This week I’m working on my fantasy RPG, because last week I finished the final edit of my fourth novel, wrapping up eight months of working almost every minute of every day. My novels are epic length (130k+ words). I’ll start publishing this fall.
So I think I’ve written the same amount as Tolkien at this point. I have five books–a trilogy and two one-offs that expand on the most important characters and settings (Earth, Tartarus, Elysium, and Heaven). These add to my published short stories.
My novels aren’t pure genius, but they aren’t crap either. They’re *so* much better from having been written all at once.
All five novels have had 10-30 full re-writes or revisions over fifteen years. I took two years off work. I tortured, maimed, murdered, and enslaved a respectable number of characters who had perfectly nice lives before I came along.
I invented my own language–Demonic.
Instead of using a profound Tolkien knowledge of linguistics to create Demonic, I channeled the syllables from an Atlantean spirit guide named Neemoo. So don’t make fun of my Demonic language, because Neemoo is just a boy, and you might hurt his feelings.
Do I even read novels anymore? No. I’ve read a thousand works of fiction, but almost none in two decades. I was busy writing for like 10,000 hours.
*Must* You Use The Product To Be Good At Making It?
I was thinking today that I don’t agree with Linda “Brasse” Carlson‘s hiring strategy, as discussed in a previous post here about Trion’s livestream, where Linda and company were talking about getting hired at Trion.
Linda wants to hire people who are passionate about video games, but that seems like only hiring carpenters and plumbers who are passionate about “houses”–i.e. passionate about living in houses, decorating houses, a nice patio for barbecuing, a foyer to die for, raising a family in a house, and enjoying the fruits of houses.
Was Howard Roark (Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead) passionate about office buildings? No. He was passionate about designing and building buildings. He didn’t give a rat’s ass about the stuffed shirts who lived and worked in those buildings. He just wanted to cut the crap and reach for his vision.
Gamers often lambaste devs with the suspicion that they don’t even play their own games. That’s probably true most of the time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t raise the roofbeams like nobody’s business.
There are too many metaphors to even start supporting my point, and Linda Carlson’s point is probably more complicated in terms of human resources. Walter White (Heisenberg) also says no, and video games seem a lot like methamphetamine.
RPG Writing Ruminations
So this week I’m back on my video game project. I’m posting a screenshot here of my interface so far (open in a new tab to see a larger size). The game is playable except for combat, which needs a lot of (boring) thought about strength and intelligence and spells, and worse of all, animation.
Animation is a pain, precious.
I’ve made some important and interesting changes based on my observations of what worked and didn’t work in recent games I’ve played, mainly Pillars of Eternity. I wanted to write down my thoughts in a mini-developer diary.
The first companion characters in Pillars (Calisca and Heodan) are my favorites, and yet Pillars throws them away. This is a mistake. So why are these characters my faves? What qualities do they have, which the later characters don’t show, at least not right away?
Love-at-first-sight Bonding. I’m starting to wonder if the first people you meet in a game world form a special bond in your brain. It’s like being born into a new world, and your mind grasps onto the first friendly face you see. That’s why the first characters are so important.
Of course, the most important character in the story is you, the player.
Calisca and Heodan have strong goals. In the Pillars opening sequences, this means survival against an immediate threat. My Jedi master of writing, Jack Bickham, stresses the importance of the immediacy and realness of the threat. Pillars nails this.
Goals are imperative for NPCs. We can do better than “sure I’ll come along, why not, safety in numbers, I wouldn’t mind–”
Calisca and Heodan have inter-character conflict. Right away Calisca and Heodan are at odds over which path to take. You decide, and there are consequences. The only way this amazing starting survival scenario in the cave could be stronger is if your decision develops your own character a little more.
Conflict is super-important not only to create tension and move the plot forward, but also to develop characters with emotion. So I need to hit these important points with the NPCs. Conflict, goals, and the first characters you meet are highly important. I re-wrote the beginning of my game (again) because of these observations.