Magical Pencil – Concept

I finally decided to make a video game, which was my dream.

Thank Gabe for his supportiveness. It was him encouraging me to do some research about games and find out some ideas while I cannot make up my mind.

Then I started working on finding game ideas.

I want this game to be an ITP style game, so my entry point is interaction.

Next, I did some research. By sending emails to ITP list asking for cool game recommendations, I get a lot of replies, and I see so many good games, which inspired me a lot.

One person brainstorm.

This is my secret weapon, how I come up with ideas.

The thing is, if I come up with an idea based on what I already know, I will probably dislike it since things I already familiar with can’t impress myself. So I will always need inspirations from other people.

How do I do it alone when I need other people’s ideas?

Easy, from YouTube.

So I watch other people’s projects, TED talks, documentation, books, whatever that is inspiring. While watching or reading, some little sparks occur, and I will write them down.

“This guy is brilliant, but what if I use his concept and do something different? Like ${yourIdea}?”

By this way, I accumulated over 20 game ideas in two days, and found one of them very intriguing:

Doodling as input.

Inputs and interactions

Now, most interactions in video games are keyboards mouses and joystick, Only some of them like Kinect games are using gestures.

But only a few are using hand drawing.

Digging deeper

Then as I was doing more and more research, I find some example featuring drawing as input:

Draw Something

The one interpreting your drawing is your opponent, a human player.

Mountain Simulator

The connection between your drawing and the game is ambiguous.

Line Rider

Line rider is the closest one from what I’m trying to make, in this game, it’s the system interpreting the user’s drawing not human.

But how can I make something different?

[Light bulb]

Two things came to my mind:

In this scene, Neo wants guns, so he just says:
“Guns, lots of guns.”

This is somewhat cool. In most games, when you need something, you need to go through trails to find it.

For example, This is a standard escape room. There is a door here so to escape you need to find a key. So you click everything in this room until you find the key.

But in Matrix, you need guns, you say:
“Guns, lots of guns.”

Come back to this escape game, can I say:


Then, boom!

Then I discovered this game, called Scribblenauts.

Scribblenauts allows you to create items by typing the name of it. Can I be cooler than that? Can I draw it? Like I have a 3d printing pencil?

This is a Chinese folktale, this guy has a magical brush. Whatever he draws with this brush becomes real.

In this scene, Ma Liang is running away from a bunch of bad guys, and he draws a horse to outrun them.

What if when the user needs an item to complete the quest, instead of finding that item from their virtual inventory, they just draw it, then get it.

Plus, this allows you to get your task done in much more ways.

The technology is here

Is this technically possible? Luckily, we have Google Quick Draw to help the machine to interpret users doodling.

Time to design a game!

So, the first design of my game is a Zombie game.

You can draw everything that you think will work to kill zombies—- not just cannon, guns, grenades, RPGs. You can draw even a mug, and the character will throw the cup to the zombies, and deal perhaps 1 point damage.

But something is missing here.

Games I love usually have lots of quests, riddles. Can I solve a puzzle by drawing, like what we did in the crimson room?

And like in the folktale, if someone is chasing me, can I draw a horse?

So it’s time to find a reason to send the protagonist into troubles. Let’s write a more saturated story.


Now, our protagonist’s fate is in our hand.
Say, send him to kill a big villain? Like Marvel comics?

Nah, I hate Marvel.

How about, a sad story.

Say, a soldier, who is separated from his family. Personally, I don’t like him to have a nationality. Let’s make him a cat.

A cat is separated from his family.

Because, he is a soldier sent to the frontline to fight whatever enemies, just like all other young cats.

He was an artist. When he has some leisure time in the trench, he draws sketches about his human.

Turning point intensifies.

However, sadly, one day he finds out that he can’t draw anymore.

Audience: Why? Because he steps on a mine? Or because he lost an arm in the battle?

No no no.

Because it’s been such a long time since he left his family, long enough to forget the face of his human.

Audience: Awww.

So, he made up his mind that he is going home. Though deserting is a crime, whatever, he doesn’t care, fuck the war. He wants to go back home and stay with his family.

But is it possible for a cat to travel thousands of miles to get back home?

Yes, it is, because he has plot armor. No no no excuse me because he has a magical pencil.

So in a dark night, he leaves his barrack silently.

Scene 1

The first challenge is a fence.

How can he get over this fence? Draw a tool with his pencil!

Problem solved. Then he gets over the fence, leaves the frontline, and runs toward his home.

Scene 2

The home guards find him very quick — a bunch of armed dogs is running to him. Yeah, dogs are home guards.

Now the user has multiple options:

  1. User tries to draw a weapon, gun, sword, broom, etc.

If he tries to fight the home guards, he dies since they are too many.

  1. User draws a bicycle, motorcycle or horse.

If he runs, he lives, and enter scene 3.

Scene 3

He runs and runs, run to the hill, run for his family.

Until he arrives a desert, in which horses and bicycles don’t work.

Now he is on his foot again, and the user must draw cups of waters from time to time to keep him stay hydrated, or he dies.

Of course, drawing a camel works. There should always be multiple solutions.

Scene 4

He across the desert then steps into a woods.

It’s so dark in the woods, so dark that he can’t see anything.

The user can draw a candle, floor lamp, or a campfire.

If not, he will step on a bear trap and dies of it.

A campfire works, he can sleep near the campfire.

It’s not end yet

When the sun rises again, he will get on the road and facing more challenges.

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