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to our developer blog of “mold”, a modern Adventure game currently in production.
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When i started to work on mold, I had to decide how to approach this pretty nonlinear endeavor. I did read some classic gamedesign documents like Grim Fandango, and some of the Larry(s)…. but clearly, computers must have evolved since the 90s, so maybe there was a more modern / better way to approach it, I naively thought.
So eventually i went with a vector schematic of the game… in the beginning it worked out great (except some tech probs ;) ), changes could be made with ease, and it was great to have an overview over the entire game…
but as complexity grew, it was getting harder and harder to play it through (mentally). Why? because when you work on a screen, u just see a tini-tiny portion of the schematic (you can’t read it without zooming way in), and printing it, would need tons of paper and a lot of space…
well, they are great, aren’t they? sure… but they can also be the last nail for your coffin, You can’t imagine how many little notes were written into my sketchbook and on dozens of loose papers, Mainly, because
in my case, eventually, I had a big bloated not-up-to-date digital schematic with most of the story, hundreds of papers and sketchbooks with all kind of changes, puzzle ideas, backstory elements, hell even “new” parts of the story. Unneccessary to say, this totally crippled the process… I arrived in “stucktown” so to speak.
So eventually to overcome this state of unproductivity, Babette and I sat down, she took pen and paper, and we talked the story completely through (with the goal to continue even if something is not right or still unfinished). It took around 4 hours to work it through, still with a lot of stuff which was kinda “meehhh, maybe ok at most”, but now I knew where to start.
Since then, I searched and collected everything useable from old sketchbooks and papers, and revised the story several times (especially during vacation). Just to give you an idea: the first draft had 8 pages, the most recent one has 23.. so the oldschool approach is definitely the way to go in my opinion.
Game Pitches has an interesting collection of game design documents, in case you are into this kind of stuff ;)
I can’t speak about those numerous tools written to organize/plan explicitly adventure games, but working on a story is hard enough itself, the last thing someone needs is to struggle with buggy tools or technology… so don’t hesitate to give paper a try ;)
If you are totally stuck I would recommend:
so in my humble and home-educated opinion: a printed step by step story plus a reduced schematic (something like this) is the way to go.
that’s all folks! ;)
my old diagram got bigger and bigger, and now basically serves as “the place where i note and dump everything”. It includes key dialogs, even game conditions, basically every info available.
so to compare it properly with the recently finished length research of “Day of the Tentacle” and “Monkey Island 1” (which will be published soon aswell), I started to create a similar, simpler diagram (better overview, and its way faster to edit). Eventually it turned out that Mold was almost as complex as DOTT (considering scenes/characters/items). so at first I thought (in my utter delirium):
“nice! that’s exactly what I was aiming for, length wise!”
the next step was to calculate the approximate work hours of all assets, animations, dialogs, cutscenes etc…. and there it was…
…the nasty surprise I was waiting for ;)
the calculation showed a shocking 620-ish days of work would be necessary to complete it!! (after preproduction I might add, in which I’m still in btw. ;) ) and I didn’t add much buffer either….
sooooo… We’ll have to cut/trim it drastically… (hopefully to get down to 300-ish or something, which unfortunately means: Sets have to be removed or merged, the usage of NPCs has to be limited to the absolute (story essential) minimum, cg rendered cutscenes during the game? ha! ;)
after two evenings of trimming, the “game” looks like this at the moment:
(some items/objects are still missing, but basically that’s it)
( left = NEW / right = OLD )
as you can see, quite a lot got cut (while keeping most (all?) puzzles in tact). Some sets and characters will be missed ;), but some stuff got better aswell… it’s always healthy to cut unnecessary weight ;)
I was busy working on commercials in the last weeks (i gotta eat somehow ;) ), so i had to adjust the current milestone to a more “realistic” date for the moment.
The story was recreated in ApacheOpenOffice, and is still progressing nicely… but I have to admit, It is far more complicated to plan an adventuregame than i expected (or appreciated :) ) in the first place. The closer you get, the harder it goes, and with the increasing complexity, it has become a real pain to work the game through every time from start to finish.
I`ll try to get it all done this year (Research, Story, Concepts and RnD), and focus on the actual production beginning of 2013.
it seems i`ve pressed my luck a little bit to much… i already had some connection problems in the past, but starting on saturday google “draw” couldnt handle my flowchart anymore…..
“Is it simply getting slower or too slow to work with?” well….. not exactly….the truth is, it was slow from the start, and now it doesnt display the text anymore. (but the data is still there, i could even edit it.. “?” but after 10 minutes i got a “trying to connect to google.com error message… great….)
the good news is, i was able to download a PDF which showed everything as expected… but a new solution had to be found (Cloud my a**)…
eventually my document @ google started to work again after 3 days, but i already began to “port” it over to ApacheOpenOffice, which is way faster, less buggy (and i`m not talking about the connection issues), has more features, and is definitly less “virtual” and “theoretical” to work with. ;)
Inspired by the growing indie game culture and recent developments, i decided to tell one of my stories using an point&click adventure. The game is based on a shortfilm concept created 2007 by Babette Kahn and myself and plays around a spared “handycapped” grape waking up in a compost heap. :)
Adapting it was more difficult then i thought at first, but, eventually i`m pretty happy how it all progressed and transformed into something interactive. Though the story has almost completely changed, just the main character (for the most part) , some side characters and the overall setting remained the same.
Its now 5 weeks into (pre)production and the basic structure of the story is finished (including most key puzzles), and all characters are brainstormed / defined.
After some research i decided my best weapon of choice to handle the basic game design would be Google Docs. (the “drawings” are especially useful).. but i already had one day of terror, where i got disconnected every few minutes, which made working impossible (welcome to the cloud :D ) to be fair, it happend just once in ~30 days. (but i`m exporting PDFs on a regular basis since ;) )
(Google seems to have some kind of “chrome only” policy ;) because the performance you get out of mozilla or other browsers is terrible (i`ve no idea how Safari/etc performs))
In the upcoming months i am going to fill this blog with production infos, experiences (painful ones, i guess ;) ) and all variations of works in progress..The plan is to share techniques, maybe a few scripts and general behind the scenes info over the entire production time from start to finish.