Should I Develop in Unfamilar Genres?

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Well...should I develop in unfamiliar genres?

This is indeed one of those questions where the answer is “it depends.” Many factors will influence your answer, such as comfort level with development, what you aim to achieve with your game, established skill sets, and so on. In this dialogue, I’m going to give some pointers to help determine how far out into unfamiliar genres you should branch out. At the very least, it does not hurt to try!

Here are some steps you can walk through to help make an informed decision:

  1. Ask Why You Want to Lean Into a New Genre
  2. Play The Top Titles In New Spaces
  3. Determine Which Aspects Stick Out to You
  4. Experiment Through Tutorials

Let's begin!


Ask Why You Want to Lean Into a New Genre

There are dozens of reasons for mixing up the type of game you want to develop. I would assume it narrows down to any of the following cases:

  • You want a fresh development experience from what you’ve done before.
  • You believe it’s a more niche genre where your game is more likely to succeed.
  • You want to expand your knowledge with game development.
  • Your ideas (perhaps inspired by other games in the genre) will best fit in a new style.

All of these are valid points - I would not argue against any of them as they all have positive intentions. What separates them though is the stage of development you are likely at. If you are making your first game, for the sake of staying motivated and having clarity in your design, it may be best to stick with the genres you love. There are popular titles in all game genres, so you shouldn’t worry about picking the “wrong” genre.

When indie game devs talk about avoiding certain genres or styles, such as “pixel art, 2d, top down RPG,” they are often noting that the market can feel oversaturated with those types of games. While this is correct, it shouldn’t steer you away from making a game in that space. The oversaturated market means there are more people who will potentially find interest in your game. Additionally, you have more reference points for making ideal design decisions when developing your first game. So for those who are wanting to explore an unfamiliar genre because of the external pressures surrounding familiar ones, perhaps return to those original ideas you have.

If you otherwise feel comfortable with your current game dev skills and are looking for that fresh experience with a new genre, I say at least give it a try. The other points coming up support this direction, but at this time you can recognize that trying out new genres can be a rewarding experience. It may just be temporary as you find certain genres are just outside of your preferences. Overall though, looking to change things up and expand your knowledge will provide benefits in the long run.


Play The Top Titles In New Spaces

No matter the situation, if you’re still unsure on if you should develop in unfamiliar genres, the next best step would simply be to play games of that type!

In playing through the popular games, you may just find that your idea either best fits or contradicts the key elements of that genre. You will have a better understanding of what makes that genre “tick” and if that given “tick” is something you can work off of. Another neat part of this step is that you may have fresh ideas for how to approach the genre. There may be a certain mechanic that is overused or hasn’t been mixed up across the popular games. Having an “outsider” approach in this case will appeal fairly well to the target audience (assuming the core mechanics are not dropped).


Determine Which Aspects Stick Out to You

If you’re still undecided, then evaluate what parts of the above gaming process stuck out to you the most. The answer may be that developing in an unfamiliar genre is too foreign at that time, but there are elements you want to pull. For example, you may not enjoy the grindy aspect of RPG’s, but the side-mechanic of cooking as part of crafting could work in another genre you love.

When you cross these elements across genres, you’re more likely to hit a unique game loop that players unexpectedly fall in love with. It’s also a bonus that audiences from different gaming backgrounds will connect with your game. Even just incorporating one or two elements from another genre will help bridge relationships with audiences you otherwise may have missed.

The one pro tip here is to not mash random game systems together - they need to make sense in the context of gameplay.


Experiment Through Tutorials

Personally, my ideas come up best during development, as I’m seeing systems come together and they are continually tested. This may also be the case for you, in which I would recommend following a tutorial or two under a different genre to see what clicks. Even if you decide early on that a new genre would be perfect for your game idea, I still recommend going through some initial tutorials. The development process always differs from how you picture your game.

Going through tutorials in new genres are a strong indicator on if it’s worth the time invested to branch out. Especially for circumstances where a game needs to be released in a timely manner, going through drastic development differences like from 2D to 3D may interrupt that goal.


TL;DR

As you’ve seen, the decision to branch out into unfamiliar genres for game development is not an easy one to make. Your overarching goals, timelines, and skill sets will influence this decision, among other factors, but it’s certainly worth considering throughout your indie game dev career. The following items we reviewed will help you in weighing the pros and cons, but I trust you’ll make a great game regardless!