First Steps

So what is this, exactly?

I wanted to make something. I mean, I’ve been wanting to make something for a while, so this is me actually doing it. But I can’t just, y’know, do it. I’m one of those people who has to write down what they’re thinking. For posterity. And a bit for vanity.

But, realistically, I want to have a place to collect and place my thoughts. I’m a writer. It’s what I do. This is something of a log. I want to follow this process. It’s how I compartmentalize—or whatever. It’s also kind of a way to keep myself accountable. If I’m not writing, I’m not doing; and if I’m not doing, I’m not writing.

My end goal is to have a UGC campaign for Shadowrun: Returns using the Dragonfall: Director’s Cut version of the editor. I’m going to set a working goal to research, design, and blog for roughly two hours a day. Some days will be more blog than r&d, some days (after I’ve vomited out all of my thoughts) I will try and r&d more—hopefully by then I’ll be playtesting at least a little.

If things go well, this blog will follow me along the whole grueling process, step-by-step, from tonight, when I first began looking at tutorials on how to use the editor (seriously, like, three hours ago with a break for dinner and not counting the time it took to set up the initial blog) until post-release bug and dialogue fixes.

And if they don’t go well, then I have a few shaky, uncertain, probably rambling blog posts that only weird and random surfers will come across.

The Story

I’m actually confident that I can begin because I have an ending. At the risk of sounding elementary, this is actually a huge problem in my writing to date. I love the first few hours of stories. They’re my favorite part. Meeting characters, looking around the world for the first time. It’s like opening a Christmas present and having absolutely no idea what’s inside.

One of my fondest memories not just of gaming, but of my childhood, is from Final Fantasy VII. Like many Millennials, FF7 was my first venture into actual video game narrative. I mean, games had plots sort of. But most of the time the game was level, level, level, with some dialogue boxes for context in between. And I guess, that’s all technically Final Fantasy VII is…but it’s good dialogue boxes. Scenes.

The scene that really set it for me is the train ride to Sector 7. It’s a very early scene, full of quiet, calm music and a ton of exposition. And it’s hot on the heels of the game’s explosive, combat-filled intro. It’s a chance to breathe, to get to feel out who everyone is and where everyone is and just what exactly the stakes are. What games didn’t have before then is that moment to breathe before the next wave of combat, and I think FF7 did that extraordinarily well.

The point is, in pretty much every story I’ve written so far, I’ve got the first hour or two down pat. I’m really fuckin’ good at early story. But after that…my imagination’s as barren as the desert. Usually I’ll try to push on, fumble around, but as a rational I’m more concerned with maintaining suspension of disbelief than I am pushing the narrative forward. If I could, I’d live on that train to Sector 7. Metaphorically speaking. And to be fair, I’ve lived with this story in my head for months. Details surrounding it have changed, but that train ride equivalent has been there. But what kept me from starting, other than total ignorance of the editor and its functions, is knowing full well that I’d lack an ending.

So what does someone do when they can’t build something themselves?

They steal it.

I’m going to unabashedly rip off from other titles. Good artists borrow, great artists steal, right?

Right now, I have a sort of hybrid of Frozen Synapse and Mirror’s Edge in my mind. Two titles whose stories I’m oddly fond of despite neither really having what people consider AAA narratives. In both cases, you have an idealist antagonist. You have a tower. Both stories could be said to be more about the conflict of ideals than people, and that’s what I’m going for. However, with Shadowrun: Returns, I can’t force ideals on the player, so it’s going to likely look a bit closer to Frozen Synapse in there being a secondary character who is in primary conflict with the antagonist.

But I’ll talk more about my plans for the ending in my next post…

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