July report! Text Revision and solving game design problems
July was a bit of a short month for me in terms of gamedev. I took a 9 day vacation since my brother was visiting me, it was very hot and we went to some nice places around Greece. Also spending 9 days away from my computer did wonders for my tendinitis =)
So in the end I managed to dedicate only about 10 hours to Blackout (half the time I usually work on it in a month). I've been trying to increase this time but my life has been a bit chaotic, and also sometimes is very hard to find the strength to work extra hours when you already have a 8h/day programming job. And what did I do with these 10 hours? I almost finished the text revision! In fact, as of writing this, I already did, so I decided (right now as I write this) to change the focus of the post and talk about the revision instead of the CYOA framework I'm using, like I promised on the previous post. I want to do a detailed post about the framework, that's gonna take some time, and the text revision is fresh on my mind since I finished this weekend.
It took me almost 50 hours to go through the whole text (around 65k words), making changes in almost every single one of the 600+ passages and also writing a bunch of new ones. I also "translated" the text to twine, as I mentioned in the previous post, separating every chapter as a single twine story, in order to be easier to visualize it.
The so called "chapters" is another point I'd like to talk about. After handwriting the first draft of the story, years ago, I first put it into google docs, and as it still felt convoluted (with things like big numbers "Go to passage 534" or similar passages with weird numeration "Go to passage 41.2"), I decided to divide the story in Chapters. Well it seemed very easy and straightforward to do that, since the story spreads across several different locations I could simply make every location a different chapter: Alley, Taxi, Hospital...
But what about the names of the chapters? I had kept the location itself as the name at first, but as we approached the preview version release, I tried to come up with better names. It proved to be a very hard task, first because what the character does in each chapter can vary a lot. If you played the preview (The Alley), you probably know you can have an encounter with cops (which can go many different ways); you can find some weird stuff in the alley; you can also see none of that and just leave.
The second thing is I can't do numbered chapters either, because the order of the chapter changes depending on your choices, so it would be kind of weird if one person's chapter 2 was the hospital, and other's was the taxi.
So when we released the preview version, this is what the "chapter select" screen looked like.
The idea of this chapter select screen was more to entice the player on what was to come, I was not 100% clear on what the functionality of it for the full game would be. But it raised another problem with the chapter names: spoilers. We got some feedback of people saying they would rather not know the name of the places the character would go beforehand. I was aware that might happen, that's why I did not put all the chapter names in the preview, some of them are extremely spoilery.
So, how to solve this? I've come to realize that most of the times in game development, we're the ones who create the problems, specially when it's something related to the design of the game.
What is the problem? Chapters.
Who said we need to have chapters? Well, I did.
And what if we just... get rid of them? But... Ahm... Actually, that might work!
As simple as that. I created the chapters to organize the text, but the game itself does not benefit from it. The game is designed to be played in a single sitting, it does not need long break points. Also, we have a map inside the game, that will take care of conveying the transition of the character through the locations (and also show the stats for how many passages the player visited in that determined location)
Of course the decision might not be as easy in every game, but I've come to this realization recently while working on another game with a friend (still in early design state), most of the problems we tended to dwell on were arbitrary rules that were either created by ourselves or by other games of the genre, once we learned to break our own rules the design work started to flow and the game became much more interesting.
That's it for today! I'll be taking 2 weeks of vacations this month to go to Brazil, so next month's post will probably be mostly about the blackout framework.
Get Blackout: The Darkest Night
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