There’s a venerable tradition in the writing world. It’s called the Sh*tty First Draft. I first encountered this idea in a playwrighting workshop at Grub Street a bunch of years ago. It goes something like this: start your story at the beginning and write it through all the way to the end. If you get stuck, just jam anything in for now. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to get you from A to B, story-wise. You can always go back and change the crappy bits later. Basically, it’s permission. Permission to not be perfect. Permission to start somewhere. It’s liberating. I love it.
Our newest game, HRO, is about at the prototype stage — we’ll have a single “episode” or chapter for play testers and demo’ing shortly. But, with an eye to eventual release of the full game, we’ve started outlining all the episodes in the proposed “season” and I’m in full sh*tty first draft mode. Is that plot twist believable? God no. Will players be able to follow that story arc? Probably not. Is that a reasonable way to resolve that conflict? I don’t think so. But it gives us somewhere to start. And it allows us to plan all the sandbox puzzles for the entire game so we can build in the needed diversity and functionality from the start, which will hopefully save us development time down the line.
It also allows us, for the first time, to see the complete sweep of the game — at least in first draft form. How does the arc of the “season” unfold? How does a particular episode affect the one that follows it? What are all the player-instigated changes we’ll need to track as the game progresses? It also allows us to take a good long look at balancing the experience. We can see how many times we’re asking players to solve puzzles with each of the available sandbox mechanics. We can see how many times each of the regular cast members appear in the game, and whether we’re using our secondary characters well. We now know who our “guest stars” for each episode will be so they can be sketched and created. It’s a time of big-picture planning and big, season-spanning thinking. And things are starting to come into focus.
It’s an exciting time for us here at Worthing & Moncrieff. Stay tuned as the story develops!
Worthing and Moncrieff, LLC is an independent developer of video game stories founded in 2015.