Making Small Games

So all of my game ideas so far have been grand projects and I can tell you, not one has been finished yet. Some are long labors. Others I let go.

I’ve been thinking lately I should try to make something small, but I struggle with scope. I like grand adventures and complex systems. I can’t help adding more on an already big idea.

So I was wondering if anyone could give insights into how they design small games?

I just struggle to begin. Any advice?

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Bitsy is a tool with interesting limitations that kind of forces you to “think small” more than just about any other tool. I’d look around in the Bitsy tag on itch to see what kind of things people make with it and then give it a try yourself, there’s even monthly jams that give you a specific theme.

I find it easy to make a sketchy-type thing in the form of a zine, bitsy or construct game, but anything that involves more writing than that typically becomes so complex in my head that it’s hard to even start, so I definitely know how you feel!


When working in Unity there is a way to duplicate a scene, save it as a new scene and then add to that. I know that sounds like the opposite of what you are asking for, but for me it helps because I can just experiment and make a bunch of variations of the game and then create a way to go between them (for instance by pressing a number key).
So I end up releasing my unfinished experiments as a collection and that mess ends up being the game

I think the thing that has helped me the most though is playing a lot of games that have very little to them in terms of content. My favorite example and inspiration is probably Destroy Your Home
but Train Simulator is a great recent example.

i gave this advice to a friend last week actually:

take one scene/chapter from your big game idea and make a twine with only that one part. there’s a little bit of worldbuilding and sense of choice while only providing text. you’d be surprised how much you can conjure up with just words.


Thinking about this question from a different angle today.
As an alternative to asking yourself “How can I turn my grand ideas into a small scope game?”, consider “What is a small-scope game I would like to make that I wouldn’t want to work on for long?”
So for instance I went to a talk last night and I’m thinking about “sustainable houses” and I just kinda want to put a bunch of photos of houses in a game right now.

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i’ve been struggling with this as well - when i was a student i churned out a lot of small scope experiments that i would work on during class, but since graduating i’ve found it a lot harder to work on projects with that kind of scale and focus. I think the class context is what made it work for me: the necessary scope limitation of working on it intermittently and in short iterations, and the context of class where i was bored and stuck in front of a computer, which actually helped me focus (whereas at home i get disctracted and walk away within minutes, especially when i haven’t found my rhythm at the start of a project).
Am i suggesting stealing time at work to work on a project??? maybe…

That said i found i can still make it work with bitsy and zines and the like, as @coleoptera said earlier - ie formats with enforced scope limitations and uhhh “immediate materiality” (?) (something about working in the medium right away and building iteratively with maleable material you can reshape and reshuffle as you go, instead of a rigid framework that needs planning).
& as much as i don’t enjoy game jams anymore i still like the weeks/months-long ones that give me a deadline, that makes a huge difference in terms of making me motivated and cutting through the hesitation. Oftentimes i’ll have an idea lingering around for ages and only start working on it once i have a jam to plug it into.

Guess what i’m saying is: for me at least, the answer to this question has more to do with the ~ Context of Creation ~ than the nature of the project. This is also something i often need to remind myself when i’m slumped.

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