How Do You Track Branching Choices on Paper?

My organization wants to create a CYOA-style gamebook, and I’m the lucky soul who gets to helm the project, write the script, and possibly program it, with only a love of games and no other experience to my credit. I realize this is an extremely tall order, and rather than focusing on the sheer magnitude of the task, I’m focusing on putting in place the process to manage the project.

Because this is a project for an organization, and not a labor of love, my working style will be a bit different. I think many of you write directly into your programming platform, but I must show deliverables on paper before programming. I will write a story outline, but I will also need to show a full transcript before programming. In terms of coming up with a full transcript, I am not sure what is the best way to track the various branches. Since I’m doing CYOA instead of parser, there is less to track, but still, I can see that the branching may be hard to catalog in a coherent manner. Do any of you have suggestions on the best way to do this (I’m looking for suggestions on software, methodology, tips/tricks and anything else anyone has to offer)? I figure I’ve either got to do it linearly with numbered/lettered choices in word processing document, or a tree view in a concept mapping software. The tree view is appealing for ease of display, but I need to find a mapping software that is easy to use and that can print something off for others to view. The word processing document gets points for printability but possibly loses them for legibility.

Please reply with any suggestions on how to effectively track the branching.

Hmm… Perhaps Twine would help. You write the passages into the software, and it creates an adjustable branching map as you go along. The map makes it easier to keep track of than a long document, but the software can also export the long document for you to show on paper. That way you end up with a branching map, a full on transcript and a playable demo of the eventual gamebook.

Out of interest, what is the nature of your organisation?

My experience with Twine’s visual map is that it’s great for simply-branching and moderately-sized projects, but - because you don’t have any control over the connecting arrows - it becomes distinctly less helpful if you have a complicated structure or a very large game. The good news is that if you’re making a paper gamebook, it’ll most likely have a structure that’s relatively simple and not too huge.

If you’re committed to a transcript and want a separate program for mapping, I like Dia. It’s a lot more easily customised than Twine’s map - I use it when I’m mapping out existing CYOAs -, but if you’re writing it’s a royal pain to keep both the map and the text updated at the same time.

Sorry if I digress, but…

You do realize this is a non sequitur, right? There is absolutely nothing that says that because you are working for an organization, you need to create a complete “paper deliverable” before you start programming. It may be true for your particular organization, but if it is, it makes me think your organization is not primarily dealing with the production of interactive artefacts. An iterative process (where you develop all aspects of the final product in parallel) would probably be a more common approach these days.

What’s to stop you from ‘programming’, and then printing out your ‘paper deliverable’?

Consider the idea that there is really no difference between a piece of paper and a document on the computer except that in one case you don’t have to type the whole thing again.

I’m sure there are far better tools, and many people have suggested them, but I suddently remembered Trizbort.

It’s an IF mapping program. You can connect the several rooms (or nodes, or ideas) any way you like, fill in the nodes as you wish, make notes that’ll appear just outside the node (making use of a convention where, in an IF map, you note down where you originally find objects by writing their name just outside the box that represents the room in question), take advantage of different connections (one-way, dotted, regular)… just a thought.

But I wonder if you have to show ALL of that on paper, really. I know I’m a layman and it shows, but let me do a simple comparison: if you pitch a script, a tv show, a sitcom, you have to sell it to a group of people, and you do that by explaining what it’s about, focusing on what you feel are the biggest selling points. What you do not have to do is show a complete script, complete shooting directions, complete light and sound, plus the address of the studio you’ll be using.

Having to “show a full transcript before programming”… meh. Whatever works for each individual, I guess, but for me this sounds a serious pain, and the only way it would work would be if the writer and programmer were not the same person. It’s not the same thing as using a pre-made transcript as a guide, a draft, and then getting to work on the game - you’re talking about writing out the entire game twice. Surely no one expects you to do THAT? Best to start writing it in whichever platform you choose, and copy/paste everything into another bit of software (like Trizbort) as you write it. And this if your programming tool of choice does not already allow you to print the nodes.

For those who suggested Twine, thank you. However, we may not use Twine for development, we don’t know yet.

mostly useless- I work at a language school.

Yes, I realize this is a non-sequitur. I also realize you didn’t answer the question, which was about how to track branching, not how my organization works. The “non-sequitur” was there to provide context since I know that the process I’m describing is not the way everyone develops and I didn’t want to get into a discussion of why I should just write it as I program it. Instead it appears that you would rather discuss how my organization works vs. how most organization works, and I can assure you that nearly every assumption you have made on that front is wrong, so back to the germane question: what’s an effective way to track branching for someone who isn’t writing and programming simultaneously?

Maga, thank you. This looks like it may be part of the solution I am looking for.

Peter Pears- Trizbort looks like an interesting option too that I will check out. I agree, putting out a transcript before programming is going to be a huge pain, but alas, that decision was not up to me. Which is why I’m hoping to figure out beforehand how to manage the chaos rather than doing so in the thick of it. :slight_smile:

For a general graphing program, I like using yEd. It has some nice auto-arranging funchions that can quickly reorganize a graph without altering relative connections between nodes, which can help emphasize or clarify certain areas and relationships.