Serendipity Writes the Plot

A Sub-Trope of Real Life Writes the Plot.

Either a plot detail, or even the entire plot is formed due to a technical difficulty in real life. Perhaps budget cuts prevented a certain aspect of the work from being filmed/programmed/drawn, or perhaps at the time, technology wasn't advanced enough, or some other limitation to create the feature existed. Whatever the reason, the creators are forced to compensate, and alter the plot to accommodate the limitation.

This is an interesting trope in the development of works. If it is done right, it can lead to an interesting plot, iconic appearance and/or an interesting feature of the work itself that would have never been achieved had the creators had the means to go with their original plans. If it comes out badly though, it will just give the work a very cheap look.

In films, this is usually the cause of Obscured Special Effects. In video games, this can sometimes go hand in hand with Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence, as this trope is usually a reason for it, and is also usually used to justify Graphics-Induced Super-Deformed.

Related to Reality Subtext. Compare Ascended Glitch, Throw It In.


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    Films — Animation 
  • The animators at Pixar made their first feature film about toys because the limits of CGI at the time made it hard to realistically depict organic shapes and natural surfaces. As the technology improved, they worked their way up to bugs, then furry/scaly monsters, then fish, then human beings, and finally (for now) human beings with incredibly curly hair. The last film is an interesting case in that as for the first time in the history of the company, the entire imaging software had to be rewritten for it.
  • Frozen: Originally, Elsa was not going to be a heroic character; the writers struggled to see her as anything more than a one-note villain. Then Elsa's Villain Song Let It Go was performed by Idina Menzel, whose vulnerable yet powerful interpretation of the lyrics made them realize that the song was too positive for a villain, and that Elsa was entirely justified in how she felt to that point; she also had not actually hurt anyone, and was deliberately isolating herself to prevent harm. So they re-wrote the story as her as an Anti-Hero / Villain Deuteragonist.

    Film - Live Action 
  • In general, many Human Focused Adaptations are produced out of necessity, as a way of undercutting the considerable costs of rendering non-human characters on screen through animatronics and/or CGI. Michael Bay's Transformers films, which spend a surprising amount of their running time focusing on military personnel because of the high cost of the CGI needed to animate the titular robots, are a good example.
    • On a smaller scale, the Decepticon Bonecrusher's vehicle form is a mine sweeper. The reference photo they used for it had the sweeping mechanism appear to be several feet wide. When they got a real one on set for practical effects, they found out it was only about a foot wide. They felt the mistake made it look more menacing and built a new mechanism for the shots.
  • Many low-budget horror movies rely on Nothing Is Scarier because, well, Nothing is Cheaper. But as it lets the viewers' darkest imaginings fill in the blanks, the result often is a lot scarier than what they might have come up with had they had a decent special-effects budget.
  • This trope is touched on in the classic black and white movie, The Bad and the Beautiful.
    • A horror movie producer couldn't afford decent special effects for the monster. He teams up with the director to use camera tricks to make the monster into The Unseen.
    • From the trivia in the movies Imdb entry, "The scene showing the production of the fictional low budget horror film was based on how Val Lewton produced Cat People (1942)."
  • Steven Spielberg couldn't get the mechanical shark in Jaws to work very well, so it became mostly The Unseen, with the entire concept of the sailors using barrels to track it as a way to keep filming as though the shark was there. The film is widely credited as working far better because of the increased tension and the greater impact of scenes where the shark actually did appear.
    • Hooper was originally intended to die in the screenplay (as he did in the Peter Benchley novel). However, some footage captured by Spielberg's secondary crew, of a real great white attacking a visibly-empty diving cage, was so awesome that the plot was changed to let Hooper slip out of it safely, allowing them to use the shot.
  • In the climax of the film version of From Russia with Love, villainess Rosa Klebb was fighting James Bond using a poisoned shoe knife. The script called for her to be accidentally killed by her own weapon, but the director couldn't figure out a way to film it that didn't look ridiculous. Then someone realized that a) there was a gun on the floor from when Bond had disarmed Klebb and b) the heroine Tatiana Romanova, who had been an enemy agent recruited by Klebb before falling in love with Bond, was just standing there watching the fight. So the director changed the script to have Tatiana pick up the gun, and after some hesitation, shoot Klebb.
  • In You Only Live Twice, the Toyota 2000GT wasn't supposed to be a convertible, but it got converted into one due to Sean Connery's height.
    • Actress Mie Hama was having trouble learning English, while her fellow actress Akiko Wakabayashi had much progress. Since the former took this so seriously that she threatened to kill herself if fired, the producers just traded the roles between actresses: Hama went on to play Kissy, who appears much later in the story and has fewer lines, and Wakabayashi played Aki, who is in the story from the very start.
  • On a related note, Han Solo being frozen in carbonite during the events of The Empire Strikes Back was written into the plot because of the main actors' contracts. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had already signed on for a third movie, but Harrison Ford had not, so one of the series' most iconic moments was created to leave the door open for a Return of the Jedi sans Solo.
  • The opening of Spy Kids 2 was originally meant to take place at Disneyland. However, Robert Rodriguez discovered that Disney generally doesn't allow movies to shoot in their parks, not even Disney movies (note: The original Spy Kids films were distributed by Miramax Films, which is owned by Disney, and released under the Dimension Films name). This led to the scene instead taking place at a fictional amusement park with humorously impossible CGI rides. Rodriguez thinks this is mostly an improvement, although he still would have preferred it if Carmen and Juni had appeared undercover at the park wearing Mickey Mouse hats, but they had to settle for propeller hats.
    • Funnily enough, though, the finished film still has Carmen saying the line, "No more Mickey Mouse assignments" when she's annoyed at getting stuck with a mission at an amusement park.
  • The scripted climax of Back to the Future called for Marty to take the DeLorean to a Nevada nuclear test site and return to 1985 using the power of a nuclear blast. This was beyond the film's budget, so the now iconic clock tower climax was created.
    • Crispin Glover's refusal to do the sequels impacted the plot heavily. For example, George McFly being dead in 1985-A was originally conceived as just an excuse to not show him very much.
  • A prolonged chase scene in a Hall of Mirrors had to be cut from 1994's The Shadow after an earthquake shattered most of the prop mirrors on set. A CGI scene of the hero shattering mirrors with the power of his mind was used instead.
  • The opening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind was originally scripted to take place in The Amazon with Lacombe's team finding the airplanes in the center of Crop Circles. This was too expensive and it got changed to a desert so that the sequence could be filmed near Los Angeles.
  • In Clerks:
    • Some local hooligans jammed gum into the locks of the convenience store's giant window shade, forcing Dante to make a huge sign that said "I ASSURE YOU WE'RE OPEN!" This gag is one of the film's most iconic images. But the truth is that the film was so low-budget that Kevin Smith could only shoot in the store at night, when the store was closed. Having the shades permanently down was a way to disguise the fact that it was dark outside during the daytime interior scenes.
    • The original script included a sequence (included in animated form as a DVD extra) of what Dante and Randall did at the funeral of Dante's ex-girlfriend. However, Smith didn't have the budget to rent a set and a bunch of extras in nice clothes, so just shot Dante and Randall entering the funeral parlour and immediately cutting to them being chased out. Smith felt that this was much funnier.
  • The sequence in The Fugitive where Kimble loses his pursuers in the confusion surrounding the St Patrick's Day Parade was added to the script after the filmmakers realised that their scheduled dates for location filming in Chicago included the day that the real-life parade would be held.
  • In the first Tomb Raider film, the amphibious duck vehicles in Siberia were included in the movie because the director thought they looked cool. Similarly, the procession of monks was not written in the script, but the procession happened to take place as they were filming and the monks consented to appearing in the movie. In the second film, most of Lara's outfits have long sleeves, because the concealing makeup used to hide Angelina Jolie's tattoos in the first movie was not as effective as the filmmakers would have liked.
  • National Lampoons Vacation was intended to take place at Disneyland, but Disney rejected the filming request and thus Wally World was created.
    • Observant viewers will notice though that "Wally World" is actually Six Flags Magic Mountain.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
    • One of its most iconic jokes came about because it was so low budget that the Pythons couldn't afford horses or the time for training, thus forcing them to pantomime horse-riding and bang coconut shells together to simulate the sound of hooves.
    • The movie got its famously offbeat ending because the Grand Finale that the Pythons had scripted (where Arthur's army would have stormed the castle and been saved at the last minute by swallows dropping coconuts) was outside of the film's budget.
  • In the unproduced stage play that Casablanca was based on, the story ended with Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund running away together to America. The movie only got its iconic Bittersweet Ending because the Hays Code forbade movies from showing characters getting away with adultery.
    • Ever read that treatment for a sequel of Casablanca, Brazzaville, that would end with a recently widowed Ilsa marrying Rick and running back to America, effectively undoing the iconic first movie as a whole? Word of God is that it was cancelled in pre-production only because Bergman had cut her hair short for For Whom the Bell Tolls.
  • The movie Cube came about due to something like this:
    "We only have money for one set, one room."
    "That one room could represent a bunch of rooms that look identical."
    "Well, a bunch of identical rooms would be a maze."
    "So, why does this maze exist? Why are our characters trapped in it?"
    "I think that's the plot."
  • Among the plethora of things that went horribly wrong during the production of Apocalypse Now, Marlon Brando infamously showed up on the set overweight despite the script listing his character Colonel Kurtz as having a "lean and hungry" physique. Coppola was then forced to shoot Kurtz wearing a black t-shirt, only standing in the shadow and never below the shoulders to hide his figure, thus giving Kurtz the appearance of a man who has almost become one with darkness.
  • Some films based on works that were originally in a fantasy setting have the characters transported to Earth in order to save money on elaborate fantasy sets. Masters of the Universe, Beastmaster II: Through the Portal of Time and The Smurfs are just a few examples.
  • Im Juli:
    • When Daniel and Juli are traveling through Romania, only photos are shown instead of real film footage. The reason for that is the Romanian government didn't give permission to film in their country, so they had to take photos instead.
    • Originally, Daniel and Juli were supposed to sing The Cure's "Friday I'm In Love", but the rights were too expensive. When the music supervisor was able to secure the rights for "Blue Moon" instead, the script was changed at the last minute to include a conversation on oldies.
  • The Sunday brothers in There Will Be Blood were re-imagined as identical twins when actor Kel O'Neill, who was originally cast as Eli Sunday, dropped out of the movie, thus forcing Paul Dano (who had been cast as Paul Sunday) to play both roles.
  • In Star Trek: Generations, the Enterprise-D's model and sets were built for TV and didn't translate well to the much larger film screen. For that film they attempted to work around it with lighting and camera tricks, but also destroyed the ship at the end to justify building a new Enterprise that would look better on the big screen for the next movie.
  • The Bad Future intro sequence of Terminator 2: Judgment Day was supposed to be much longer. Rather than ending with John Connor looking through the binoculars, it was to continue on with them taking Skynet's facility, sending Kyle Reese back in time, and conclude with John finding a storage room of T-800s as it faded to the present day. The whole scene was shortened down since they lacked the budget and special effects to create the facility (particularly the time machine scene). You can see the storyboards here.
    • The entire premise of the first film was created because of this trope. The idea was sparked from a nightmare James Cameron had about a metallic skeleton walking out of a fire. Cameron felt a robot that advanced could only come from the future; but due to budget constraints, the film had to be set in the present and the Terminator had to be disguised as a human for the majority of the film. The "only organic material can travel through time" rule was also made to save costs on expensive futuristic weaponry.
  • The American adaptation of Fever Pitch (UK title Perfect Catch) was supposed to end with Jimmy Fallon's character coming to terms with the Boston Red Sox's perpetual bad luck, with the idea of 'there's always next year'. In fact, the Boston Red Sox were chosen because they have a fan base but hadn't won in many years (sometimes explained as the 'Curse of the Bambino'). But in Real Life, the Red Sox went on to win the World Series for the first time in over 80 years. Therefore, the film ended on a much more happy conclusion. It's explained in this interview.
  • Orson Welles suffered from low budget productions later in life. His 1952 film version of Othello had a scene where two characters have to fight each other. Unfortunately one of the costumes wasn't ready yet, so Welles decided to have the whole scene take place in a bath house, where the characters could be naked. It turned out to be one of the most original and talked about scenes in the film.
  • While filming a chase scene in Tangier for The Bourne Ultimatum the crew found that the foot traffic was too heavy to be controlled or redirected. As a result the actors had to force their way through the dense crowd, lending the scene extra authenticity.

    Live Action TV 
  • Some TV shows do "Bottle Episodes" due to budget limitations. Some classic ones in Friends include "The One With the Blackout" (which was part of a NBC Thursday Night Crossover where all the New York shows, save Seinfeld had to deal with the effects of said blackout, something which director James Burrows admitted they used to make an episode on the cheap), and "The One Where No One Is Ready".
    • In the same vein, some "Lower Deck Episodes" are done when the lead actors in a show's cast are occupied filming one episode, forcing the production staff to do another episode focusing on minor or original characters in order to stay on schedule. Doctor Who's "Doctor-lite episodes", in which the Doctor and his Companion generally only have a few minutes of screen time, are a good example.
  • Star Trek: Originally, going down to the planets involved the crew boarding a shuttle and flying down, but the cost of doing landings would have been too expensive, thus, the transporter was created.
    • Inverted with the flat forehead Klingons. Because of low budget, Klingons only had a mostly ethnic makeup in the original series. In the movies and later series, which had better budgets and better makeup technology, they obviously had the ridged foreheads. In Enterprise, a Prequel to the Original Series, they actually make a storyline to explain the change.
    • Played straight with the model used to depict Romulan Warbirds in the original series. A technician apparently dropped the model before filming, and there wasn't time to fix it or come up with a new one, so they used the Klingon Warship's model instead. This led to the conclusion that Klingons and Romulans had formed an alliance, with warships sent over to the Romulans and cloaking devices sent to the Klingons. Consequences of this action influenced the storyline of the entire franchise forever.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had this, with the character Dax. Jadzia Dax was a "joined species," an alien who was actually two entities sharing one body. Both entities (Jadzia, the "host," and Dax, the "symbiont") were intended to remain on the show for the entire run, but actress Terry Farrell decided to leave the show at the end of its penultimate season. So the writers killed off Jadzia, but kept Dax, transplanting the symbiont into a new host, Ezri (Nicole De Boer). The suddenness of Jadzia's death and Ezri's arrival worked greatly into the storyline, with Ezri's main conflict being her having to form new relationships with people who'd already been her (Dax's) friends—and, in Worf's case, husband.
    • During the planning for a revisitation of a classic TOS episode, the producers met in a pizza parlor to discuss which episode it would be. At this point, one of them noticed that Charlie Brill, who had played the Big Bad in "The Trouble With Tribbles", was in the parlor with them, which settled the matter. Brill does reappear in "Trials and Tribble-ations", as the same character as before, and triggers the revisitation by using Time Travel to Make Wrong What Once Went Right.
    Ira Steven Behr: "It shows that God is a Deep Space 9 fan."
  • Doctor Who:
    • The TARDIS was originally going to be a big, magnificent vehicle. Except the show lacked the funding, so they said that it can disguise itself as anything it wants. Then that turned out to be too expensive, so it stayed as a police call box with a tongue-in-cheek handwave that the camouflage feature was broken. "They said 'we've got a police box from Dixon of Dock Green — let's make a box that's bigger on the inside', and thus was born the single best idea in all of fiction," — Steven Moffat.note 
    • In the original script of "The Brain of Morbius", Morbius's new body was cobbled together by his devoted robot servant. But it was the cheap story of the season, so they couldn't afford a robot costume as well as Morbius's body. So it was heavily rewritten to make the robot a human mad scientist (played by Philip Madoc, resulting in a classic story).
    • In "The Sontaran Stratagem", after the scene where the Doctor uses a Logic Bomb on the ATMOS device and jumps out of the car, the latter was supposed to explode. Unfortunately, they didn't have the budget. So the writer decided to have reality ensuing and have the device just fizzle out harmlessly while the Doctor looks disappointed.
    • During filming of the 2009 Easter Special "Planet of the Dead", the double-decker bus used was damaged during shipping to Dubai, which was incorporated into the story (with the bus being damaged while travelling through the worm-hole to San Helios).
      Russell T Davies: I wasn't at all worried when I saw the photographs, I just thought "Oh well, that's what happens when a bus goes through a wormhole."
    • Originally, the First Doctor's regeneration into the Second was to be performed as a cliffhanger. William Hartnell would have his face covered by a cloak, and Episode Four of "The Tenth Planet" would end. In the first episode of "The Power of the Daleks", the cloak would be removed to reveal Patrick Troughton's face. However, the vision mixer discovered that the mixing board was acting up the day of filming in a way that allowed for a controlled overexpose of the image almost to a full white screen. She and the episode's director took advantage of this, quickly called Troughton in, and made the iconic shot of William Hartnell essentially "morphing" into Patrick Troughton.
    • Donna Noble's father, Geoffrey Noble, was originally supposed to be a supporting character in Series 4 of the new series, but he was said to have died offscreen between the events of "The Runaway Bride" and "Partners in Crime" because his actor, Howard Attfield, unexpectedly died of cancer in Real Life. Forced to come up with a replacement character to fill the "father figure" role, the producers reworked actor Bernard Cribbins into the show as Donna's grandfather Wilfred Mott, since Cribbins (having just appeared as an unnamed bystander in "Voyage of the Damned") was available to refilm Attfield's completed scenes.
    • Relatedly: if Wilfred's role had been filled by Geoffrey, it's unlikely that the Doctor would have taken him on as a Companion at the climax of "The End of Time", since Geoffrey would presumably have stayed behind to comfort his wife and daughter during The Master's battle with Rassillon (whereas the aloof Wilfred, who was clearly closer with his granddaughter Donna than with her mother, had earlier bonded enough with the Tenth Doctor to accompany him during his last adventure).
    • The Third Doctor had a habit of holding Jo Grant's hand when they ran from the monsters together, because Jo's actress normally wore glasses and was Blind Without 'Em, and the first time she tried running without being guided by him she went hurtling into a tree. This became an iconic enough image that there is a Call Back to it in the first episode of the revival series, "Rose", in which the Doctor asking Rose to take his hand is a big deal and serves to symbolise her becoming the companion.
    • The show lost budget between Season 4 and Season 5, by which time the producers had decided to concentrate on Horror and no longer had the benefit of "historicals" as cheap episodes (which could take advantage of Prop Recycling and a BBC crew skilled at Costume Drama). The result of this was the development of the "Base Under Siege" story format, iconically associated with the Second Doctor — tightly plotted, suspensful horror where the Doctor enters an isolated place besieged by something malevolent, and helps the people within fight back against it. This format meant they barely needed to show the monster, and sometimes didn't even need a monster at all — one story uses Deadly Gas, and another uses torrents of white foam.
    • In-universe, the Third Doctor spent most of his tenure confined to Earth because the Time Lords disabled his TARDIS, and UNIT recruited him as their Scientific Advisor; in reality, though, it was because BBC slashed the show's budget, and the producers didn't have the money to convincingly depict alien worlds quite so often. Notably, this influenced the development of two memorable alien races that were introduced during the Pertwee era: the Autons (who were written to look like plastic mannequins so that they didn't require expensive prosthetics) and the Silurians (who were written as humanity's reptilian Precursors so that they could appear in stories set on Earth).
  • Jane Leeves' second pregnancy on Frasier came at the perfect time, plot-wise, for Niles and Daphne to have a baby in the final season, just ahead of schedule enough for Daphne to give birth in the finale.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles originally was going to have a massive fight scene between the FBI and the central antagonist of the first season, a Terminator called Cromartie. When the budget turned out to be too low for it, the writing team got creative. This resulted in a chilling, minimalistic sequence where Cromartie slaughters the FBI agents (mostly off-screen) and tosses their bodies into the hotel swimming pool. All while Johnny Cash's "When The Man Comes Around" plays.
  • Boardwalk Empire:
    • Season 1 ends with the Commodore deciding to go against Nucky. The plan for Season 2 was to give him a large part as the year's Big Bad; however, Dabney Coleman was diagnosed with throat cancer shortly before filming, and the treatment rendered him unable to speak for long periods of time. The season was then retooled with the Commodore being relegated after suffering a paralyzing stroke and Jimmy stepping up as the new leader of the conspiracy, a position for which he was not prepared in the least. This in turn had other, long-reaching repercussions: the writers found that they couldn't possibly have Nucky pardoning Jimmy if he was the one that tried to overthrow and then kill him, and so the season ended with Nucky killing Jimmy and the show sacrificing its second-billed star, Michael Pitt, after only two years.
    • In Season 3, the script had a scene where Owen attempted to murder Joe Masseria in a public bath; however, the day before filming a piece of plaster from the ceiling broke off and they had to postpone it for security reasons. While they were waiting, a preliminary cut of the episode with every other scene included was completed, and after viewing it showrunner Terence Winter decided that the lack of the fight scene made the episode better, since now the viewers would learn that the hit had failed and Owen was killed at the same time as the other characters: when Masseria sends Owen's body back to them in a box.
  • Kamen Rider Double was originally going to be set in a flooded city called Suito; but constraints of budget and technical ability made this change to Fuuto, an ecologically-friendly "Windy City" which runs on wind power. The wind turbines became an iconic image within the show.
  • On The Wire, one brief scene in season 2 featured a number of neighborhood kids playing cops and robbers, with one kid declaring "It's my turn to be Omar!". Fast forward a few years, and that same kid, now given the named Kenard, appears again in season 4 and in season 5 assassinates Omar. Dennis Lehane revealed in an interview that this was actually a total coincidence and the producers had no idea the same actor had been cast for both roles until it was pointed out to them after the episode aired. In this case it resulted from a lower budget than previous seasons that caused them to have to call up actors who'd worked for them previously instead of casting brand new ones, but looked like an intentional case of Foreshadowing.
  • This trope is basically Power Rangers' MO. The show recycles footage from Super Sentai, so large parts of the plot are dictated by what appears in the Sentai footage (when it's not doing a straight-up adaptation, of course).
    • In Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Valerie Vernon was diagnosed with lukemia and had to leave the show. Since the premise gave limited opportunities to have her character Kendrix the Pink Ranger Put on a Bus (it was set on a space colony), they decided to have her go out in a Heroic Sacrifice, leading to one of the few instances in the history of the show where a Ranger or one of their allies is killed in action. In turn, casting her replacement had its own effects on the plot; when plans to bring back last season's Pink Ranger fell through, they instead had last season's redeemed Big Bad return as the new Pink Ranger and go through a redemption arc.
  • The 13-episode live-action TV series about The Moomins has the overarching plot of the king deciding that the Moomins' bohemian lifestyle doesn't fit in a modern welfare state, and that they, as an "ethnic minority" need to be integrated into "normal" society. The most startling change is that he decides their noses are too big and orders them off — which leads to one of the most memorable (and Nightmare Fuelish) aspect of this series, namely that the actors in the Moomin suits take off the overdimensioned Moomin heads/masks they're wearing, revealing their normal human heads underneath. This is not only what the series is remembered for today but is also a pretty effective demonstration of how the Moomins' individuality is threatened by the integration process... but really, the reason behind is probably just as much that the Moomin heads were big, awkward and difficult to deal with on the set — it's extremely clear that the actors can barely see when wearing them, leading to a lot of clumsiness and fumbling around. Removing the heads allowed the actors to move about much more freely.
  • Babylon 5 had the commander of the space station, Jeffrey Sinclair, played by Michael O'Hare, permanently replaced by John Sheridan at the beginning of the second season. This made some important overall changes to the overarching plot of the show, since Sheridan had a very different personality and background. Originally it was hinted that this had been planned all along, but after O'Hare's death it was revealed that during the course of the season he had been suffering from increasingly severe mental illness, which finally made it impossible for him to continue working.

  • Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar" has a guest singer because both Roger Waters (who had blown his voice recording "Shine On You Crazy Diamond") and David Gilmour didn't like their own takes, so they invited Roy Harper, who was recording in the same studio.
  • Brazilian musician Tim Maia and his band were rehearsing tracks for a new album. Unfortunately a nearby construction site was making a lot of noise. Their solution: rewrite the tempos so they'd match the pounding of the construction's machinery.
  • Pepe Deluxé, for their third album, Spare Time Machine, wrote the song “In the Cave” specifically to be performed on the Great Stalacpipe Organ. At the time, said organ was unavailable because it was under repair, so PD decided to delay the recording of “In the Cave”, work the song into their next album, and just release Spare Time Machine as it was. The next album was Queen of the Wave, and “In the Cave” wound up dovetailing perfectly with the story of that album.
  • Starflyer 59's original, melancholic sound was not actually frontman Jason Martin's first choice for a musical style; he wanted to do faster, punk-influenced music. What made Jason slow everything down was the fact that he couldn't sing fast enough for the music he wanted to play.
  • The Beatles examples:

    • The boys had a problem with the recording of "A Day in the Life". The transition between John Lennon and Paul McCartney's parts of the song was initially left blank because they couldn't think of a way to change from one to the other, consisting mainly of a bar count and Mal Evans triggering an alarm clock to mark the beginning of Paul's section. Eventually they settled on the now-iconic noisy orchestral glissando, but they were unable to remove the alarm clock from the song, and ultimately decided to leave it in. Considering that Paul's section begins with "Woke up, fell out of bed", that ringing alarm clock fits in perfectly.
    • It wasn't looking good for "Strawberry Fields" making it to record at first. They had recorded two versions, in a different key and tempo, but while promising neither was quite the sound they were hoping for. Then George Martin discovered by accident that if one take was slowed down, it wound up in the same key and tempo as the other one. They were able to mix between the two takes and create the song we know and love today.
    • Lennon was drunkenly playing around with the master tape for "Rain" when he decided to play it backward. However he got confused and only got a portion of it backwards. Everyone liked the way that sounded, however, and it was the first use of backwards recordings in rock history.

  • The bass line in Keith Urban's 2013 single "Little Bit of Everything" was played on a synthesizer because the first two bassists that Urban and producer Nathan Chapman contacted were unavailable.
  • Genesis examples:
    • The band developed many of the keyboard and bass guitar techniques and tones that came to define them in the early 1970s such as Mike Rutherford's use of fuzz bass and bass pedals, and Tony Banks' use of distorted electric piano and hand-over-hand fingering technique (as used in the beginning of "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" ) in the period between the departure of founding lead guitarist Anthony Phillips and the hiring of his replacement, Steve Hackett, as Banks, Rutherford, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins often rehearsed many of the pieces later featured in Nursery Cryme as a bass/drums/keyboards/vocals quartet without an official lead guitarist to fill the traditional role. Even after Hackett's hiring, Rutherford and Banks continued to use these tones and techniques to fill out much of the sound of the band, while Hackett often opted for a textural, subtle approach that blended in the background (almost like a synthesizer at times), at least apart from instances where he was given space to solo or shine. This may also account for the tight musical camaraderie and confidence that the Banks/Collins/Rutherford trio developed when reduced to a trio.
    • Also, as they played bigger venues and audiences by 1970-72, where the PA systems weren't always the best, there was dead air in between many songs as the band spent long periods of time setting their guitars to alternate tunings, loading sounds into (or fixing) the Mellotron and other instruments, and setting up and disassembling props and set pieces. Gabriel also noted, to his consternation, that there were often four musicians onstage either surrounded by equipment or intravertedly looking down at their instruments or effects pedals (often sitting down and/or in shadow) hardly acknowledging the audience in front of them. Gabriel began filling the spaces by telling deadpan, weird, non-sequitur, often unrelated sci-fi or fantasy stories (or surreal comedy sketches with ex-child actor Phil) to keep the audience involved, which led to using masks, costumes and props to illustrate the complex lyrics. The costumes, masks, props and stories also helped create an image, dry humor and mystique around the band and gave them a shock factor, which led to much publicity and attention they might not have gotten otherwise.
  • The Who's Pete Townshend developed his signature guitar-smashing quite by accident one night when he was frustrated with the low ceiling at the venue they were playing at.
  • A cycle sets in with certain styles and trends in music, from grunge to techno to "retro" music, as the sounds that many of these styles are built around stems from (sometimes idiosyncratic) used vintage instruments which have fallen out of favor and are easy to find and afford. As the new styles become popular, the equipment increases in value and decrease in supply, while the trends that used to be fashionable are found at bargain prices.

  • James Naismith, a physical education professor at International Young Men's Christian Association Training School (the YMCA today) was looking for a pair of boxes for the game that he had just recently invented. When he asked a worker at the Y for some boxes, he was told that they didn't have any, but he did have some old peach baskets lying around that could be of some use. The rest is history.
  • Some historians believe the rule to stop the clock on an incomplete forward pass in American football came because in the early days of the sport, games had only one ball and an old man for the official, necessitating the stoppage while the ball was retrieved.
    • For the longest time in the NFL, the goals were on the goal line rather than the end line. This was supposedly done when the championship game was moved to an indoor arena one year and there wasn't enough space to put the goals on the end lines.
    • The baseball rule that the first two foul balls are strikes came about at least in part because the supply of balls was limited and the balls were not as tough as they have become since, so by the end of the game the balls were often battered into irregular shapes, to the delight of hitters and the consternation of pitchersnote 

    Video Games 
  • In City of Heroes, you could not initially wear a cape. In real life this is because the developers couldn't figure out how to implement decent cape physics. In game, new heroes could not wear capes out of respect for Hero 1, who went on a suicide mission to stop the Alien Invasion that wiped out the beta. The city representative gave a mission where you could read the history of Hero 1 and visit his memorial. Upon completion you get the option to wear a cape.
    • By the time City of Villains arrived this was a bit of The Artifact. But Lord Recluse will not let you wear a cape until you prove you're bad enough to go to Paragon City, smash lots of property, take out a chunk of Longbow, beat up a hero and take his cape for yourself.
  • Fog in video games is usually done because of the difficulty — or even impossibility — of rendering an entire area all at once. In order to make up for the limitation, the developers will usually Hand Wave it in some way. Some examples:
    • A well-executed and well-received case: Silent Hill's fog helps the game's atmosphere so much that the fog (or sometimes snow) was retained long after technical improvements had obviated the need for it.
    • Spider-Man for the PlayStation uses the fog as a major plot point. The sequel got around it by having all the rooftop levels at night or dawn.
    • Grand Theft Auto III has heavy fog that just adds to the overall aesthetic of "crappy New York-esque city".
    • The gas zombies in Dead Rising 2 are accompanied by green fog because it makes it easier to render the increased amounts of zombies.
    • Superman 64 has green "kryptonite fog" which allegedly explains why Superman isn't so super-powered in Lex Luthor's virtual world.
  • The Tenchu games take place at night because it was easier on the PlayStation's processor.
  • As indicated above, multiple disc games often make certain areas inaccessible after certain points in the plot, to save on space on each disc. Each disc usually has some big event occur at the end of the disc that will remove access to certain side areas that are no longer useful to the plot in the next disc. It's annoying if you needed a certain item for a side quest, but allowing the developers to not have to try and fit the entire world and everything in it on the last disc, freeing them up some space for ending cutscenes, boss data, and the very definite final dungeon.
  • Deus Ex: The Unreal Engine would not have been able to handle a fully rendered city with 2000 technology, forcing the creators to Hand Wave the boxed-in sections in the New York levels with a justification that due to high crime rates, authorities have walled in ghettos and other undesirable areas. In Paris, the boxed-in city is justified with the nation being on lock-down due to terrorist attacks.
    • A very eerie example was the lack of the World Trade Center in the New York Skyline. Due to memory limitations, the sections of the skybox including the World Trade Center had to be removed, and the creators justified it saying that they had been destroyed in a terrorist attack before the game started. Keep in the mind that the game came out in 2000. note 
    • A Game Mod of the game, The Nameless Mod, boxes its cities in as well and justifies it with a mention that Forum City is on lockdown due to one of the moderators being kidnapped. The maps are bigger than Deus Ex's were, since the mod was designed with the thought that it would be run on more powerful computers, but you can see why the boxed-in method was needed if you "noclip" yourself away from the map and try to view it all at once. It can lag or even crash the game.
    • Half-Life 2 features highly constrained cityscape levels in City 17 for more or less the same reason. (The outdoor levels are more open, and feature less detailed textures and fewer props to compensate.) The result was a claustrophobic, hemmed-in feeling that fit perfectly with the early levels spend under the thumb of the Combine.
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War: The final level at Liberty Island was frozen over and much of it cut off due to the fact that the console version of the game would not be able to handle swimming and larger maps.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Donkey Kong: The original arcade game had a chubby, mustachioed Mario (then known as Jumpman) wearing a hat and overalls due to technical limitations. The technology at the time would not have been able to show Mario's hair sticking up when he fell, a mustache would be easier to show than a mouth at that resolution, overalls were the only piece of clothing that could also been seen with 1981 graphics, and only square hit boxes were possible. These same traits would latter come to benefit Mario again in his Nintendo 64 outings, which have aged considerably better than other early 3D games as a result.
    • When the very first Super Mario Bros. 1 was nearing completion, the play testers deemed the Koopa Troopas, originally intended to be the basic enemy type, to be too tricky to beat for earlier portions of the game. However, very little space was left to program anything else into the code. So they came up with a simply-designed walking mushroom that only had two frames of animation, which were actually flipped versions of the same image. At the same time, this creature's resemblance to the Super Mushroom required them to change the item's look and behavior. Thus, a last-minute attempt to squeeze in something to make the game more fair led to the creation of the iconic Goomba.
  • One of the key traits of Space Invaders is how the aliens get faster as you destroy more and more of them. This was originally an unfortunate consequence of the low processing power being choked by the large number of enemies, but the creators liked it and decided to keep it in.
  • Probably one of the reasons games that were set in space were probably so popular in the early days of video games was how easy they were on both the part of the developers and on the hardware they ran on. Black screen with occasional white dots is very easy to draw.
  • Due to technical limitations, the early Resident Evil games had a loading screen for each area. The designers took advantage of this by making the loading screen the animation of a door opening. The door, in fact, that the player was entering through. As with Silent Hill's fog, these became so linked with the series that, even when they were able to effectively eliminate loading times for the first game's GameCube remake, they kept the door scenes in anyway.
    • In Resident Evil Code: Veronica X the developers tried to manufacture this tension, with deliberately delayed door openings accompanied by thudding heartbeat sounds and throbbing rumble controllers.
  • The first Dizzy game made use of an engine for rotating sprites in real time, allowing the hero to roll and tumble. However, the engine worked best on simple shapes, such as circles - and thus, Dizzy became an egg.
  • Ambidextrous Sprites in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past were explained by a superstition about keeping one's shield towards Death Mountain.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, after a bug involving an item that took meat away from players (coupled with the ridiculously high cap for meat) screwed up the game's economy, a number of "meat sinks" were introduced to deal with the "bug meat", including the Penguin Mafia and the various goods they offered. Much later in the game, a database error that wiped out several days' progress for many players lead to the introduction of a "Time Arc", in which portals through time started opening up throughout the kingdom.
  • In the Monkey Island games, Stan has an Unmoving Plaid pattern due to technical reasons in the first game, but it has been kept, even after the series became full-3D (and it required extensive effort to replicate under the conditions) and becoming a plot point in Tales, simply because it is so iconic of Stan.
  • Metroid
    • With Metroid 1, the iconic Morph Ball came into being because the programmers had trouble making an animation of Samus crawling through small passageways. Thus, they made do with a much simpler animation of a rolling ball.
    • The similarly-iconic shoulders came about in Metroid II: Return of Samus because, it being a classic Game Boy game, they couldn't use alternate colors to differentiate between the starting Power Suit and the Varia upgrade as they did in the first game. This look has essentially become her defining outfit, to the point that Metroid: Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission are the only games in the series that don't give the massive shoulders with the Varia upgrade or even give her that upgrade from the start.
    • Metroid Prime, like Resident Evil, hides loading times behind the doors. The doors simply won't open until the next room is loaded. During normal gameplay you usually won't notice this unless you listen to your Gamecube or Wii's disc drive suddenly spin up as you approach or shoot the door.
  • When Metal Gear Solid was remade for the Nintendo GameCube as The Twin Snakes, just about all of the dialogue was re-recorded, despite most of it being identical to the original PlayStation version (and it even uses all of the same actors to boot, courtesy of David Hayter.) While it would make sense insofar as mentioning the different buttons and such, Hayter mentioned in an interview that when the dialogue for the original was recorded, it was done in an apartment that was converted into a studio. If that was used for the remake, then the GameCube's sound card would pick up outside noises, including traffic.
  • Star Fox's iconic Arwing fighter design was conceived largely because it could be made out of relatively few polygons. In addition, the "fly into the screen" approach was used because of the SNES's strength at drawing 2D backgrounds, further conserving limited processing power. Full details are provided in this Iwata Asks interview.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, none of the Qunari had horns although their race is supposed to have them. This was because BioWare didn't have the time to create alternate designs for all the helmets just so your Qunari party member could wear them, so they opted to not give him horns at all and Hand Wave it by saying that Qunari born without horns are considered to be destined for greatness, while those who choose to leave the Qun cut off their horns as a way of showing their rejection (all the other Qunari in the game).
    • Similarly, golems are supposed to be 10 feet tall and appear that way in cut scenes, but Shale, a golem you can recruit, is much smaller and explains that it used to be the same size as the others until a previous owner actually chiseled down its legs because it kept getting stuck in doors. This is something of a Development Gag since the meta reason for this was just that — the character model kept getting stuck in doorways, but in story it helps explain Shale's disdain for humans after being treated that way.
  • The miasma in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is the driving force of the entire game, but it was originally just designed to keep the whole team on screen at all times. Your party has to carry around a chalice that wards the miasma in its radius, and leaving the ward causes you to take damage, so nobody can wander off, so split-screen isn't necessary, so everyone gets to enjoy Scenery Porn.
  • Q*bert and his enemies were supposed to speak in full English. However, the Votrax speech synthesizer used made things sound almost unintelligible, so this was changed to a sort of alien language that gave Q*Bert his famous profanity. The only distinguishable sounds are "bye-bye" when you get a game over and "Hello, I'm turned on" when the machine is powered up.
  • The second game of the Legacy of Kain series, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, was much larger during development, which lead to it being an Obvious Beta. Among other cut content, Raziel's final brother Turel would have been fought, the Human Citadel would have been non-optional and contained a hidden area where the vampire worshipping humans lurked, and the ending was entirely unambiguous, Raziel successfully killing Kain and then activating the Silenced Cathedral to destroy every Vampire in Nosgoth. Crystal Dynamics was running out of time and there was only so much room on the disk, so a lot of content was cut and left out to be included in future games. Ironically, this would lead to a case of Tropes Are Not Bad though, because the series would go on to have an amazingly complex Kudzu Plot centering on Kain and Raziel's trips through time.
  • In the original Prince of Persia, the game developers wanted to add another character; however, space on the game floppy was limited, and a new character could only be created if it was a Palette Swap of an existing one. After tinkering a bit, the development team came up with a dark copy of the Prince: the Shadow Prince. This later became central to the game's plot: the Shadow Prince is generated when the Prince passes through a magical mirror, and the Prince must rejoin his split self near the finale of the game.
  • In Portal 2 Cave Johnson's assistant was originally going to be male and named Greg. However, since the part was so small, Valve didn't want to pay another voice actor so they changed him to Caroline and had Ellen McLain voice her. Then they had to come up with a reason as to why Caroline and GLaDOS sound exactly alike.
    • Amusingly enough, for the Perpetual Testing Initiative expansion, they had J. K. Simmons record new lines as "Cave Prime", in which he references his assistant Greg. Greg is still The Voiceless.
  • In Far Cry 3, Hoyt Volker was supposed to be the sole Big Bad. Then Michael Mando auditioned for the minor character "Lupo". He didn't get the part but they were so impressed by the audition that they decided to scrap Lupo, turn Hoyt into a Bigger Bad and create a whole new Big Bad for Mando to play, one which took over all advertising and even the cover of the game: Vaas.
  • How the plot of BioForge came to be: you're a cyborg (so you don't need fluid lifelike animations) and, due to a disaster, the base you're in is almost completely abandoned (no large amounts of on-screen characters needed).
  • The red and white colors of the Famicom were due to those colors of plastic being the cheapest at the time.
  • This series of blog posts by the creators of Crash Bandicoot describes how the limitations of the hardware of the original Playstation dictated almost every design choice, from level design to character design to even one of the mechanics the series is most known for (which in turn named the character). Basically, Crash turned out the way it is because technology sucked at the time.
  • Double Dragon was originally conceived as a sequel to Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun, but evolved into an original IP because the lead director (Yoshihisa Kishimoto) wanted to make a game that could be marketable in the west without having to spent time working on a second version for the foreign market like he did with Renegade.
  • The reason why Little Mac was made so little in the NES version of Punch-Out!! was to make it easier to see your opponent, as the developers couldn't translate the wireframe graphics from the arcade version properly.
  • System Shock 2 was made when 3D graphics were in their infancy and computers simply didn't have the processing power to render very many character at once, let alone make them look human. On the other hand, sound design was easy. The result was a terrifying haunted house of an abandoned spaceship where players spend most of their time alone, always on edge waiting for the next inhuman abomination to show up out of nowhere and attack them. And since there were no living characters around to give out the plot, Ken Levine instead created the Shock franchise's now-iconic audio logs.
  • Rayman was given Raymanian Limbs because this saved animation time and disc space for other content on the limited hardware of the time.
  • Shinobi for the PS2 has the hero wearing an extremely long red scarf. This originally started with them goofing around with the parameters, and they set it to 200%. They realized this allowed the player to keep track of the character much better, so it was left like that.
  • Super Robot Wars 2 was meant to have Aura Battler Dunbine in, but Banpresto couldn't secure the rights to it. Rather than simply give up on the idea entirely, the company decided to create an Original Generation Expy in the form of Masaki Andoh and the Cybuster. Since then, the number of Super Robot Wars games that are devoid of original protagonists an be counted on one hand and the Masou Kishin plot in particular is the longest one of them all, and still ongoing as well.
  • The designers of Facade admitted that they deliberately made Trip and Grace such self-centered, denial-prone people in order to justify and disguise some of the limitations of the AI. If the player says and does something the dev team didn't anticipate, Trip and Grace will choose to focus on their own needs instead, or just ignore the player's actions entirely.

    Web Comic 
  • The webcomic Bob and George is made of this trope. Originally the comic was supposed to be a hand drawn comic about teenage superheroes. The Mega Man sprite comics were originally just filler material. However, the author, Dave Anez, was a self admitted lousy artist and the hand drawn comic wouldn't pan out. After trying and failing multiple times he gave up. By then the "filler" sprite comic had become so popular that it became the main comic and a storyline was written to bring the title characters into the plot. Subsequent storylines would frequently change direction in order to fill in plot holes.
    • Another prominent example is the existence of the Helmeted Author. Originally it was meant to be the normal Author character who was now wearing a helmet because it was impossible to render a helmetless sprite in certain positions. However Dave later accidentally put both the normal and Helmeted Author sprites in one holiday comic. As a result the Helmeted Author went on to become not only a separate character, but a major recurring villain.

    Web Original 
  • Zero Punctuation's Yahtzee declared that older horror games are more frightening than the newer ones, because the older games had to have "fog" due to technical limitations, and the monsters weren't as well fleshed out, leaving the details up to the viewer's imagination. And when it's up to your subconscious, it's always scarier.
    "This was part of Silent Hill from the beginning. Konami wanted to make a full-3D survival horror game, but since they were making it on the PS1 they had to wind back the draw distance to about six inches and make up a story about supernatural fog. Result: instantly iconic horror, and by following the same principle, Silent Hill 2 still looks fantastic despite the PS2's datedness."
    • This was part of a column he wrote about several "rules" game developers should follow, one of which was something like "Thou Shalt Always Embrace One's Limitations", which is this trope in a nutshell.
    • He also thought that Driver: San Francisco was all the better for explaining the body-jumping mechanic and all Acceptable Breaks from Reality as part of Tanner's Adventures in Comaland. When a chase ends with the target escaping out of the gameworld's limit, the game hangs a lampshade on with Tanner having to make excuses for losing him without saying "He went past the edge of my dreamworld".
    • More directly, the show Zero Punctuation itself came about because of this trope. Yahtzee wanted to do some video-style Lets Plays, but lacked video capture equipment and software and wanted to do it on the cheap. So he decided to record his voice and draw a few doodles in MS Paint and compose it together into a video. After two videos someone from The Escapist saw his stuff, found it amusing, and offered him a deal. The rest is history.
  • From The Furious D Show, a blog about pop culture and the business behind it, Hollywood Babble On & On #528: The Curse of the Dark Castle
    "I think it was Stephen King who said that horror has to be cheap, because big budgets require big explanations. If a company is spending tens of millions of dollars on special effects, a filmmaker is compelled to show the entire monster in loving detail. That kills the mystery, and with it, the horror. It's actually better to cheap out, because then the filmmakers have to use darkness, and mystery to hide the fact that they're made of rubber and string, hence escalating the potential for horror."
  • A music editor decided to make the turrets from Portal sing. Some parts of the song didn't work out well, so the editor made a story about this crazy person who blew up Aperture Science Enrichment Center before he could finish. Watch it here!
  • The author of the Chaos Timeline originally had planned to call the internet of this world "Weltnetz" but found out that German neonazis use this term already for the existing internet, so he changed it to "Weltsystem".
  • The Machinima Water-Human has one of its characters, a giant beetle, become small in later episodes, which is explained by a Hand Wave. To create his original incarnation, the author used a cheat code that makes all the non-player characters large, so it would be impossible to have the large Large Beetle in one shot with normal-sized characters.
  • Some websites that are used for hosting fiction include limits on the filesize that can be added at once, which may lead to planned chapters being broken up with a cliffhanger or transition being added in to stop the break feeling out of place.

    Western Animation 
  • Veggie Tales came into being because the creators were limited to armless, legless, hairless characters thanks to rudimentary CGI.
  • After Goofy's voice actor Pinto Colvig left the Disney studio in the late 1930s, the film-makers needed to come up with a quick solution to hide the character's voicelessness before finding a replacement. They did this by creating an entire series around a world of mute Goofy look-alikes performing everyday tasks, while a narrator (voiced by John McLeish) explained what the characters were doing to the audience. The How to... shorts went on to become the most famous of all the Goofy series, and continued even after Colvig returned to voice the character in the mid 1940s.
  • From Mainframe Animation:
    • Beast Wars was an entirely CGI program, which made it quite expensive. As a result it had a smaller cast than other Transformers shows, leading to a stronger focus on the characterization of the existing characters.
    • ReBoot was the first ever 3D animated series. Mainframe knew the technical limitations it was under and instead of trying to hide the fact that the software was still rather primitive, the company set the series within a computer, explaining why everything was so pristine and polygonal. This also allowed for several computer-based jokes to get crap past the radar as well as reusing character models and assets (even from other shows).
  • In the second season of Avatar: The Last Airbender veteran voice actor Mako died suddenly, and wound up having his role of Iroh taken over by fellow actor Greg Baldwin. By sheer coincidence the first few episodes of season 3 that had already been written featured Iroh being largely silent as he was imprisoned. The gap in his speaking appearances made the transition between voice actors less jarring when Iroh began to speak frequently again, though since Baldwin is a self-taught Mako understudy many people may not even have noticed the change.

Alternative Title(s):

Writing Around Limitations