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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Adventures in Narrative Design #3a

I had a couple of big and fairly last-minute ND deadlines last week that cut into my after work plans, not once, but twice. As you can imagine, I was pretty salty about that, so I didn't work on any game stuff (game backlog, research, etc) once I got home. It was all a bit of pointless passive aggression on my part that neither hurt, nor helped anyone.

One of the week's big assignments was a set of 50 high-level "grind" quests, which are relatively easy to write, since you don't have to wrap it all up in a story. It's just essentially tedious, "Find/build/produce x amount of y object". The second project was basically a re-work of a game entry tutorial, which isn't easy at all. The game tutorial is, usually, the first thing that a player encounters in the game. It can mean the difference between sticking with the game or rage-quitting right away. If your tutorial is being re-worked then it's probably because it sucks so bad that players aren't staying in your game. It's not necessarily something you want done on the fly. But so it goes sometimes in the world of online gaming.

My writing partner and I had something like two weeks to sort it out. Two weeks wouldn't be so bad, except I already mentioned the high-level quest stuff going on at the same time, plus it's summer.

Summer is the season where dev teams like to crank out lots of content and events. You'd think it was because school's out and people have a lot more time on their hands to play, but it's actually kind of the opposite. I mean, the school's out part is true, but people tend to go away on vacation and spend less time indoors. In community management, summertime is usually pretty quiet. Things start picking up right around the time that school goes back in session and builds up into the colder months. In game design, I guess the idea is to crank out updates one after the other to entice as many people as possible to keep playing during this seasonal lull.

So, yeah, we've got a lot on our plates for the next month or so and a two week deadline includes a lot of that two weeks being used for other game assignments. Still, we managed to finish and I'm fairly pleased with the result. We were able to inject a decent backstory into the game and it doesn't sound too hokey (in my humble opinion). At the same time, we were also able to come up with an antagonist that we can slip into other stories in the future. And we were able to add a little bit of definition to some of the existing characters.

We only butted heads with the dev team on one point (which is kind of a BFD) and we were even able to find a compromise fairly quickly for that.

As frustrating of a week as it was, I realize now (after writing this stuff down) that I still managed to power through it with some amount of success. This Thursday is Sandbox day and I hope to finally storyboard my own little game project (if I want to have it done by the end of August).

I'll report back later in the week to let you know if I was able to (or not).

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