In traditional media–films, television, novels, comics, etc.–a creator usually assumes a level of familiarity with his medium of choice on the part of the audience. As a filmmaker, you know your viewers expect a movie to run around two hours. That helps you pace your scenes, as the audience will have an instinctive sense of how far through the story is. If your protagonist appears to die ten minutes into the movie, you know your viewers will be wondering “how will she survive?” and “when will she come back?” rather than sitting confused, trying to figure out if the film is over already.
Similarly, a novelist needn’t worry about readers assuming each page is a self-contained unit, as if it were a scene in a play. Basic literacy comes with a knowledge of the existence of section and chapter breaks. Novels may vary dramatically in length, form, and viewpoint, but certain fundamentals remain the same. Continue reading
This is the fifth part in a multi-part series on branching conversation systems (crossposted at Gamasutra.com). See the Introduction for context.
Last time, we went over high-level principles you should keep in mind when constructing a branching conversation scene. This time, we’re going to talk specifics–ideas to apply on a line-by-line level. Think of this as a toolbox, with specialized tools to be used in the correct circumstances. Continue reading
This is the fourth part in a multi-part series on branching conversation systems (crossposted at Gamasutra.com). See the Introduction for context.
You have the tools. You know how to structure a conversation so you can work with and maintain it across a game’s full development cycle. Now… how do you make that conversation good?
This post attempts to summarize some key principles to keep in mind throughout the writing process. Some of these principles are obvious but nonetheless important–it’s surprisingly easy to lose sight of storytelling fundamentals when focusing on the complexities of branching. We’ll get into greater specifics next time, but the ideals below should suffuse everything you do. Continue reading
This is the third part in a multi-part series on branching conversation systems (crossposted at Gamasutra.com). See the Introduction for context.
I’ll promise you one thing: It won’t get less exciting than this. The good news is, we’re keeping it short.
This is the part in our series where we discuss not art, but craft–and only craft. I’m not going to give advice on writing sparkling dialogue or how to grab the Player’s attention. Today, we’re going to talk about how to build the sprawling nightmare that is a branching conversation while making it easy to understand, easy to edit, and easy to script.
I can’t emphasize enough how important this is–a brilliant conversation that looks like a tangled knot will drag your project down when your variables turn out to be buggy or a story element must change. Spending hours trying to untangle your own work (or expecting colleagues to do so) isn’t an efficient use of time, especially when it’s not necessary. Continue reading
This is the second part in a multi-part series on branching conversation systems (crossposted at Gamasutra.com). See the Introduction for context.
So you’ve decided that a branching conversation system is the best choice for your game. You’ve got the writing and programming expertise to make it work, and the budget to support implementation and testing. But how will your system really function? You know your high-level goals, but it’s time to refine.
In this post, we’ll discuss some of the largest design decisions you’ll need to make before writing begins. Continue reading