Follow TV Tropes


Design Compromise

Go To
What they planned.
How it turned out.

Bob is going to build the best tree house ever, it's going to have turrets, rope bridges, and a lift. He's already designed the whole thing in his head, now he just needs to get the materials...

Unfortunately for Bob, his ideas prove unrealistic. If he's lucky, he ends up with a basic tree house with a rope ladder.

This is a trope about initial ideas and grandiose plans than ultimately are unattainable in real life.

A good way of showing this is holding the plans in front of the camera and then lowering them to show the finished product.

This is present in the real world and fiction. One look at concept art for some computer games can have you asking, "Why isn't the finished game like that?" Lack of time, money and resources is usually the answer.

Could be seen as a specific form of What Could Have Been.



    open/close all folders 

  • The soldier digging in the book The War of the Worlds is planning on keeping civilisation alive underground. He managed to dig a small tunnel.

    Video Games 
  • Rivet City from Fallout 3: Concept art and the finished product
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords was supposed to be a truly epic followup and was originally planned to be much larger than the original, as evidenced by the massive amount of content Dummied Out of the rushed final release. The Sith Lords Restored Content Game Mod on the PC version, which restores much of this content, took years to make. Cut content included a whole additional planet with its own main quest and sidequests, a proper conclusion to the HK-50 subplot, and a variety of cutscenes and alternate endgame scenarios.
  • Concept art for Epic Mickey reveals a deeply disturbing vision of a rotting Disney universe. The finished game is pretty obviously a Lighter and Softer compromise between Warren Spector's original vision and Disney's brand-enforcing creative police.

    Western Animation 
  • On Arthur, this happens a couple of times. Once when they had to rebuild the treehouse, everybody had great plans but they ended up basically rebuilding it as it was before. And again when Grandma Thora gave Arthur and DW her attic to use as a clubhouse - Arthur wanted to make it into an adventure park and DW wanted to turn it into Mary Moocow-topia. Neither happened.
  • The subversion of this trope is the entire point of the show Phineas and Ferb.

    Real Life 
  • Happens all the time in construction projects, usually due to financial reasons. One example is the Currie building at the Royal Military College of Canada. The original plan was to build it as a replacement for the Mackenzie building. Construction began with part of the Currie building built against the Mackenzie building but the college ran out of funds to complete the project, so they left the Mackenzie building standing and joined the Mackenzie and Currie buildings together. The result is one larger building that looks somewhat disjointed, though the consistent architectural styles help to mitigate the effect somewhat.
  • The famous cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris was originally supposed to have a massive central spire rising far above the two existing towers, which were meant to be far higher, as well.
    • Something like this happened with most of the great gothic Cathedrals. Notre-Dame de Laon for instance has five towers but was supposed to have seven.
  • The Bent Pyramid of Pharaoh Sneferu rises out of the desert at an angle of 54 degrees, but 47 meters up it transitions to a much shallower 43 degree angle (resulting in the eponymous bend). There are several theories as to why the angle of the pyramid was changed half way through construction, like:
    • That the original structure was showing signs of instability, and builders feared it would collapse under the weight of the top half if they continued with the original blueprint. note 
    • That Sneferu was worried about dying before his pyramid was complete, and the architects sped up construction by ordering the top half be built at a shallower angle in order to finish before his death.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: