Do we need a formal way to evaluate our idea for a game?

Today Lee (http://www.linkedin.com/in/leecummings) and I started to knock around the start of a game idea but I had a couple of reservations. The first being that I wanted to have a nice big list of different ideas to choose from and secondly I wanted to have some way to evaluate these ideas. I felt the consideration and selection of the game idea at such an early stage without an effective way to decide how “good” it is could be dangerous.

To me, the actual idea that forms the game, the end product, is hugely important and central to its success. Or is this the first of a culture clash between the process laden (often over burdened) business software world and the game development world. Have I been brainwashed by years of using matrix based evaluation systems? Are games more art than science?

It’s probably the knock on effect from being around lots of Venture Capitalists over the years and perhaps that’s not a bad thing entirely. My instinct is to take my big list of game ideas and apply a strict criteria to each one to force the idea to hold up under scrutiny and see if it is worthy of my investment over the next six months.
 
At the moment we have a rudimentary table (attached as a spreadsheet) which I will use to list all the ideas then try to score them. The one with the highest score combined with my feeling for how much I want to do it will win (more on this touchy feely part later). 

Wow, check out all these cool graphs, this is how my amazing game will literally jump off the page at me. It will scream, “Oi! Bridge! Pick me, pick me. Look at my bright plumage. See how tall my y axis is. Don’t worry about your shaky assumptions that make up my foundations. Behold, I am here.” The figure above is totally unrelated to anything and is just a random graph I grabbed from Google. Still it looks nice doesn’t it.
 
Actually, this sort of process petrifies me. It reminds me of the many many many times over the past 15 years that I’ve sat in a meeting or a seminar and been assaulted by Powerpoint porn. You know the sort of thing: whizzing, fading, swiping and the gluttony of graphs that zoom in from outer space. Oh the humanity of it all. Pie charts, bar charts, splitter graphs, maps, isolines and much of it in eye piercing colours, sometimes in glorious 3D.
 
Is this really the sort of thing that we want to achieve? Can we really assess and develop our game idea out of something purely mathematical (our checking criteria being comically fallacious notwithstanding) or does there have to be a more human element to it and if so how large an element. Is this where you trust your instinct and experience. If to err is human then divinity aside (we’re not aiming that high) perhaps it is in these errors in between our formal calculations that we might find our inspiration? 
 
Since I have no idea I’m going to use some expert advice. I’m going to ask our three luminaries (Eugene, Peter and Giles) about it. Specifically, what inspired their ideas, did they over think them at all, how did the end result differ from the idea they started with and if it changed a lot what were the changes evaluated against? Did they just do what felt right until it was time to ship it?
 
In our next episode: Where do great ideas come from or is it down to bloody hard work and the end product polish that made them great?

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