Constraints: A Catalyst for Creativity and Game Completion

One technique for generating ideas is to impose certain constraints on oneself beforehand. By pondering on how to make the game intriguing within these constraints, one can expect to come up with ideas distinct from previous ones. Additionally, thinking about how to leverage these constraints can enhance the uniqueness of the ideas.

What kinds of constraints could be contemplated? Examples could be the format, rules, and themes in game development contests, like Game Jams. In many Game Jams, some constraints are set on the games that can be submitted, encouraging participants to focus on creating games within those constraints.

In the video "Different Game Jam Formats",1 the following types of constraints are listed:

  • Tools: Specifying the game engines that can be utilized.
  • Assets: Providing images and other assets that can be used within the game beforehand.
  • Visuals: Limiting resolution and color count.
  • Goals: Defining the objectives of the game, such as "collect more items."
  • Interaction: Restricting the means by which players can interact with the game, such as "only two buttons can be used."
  • Genre: Specifying genres like "platformer" or "roguelike."
  • Time Limit: Completing the game within a specified time frame.

For fostering ideas, constraints concerning interaction, visuals, and goals might be beneficial.

Concerning interaction, common constraints include limiting the number of usable buttons, using only a mouse, employing the entire keyboard, or twin-stick inputs. When the number of usable buttons is limited, a careful consideration is required on what actions to assign to each button. For instance, converting a game using traditional directional keys plus two buttons into a one-button game presents a challenging dilemma, which, through the process of devising forceful solutions, has the potential to spawn novel ideas.

Visual constraints primarily affect only the appearance, not the game rules. However, in cases of extreme constraints like a very low pixel count of 16x16, or essentially a one-dimensional field that allows only one vertical line, creative solutions are demanded to overcome these constraints. In the past, there were even Game Jams that only allowed a 1x1 pixel, two-color display as output.2

Regarding goals, merely setting mundane objectives doesn't lead to idea exploration. By devising games with unusual objectives like "destroy oneself," "make a sacrifice," or "utilize enemies to win," new gaming experiences can be conceived. Interestingly, these unique objectives were generated from the Game Jam Theme Generator.3 This generator, not limited to goals, spits out various game jam themes, and can be used as an idea generator to assist in brainstorming.

Tools, assets, genres, and time limits are more about completing the game within a limited time than idea generation. By not spending time choosing tools and assets, and focusing on creating a game of a specified genre within the time limit, this standardized approach facilitates a swift game creation process.

If you aspire to create numerous games, establishing your own set of rules and regulations for the creation process is a sound strategy. Standardize what to create and how to create it, to minimize the effort involved in development.4

Imposing some constraints on game development can aid in generating new ideas or completing games swiftly. Overly stringent constraints can make overcoming them arduous, so it's advisable to find and effectively utilize constraints that suit your sensibility.

1. Different Game Jam Formats
2. bit jam
3. Game Jam Theme Generator
4. I have created 139 games in one year by patterning my game making

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