In the picture above, my cat Tofu is exhausted by the heat
Regarding the blog post title, I am not referring to what you think! I am talking of course about a game’s size 😉
From time to time, I get asked the usual question “when game XYZ will be out”. It’s because of that if I made a thread in my forums where I TRY (more or less sucessfully!) to keep track of the status of my various projects: http://winterwolves.net/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=3128
The main thing is, that I think I went a bit overboard with some projects. I won’t make names, but projects which have over 6 love interests… and maybe aren’t even normal dating sim, but RPGs!
I often ask for advice and feedback from users. Many times, it is very useful. Sometimes, not. A classic situation is this: I announce a new game, and a list of romances. Inevitably, someone is unhappy and writes the infamous “aww why I can’t romance character X!? sigh sob”. And too many times I changed my plan, to make everyone’s happy. But it was a bad move 🙂
Of course, it’s all my fault. It’s not like the users know what’s behind making a game or anything. They just look at what they will get, and of course they want more, or they want what they like (a specific character, a romance combo, etc).
Anyway, the thing is simple: you can’t think to have a game of over 100,000 words, or with a crazy amount of romances (8 characters or more) and hope to have it done in a year or so. I mean, it’s possible: look at PSCD! Writer made everything in about a year, over 200k words, 16 romances. Or Queen Of Thieves, under 6 months to write 150k words and 12 romances. But those are exceptions, not the rule 🙂
For example, Roommates took about 2 years to write (2 playable characters and 6 romances), Heirs & Graces too (4 romanceable characters, all yaoi), and so on. It’s very rare that a complex game is written in around a year.
The process itself
I’ll try to explain how it works, “behind the scenes”:
- I want to write game XYZ. Sometimes I post in forums/social media, other times people come to me with ideas, etc. Anyway, decision is made to start working on game XYZ.
- unless the idea was submitted by a writer, I need to look at the various writers submissions/portfolios before deciding who will write it. Once I decide, I can do on step 3.
- writer starts to write game XYZ
- writer sends me updates as he/she writes. I read it and give feedback. Usually, all it’s OK though
- if all goes well: repeat steps 3-4 until the game script it’s done. Might take a long time, since writing is not like coding, you need to gather inspiration, etc. But usually it’s done.
- if something goes wrong: here comes the troubles! It can be any reason. Health issues, daily job, etc. Anything, but there’s something that prevents writer from going on. In this case, I need to repeat step 2, until I find a suitable replacement writer.
Step 6 though can be much harder than it seems. Maybe the new writer is OK with what the other/previous writer did. Or maybe not, so he/she wants to rewrite it from scratch, because is faster, or because the style is too different, etc.
We all know the infamous legend of THE CURSED GAME (which shall not be named). In practice, for that game I repeated the first 4 steps, and then the 6th, for THREE TIMES already. For three times the story was started and then abandoned. And the new writer(s) decided to start from scratch every time… And if steps 1-4 could take 3-4 months each, you can see how it’s easy to “waste” already one year, without making any real progress!
What’s the solution?
Recently I started to think about a way to avoid this. Because it’s becoming a real problem, especially for some bigger games. And I think I got a possible solution: go back to make storyboards myself.
In the past, I used to spend quite some time making a sort of storyboard/draft of the story. In practice a sort of guideline of what happens in each scene. They would look something like this (remember this is my bad writing!):
##SCENE 02 ##
#Time: morning, ice cream shop. Amy is helping Lawrence since she can’t find inspiration to write poetry, besides today seems a very busy day. They’re working, when a customer behaves badly. It can be anything, either he refuses to pay pretending the ice cream is bad, or something else. Should be a petty excuse for not paying. Amy starts arguing with him saying that he must pay, when the man wants to leave, and pushes Amy out of the way. She almost falls down, and is furious. Lawrence runs there, and apologizes for Amy’s behavior and tells the guy that he can go now. The man leaves with a grin.
(yes it’s an excerpt from Never Forget Me storyboard!).
With a clear storyboard, detailing what happens in each scene, even if I have to switch/replace the writer mid way, it should be possible to keep what has been already written, maybe just review the texts, but not discard everything and start from scratch like happened too many times in the past!
I’ll need to spend a bit of my time doing this (Never Forget Me storyboard took me about a month to make) but probably in the long run it will save me a lot of time!
Of course, even using this system, if a game has a lot of romances or two playable genders, it will still take a lot of time to make. There’s no shortcut to write a long AND good story 🙂