7: Limitations

7: Limitations

Do you like designing with limitations? Which are the most useful or restrictive for you?

 

I LOVE designing with limitations. In fact, having parameters inspires my creativity. My KTBG brand has me designing games that level the playing field between less experienced and more experienced gamers. In this way, more experienced gamers can play with newer gamers while everyone is engaged in what they are doing. For me the tightest constraints as a designer both hinder and expand my creativity. I love it!!

Helaina Cappel

I’ve recently had the opportunity to develop expansions for two different games and have thoroughly enjoyed the constraints this has placed on the process. It’s been both a challenge and a pleasure to create something new on the back of something old. Something fresh, but familiar.

Trevor Benjamin

Without something to guide us elsewhere, we will all make the same things. Of course, that ‘something’ may just be your unique life experiences, which inform you.

Most of my future games were about following an idea to its natural conclusion – similar but slightly different from a restriction.

Some restrictions, or objectives, can help push you into new areas. Maybe a theme that you haven’t often seen in existing games or a new mechanism – like literally ripping up paper, throwing down cards, or burning things.

As for actual restrictions, I always think about printing costs and environmental impact. I’m not sure how much that benefits the game, but I guess it will always be our reality.

Bez Shahriari

I love component limitation (type, amount or way of using them). It is the best for me, it makes me think differently about components. The only thing I can’t do without is cards. I love using cards. They are, in many cases, where I start my design.

Pini Shekhter

Designing with limitations can be liberating, and can really help the mind to come up with some ingenious solutions that would otherwise have remained uncovered. For me the most important limitation is in thinking about the physical space that my intended audience will have to play the game. Will they have the luxury of a gaming table, or be more likely to encounter the game in a location where space is at a premium? Considering this is vital for creating a meaningful experience.

Sam Illingworth

My KTBG brand has me designing games that level the playing field between less experienced and more experienced gamers. In this way, more experienced gamers can play with newer gamers while everyone is engaged in what they are doing. — Helaina Cappel

Yes – definitely. Over time I am increasingly convinced that applying constraints can lead to more creative outcomes. The out-of-blue inspiration is a wonderful thing but I find great ideas can also emerge from a process where you try to solve problems with entirely self-imposed limitations like “Make a game about X without using Y mechanic”. I am currently working on a project that is going in an interesting direction because I forbade myself from doing the thing that games in the genre nearly always do. As a self-publisher, I have already experienced a financial limitation that has forced me into coming up with better user experience than the game previously had. Not only was it cheaper, it should result in a better product!

James Naylor

I like designing with limitations. They are a challenge. In a game jam, limitations are the basis of the session. It’s good to have them, so you can focus and progress on other aspects of the game. The theme limitation could be a difficult one, but at the same time this may make that the game dynamics are more attached to the theme.

Eloi Pujadas

Having a target to “aim” for can make it a little easier to know what a company is looking for, but sometimes it inhibits broad thinking (depending on the limitation). Personally, I prefer to come up with ideas with no limitations and then work to finesse them into the parameters given — which may or may not work, but I feel that the less constricted thinking at the beginning fields better results.

Kim Vandenbroucke

Limitations certainly help to focus. I don’t always need them, but when my thoughts are running wild, they are a way to be more efficient. Codesigning can be seen as a kind of limitation – design a game this other designer can also design and enjoy.

Bruno Faidutti

I do! Time is a factor that motivates me and keeps me focused. Component count with regard to final cost as well as time. I find I come up with more creative and less derivative mechanisms when I am limited in scope or have a central focus to design around. Sure, sometimes those exercises create not-good-games, but I can hack off pieces to use later, like set pieces in an RPG.

Adrienne Ezell

Codesigning can be seen as a kind of limitation – design a game this other designer can also design and enjoy. — Bruno Faidutti

Great art is commonly created within constraints. A painter picks their medium and limits themselves to a canvas; a musician works within a structure; Shakespeare created his masterpieces within the constraints of iambic pentameter. A creation is energised when emotions and interactions struggle against constraints, stretching them, subverting them, pushing boundaries. My best work has often emerged by imposing a constraint within an existing genre: we can’t see our own cards (Pikoko); we use dice in place of cards (Thrown); the game must play in under 10 minutes (Doodle Rush); the game must feature no written words (Big Bazar).

Adam Porter

Design constraints are GOOD. I don’t do well without boundaries, because I struggle to find my centre. I don’t like to be too constricted because I like to have creative freedom. So, give me boundaries, but let me push them as much as I can. That’s my happy space.

Kathleen Mercury

I actually do like designing around limitations. If I know what the end result should be roughly shaped like, it’s rare that I’ll start running down irrelevant avenues and try to introduce elements that probably won’t work too well. I like to know the target audience, a theme (if you’ve got it!) and roughly how long the whole experience should take – that’ll inform decisions like complexity level, assumed understanding of the audience, and give me a good jumping off point.

Michael Fox

I adore designing with limitations! If there aren’t any, I’ll often choose a few to keep my design from trying to be every game. I never begin without thinking about my target players and the type of experience I imagine them having- this helps me choose which of several ideas within the game I will pursue, because there are so many ways to solve each design problem!

Roberta Taylor

Limitations are fun (to some extent) but it really depends on why I’m designing the game in the first place i.e. is this a commission rather than a personal project? It’s enjoyable to limit the components or tie to a specific theme, player count, time-to-play and/or ‘complexity’ (whatever THAT might mean). For the purely-Tony projects, I prefer to flood everything in to the initial pot and then evaporate the surplus as I go along: nothing is taboo at the start, it only becomes so – often quite rapidly. I find myself removing extraneous stuff far more often than adding extra bits.

Tony Boydell

I like to know the target audience, a theme (if you’ve got it!) and roughly how long the whole experience should take – that’ll inform decisions like complexity level, assumed understanding of the audience, and give me a good jumping off point. — Michael Fox

It was so refreshing to work on an 18 card game after labouring over a deck of 170 cards! The possibilities for a game are practically infinite, so artificial limitations can be helpful to narrow your focus and reduce the decision space. I think we do this all the time in game design, whether we call it a limitation or not. When I’m asking, “who is the audience in the game, and what should it be like for them?,” that’s fundamentally narrowing my scope, and it’s very helpful. More extreme limitations can force creativity, but they also can be too artificial: Perhaps the best way to use them is for that initial spark, but I don’t think I’d try to force something into a box that it doesn’t belong in, just because I started with a constraint.

Elizabeth Hargrave

Doing games on demand is a big part of my job with “La Team Kaedama”. It’s a completely different way of creating a game and I like it too. Working with limitations is a good way to have something to start and having some boundaries to follow is often a great help.

Théo Rivière

I believe limitations can be good and helps us become better game designers. For example, I try to design within the limitations of vision accessibility because my husband and design partner is legally blind. Using colour coding is easy, but not visually accessible. So I challenge myself to come up with simple iconography instead. Designing for accessibility is important because it will improve the game for everyone and widen your audience. It’s always better to start with it in mind, but it’s not impossible to change things late in the process either – just harder.

Sarah Reed

I am constantly limited during design as I don’t have access to custom dice, never seen anywhere to buy a dice set unless I would have to import online and haven’t been expose to as much game mechanics. I do not like those.

Kenechukwu Ogbuagu KC

I love designing with limitations usually. If I have limitations, I don’t have so much design space and it’s much easier to make a decision and focus in on what the game will be. For me, theme is the most useful limitation, as I tend to rely on it whenever I have multiple options. Thematically, what would make the most sense? I typically go for that option. I also like component limitations, as I won’t keep designing cards once I get to the limit. Without a limit, I could just design for days and not get the game playtested.

Carla Kopp

Designing for accessibility is important because it will improve the game for everyone and widen your audience. It’s always better to start with it in mind, but it’s not impossible to change things late in the process either – just harder. — Sarah Reed

Since the most terrifying thing is a completely blank canvas, limitations are generally essentially for any creative process. The sorts of games that interest me – games that present challenging, subversive or political experiences – naturally give rise to questions that act as self-imposed limitations: “Could a game be used to expose our own biases?”, “What would it mean if a game had the potential to never end?”, “Can you play a game and not know you’re playing a game?”. The best limitations should feel like enjoyable challenges not immovable obstacles… which gets me thinking, I wonder if you could make a game about the Myth of Sisyphus?

Andrew Sheerin

I do not particularly design with limitations in mind in general, however I do enjoy taking part in contests or game jams that require you to limit your design and creativity with certain components. For example, the Mint Tin contest posted every year in Board Game Geek establishes a very interesting restriction with regard to the size. In this case, the game needs to fit into a “mint tin”, therefore it impacts the number and size of components that you can use.

Núria Casellas

I believe defined boundaries are integral to any creative process. When it comes to game design I feel this is especially true! Components, theme, play time and complexity level can designate the walls of the sandbox you are designing in. As an example, when I began self-publishing I decided to limit my games to being no more than 120 cards, mainly due to production costs. This forced me to be so much more targeted and concise as I designed, and taught me great lessons about streamlining and refining gameplay.

Phil Walker-Harding

Creative constraints are almost indispensable to my creative process. In my point of view, constraints are freeing, they give a frame in which I can find my space of liberty. They give a direction to my creativity instead of letting it wonder in the infinite field of possibilities. Any kind is interesting to me.

Doria Roustan

It’s a popular idea that limitations spur creativity — you think of something clever because you have to, to get around the limitation. I try to use elegance and economy of components as my limitations. Not only does that help when it comes to manufacturing, but I feel like it makes the game easier to grok.

Seth Jaffee

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