Every writer, and probably every programmer as well, has his or her own way of doing things, I’m sure. There are many aspects of actually going about the task of writing IF. Maybe some of them can only be learned by experience, but I think a discussion of the IF writing process could be useful for wannabe authors, such as myself.
One of the important practical decisions we have to make is whether to take notes about our vision for a game before beginning to write and code, and if so, how extensively. When I used to play at making text adventures with Inform and ADRIFT as a young teen, I rarely took any notes. If I did, the notes amounted to a scribbled, incomplete map that I never finished implementing. My 2005 Comp entry came out nearly spontaneously in a little under two months. At least partially on the advice of Mike Roberts in an article about the practical aspects of IF design that’s included in the TADS documentation, I decided to make extensive notes for what I intended to be my next project, after having failed to get very far in a few hopeful projects after throwing “Dreary Lands” together. Since June 2009, I’ve been occasionally jotting down notes, keeping them organized in a binder. I’m glad that I didn’t start coding when the initial concept came to me, because my plans have taken off in different directions. My basic basic idea and ultimate goal have remained the same, but my current vision is much more complicated and ambitious than my original thoughts.
I’m wondering if any authors who have had success in completing their WIPs have any tips about the execution of our ideas and notes. Several times, I felt like I was nearly ready to begin coding, but I don’t know where to start. This past December, I laid aside this WIP, on the top of my tremendous heap of forsaken ideas and wasted effort. A new story idea had come to me, and I thought it could make a good IF game. Frustrated with taking notes, I jumped right into coding.
In my experience, one of the difficulties of writing IF is introducing the plot. In both this latest project that I’m working on and the previous one for which I made all the notes, I now realize that I don’t know how to get the game into motion. This realization is what recently made me decide that I need to mostly rewrite my start to this new game (I’ll keep the two rooms), which isn’t going anywhere. Now I have an idea that would give another dimension to a game that I had abandoned at least a year ago, which was going to be built on the same premise as “Dreary Lands”, but completely redone. I know that I’ll never get anywhere if I keep jumping from idea to idea, but it’s really hard to stay focused on a project that seems to have a flat tire.
Has anyone had success with the technique of writing a mock transcript before coding? I’m thinking of trying this approach for my current WIP.
Well, I’m sorry that this post was so self-serving. Most of my personal frustration is likely due to my laziness and indecisiveness, but I’m sure that some of it is common to the experience of trying to write interactive fiction. I’d be interested in any discussion.