Monday, September 22, 2014

Hitting The Mark On Your Ideas

"A goal I'm sure I will reach one day."

Writer Anonymous: Hey! I have a great idea for a video game! I know what kind of story I can write about and I wrap it around my game like a bow on a present! Yeah!

I believe every single writer out there in the Video Game Industry has experienced some sort of burst of creative energy that just lights a fire under them to write on their custom stories, expanding on the ideas that they come up with in their heads thinking they have a super solid foundation for a video game. I also believe that with some of the ideas they come up with, writers initially expand on those ideas for as long as they can, but then things just... fizzle out and the light bulb burns out for whatever reason. It's more than Writer's Block in some cases.

Writer Anonymous: Hmmm... Well now, what am I going to do with this part of the story? I'm trying to develop this main character of mine but I don't want to "push him to the moon" so fast. The decisions I gotta make...

There will be points in your custom game story where you feel like you have hit a brick wall of sorts, a wall that you feel you can break down, but not without experiencing a few headaches first. From my own experiences writing my custom game stories, I can tell you that it's no easy task to come up with a game world right from scratch. You need to thoroughly plan out what you are going to do to not only progress your main character, but to improve the overall well being of the world that your main character inhabits. One thing means nothing without the other.

What do I mean? A main character means nothing without a developed game world, and a game world means nothing without a developed main character.

This is certainly one of the reasons why I find myself being very, very skeptical of the way the Sonic the Hedgehog series is being handled at this point in time. There is no sense of continuity in any facet of Sonic's universe, and if you closely read the articles on game reviewing websites, you will notice that Takashi Iizuka admits as much, basically saying that there's no real importance to establishing a canon for Sonic's main series.

If Sonic doesn't have a firmly established world that has its canon well structured, then after a while people are going to question the credibility of the main Sonic series as a whole. With the way the canon is set up for Sonic's world, it isn't surprising to realize that so many things are all over the place. There is no real structure to speak of, and I say this well after the debacle of Sonic 06. Plus, let's not forget the excessive amounts of emphasis Sega and Sonic Team have put on the fact that Sonic has been the only playable character for the main series for nearly a decade. Nearly 10 years of just Sonic as the playable character you can turn to in a supposedly serious main series game.

Why is this, "Solo Sonica", a problem in the long run? It basically undermines everything Sonic's friends represent as characters in their own right. This method downplays any importance Sonic's friends ever had to the main canon of Sonic games and with the act of stripping away their playable character status, it makes their minimal inclusion in the games contradicting and pointless. If Sonic Team knows they won't be playable, then why are they even in the game? It's a long term question Sonic Team will have to answer at some point.

Writer Anonymous: I know what my theme is for my game story... but how do I bring that theme out? How do I present it in a fun and cool way? 

In truth, establishing themes for your game story can be tricky. There are challenges to bringing out the themes of your story, but there are a few helpful things that you as a writer can do to bring out the best things about your theme. Perhaps your idea is wrapped around a combination of a couple things but you don't quite know how to merge those themes together? Well, when in doubt, always feel free to write things out in the form of a list. I am always doing that to prepare myself for another custom game story project. Making lists.

Steven Vitte's Custom Game Story List:
-Themes To Hit On

Game Genre? Open World Platforming Game

Main Character? An Average Joe Janitor

Why Is This Character Important? He's just an average guy who's put into a well above average situation. He's pitted against a corrupt oil business that's run by a ruthless tycoon and his beloved hometown is threatened to be overrun by this oil business. 

Unique Quirks About This Character? He's got a pet goldfish that can talk, similar to that of the fish in "The Cat In The Hat" By Dr. Seuss. This same goldfish ends up serving as one of many guides for this janitor throughout the game.

What Are This Character's Main Weapons? (Think about the typical equipment a janitor usually carries around, and then amplify it to make it fitting for a gaming experience.)

What is listed up above is just a small portion of the lists I constantly make in order to paint a clearer picture for myself when it comes to a new custom game story. Sometimes it's just best to write things out in a list because even if you come up with an amazing idea in your mind or out loud, you may just forget about it if you don't write it down in a list somewhere, and then that would be a missed opportunity. 

Lists are made for reference and lists give you as a writer a better idea of what you might or might not put into your custom game story. You make your list of potential power-ups that you would like to use for this game but you're not quite sure of which power-ups to use. Some power-ups are clearly ideal considering the kind of game story you're making, and other power-ups... not so much.

You can also make lists of certain story elements, such as what you are going to do to make your game story interesting. You can make a list of possible plot twists that you might want to put into your story because you feel that those twists could realistically make it into your story. You can also make a list of your own personal criteria of what you would like to see in heroes, anti-heroes and villains. What kind of hero are you trying to make? What kind of conflicted anti-hero are you trying to present? How far off his or her rocker are you planning to make the villain?

I find lists to be essentially important. As a writer you create for yourself a process of elimination where you know which candidates are in play and you just go from there. Sticky notes are fine too, but I find myself getting my fingers stuck on the sticky part of the notes before I even place them on a bulletin board.

Even when I narrow down my choices for what I want to put into my custom game stories, there will be some choices that I liked so much and kept in my final list, but for whatever reason I wasn't able to fit that choice into my final draft of the story. That is bound to happen when you go through the writing process. I come across this development plenty of times. I will leave a choice on my final list hanging and then I look back at that choice after I finish my script 100% and think to myself, "Now I wonder why I couldn't fit that part into my story! Why didn't I?" A writer's work is sometimes unpredictable like that.

Writer Anonymous: You know what? I'll make all sorts of lists and after I make my cuts, I'll surely have the right ideas I want for my custom game story! Thanks for your help!

I'd like to know your real name, Writer Anonymous, sir, but you are very welcome. Just don't go overboard and keep it at an even keel level. Okay? Until next time...

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