Drafting a game—what do you use, and my own suggestions


Hey all.

So, I’m deep into planning and writing for my first CS game. Obviously, there comes a time where you must decide just how to go about planning before you dive in—and I’m not talking “full outline” here, but at very least a bullet-point outline, or even some of the prose, before trying to do it all in the language itself.

Obviously, almost anything would work. Pen and paper. Chalk on the street. MS Word. Scrivener. Smoke signals recorded by a specially-trained dolphin. But I’m looking for the most economical and useful.

So far, this is what I’ve come up with:

Planning the actual flow, graphically, with Scapple. Scapple is a program that’s like a free-form mind mapper. Unlike mind mapping programs, it doesn’t lock your ideas into its own grid of bubbles, but you can place ideas with or without arrows, with or without relations, anywhere on an infinitely expanding canvas. You can get it for $15 for Windows or Mac.

Writing the copy, and/or prototyping the idea, via Bear. Bear is a sort of note app, but the important part isn’t the “note” part…text is text as it were, and Notepad would work for that. No, what is interesting about Bear (and I wish my favorite program, Ulysses, had this) is inter-note links like a little wiki. I think Bear is Mac/iOS only, but I’m sure something similar, even something like Zim Personal Wiki would work.

This lets me type out scenes with actual clickable links from one to the next, a viable way to look at the work sans variables and other gameplay elements. If I click those links, I end up at that “scene” and can continue typing away, and make more choices for further scenes. Obviously, no variables, stats, etc. can be used, but certainly the basic CYOA flow can be mapped out very quickly this way.

So now, I want to know what others do to plan, outline, or prototype their games. It might be that the programs I found are the best for it, or not the best. It may be that having two types of programs is overkill, and I end up sticking with Bear only or Scapple only. I haven’t tried this workflow enough to know just yet. So I wonder if anyone with a good grasp of this could give me ideas that worked for them, what they used to plan out their own stuff. Obviously, ChoiceScript is a bit harder to plan than straight prose, what with variables and stats and all, so maybe there are no one-size-fits-all magic bullets out there, but let me hear your ideas, and hope this thread becomes a place where people googling this same topic can stumble over and get answers themselves.


It looks like those programs are just fine for a structured approach.

A primer:

If you want something a bit more organic, then start out with one singular compelling idea.
If the idea has a “I would need to decide what to do in this situation” sort of feel, you can build off of it.

If not, and you want to keep the idea, think about what scenario or situation would the current one connect to.
How many “dots” in between would you need to get from point A to point B?
Make more dots, if necessary.

Connect the dots (the “dots” being scenes/situations/scenarios/events/etc.) and transition smoothly from one to the next, making sure to have a reason why one thing evolved into the other, or why your character is now on the bus, when on the previous page they were flying to Hawaii.

(There could be a reason for the above example, but the reader has to know why that happened, or else the transition is too jarring and it takes away from the reading experience.)

You can use the programs you mentioned as a way of keeping track of those dots.


I usually go from random ideas fleshed out on paper notebooks to a basic outline most of us learned in school (using a dedicated paper notebook) and then I begin making schedules in Notepad++ based on those.

Then I go back to the paper and pencil to flesh my daily schedules, random thoughts, and prose while away from home. I call these latter composition books, my project books and I have a set for each project I write.

I also have a different set of composition books with nothing but characters in them. They are my casting books and when I need characters for projects I go there.

Then when I write a pre-alpha, I write a few “developer notes” to give my selected readers insight into my plans and arrange those via date at the beginning of each pre-alpha report.

Once a project reaches Alpha, I include a schedule with both known issues listed and a changelog.

Beta has all the above plus specific needs to be tested for each beta -if I know them well enough to determine their roles or a general list of needs if it is unknowns.

Of course, I’ve broken half my rules with my current project because I’ve restructured my story more then once and have gone backwards in the process more then forwards it seems - but I’m feeling good about my latest “pre-alpha” work and hope to proceed forwards once more…

tldr: Don’t do as I do. :gift_heart:


Is this an option? Because I’d take that option :smiley:

But in seriousness, I tend to still use paper and pen. For some reason, my brain doesn’t plan very well through digital form.
I get a bunch of those index cards (quite cheap, small enough to handle, and you can recycle them once you’re done) and plan scene variations on those, whilst noting down major scenes on normal paper. I find using index cards means I can move the scenes around as needed. But, that can get out of hand when you have a lot of different scenes.

I know that Twine is quite popular too. Though, it’s similar to the program you suggested.


Interestingly enough, your method, @Seraphinite, is used by me when taking a note at lectures.
Umm… not me actually, but rather my mate. It looks tidy, tho :sparkles: :sparkles:

And oddly enough, my method are somewhat between @Eiwynn’s and @Seraphinite’s, only without pen and paper. Full digital mode on.

If you peek at my folder, there’re NPC folders, scenarios stock, worldbuilding folder, Awesome words compilation, etc. etc.

So… yeah. Here is your example of full digi-mode.
BTW, take a look at here.