Author Topic: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity  (Read 9456 times)

Villain Mastermind

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Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« on: May 24, 2013, 02:48:37 PM »
Have you ever set arbitrary limits on a design to stimulate your creativity?

One of the problems I've always had in the past was being overwhelmed with ideas and ways to implement and/or expand on them. Long story short, this always resulted in project failure for one reason or another. It wasn't until I set a limit on what I would allow myself to use on a project that I actually was able to finish it.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is not without precedent. Sometimes the limits imposed on a work are what makes it unique. A "Defender" port isn't too impressive, but if the port uses a favicon as the display, that is impressive. Setting a limitation or limitations can leave you with no choice but to innovate.

You can get the "Defender of the Favicon" here: http://db.tigsource.com/games/defender-of-the-favicon

I started writing a simple CYOA story in Twine for the hell of it and had a thousand ideas for it. Within minutes of typing out an design document, I was already confused and burnt out. As a result, the file lay fallow in my Documents folder for weeks gathering digital dust. After some soul-searching related to some other problems in life, I resolved to start the project up again to take my mind off my suffocating financial woes and the looming threat of homelessness.

Before resuming work on "You Awaken" (the working title of "Thank you for your cooperation"), I laid down a limitation on myself and swore to bearded psychopath in the sky that I would stick to that rule no matter what other clever thingies I came up with. And lo and behold, it worked.

Approximately 26,000 words and 99 passages later, I actually finished the damned thing.

You can view "Thank you for your cooperation" here: http://adventurecow.com/stories/726/thank-you-for-your-cooperation

There also is a "Workshop my game" thread for it elsewhere in the forums for discussion.

What I want to ask all of you out there is the following:
  • Have you ever been inspired by an externally or internally generated limitations?
  • Have you ever had a project fail because of too many options, ideas, etc?
  • After reading "Thank you for your cooperation", what do you think the limitation I placed on myself was?

I thank you all in advance for your cooperation...
« Last Edit: May 24, 2013, 02:57:17 PM by Vhillain Mastermind »
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Chris

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2013, 01:33:48 PM »
Interesting thought. Limits are actually really common in art. Almost essential, even.

Twine itself an example of such a limitation. It starts with no art, no animation, and no sound. All that's left are the writing and the mechanics. Think of the act of making a game as itself a game. A simple, well-restricted game creator is like Mario: you only have a few buttons you can press, so you can focus on mastering them before expanding to other, broader realms.

I think I'd get a lot more done if I was more focused on finishing what I started, so I admire your dedication to finishing your story. Too many great games are only half-born (yet another reason to keep things small).

3. Was your limitation on the # of pages? I haven't figured it out yet!

Villain Mastermind

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2013, 03:50:40 PM »
Limitations are a commonly acknowledged element among those that study any sort of theory, but the unfortunate amateurs that dive in rarely learn the importance until they have crashed and burned at least a few times. 

Quote
3. Was your limitation on the # of pages? I haven't figured it out yet!

That was one of the several limits I set for myself... Had to keep it under 100 passages total. I have an unfortunate tendency to overreach in my goals, so I had to give myself a hard limit or risk having it balloon out of control.
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Chris

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2013, 11:00:02 AM »
Limitations are a commonly acknowledged element among those that study any sort of theory, but the unfortunate amateurs that dive in rarely learn the importance until they have crashed and burned at least a few times. 

This reminds me of a quote by someone whose name I can't remember. It's like...I forget how it goes exactly, but it's like this; let me know if you remember it:

The best way to stop making mistakes is experience. The best experience is making mistakes.

Sound familiar?

Villain Mastermind

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2013, 05:03:31 AM »
It sounds familiar, but I can't put my finger on it... Completely agree with it though.

The important thing about learning from mistakes is actually owning up to them and fixing it (if possible).

“And a step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.”
― Kurt Vonnegut
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dacharya64

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2013, 03:21:44 PM »
For me, the biggest self-imposed limits I've used to finish pieces are limits on time. It's even better when someone else gives you the deadline. Although not CYOA-related, time limits through NaNoWriMo/Script Frenzy are probably the only reason I finished (and sometimes the only reason I started) those pieces. One script was one where I had to switch the genre every scene. It at least turned out quite interesting, and certainly kept the ideas flowing.

Sometimes limits can do the opposite, though, and feel a bit stifling (for instance I can't imagine how I could have finished my story with a limit on passage #s).

Villain Mastermind

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2013, 08:00:37 PM »
Sometimes limits can backfire, but it might depend on the person.

I tend toward grandiose, bloated, out of control projects that never get completed, so placing a hard limit and sticking to it is one of the only ways that I can actually finish anything.

What I am trying to say is this: People that do not see their limits (or ignore them) seem to benefit from imposing limitations, while people that see limits everywhere may be hindered more than helped.
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dacharya64

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2013, 08:36:53 PM »
I'd say rather than depending on the person, it depends more on the project. For instance, the IF piece I completed was meant to be a sort of organic work, growing as I came up with different concepts, ideas, and innovations. I know that if I had tried to set really strict limits on its development it would not have turned out the same, and probably would not have turned out the way I wanted it.

Sometimes limitations are just that.

Chris

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2013, 10:21:28 AM »
This sounds about right. I was thinking that limits can help when a project can grow in any direction and no end in site, but when a limitation starts to feel like a handcuff, that's a sign that you're ready to do something that goes beyond it.

I could use some good limits for future projects. Time is a big one for me. Perhaps a project that I have to work on for ten minutes (and only ten minutes) a day?

dacharya64

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2013, 04:00:52 PM »
That does sound like an interesting limit. I'm sure it'd affect the story in all sorts of ways you couldn't even be able to predict.

I've been trying to think up different limits that might apply to interactive fiction... forced looping after a certain point/# of passages, or limiting the ability to use variables might result in some interesting improvisations.

Chris

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2013, 02:07:41 PM »
While there's a lot more to this article on genre, this one part stood out to me:

Quote
Lots of gifted artists have been drawn to genre because of its formulaic nature, and many of our greatest artistic treasures are clear expressions of genre inspiration. In fact, many artists routinely hailed as pioneers in their fields - Shakespeare, Cézanne, Virginia Woolf, Miles Davis, Akira Kurosawa - each demonstrated a keen awareness of genre and produced extraordinary work situated well within genre or other formal boundaries. These artists didn't steer clear of genre "limits." They embraced them.

Artists crave freedom, but most quickly learn that limits, even apparently harsh ones, can be more friend than enemy. In 1922, the great Russian director Stanislavski was invited to stage a production in America. He was asked how much rehearsal time he would require. "Six months," was Stanislavski's reply. Startled, the American producer informed him that it would be impossible to host (and pay) a visiting theater company to rehearse for that length of time. "Not a problem," replied Stanislavski, "Give me three weeks." The production was a triumph.

dacharya64

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2013, 12:54:43 PM »
Very interesting.

Speaking of "pioneers in their fields," I feel that there has been a lot of great innovation and many great authors in the interactive fiction world, but the true progress in this genre has yet to be made. The big names in the game are well-known to those interested in the genre but not much in the general public, and while there are some popular sites and companies set up around interactive fiction the genre--or even just the concept of interactive media--could be pushed so much farther.

Villain Mastermind

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2013, 11:53:07 AM »
One of the failings of the community may be the way they think of I-Fiction as a genre and limit themselves to certain conventions, but I can't say for sure as I have just recently thrown my hat into the ring.

Interactive Media, and by extension, Interactive Fiction is just a medium like canvas, clay, etc...
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Chris

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2013, 04:03:37 PM »
Interactive fiction, from what I understand, is actually a somewhat restrictive medium. I've played around very little with Inform7, but it seems to very much favor a rooms/objects set of metaphors. Doing something like Emily Short's Letters from the Revolution (don't remember the exact title), or that one game with the shrinking page (anyone know which one this is?), or Candy Box, would feel very unnatural in Inform.

The same goes for most specific engines - Unity, RPG Maker, ren'py, Twine. They all invite, to some extent, a fixed way of thinking. This can be good or bad, but unlike the restrictions we're talking about here, it's not a planned, self-imposed restriction (usually). Do any of you have experience with those engines?

dacharya64

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Re: Self-imposed design limitations to stimulate creativity
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2013, 05:28:58 PM »
I've worked with inform before on a very small project, and I agree that it's an entirely different mindset than working on an extensive narrative, for instance. It's quite difficult to pull of anything without heavily relying on rooms and the basic IF format. The same goes for other interactive fiction creation tools--Choicescript, for instance, has very effective use of statistics but you cannot change the looks as much as in Twine and you cannot hyperlink like Twine does. I've found myself having to plan projects around the strengths and restrictions of engines before.

Twine to me seems like a pretty open program, though, compared to other IF programs. It allows for rooms or choices within a narrative, and is openly acknowledged as capable of much more than just creating stories. I think this is why so many people are drawn to it.

On a related note, self imposed restraints apply quite well to noveling too: http://blog.lettersandlight.org/post/53522431708/use-self-imposed-constraints-to-write-how-to