Today, Dan talks to us about his writing process and the non-linear story design for Everybody's Gone to the Rapture.
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How do you approach non-linear story design – how can you tell when something is too much or too little?
It takes a long time, that’s the short answer. The biggest challenge is balancing it, so no matter what choices the player makes, they always feel like the story is engaging and moving along. I don’t think there’s a magic solution to that, but there is an underlying principle – assume your player is intelligent. I believe we are storytelling animals by nature – we can’t help but construct stories when we experience things, and we’ve got really powerful imaginations. So from that, I work on the basis that a) your player’s imagination is the most powerful storytelling tool you have at your disposal and b) players actively want to be part of the story experience.
Your job as a game writer is to try and inspire the player to use the images and characters and ideas you give them to build their own story. So for me, most games suffer from being reductive and restrictive – they don’t give you any room to make the story your own. I’d always go to the other side, even if that risks too little. Leaving a player with a load of interesting ideas and amazing images and letting them spin a story for themselves from that is much more interesting to me than trying to force your very specific vision or interpretation down a player’s throat.
Where do you start – story or mechanics or something else or all at once?
Depends on the game. We start with story, but that’s just the way we like to work. For us it begins with an idea for something we think we’d like to do – often through a story we want to tell. We’ve got to be excited by it as a whole team really. It’s not always 100% like that- the new projects had mechanics in there pretty much from the word go, but it’s never just “here’s a gameplay loop, now let’s try and find a theme to pack around that”. Not saying that’s wrong – it works brilliantly as an approach for lots of studios, it’s just not very 'us'.