CON­STRAINT DRIVES DE­SIGN.

PCPOWERPLAY - - DOOM MAPPING -

If ne­ces­sity is the mother of in­ven­tion, then con­straint is the daddy of de­sign. Con­straint might sound like a dirty word (maybe moreso after that last sen­tence), but it’s of­ten pro­duc­tive to look for and un­der­stand your con­straints, and work with these to help fo­cus your de­sign. Con­straints are com­monly tech­ni­cal - for ex­am­ple mo­bile phones don’t have pow­er­ful GPUs - and de­sign de­ci­sions are of­ten directed by them - low-poly art is one so­lu­tion that can look “good”, with­out stress­ing low spec de­vices.

Of course con­straints come in other forms. Doom has a limited set of me­chan­ics, a limited set of weapons, a limited set of en­e­mies. I want ex­plor­ing the level to be ex­cit­ing, with some­thing new around ev­ery cor­ner. I want each en­emy en­counter to be var­ied, with a dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­nity to die around ev­ery cor­ner. The straight­for­ward so­lu­tion might be to add new weapons or en­emy types - which is tech­ni­cally fea­si­ble with the mod­ern Doom sour­ce­ports - but choos­ing to work within Doom’s con­straints have forced me to come up with cre­ative so­lu­tions and to work hard and get the most out of the few me­chan­ics avail­able.

The flip­side to un­der­stand­ing your con­straints is that you also un­der­stand your free­dom. Yes, I want va­ri­ety in en­emy en­coun­ters, and while I may not have free­dom over weapon or en­emy types, I do have free­dom to con­trol en­emy place­ment and com­bi­na­tion, the de­sign of the en­vi­ron­ment, the or­der that weapons can be col­lected, and even the health or state of mind, or ex­pec­ta­tion of the player.

There is a quote - “per­fec­tion is achieved not when there is noth­ing more to add, but when there is noth­ing left to take away” - that rings true here. Un­der­stand­ing your con­straints - or set­ting your own - helps you think hard and re­ally make the most out of what you al­ready have, rather than jump­ing straight to so­lu­tions in­volv­ing new me­chan­ics or con­tent.

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