THE NEXT STEP (OR: “BOLDLY GOING WHERE MANY HAVE GONE BEFORE”)
By John Bell,
Senior Manager of Product Design & Development,
Buffalo Games, Inc.
So, you have a brilliant idea. Now, what?
How do you take that next step and turn the doodle, the pile of post-it notes, or the scribbles on your hand into the next best thing? It boils down to persistence, focus, and perspiration. There’s really nothing romantic about converting ideas into reality. In the end, you’ll work really hard to make something look really easy.
Everyone has their own methods on how to push through to the finish line. There are no hard and fast rules. It’s just a matter of what works for you. Over the years I’ve developed my own tools that help me bushwhack through the product development jungle. It’s not the right way or, by any means, the only way. It’s just my way. Take what you’d like, and maybe it will help you get to where you need to go…
DEFINE YOUR GOAL:
First things first. Focus and define what it is you want to do. What kind of game is it? What kind of screenplay? What is the problem you need to solve?
Before you embark on a trip you should know where you want to go - even though you may not know how to get there. The same thing applies here. Give yourself a destination and define what you’re setting out to accomplish so you know where you need to go and stick to it.
FINISH A 1ST DRAFT:
Once you’ve identified your goal, set all of your notes aside, and build a functional prototype. Do it quickly, and don’t judge. Just get it up on its feet so it can stand on its own and work from beginning to end.
**spoiler alert: It won’t be pretty.
The good news is that you’re the only one that has to see it. Just get it out there and in front of you. Then stand back and let it speak for itself. It will tell you what’s working, what’s not, and what it needs. Be sure to listen objectively and take inventory.
WIN THE BATTLES, NOT THE WAR:
You can’t fix it all at once. Break it down into smaller battles that you can win. When you start winning the battles you’ll start winning the war. Prioritize and address the most crucial need first.
TRY AND TRY AGAIN:
Address your needs and apply new ideas. Try ideas early, and try them often. Don’t get stuck in the mud debating whether or not something will work. If you’re unsure about something, test it out. You’ll get your answer.
When something doesn’t work, embrace it. Yes, failure IS an option. It gives you the opportunity to analyze, re-evaluate, and re-execute. Learn what doesn’t work and drop it. Focus on what does works and build off of it, come back swinging, and move forward with better ideas.
REV YOUR ENGINE:
When it starts to feel like work it’s time to stop and rekindle that spark that revved your creative engine in the first place. Give it some gas and get excited again. Remind yourself why you started this in the first place.
CALL A TIME-OUT:
Always build some time into your development schedule to step away and let the idea breath. Do something else, go for a drive, get a Big Gulp, fold the laundry, play Wii tennis… anything. Let your brain go on vacation. I’ve found inspiration has struck in the oddest places.
See it through to the end, and cross the finish line. It seems obvious, but this is always the hardest part.
Bringing an idea to life is a journey. So, pack your bags for the long haul. Don’t get discouraged when your concept doesn’t live up to its expectations. Hang in there, and above all, be positive and be strong. Attitude is everything. You’ll take some lumps along the way – especially in the beginning - but rise above it, and keep your eye on the prize.
Safe travels, and most of all, enjoy the ride!
Don’t forget to send a postcard.