Ok, I lied, it's just a Steve Jobs quote. It's one I've said myself--even this week--and it's true, which is why so many people have said it. It happened that someone was standing around while Steve Jobs said it, so he gets the credit for it. What is this quote, you say?
"Do One Thing Well."
I have found that not only is it hard to do many things proficiently, sometimes all you have to do is one thing really, really well. Well enough that people will pay for it. As a startup... let me back up for a second and suggest that every new video game in development is essentially a startup, because it's a new technology experience that may or may not flower into a product, and once blossomed may or may not attract an audience. As a startup, especially a game startup, it is crucial to focus on what one thing your startup does exceedingly well. Refine that one thing until it is the most compelling narrative you can tell, and cut everything else that complicates the understanding and enjoyment of the essence of that thing.
A related but tangential note: I have been working on many different game designs for many years. One in particular has piqued my interest as of late, which for the moment I will call by its codename, Battlespheres. It started as a design challenge I offered several of my employees at Steel Penny Games. The challenge was something like this:
Come up with a game where 100 players log in on their phone, instantly start playing by some P-v-P rules, in the span of about 30 seconds most players are done and are already starting another game.
Figuring out the rules to make a compelling, short session, massively multiplayer, interesting game is... well... hard. There's a lot of competing interests there. Writing a core loop diagram for 30 seconds of gameplay is easy, but after running through that loop a few times, it is also seems obvious that a meta-loop must exist that drives engagement beyond the individual session. The standard tropes of collecting things, leveling up, finding rare items, starting progress meters that give you buffs, adding consumables--the list goes on. This is where most game designs go to die. These are the Lazy Game Designer's Copouts for the early 2000's. (In case you're wondering what they were in the latter part of the 80's and 90's, it was Fire, Ice, Air, and Earth levels.)
And for years, I never heard a compelling design for Battlespheres, because the implementation was always huge for such a small game. I mean, why do all that non-core-game work? If the core game isn't tremendously fun, the rest of the crap surrounding it doesn't make it more fun, it just gives players more work to do. So, after spending a lot of late nights prototyping ideas, like any good deep-thinking game designer/programmer, I forgot about it. Some problems just don't get solved by working on them.
"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when creating them."
This is a much better quote, and much more original, from Albert Einstein.
Interesting game concepts were created. Agar.io, Flow, Osmos, MOBAs, battle royales. Some of them solved the problem in their own way, others supplied some useful tools for thinking about the design differently. Questions started popping into my head like, "What properties differentiates games where death is high-stakes loss versus a low-stakes loss?" Speaking in terms of Hardcore mode in Diablo, death is as high stakes as it can get... you lose your character and hours of investment. Speaking in terms of the various hero MOBA games (League of Legends), Team Fortress 2, or Apex Legends, character investment is minimal to nonexistent, so death is very low-stakes.
As a lens to view game designs, defining the stakes is important, because it also suggests a level of investment for the players, and at the intersection of stakes and investment is where they will derive challenge, and ultimately, meaning.
10 years after I first suggested it, I'm working on Battlespheres again. This time, I am refocusing, rethinking, and looking forward to one day launch it as a game that has appropriate stakes, challenge, and appeal with meaning trapped in the balance. In the meantime, check out some of my Unity Assets? They are all tools I've built to address some deficiency I came across while trying to get somewhere with my own projects.