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Ideation, and Nurturing a Mechanic

Game design is an interesting space to be in. Many articles have been written about not waiting for inspiration, and instead opting for active ideation, but I still struggle with that from time to time. So, here’s something that I find often helps me unlock creativity when I want to kick off a project, but don’t quite have a flash of inspiration to start from. Nurture a mechanic.

Fair warning, this is probably a very programmer-centric mindset, but I’ve found it works for me. First, take a mechanic that you’ve really loved. This could be from another game, or even one of your own. Then, take a long hard look at that mechanic, and ask: “What game can I build around this?”

Screenshot of Clone Run on android.
Clone Run, which we shall be talking about

Clone Run

Last year, I had this moment. I was trying to create some more simple, quick arcade games, to explore that space a little bit. But, I didn’t have any great ideas for hypercasual games. So, my ideation mind went back to mechanics. What mechanics have we tried that felt really compelling, and still have potential to shine.

We went back to one of our earlier games, Duped. This was a puzzle platformer, where the core mechanic was cloning yourself, and manipulating those clones to solve puzzle levels. It’s a pretty fun game, and the mechanic worked well there, but perhaps it still had some life left to give.

Where did it go?

So, I spent a day taking that mechanic, and adapting it for a simple hypercasual game instead. The result of that ideation was Clone Run. After a few days, it was released across app stores. The game was quite fun, but we didn’t have the time to continue to invest into it, so it was put back on the shelf for now. Perhaps we will revisit it one day.

The moral of the story, however, is to try nurturing a mechanic. If you’re struggling with ideation for what you should create next, why not try it out. Regardless of whether the game ends up a success or not, it’s an interesting and different way to think about creation.

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