Method for game design/writing and how long does it take?


#1

Hi everyone :slight_smile:

I am fairly new to the CS community and have been dabbling with some coding here and there. I have a few questions for people with a bit of experience:

  1. How do you go about writing your games?
    Do you write and code at the same time? Do you plan out your pathways or allow them manifest organically as you’re writing? How drastically does your approach differ than if you were writing an ordinary story?

  2. How long does it take you to finish writing?
    I have tried my hand at writing a scene and found that, although it is several thousand lines of code, the scene itself is actually quite short. Is this something that improves with practice?

  3. How do you split your focus between the length of your story and the number of possible outcomes?
    Which do you feel is more important?

Any and all input is greatly appreciated.

I have been writing fiction my entire life and have been coding in various languages since I was a teenager, so this feels like a good fit for me either way.

Peace and love.


#2

How long depends on how much time you devote to it, and how long you want it to be. If you are shooting for 100,000 words or more, it would be quite surprising if you finished it this year. Not unprecedented, but definitely unusual. Plenty of people never finish at all, of course, so even if you’re slow it’s better than caving entirely. I would anticipate many hundreds of your hours on the project no matter what.


#3
  1. I spend a lot of time just getting immersed in the overall mood and visuals. If I’m thinking of a potentially dystopian scenario, I usually start getting myself into the right mental atmosphere for writing by exposing myself to concept art just to get a good grip on the feel of the story. I usually code on the fly but I also keep that big picture of the plot at the backseat of my head.

  2. Writing is painful for me. It’s like trying to master the art of optimizing the amount of juice you get from squeezing an orange or a lemon – which is impossible :stuck_out_tongue: If I’m inspired by something I read or see, I can easily focus for hours on end just writing away. Otherwise, it’s not that uncommon for me to push one big update and then forget about the project until that inspiration hits again. I’m still experimenting with writing techniques and suggestions that I see here, so maybe that might boost my productivity a bit.

  3. I usually try to focus on generating a few possible endings after I have established the premise of my narrative. Then it’s a matter of trying to balance linear pathways with branching pathways. I tend to prefer the latter over the former, but then I also understand the importance of downsizing the complexity of the choices a character can make. If everybody decided to think up as many possible scenarios and reactions to implement in their story, the amount of time it takes to write it easily reaches astronomical numbers. This is the part of writing that really gets me burnt out the most, mentally at least.


#4

I’m a masochist. I code and write simultaneously at Notepad++, with preferences set up to my kind of flavor (black screen, shiny syntax, etc.). So, yeah. Not only coding and writing, I also modified the software :triumph:

As for planning out the story, I use various tools and resources.
draw.io (online graph/chart/map whatever maker)
worldanvil.com (great site! It sucked 80% of my daily schedules the first time I found it)
Some channels on youtube to get the 'ol brain going: Artifexian - Worldbuilding | Skallagrim - Medieval Armaments and HEMA | OSProduction - Tropes and Cliches | TWA - Even better tropes and cliches | Extra Credits - Game Design
That, and a personal notebook that I’ll have it anywhere I go (i.e. my phone)


Well, let’s see :thinking:
I started writing February 2017.
That version got scrapped 2 months later.
Made another draft, keep it private. Only invited ppl via PMs.
Scrapped again.
I believe there’s another draft, but I also got it scrapped, I think. Never make it into the public.

Around the end of 2017, I’m finally confident to get another draft up and published it again to the forum. In case you’re curious c:


Both! Well, possible outcomes first. If I find that a path needs more time to develop, so be it. This way, it’ll feel natural when something is short, something is long.

As I said previously, I’m a masochist c:



However, one thing that’s the most important to me – despite all of that – is the passion. Write what you want to write, don’t ever feel forced to do it.

Unless you write for a living, that is :thinking:


#5

Hasn’t there already been a post like this a while back? maybe multiple posts actually

I’m not entirely sure but you should probably search those before starting a new one


#6

Thanks for your reply @Szaal I will definitely check out some of those tools :slight_smile:


#7

That site seems amazing. Can you borrow stuff from there, or is it just for inspiration?


#8

You think? :wink:

img

Yes, I worldbuild the setting myself. Still WIP, tho.

But IIRC, all stuffs inside world anvil are protected by copyright. That is, if you literally put some material from there to your story, you need permission from the authors.


#9

Note that I haven’t finished anything yet, just started two projects, one of which I scrapped/put on hold since I started the other. Currently I’m at 100,000 words on the latter one.

  1. Primarily I write first, but I also pepper the text with pseudo-code(code that conveys the meaning of what I want, but that isn’t correct in syntax). I do it like this to get a better idea of where I’m going both text and code wise. It’s much easier to spot any potential problems ahead of time if I “sort of code it” while I write, so that I don’t create impossible to code scenes.

I absolutely plan everything ahead of time on the large scale. Before I start writing, I have a rough roadmap of the whole game. Then I write some small segments out of order and see how it feels, after which I make the roadmap more detailed and final.

However, I only plan it on the large scale. When I’m writing a scene, I go with the flow and see where it leads me and thus fill in the details about the smaller choices and branches(dialogue or such especially). Still, I can’t really write unless I have a clear idea of what a specific scene includes(that is to say, I need to know why I’ve included it in the first place and I’ve made some notes about what I’m going to focus on in the scene, why it exists in the game, what it probably effects and so on).

My approach to writing interactive fiction is more or less the same as when I write normal fiction. I plan, then I do, then I plan, then I do, etc. For me it’s definitely cyclical. Usually when I write, things become clearer, which allows me to create more detailed plans to follow, which allows me to write in more detail and so on. So far this has meant that I’ve had to write my stuff twice in a row, since certain important details change drastically as I write, and the final chapter might have several things very definitely set in stone that were still hazy in the first chapter. Which means I have to go and correct everything and essentially edit the text to create a meaningful whole. It’s the most boring part of writing.

I also write in blocks. Currently I’m finalizing a short segment(a demo sort of), which means that I’m converting the pseudo-code into actual code and making sure everything makes sense and works and conveys what I want it to convey. Actually running the program and fiddling with it feels pretty nice, since at this part I can truly see what I’ve made and it feels real. I think it’s a good idea to write in blocks, since it’ll keep you motivated and create a structure for you to follow. You’ll also get to feel it in practice and will probably figure some things out as you go through the story as a player would, as it’ll change your perspective.

  1. Way more than I’d want. Effectively the writing itself goes at a normal pace(1000 words per hour is my "standard), but the editing part is incredibly slow. This is because I need to take into account so many more things than at normal writing.
    It seems a lot slower, though, since I need to write everything several times in a sense, which makes it look like I’ve accomplished nothing. I look at a scene and think of what happens in it and it feels like a super minor scene, yet the work and amount of words and code in it is annoyingly high. It’s really disheartening, since I like it when I see what I’ve actually accomplished.

The best part of writing interactive stuff is that I don’t really need to set certain things in stone, which allows for a much more casual attitude to writing. Since it’s impossible for everything to be perfect, I don’t need to stress about it and I can just write without obsessing about every single detail. I just need to make sure everything more or less makes sense.

  1. It really depends on the type of story you want to tell. Personally, I feel that both are very important. If it’s too short, it feels annoying and “pointless”, but if the possible outcomes are limited in number or are too different to each other, then it feels like an insult. I suppose I value the choices and outcomes more than the length, ultimately, since that’s the whole point of interactive fiction for me. Otherwise I might just write regular stuff.

More practically, I have some guidelines as to how I make stuff. For something to feel relevant, it has to appear at least three times in the story. First it needs to be set-up, then it has to be reinforced, then it has to conclude. Preferrably these things are peppered at a roughly equal distance from each other, so that it feels relevant and present. If you put all of these at the same place or too near each other, the player will feel that it’s rushed or will forget about it, both of which are bad. It has to have presence, so that when it’s concluded the player feels like it mattered.

Thanks to the guideline, I can estimate how much work would go in a thing, which allows me to gauge whether I want to include it or not. If it feels like too much work, or like it doesn’t have a proper impact, I ditch the idea. It’s all about balancing the length with the possible outcomes.

Occasionally I go “too deep” in on possibility and write a huge amount of content for it, only to later realize that it’s likely to be seen by 1/9 or 1/27 people or such. In such cases I might increase the chances of it happening, or I’ll rationally think about whether the pure mathematical chances are wrong compared to the reality of the story. For instance, even if something has a raw 1/9 chance of happening(it needs two 1/3 choices to happen), that doesn’t actually mean such is the case, since the reason a player chooses a certain thing is based on his actual desires, not pure chance. A player is more likely to choose two “evil” options in a row than to randomly choose one good and one evil option. Thus, players who wish to play evil will likely see the scene at a much higher ratio than just 1/9, and since many people commonly play at one extreme, then later at another, it’s far more likely that they’ll see a certain piece of content since it depends on the context of choices rather than on pure choice.


#10

so noobish question , cose those questions at the top are interesting . But from those who replyed and seem they know their way around the coding and such : what would you recommand to a total noob to the coding ? write your whole story then tackle the coding? will it be overwhelming ?


#11

If your only goal in learning how to code to make CScript games then just spend some quality time on just learning and practicing a bit. There are more than enough material for that. Search the forum for a bit and you’ll find plenty of sources.

But if you want to potentially make something else one day then I don’t recommend learning CScript as your first coding language. I’d say Python is a good place to start. If that proves a bit too hard then Javascript should do the job just as well.
With the amount of experience you’ll have from handling those more general languages, CSript should be a walk in the park. But the time investment is much greater so do consider before committing yourself


#12

I would sugget having a firm idea of the premise behind your story, and then have a solid understanding of how you plan on resolving the conflicts and loose ends you might introduce with your story. You can certainly write out the entire story if that is what makes you more efficient and productive, but utimately for me, I jump straight to the coding aspect because it is easier for me to work with.


#13
  1. Lots of outlining, lots of coffee, a strict morning writing routine, and in-person playtesting.

  2. 2 years per game, apparently.

  3. I like having about two paths per chapter until the end, then branching like crazy based on earlier variables. Replays are probably less important than signaling choice impact; choices should matter, and can matter in the end.


#14

From one n00b to another, I have found it helpful to focus on small, character-building scenes rather than worrying about writing an entire story from the get-go.

For example, I learned to implement player stats by writing a simple ‘you are born in a hospital’ type scene which could really be used at the start of any game.


#15
  1. Hmm, I haven’t done much yet, but so far I’ve found outlining per chapter works for me. So, I’ll just list all the options in the chapter/scene (sometimes even for future ones), branches, and conditionals, before I start writing the story. This way you know how much you have to write, and you can also skip around a bit, without it ruining the structure you have. If anything else comes up, I’ll just add it in.

So it’s like outlining, but I’ve never really tried to outline the whole thing. Mostly because I’m adapting the novel I was writing. I’m still adjusting the plot points and adding new characters. I already have an idea of where to go, so I don’t really feel the need to outline.

I also coded in the variables I think I’m going to need later, so that’s kind of outlining in a way too, I guess.

And since there’s no word count restrictions, I can experiment and expand on the worldbuilding and dialogue more freely. So no more keeping a separate document for the “unabridged” version of my story. :stuck_out_tongue:

  1. This depends on my current motivation and what scene I’m writing. It took me several revisions to the first chapter before I found one that worked. I don’t mind coding. Writing the story needs actual effort, even if it’s fun.

I’ve never really finished writing anything other than a short story because of school and stuff, so I can’t say anything. So most of the time I procrastinate by worldbuilding, developing my characters and playing around with the stats screen and adding unnecessary features. Yup.

  1. I do think that a longer story is better than a wider one, especially if you’re more focused about the story. A story with lots of options is great, but a longer one gets you more invested and your choices become or at least seem more impactful.

It helps if you know how long your story is going to be. Then you plan the number of options around that. And then decide how much variation you have within those options, so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Personally, I’m making my chapters have several branches, so you experience the chapter differently, but it will merge again at the end of the chapter. I don’t mean doing the same thing differently (as in using different stats, that’s NOT branching). This way it’s the same plot, but it doesn’t feel like railroading, even if you don’t have many branches until the end.

I have a rough idea of how long my story is, so for me it’s just figuring out how many branches I want to include. And I think I did pretty badly. I already have 5 branches in my prologue and I don’t want to cut any of it.

Since I’m still experimenting and exploring the world of my story, I think I’ll keep all my branches for now. But if I ever need to cut down anything, it’s my variables. I want my story to be a personal experience. That each playthrough will be different for each person. Yes, I know that won’t work for everyone and only a small number of people will get to see the different variations. It’s hard, but that’s what I want to do.

Honestly, I think that this is the best chance I have about ever publishing a story, so I want to make my story as good as possible.

Okay, I’m rambling, and I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. I’d say just dive right in. It’ll be a learning experience. :blush:


#16

I’m not a noob to writing , but I admit…

Writing a story with choices and outcomes and such ? it’s very very different .

And coding ? well…that’s below being a Noob I’m afraid lol


#17

Thanks for your reply @kgold I will keep that in mind for the future. I agree that choices should definitely matter.

I loved Choice of Robots! My first CoG purchase!

:robot: :heart_eyes:


#18

Thanks for a your reply @Franzinyte, I imagine adapting an existing piece of work is both easier and more challenging than starting from scratch.

Finishing is the hardest thing to do, until you actually finish and realise editing is the hardest thing to do because it’s the most boring, like @Tiavals said!

Good luck with your projects :slight_smile:


#19

I actually find the editing is another fun part in writing, especially rewording.

It’s like you try to find possible alterations to your scenes without ruining their context… if that makes sense :sweat_smile:


#20

This is about my process for CoG games; for smaller games, I might not do as much planning.

  1. How do you go about writing your games?

Chapter-by-chapter outlining, then a detailed outline of the chapter I’m about to write. I make a code skeleton that passes Quicktest and Randomtest and includes all the stat tests and changes, with placeholder text. Then fill in the placeholder sections with real writing. Sometimes additional conversations or small parts of scenes get added as I’m writing, but the basic structure and major branching don’t usually change.

  1. How long does it take you to finish writing?

Varies a lot, based on how much branching is happening and the complexity of a scene, but I wrote a first draft of 260K-ish words in just under a year. The average play length is around 39K, or novella length.

  1. How do you split your focus between the length of your story and the number of possible outcomes?

I figured out a bunch of different paths that can be taken in the early to mid game, and in the late game the possibilities spread out depending on earlier choices. Adam Strong-Morse’s article on End Game and Victory Design has been very helpful in trying to make choices feel impactful while also keeping it manageable to write.