I heard that it is best to outline and almost impossible to write a COG without one. I am just unsure how to really write an outline from start to finish. how to format it? how detailed? and things such as that. I have a basic idea what my game is about and a few ideas of what can happen but does anyone have any tips on how to make the most helpful outline and knowing how to decide how a game should proceed.
I’ve never used an outline, I just use a mental map. Of course I haven’t finished a game either, so…
Well whether it is written down in an outline or planned out in your mind, how detailed should the plan be? And what helps people plan ahead?
Honestly, I make it up as I go. It turns out well for the most part, but at the same time, when ever I have free time, I think: what can I add to my game that’d be neat?
I usually first make a basic draft of the flow of
the story. I use this free open source program to keep track of my notes when I
write. “Storybook” (open source) to write stuff about the story. Still it will
depend on you, because everyone has different styles when they try to approach
writing. So what works for me can possibly not work for you.
There are several ways to go about it.
An actual flowchart - get the bare bones of the story by outlining each scene for all decisions with their corresponding endings or changes using Dia or the like. It is up to the author whether to put in the small details (“player chooses between the apple and orange - apple or orange or banana?” vs “the player walks into the room; the player sees the fruit; the player is given the option to choose a fruit - apple, orange or banana?”) This is helpful if one is working on a large story with numerous variables or decisions and likes visual feedback with the curves of voluptuous circles and–okay, I’ll shut up. You’d have to learn proper flowcharting though, which isn’t a demanded skill in the workforce but can help.
Treat it the same way you’d write an essay - dunno if this was introduced in other schools, but it was implemented in mine. If you can’t Google “how to write an essay,” here are the ten steps for doing it the “right” way: research, analysis, brainstorming, thesis, outline, introduction, body, conclusion and language. I dropped MLA style as this is not an essay, but if you’re more of a reading than doing person this helps. The great part about this is that you can type or pen down your ideas in a semi-organized way that can be assembled into coherent text within the first few weeks of the game’s conception. Whether’s it vague notes decipherable to the writer or text with the exact wording of the one in the project, using this style is a mesh between both styles noted here.
#YOLO - go as you please, type down those cool ideas in a Sticky Note you may or may not forget about and hope the first draft isn’t that horrible. It’s not the most advisable route as it then depends upon the writer’s ambition and passion to edit and debug the beast that comes after the honeymoon stage and it tends to leave the story unstructured, but if it’s worked for you and you don’t like the other two…you only live once.
Of course, there are other methods and I have yet to even write an interactive novel or complete an actual novel, so take the essence and find your own way. I would be curious to see how authors who have completed their games have done this though, and whether their final output differed from the original draft and their expectations.
I’ve started using a website http://www.litlift.com
It’s really helpful, with seperate tabs for characters, plotlines, items, settings, and scenes you’d like to include. So I have a list of different characters and worlds I’ve thought about and I can see everything neatly laid out, and it helps me pick and choose what I’d like to include in the games I’m working on. Hope it helps
@Didgamottamus, that website looks useful! I’ll be sure to take a look.
For ‘The Race’ I used https://bubbl.us/ to plan each scene. For each choice, I’d create a new branch and it served me well.
For ‘Colonising Kepler 62e’ I worked with @Samuel_H_Young and other writers to create a large GoogleDocs plan. This was great as we could all amend and see the plan at the same time.