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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.