The post below is in two parts: the tale of the development process, and then some collected notes.
There I was, two-thirds of the way through draft one of a novel. And then I get the email that Failbetter had opened their dev tools. How could I resist? I figured I’d cobble something together and use it to flesh out the world-building. Just a fun exercise to attack the universe of the novel in a different way.
Fast-forward many hours. Far more hours than I had planned on. But once the process began, I couldn’t simply end it. What was meant to be a diversion had developed into a stand-alone piece with its own structure.
October 15th — The tools are released.
November 14th — My game is ready for playtesting.
One of the cool things about a Storynexus game is that you build a world, and then put stories in it. (As opposed to, say, the Choice of Games stuff I’ve done. One is not better than the other, of course; they are two very different ways to tell interactive stories.) In the Annwn game, I knew I would be adding some more content as it came to me. I had built out a few main storylines, but still wanted to give people who were interested in the Bard option some more to do. But that would come later.
Well, the two friends who gave me feedback both said they played bards. Oops.
So, back to development. It was at this point that I took a closer look at the content design patterns listed in the Failbetter wiki. And the freakout began. All of my storylines followed the Venture model, the simplest content design format. People said they were having fun with the whole grind-a-stat-and-come-back thing, but the wiki had several examples of other ways to make a story interactive. Sure, I had worked in a few moral forks, but the actual gameplay was pretty repetitive and grindy.
December 4th, 12:30AM — A reworked main storyline. New questlines. Revised questlines to add variety of play. Polishing.
It wasn’t as bad as I had originally feared, once I took a closer look. A few of the existing questlines lent themselves to different design formats very readily. I just needed to have a better understanding of what structures have been proven to work.
And now I’ve taken it as far as I plan to. For now. <ominous lightning>
Notes. WARNING – SPOILERS
Why am I putting my notes here, you ask? Well, this blog is for me too, right?
The Main questline (Jackyl) is a Grandfather Clock. Hour hand is a simple chain (ending in a flavor choice). Minute hand varies.
The first two hours take place mainly in Arrell, and are meant to introduce the world and let people play around with the various options/skills/character types.
Hour 1: The Loremaster quest. A simple chain.
Tick 1: First contact from the enemy. This kicks off the main mystery of the game — why does this complete stranger want me to stay out of Annwn?
Hour 2: Fully-Armed quest. This is sort of a Midnight Staircase, in that the player must choose from various grind options to get the cash needed to outfit herself.
Tick 2: Second contact from the enemy.
Midpoint. Player character starts to pursue the enemy. Action mode.
Hour 3: The Curl and Lock quest. A Beggar’s Banquet (pyramid form), where in many cases the toll can be avoided if the player has played some of the other content, as in the Road With Many Faces. See Other Quests below.
Tick 3: How to get to Jackyl revealed.
Hour 4: Getting fairy gold. In order to purchase the key item, the PC must raise some funds. There are many ways to do this, and no single best way. See Fairy Gold Quests below.
Tick 4: Key item (magic girdle) acquired.
Final hour: Confrontation, mystery solved, and decision made. This is a single card.
Tick 5: End Game.
Fairy Gold Quests.
Juicer and Keeper Questlines. These are the primary ventures. A decision is made early on as to which career to pursue. After the Becoming quests in Arrell, the Annwn quests end in moral forks which return various amounts of fairy gold.
Gladsome Beast. A Hydra.
The Concert Season: A Carousel, in which one of the options for the final tier gives fairy gold.
The Arcade. A venture which can make becoming a juicer easier.
Zaxxon. Venture. Adds options to later quests.
The Cottingwoods: Inverted pyramid — as your research advances, the more options there are to pursue. Adds options to other quests.
Cartogromancy: Venture. Adds options to other quests.
The Private Concert. A Midnight Staircase with a possible End Game.
12 questlines, plus one main quest.
122 functional storylets