Keeping track

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bardsmanship

Keeping track

#1 Post by bardsmanship » Wed Apr 13, 2005 8:59 am

Right now, I'm trying to start planning a story for my game. Problem is, since it allows players to pick what they want to do from choices, I'm having a hard time keeping track of what's happening at each branch.

Does anyone know of a useful program or method to keep track of how the story's expanding, and to see which branches are empty? Something like a flow chart/mind-map, only on the computer...

Thanks in advance. :D

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Re: Keeping track

#2 Post by PixelWrangler » Wed Apr 13, 2005 11:42 am

bardsmanship wrote:Right now, I'm trying to start planning a story for my game. Problem is, since it allows players to pick what they want to do from choices, I'm having a hard time keeping track of what's happening at each branch.

Does anyone know of a useful program or method to keep track of how the story's expanding, and to see which branches are empty? Something like a flow chart/mind-map, only on the computer...

Thanks in advance. :D

This question itself is fairly complex, and depends a lot on the method(s) you are using to (a) keep track of the game's progress, and (b) track the story.

Here are three fundamental ren'ai game storytelling methods, in order of increasing complexity:

1. Single path with checkpoints - the story is followed up to a point, then you either make a correct or incorrect decision. If the decision is correct, the story continues to the next checkpoint. If incorrect, it ends in a bad ending. If you make it all the way to the end of the story, you win with a good ending.

This method is the easiest to implement, as the creator only needs to create a single story, without worrying about variations. However, the possibility of the game ending at EVERY decision can get very frustrating.

2. Single path with splits - This is a slightly more complex version of the first type of story. In this model, there is a single storyline that runs through the game, but a number of points where the storyline splits into a number of different paths, each either returning to the main storyline or reaching an ending. The path taken usually depends on menu selections made in the game. Also, paths split from the main storyline may also split.

This method is more time-consuming to implement than the first, but still efficient, as key parts of the story always appear. Only the split portions need to be developed seperately.

3. Multiple paths - This is the most robust, but most complicated and time-consuming of the models. In this model, key decisions lead to a whole new branch structure. In this case, multiple storylines have to be developed, and there is no "main" storyline to return to.

Within the structures there may be elements from the first two, but each key split is a story in and of itself, making for a lot of extra work.

Now, how to visualize these. There may be a program out there you could use, such as Visio or the like, but a really good method is, quite simply, a diagram/diagrams drawn with pencil on paper. This allows you to correct/change paths, and visualize the story path. Once you've got it mostly down, you can always switch over to software.

As to what the diagram(s) will actually look like:

For 1, the diagram will be a straight line, with a branch/branches off to bad endings, and a good ending at the end.

For 2, the diagram will be a straight line, with branches that lead to either an ending or back into the main story line. If desired, a path leading back into the main story line can split again on the way, returning back to itself.

For 3, the diagram will most likely resemble a family tree, with split after split ending in multiple endings. In this case, a separate sheet of paper may be neccessary for each branch of a key split. Elements 1 and 2 can be indicated in the same way as listed above.

Here's an ASCII version of a fairly complex story diagram, combining the various elements:

Code: Select all

STORY PATH 1 (SP1)

   |--B         |--SP2  |---B     |---B
S==O-----=======O----===O-----====O---------G
   |----/       |---/   |----/    |------G
                |--B

STORY PATH 2 (SP2)

    |----B  |---B      |----SP3   |---B
S===O=======O--------==O------====O--------G
    |=====O---====O-/  |-----/
          |--/    |--B

STORY PATH 3 (SP3)

      |---\
    |=O------|
    |--------|    |---B
S===O--------=====O------G
    |--------|    |---B
    |=O---==B
      |--/


S = Start, B = Bad End, O = split point, G = Good End, "=" = multiple path track, "-" = single path track

It should be noted that a "SPLIT POINT" need not neccessarily be a menu. For example, say the first split point in SP1 is a menu, and the bottom track, which merges back into the middle track later on, sets a condition.

Now, let's say that the next split point is also a menu. If the user did not select the bottom track at the previous menu, the third option is shown. This option, if selected, merges back into the main track, but sets a condition.

Now, let's say that the third split point is NOT, in fact, a menu at all. Rather, it tests for the conditions set by the first two menus. If the user selected the bottom track at the first menu, setting the condition to 1, it takes the top track, resulting in a bad end. If the user selected the third option in the second menu, setting the condition to 2, it proceeds on the main track. If neither, it takes the bottom track, which displays a side scene, then merges back into the main track. (it may even set a condition for later! :wink: )

There are, of course, all sorts of variations on these basic structures, involving variables, optional menu items based on statistics, etc., but combining these elements should lay down the basic framework of a straight-ahead visual-novel style ren'ai game, as well as give you a good starting point for visualizing its various paths. And, of course, this is just one way of planning out and visualizing a story... feel free to experiment and come up with a system that works best for you.

Sorry this got so long-winded, but hopefully it makes sense, and will be of help to you. Good luck, and ganbatte yo! (go for it!/do your best!) :D

P.W.
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Then it's a whole lot softer.

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#3 Post by bookie » Wed Apr 13, 2005 12:38 pm

First, a disclaimer. I haven't finished my game yet and my method is just from personal experiance. It may or may not be helpful. XD

Wow, PW was pretty in depth. I have to agree that the easiest way to keep track of something like this is pen and paper. Another, absolutely essencial part of fixing up a plot is to have that plot completely prepared before you start fleshing it out. It'll kill you to add branches at every point, so from start to finished you should have a good idea of how you want your story to go. This gives you the added benefit of being able to complete a story tree at the very begining.

This is how I set up my plot. First come up with your basic plot, then make a little tree.

Image

(of course it's a bit more complicated looking than that...)

Then Number the scenes and choices/branches and on a seperate peice of paper write down what those scenes and choices represent. This should give you a basic outline of the entire game.

After that it's only a matter of fleshing everything out. If you have something concrete like a tree to work off of, then it will be a lot easier to stay focused and not run into a dead end somewhere. Also, you can just check off finished scenes on your chart, or keep notes on certain variables on a seperate peice of paper.

Programs are fun, but for planning the notebook reigns supreme.

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#4 Post by mikey » Wed Apr 13, 2005 1:12 pm

bookie wrote:Another, absolutely essencial part of fixing up a plot is to have that plot completely prepared before you start fleshing it out.

Then Number the scenes and choices/branches and on a seperate peice of paper write down what those scenes and choices represent. This should give you a basic outline of the entire game.

Programs are fun, but for planning the notebook reigns supreme.

I must say, I agree. To have an outline before starting to write is instrumental, as a story tends to change as the creative mind writes, so boundaries help you keep focused.

I also love the notebook, because it's much easier and you have a better overview - actually for Milk Swim all I needed was a slightly more complicated diagram than bookie's sketch.

For all other questions, please refer to PW's manual ^_^
or
look at this topic
or check out the program Labyrinth

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#5 Post by chronoluminaire » Wed Apr 13, 2005 1:48 pm

Yep, I use pen and paper or Notepad also :) And I'd echo the encouragement to figure out the whole tree before you start writing, or close to. Including the endings! Not necessarily in total detail, because some of that will depend on the detail of what goes before it, but know what you're writing towards.

Of course, there are times when it's fun to just put the characters in some situation and see what they do, and just record the results ;)

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#6 Post by PixelWrangler » Wed Apr 13, 2005 2:45 pm

chronoluminaire wrote:Yep, I use pen and paper or Notepad also :) And I'd echo the encouragement to figure out the whole tree before you start writing, or close to. Including the endings! Not necessarily in total detail, because some of that will depend on the detail of what goes before it, but know what you're writing towards.

Of course, there are times when it's fun to just put the characters in some situation and see what they do, and just record the results ;)

It is very good advice to figure out the whole story before you start writing it.

While it is possible to craft a story or even a story-driven game as you go along, you will most likely end up doubling back to correct or improve elements of the story after you've finished. Chances are, the key elements of the story were already in your head to begin with - they were just never written down.

Before writing a story, it helps to establish a general overview, including settings, characters, and any other neccessary key elements.

Once these are in place, you can begin crafting the story itself. When planning a story, it's a good idea to have the following elements in place before you begin writing:

1. The Beginning
2. Key Plot Points
3. The Ending

1. The beginning - pretty straightforward... how does the story start? What foundational material needs to be laid down? The beginning of the story is what pulls the reader in, and sets expectations for the rest of the story. The phrases "Call me Ishmael." (Moby Dick) and "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." (A Tale of Two Cities) didn't become catch phrases by accident. :wink:

2. Key Plot Points - Anyone who has played the game Final Fantasy VII knows the impact of key plot points.
Aeris, a key character, dies halfway through the game.
Cloud, the lead character, discovers he isn't the real Cloud.
One of the lead characters turns out to be a spy for the villains.

Key plot points emphasize the most important elements of your story. Knowing these points allows you to build up to them naturally, maximizing their impact on the story as a whole.

3. The Ending - The biggest Key Plot Point of all, everything leads up to this point in the story. Knowing the ending ahead of time allows you to create Key Plot Points along the way, and make sure everything comes together to complete the story.

All of these principles can be applied, fairly intact, to ren'ai game writing, with the additional task of making sure that the story elements of each branch fit with the others.

If a story is well-planned and executed, it will cause the reader or player to feel as though they have completed a memorable journey from beginning to end.

P.W.
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Except in ren'ai games.
Then it's a whole lot softer.

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#7 Post by clubanimon » Wed Apr 13, 2005 4:13 pm

Its kindda nice for me to see this post since i'm working on my first game as well and was having some of the same problems.

As everyone had said i found writing out tree for chioces is very helpfull. But once i've stared to flesh things out in word i relized i'd never be able to keep them organized, so i tried a new idea.

i color coded parts. At a branchings point option A would be dark Red and and option B be dark blue. Then they state where they lead liked section 2C and all of that would have a backround color like a light blue.
If you you have two short scenes that oppose each other i found using a cell box worked wonderfuly for lining them up together in 2 colums.

i wish you luck, with working on this very problem i really regret the 28 endings i have.
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#8 Post by darkknight » Wed Apr 13, 2005 7:35 pm

FLOWCHART!!!!

there are a lot of programs out there that set up a flowchart for you...we had to make one in school when we did any programs...they are helpful
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#9 Post by mikey » Thu Apr 14, 2005 4:32 am

clubanimon wrote:i color coded parts. At a branchings point option A would be dark Red and and option B be dark blue. Then they state where they lead liked section 2C and all of that would have a backround color like a light blue.
If you you have two short scenes that oppose each other i found using a cell box worked wonderfuly for lining them up together in 2 colums.

i wish you luck, with working on this very problem i really regret the 28 endings i have.

I use a separate text file for each "segment" of the story. Works as well.

... 28 endings??? :shock:

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#10 Post by clubanimon » Thu Apr 14, 2005 1:24 pm

i would do that, but my computer hes little space, its old ^^;

Yes 28 endings, but really thats only 28 ending CGs i think...that there are really like 50 or somthing ending scenes but some only very differently, so i counted by the Cg you'd be rewarded with for the ending.

i'm a masochist i guess ^^;
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#11 Post by chronoluminaire » Thu Apr 14, 2005 1:46 pm

I don't want to discourage you, clubanimon, but I think 20-50 endings might make your game a bit too big for a first creation? There have been too many people with great ideas who've bitten off more than they can chew, imagined a wonderful giant game, and then found it gets discouraging very quickly when it comes to the hard work of actually creating the game. Have you seen Blue Lemma's game-making tips? There's a lot of good advice in there.

Don't get me wrong: it's not that we want to discourage you from making a game. We love to see new games released! :D But we love to see them *released*, not just status updates that trail off at 30% (or 10%). I might suggest you keep hold of your idea, but first get a smaller and more manageable game released, so that you can discover all the difficulties of the path but still have your project small enough to get finished despite that.

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#12 Post by mikey » Thu Apr 14, 2005 1:50 pm

clubanimon wrote:Yes 28 endings, but really thats only 28 ending CGs i think...that there are really like 50 or somthing ending scenes but some only very differently, so i counted by the Cg you'd be rewarded with for the ending.

Well, no game has 50 endings. Either there's a very good reason for it, or you may have to rethink your project. No one is really going to hunt down 50 endings, and I'd say not even the 28 ending CGs. Around 10 endings is fine, many people just play once and then again after some time. Even if the endings were a result of a very generous player freedom, chances are your story will suffer if the game is too open. Of course, I don't want to judge since I don't have any details, but the specs sound really scary :wink:

EDIT: oops, looks like Chronoluminaire already commented on that...

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#13 Post by clubanimon » Thu Apr 14, 2005 2:02 pm

Really as unreasonable as it sounds its actully coming along pretty well. I'd i've enjoyed working on all of it. Really your only suposed to hut down the 28 endings as i've defined it. But under what most people here seem to define as a ending there be far more.
Its true i could easily cut the game much shorter by taking away the option of the player choosing there gender and remove 2 charaters, (either both boys or a boy and a girl)
But when i decied to do this i decied i would do its in it enterity. The only hard part for me is going to do that art since i'm not very satisfied with my own.
I may change how broad the story is if i find it is gettign to be too much, though seen the flow char that i've fineshed for the game it does seem possible to me.
But if it does come down to it i will sacrife a character or two rather then the entier game. i have to may people around me that will give my physical punishment for giving up.
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#14 Post by bookie » Thu Apr 14, 2005 5:04 pm

Um, wow. For a first game that a lot of crap to dive into.

Can I ask excatly how far along you are with everything? Do you have all your plot points figured out or the script written?

And your prot can be a girl or a boy? o.0 Does that effect the plot or just the images? Man, what is your definition of ending because if it's mine I'd say it'll be a few years before we see any of your stuff.

That is, if you're as lazy as I am...

But seriously though, have you done anything smaller to get a hang of everything? I did something I thought would be too small and it turned out to be substantial. Just thinking about anything your size is a little... difficult. But if you can really do it, that's definitly a game I'll be waiting for.

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#15 Post by clubanimon » Thu Apr 14, 2005 5:29 pm

Well all my plot poitns are done. Flow chart is down and script i'd say is about..75% done?
I was going to have gender make getting same sex harder but i decied against it so it will just be the images. Its mordern times after all.

codesing not very far yet since i have just started it.
char concepts are done and i have jsut started the game images.

oh and by the way. This is day 3 of that game ^^

i decied to put it on the back bunner till the end of the week.
I decied that i should be smart and make a lil fun game first. I started it today and I hope to have it done in a week. i've planned 3 endings and it looks like maybe 5 scenes so far, may end up a little longer as i write it out.
the new game already has char concepts done and i started the emtion set for one of the characters.
coding is up to scene 2.
i've been working on this one since 3 today, with one potty and one making dinner break.
It will be fun to see if i can make my deadline, i was disapointed i was too late for NaNoRenO.
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