Author Topic: The Gold-Box Corner: Why Limits Are Good  (Read 450 times)

Offline ProphetSword

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The Gold-Box Corner: Why Limits Are Good
« on: March 04, 2017, 09:17:59 AM »
THE GOLD-BOX CORNER: WHY LIMITS ARE GOOD

I haven't written one of these articles in a long time.  At this point, I'm not even sure if we have a newsletter anymore or if anyone is maintaining it.  If they are, I hope they'll consider this article for whenever the next issue will emerge.

As of this writing in March of 2017, we are approaching what I hope will be the first of many community-wide one-week challenges.  In such a challenge, designers are encouraged to build a module in FRUA (or DC) within seven days.  They can utilize time prior to the challenge doing as much planning as they want, gathering any artwork or hacks that they will use and working out their main story.  But, once they open FRUA and begin the designing process, they have seven days to get the module out to the community.

These rules aren't concrete, of course.  Nobody's module would be shunned if they took two extra days or showed up a week late.  Obviously, it's best if they don't.  It's not a contest, but if designers release modules, I feel that everyone in the community wins.  So, the two most important things are finishing and learning something while participating.

I participated in a similar challenge back in 2009 (and even wrote a Gold-Box Corner article about it then).  It was a four-day challenge and I did produce a module from my effort.  I learned a lot while doing it and suggested in that article that other people do it too.  As far as I'm aware, no one followed up on that. 

Eight years later (has it really been that long?), a conversation about perfectionism while creating modules appeared on the FRUA forums.  I realized during that conversation that when I had done the four-day challenge, I didn't have time for perfectionism and mentioned that.  During the course of the discussion, several people joined in on the idea that we should attempt to challenge the whole community to get a module done within a week.

I guess I'm an over-achiever.  I did my module early while fighting a terrible flu.  Nobody said I was smart.  But, at least I did learn some things.  What I learned was that limitations are good.  Putting a limit on your plans can make getting to your end goal much, much easier.

From my own experiences, what helps me with these kinds of challenges is knowing I don't have time to complete an epic module.  I always want to create fantastic epic modules that utilize all the text space in FRUA and have a ton of choices and directions that characters can go.  That's great and all, but a lot of times these modules don't get completed.  My hard drive is littered with a bunch of half-finished modules that I'd love to get done. 

The challenges are different, though.  Knowing I only have a certain amount of time forces me to do something smaller and manageable.  I don't have the kind of free time I had back in the days I was working on my epic modules that took two years to complete.  My desire to do them hasn't gone away, but my ability has fled the building.

Someone (I think maybe Harri Polsa) once designed a module for Dungeon Craft, where he had unlimited space to tell his story.  And that person (again, it might have been Harri Polsa, but I could be wrong) later stated that the one nice thing about FRUA was that you were limited.  Having unlimited options might make you want to add more and more content, putting your goal further out of reach.  In development, they call this kind of thing scope creep, where you keep expanding the scope to add additional cool features you didn't plan. Eventually, you burn out or the whole thing collapses due to the extra work you've added.

The one-week challenge will definitely impose a limitation of time.  Hand-in-hand with the limits of time will come limitations on project scope.  No one will be producing massive and epic FRUA modules in a week.  But, they will be producing modules.  And maybe, just maybe, someone who competes in this challenge will take what they learned about limitations and deadline and apply that knowledge to a bigger project.

In the end, I hope that the FRUA (and DC) community will get more modules out of the challenge.  I hope that if this article ever makes it into a future newsletter, people will remember the FIRST one-week challenge and think about how many other challenges have produced modules.  I like that thought better than someone reading this article in the future and wondering what ever happened to the idea of the one-week challenge.

Hopefully, in the future, we're all playing a ton of new modules.  Or making them.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2017, 09:19:38 AM by ProphetSword »
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Offline Dorateen

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Re: The Gold-Box Corner: Why Limits Are Good
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2017, 10:40:43 AM »
Very good article. If I can share some perspective, I returned to FRUA (had prior worked in the toolset once before around 1997 or so) because I wanted to convert Hearkenwold, which I'm building in the IceBlink engine. Like DC, IceBlink is much more unlimited, with a very robust conversation system. At first, I felt constrained by the text and character limits that are part of FRUA. And not being able to link to previous text, meant re-writing a lot of content within a single event, which of course adds even more to pushing the space limit.

But then I saw this as a challenge, and it actually felt liberating to truncate some lines, and streamline dialogue somewhat. I'm trying to work on creating a tighter, focused gameplay experience now in FRUA. With the design I will be starting next week, I am also going to explore separate areas that contain larger text events, which I can transfer from the main game area, and then back again.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2017, 10:42:31 AM by Dorateen »
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Offline ProphetSword

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Re: The Gold-Box Corner: Why Limits Are Good
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2017, 12:03:02 PM »
Thanks for sharing those insights.

I'm not saying having unlimited amounts of text or resources or whatever is a bad thing, mind you.  Limiting yourself is important if you want to finish something, though.
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Offline PetrusOctavianus

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Re: The Gold-Box Corner: Why Limits Are Good
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2017, 11:01:50 PM »
Many classic old CRPGs turned out great just due to technical limitations. And many old designers lost their touch when losing those limitations...

Offline Platinum Bearer

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Re: The Gold-Box Corner: Why Limits Are Good
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2017, 06:51:34 PM »
Totally know where you're coming from with this, I'm guilty of it myself in practically everything I try to create.

One example is a mod I was making for Doom3 years ago. It was supposed to be one map with a few little scripts to change monster behaviour and the like but ended up being something with a ton of new monsters and weapons (all with multiple firing modes) that was never completed.

Sometimes it's a good thing though. I've started projects that although unfinished, were tied up nicely to the point where I could release something that was greater than what I'd originally intended, and I can always go back to finish them off.

I think the trick is to set aside any new ideas you have while creating something and finish the initial vision first, then move on to expanded it. It's not always that easy though, sometimes the new ideas are necessarily part of the initial idea.
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Offline Mechanaut

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Re: The Gold-Box Corner: Why Limits Are Good
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2017, 06:07:17 AM »
Several of us modders [22 to be exact] started a one week challenge a few years ago for Grimrock. The idea was that everyone make a room in a multi-floor dungeon map; and do the room in a week. We effectively had no limits. We actually scripted a library that would usually erase [and later restore] everyone's room except the one the player was in; for framerate purposes, because the maps were too dense. We added features and exploited engine quirks to create entirely new gameplay, and areas unlike anything seen in the official game... We finished the map, and it's arguably par with the official game...and improves upon it, but it took us over a year to complete it.  :P

https://vimeo.com/82399365

http://www.grimrock.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=6453
« Last Edit: March 06, 2017, 06:17:50 AM by Mechanaut »

Offline Zeea

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Re: The Gold-Box Corner: Why Limits Are Good
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2017, 05:40:37 AM »
This is some really good advice. I remember getting Mario Maker a few years ago, having a hard time coming up with any levels that satisfied me, and then deciding to experiment with limiting myself to just two enemy types and one high concept per level. To pretend I was one of the original developers working to squeeze as much fun as possible out of a limited cartridge.* It really worked out and started helping me learn to focus on making my other creative projects tighter and more efficient.

Also, if you are going to work on a big project? It's often easiest to try to divide it up into as many small components as possible and focus on them separately. It doesn't work for everyone, but it really works for me.

*One of the level designers talked about being happy when a certain sound effect was removed, because it freed up space for a couple more blocks on a particular stage.

 

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