My effort on the “Welcome to Moreytown” game proceeds apace. I am currently finishing up chapter seven of twelve, and hope to have eight completed by the end of the month. Entirely coincidentally, a member of my writing workshop had her game critiqued, which prompted a discussion with yet another member of the group who teaches game design… (As an aside; is it me, or is there much more overlap between the gaming and SF communities nowadays than there was five or ten years ago?)
Anyway, that discussion brought home what a different mode of writing this actually is, and not just because of the amount of coding that is involved. It’s almost the inverse of script-writing. With a script, as a writer, you must leave stuff out. A lot of stuff. As a novelist, it can feel like most of the stuff. Most of the visuals, costuming, stage business, all relies on other people. That’s why scripts are so lean vs. prose, a feature film script can run about 100 pages, and if there’s more than a couple hundred words a page it’s probably too dense.
With this type of gaming script, you end up writing a lot more than you would with comparable prose. Code aside, it’s possible for a player to go through the entire thing and only read about half of what you’ve written. Also, given the permutations, it will be a very rare pair of players who end up reading the exact same portions of it.
Also, what a computer can do, opposed to the old choose-your-own-adventure games, is allow choices that change narrative elements other than the story’s plot progression. An obvious example, if you play one of Choice of Games’ free sample games, is the swapping of gender. In the “Choice of Broadsides” game, your gender selection affects the entire navy. But there are other interesting things you can do. An example from the WiP “Welcome to Moreytown,” is the choice of PC species comes with choosing a primary sense (vision, hearing, smell) that doesn’t do a lot to affect the story, but changes the descriptions of various scenes throughout the game. Another example, the PC meets an NPC and the player chooses how they see that NPC: irritating, ridiculous, creepy or interesting. the encounter proceeds roughly the same way for each choice, but the descriptions provided to the PC differ according to that first impression, and it colors every time that NPC is refrenced or encountered through the game.
Needless to say, a much different experience.