Writing is hard. Writing interactive, multiple-choice games is harder.
Good at turning a phrase? Excellent – now turn seven of them, all equally-well written, that make sense in four different contexts, as said by three different characters. If nothing else, writing non-linear text game dialog and narrative is an exercise in constraints, creative reuse, and conviction.
Writing is not the act of putting words on a page. It includes that, to be sure, but there is so much more to the process than simply creating the result. Your mind stretches and spaces out; thoughts drift away and return, adjusted by some insight, great or small. The act of writing is as much thought as it is word.
Elegy for a Dead World is about writing, remembering, loss and perspective. The premise is simple – you are the last person to witness the wreckage of long-forgotten worlds. Great calamities have taken place, and the only thing standing in the way of these worlds disappearing from the continuum of history is you.
If you buy into it as a player, the scope of the responsibility can be intimidating.
“Mommy, will you show me a bedtime story?”
“Yes, dear. Now get ready for bed.”
Charlie hops into bed, pulling the comforter tight over his little body. Wiggling his toes beneath the sheets in anticipation.
Mommy opens the closet door and takes the small black headset off of the top shelf, carefully fitting it over Charlie’s tiny head before kissing him gently on the forehead. She takes a step back, regarding her little man one last time before hitting the light switch. The soft throbbing glow from the headset fills the room as Charlie lays back in bed.
“Practice makes perfect” sure sounds right. If you want to get better at something, what better way than to just do more of it? So, you decide to put 10,000 hours into something in order to become a master. You undertake challenges like NaNoWriMo or Game a Week, or sketch something every day. Gradually, your skills improve.
The role of practice as the key to improvement is a simple concept that most people intuitively understand. But it isn’t the whole story.
Making games can be emotionally complicated. The joyous rush of creation, the ego-shattering freefall of disappointment when something doesn’t work out, the creeping sense of frustrated horror when searching for an elusive solution to some arcane design problem – game development has it all, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Fortunately, your emotions are hiding a secret from you: Like a cipher, hidden inside are instructions on what to do next.
The Indie MEGABOOTH at PAX East 2013.
For all the hand-wringing about the indie games bubble, concerns of an over-saturated marketplace, and fears that soon it will be impossible to make any kind of headway as an indie developer, the path forward has already been charted. It may have sneaked right by, under your nose. It will seem obvious, perhaps insultingly so.
The next phase of indie game development will be powered by collaboration.
New copies of Jason Rohrer’s Diamond Trust of London.
Finishing things is hard. For all the brand new conveniences and leisure distractions available today, the harsh reality is that the world only values you for what you produce. This is largely true for game development – unless you’re backed by tycoon money or are able to live frugally for extreme periods of time, you need to produce if you’re going to get anywhere.
If you’re a game developer, it’s likely part of you is terrified right about now. All the rules of the games business seem to be in constant flux, an incredible amount of studios have closed or shrunk to shadows of their former selves, and the phrase “job security” seems to be an oxymoron.
There’s a good reason for it, though: The gaming singularity is near.