So as I mentioned in a post a few days back, I’m interning twice a week at a game design studio in downtown San Francisco, a position I got through my event work.  I was hired as the production manager for Inside Social Apps, which is hosted by Inside Network, where the game designer at this studio used to work.

The first task I’m lined up to do is to write about 50 daily quests for a Facebook game they are working on.  These are all small one-step grinding sort of things.  You RPG players know the type: “Rats have invaded my garden! Go Kill 10” or “I need some Iron, go find 5 pieces.”  And sure, most of mine are about as creative as that – when you need to write 50 of them, they can’t all shine.  But with these limitations in place (one step, straight forward to complete), it’s been kind of fun to find little *wink wink*s I can give to the audience.  Like naming a giant spider that lives in a cave Sheleb.  Or referencing a Rat King that stole the bar tender’s nut cracker.  Or even just trying to write some sort of character quirks into the 4 people you tend to get quests for: like how the bar tender loves experimenting on new drinks, the trainer really wants a girl friend, etc.

And reminds me again how important limitations are for creativity and design.  If your game has a limitation, don’t try to hide it; embrace it!  Some friends and I are working together to try to build our very first game…ever.  So right now we want to keep it to one screen and one character that goes back and forth killing enemies that just walk across the screen.  So we’re using those limitations to create a reason for them to be there: a space-person who’s task was to terraform a planet.  But the terraform-machine broke, so it’s radius of breathable air is small.  And your gun wasn’t meant to be a weapon, it was meant to be a terraform machine or some sort, so it can’t shoot anything fancy.  And tadah, compelling (we hope) story where coding challenges once stood.

So for myself and others learning something new: give yourself limitations before diving into the process, else you’ll likely stall before you start.

Marissa Mayer at Google agrees – Turning Limitations into Innovations.
(I wish I could find something on where games have been innovative due to limitations, but I couldnt find one.  Please link if you have a good example!)