I can think of all sorts of interesting story ideas to begin a game, but I can’t for the life of me extend them. I could manage to create a traditional story, where the reader/listener is just carried along in the narrative I make, but making a story that someone interacts with seems like a very different matter.
I’m having particular difficulty trying to think of “puzzles”, or even just challenges, to go into what little plot I can work out.
The best puzzles happen by accident. You’re better off just implementing whatever terrible puzzle comes to mind, than sitting there doing nothing while you try to think of the perfect puzzle. Chances are, you’ll think of something much better while working on the bad idea.
Agreed. Sounds like you’re in the same boat I’m in. I have lots of major points, but no details in-between! That’s why I’ve been doing adaptations just to learn coding, but I’m working on something original for IFComp later this year. As far as any advice I might have that’s helped me: try to just implement the ideas you have, even if they are out of order. If the creative juices are flowing, the details will fill in themselves, hopefully! :mrgreen:
IF is a skill. You need to practice to get better. Just keep writing and adding simple puzzles like doors and hidden objects. Eventually, as you write more, ideas will come naturally to you that can be implementas a puzzle. I would also highly recommend you read:
One exercise to try might be to abandon thoughts of beginnings entirely, and spend an afternoon dreaming up awesome finishes without worrying about beginnings at all. Imagine things from the your perspective as a player rather than writer: what kind of endings do you, personally, find satisfying?
Once you have an ending you like, constructing paths strewn with obstacles leading to that ending can be (for some, sometimes) a more fruitful process than starting at square one and pondering where to go from there.
You may also find that you can rummage back through your mental library of beginnings, and find amusing ways to hook them up
Perhaps traditional “game-y” interactive fiction isn’t what your story needs. If you’re more interested in producing a more streamlined narrative, giving the player some choices along the way, you may wish to consider many of the choice-based (CYOA-like) story development systems such as Twine and Varytale. I would highly recommend Inklewriter.
The other thing to consider, is what are the other characters your player will interact with. How will the player be at odds with them? That might suggest some hidden motives, information they want kept secret or objects they might have that the player can discover.
In my limited experience I’ve stopped thinking about puzzles and am just concentrating on the story and the ways I can incorporate the unique aspects on working with a digital interactive medium (such as the theme of chance, enforced by the randomness you can create)
I’ll second this one, as all my best puzzles seem to arise from logically extending the existing situation. As I’m writing, I’m constantly looking at things that aren’t puzzles, and then wondering what could be done to throw a roadblock in for the player.
Colin and I will both tell you that One Eye Open was conceived as a puzzleless, atmospheric game. In light of this, we were especially proud of our Xyzzy nominations for “Best Puzzles” and “Best Individual Puzzle”.
Looking at another of my games, here’s a puzzle analysis from “Beet the Devil”:
[spoiler]My initial puzzle list for Beet the Devil included only the 7 Deadly Sins puzzles and then the final encounter with the Devil. But one of my favorite puzzles is the ferryman puzzle, which didn’t appear at all on that list.
What does the route to Hell look like? Well, in Dante’s Inferno and Greek mythos alike, you need to cross the river Styx to get into the underworld, so I built the river and the ferryman. But would the ferryman actually take you across? You’re alive, after all.
I considered doing something with the traditional coins - maybe you could have a paring knife, and then you could cut disks of carrot off your carrot to make fake coins for the ferryman. This was a terribly bad idea though because it involved giving the player a knife. Yikes. New plan needed.
Besides, most people aren’t buried with coins these days, and the ferryman takes them across anyway. This led to an internal Q & A, something like:
Why does he take them across? Because they’re dead.
How does he know they’re dead? Because they look dead.
What makes them look dead? They’re super pale.
How could the PC become super pale? He could cover himself with flour.
Yeah, it’s a silly puzzle, but it’s a silly game, so I ran with it. It also added a twist to the spiky green demon puzzle later (ghostly white artichokes didn’t look enough like spiky green demons to scare them) and gave more personality to the puppy (because it could lick flour off things).[/spoiler]
Everybody has a vivid imagination, and wants to make their dreams come true, but few people can muster the effort to actually make them come true.
If you write until you’re satisfied with the beginning and the end you want, you can just leave the middle for later.
If you really, really can’t think of anything in between, then that’s just fine. Just write a location called “In The Midst of high Adventure!” and describe in highly vague terms, how fun it is to be on a quest, facing all sorts of mysterious dangers. It’s different, so it’s interesting, and it’s better than just adding a forest-maze just to prolong the player from reaching the ending, because players will recognize that as padding. If the forest doesn’t seem interesting enough to write, it won’t be interesting enough to play. Just keep the good parts.