Gonzalo Borriero is the CEO of Tekko Games, a Uruguay-based studio that developed the recent Corona App of the Week - Thief Job. The game was recognized for its polished and entertaining gameplay as well as the impressive graphics and character development. Based on his team’s experience developing Thief Job, Gonzalo shares seven steps for creating a well thought-out game concept.
My name is Gonzalo Borriero, and I am the CEO of Tekko Games, a two year old game development company located in Uruguay. We have been working on gaming development with many clients on multiple platforms. Thief Job is our first company-owned project, and I would like to share our experience creating the game concept.
1) Plan the idea
First off, you need a great idea. The best way to achieve this is through a written brainstorm. The idea is to focus on what you’d want to play, because you need to love the game, first and foremost. Otherwise, the game can, and most likely will, result in a failure.
Our team loves runner games; we were playing them for more than one year. You could always find us together competing against one another. So, the question was reduced to, “A runner game about what?” After many hours of brainstorming, our team decided to go for a thief-cop theme. After choosing the theme, we remembered an old game from the 1980’s for the Atari 2600 involving a cop and thief. It brought back fond memories!
2) Research and select the target market
You need to do research about the current market. The goal is to find the main competitors and analyze the pros and cons of each. Why does one have more success than others?
The next step is to select the target market while taking important factors into account such as age range of players, and target devices.
Our team already had some know-how in runner games. However, we downloaded even more games and continued to play and analyze them. We found many interesting features in each and every one. Nearing the end of the stage, the team decided to develop the game for a launch on the iOS market while marketing to a large target audience.
3) Choose the revenue model
You need decide how you will make money from the game. Ads? App sales? In-app purchases? This is an iterative phase, and it’s imperative to review and revise strategies accordingly pending the sales results.
Our strategy was to discard the ads and app sales and start with in-app purchases only. From our experience, this needs to be stated at an early stage because this will affect the behavior of the game. For example, if you are going to include ads, leaving the appropriate free space is necessary.
4) Define the game
In this step, you need to describe the game in greater detail. What makes your game special? Does your game have a captivating story? Why will the user download it?
Thief Job involves a cop chasing a thief over buildings. As the game is rated for all audiences, we wanted to use cartoon graphics with a simple and intuitive gameplay. Since our app is an endless game, we needed to include several obstacles and buildings to make it less monotonous. Also, adding some items, upgrades and outfits helped make it more enjoyable for the end user.
We wrote a simple storyline, and then we selected the correct style of music for the game.
5) Define characters and backgrounds
Next, you need to determine the main characters and environment. Knowledge of Concept Art is a great tool for a job like this. Another route is to search for quality contractors from leading freelance websites (check their references).
With Thief Job, after planning the characters and background, our lead designer, Jose Borba, designed all the concept art for the game. Here are the main characters and background sketches:
6) Specify features, scenes and fine details
Create a list with all the possible features and a corresponding rating. Then, choose the ones you want to use for the first version of the game. Finally, define the rest of the important stuff for the game that has not already been documented.
We created a list of about eighty features and decided to narrow the focus to the top twenty. The team also specified all the scenes, levels, HUD and controls in this step. For example, we decided to include an intro scene. So, we made the following storyboard:
7) Create a Game Design Document (GDD)
Lastly, you will need a document with all the information that was covered above. This document kick-starts the designers and developers. The more detailed the documents, the more it will help to minimize costs.
Note – As Corona SDK reduces the development time significantly, it’s a recommended strategy to create some early prototypes in order to validate your ideas.
-Gonzalo Borriero, CEO of Tekko Games
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