Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Beware the Idea Fairy

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 9, 2014

I just discovered theMeatly.com last night. Maybe it was the caffeine talking, but I was literally laughing out loud at many of the panels. Especially this one.

If you are an indie game developer, this is probably the story of your life. Every. Day.


I’ve taken to just writing the dang things down – writing up a page or two of stuff about the idea, and filing it away in my game design folder, and telling the idea fairy, “THANK YOU! It’s started!” Then when its back is turned, I go back to my original project.

Although sometimes, it takes a little more than that. That’s when a weekend personal game jam or something comes into play. I never get anywhere close to what I originally envisioned. My little totally awesome killer idea that makes my current project look like pig barf ends up looking something like this…


Oh, man, that one also brings tears to my eyes from laughing so hard.

The thing is… the idea fairy is never satisfied for long. Writing down the idea or doing a quick prototype might satisfy the urge and convince the idea fairy to go away for a few days. Well, for a day. Maybe a few hours. At least an hour. Usually. Indulging it even a little bit really just encourages it. It comes back … again, and again.

Now, this isn’t really a bad thing. You want to be on friendly terms with the idea fairy. One day, when I’m all done with Frayed Knights and ready to work on the next project, I will have this awesome list of killer game ideas from which I can choose the absolute best concept. In fact, that’s how Frayed Knights came about.

But resisting the temptation to start playing with this shiny new idea right away can be very hard. You may have to pull a Ulysses and figuratively lash yourself to the mast so you don’t succumb to the siren’s call.

If the idea fairy is persistent after you’ve performed your ritual acknowledgement, one trick is not to do what I do. Don’t write games that take a long time to develop. The longer they take, the more persistent the frickin’ idea fairy becomes. It’s easier to resist the idea fairy when the current project is new and exciting, and when your project is getting close to release. Therefore, it’s good to reduce the window between those phases as much as possible.

Another is to do all you can to commit to a project such that it will be a major embarrassment or otherwise a pain to stop or delay it. Making yourself accountable to a third party with deadlines can help with that. By making it far less painful to stay the course and see the current project to completion, the easier it is to resist those temptations.

Just remember – ideas are great and important, but in the end, it’s the execution that matters.

(And pssst…. go visit theMeatly.com!)

Filed Under: Game Development - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

  • Felix said,

    And that’s exactly why I’ve never thrown myself into an epic gamedev project. Not because I wouldn’t love making one — I have an epic idea or three — but because I would much rather have a bunch of small games done than one epic tech demo that never goes anywhere. It does wonders for morale, and I can always revisit a finished game. In fact, I seem to do it every year for some of them. Also, with practice I can work on ever larger games and it feels like a natural progression rather than “OMG, what have I gotten myself into?”

  • Mark said,

    Oh yeah. Authors go through the same thing. This is actually pretty good advice for us too. I have 4 other stories I’ve started since I ‘finished’ Kyle By Fire. I write them down, spending twenty minutes or so to hash out the idea. Then I file it away because I’m supposed to be writing book 2!

  • Charles said,

    You shouldn’t have any problems with the idea fairy whatsoever. She’s much too busy kicking my a**.

  • ShadowTiger said,

    I don’t have a huge problem with this. I occasionally come up with a good idea and spend a few hours developing it and then file it away both mentally and physically. I think it is a great exercise as a designer. I have the luxary of being able to focus on one game at a time without distractions I guess.

    Writing everything down and then forgetting about it is the best way forward.