As game developers, when we think of the ideal creative environment we often envision a project with a large budget, few milestones and unlimited financial and talent resources. Logically, that makes sense, but the truth is it is not often ideal. If you want proof have a look at Duke Nukem Forever or more recently Mighty No. 9 (Yes I am cherry picking a bit here). Even on my own projects this seems to be the case. I found my personal best work was done when constraints were set. Often the more constraints I had the better the overall results. In 2010 when we create the original flash version of The Blocks Cometh at Halfbot we came up with the concept in the morning, developed it during the day and had it completed by evening. We also created another (unreleased) project called Bomb Brawl in under a week. It is an extremely fun game that we unfortunately never had the time to commit to finishing up.
Constraints forces you to make critical decision quickly and think outside your comfort zone. It prevents you from nit picking every detail but rather focus on the end goal. This is why game jams are so popular and why so many great games start during these events.
Personal Case Study
Halfbot has been on hiatus for some time now. Most of that admittedly is on me. I haven’t done much game development for almost a year. The long and short of it is having a large project coupled with a lack of sleep, leads to stress and burnout. Having taking time off to recharged my batteries, I am going to get back to doing what I love but this time settings some constraints from day one.
I am easing back into development starting today but with that I am throwing as much limitations as I can on this project. Since I don’t have the flexibility to commit to a game jam, I am doing the next best thing. I am placing constraints on the development environment itself. The entire project will be done in Pico-8. If you don’t know what pico-8 is then hop on over to the developers website . Pico-8 is a virtual console that places constraints on almost all aspects of development. One of my favorite game, Celeste, was created using pico-8. Give Celeste a try if you have never played it before. It is definitely worth a play through.