Creating Storygames: Not A Walk In The Park
CREATING STORYGAMES: NOT A WALK IN PARK
Creating a quality storygame requires dedication, willingness to work and most of all planning. Lacking any of the above will result in failure, or result not up to your expectations. I, as a budding writer and gamebook lover, have spent countless hours on planning and writing games, only to scrap them and start anew. This is the problem with many people, even hardcore players have faced it too. In this article, I will try to make you aware of some points that you must consider before starting. And yes, they are my selfmade points so if you can't go along with them then ditch em. They aren't set in stone, anyway.
Ways of writing storygames
There are 3 basic ways of wrting a gamebook. There isn't a golden way of making a game, it just depends on you and which style suits you.
1. Just Write It Method: In this method, nothing is pre-planned. You just write a paragraph and let the story shape itself while writing. Then you give choices and then ultimately more choices. When it all starts making sense then you tie everything in a plot. After the story is finished, you flesh out the paragraphs and add few more pages.
This method has an advantage that you will write everything on the fly (hence creating some of the best) and you won't be bored of the tedious planning. Although, there are many disadvantages like- you'll give up in mid, your story will sprawl so heavily that you'll be not bothered to continue or you might end up creating an absolute garbage.
Examples of stories written with this method: Bloodlines by me, Outlaw by me.
Planning: In this method, you create a flowchart which shows all the pages and all the choices linked to each other in your story in a branching tree like fashion. It works as an outline and gives you a record of your progress. You write according to the flowchart, perhaps changing some of the pages and choices but mostly sticking to it. This is the most widely used way of wrting gamebooks.
Advantages- You have a record of your progression rate and you will never get lost. You will be able to create complex games with epic storylines. Disadvantages- The biggest disadvantage is that that you'll easily get bored. I won't deny. I have created over 50 flowcharts but never actually started working on them. They seem like a work. Possible solution- Maybe you could divide the whole story into bits. Like creating a 20 page flowchart of chapter 1 and writing it. Then creating another 20 page flowchart of chapter 2 and wrting it before moving to chapter 3. It seems to have worked but I haven't tried it.
Games made with this method- Vampirium by me, All major gamebook series.
3. And One Method: In this method, you basicaly mix the above two methods and keep jumping back and forth between them. You plan a storyline, divide it into chapters, then write them using the Just Write It Method but limiting yourself among the boundaries of the story. Or you make flowcharts in mind and expand them as you progress. This method is great, and I prefer it over the other two. As far as I know, most of the stories on this site are writting with this method.
Advantages- You won't get bored. You'll have a limited record of your progression. You will be free. Disadvantages- Of the above two methods but in a minor way.
Stories written with this method: Order of the Midnight Sun by 3J, Homo Perfectus Series by SindriV, DMW by BZ, Star Wars Series by Skills, Vengeance by Badger, all of Endmaster's stories.
You will have probably realized that most of the better stories on this site are created with the third method. But that doesn't mean that it will work for you too! LOL.
Types of gamebooks
There are 4 types of gamebooks, I won't go into much detail.
1. storyGAME: More on game and less on story (and/or wrting). These stories are fun to play but not necessarily emotional or enlightening in a good way. Examples: 3J stories (excluding OMS), Crab Arena by BZ, Dungeon Stompage by BZ, Homo Perfectus 1 to 3 by SindriV, Vengeance by Badger.
2. STORYgame: More on story/wrting and less on game. Not many choices and a little boring at times but (mostly) emotion, enlightening and epic. These types of gamebooks are the rarest because these types of stories require time and dedication to create. Examples: Endmaster's Stories, Magus by Karacan. Can't remember. Well.
3. STORYGAME: These stories strike the perfect balance between game and story. Fun to play, epic to read and worthy of feature. Examples: Mommy by madglee, DMW by BZ, Homo Perfectus 7 by SindriV, OMS by 3J.
DOs and DON'Ts
Thing to do when writing a storygame
1. Have Fun: Can't stress that enough. If you are writing a storygame as a work then better leave it instead of dragging it along.
2. Read Other Gamebooks: A good way to learn is to learn from others. It will work wonders if you read before writing.
3. Decide Your Method: Decide the way in which you would write a game. Planning is essential, but it varies from person to person so skip it if you please.
4. Skip Just Write It Method: It is just my personal opinion. Never...neverever use Just Write It Method for epics. You will regret it if you do so.
5. Writing In A Constant Pace: Don't write 100 pages in a day (unless you are a terminator, of course). You have a life, live it. 10 pages per day are enough. (OMS is an exception since it's great but was written under 4 days. Like 100 pages per day. Shivers. But he worked on 'hyper energetic galactic liquids for titans' in those days so can't blame myself either for not doing the same. Hehe.)
Things not to do when writing a storygame
1. Publishing A Demo: Publishing a demo is a lamesauce idea. You may get response but it just ruins every opportunity for the story in future. Since, the full story isn't displayed on the new games page (it replace the place of the demo), it escapes everyone's attention. Rookies usually publish a demo in excitement and then suffer. For example look at Dead Man's Journal. It is the most original and creative game on the whole site but guess what? Most of the users don't know about it. Avoid a demo, at all costs.
2. Using A Sucky Title: Good Earth wouldn't have been the same if it's title were COOLIA EARTIA. Just like, Order of the Midnight Sun is way better than ORDER OF THE VULLENIGIA COVRTA. You may consider MURDER AT HOLLIGANGATGAN EXPRESS or LORD OF THE IJHK KILLER RINGS OF IJ to be your best piece of writing but they won't get far. Lesson? Use better and easily prononcible (or whatever it spells) titles (and avoid using a (zombie survival) tag at the end).
3. Using The Basic Editor: Don't work on Basic editor even if it is your first story. Advance Editor isn't scary nor will it eat you up. Use it, admire it. The end.
4. Working On Multiple Stories At The Same Time: 3J said to avoid creating multiple stories at same time. He is super-Uber Right!