January 2021's Writer Support Thread

Well, the end of December was kind of rough for me, which made it an unusually unproductive month, and then Sunday was a very stressful day when I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked. On Monday, on the other hand, I was very productive. Did more testing and found some interesting bugs, which is always fun.

I was meaning to dedicate Sunday to making a plan for the month, but I guess that’s going to have to happen today. I have three major front-burner projects, so I’ve set three major goals:

  • Turncoat Chronicle: finish the current round of debugging, write an additional bug fix scene, and catalog all the bug-fixes for chapter 4.
  • The Flower of Fairmont: post the demo and finish chapter 2.
  • The Iron Codex: rewrite the outline based on the first draft and my notes for how to improve the structure.
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I’m still working on Blood Moon. I want to fix up a few things in Chapter Four and write Chapter Five… at least, as much of it as I can.

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I’d like to thank everybody here for your support. :star_struck:

Thanks to your tips, hints, and encouraging I have almost completed my first ever (hopefully!) hosted game.

2020 has been a very tough year, and I spent it mostly helping covid affected patients. Nevertheless, the flame of writing burns strong.

As always, stay safe, everybody! If you need any help or comfort, this is the place to come!

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Happy New Year and a Belated Merry Christmas, everyone! It’s been a long time since I said anything about my game in this forum. That was mainly because it was pretty much in “development hell” since June/July.

I have put it into the rework grinder over and over again for months and when Christmas arrived, I was finally satisfied with the concept I’ve crafted. It’s honestly the best Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten.

My main problem with my story was that I found it to be too “basic” so to say. It was originally inspired by X-Men (mostly the movies) and it was created to be a fun, traditional story about superheroes with a racial allegory in the background. It was fine but in the end, it just said “Racism is bad. The end.” While that isn’t a bad message, it was too broad and I think it didn’t really have anything unique to say.

I also found it to be too “traditional.” If I placed this next to stories like Heroes Rise, Community College Hero, and Curious Cuisine (you were a good WIP, pal. Rest in peace) it wouldn’t exactly stand out. This isn’t to say these stories are the same, I’m saying my story was too similar to those three.

In order to break away from this problem by committing my story more toward realism. I re-worked it once to set it during the 2000s-2010s and proceeded to do away with things like holograms and cloaking devices. I then added more stuff like “The player’s enemies will use actual guns and the player could potentially die in one shot if a bullet hit a vital organ.”

Eventually, working in as much realism into the game’s world eventually made me think more critically of superheroes in the world. But to put it short, I came to the conclusion that if superheroes were real, they would likely function similarly to the police. Heroes in this story are faced with problems and debates regarding the police. After all, aren’t all superhero stories kinda like stories of law enforcement?

In my story, superheroes are the main law enforcement entity in the country. Police departments gradually transformed into “hero groups,” and the words “cop” and “criminal” are hardly said anymore. People just say “Hero” or “Villain” in their place.

The story takes place in the city of Rormund City a.k.a. the “Hero Capitol of America” and the player is a “Hero-Investigator” (the hero group version of a detective) for SEAS, the hero group that enforces the city. The story mostly focuses on the poor “ghetto” of the city where the residents are still reeling from an anti-crime campaign SEAS performed a decade ago against a villain organization that ended in controversy.

Ultimately, the story I’m planning is ultimately a commentary on law enforcement in general, with some elements of the superhero genre sprinkled in to help convey its points. Superheroes are mostly stand-ins for the police (with some liberties taken to make them still feel like heroes).

Now I’m going to list my problems so far.

  1. Too dark. 2020-2021 is already pretty grim and I know that my story isn’t exactly going to be happy.

In order to resolve this, I decided to go back to some of my story’s roots as a feel-good X-Men-Esque narrative in order to remedy the “too dark” problem. I want to contrast its serious, bittersweet moments with more calm, character-driven moments. Any advice as to how I can balance my story’s atmosphere would be welcome.

  1. Sensitivity. This kind of ties-in to the “too dark” problem.

I know that I have to tread carefully when dealing when writing a commentary on law enforcement.

While I am Pro-BLM and would definitely like to see police reform in real life, I still felt like I should represent both sides in the debate. In my outlines, the player will meet progressives who want law enforcement to be reimagined, as well as conservative colleagues who think things are fine the way they are.

Because of this, I am walking a tight balance. I don’t want the story to give into one side over the other and I am trying my best to separate it from my own beliefs. To give too much power to one side would make the story a propaganda piece.

This “sensitivity” problem also covers… well, all kinds of violence if you know whatI’m talking about.
I am going to avoid incredibly detailed descriptions for fight scenes and (most importantly) the controversies that plague the society in my story. Most of these in-story “controversies” will mostly be relayed through ominous dialogue such as this from one of the drafts I’ve written:

So far these are the only two major problems I have and I would like as much feedback as possible. I want to make any more reworks as early as possible.

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This is probably not as extensive a comment as your post warrants, but I do think it bears pointing out, in regards to your worry about your story becoming a “propaganda piece” if it leans too far into one direction:

I’ve heard it said, and think I believe, that there is no such thing as neutrality on this issue. There is a danger in attempting to present “both sides” equally, and that danger is making it seem as if both sides are equally legitimate. In other words, your options end up being 1) you lean the story/commentary the way reality actually leans (and in so doing preserve the truth of these matters at the expense of the appearance of neutrality) or 2) you present something like neutrality or balance and in so doing distort the reality you are aiming to provide some commentary on. I think that, when viewed this way, which one is the bigger problem is pretty apparent.

That said, there are some ways around this. If you wanted to write a story where there was a law enforcement-based conflict and have it be a reasonably balanced issue, then you could construct a world where law enforcement was not built directly on foundations of racism, slavery, and oppression. That world, it must be said, would not be this world, at least not in the United States, and you would probably want to be clear about that.

But if what you want to do is write a story that takes place in a relevantly-similar world to this one (albeit with superheroes), then I think the propaganda piece worry is unfounded. The truth is the truth, even if some people don’t like it. You’re not obligated to give equal airtime or weight to those people’s views. By all means, have characters who think things are fine, but I’d say if sensitivity is a concern of yours the narrative at least should make it pretty clear that those people are wrong.

Now you don’t have to say that outright or smash people over the head with it, but I think you should feel absolutely free to do it.

Hopefully this hasn’t come across as too forceful or anything; I really am just trying to tell you that this thing you’re worried about is probably not a worry you need to have!

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Completely agreed. The idea of representing both sides left a bad taste in my mouth, and you’ve explained why in more eloquent terms than I could have. Prejudiced views do not deserve to be given an equal platform.

I mean, if a story has the message that police racism is bad, who’s going to be annoyed at that? Racists, obviously. And should they get fun games to play, where their lousy views are respected? Don’t think so.

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I’ve heard it said, and think I believe, that there is no such thing as neutrality on this issue. There is a danger in attempting to present “both sides” equally, and that danger is making it seem as if both sides are equally legitimate.

The idea of representing both sides left a bad taste in my mouth, and you’ve explained why in more eloquent terms than I could have. Prejudiced views do not deserve to be given an equal platform.

  1. you lean the story/commentary the way reality actually leans (and in so doing preserve the truth of these matters at the expense of the appearance of neutrality) or 2) you present something like neutrality or balance and in so doing distort the reality you are aiming to provide some commentary on. I think that, when viewed this way, which one is the bigger problem is pretty apparent.

Right now I think my story is leaning toward solution #1. My story (as of now) is basically saying: “Unjust, racially-motivated killings in the hands of law enforcement exist. The only problem is what should we do about it?”

I think this really is how reality leans. There is no point in denying that unjust, discriminatory deaths related to law enforcement exist when there’s video evidence of it happening in modern times. It’s only the solution to the problem where I think it’s polarizing and where I find myself questioning my own beliefs.

This is mostly where I draw the line when I write characters whose politics go against mine. I have to ask myself “Does this argument answer what my story is saying?”

By going with this line of thinking, I will tolerate arguments like “Not all of us are like that. There are bad people in every occupation. We just need to kick out bad apples.” I don’t agree with it, but it isn’t denying the existence of unjust killings and it offers a potential solution to the problem.

This also disqualifies legitimately "yikes" arguments like “If you don’t want to get killed, don’t act suspiciously!” This is because such an argument denies the existence of unjust killings by implying that all police-related deaths are justified. Arguments like these are best kept off, and if they are in the story, it has to make it clear that it’s dumb.

If you wanted to write a story where there was a law enforcement-based conflict and have it be a reasonably balanced issue, then you could construct a world where law enforcement was not built directly on foundations of racism, slavery, and oppression.

I was actually considering this at one point. I was planning on making it take place in some “Uncanny Valley” world where it feels like Earth, but something is off. It’s Earth but with different countries, continents, and alliances.

I mainly dropped it because it strayed way too far from the story’s roots. I was a bit scared of making such a drastic change, especially with so many reworks being implemented. I mean, it transitioned from an action story to a detective story and it went from a futuristic to a grounded one, this story was almost completely built from the ground up with all of these reworks.

However, you did give me some food for thought. My story did incorporate some alternate history in it and transition it into a 100% fictional world to prevent issues like historical inaccuracies from forming.

A 100% fictional world will also allow me to bring up other issues more effectively. I wanted to comment on other law enforcement issues from other countries, such as the extra-judicial killings in the Philippines and police brutality in Hong Kong. A completely fictional country with a blank canvas history and political landscape really has endless possibilities.

But if what you want to do is write a story that takes place in a relevantly-similar world to this one (albeit with superheroes), then I think the propaganda piece’s worry is unfounded. The truth is the truth, even if some people don’t like it.

That’s what I always had in mind. However, I’m not exactly omniscient. Who knows? What if something that looks like the “truth” to me may be an opinion to someone else, and perhaps that “someone else” knows more than I do.

This is mainly why I wanted to show both a conservative and progressive perspective in the story, with some lines drawn, of course. I have beliefs but I’m always paranoid about the possibility of my story being biased, especially when it comes to politics.

I mean, if a story has the message that police racism is bad, who’s going to be annoyed at that? Racists, obviously. And should they get fun games to play, where their lousy views are respected? Don’t think so.

My main issue with the story just saying “Racism is bad” was that it was too broad. I just wanted to add more to “Racism is bad” and address more specific issues.

I sure as hell want to piss off racists, but I don’t want to sound like I’m labeling an entire ideology as “racists.”

Addressing issues really gets tough when you’re dealing with the moderate side of the opposition. For example, a conservative who’s against defunding the police but still wants racist police officers to be punished. A person like that isn’t a racist or a white supremacist, and I don’t want to sort them alongside actual racists, hence the need to represent some arguments of the opposing side.

However, rest assured I will not glamorize legitimately bad takes. I am able to determine if some “argument” is legitimately racist propaganda, and I will do my best to make it clear that it’s stupid.

Thank you for your input. You helped me think through some of the more controversial parts of the story I’m writing and that thinking has helped me organize how I want my story to portray these problems. Thanks!

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In my personal opinion (which is absolutely not fact and you can take this however you want), the writing itself should always remain neutral. Perhaps not the plot points, but the writing itself should never break flow for a political tangent, and the theme/message should be explored through dialogue and story rather than in the prose.

Readers are generally able to tell when it’s the author speaking rather than the characters. If you are writing a darker, more adult focused story, you should trust that your readers have the emotional intelligence to interpret what you are getting at without explicitly stating it.

Especially when it comes to interactive fiction, forcing the MC to abide by the author’s personal political affiliations is an easy path to isolate your readers.

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My goals for this month:

  • Finish the edits I planned on making to Ch. 1-3 and post them
  • Write at least 10k of Ch. 4

I think I’m going to focus on writing one branch at a time, because switching between them is going to get exhausting very quickly, and there will not be as much quality in whichever branch I write second unless I come at it full-force (anyone with experience and advice to share on this topic… it will be much appreciated).

Good luck to all!

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@MonkeyLottery

It has been said before, by many here, but the first step is always to complete both the game and the story.

Once it is completed, you can: revise, change, update and even decide to not go through with it.

Write the narrative of your story as your vision dictates … the world outside your vision will always be there, and it will always be changing. If you try to change with the world as you develop your game, you will never finish, because the world is ever-changing.

This does not mean you can not make changes; it does mean you need focus on your vision of your game first and foremost.

I think you answer your own question here. Write your story to be serious and as bittersweet as your vision shows it to be. Then use character based side-quests and arcs to show the calm and steady aspects.

Cyberpunk 2077 does this in spades. It is a dark and heavy world where corps and the top 1% have much more power and control than they should. Yet, there are arcs within the game that show characters of all natures, alignments and backgrounds fighting for justice, reconciliation, change and much more.

This is a huge failing in this community… not because of empathy or design, but because author/developers fail to get sufficient feedback from qualified people.

Sensitivity readers is a buzz-term that is used to describe what for decades has been known as proper consulting and QA. Since you want to write from a realistic law enforcement point of view… you should have someone with law enforcement as a background as a consultant. Or even multiple people, from different aspects of law enforcement.

Then, once you get your material written, you will want to test it as much as you can.

So this brings us full circle: finish your narrative and complete the game – worry about everything else after you finish with the first, most basic step you need to complete.

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I find your idea really interesting. I also like X-men and reminds me of “god loves, man kills”.

Now, all the suggestions you have got are completely right. If I had to write about this, I would try a “direct approach”. Make de MC a rookie with an old experienced partner. Have that partner be nice to the MC. The have the MC witness that partner kill someone because is black. Present the choice of cover him + consequences or speak up and try to denounce + system unfairness and obstacle for justice. In the consequences of covering up, make sure to show how that end creating a much worse and grim world. Which is basically true. And make the MC be confronted by the family’s grief. I’m not sure if I’m explaining or being confunde. I guess that part of my point is that people discuss if the police killed people or if that killings are “fair”. Well, I would present that not only as a fact, but as the starting point. As in “this happens, what are you going to do about that?”.

Of course, you have probably come with a much better idea.

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Have a lot of people experimented with writing games depth-first instead of breadth-first?

So, instead of doing one chapter at a time, writing out the entire story as a skeleton with few choices and then filling in everything at once?

I’m used to writing parser/text adventure games more, and that’s what I’ve always done there, and I find it so helpful because I can choose what to work on next if something’s too difficult.

But when I wrote my last choicescript game, it was linear, and I had to face ‘the next scene’ and no other option was available.

Has anyone tried the ‘skeleton-then-filling out’, and how did it go?

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That’s the approach I take. Albeit sometimes my skeleton is missing quite a few bones…

Until I actually start focusing on the chapter or scene, I do not focus too much on the little skeleton within that scene otherwise it doesn’t work and I start veering off course from my original intentions for the story.

Map out overarching skeleton -> Map out mini skeletons within the big skeleton -> write (maybe)

Writing the big and little skeletons helps me figure out plot which linchpins have to be in the story for it to exist. After I figure out ‘Okay Chapter 4 has to end X’, then I go in and plot out the skeleton of Chapter 4 and see how much variance I can offer the reader while still ending up on X.

Not a published author, so take my word with a grain of salt.

I quite like this approach however. By creating a framework that I have to obey, it forces me to get creative and not take the “easy” or “first” ideas that come to mind when I have to solve a problem.

For instance, I knew how I wanted the Prologue to happen in order to facilitate the rest of the story’s plot and I knew/wrote down how I wanted the Prologue beats to happen and what had to happen for the rest of the story to operate. When I started writing and editing the skeleton, I found pathways I hadn’t thought of before.

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Thank you @Eiwynn for your advice and feedback earlier about RO and hooks.

I have been very active this month both in terms of writing and rewriting.

I don’t have word count goals. My project us currently 431,000 words but it’s highly dis organized and in need of rewriting.

I axed 4000 words today from the first chapter alone. I have been writing about 500 to a 1000 word a day of new material. But I am generally axing as much as I add at thus point.

My goal is to rerelease my demo at the end of the month. Going to the first 30% of the play length and get feedback on the changes.

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Thank you for joining the thread, Brian.

I use different terminology than you, so if there is any confusion in my reply, I will try to clear things up in a follow-up post. There is also a caveat that the following only applies to a solo effort. My approach with a group project has been different.

My methodology of writing mirrors the developmental process I used in mod and game making. As a result, I have phases to the project

  • I first build a pitch, then an outline as if I were making a submission to a publisher (game or book, assuming book publishers have the same screening in place)… with my solo efforts, I “pitch” myself.

The outline is a start-to-finish outline, so this acts as the skeleton. It is here I start listing systems and mechanics that I see as possible, but the emphasis is on the narrative – getting that completed in concept is essential.

  • Next, I take the outline and determine which part of the narrative makes a good proof of concept.

This proof of concept is an alpha demo that shows my readers/testers that my concept works amd the systems and mechanics are viable. This does not mean anything is set in stone, only that the game’s foundation is solid.

  • Third, I make a “consumer demo” or what CoG showcases as “free” (Usually the first three chapters, or Act One). This is what I would push to private beta testers and then into a public WiP thread here.

This would be used to gauge community interest, get more feedback on viability and to set in motion the schedule of development towards official game launch. This is where my solo project currently is. With Covid and other life interruptions, my plan completion date is about 4 months behind currently.

  • Last, I develop the game going through multiple beta releases and incorporating several editorial/build passes.

This is the fun, yet toughest phase in my system; being disciplined and resisting negative forces at play can be tough at times.

Does this methodology qualify as depth-first writing?

Either way, I hope discussing this helps others.

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I am super excited to be onboard, helping whenever and wherever I can. My door (PM box) is always open, and you know I want unique games like yours to make it to the published and released milestone.

Sometimes, less is more, and it is often better to “sacrifice” words, so your storyboard and narrative opens up allowing you much more flexibility.

I have been looking forward to the rerelease; it will be a fun experience to get the community involved in the project actively, once more.

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Here we are at the month’s halfway point.

With Covid intervening for a third time in a year’s worth of time, it has been tough to set goals and to work towards completion of any sort of schedule. I still have not set any goals for the month, except to tend to my health.

The second half of the month is more of the same; my writing will begin sooner or later, but first things first.

Getting a new President will help a lot, since my situation is linked to the Federal government’s responses and actions, so the positives are once more shining through.

I say this a lot, but the truth of it is so core to this community that I can not say it enough:

Thank you, everyone that continues to participate in these threads – it helps others when you do participate, sometimes more than you think.

Also, with Valentine’s Day approaching, I’d like to remind everyone of @poison_mara’s Workshop Thread and Game Jam Thread. These are both great ways to work on your writing… ways that are designed not to be as overwhelming and daunting as working on a huge Hosted Game project.

Lucid should be getting ready to start his testing and as we see with Jose, many other projects are on their way too!

Also: shout out to @Hazel, who just pushed live a unique game, one with a core mechanic system many in the community have never experienced before.

One more thing… I’d like to thank @The_Black_Reaper, and @Ramidel for really stepping up this month and helping with all the little things in our community… keeping things tidy is a never ending job.

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I know that what I am about to write is juvenile, but, these are my feelings. Each time people talks about technical planning and all that, I feel unprofessional and nasty. And because I don’t do all of that is why I am so bad writer and I don’t go anywhere. My lack of talent and lack of technical plans, that is certainly drowning me; the only thing, I have is that I end the projects.

I am still working until 31 January deadline for a contest, I am about 23k not so bad as I restarted this month the project. Still, I suppose the project goes decently.

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Each time people talks about technical planning and all that, I feel unprofessional and nasty. And because I don’t do all of that is why I am so bad writer and I don’t go anywhere.

I could kind of relate to your situation.

I sometimes go to the CoG forums whenever I get a writer’s block and become incredibly envious when I read the thread of a WIP. During these times I felt so inferior to them. I went through countless drafts and re-writes of my story and seeing these authors with functioning 20K+ word demos made me feel like I’m going nowhere.

However, one day one of the WIPs I was following got a complete re-write. The author announced that they wanted to revise their vision of the story. To think that these WiP authors were revising their works in a similar way to me really taught me something.

This taught me that it’s pretty easy to see people in these forums as bastions of patience and that they have an unlimited pool of creativity to draw from. When in reality, these demos and published works were made with the same struggles as yours. The reason why you don’t see many people expressing the bumps they had when developing their games is that they don’t want to come off as incompetent.

I honestly think it’s a good thing that you’re expressing your problems in the forum. I honestly think some authors should be more open about the problems they face during game development. Sharing one’s obstacles could help other aspiring authors face their own problems or teach beginners how to deal with them if they ever develop their own stories.

I think it’s also good to sometimes go on a media blackout every once in a while when developing a game. It isn’t a good practice to constantly compare yourself to others. Every author has their own style and you won’t accomplish anything by trying to perfectly emulate someone else. Some authors like to make detailed outlines while some authors have the story planned in their heads.

When writing a story, try to not visit the forum or any social media site for a while. Focus on yourself, not other people. Only visit these sites after you feel like you’ve made meaningful progress in your story.

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This is very helpful, thank you so much for this detailed process! I’m still not sure what I’m looking for, so seeing someone go into this is wonderful.

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