From Will Wright's MasterClass

Generating Game Concepts

For Will, the natural and social worlds are a rich source of material. Learn what inspired the creation of The Sims and Spore, and how to find and hone your own ideas through wide-ranging research.

Topics include: Find Your Palette of Inspiration • Research Without Limitations • Researching The Sims • Zero In On Your Concept • Spore Inspiration • Trust Your Instincts

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For Will, the natural and social worlds are a rich source of material. Learn what inspired the creation of The Sims and Spore, and how to find and hone your own ideas through wide-ranging research.

Topics include: Find Your Palette of Inspiration • Research Without Limitations • Researching The Sims • Zero In On Your Concept • Spore Inspiration • Trust Your Instincts

Will Wright

Teaches Game Design and Theory

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I don't actually start by concepting a new game. I read a lot, I like learning new things, and at some point I'll just trip over a subject or some material that I find particularly fascinating. So it's not like I sit down and say, okay, I'm going to come up with a new game idea. It's more like I'm kind of just exploring, browsing the world, then it's like oh, maybe I can make a game out of this. When I went to college I studied all these different things, and I don't want to become an architect or an engineer or an artist. And by being a game designer, I found that I could study whatever I want. And my excuse is, I'm making a game about it. So for me, being a game designer turned into a lifelong learning process where I can go off in any subject I want to and it's tax deductible. For me, it's usually some kind of interesting thing about the world or in the world that as I dig deeper it gets more interesting, not less. It didn't sound that interesting to me, but as I read about it a little bit more it actually sounded kind of fascinating. I read some more and it actually really grabbed me and pulled me in. A lot of the games I've done actually were based upon cool subjects, usually books that I read. SimCity was very influenced by the work of a guy named Jay Forrester who was the first person to actually model cities on the early computers back in the 50s. His models were not spatial, they were just like little numbers. How many people did the city have, how much land, how many roads. But he was actually the father of what became known as system dynamics, which I'll talk about a little bit later. SimAnt was very much inspired by the work of Edward O Wilson, very famous myrmecologist, studies ants. He wrote this great book, won the Pulitzer Prize, called "The Ants". But he actually, in some sense, was reverse engineering the way ants work. Little ants are almost like little robots, and it's pretty simple to figure out in the presence of this pheromone the ant does that, in the presence of that pheromone he does this. He actually reverse engineered that and discovered a whole level of emergence. An ant colony, in fact, is incredibly smart. It's about as smart as a dog. An individual ant is incredibly stupid. And so ant colonies are really one of the few forms of intelligence that we can deconstruct and understand at that level, and he was the guy who did it. These kind of subjects are things that when you read about them, they're kind of dry and boring, they're filled with technical jargon. And what I always aspired to do was to take these things and make them approachable-- turn them into a toy. How can I turn an ant colony into a toy so that people come in and start interacting with it? And when players are actually manipulating these things and building them, they take ownership. And they get so involved, so much more emotionally connected to these. And then the subject becomes utterly fascinating. As soon as I built the very ...

Explore the Possibility Space

Learn the art and science of game design with Will Wright, the mind behind SimCity and The Sims. In this game design class, Will teaches you how to create games that empower players and unleash their imagination. You’ll develop a tool set for understanding player psychology, as well as learn Will’s approach to generating and pitching ideas, prototyping, playtesting, and building a community.

Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I feel now more confident and have clearer vision, i've relised how much work goes into game design, the importance of each game component and the importance being aware of each step u take

it has thought me many ideas of design i haven't thought of yet. and helped me make better decisions

Give a very fundamental understanding of game design. I will listen to this class again and then will start creat games!

Will Wright has always been a hero of mine and one of the main reasons I got into game development. To have a course where he discusses his personal perspective after so many years of only playing his games is refreshing. It comes as a helpful reinforcement of what all of his games have unconsciously taught me throughout the years. Thank you

Comments

Patrick W.

Can't download the lesson document as when download it say this: This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below. <Error> <Code>AccessDenied</Code> <Message>Request has expired</Message> <X-Amz-Expires>3600</X-Amz-Expires> <Expires>2019-04-14T11:14:27Z</Expires> <ServerTime>2019-04-14T11:45:18Z</ServerTime> <RequestId>46554B34974F9235</RequestId> <HostId> ZC265mx7c8Xqdcsj8pPL+u3qUa0agYtgjdila66yz/zunXW8CKV5hyxXWXCEw9tsYXMk3j08JzQ= </HostId> </Error>

Andrea Z.

Thank you for these Will. Being able to consider a concept, feature, mechanic from multiple perspectives ...is a key take away which can be applied through all phases of development. Understanding and adapting, sometimes abandoning topics or sub-concepts, is part of exploring the subject matter of your game concept. It's a journey, not war.

XHXIAIEIN

# Chapter 02: Generating Game Concepts --- WILL WRIGHT: I don't actually start by concepting a new game. I read a lot, I like learning new things, and at some point I'll just trip over a subject or some material that I find particularly fascinating. So it's not like I sit down and say, okay, I'm going to come up with a new game idea. It's more like I'm kind of just exploring, browsing the world, then it's like oh, maybe I can make a game out of this. --- ## Find Your Palette of Inspiration When I went to college I studied all these different things, and I don't want to become an architect or an engineer or an artist. And by being a game designer, I found that I could study whatever I want. And my excuse is, I'm making a game about it. So for me, being a game designer turned into a lifelong learning process where I can go off in any subject I want to and it's tax deductible. For me, it's usually some kind of interesting thing about the world or in the world that as I dig deeper it gets more interesting, not less. It didn't sound that interesting to me, but as I read about it a little bit more it actually sounded kind of fascinating. I read some more and it actually really grabbed me and pulled me in. A lot of the games I've done actually were based upon cool subjects, usually books that I read. SimCity was very influenced by the work of a guy named Jay Forrester who was the first person to actually model cities on the early computers back in the 50s. His models were not spatial, they were just like little numbers. How many people did the city have, how much land, how many roads. But he was actually the father of what became known as system dynamics, which I'll talk about a little bit later. SimAnt was very much inspired by the work of Edward O Wilson, very famous myrmecologist, studies ants. He wrote this great book, won the Pulitzer Prize, called "The Ants". But he actually, in some sense, was reverse engineering the way ants work. Little ants are almost like little robots, and it's pretty simple to figure out in the presence of this pheromone the ant does that, in the presence of that pheromone he does this. He actually reverse engineered that and discovered a whole level of emergence. An ant colony, in fact, is incredibly smart. It's about as smart as a dog. An individual ant is incredibly stupid. And so ant colonies are really one of the few forms of intelligence that we can deconstruct and understand at that level, and he was the guy who did it. These kind of subjects are things that when you read about them, they're kind of dry and boring, they're filled with technical jargon. And what I always aspired to do was to take these things and make them approachable-- turn them into a toy. How can I turn an ant colony into a toy so that people come in and start interacting with it ? And when players are actually manipulating these things and building them, they take ownership. And they get so involved, so much more emotionally connected to these. And then the subject becomes utterly fascinating. As soon as I built the very first prototypes of SimCity and I was running a little simulation-- it was very coarse, very crude-- but still, my interest in urban planning skyrocketed. All of a sudden oh, this is really cool. I want to find out about traffic modeling. I want to find out about this, that, and the other. These things that would have sounded incredibly boring to me when I had a little Guinea pig in my room to play with became fascinating. Likewise, other games I did, The Sims, was very much influenced by Christopher Alexander's work in architecture. So for me personally, I find a lot of inspiration in books, also in fields I think that are interdisciplinary, things that are almost controversial. Sim Earth was very much inspired by James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis. It's about the earth and the way it regulates itself. And usually that's where the areas of science are moving the fastest and the most interesting. And those are the things I tended to gravitate toward. This is me personally as a designer. their own kind of palette of inspiration, their own direction, their own kind of voice. --- ## Research Without Limitations When I was starting out in game design, there wasn't this thing around called the internet. I actually had to go to this place they I actually had to go to this place they had these things called books. And I would read these books and learn about things that way. Nowadays, it's so low friction to go on the web and find anything you want to, anything at all about anything you want to. So I think that now designers have so much less friction to do research around an idea that for me it's almost magical that I can kind of pick any topic and go down any little weird path and find material about it. On the simulation side, it was really interesting to me to kind of go back into the history of simulation, back into the 60s and 50s and even all the way back to Von Neumann and Turing and see what they were trying to do with these super primitive computers. And some of the things they were trying to do were amazing, way, way beyond anything a computer could do. But they would imagine that one day a computer could do this. And right now, my watch has much more power than they ever envisioned. At least as a designer, I don't feel like there are any meaningful limitations beyond my own imagination. And so I think to me, that's really the thing that I have to kind of flex and exercise and push is my own imagination. If I could do that, it's actually pretty straightforward and easy for me to figure out the research, the technology, to do it. It feels to me like so many designers always think about and even communicate their game idea relative to other games. It's going to be World of Warcraft on the moon. It's going to be whatever. I think that there's so much more opportunity out in the world to take things-- you can just take a rock off the ground and look at it the right way and it has little microbes competing on the surface for territory, and there's sunlight and environmental consideration. You could turn that into something fascinating. You can take almost anything, and looking at it the right way, make it a fascinating, interactive experience. --- ## Researching The Sims With The Sims, it wasn't really apparent what I should be researching. But as I started digging into the game design, we started getting into this thing with the Sims motives, and they had to go to work and all this stuff. It became pretty apparent that this was really kind of a game about time management, in some sense, on their side. How do you manage their time to maximize their motives to make them happy? And after quite a bit of digging, I came across the work of a guy named James Robinson, and he did all these time studies of Americans, how they spent their time. He actually kept logs every day. They spent 20 minutes of time doing their stuff in the morning to get ready. This amount of time with their kids. This amount of time in front of TV. And he actually broke it down. And it ended up that we were matching those numbers fairly closely. We took the simulation and tried to match the real numbers, the percentage of time that people actually spend doing each of these activities in The Sims. So that was something that wasn't apparent that was something we could even research. Another area of research-- I forgot the name of the guy who did this, but he was interviewing all these people about what their most prized possessions were at different ages. And it was actually quite interesting stuff, some of which kind of made it into the game, some of which didn't. It turned out that for kids and really old people, their most prized possession was their bed. And in mid-life-- and TV was second. Mid-life it was like their car, their house, all these other things. But it was interesting that the kids list of their top possessions was almost the same as like an elderly person's top possessions. So some of this stuff will become part of the game or not. But still, as a designer, if you understand and absorb all this stuff, it helps you think about directions you might take it or you could take it, even if you don't end up using it. --- ## Zero In On Your Concept Even when I'm initially imagining, I'm making a game about this thing, I don't start by thinking what's the game going to be or what's going to be like, I just dive deeper and deeper into the subject and the research. And then I start trying to kind of look at the components-- what are the different aspects of this that are interesting to me? And it might be the process, it might be the structure, it might be the science behind it, whatever, historical context. From those things, I start imagining how would I really like to view this or manipulate it or play with it or create it. If this is a piece of clay, how do I want to sculpt it, what are my tools? I start just imagining 10 or 20 different perspectives on that subject. And I think the perspectives are far more valuable than particular solutions or approaches. So actually, after kind of rotating this thing around through 20 or 30 perspectives, two or three usually will start to get traction in my head, and I'll start exploring those a little bit further. So I'm trying to describe something that in my head is really a much more abstract process, but that's how it feels to me. But I in some sense, I'm kind of circling the idea and slowly zeroing in on it. I don't dive right at it, but I sit there and just let it turn over my mind. I'll sit there and do this research thinking about it phase for a year before I even think about what kind of game it might be. And during that time, I will even build models of it or draw pictures of it or try to recreate it in different forms, tangibly. And that again just kind of puts my brain in a little bit different spin, a little bit different perspective, and new ideas will pop up just as a result of me building a model of something. --- ## Spore Inspiration Spore, the original concept, was based on a couple of things. I did a box design, an original box design, actually I called it Sim Everything. But there were two things that really fascinated me especially. Number one was an old film, Charles and Ray Eames "Powers of Ten". FILM NARRATION: We begin with a scene one meter wide. Now every 10 seconds we will look from 10 times farther away, and our field of view will be 10 times wider. WILL WRIGHT: It was the same thing. Starting with an atomic scale, every one a powers of 10 bigger and bigger and bigger. I love that idea of scale across the galaxy, across the universe. And within that dimension of scale, that the most interesting thing at every single scale that we know of is life. Everything else is fairly deterministic, fairly predictable, dry, but life is the one unpredictable aspect in every single scale starting at the cellular level. The other big inspiration was basically astrobiology-- the idea of how prevalent is life out the galaxy and what forms might it take? And so it was those two ideas that came together and I was really thinking about, can I tell a story about the journey of life from the cellular level up to galactic expansion and make that kind of game like, like a toy? --- ## Trust Your Instincts As a designer I tend to go with my gut feel in terms of that's going to be something cool, and I can't always express exactly on what dimensions it's going to be cool, but I hope that my instincts will bring me to a place where a wide range of people will enjoy it. And I wasn't always that way. It took me a while to realize that. When I was first working on SimCity by myself I showed it to a few people and they thought it was kind of cool. I showed it to eventual partner, Jeff Braun, and he was like oh yes, we have to do, let's start a company. And we started Maxim and did SimCity. But in my mind, even at that point, I was thinking okay, this is a game that maybe a few strategy gamers or architects maybe might enjoy. It didn't occur to me that a wide range of people would enjoy that. To Jeff it did. Jeff kind of understood that I think more than I did. After that, I started learning to trust my instincts, that if I really find this cool for some reason or I'm gravitating toward that, just trust that we can find a way to bring other people and they'll enjoy it as well. It's very hard, as a designer, for me to design for somebody else. This is how that person thinks, this is what they want, this is what they believe. It's easy to do for myself and then figure out why am I enjoying this, why am I motivated? And what about other people's thought process will let them see this and enjoy it and experience it the same way I do? ---

Grant H.

One of the things I’ve noticed about board games and board game design is how a captivating game can be made out of literally any idea, concept, event, etc. I think due to being not as costly to produce, but also being a booming industry, we are seeing a lot more experimentation in this space than in video games. There’s some really neat stuff out there now (stuff you won’t find in the mass market, big box stores).

Asi E.

Assignment - Find an intresting random article on wikipedia and make concepts with multiple view points on subject: Went thruogh wikiepdia till I landed on a page for a brewery, looked into beer brewing in general, cool stuff, here are my ideas: - Puzzle game of connecting all the the different drums and pipe, balancing pressure, flow, alcohol, all in lovely bronze colors. - Business game, you are the brewery owner, you have to build up your brewery into a successful business, balancing staff, equipment, advertising etc. Become the brewmaster! - Top-down arcade game, you are the yeast, eating the sugars, making alcohol, which you have to avoid because it kills you. You multiply as you do and have to control multiple yeasts. You eventually die out by filling the level but how much alcohol can you make? And what flavors? - It’s 2500 BC in Mesopotamia, you are a young woman making the family beer, the colors are earthen and muted, like a clay tablet, you create and mix recipes in wedge shaped Cuneiform writing. The ending is dire. - You are a beer barrel, fallen off a truck, you roll down hill.

Rich C.

Thoughts. Starters: + A game in which the goal is to rescue as many passengers from the sinking Titanic as you can before "you know what" + A game in which you control a shopper with a push cart, competing with other push cart shoppers in a very busy supermarket + A game in which you "drive" a tornado, choosing best routes of survival while wreaking wanton destruction and totaling damage cost + A game in which two to four groups of ants are in conflict over an enormous blanket strewn with enormous, scrumptious looking picnic food Note that all of these "seeds" come from reality (actually, the last one came from a Warner Bros. cartoon) Each could be done straight or with fantastic elements Each is a scalable idea that could be presented lavishly or modestly - gameplay would remain the largely same in any case These kinds of ideas can be developed at virtually any funding level These are pretty straightforward ideas, clear, and easy to describe and understand, so they can probably be prototyped and on the screen "same day" - it's nice to know that what you're up to works and is fun before you roll

A fellow student

I'm watching this series as a educator of foreign language and the objective is always to get my students to speak in that foreign language. ... Now that I watched this video, I feel inspired to think about all the possibilities of interactions I can have in my classroom over the learning objective. ... I wonder what kinds of research I could do to help expand those potential concepts I can form games around....

Mengen

Wow, this is so fascinating! I think a good class is one that inspires you to see the next step and gives you the courage to take that step! This is it!

Tony W.

I love this. My "capstone concept" is literally applying this concept to videogaming itself, along with a focus on psychological profiling and how personality types coincide with gaming tastes and how it fits with their psychological needs. But there's also something bitterly ironic that The Sims is ultimately about time management; and how that particular part of my life has been the hardest thing about working on my project. Who meta'd whom, here?

Johannes A.

Hi, I think it shows that he gets inspiration from many things. Emergence is one of those things like he says about Simant. What I learned from this chapter is to find my own pallette of inspiration.