art/Creative/Design) & George (Hackery/Tech/Design).
We make Go Ninja! www.goninjagame.com
Check out our next game using the Corona SDK! http://facebook.com/sharkiegame