This is the first post on our Fragmental blog. So it makes sense to cast our minds back to when we started this new direction for us at Ruffian.
A few months ago, we made the decision to put a small multi-discipline team to work on making prototypes, with the goal of creating something that could turn into Ruffian’s first original IP.
The team was made up of a group of designers, artists, animators and coders, so with some outsourcing later on in the project, we knew we could cover everything we would need to do in order to make a full game.
The big question was, what were we actually going to make?
Rather than have myself and Gaz dictating what the team would work on, we decided to get the entire team involved. So we asked everyone to spend a few days thinking about ideas that they would like to pitch.
We kept the entire process very relaxed, there was no specific format for pitches, you could do a full powerpoint presentation, you could write a doc, bring reference images or videos, or simply come in with the idea in your head. It was entirely up to the person who was doing the pitch. All we asked is that everyone on the team came with at least one idea to pitch.
When we had enough pitches ready to talk about, we got everyone into the meeting room and went round the table. Everyone took turns pitching their ideas for a maximum of 10 minutes per pitch, while the rest of the team listened then asked questions afterwards.
Pitching ideas can be really daunting for some people, but we’re a pretty laid back company, people take the piss out of each other all the time in the office, so nobody felt too nervous about throwing their ideas out there. I’ll not lie, some of them got ripped to shreds, mine included – some people don’t know diamond encrusted bullet to the brain genius when they see it, muppets! – some of them seemed to have merit but also had some glaring holes that would need addressed, and some seemed like genuinely good ideas.
We had an incredibly simple system to decide which ideas we should take to the next stage. We just voted on each one, every team member got a vote – you couldn’t vote for your own pitch though, I tried that – and anything that got more Yes votes than No votes went on our Yes board. Anything that felt like it had merit, but didn’t make the Yes board due to having too many holes, went on our Maybe board, and all of the rest went right in the bin – I’m telling you, The Incredible Shrinking Man game would have been proper bo!
We went through this process 3 times. Where we added more detail to any of the ideas on the Yes board, tried to fill the holes in the ones on the Maybe board, and came up with more ideas to pitch.
In our final meeting, we had 3 different games on our Yes board, we still had a bunch on the Maybe board that just weren’t there yet, and our bin was overflowing with the broken dreams of our entire team.
Even though we had three on our Yes board, one of them felt like it was too big a game for the size of the team we had, one of them felt like it could maybe be too simple for our first release, and the other felt like it was a genre that was possibly a little too far from the skill set and experience of our team. So, three good ideas, but none of them were a great fit for our team.
In the end, the game idea that we decided to go with, came from a pitch that the team initially threw in the bin. The idea was to create a new Powerstone game. 4 players running around beating each other up. Like I said, nobody liked it, but it kick started the conversation that led to us finally agreeing on what we should try first.
We spoke about our nostalgic experiences of couch play games, going back to the SNES, N64 and Playstation. How we all loved those nights where you and a bunch of your mates had a few beers and spent the night playing 4 player, single screen games. So we liked the idea of making a game that had that gameplay experience, but a Powerstone clone didn’t feel right. We then shifted genre and talked about how we all enjoyed Hotline Miami, the simple controls, the one shot kills, the speed of play, the frequency of the kills, the top down view, and all of these things seemed like they would work as a fast paced single screen, competitive shooter.
We weren’t quite at the point where we knew everything about what we wanted to make, we made a good few mistakes and had to change direction a couple of times to get where we are now, but we at least had an agreement on the type of game we wanted to make. What we had to do next, was create a working prototype to see if what we were all imagining would actually work in practice.