Just a few days ago I attended the 2023 International Games Summit in Istanbul, a mobile game industry event organized by Google and Deconstructor of Fun.
First of all, I give a huge “Congratulations!” to both the Google and DoF crews who arranged an event way bigger and way better than the year before. At this pace, I could see it becoming something like the “GDC of Mobile Games”, which would be great as well to diversify the territories that held these types of events.
And I’d like to thank everyone that made it possible that me, a random dev from Barcelona, was able to attend and deliver a talk on a topic that I’ve been willing to speak about for a long time.
That said, one of the things that made me most excited about was being able to meet Timur Haussila, a veteran supercellian who was behind some of my favorite games.
Supercell core values and philosophy had been one of the biggest influences on how I do understand mobile game design and development. So it was great to be able to talk with someone who saw the whole story unfold.
I am still trying to grok the many insights that he just casually dropped in our (brief) conversation. But in particular, there was one exchange that left me speechless.
It was when he asked me: “What game would you make if you had unlimited resources?”.
I just went blank.
And even now, hours and days after, the question still keeps roaming in my head, answerless.
This pisses me off a bit because it seems like a question that I should be able to answer right away. So like I do every time I fail at something, I’ve decided to write a series of articles to answer what game would I make if I had unlimited resources. (And how would I do it).
In Search of an Answer
Let’s go back to the moment when he asked the question, and pause time.
I guess I could’ve answered with a big ambitious idea that would look like a Top 10 candidate. Something with popular game buzzwords and easily identifiable references in already existing market leaders: A competitive 3vs3 with ball dynamics similar to Rocket League or Omega Strikers. A multiplayer sandbox with survival mechanics. A game with extraction shooter dynamics.
In summary, a game hard to deliver, and possibly not too original.
Or perhaps something small and tactical, oriented to what I think could be viable in today’s market for a new company: A game with non-standard puzzle mechanics that would find a space not yet claimed by the genre giants. Like Match 3D or Traffic Puzzle did.
Or perhaps a fast adaptation to mobile of the latest hottest gameplay in the indie or mod scenes. A tactic that worked well for Fortnite, and more recently for Stumble Guys and Survivor.io.
Or identify a classic “gameplay pattern” that was missing on mobile, and adapt it to that platform. Something like a Smash Bros brawler or a 1vs1 fight game like Street Fighter or Tekken.
Or appeal to my nostalgia and core passions, and make “the game that I would love to play” (but perhaps no one else).
But is any of that THE game that I would do with unlimited resources?
It isn’t a trivial decision. Creating ANY kind of game is incredibly difficult, and requires a huge personal commitment. Even more if innovation and quality are on the table.
Many times I’ve heard: “C’mon, how difficult can it be to create a game like X?”. What game they’re talking about doesn’t matter. The answer is: “A lot. Much more than you think”.
Whoever has been close enough to the trenches of game development knows it:
Once you begin to develop a game, what seemed easy becomes very difficult. And what seemed difficult, reveals itself as almost impossible.
Before you notice, what you expected to be weeks turn out into months and years.
It’s easy and usual – but a big mistake – to design a game with bullet points based on superficial analysis. In reality, it’s the details, often very subtle, that make the difference between a mediocre game and a good one.
This is a factor that many in the mobile games industry (even seasoned developers!) are not aware of. Among other reasons, because many achieved success at a past time (~2015) when mobile was a blue ocean and the quality bar was lower.
But we are not in those times anymore.
(That’s actually one reason why my game deconstructions tend to be so long. People ask me: “why don’t you summarize so it’s easier to digest?”. But what frustrates me is that pieces aren’t shorter, but rather that I write tens of pages and still have the impression of barely having scratched the surface. Mobile games are not a topic “easy to digest”. They are deceivingly simple and incredibly intricate).
And the challenge and complexity of creating a new game become exponentially harder if you want to do something that’s not a mere follower of another hit.
In summary, making a new mobile game is a long-term commitment.
You need to be ready and willing to keep going forward in the right direction when things seem to go down and you’re assaulted by doubts. While being flexible to know when and how to pivot to get where you want to be…
And, as in many important travels, where you want to go is as important as with who do you want to go there.
So “What game would you make if you had unlimited resources?” is a question more akin to “Who do you want to have kids with?”. You shouldn’t answer the first thing that comes to your head.
The Challenge of the Unlimited Resources
On top of that, there’s the “unlimited resources” part. Rather than making it easier to get an answer by removing a limitation, it makes it all even more challenging.
Why? Because it’s easier to solve a puzzle if you’ve all the pieces and just need to arrange them in the best shape for success. What is really challenging is solving the puzzle when you have no pieces.
If I had “limited resources”, then the answer is solving the three-headed equation of capacity, interest, and market.
But what about unlimited resources?
If you have limited resources, you deliver the best you can with what you have.
With unlimited resources, it’s about delivering the best you could ever possibly deliver.
This raises the question: Are the ideas inhabiting the intersection between those three or other possible bubbles, the best you could ever possibly deliver?
Even more: If we talk about the best you could ever possibly deliver, are we even talking about game ideas at all?
You see: Having ideas it’s easy. I can give you hundreds or even thousands.
And at least some of them would be good ideas, or at least convincing enough, and there are many methods of idea validation.
But if the best of those ideas can generate a good game, that’s another question entirely.
I believe that ideas are not nearly as important as we tend to believe. Execution is the key.
And execution has nothing to do with the idea. It has to do with the team and how they work.
So after a lot of consideration here is the answer: If I had unlimited resources, I really can’t say what game I would make. Because I wouldn’t start by making a game.
What I would do is establish a TEAM and a METHOD.
And once I had that, I would be ready to start thinking about the game.
How would I get the TEAM and the METHOD, you ask?
I have a pretty good idea of how, which I will develop in the next part of this series.
So if you want to know, stay tuned!
I’ve been asked this question many times in an interview and I was always at a loss. Because it always felt the original intention of that question is basically “What you would make based on the current market, feasibility and limited resources?” which is the exact opposite.
Answering that question truthfully like you mentioned, is extremely hard. Looking forward to the rest of the series!