Weekly Discussion Inspiration & Creative Block

This thread is part of the Weekly Discussion series.

Marin

undead
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It's saturday tuesday which means Weekly Discussion™ day.

Here's some food for thought:
  • What or who do you turn to for inspiration, whether that's for maps, music, art, concepts, sprites, story, dialogue or balancing?
  • How do you translate inspiration to a resulting product?
  • How do you deal with creative blocks, i.e. a total lack of inspiration or motivation to work on something?
  • Do you think creative blocks have any consequences on a project? For instance, is a creative block during a project a sign that something with the project is not ideal?
 

Vendily

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Whem it comes to inspiration, Pokemon-wise, I look to Bulbapedia for locations and mechanics and pokedex entries to implement and misinterpret (a natual result of not playing many mainstream pokemon games). This turns into the seed for the highest level of design that every other element is derived from.

The translation, I can't really explain. I've only managed to do this for Game Jams, and the seed appears fully formed a few hours after the start time. Kind of creepy, how consistent it is to be honest.

When it comes to blocks, I try to jumpstart it with the endless scrolling on reference sites. Not forever though, then you're wasting time and stressing about the block at the same time.

A creative block is a bit of a morale dropper but I dont think it signifies an issue with the project itself unless it's a block related to the seed. That's the killer, because the seed is the foundation, and you need a stable base for a project.
I really believe that constraints breed creativity, as it acts like a focus, and makes the task more manageable. Like the Jam themes. Instead of, make a game, it's make a game incorporating escape. Like a mini seed that you grow your seed around. There was a point here but I forgot it.
 

Evan

in another life, Starrcasm
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I absolutely agree with Vendily about constraint breeding creativity--sometimes having too much freedom and being able to think too much outside the box can lead to a lot of thought without much action (although there's definitely a time and a place for outside-the-box thinking).

  • What or who do you turn to for inspiration, whether that's for maps, music, art, concepts, sprites, story, dialogue or balancing?
I know it's corny, but the moment I put on a compilation of Pokemon game soundtracks (or the one I have saved on my iPad, I immediately feel more inclined to work on something fangame related. I generally find myself inspired in substance by the tv shows or movies that I'm watching or have watched--different plot elements, genres, anything that can provide a fun twist that people wouldn't normally expect in a pokemon fangame.

  • How do you translate inspiration to a resulting product?
Translating inspiration into a resulting product requires...effort. Effort and PERSERVERANCE. Because hardly anything that I've been inspired to do has happened without any pushback or difficulty. That's honestly where the bottleneck is for me--I can write all day in a google doc a billion ideas but when it comes to implementation, I'm left with the skills that I have. So I either learn how to make the thing I want, or I edit what I want around what I think I'm able to implement. Deadlines help as well, it forces me to make those tough decisions.
  • How do you deal with creative blocks, i.e. a total lack of inspiration or motivation to work on something?
I step away for a while. That's definitely resulted in a long development time for a CERTAIN PROJECT, but if I have a lack of motivation to do something and I'm not working to a deadline, I'd rather wait until I feel like I want to work on it. Even if that takes a while. Sometimes just stepping a way for a little bit allows me to miss it enough to want to come back to do a bunch more work on it before stepping away again.
  • Do you think creative blocks have any consequences on a project? For instance, is a creative block during a project a sign that something with the project is not ideal?
No, I think a creative block is more telling on the creator than on the creation. It can mean that you've got other stuff going on, or that you need to take a step back to make sure developing is more fulfilling. sometimes that can be a problem with a project, but that can always be fixed i.e. if you're not having as much fun because your game is mostly battles, you can change it to have more fun dialogue.
 

Dragonite

Have they found the One Piece yet
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I like to tell people that if I ever want to work on a game but don't know what specifically to do my go-to solution is to boot up Skyrim for fifteen minutes to wait for something to click, but that sounds just a bit too much like something you'd read on the third page of a supermarket tabloid for my liking so let's try looking at it a different way.

What or who do you turn to for inspiration, whether that's for maps, music, art, concepts, sprites, story, dialogue or balancing?

So the thing about Skyrim that makes it work for me is that it's sort of a culmination of all the kinds of games I like to make. I don't mean "big open world with 250 hours of content" - although that'd be nice - but inside that it also contains:
  • Skills which affect what you can do in the game world, and how well you can do them
  • NPC entities who respond to their current circumstances (time of day, nearby objects, quest status, etc)
  • Radiant AI systems that will attempt to direct you to people and places you have yet to visit in your game
  • Dang good level design
  • Fun-time map streaming technology
  • Blackreach
  • The ability to play the game in more than one way and have it still work, or in other words, it's one of the rare RPGs that can actually make the claim that it's a role-playing game
  • Runic alphabet that's actually a complete, mostly-usable colang which adds a lot of context and subtext to the world if you understand it
  • Other stuff
You'll note that some of those things are not exclusive to Skyrim, and by that I mean none of them are exclusive to Skyrim, and you could make the argument that some of them are not done very well in Skyrim, to which I say you should stop nitpicking things and get on with your life. Anyway, the part that makes it useful is that Skyrim has all of those things in one place and they generally work well together. It helps that most of those systems are particularly transparent to the player (or at least to me, because I like to spend my time thinking about such things) and doing that for any length of time will usually start to get some wheels turning.

I will say, for some people the advice of "for game dev inspiration, play some games" can also just lead to them spending the next 14 hours playing games and not doing any game dev. If that' happens to be you, you probably want to try drawing inspiration from something else.

How do you translate inspiration to a resulting product?

If there's a particular thing that sticks to my mind after doing the thing I just talked about, the next logical step is to work on something involving it. Or something relating to it - before NPCs know that they should go to the refrigerator and make a sandwich around lunch time, they first need to (a) know what time of day it is, (2) be able to identify nearby entities that constitute "refrigerator," and (iii) have an AI heuristic that allows them to draw all necessary conclusions.

How do you deal with creative blocks, i.e. a total lack of inspiration or motivation to work on something?

I mentioned in one of the other weekly threads that I tend to get work done in general, but when, where and how it gets done isn't really up to me.

Do you think creative blocks have any consequences on a project? For instance, is a creative block during a project a sign that something with the project is not ideal?

Usually if / when I stop working on something it'll be for some other official-sounding reason like the code devolved into chaos and became impossible to work with without breaking everything else.

I think I've lost the thread again

Supplemental viewing on the subject of "motivation" by Shaun Spalding, a prominent member of the GameMaker community:


I would also say (and I think evan started to get at this) having specific goals is better than broad ones when it comes to being able to get something done. "I need to design the Shrine to the Goddess of Cheese located in the overgrown corner of the abandoned dairy farm" is more helpful than "I need to start putting stuff in Nebraska."
 

Marin

undead
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What or who do you turn to for inspiration, whether that's for maps, music, art, concepts, sprites, story, dialogue or balancing?
Lately I've been playing through Pokémon White slowly but surely and it's honestly a great source of inspiration, the impeccable use of music and sound effects to make a (cut)scene feel alive, the simplicity yet creativity of its maps, the detail of its story and its excessive frequency of rival battles.

Furthermore, another source of inspiration for me, specifically with respect to my MK project, is looking at other IDEs, game editors, mapping tools or other engine-type projects. It reminds me of the potential my project has, and drives me to unleash that potential. But it goes beyond my MK project; being reminded of the tools out there, reminds me that we are fully and perfectly equipped to make the perfect game - "all" we have to do is find the right recipe to do so.

And it goes without saying, but seeing other people's games, seeing art styles I like or well-thought out and curious mechanics or gimmicks also have a motivating and inspiring effect. The sky is truly the limit around these parts, and seeing other people's works is a good reminder of that and pushes you to think outside the box.


How do you translate inspiration to a resulting product?
When I have an idea, I (almost) always try to think it through step-by-step to make sure I not only have a solid understanding of the idea, but that I've also explored all its intricacies and possibilities. Because then when I implement the idea, I don't have to improvise the idea on-the-fly, because I've already done that beforehand. Basically, I try to have a clear distinction between conceptualising and implementing an idea. That way I don't run into situations that are unaccounted for.


How do you deal with creative blocks, i.e. a total lack of inspiration or motivation to work on something?
Change. I believe that creative blocks don't come out of nowhere, and to me signals a lack of interest or passion for the project, and that's arguably the worst thing that can happen to a passion project. Therefore, something needs to change to reignite the (presumably) once burning passion and motivation for the project. That can be a change in the team working on the project, a solid rethink, back from the aforementioned implementation phase to the conceptualisation phase, or a reconsideration of your priorities. Regardless, you should properly take a step back and evaluate and reflect on the project. Where really did the creative block come from, and why?


Do you think creative blocks have any consequences on a project? For instance, is a creative block during a project a sign that something with the project is not ideal?
Hot take here probably, but I don't believe that fangame projects without passion have a bright future. A creative block could be an indicator of a lack of passion (but doesn't have to be!), which is a bad sign for the project, especially if you're one of the maintainers. Similarly, having to force you or someone else to work on the project (e.g. "I swear I'm going to do some work next week!", or pinging everyone to try to take inventory of who's still interested), is probably futile. A project is driven by passion, not mindless labour.

So while I don't think all creative blocks have that implication, it's a possibility. It depends on the type of project; the examples above pertain largely to game projects.
 

FloofOtter

My crown is made from the Yellow Pages
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So uhm, this is basically just what has worked for me so far in all my projects (be it Latent, White Rose, my art, fangames, etc.) and how I function. It may seem a bit of a mess or nonsensical here and there, but oh well~
  • What or who do you turn to for inspiration, whether that's for maps, music, art, concepts, sprites, story, dialogue or balancing?
Short answer: anything. Literally anything can end up being an inspiration for me. In many cases I have had a shadow spark an idea for some feature in a character, or a phrase in a song makes me think of some theme or plot point I'd like to expand on (i.e.: True Faith's lyrics, 0:58-1:23, or Not Your Kind of People's whole song). In the latter case, I end up listening to the song on repeat a couple of times as I note down ideas.

Long, more specific answer: Music, weird or made up words and Hideo Kojima. And no, it's not just my MGS obsession, though it is part of my inspiration.

Starting with music, here's a quick tip: If you see me on Discord playing something on Spotify, it's highly likely that I'm writing, drawing, mapping, etc. But if you pay attention and see me playing a single song on repeat three, four, five times or more, or scrolling back to listen to some specific point, first off; why are you stalking me?, second off: it' highly likely something inspired me (even whilst writing this, I kept rewinding Keep You to re-listen to a specific point).

True Faith and NYKoP are just two examples, but when developing Latent - Prologue, the first thing I did was decide the theme I wanted for it, made a playlist and listened to it on repeat as I made the game. It helped to keep me focused on the game's theme and both inspired and motivated to see it through!

As for words, short story: I always found myself curious about "saudade" as a word to describe an emotion. How come this complex feeling is only described by a single word in a single language? Why doesn't English, Spanish, French or any other language have a direct translation of it? What other feelings am I unaware of their names? That's how I found out about "hiraeth", "fernweh" and "ambedo" (though this last one is "made up).

Through the google search that allowed me to find such words and feelings, it sparked several plot ideas in my head, started noticing in other media and have taken notes of to further expand into my own projects.

Lastly, Hideo Kojima. One of my idols. Addressing the elephant in the room; Yes, Metal Gear Solid is a big influence and inspiration, anyone that has been with me for a while certainly know this, but there is so much more that I have been influenced by and inspired by other than MGS.

Having checked Hideo's twitter from time to time, have been linked stuff he has posted, heard about his interests and finding out his methodologies when creating something has shaped me. He too listens to a playlist on repeat when developing a game, he watches movies about a certain theme that he has in mind, and a lot of it inspires him (or so we're told).

He has shared a lot of what he is listening/watching on social medias and referenced a lot more in his works, and it made me curious. It made me want to read 1984, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, made me want to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove and Akira and a lot, lot more. I cannot say how much each of these pieces of media has inspired me over the years. I idolize the man and his work, so I know that whatever he has watched may be up my alley too and may give me new ideas on what to do.

(whew, this was a long one)
  • How do you translate inspiration to a resulting product?
I try and always keep notes. It may not be much, it may not be a "product", but it helps me keep tabs on ideas I've had through time. Who knows when they'll come in handy later? Maybe when making a game I get the feeling that I've had X idea before, check a few notes and find that yes, I did! Time to expand and refine it! It has already happened a few times in the past, so it's surely to keep happening in the future.

Aside of that, if I am inspired and motivated, I may draw something from it. I may make up a character, give it a story, personality, name and eventually use it in some media, be it a game, short story, drawing, etc.
  • How do you deal with creative blocks, i.e. a total lack of inspiration or motivation to work on something?
I try and focus on something else. Normally my go-to is video-games; Fallout New Vegas, Stellaris, MGS, Rimworld, Minecraft just to name a few, or something I haven't played much before (lately it's been Persona 2 or Dawn of War). If I just want to remove that creative block, I just go for more "open" games, where creativity and inspiration can be found again. Eventually it'll all come back!
  • Do you think creative blocks have any consequences on a project? For instance, is a creative block during a project a sign that something with the project is not ideal?
Creative blocks of course have an impact on any project. Delays, subpar implementations, development halts to a crawl or downright stops. All the negative traits that are like lack of passions for the project. But I don't believe it's necessarily because something in the project is not ideal (it can be though), but rather the cause of something not being ideal. You may have all the passion in the world for what you are making, but if you cannot find how to put that love in to a physical form at some point, then where's the problem? You have passion, you have ideas, you have references, inspirations, concept work, but just don't know how to put all of that into the project.

We can't focus on one single thing forever. We need distractions. We need to play a game, watch a movie, go out for a walk, enter a RelicCastle Game Jam™. Something to just let your mind rest, let it unwind, let it forget the project you were making for a bit so you may come back in to it with a fresh mind full of new ideas, able to criticise your previous work and find new ways to improve it.

Though, yes it may be a lack of passion as Marin has said. A work without passion won't go far.
 
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VanillaSunshine

.。.:*バニラ陽光*:.。.
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Perhaps it isn't so in Game Dev, but the entire concept of art/creative block is apparently quite a controversial topic in circles of visual artists.
I might be preaching to the choir for this little bit, so I'll keep it simple: creative block is real and is not simply a result of a creator being "lazy" or "looking for excuses" to not work. That little trend from a few years ago of artists attacking each other over these phrases and concepts was hilariously immature and I am still disappointed in the artists whom I lost so much respect over for their blatant lack of empathy for beginner artists, all over some specific buzzword like "art block" and not the actual meaning behind that phrase.

If you are a creative and you've ever felt invalidated when it came to discussing your feelings of creative block or lack of motivation, I urge you to be kind to yourself. It is something every creative (not just visual artists) goes through, and any creative who says otherwise is either lying or has a different definition of "creative block".

But I digress... :rcDoggo:


I don't know how many others are similar to me, but I am extremely community-driven when it comes to my hobbies. I love sharing things and I love seeing things! While I consistently encourage myself to not participate in my hobbies for the sake of pleasing others or getting attention for it, I absolutely can't deny that one of my biggest motivations is whatever community I'm participating in! I think everyone likes knowing that people care about them and their work. Unfortunately, no one is going to care about your projects as much as you do. But there will still be people who are fascinated and interested in it! And I love that! I love feeling that from others, and I love giving it to others.


When I can't find the motivation to work on my projects, my first go-to is to seek out other people's work. If I'm unmotivated to draw, I go watch speedpaints on YouTube! If I'm unmotivated to game dev, I watch DevLogs on YouTube! If I'm unmotivated to write, I'll go find some stories that I know I love, or I'll watch videos about writing. (Oh, to have all my problems fixed by YouTube...)

But sometimes, that isn't enough. Perhaps reinvigorating my motivation isn't enough to get me back on-track, and something else is wrong. In this case, usually my problem is that I'm approaching my current task in a way that isn't cooperating with my skill level or my energy level. For example, with visual art, it may not be that my motivation is low, but instead my skill level is too low for me to be happy with any of my work. In this case, no amount of inspiration or motivation is going to help me push through this block, and I instead need to focus entirely on improving my skills via doing figure studies or trying new methods/techniques. (Now I need to actually do these things...)


In general, I don't think experiencing creative block is an inherent sign that something is wrong with the project/work/idea itself, but I do think that it's important to ask yourself why you are experiencing creative block.

>Is your general mental health a major contributing factor to your lack of motivation? Loss of interest is a core trait of major depression; no amount of little art tips or game dev tricks is going to help you push through that! Something like that needs to be approached as a mental health problem, so you can find and utilize the appropriate coping mechanisms.
>Are you unhappy with the results you're getting? Perhaps you need to set down your passion project and try learning a few new things! What about your results is making you unhappy? You should work on that specific thing! If your answer is "all of it", then perhaps seek out more general studies or guides. Learn a different type of version of your creative medium to help your mind "reset". (This is not exclusive to visual art!)
>Are you becoming frustrated during the process? Similar to the previous point, perhaps you need to find a different method/technique for what you're doing! Perhaps this is where you need to reevaluate this part of your project: why is it frustrating you? Would you become less frustrated if you changed this part of your game, or drew a different composition, or wrote this part of the story a different way?

In addition to the above points, are you only doing this thing in hopes of making people happy, pleasing people, or getting "clout"? I don't think that's entirely a bad thing, but if those are your reasons for creating this thing AND it is causing you to become frustrated or unhappy, perhaps you need to reevaluate your motive and intentions behind your creative endeavor! If you are experiencing creative block because you are worried about impressing others with your final result, I personally believe that you should instead ask why you are more focused on pleasing others, as opposed to creating something that will make you happy!

In the world of fan games, people will play pretty much anything; it is not a competition, there is no time-limit on when someone can play your fan game, and people are not going to say no to your game just because there's "something better" out there. Don't focus entirely on what you think others will like; you will not please everyone, and you're digging yourself into a hole where you'll end up rarely finishing anything because someone might be unhappy with some random little thing about your project.
Do what you would want, not what you think is going to get you the most clicks and clout.
 

Dragonite

Have they found the One Piece yet
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A bit more on the "passion" thing, I guess.

Even if you're 100% on board with your current project, there's always going to be something you'd really rather not be doing - for instance, it's a pretty safe bet that literally nobody ever has said "setting up map transfer events and punching in Trainer team data is something I look forward to every time I make a game," and yet they need to get done if you want the game to ever see the light of day. There are a few ways around this. If you're me or Marin you're probably going to try to find a way to automate it, or more productively, find someone else who's already automated it and use their work instead. You could also try to find something else to pass the time, like throwing on an audiobook or podcast or whatever in the background to make the whole thing seem less droll. Much like doing homework, another good strategy is to break up the boring stuff between things you'd rather do - do map connections for a half hour, and then do some more map design for a bit before finishing the rest.

The reality of making games, even in something that works out-of-the-box like Essentials, involves a lot of mundane work. That's why a lot of people pick it up on Monday, mess around a bit on Tuesday, and don't touch it again after Wednesday. The high-level vision is great: massive open world with reactive NPCs and tons of secrets to explore... and also holy ballsacks, I need to connect 600 door tiles to their interior map, and then do them in reverse for the exits, and create people who live in all of them. Manually. Not something you often see people bragging about at GDC outside of the motivational talks.

Hence Shaun's monologue on breaking down discipline and motivation.
 
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leilou

A wild Minun appeared!
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My short bits on creative block: I pretty much only have them if I work too long on a project ... if I have one I usually lay the game down and take a new look the day after. Because doing stuff while having one will result in feeling uninspired and I'll redo it another day anyways. If I don't have a new idea the next day(or after a couple days ... whenever it is I continue working on my project) I just look at it for like 2 minutes and then do something different. I usually get some inspiration while I'm not working on the game and write that down on a notebook.


For getting inspiration the method differs on the task I'm doing:
For mapping I usually lay out the base design and then loop a song that feels like I want the map to feel and then just map along. It might be a Pokémon theme or any other ambient song. It works pretty well for me.

For new game mechanics I usually have the idea sometime random and then think about whether I want it in my game or not. Then plan it out and then implement it. I have so many ideas that I 'm rarley in a spot where I actually need to look for new game mechanics ideas. When I do though I first look at what I have and what space needs to be filled. After that I just think about how the games I played lately handled similar szenarios.

For story and lore I usually start with one as main inspiration and then do the same things as for mechanics if I need to look for inspiration. Figuring out fom what point I want to go to what point and then look at games with similarities.

For dialouge I write down the gist of it first and then try make it sound nice. I never hadn't had enough to say because I emphasize a lot about the lore and usually have a well planned out lore before I even write the first bit of dialouge. Also having the main story goal and sub goals in mind helps a lot. I usually need to figure out what not to say instead of what to say. Perfecting the dialouge comes with playtesting usually. If it feels off I change it.

For art I still need to figure out how to do that right ... so I usually just alter an existing art again and again until I like the result. I should do it more professionally though.
 

Shadowtony

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What or who do you turn to for inspiration, whether that's for maps, music, art, concepts, sprites, story, dialogue or balancing?
I don't have a specific inspiration source, it really could come from anything and everything. Though most of the time I do get ideas from playing other games and seeing what I love about them. I think for me getting the creative engine started is the most important part, while I'm working on the project I get short bursts of creativity and it all just flows together.

How do you translate inspiration to a resulting product?
In the wise words of Shia LaBeouf, "just do it". If possible, I try to work a little bit on implementing whatever it is I just thought of. While maybe not the ideal or fanciest approach, I think giving "physical" form to the idea can help me expand on it a little better and that little progress and small successes can be a motivation boost, too!. If it's not possible to implement it right then and there, I try to get the idea on a notepad I keep about the project, so that I can at least give it form that way (I'm also very forgetful, so it helps for that as well).

How do you deal with creative blocks, i.e. a total lack of inspiration or motivation to work on something?
I'm currently working by myself, so it helps that I can just take a break and come back to it whenever I want. Something that sometimes helps me with motivation is working on something I generally find fun and want to do, as opposed to something I have to do. But really just take a break and come back to it whenever (assuming you have the ability to do so).

Do you think creative blocks have any consequences on a project? For instance, is a creative block during a project a sign that something with the project is not ideal?
Not necessarily, there could be a million reasons why a creative block happens. Burn-out, for example, can happen to everyone at one point or another. Maybe trying to progress without any direction, inspiration or motivation can cause a loss of quality in a project or it could ignite that spark you needed to get the juices flowing. While I'm sure most of us put all of our love and effort into our project, I think there will be some aspects that are more mentally draining than others, some parts that just start to feel like a chore sometimes. That's totally fine, I think that's normal.
 
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