Practical Creativity

Notes on talk by Raph Koster at GDC 14: Practical Creativity

#Relevant resources

#What is creativity?

  • Collisions of elements typically not associated with one another
  • Crossing of contexts, moving things into new infrastructure
  • Making the familiar unfamiliar
  • ::Almost never “the creation of something truly new”.::

#Hierarchy in games

  • a unique rule construct changes presentation and content and turns into a genre
  • vast majority of work is done within genres, with simple variants at best
  • creating of new games is vanishingly rare in videogames - tabletop on the other hand, does it frequently

#Atomization and abstraction

  • Look for core small bits - Games are made of smaller games
  • Break down and compartmentalise the game - Treat each input as a game, each subsystem as a game - Once you think modularly, you can replace modules at will
  • Build your mechanics library - Going back to simple games (80s classics, mobile, etc) is the best way
  • Distance yourself from the core problem - Find ways to reframe your simulation problem in fresh language
  • learn to see things abstractedly: distill the aesthetics into actual small mechanics

#Context replacement

  • creativity isn’t about ex nihilo creation
  • it’s about moving known bricks around and connecting them in unexpected ways - remember, if games are made of games, even the tiny thing is a possible brick
  • ::the biggest tool for doing this is pushing your known brick dramatically out of context:: - example: a dice is always thought of as a probability device, but it can be: a token with hit points, countdown device, indicator of state, indicator of max value, brick you build with

#Add a statistic

  • simplest means of innovation
  • new stat implies a new rule, which means at minimum you’ve created a new variant
  • time to complete: possible time attack mode
  • number of moves: possible efficiency subgame
  • attack strength rating: possible divergent strategies
  • each time you add a stat, try removing an existing one

#Work in the materials

  • the tools of game systems are math relationships
  • think analog, not digital
  • working analog for digital concepts forces context switching
  • “could I stick a hex-grid under an FPS?”
  • make things that are known very well unfamiliar to you again

#Force constraints

  • specific types of pieces prompt a mechanic
  • doing level design? Try abstracting your level into a graph
  • give yourself an impossible limit and you’ll start inventing new mechanics

#Add a verb or a goal

  • take a platfromer, add “fast” — you get speedruns
  • the most interesting gameplay comes when the player’s goals are somehow contradictory

#Change input mappings

  • swap an analog input for a binary one
  • swap simple input for a complex one
  • swap an instant action for a timed one