When do you think it is best to come up with the stats for your games? Was it something that you had in mind from the beginning and designed your choices around or was it something you only came up with after you had written your story? Was it a mix of both? Did it naturally evolve as you wrote?
For the current project I started with seven, for the virtues, to pair off with the seven vices, since my game is about Arthurian knights. Then I was like, oh, that’s way too much like Monsters, and also going to be hard to make each of those seven feel relevant. Well, my game is using a lot of the Green Knight, so I probably have to keep Chastity. I can make Honor one, have it be opposing Cunning. Duty vs. Freedom makes sense. And then finally Faith vs. Doubt.
Then I went ahead and am making the game around those four. Including a late game event that will test all four, and an optional event earlier in the story that can flip the value of one or more of those tests, so it’s better to have high freedom, and low duty, etc, instead of vice versa.
I am going to really revamp four other stats though, which are keeping track of your armor condition, your health, your sword condition, and your horse’s health, because currently they’re a mess.
So a mix of both I guess.
I am now in the plotting process for my game and It is now When I ask myself just at the beginning of the plot:
Do I need stats? The stats are key to the development of any game made in Choicescript. If you add them after writing the game, those stats are totally not needed for the story and not part of the core of the design of mechanisms.
My question is Do I need not When. If you use when you are suggesting stats are a must. And they aren’t.
I personally took more of a (probably unconventional approach, who knows) approach to my stats. Basically I started with some… typical ones (charming vs stoic, for example, and a couple others I don’t recall because…) and I let my story shape them. Writing horror(ish) I realized quickly that I’d need to adapt my stats to the type of story I was writing. I added benevolent vs bloodthirsty for a MC witch that wanted to use their gifts for kindness vs “evil”. I wouldn’t say it’s the most helpful way to go about things (you’ll probably be changing them a lot this way) but it’s also, in some way, less restrictive.
Outlined the story I want to make, what type of game I want create and put basic stats in. As writing continued, game evolved and changed, thus stats too.
I knew from the beginning with Voltaic that the only stats I’d need were personality stats and relationship stats. It’s different for every project though.
I started out with an idea of the stats I wanted before I even started to code them in, but as I began brainstorming the plot and character interactions I ended up adding a couple more stats.
So I don’t think there’s a “best time” to come up with stats because things can change. I might end up scrapping the stats I added in or end up scrapping an entirely different stat value because it doesn’t get used very often in stat checks.
Because we knew our game was going to be more traditionally narrative driven, rather than about acquiring points or skills, we went into writing and coding with the idea that our stats would reflect personality traits as a means to add flavor text and different opportunities rather than something mechanical that stacks or becomes a win/lose situation. After starting with a pretty solid idea of what they should be, we constantly tweak them during writing, including descriptions, percentage value, when and why they might change and what that will impact in turn.
So, I would say it is very helpful to understand what specific role you want them to serve for you as the author as well as the player, rather than worrying about what exactly you want to name them or whatever, and be flexible enough to have them evolve as the story needs dictate.
All in all mechanics and stats should serve the stories in interactive fiction. You wouldn’t have a firearms skill if there are no guns in your wizard fantasy book.
Focus on making mechanics that matter to the story, but don’t get attached to them. Murder your darlings. Cull the list. Be careful about making the story bend to the mechanics, and not the other way around.
I have an idea for a setting and basic story (eg “a floating city in the future after the ice caps melt” and “teenager figuring out career” + “another natural disaster coming”) and then I start on stats.
I want to get better at not having a stat that boils down to “strength”. I should at least make it “swimming” and “running” or something like that.