Limits and creativity

Through out the years, I’ve came to the conclusion, that healthy limits very often end up improving the creativity of the person, that those limits are placed on. I could bring up countless examples both from my own life and from the human history, but since this is a development blog, today I wanted to talk about self imposed limitations as a way to make game development more fun and creativite.

We will be forever limited by something, and it can range from our parents when we are children, to the amount of matter in the universe, even tho it seems like an infinite amount, if you played Universal Paperclips, you know that it is not that much.

As humans, our brains are incredible at finding loopholes and clever ways around the rules, and you don’t have to go out of your way to find quite a few examples of that, big and small. And those solutions usually are pretty surprising and fun, much more interesting than the thing, that the rule implied you should not do directly.

And such is the case with game development. In the era of NES, you where limited very heavily by the toolset you had to use, memory you had available, even the palette and sprite count. As our hardware advanced, we, as developers, started to feel those hardware limitations less and less. Now you can code in C# instead of C or assembly, and (in mot cases) forget about the physical RAM, you can render complex 3d models without making most computers even trying to look busy processing it, you can have your game weigh tens and hundreds of gigabytes, where as just 30 years ago you had to fit your build on a 40kb cartridge.

And that might sound like a positive change, and it is undoubtedly so, but it is not as black and white as hardware manufacturers would want you to believe.
We can skip over the "lazy developers don’t have to optimize their unity games bla bla bla" bit, and talk about why does every single AAA game try and look hyperrealistic?

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Width vs depth, or a simple way of making deeper games

As with everything, game design has a lot of different philosophies, people have different views on all sorts of little things. And recently, I grew more and more disappointed with the baffling game design choices in most of mainstream games. And people play and enjoy those games (mostly) without questioning anything. Yes, there are things like lootboxes and pay to win that gets a lot of attention recently, but we don’t have to dig deep to find even more systematic issues.

Can’t really blame the players for playing objectively badly designed games and enjoying them, I would give a lot for not seeing the cracks in game structure, inconsistencies and missed opportunities. But as developers, we can put a tiny bit more effort into designing game systems (honestly, it applies to a ton of fields, like ui/ux design, writing, etc).

So here is a very simple principle for designing your things!

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2022: the year of JavaScript & change

Mourning, my friends, or whatever time it is for you right now.
It’s the end of the year once again, can you believe it? And looking back at the older posts, this is the 5th year I’m writing a recap for on this blog, sheesh!

Every time I come back here, I feel like this time hasn’t moved what so ever, and everything remains the same, only the dust settles down more and more. I have to admit, I hate sitting down and actually writing these "long" posts, but I’m glad every time I’ve pushed one out. This year I tried out blogging in a smaller way, thanks to my travels and Telegram, and it was a fun adventure. Being able to share a thing in 1-5 minutes is really nice and I was looking forward to it every time. But I do not want to bury this site, as this is somewhat the "more serious" part of my life, I guess. And also, the "less seen" part of my life, by the folks in my life.

But enough rambling around, let’s talk about this year’s worth of progress.

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Funk & lit ruins

I’ve been trying to create a mix of Lua and JavaScript for the past 5+ years. The resulting waste of time is called lit, and it is still not nowhere close enough in terms of stability to be used for anything but "hello worlds".

I burned out on it a ton. At this point, I don’t think I will ever continue working on it. I was dreaming of a day, when I will write about it here. Well, this day has arrived, but it’s not a praise to the language, but instead a tale of another language, born out of frustration with lit development.

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Quite a lengthy title, but it kinda matches the time gap between now and the last non-year-recap post, huh? It’s been 2 years? My gosh. Let’s quickly talk a bit about what’s been happening.

As you can see, I wasn’t exactly doing nothing, even tho my coding has slowed down quite a bit…

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2021: what a mess of a year

Hello, this time it’s really been a while. This place lies in ruins ever since the last years recap. And it just goes to show, how busy and unpredictable this year has been for me. So let’s take a step back for once from all of this mess, and try and look at it from a distance.

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2020: the year of discovery

Okay. Let’s put everything that happened IRL this year aside, I’m feeling so tired of everyone saying the same thing over and over again, and I do not feel like I need to mention it all. But with that said, let’s look back at it a tiny bit.

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No spoilers

So many games these days advertise they playtime as one of the main features. “Buy this game and you will not need any other games for 2000 hours!” And while this might be true, a lot of these games are based on repeating the stuff you did at the beginning of the game over and over again, maybe with a slight twist. And there is nothing wrong with that, it’s a valid game design choice, but I wish more games would bring the sense of being desperately lost in an unknown world, constantly finding stuff you did not even imagine could ever exist in a game. The games that do that, are one of my favorites: Minecraft, Terraria, Breath of the Wild, Hollow Knight. But sadly, after playing through those games once, I was never able to bring that feeling of discovery back…

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Word Garden – Ludum Dare 47 post mortem

Ludum Dare 37 was the first jam I’ve ever attended, and it was one of the major factors that helped me to finish my projects and move from making simple clones of other games to create my own ones. I really enjoy participating in it, and this time wasn’t an exception. But I have to admit, it came by when I was least expecting it. One day I’ve logged onto the Ludum dare website and saw the timer saying "3 days left". It was really bad timing for me. You see, for over 2 years I’ve been dreaming of going into Ludum Dare with my engine and language, and this time around I was almost done with it, but not completely. A few annoying segfaults still plagued both the engine and the language, and when the theme announcement woke me up, I sat in my dark room without an engine and any inspiration.

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Why I use markdown for my todo lists

In the world of productivity, one of the most important tools each person should have is a task manager. It’s a stretchable definition, you can track every single task in your life or just have a general idea of what projects you are working on, but no matter how you organize your tasks, you should have one. And here are a few reasons why:

  • It makes sure you won’t forget the task. Our brains have limited RAM available and by writing the task into long-term storage, we can free our precious RAM yet make sure, that we won’t forget to send the invoice.

  • It helps you to see everything you have to do from a bird-eye view and decide what is the most important stuff to do right now, and what you can get rid of.

  • I also find it very calming to write down all my tasks for the day, if I feel overwhelmed. Seeing it on paper makes it look like much less work, that my brain makes me believe it is.

And I’ve gone through so many task tracking tools! Everyone’s brain works a tiny bit different from the rest of us, and that means everyone has their very own preferred way of storing tasks. But I’ve stuck with two: trello & markdown files.

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