That’s how many words System Crash’s storyline clocks in at, between narrative and dialogue. Enough to count as a novella.
Which is a bit nuts. I love a good story in a game, and I have the ambition to write both story-driven games and novels in the future. But man, it was tough going. Especially since, after almost 3 years working on System Crash, I’m more than a little burned out. Taking on the challenge of building a commercial quality video game is hard enough, adding the challenge of that volume of writing on top of it was more than a little crazy.
I am nothing if not a victim of my own ambitions. 😛
Now, I’ve written some snippets here and there in the past that people seemed to like, enough to believe that I’m not totally inept on the writing front. But writing a scene or two, or a single conversation, is nothing like the task of crafting a complete, interesting long-form story structure.
Especially given the limitations a game imposes on said structure. Too wordy, and the gameplay gets bogged down, or the players skip it. Too long a sequence without the player getting to actually play, and the best writing doesn’t matter.
The storyline also has to constantly create context for the gameplay loop, which constrains where your story can go. I have had to wrack my brain for every which way to justify and describe breaking into an office complex to steal some computer files, and how to fit the primary narrative beats into that kind of context.
I have way more sympathy for how games often devolve into violence or fetching mcguffins, now. Those are concepts that are easy to model mechanically, and which are fairly simple to fashion a solid narrative arc around.
There’s also the problem of what gameplay “verbs” are available to the player. Which parts of the story does the player directly participate in, and which parts, if any, do they merely have conveyed to them passively. Some people turn their noses up at the very notion of non-interactive story elements in games, but man, it’s hard to build a story without at least some of that, even if just to provide a starting point to springboard off of.
Anyway, it’s written now. I don’t know if I nailed it, honestly. But I tried my best, had some fun, and learned a lot in the process. Knowledge that I can apply to future games.
We’ll just have to see what you guys think of it. Onward and upward, to release! 🙂