201 Things – 33

Building on the high level overview in a creative way is where a writer can stretch their writing muscles.  This is when the story begins to take real shape, the characters become fully developed, new ones added and where exciting conflict is developed.

This is also where the story objectives and obstacles should be tied into those relating to the gameplay.  Developing the detail of the story and plot should never be about the writer going off and concentrating on their own thing, but keeping in constant touch with the design team to ensure both are developed in sync.

The work involved in this step can be both invigorating and daunting.  Not only must the story work in its own right, it must work with the game design and must embrace the game’s interactivity.  The story should help the game deliver a great experience to the players.  The detail added at this stage needs to embrace this completely.

A huge help in keeping track of the story’s growth, particularly if it has branching aspects, is to develop a supporting flow chart.  This will enable you to see the shape of the interactive plot you create. 

Ideally, a tool would be used that not only enables you to create the flow chart but also runs through it as if you were playing the game.  Although not specific flow chart software, Twine can be very useful in many respects.  You can see the whole story as a kind of flow chart and play through it to test that your story works.

201 Things – 31

The process of iteration is to start with ideas and thoughts that are low in detail and presented in ways that are easily understood.  Details will then be added with each iteration, gaining consensus and approval at each step.

One way to look at working with iteration is to imagine the process being like a pyramid where you start at the top with an idea that’s low in detail.  Then each layer down is larger because it has more detail until you get down to the base, which is where everything should be complete and the contents of your story are unshakeable.

The analogy does not relate to building a pyramid because then you’d start from the bottom and work your way up, so it’s more one of discovery and exploration.  You may begin with a clear idea of the shape of the pyramid – the game that you’re hoping to create – but you have no idea what the details will be that make up the insides.

So if you enter the pyramid at the top and explore one level at a time, as you finish each layer of greater detail – each iteration – the story becomes clearer, until you finally reach the bottom and know the story inside and out.

In a very real sense, you’re creating the interior of the pyramid as you explore the project’s ideas.  You’re defining the map with the work that you do.