Limit Break

You know how they say, the best ideas won’t just pop into your head?

That’s not necessarily true. The best ideas DO pop into your head, the one or two sentences that stay there and make you think- “THAT! That sounds awesome!” The hard work begins when you sit down and try to make sense of or organize those ideas into something coherent.

Occasionally I’ll have game design dreams. This sounds cool at first, after all if I’ve seen it work it in my head, I have an idea of what to do right? Then the only thing after that is just to dedicate the work hours and crank it out. Simple.

'Cept it’s not.

First, while you can remember the ideas, you don’t remember the details surrounding them. Was the game being played on a neural interface? Where are you even going to start to emulate those sounds/graphics/acting you saw? How much work is this again? Needless to say, after I wake up from one of these, it’s almost entirely impossible to fall asleep again, as I’ll be fixated on the idea for hours.

The same thing hit me again recently, and why I think the idea has merit, there’s a few tiny problems standing in my way. Here’s the basic gist- A simple fairy tail of a knight rescuing a princess is played through entirely straight without irony with maybe 3-6 branches total. After completion of the story the first time around, the player unlocks Tones. Now halfway through the light and airy story, the player can choose a Cynical tone, affecting that specific scene and the outcome of the ending…or the player can play with the Cynical tone enabled from the start, only to switch out for the Upbeat tone at the end for a well deserved happy ending…OR the player could mismash Cynical, Self-Aware, and Ridiculous together and see what comes out. (Though the story would be somewhat patchwork.)

The main problem is that after I sat down and started my flowchart this ‘simple’ story became way too complex. The three to six branches are still there in total, but now EVERY SCENE would have to be rewritten, not just for the Tone chosen for it but some scenes would be affected by the Tones chosen before. The chart grew into a monster and I ran out of patience and the sheer amount of WORK involved scared me. What’s worse is that besides tripping me up, I’m beginning to question how all this would look to the player. How many times will they be forced to read the same text or mildly altered text? Would it be worth it just to see the differences? What if they expect a certain scene in the future, and since I don’t think of it, it doesn’t happen, wouldn’t they feel cheated?

See, the issue is too much choice. I’ve not only paralyzed myself with indecision, I’ve paralyzed potential players. Obviously, I’m going to have to take an axe to the whole thing and try to trim it down into bite-sized pieces of sugar frosted manageability, but it got me thinking-

What do you guys consider ‘too much choice’? At what point, can you no longer handle a game’s open-endedness and just really wish for the narrative to clamp down? (For the record, this is how I feel about Minecraft, and I’m eagerly waiting for Notch to put in his promised storyline)

In some wats this is how I feel about some RPGs like morrowind or runescape - there’s just so much to do, I often feel as though there’s always something better or more fun to be doing… So I actually end up doing nothing. Either that or there’s just so much cool stuff to do I don’t know where to start.

The same goes for making levels on littlebigplanet, for example - there are so many possibilities freedom can actually become a constraint if you let yourself get overwhelmed. So, in essence, I guess what I’m basically saying is limitations can often provoke the most creativity.

Yeah I agree… if you make a game with runescape concept and background…with ps3 graphics and first person view… he game would win game of the year award… Lol no lie.

I actually love ‘sandbox’ games, though I’d like to have at least a little direction so I have an idea of what I’m doing. Being able to do almost anything in any order really appeals to me.

The problem is, they’re usually really big and complex, as you mentioned, so it’s easier to break the game horribly if you overlook something.

It’s also incredibly easy for new players to get lost. I once played a sandbox game that had me end up way far north of where I should have been, storyline-wise.

If you want some advice with this idea, you need to narrow it down to a simple idea. Programming each scene COULD work, but too much work. If I was to do this, I would make the basic storyline, then remove adjectives and adverbs. Then try replacing them with other words to create the tone. Then, give cynical a variable, so when cynical ==1 or cynical switch is ON, add “this” word in its place.

Like others have said though, constraints do provoke creativity, and sometimes constraints help.


Appreciate the tip, but unless I wanted to make a sort of very open mad-lib, I’d still have to write 1/2 to 3/4 of an entirely new scene for each Tone.

Really, this idea is more suited to Ren’py than ChoiceScript. If I could just get find where I put my Work Ethic, (I think it fell out sometime after finals ended) I’d actually try to get something done.

Actually come to think of it, I could still use the replacement idea for specific scenes, while writing a few new ones wholesale, I’d still get to add enough material to encourage experimentation AND cut down on a whole lot of work…

Huh. I’m gonna need some graph paper…

(Again, REALLY appreciate the tip.)