Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Writing Tip #12

I starting writing this a while back, had it almost done, and then never finished it. So here. I finished it and posted it finally.

Tip #12: Think of your story as a video game.

I explored a very specific incarnation of this tip when I went over turning characters into Morrowind characters. This is going to be much more general and focus on different gaming aspects.

The first thing to think about is how your characters interact. In The Devil's Blade, Valdius acts and fights alone. Anastera, my lead female, has no combat ability, and Zirk is really only ever a bystander. If it were a game, it would be very God of War-like, with one powerful character essentially fighting his way through tons of stuff to save/protect someone.

Among the People Lost could potentially follow a party format. Dante is, first and foremost, a sharp shooter. Put him in a fantasy setting, and you're probably looking at a skilled elven bowman. Solstice balances him out by being a very skilled martial artist. She uses hand-to-hand techniques and a dagger, meaning she can get up close while Dante hangs back. Hunter, a sniper, is sort of the equivalent to a mage in ways, being the stereotypical "glass cannon." He would be the farthest back of the group, protected by the others but dealing instant kills when he fires. Add in all the other characters that come and go, and you've got a pretty balanced party.

The point of all that is having characters who balance each other out. Action movies often have, like, five guys running around with guns, and that's not really that practical. In games like D&D, you need to have a group with a wide range of skills so there's always someone for the job when a tough task comes up.

In the first example, it's important to know your character's limitations. Maybe he gets better and gains more skills as the story goes, allowing him to go back to places he couldn't quite get to before and overcome enemies he never would have hoped to conquer. Characters that start out super powerful aren't particularly interesting. There needs to be some measure of growth and development.

Video games get more difficult as you go. A lot of books are the same way. Harry Potter's challenges in the first book are nothing compared to the seventh. As characters grow stronger, they're able to push deeper into enemy territory, take on stronger enemies, and, if they're good enough or lucky enough, win against their greatest opponent and save the day.

That's not to say, though, that there aren't really easy enemies along the way. Even weak enemies that are easy to beat can give a little experience here and there. They're more to keep the character from falling behind than to really make him move forward. Real learning experiences come from the difficult fights, the losses, and the power upgrades.

Thinking of your story in game terms can help determine if an ability or skill is really over-powered compared to other characters. If your character is really skilled, is he the only one? Or are all of his enemies roughly the same skill level? If your story follows more of a party format, where is the group really weak? Who gets tired after walking up a short hill and who can run five miles without an issue? All stuff to consider when writing stories and making games.

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