Design & Style, Sports & Gaming

Generating Game Concepts

Will Wright

Lesson time 12:59 min

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.

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


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 ...

About the Instructor

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.

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Will Wright

Collaboration, prototyping, playtesting. The Sims creator Will Wright breaks down his process for designing games that unleash player creativity.

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