Here are 10 game inventor's tips from the award-winning, patent-holding game designer
Peter Lander wrote his first video game on a Commodore VIC-20 saving his work on a cassette tape while he was still at school.
This was before floppy disks were common or DVD drives and apps were invented.
Today, his patented SATR laser tag system has been sold in more than 55 countries.
No matter how good you think your idea is, MOST LIKELY somebody else has already done something similar. But it might just be possible to create "a better mousetrap".
As Ralph Waldo Emerson's famous phrase goes "if a person can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to their house".
This phrase has become a metaphor for the power of innovation.
You want to discover what has already done and how you can make it better. It is your chance to make something fresher and better.
If you have an idea, write it down.
With so much going on nowadays, people are busy. Most inventors have a smartphone, take advantage of its note-keep apps.
In fact, it is a good idea to keep a logbook of your iterations. You can keep this "log-book" like text or voice notes.
Think of it as a diary of your invention's evolution.
One day this sort of detailed record-keeping might be important in proving your intellectual legitimacy.
For example, in the development of SATR, we have hundreds, no thousands, of emails and documents about the project.
There's requirements documents, test plans, scripts, algorithms, not to mention the tens of thousands of lines of code.
Besides, critically analyzing your own work may assist you in considering your ideas in ways you might have not yet imagined.
It is also a good idea to officially register your idea.
SATR, for example, has an International filing date, December 20th, 2006, for the SATR US patent. There are several ways to register an idea such as copyright registration, registered design and patent application.
Get your legal house in order.
If you employ sub-contractors make sure they have assigned copyright of the work to you.
If you have employees then this is usually covered in their standard employment contract but it can't hurt to include an explicit clause when they sign on.
Peter Lander started with a few thousand dollars and an idea: to take a video game and experience it live.
Originally laser tag was only played indoors in a dark foggy maze. With little pew-pew pistols.
Peter's idea was to take the action outside.
And to incorporate the game mechanics of first person shooter video games. Such as "WYSIWYG" in other words, what you see is what you get. So the sniper rifle models were bigger, heavier, and shoot further than the sub-machine guns.
Such as incorporating authentic sound effects. Together with about 50000 lines of code he created a live gaming system called "SATR".
As a game inventor, or in fact an inventor of anything you need to test your invention.
Play lots of games.
You can learn a lot from playing.
Play live games. Play indoor laser tag, play outdoor laser tag. Play board games. Play video games.
Experience as much as you can.
Once you've got your idea, prototype it.
Then playtest it.
The alpha version of the SATR system, for example, was playtested by a small group (around 25) of veteran live gamers. If your first foray go doesn’t work that well, don’t worry, your cadre will be forgiving.
Then do a beta test.
We field-tested the system with paying customers.
Then we had a soft launch in November 2008 in Australia.
Then eventually, SATR version 1 was officially launched in London in April 2009.
In all these stages we got feedback from the gamers and the battlefield operators.
This feedback was used to improve the system.
Continuous improvement is essential.
For example, after countless of games played, and input from battlefield operators from around the planet we launched SATR version 2 in December 2013. SATR2.2 came out in January 2016. SATR3 was launched in June 2017. And subsequent version releases have continued. SATR3.6 was officially launched in April 2019, in London. Read all about the latest system release, here.
Enjoy the journey.
You never know, you might just be the one who will build a better mousetrap.