Too many ideas,none finished…actions need to be taken


November 20, 2012 by Nikos

I’ve been trying to write stories for games a year now,but so far I haven’t managed to finish a single one. Whenever I got stuck at one story I would get two ideas for other stories. It would be during a conversation or a movie or anything really. I’ve been writing them down and hope to someday realise them all or most of them at the very least.

This being my first tries it’s been difficult to brainstorm constantly for the same story. Not only that but there have been some mistakes on my part due to my inexperience. For example,the first story I ever tried to write has enough material as backstory goes and the character profiles have been created with plenty of detail. But I failed to do the one thing that distinguishes a game writer from a book or movie writer.I failed to think of Interactivity.

It’s been the subject of many talks for Steve Ince and it’s also written in his book. You want to write a story,you must think of interactivity in parallel. It’s not I chose to ignore it,it just failed to register. So I got so entranced in my attempt to make a believable backstory in order for the whole thing to make sense that I made a story that ,at that point,could be made into a movie or a book but not a game. Dear Esther developers and fans might disagree with me on this but just telling the story is not enough.

When I realised what I’d done,I decided it was time I educate myself before I take a stab in the dark.I just finished Steve Ince’s Writing for video games and I’m about to start reading Story by Robert McKee.I also read excerpts from David Perry’s Game Design:A Brainstorming Toolbox but that’s mostly to help with ideas instead of story creation.

Basically,now I’m trying to embed some interactivity to the story I have and fortunately I’m having a streak of constant inspirations from random moments of my everyday life. Taking notes of those inspirations till I read some more about story writing. If there are any other pitfalls newbie writers fall into then I should know about them before taking any more steps.

If you have any recommendations for books about writing and better yet writing for games please comment about them.

11 thoughts on “Too many ideas,none finished…actions need to be taken

  1. Zer0 says:

    I see where you’re coming from with this, as I’ve tried in the past and failed too. The only thing I could suggest is reading more and when writing a story, try starting with a finish and work your way backwards. That way you have a goal to work towards.

    As for games like Dear Esther, they’re built for the story. Dear Esther has visuals, which is key and that’s why many people like it. So when making a story be sure to have a good plot, some decent interactions AND great visuals. There are many games which lack at least one of these and they don’t appeal to me because of this.

    I’m not sure if these links will help, but have a look at these:

    • Nikos says:

      Blindly starting by a finish doesn’t give you a good perspective,you have to know the start too. I started by knowin the start and the finish and I set landmarks(as I like to call them) in the story where things happen(you use them to define specific events you want the story to have,however important they are,but depending on importance you have different ranks of landmarks). So I have an outline of how the story goes.

      The reason this went wrong is because, well,the stories we write are meant to be interactive. Between landmarks, you have to be able to fill in material so the player can have something to do,also bearing in mind that it has to be unsequential in some degree to give the feeling of freedom to the player.

      You might end up with a story that the way you’ve thought about it, you can’t find things to give the player to do that would match the point&click genre. What you might be able to give could be so menial it’s not worth it. And the reason is that the story is written in such a way that doesn’t give you much to run with.

      So you have to think of story and interactivity in parallel. Whenever you think of a landmark (these landmarks could be smaller and in between more important ones) always think about what you could do in between the previous landmark and this one,or after this one going to the next one. Can you think of something satisfying? If not, can you think of a different event? If you want to try holding on to it, can you think of a smaller landmark to add in between that can help you with interactivity? etc…..

      As far as Dear Esther goes, many will debate with you about it being a game as a game is defined by it’s interactivity and let’s face it DE only had walking. Don’t get me wrong it’s a magnificient attempt at research and it tries things that everyone else should take note of. But it’s not a game. That’s why I used it as an argument of how my story was about to become like DE since there wasn’t much interactivity going on. Even in DE you could see the story was really a memory of things that happened and there wasn’t any mystery you couldn’t remember as you went in the island. You can always make it work but the way it was constructed that memory would come to you just by walking and seeing things (without even interacting with them).

      I will bookmark those links though because you can never have enough resources 😉

      • Luke says:

        Not so much a finish, but a goal. Let’s say you want to tell the story about a man, his life and how he dies. The goal is his death but you have to plan a good story up until you hit that goal, right? I’m unsure but it seems to make sense.
        The idea of using ‘landmarks’ is key I think, as it gives you a chance to include interactivity beteween the gaps. Games can also use interactivity whilst landmakrs are happening, which is cool. Such as dialogue choices or whatever, it gives the player some freedom. It just depends on what sort of game you want.

        Like you said, DE is debateable. I would say that it is the game, because it does have interactivity. Controlling a character, even if it’s just walking, is still interaction. Not only do you walk around, but like you said you look around, which is very important for that game. Without seeing the things your do, the prose (narrative) wouldn’t make much sense, as you need to see it too. Plus the dialogue changes in the game when you play it again, which is pretty cool I think. DE was a one off and was done right for what it is, I’m not sure many people could pull it off. Many people who talk about Dear Esther haven’t played it, so I would suggest that you do if you haven’t already. Watching it doesn’t count. ;]

        But like you said, DE is debateable and all falls under a matter of opinion. What I did like about it was how vague the story was sometimes. I’ve found that keeping certain things vague will hide them, letting you unveil it later on down the line. It’s a good idea that we’re considering on the project I’m working on. Subtle clues is always fun to include.

  2. Nikos says:

    I think we’re saying the same thing up to a point,i was talking about a goal,the clear purpose you have by being the main character in this story. What I’m trying to say is that I’m thinking up ideas to save the work I’ve done because if it’s not interactive enough or the interactivity is not fun enough(a point where people will argue on for DE,because walking around and looking is interactive but not fun enough,it’s a core function but not a fun one that would hook the players,i mean the memories are going to be triggered any way you just have to walk over the trigger point and they will,however randomly,but the what you see does not make sense most of the times,i remember seeing this curcuit sketch with diodes and multiplexers and other electronic elements but it made no sense,it was something your subconcious made to help you remember but other than that it was purely made up with no connection to the reality as a circuit sketch) you have to rework the story.

    It’s mentioned in many places that a writer must be prepared to rework and cut the story as needed to suit the needs and restrictions applied to it. I’m just trying to avoid the reworking(if i can’t then i will rework the story,this time thinking about things before any pitfalls are in sight).

    • Luke says:

      A decent history for the main character is worth working on too, because without it they just seem… Empty I guess.

      That begs the question, do all gamers want ‘fun’? I played Journey and didn’t really have fun, I found it very inspiring and it was quite the experience and I love that game.

      You could argue that Flower had no interactivity, because you could only do 2 things. Fly around and collect flowers. Like DE, walk around and listen to the story, two things.

      But I digress!
      Depending on the game and the style you want, or the story that you want to tell, depends on what level of interacivity you need. For example a facebook game usually is purely entertainment, whilst some PC adventure games are purely to tell a story, like Gone Home.

      • Nikos says:

        well i’m going for a classic point&click adventure game. I do agree with you though it’s all about what kind of story and game you want to do. All I’m saying is that sometimes you can get so engrossed in making the story the best it can be you might fall into a place you can’t put decent interactivity to it for the kind of game you want it to be and it’s imperative that you think of them at the same time so that you don’t get to the point where I’m at trying to save the work I’ve done so far because I like it. Thinking things through before going ahead blindly is the point of my post.

        • Luke says:

          No doubt. Apologies for going off on a tangent!

          Anywho, I do look forward to see what you produce. We’re both working on the same genre so it’ll be interesting to see how us newbies can progress. Will you be story boarding too?

  3. Nikos says:

    depends on how you mean story boarding…

    • Luke says:

      Will you be making story boards to help plan the game.

      • Nikos says:

        oh…yeah….for now i’m trying to think of the events and interactivity and when I’m set I’ll be using storyboards to design the scenes.for now I’m writing stuff down and soon I’ll write em down in post its and then on the wall so that they’re easy to move around.after that’s done the storyboard gets a priority.

        • Luke says:

          Cool, I’d love to see other peoples storyboards for designing a point and click game. We’ll be starting ours soon once we’ve got the story figured out. Will let you know how they go.

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