Development Progress Report, week 22

Development time this week has been split pretty evenly between code and narrative.

On the code side, there’s a revamp of the narrative-display portion of the UI, plus countless little polishing tweaks, because a UI should not surprise you. Coupled with code-cleanups and optimisation, and that’s a lot of nearly invisible work, but work well worth doing.

On the narrative side, I’m extremely pleased to have now passed the quarter million word mark.

That’s a quarter of a million words!

It works out to a shade over 22,000 lines, but while it is substantive and representative of significant effort, what word-counts actually mean in interactive storytelling is a much less clear cut.

In terms of SNAFU, 250,000 words covers the prologue and most of the first day of chapter one (to be fair, the first day is almost all of the first chapter).

A quarter of a million words seems like a lot. It’s not, in this case (even though it is a very satisfying bar to clear).

With eleven protagonists, that quarter of a million words is divided up into eleven intertwined personal narratives. Assuming a perfectly even split (which it isn’t), that would work out to less than 25,000 words per narrative – and that isn’t taking into account variations produced by character choices.

Like most Visual Novels, the first Act of the story isn’t replete with choices, but the ones that are there contribute to meaningful (and often substantive) variations, usually to multiple narratives.

That is, each character’s choices impact the narratives of other characters, leading to quite a large number of possible variations (both major and minor) to any individual character’s story.

I am excited by this. I could bore you to tears about how well this is actually working in practice, given half a chance, and how many cool bits of scenework might (or might not!) appear on any given play-through.

Some angles require certain confluences of choice among multiple characters, and might be quite unlikely to show up on a given play-through, but the important thing is producing a satisfying story, regardless of which character you’ve chosen, and how the web of choices pans out.

I had to stop myself writing yesterday, set it aside and focus on other things, by an act of will. One of the most common pieces of advice from prolific writers is to stop when you get to the end of your planned writing time, rather than carrying on until you are spent.

This is good advice. I’m already itching to resume where I left off, and finish that half-completed scene, and my brain has been fizzing with more creative ideas about where to take it, than it would have if I’d gone over-time, written it to the end and stopped there.

A half-completed scene or chapter keeps churning in the back of your head, if you’ve not expended all of your creative energies. Leave yourself some left-over creative capacity to put things on the back-burner like that, and resume tomorrow at your scheduled work-time.

It works.

I was going to post some more images from the new user-interface today, specifically, some of the lovely hand-drawn widgets, but writing got the better of me and I still need to scan and integrate them. Next time, perhaps.

Right now, I’m keen to get back to writing!