Video Games

Diary of a Game Developer: Episode 4 – Playing House

Game Dev Diary Ep 4 |

Game Dev Diary Ep 4 | This post is part 4 in an on-going series about my adventures as a first time game developer. You can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and part 3 here.

After faffing about for far too long, I finally managed to carve out some time this week to get back to working on my game. Mostly I was focused on translating the work that I’d done in Episode 3 in Mindly into Twine and adding the module connections that I wasn’t able to with Mindly.

I’d mentioned earlier that I’ve decided to focus on getting the structure of the whole game down before I get down to actually writing the narrative part of ‘interactive narrative.’ Obviously, once the story starts coming together I’ll probably have to go back and restructure some stuff, but I feel like having the structure down will make the actual writing part a little less daunting. Or at least it allows me a bit more time to procrastinate having to write prose for the first time in 15+ years.

However, while translating things into Twine I noticed that some prose was starting to leak out. Actually, because one of the bits I was scripting was the “worst” ending, I ended up seriously bumming myself out. I also noticed that I couldn’t write some parts because there were a couple of things I needed to work out first. To start with, I still haven’t made a list of all the possible ways the player (spirit) can interact with the home owner, Amanda. I know I could just include things as the story dictates, but because not all interactions will lead to positive outcomes, I think I’m going to have to list them all out to get a better idea of which ones are best suited to what occasions.

Second, being that the entire game is set inside a house, I realized that I needed to get an idea of how the house was laid out in order for actions and interactions to make sense. I decided that the easiest way to do this was to draw up a floor plan, but being that the house is meant to be a historical house, I was going to need to find some references.

The first thing I did was to search for real estate listings in New England, which is where the game is set, in order to get an idea of what the houses in that area that Amanda could afford look like. However, none of these listings included floor plans, so I decided to keep looking, which is when I stumbled upon, a site that archives and sells historical housing plans. From there I was able to find this:
Folk Victorian House Plans | Diary of a Game Developer Ep 4 | It’s the floor plan for a house listed as a ‘Cottage for a Mill Hand at Chelsea, Massachusetts, 1878’. Then, I took the floor plan and recreated it in RoomSketcher. I made adjustments here and there, imagining the renovations performed over the years, including adding some indoor bathrooms. Also, I screwed up and made the front patio a room in the house. Oh well.

RoomSketcher Level 1 Image | Diary of a Game Developer Ep 4 | One of the nice things about RoomSketcher is that it lets you add furniture and decorations to your rooms. Ignoring of course the fact that the staircases are all jacked up, I’m actually pretty glad I took the time to do this. I even tried my best to choose furniture that I could imagine Amanda picking out and buying, which helped me to get a better idea of who she is as a character.

RoomSketcher Level 2 Image | Diary of a Game Developer Ep 4 | While this might seem like yet more procrastinating on my part, Twine is simple enough a tool that I’m really less scared about the ‘programming’ side of things than with the ‘writing the story’ part of things, so the more background work I can do on that side of things is just going to make my life that much easier in the long run. I was able to write a first draft of the ‘worst ending,’ which will help to establish the tone of the rest of the game, but I think I’m going to need to do a bit more planning before I write any more of the story. I guess we’ll see where it goes from here.

How much planning do you do before writing a story?

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  • Reply
    August 3, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    I definitely don’t think this looks like procrastinating – as you said, it really helps flesh out the characters, and make it more of a tangible thing to work with and write about. While I can’t relate directly to writing, I kind of see it like gather references and resources before starting a piece of artwork. Or making a mood board. All things that further the creative process and keep the project going!

    • Reply
      August 4, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      Yeah, I think I’ll also need to put together a mood board on Pinterest. It’s kind of funny how much visual reference I need for something that is text based. ;P

  • Reply
    Dina Farmer
    August 3, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    Ummmmmmm I don’t see any procrastinating here Mariko! But when I’m brain storming I like to use mood boards. Like if I have a particular shot I have in mind or a inspiration board rather. Anyways keep going in the creative process things are fleshing out1

    • Reply
      August 4, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      Hehehe, thanks. I think I’m also going to be putting together a little mood board on Pinterest to help me get a better sense of who the spirit was/is as well as her family and community.

  • Reply
    August 4, 2016 at 7:03 am

    So many things to think about – golly gosh! I think it’s great to get some visuals happening which will ultimately only help with the writing side 🙂 So fun!

    • Reply
      August 4, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      It’s funny, I never really played with doll houses as a girl, but man did I have fun putting my little virtual house together.

  • Reply
    Jane Y.
    August 14, 2016 at 6:33 am

    i love the time and detail you are investing in this. i think i always assumed in the back of my mind that of course all game developers would go in depth but seeing it really play out like this is seriously so fascinating to see. this is really super embarrassing but my best friend and i used to do pretend play a lot as young kids and i needed to like have things written down in detail – so if i pretending to be a character i would literally draw her (and the awesome weapons she carried or any super powers she had lol), where she lived, write down personality traits – at one point i literally also wrote down her strength, intelligence, constitution, etc. (all from D&D!!) — what a nutty child i was lol

    • Reply
      August 14, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      That is amazing! I know a lot of people who can’t play D&D without writing a 15 page history for their character. I think that’s actually really cool.

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