Concept -> Story -> Game

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NoJunkMai...@spamfree.enteract.com

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Sep 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/22/97
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I'm back to pondering the depth of interactive fiction, after a prolonged
leave of absence. My first work remains woefully unfinished (you may
recall a UFO adventure called AREA 21: Above Top Secret) - something I'm
sure many of you can sympathize with.

Well, reintroductions aside, to the purpose:

I've distilled the creation process down into three simpler evolutionary
stages and listed them as the title for this post and am interested in
others' comments:

Concept: hey, I'd like to write a game about <concept>!
Story: in the world of <concept>, I've created an interesting storyline
Game: I've taken my <story> and have made it interactive

To elaborate, in the Concept phase, the aspiring implementor hits upon an
area of interest and decides that an IF game set in this "universe" would
be an intriguing prospect. In my own, abandoned, project, I felt strongly
that an IF adventure in the shadowy depths of the UFO/alien counterculture
would be worth playing and an enjoyable project [note that this was circa
1993, before 'alien-mania' swept the world, thanks to the X-Files and
films like Independence Day and Contact].

At this point, I've carved out my basic Concept, and did some research and
investigation, and settled upon a specific part of the genre I wished to
focus on and worked up the outline of a Story. Again, my project led me
to read the contents of the UFO shelf at my local library, and I ended up
with a story concerning secret experiments at a secret government base, to
be explored/exposed by an intrepid researcher - the player. I developed
portions of this story as rough outline notes, and partly by writing
(crude) narrative fiction scenes to flesh out details.

And then came the Game. I sketched out a rough map of the secret base on
paper, doodling in all the facilities needed to perform the secret
experiments referred to in my Story. This led me to think about what
would be found in such locations (e.g. the base infirmary) and what, if
any, puzzle possibilies presented themselves. Room descriptions often
flowed directly from my design notes, the narrative scenes helped greatly
by providing a process through which small details were envisioned.

------

I suppose my main point in posting this, other than an exhibitionist urge
to show people the inside of my brain, is to ask others if they see flaws
in this schema or any suggestions on how it could be improved. I am
concerned that this design method is leading me down a strictly linear
path. My creative background is one of fiction writing, which is by and
large quite linear, experiments notwithstanding. As such, I feel I've got
a good handle on a good story, but am missing something in the
interactivity arena. I'm far too conscious of Graham Nelson's "Player's
Bill of Rights" which warns against imprisoning the player in stages to
shove the plot in his/her face.

This is already far longer than I expected, so I'll cut myself off and
just simply say...

...comments?


Scott "glad to be back" Harvey

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Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/23/97
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NoJunkMai...@spamfree.enteract.com wrote:

> I've distilled the creation process

That's "a" creation process. Ain't two the same.

> down into three simpler evolutionary
> stages and listed them as the title for this post and am interested in
> others' comments:

> Concept: hey, I'd like to write a game about <concept>!
> Story: in the world of <concept>, I've created an interesting storyline
> Game: I've taken my <story> and have made it interactive

> To elaborate, in the Concept phase, the aspiring implementor hits upon an
> area of interest and decides that an IF game set in this "universe" would

> be an intriguing prospect. [...]

I go more like Theme -> (Story <-> Concept <-> Event) -> Game. The three
in the middle evolve in tandem. But it varies from game to game, of
course.

> I suppose my main point in posting this, other than an exhibitionist urge
> to show people the inside of my brain, is to ask others if they see flaws
> in this schema or any suggestions on how it could be improved.

It's fine, as long as you consider it one schema among many
possibilities. Other schemas are not improvements, but alternatives.

> I am
> concerned that this design method is leading me down a strictly linear
> path. My creative background is one of fiction writing, which is by and
> large quite linear, experiments notwithstanding. As such, I feel I've got
> a good handle on a good story, but am missing something in the
> interactivity arena. I'm far too conscious of Graham Nelson's "Player's
> Bill of Rights" which warns against imprisoning the player in stages to
> shove the plot in his/her face.

If you're starting with a story, and your intent is for the player to
witness it, then by definition you're shoving the plot in the player's
face. The original IF trick was to make the player think that *he's*
digging up the plot and winkling it out of *you*, or rather out of the
universe. This is a fine old classic trick and I use it all the time.

If you're starting with a group of stories, or a field on which the
player can create stories, then that's a different schema.

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

NoJunkMai...@spamfree.enteract.com

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Sep 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/23/97
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Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
: It's fine, as long as you consider it one schema among many
: possibilities. Other schemas are not improvements, but alternatives.

Never considered what I wrote to be the end-all be-all of creation
techniques. Guess I didn't make that point clear enough. I was hoping to
elicit some other's tips and tricks for getting from a story to a game,
and I still hope to get those.

: If you're starting with a story, and your intent is for the player to

: witness it, then by definition you're shoving the plot in the player's
: face. The original IF trick was to make the player think that *he's*
: digging up the plot and winkling it out of *you*, or rather out of the
: universe. This is a fine old classic trick and I use it all the time.


(*WARNING: Enchanter spoilers below*)

I suppose what's confounding me is this: Enchanter, being my fondest
memory to date of any work of IF, really didn't have much of a story. It
had a great setting, a great sense of atmosphere, and a wonderful place to
explore. The story, in terms of a narrative, could have been sketched on
the back of a cocktail napkin, and perhaps it was. You, the novice magic
user, had to gain entrance to the castle, and discover/destroy the
ultimate evil lurking within. In the castle, you collected scrolls and
used them in appropriate ways, thus allowing you to get closer and closer
to the resolution.

I perceive that "modern" IF is striving to be more than an exploration of
a setting and puzzle-solving, while discovering a relatively simple plot.
I'm reading discussions of character development, morality, philosophy -
concepts much more advanced than just making a fun game.

What's more important to you, as an IF writer: writing an important and
well-done piece of fiction that people interact with, or writing a
literate and entertaining diversion?


Scott

Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/23/97
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NoJunkMai...@spamfree.enteract.com wrote:

> : If you're starting with a story, and your intent is for the player to
> : witness it, then by definition you're shoving the plot in the player's
> : face. The original IF trick was to make the player think that *he's*
> : digging up the plot and winkling it out of *you*, or rather out of the
> : universe. This is a fine old classic trick and I use it all the time.


> (*WARNING: Enchanter spoilers below*)

> I suppose what's confounding me is this: Enchanter, being my fondest
> memory to date of any work of IF, really didn't have much of a story.

This is true. It's true of a lot of early games. It's also true of some
recent games.

> I perceive that "modern" IF is striving to be more than an exploration of
> a setting and puzzle-solving, while discovering a relatively simple plot.
> I'm reading discussions of character development, morality, philosophy -
> concepts much more advanced than just making a fun game.

There is no "modern" IF. There's me, and Graham Nelson, and Gareth Rees,
and so on and so on. I can tell you what *I'm* striving to do -- although
I'd rather show you -- but the only overall movement these days is to try
everything possible.

> What's more important to you, as an IF writer: writing an important and
> well-done piece of fiction that people interact with, or writing a
> literate and entertaining diversion?

I can't separate those two categories, since to me a well-done piece of
fiction *is* a diversion. That's what I read for.

Neil Brown

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Sep 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/23/97
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At 05:11:44 on Tue, 23 Sep 1997, Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>NoJunkMai...@spamfree.enteract.com wrote:
>
>> I've distilled the creation process
>
>That's "a" creation process. Ain't two the same.
>
>> down into three simpler evolutionary
>> stages and listed them as the title for this post and am interested in
>> others' comments:
>
>> Concept: hey, I'd like to write a game about <concept>!
>> Story: in the world of <concept>, I've created an interesting storyline
>> Game: I've taken my <story> and have made it interactive
>
>> To elaborate, in the Concept phase, the aspiring implementor hits upon an
>> area of interest and decides that an IF game set in this "universe" would
>> be an intriguing prospect. [...]
>
>I go more like Theme -> (Story <-> Concept <-> Event) -> Game. The three
>in the middle evolve in tandem. But it varies from game to game, of
>course.

My creation process is: Vague idea -> (Concept <-> Story <-> Game). I
don't think I had decided how The Wedding was going to end until halfway
through coding it, and then afterwards I had to alter the story a little
bit in order to accommodate the extra puzzles for releases 2 and 3.

Design? Pah. Who needs it? :)

- NJB

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