Playing with Structure

In the course of playing around with story structure options, I’ve been contemplating traditional arc structure as it is applied to video games, and have since lit upon a nice tool for 16-bit-type video game construction–RPG Maker! As I’m currently waiting for my new job to start at the end of August and have a lot of time on my idle, idle hands, I’ve spent the last few days completely immersed in tutorials and the positively massive online community that has sprung up around the the toolset in recent years.

There’s a bit of a learning curve for me particularly since I didn’t play many games when I was younger and am not as thoroughly steeped in standard RPG mechanics as most gamers my age–I got into the gaming scene around the N64 era, after which point I spent the majority of weekends at my dad’s place hovering over my step-brother’s shoulder while he played Ocarina of Time. Since then, certain games have deeply influenced my writing as well as what I expect in a story, and have more than once led me to consider writing a game-structured storyline or adapting one of my existing stories for a nice hack-and-slash.

I didn’t consider it very seriously, however, until my boyfriend snagged a deal on RPG Maker VX Ace during a Steam sale last week. I started working on a storyline written specifically for a game since none of my existing plots were very game-structure friendly, and so far it’s coming together very nicely. Nothing too heavy, just a relatively straightforward story with lots of quest-y bits along the way.

I’m finding that planning a plot around what can be done with functionality and gameplay actually opens a lot of options for what to do with a story. I’ve had to back up and look at what events will lead to other events, which is often very difficult for me, since my main focus in writing tends to be character-and-motivation based. As it is, I’ve started at the opposite of my preferred end of the spectrum with world-building, then moved to plot and quests, and now, finally, characters that fit within the boundaries I’ve already laid down.

I’m usually a micro-to-macro planner, building a world around the characters already living in it, but being forced to work from macro-to-micro is actually helping me see the forest for the trees. I may apply the same model to my other stories and see if I can’t jump-start the action points in their plots a bit as my stories admittedly lag when the characters get tired–sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that sometimes events must happen to characters whether they’re directly involved or not. Some of the best parts of a story come about as a response or reaction rather than as a deliberate plan.

Since my fellow has a very well-rounded education with videogame functionality, he’s already offered to handle some of the technical points of developing the game while I pull together the quest order and story. I suppose we shall see how it all shakes out.

I might be posting a link to download a demo soon, just in case anyone wants to putz around in beauteous 16-bit and fight some monsters. And here are some pictures of development.

🙂

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