As the lead designer for this game, I’ve been asked time and time again where I got “the idea”. And where do good ideas come from after all? They still seem to come out of thin air much of the time. This is always especially true for me when it comes to making art. Thoughtful, purposeful design isn’t something I’m used to. What I found is that good design is best informed by things I love, and things I’m familiar with. And when I’m designing for myself, it makes all too much sense to take inspiration from things I enjoy.
I was doodling in class again. Unbreakable habit. I was listening to the lecture (I regret to say I don’t actually remember the topic) and I was thinking of ways to add a twist to well known game mechanics. My mind drifted to an old assignment: 3D Tic-Tac-Toe. As part of the assignment I had to build a simple AI. The strategy was so vastly different from regular Tic-Tac-Toe, and I never succeeded in defeating my own creation.
I love turn-based games, and my mind drifted to chess. How would the game differ with 3 playing fields instead of one? And then, get this- what if the three fields represented the sky, land, and underground? I love creature-based games, namely Pokemon. It was all too easy to pick this as my game’s main flavor. The environment and flavor were the first hints of what was to become Biogenesis.
The choice of creatures as a theme helped shape many of the game mechanics. In my mind I categorized animals into 5 main categories: fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects. These became the main “classes” of the game, each with their own unique attributes. Add on a simple combat system and stats, and it’s a turn-based game based entirely on combat. But I wanted a lot more than that. A depth of strategy was important to me, so I looked for way to force players to make tough decisions. The more meaningful decisions a player makes, the more involved they become. The answer was obvious to me. Once upon a time I thought I was going to study biology if this programming thing fell through. We have creatures, so why not allow them to be changed, to be upgraded, through genetics? With that, the main game features were in place. 5 creature classes with unique abilities, genetic modification, and turn-based combat.
Perhaps the most important lesson from this is that I should never design in a void. I got past a major fear of mine and asked people for their opinions and feedback on my idea. Many of the finer features of the game only came about because someone sat still for long enough for me to bounce ideas off of them. Many thanks to those of you who did that, especially Steven. I might have left it for dead had someone not thought my vague idea had potential.