Have you ever been in a conversion, or overheard a conversation where somebody says “[That really big successful idea], I thought of that before they did.” The most amusing/frustrating moments I’ve ever had in a comic shop was while standing in line behind a guy who was talking the ear off of the shop keep. (People say shop keep right?) and he bounced from one idea he had to the next:
“Why doesn’t McFarlane Toys make the figures more posable? I have an idea for toys that are like those, but you can play with them.”
To which my mind said “Because they are toys for adults, so they are just statues, and the increased cost to do that would be silly because you would be adding a feature adults don’t care about.” Of course that was my mind, and I’m not telepathic (yet), so he continued “You know the Aliens Vs. Predator comics. I came up with that idea like 5 years ago.”
My mind “Are you complaining that someone ‘took’ your idea? You know your idea about two franchise you don’t own, and aren’t affiliated with? I mean did you even try to do anything with your idea?”
He interrupted my thought “I should show them my notes, so they can see I had the idea first. I’d make so much money.”
Mind “Wait, is he serious.”
Him “I’ve done the math, and they owe me [insert insane amount].”
Mind “Holy crisp he is serious!”
That’s not the first or the last time this has happened to me. Well the only time at a comic shop, but stuff like this has happened to us all I’m sure, and why not. I’ve been tempted to think similar thoughts, and why wouldn’t I? I mean I’m full of good ideas. I can say that objectively because all humans are full of good ideas, and I’m human (seriously), and good ideas is kind of what we do.
So if all 6+ billion of us are full of good ideas, why don’t we see more good ideas? That’s not the question I’m here to answer, but I’ll indirectly answer it in the course of this, so bonus.
The real question is, how do you make a good idea live up to its potential? See that’s the trick, the problem, isn’t coming up with an idea of value it’s piecing out all of the details that allow the idea to exist with the desired value. If you mess up, or forget, one key detail the best ideas can function as the worst idea. (In the case of the comic store guy his missing detail was the ability/drive/talent to begin working on the idea.)
How did I learn this? I had a great idea for a game, over a decade ago, and I made it, and it sucked. It’s a boring story really, so instead I’ll focus on a variation of this lesson.
In May of 1984 Marvel comics released the first superhero cross over series. It featured Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, the guy who can stretch, Galactus, the X-men, and Doctor Doom. (Also, a lot more guys.) The premise was simple, an all powerful alien grabs each of these heroes, and villains, and throws them on a strange alien world, and says “heroes fight the villains, so I can understand you better.” The plot on paper is actually worse than I’ve just described. Why? Because as the compilation trade book admits, it was an idea some toy manufacturers came up with to justify selling a new line of Marvel toys. It was an idea as bad as the Spider-Mobile, and it came into being for the same reason.
However, there was a twist. This terrible idea actually told a great story. Like Secret Wars is actually pretty awesome. The authors, somehow took a terrible idea, and made it live up to it’s terrible potential, and then said “f it.”, used witchcraft, and out came one of the most influential comics to date [citation not needed.]. Now granted, there are definitely, better, and more well crafted stories out there, but at best those gems are living up to their full potential, Secret Wars goes beyond it.
That’s why when I make a game I try to come up with the best concept possible. I want to set a really high bar, so once I’ve hit the point where I reach that bar I know how good of a game I have.