Start building right away as soon as you have you first idea. When you have chosen your idea, it is best to get started right away. Don’t wait. Sometimes as designers we are sticklers for preparations. We want to make sure that we have all of our ducks in a row before you get started coding. Don’t fall into this trap — just get started. Hell, even if you can’t write a line of code, get started on recruiting the people required to make your game a reality. As the old Chinese proverb goes: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
After starting on either assembling a team or doing the work yourself, test your idea out on a prototype. You simply do not know how good or how bad of an idea you have until you prototype — no amount of theorycrafting or speculation will compete with having a playable proof of concept. Perhaps the game seemed amazing in your brain, but in an interactive prototype it’s just not cutting it. Heck, even in the case that you love your idea, you might discover something even better in the process. If you can skip the thinking-about-doing phase and go straight to prototyping you can cut out the clutter. You can always go back to ideation once you have something solid prototyped, and repeat the process. Iterate as much as possible.
When iterating, focus on the fun. If you can play around with some cool core mechanics that inherently fill the game’s fun meter, then do just that. Working on the “fun” aspect of your game early on will save you much headache later on. Remember that you are designing for other people. It’s much easier to incorporate fun early on and then to go back and try to shoehorn some semblance of fun into a complex and convoluted system of mechanics later on.
Actionable Takeaways: Start early, start soon. Focus on getting a prototype out as soon as reasonably possible. Double down on what exactly makes the game fun, and iterate on that. Remember that game ideas are inherently worthless, so don’t put too much value on them. Instead, focus on creating a truly fun prototype. Many hit indie games were actually born from game jams that only took less than a few days to make — so game ideas don’t have to be bloated documentation. Simplicity and quality of execution is key.