The "Write a story first then adapt it into IF" approach

I have been toying with the idea of creating my own IF for some time now. But when thinking about the story aspects, narrative, characters etc. as well as thinking of the game aspects, coding, puzzles, items etc. It becomes overwhelming. So I thought I would break things up by separating the two.

Therefore, I have started writing a story (probably short) with a third person perspective (“you stand up”, “you look around” etc.). Then, after I’m done, I will attempt to adapt it into an IF game.

Is this a good way to go about this? Has anyone else created IF in this way? I would be grateful any opnions, thanks.

Definitely the “walkthrough first” approach is not unknown; it allows you to set the pacing and sketch out the overall design without getting bogged down in implementation.

Writing the story first generally doesn’t work quite the way you describe; not all stories make good IF, so if you let yourself write a rich story first, you’ll try to implement it and get totally stuck. A related idea that does work is to write a transcript (a “walkthrough” as UnwashedMass suggests) for your game before coding it.

Another related idea is to thoroughly design your entire game before you start, including story and puzzles together. Since it’s just a design document, in principle it would be OK to focus on the story parts “first” and then the puzzle parts, as long as the result was a single document.

Emily Short has a great blog post about approaches to this problem. … mentation/

In practice I think writing a design document is too hard for your first IF game. It’s too hard to know the right level of detail, how big a game you can finish, where interactivity will foil your plot, etc. without a little more experience.

If you’re going to write your first traditional parser-based IF, I recommend doing it as a Speed IF (see how much game you can implement in just a weekend) and doing it with a transcript first. Once you’ve done two or three of those, pick your favorite and add on to it, making it bigger.

Another approach is to make your first game puzzleless, so you can focus on writing an interactive story. If you do that, I recommend against writing a parser-based IF at all; write it as hypertext in Twine … ipt-intro/ (disclaimer: I wrote ChoiceScript).

Very much this.

I think that most people have one or two forms that they ‘think’ in, that they subconsciously hold up as the Really Important forms. For a lot of people, it’s movies: there are a good number of IF games that feel as though the author would really prefer to be making a big-budget movie. A lot of indie game developers grew up with consoles, and automatically think of story in terms of platformers: for them Super Mario Bros. is the law and the prophets. For me, it’s novels and strategy/sim videogames (and IF just enough that I get frustrated while making CYOA, but not enough to actually be good at making IF). I’m fairly sure that a good number of second-rate 19th-century novelists, in their heart of hearts, would have preferred to be painters or poets, but had to settle for prose.

So if you’re composing a story that you plan to turn into IF later, it’s important to keep reminding yourself that it’s going to be IF. Doing it as a fake-transcript can help a bit with this, but it’s not a guarantee that your story will work as written: if you do it this way, don’t get too attached to your first draft, because you may need to switch some big things around. (You know, get rid of major characters, delete entire scenes, introduce totally new elements, maybe change the whole point of the story. The sort of things fans get really pissy about when their favourite book gets made into a movie.)

And it’s useful to understand what your instinctive media are, and keep an eye out for them. (Whether that means that you go ‘huh, I’m thinking about this like a movie, I should stop that,’ ‘huh, I’m thinking about this like a movie, but I think I can import that awesome thing movies do into something that works as IF’, or ‘huh, I’m thinking about this like a movie, I should stop wasting my time on IF and try and become a film-maker instead.’)

(There are definitely some people who think instinctively in an IF idiom. Emily Short is one such: I’ve seen her playing a narrative worldbuilding RPG, seize on an idea that was already floating around in the story, and take it in a direction that made it perfectly suited for an IF story/puzzle mechanic without apparently intending to. It worked fine as an element of the RPG, but it was very clearly an idea whose natural habitat was IF.)

I think there’s a very good chance that your idea for your first game is just a bit too ambitious for a first game. Consider shelving it as your second or third project … and in the meantime, create a very tiny, modest concept for a first-time-out.

In the process of taking a very small game from conception to completion, you’ll learn hugely valuable (and exciting) things. By keeping it small, you’ll learn them soon, and enjoyably, and without becoming swamped.

I did just what ghalev says, and shelved my ambitious project, only to start on another project, which turned out to be just boring, so I shelved that, and started on another project, which was too ambitious too, so I shelved it, and…

The Speed IF trick is worth trying: a combination of a hard deadline and an excuse to release something that’s not necessarily your masterpiece is a good starting point for a first release.

Another good thing about Speed IF is that you can be done before you get bored of it :slight_smile:.

If the ambitious projects are the only exciting ones another strategy could be to extract short IF works from the larger concept.

Thank you very much for the detailed responses everyone. You have all been amazingly helpful. Thanks to your advice, I have decided not to turn my story into an IF game. The very small game, speed IF and/or puzzle-less approach seem much more doable for my first game.

Again, thank you very much everyone. :slight_smile: