Game Writing Course

Keeping Track of Game Ideas

10 Jun 2019
Written by Gwen

Just as important as coming up with great ideas, is finding a way to keep track of them! Some people have excellent memories and never write down ideas.

I am not one of those people.

There are various ways you can keep track of your ideas and you might need to try a few different ways until you find what works for you.

TRELLO

Jen keeps a board of ideas on Trello, colour coded to indicate the ones she thinks are most interesting, and writes more in depth details in the description. Once the idea is more developed, it gets its own list, and once it becomes an actual game we’re planning, it gets its own Trello Board.

SPREADSHEET

Several years ago I started a spreadsheet (yes, I am a fan of spreadsheets, but only if they’re colourful) to keep track of my ideas. (Download at the bottom of the page).

For me, the advantage of having a spreadsheet is it allows me to open up one document and have all my ideas in front of me, complete with what stage they’re at and brief descriptions.

An example of using spreadsheets to store ideas.

SCRIVENER

More recently, I’ve started to use Scrivener, which is a great tool for writing while also keeping a clear overview of the structure of what you’re writing, and all your ideas.

THE BUSINESS SIDE

In addition to the creative idea side of things, you can also use a spreadsheet to keep track of the business side of things.

I tend to do this by having a tab dedicated to my ideas and another tab (or however many tabs I need!) to keep track of my contacts and who I’ve sent things to.

  • What I’ve sent
  • When
  • Plan when to follow up

An example of using spreadsheets to store business info.

HOW TO KEEP TRACK OF IDEAS…

This is how I do it…

In the left column I either give a TITLE to my idea or SUMMARISE it.

In the next column, I note down if I feel like the idea could be a particular genre. e.g. SCI-FI.

Then if I think it could be a particular game format or type, I add this in. e.g. ‘VR puzzle adventure’, or ‘novella’ etc.

In the next columns, I write more expanded thoughts, like the logline:

Relic is a story-based puzzle adventure in which a stranded astro-archaeologist navigates an alien world in order to unlock the secrets hidden within its ruins, and use the planet’s unfamiliar resources to survive.

And idea notes: Consider inventing an alien language that can inform the puzzles.

ACCUMULATION

After a while I’d built up dozens and then hundreds of ideas. Ideas that go into this sheet do not need to be fully formed, but revisiting them allows me to develop them over time.

Each time I look through the list of ideas, there are ones that draw my interest more than others. I move these to the top and focus my attention on developing these further.

When juggling several projects, I find it helpful to include in my spreadsheet columns what I had developed for each idea. I.e. ‘script complete’, or ‘script needs more work’

For me, this approach is effective in helping me keep track of my ideas.

EXPANDING AN IDEA

The spreadsheet is really just the way I keep track of ideas. It allows me an overview of all my projects. Trello can be used in a similar way. It depends on what you prefer.

There will be a point when you have enough ideas about an idea that you want to write about them in a longer format.

Once an idea is more developed, I tend to keep those notes in a Word document or a Scrivener document, clearly titled and filed away.

CLARITY

What matters is that the format you choose to present your ideas in is clear to you and the person with whom you are sharing the information. It is also wise to make sure that you label files in a way that means you will find them again easily. This might sound obvious, but it’s easy to think ‘I’ll think about that later’ and end up with a computer full of ideas and no idea where to find them again!

Also, there’s nothing more frustrating than returning to a document, working several hours on it, only to realise you’re not working on the latest. So make sure that if you develop a document further, it is clear to you which file is the latest.

In conclusion…

Devise a system and stick with it. Being organised will help you avoid time wasting, which means you can spend more time being creative!

Download my Idea Tracking Template (an Excel file) here.

You can find out more about storytelling through games through our other blog posts and by signing up to our online course GAME WRITING: STORYTELLING THROUGH VIDEO GAMES.

Jenny also has two programming courses CODING IN UNITY: MASTERING PROCEDURAL MESH GENERATION and CODING IN UNITY: INTRODUCTION TO SHADERS, or you can find more information on her website.

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