What plot bunnies have you been harbouring?

For those unaware of the term- (it’s one you normally find in Fanfiction spaces), plot bunnies are ideas for stories that chew and gnaw away at you, insisting on being written: though it’s typically used in the sense of having too many of them to wrangle. Sort of like how dust bunnies multiply like crazy under your bed if you aren’t keeping on top of cleaning.

I’m supposed to be working on my SeedComp entry, which basically entails logging onto a dead girl’s computer and trying to put together the pieces of whodunnit. There’s a fake little Interactive Fiction forum involved, which won’t be digging too hard into the meta community commentary analysis angle that can dip into, but is more so just because I like forums and I love this one. (Though, I have been mixing up bits and pieces from a few regulars I’m fond of when formulating NPCs on the forums in the background blender of ‘vague soup simmering on the stove’ that most of my projects go through.) I just really suck at writing mysteries, so I’ve been procrastinating a bit, sickness aside…

I also want to work on a more visual novel sort of project. For some God forsaken reason I can’t get the idea of one of my original characters, a professor of mycology named Dr. Henry Cross out of my head, and I think writing snowed in scenarios with my friends and the real life winter storm brewing outside has got me fixated on the scenario of being stuck indoors chatting it up with your professor. I think this is some sort of warning sign that academia has got me in the clutches of not letting go, because who drafts silly school e-mails and writes about class assignments outside of being forced to? Haha.

17 Likes

Oh lord, where do I even start. I always have more ideas than I know what to do with.

There’s always EJ and my IfComp game for 2020 2021 2022 2023 (hopefully), which I won’t spill the beans on for fear of jinxing us further, but I’ve had a few ideas rattling around on my own as well.

I still hope to get my Ectocomp-game-that-never-was started someday (am I detecting a pattern here?) featuring a sentient pumpkin guiding Cinderella through the All Hallow’s Eve Ball, of course, but the one that’s really got my attention right now is a little more serious. I’m one of those weirdos who really enjoys reading about engineering or transit disasters and the general why and how of things going wrong, so I’ve been entertaining a game in that vein. It’s not really fleshed out yet but you’d play as an inspector from the fantasy FAA trying to piece together what happened in an airship crash from the wreckage, magic black box, interviews with the survivors, etc. What went wrong? No idea yet, but I keep coming back to it.

Edit: I think the real trick will be making it interesting to laypeople, since a lot of these rely on things like “fatigue cracking”, “improperly set concrete”, and “thermal creep”. Riveting to some people, of course, but I don’t want to turn it into an engineering textbook. :rofl:

11 Likes

I have three games in various levels of completion: a pure puzzler, an on-the-run thriller-ish thing, and a two-player game. I think I’ll finish the puzzler, but the other two are giving me hives.

I had 3 real plot bunnies that I hadn’t done anything with other than think about them a lot: one about a captured parrot, one about a bad morning, and the last one-- my favorite-- gamifying TS Eliot’s poem The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock. I swept those 3 out from under the bed into txt documents and submitted them to SeedComp, so now they’re not my plot bunnies anymore. I really, really wanted to write a game on the Eliot poem, but I think it would be better served in a choice format, and that’s why it gave me so much trouble. The other two just never quite took over my headspace at the right time.

I thought submitting to SeedComp would clean out the junk, but there are so many other good ideas there that now I’ve got new plot bunnies.

11 Likes

I really want to implement a character dynamic in a story where there are two characters that care deeply about each other and have this really intense friendship, but neither of them have a romantic or sexual interest in the other at all. No secret feelings or anything.

Like, every behavior and interaction is stereotypical of love interests, and in any other way they’re in what looks like a relationship, but no, they’re just sharing the absolute maximum state of platonic friendship, and they’re both extremely happy with it.

I don’t want to use this as a baiting tool or anything like that, but just as a dynamic in a story to stand against the idea that friends need to be no closer than “strangers whose names I know”.

8 Likes

Interestingly, I’m detecting a bit of an ideological bunny split in this thread! Specifically, between people who have ideas for characters (or dynamics) first and come up with a game around them and people who come up with concepts or settings first and fill in the characters afterwards. Really neat to see how everyone’s mind works.

I also suspect there’s a smaller third group of people who come up with mechanics first and then find a story and setting that fits. I wonder if any of them will show up?

4 Likes

I guess I’ve always wanted to do a horror/surreal Alice in Wonderland story, which has a similar style to Night House. I have it all planned out, but I never do it. The one time I did I got halfway through coding the game (it’s quite longish) and my computer broke and it was lost forever. I never backed it up :man_shrugging:

6 Likes

I’ve noticed this before, not just in game writing but in writing in general, because I’m surrounded by character/dynamic people and I very much Do Not Get It.

I’ve got a lot of game ideas floating around my head. The one that’s the farthest along is a silly parser game about a mad scientist trying to make a deal with the Devil. Another one is another parser game about solving all your problems with a magic sword that can cut through anything (it’s less silly than it sounds).

I’ve also got some vague ideas about a post-apocalyptic game in which you play one of the scientists responsible for experiments that caused the apocalypse, a surreal game set in a dreamlike version of my hometown featuring tensions between a vaguely Lovecraftian church and the state, and a space exploration game that’s a sequel to my IFComp game.

6 Likes

well, in the end I have “retired” my major WIPs from IFComp, working on and off (as usual) on smaller, less ambitious, prospective IFComp entries.

Merry Xmas and Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

3 Likes

That’s funny. I’ve been carrying around a plot bunny with seemingly identical elements for many years… (Also, there is a criminal priest involved.)

I think ideas are part of a collective consciousness. Probably this one is ripe. :smiley:

2 Likes

My oh my, the phrase “opening a can of worms” comes to mind. I hate to see something go to waste so I have picked up the habit of keeping a notebook around in order to just be able to jot down any idea which comes to mind, for fear of losing it forever. Must be my old age. My smartphone notes app is filled with little bits and pieces of whatever comes up at unexpected times: ideas for settings, characters, conversations, puzzles, the lot. A total chaos if I scroll down the list. Then I have to go back and try to make some sense of it.

Which is currently my biggest challenge: I find it hard to get something “big enough” to make a complete game out of it. I seem to think of “scenes”, and I am missing a coherent plot. Including the seed “Galactic Delights” I submitted for SeedComp, I have now 15 “scene/story ideas” (at the time of this writing). At least I am happy to see I am not the only one struggling with a lot of different ideas screaming to be let out of the can.

I am now working on something which is basically the idea which gathers the most momentum as of now, but still there is this lurking fear deep down: will it be sufficient? is it enough? I would love to have some kind of overarching thing tying everything together, otherwise I would end up with a bunch of unrelated things thrown together “because I can”. At least my current project has something going for it, but it seems rather small when I look at other games. I also tend to try to get a “sensible” experience for the player, which boils down to adding a lot of stuff which most “sensible” players (i.e. players who do NOT try to eat, lick, kiss, hug, burn, (insert your favorite verb here) everything in sight.) would never see. I could of course just remove all verbs I never use from the parser vocabulary, but that seems like a cheap trick to me.

3 Likes

For me it was the cumulative rabbit weight (love the term ‘plot bunnies,’ had not encountered that before) that pushed me to engage the forum this year. There’s a lot I want to say (most of which has probably already been said, but NOT BY ME) about humanity’s need to dictate behaviors (most especially seemingly harmless ones) to the minority; about the fragility of systems when their good-faith underpinnings encounter bad-faith actors; about the terrible choice between lonely isolation and psyche-damaging social interactions; about the astonishing impact of individual choices in creating historical sea-changes; about the steep slopes that surround the unstable equilibrium of romantic relationships; y’know, popcorn stuff.

Also, eldritch horror, techno-thrillers, a whole lot of puncheminnaface. And dwarves overcoming systemic elvish racism.

5 Likes

Plot bunnies! I love it. Makes me want to give mine cute names and profile pics. Maybe spending more time fussing over them would get the games done sooner.

Some of my dearest plot bunnies at the moment:

Students are disappearing from a boarding school and you have to investigate their personal belongings to unravel the mystery.

A Squid Game-style elimination game set in a workplace (i.e. grown-up Danganronpa).

And a reality competition show simulator, which I’ve been mulling over since 2017 but just might finally get done next year.

4 Likes

That’s really a great scenario for exploratory IF. It almost makes me think of an elaborate version of those mysteries where you get someone’s diary and correspondence and have to look through them. I remember hearing one writer pitch about a story that came “in the suitcase of a dead man” - you’d actually receive a suitcase and all the stuff in it.

That’s a popular idea, but there’s always room for a good Battle Royale variation! From your prompt, what sprang to mind were movies: Exam and The Belko Experiment. I too got really sucked into Danganronpa and love the “And Then There Were None on steroids” murder mystery concept.

2 Likes

So… I don’t actually understand people enough to focus on characters, even though my listed bunny is a character/dynamic thing. That’s usually the last thing that I focus on.

This is actually me. I am extremely mechanics-oriented and setting-driven in both games and writing. I usually think of the world mechanics and setting first, create the problems and puzzles, and then attempt to create characters who would realistically be able to solve/survive/simplify the problem. Most of my games rely on this, and most of my short stories are usually about a puzzle being solved through a scientific process.

One of these days, someone is going to realize from my writing and I don’t know what I’m doing when I write characters, and/or find all my characters weird and deeply unrelatable.

The problem is my characters seem totally normal and realistic to me, but the characters that everyone else thinks are “three-dimensional” or “realistic” or “relatable” seem unpredictable and unknowable to me, and usually take me out of the story when they’re the driving focus. This presents a major problem because I obviously lack a “detector” for character quality, tuned for general audiences.

Luckily, people who seem to enjoy my stories and characters also appreciate that I write them in my own special way, so maybe this isn’t something I should change, because I seem to be addressing a niche that would otherwise go ignored, if I were following conventional wisdom about characters instead.

4 Likes

Oh my gosh, that would be so cool. Interactive fiction indeed!

I meant to say before, this sounds so interesting—it reminds me a little of Return of the Obra Dinn. I do love an investigation game that feels a little bit like an actual job.

So many intriguing ideas in this thread! I hope to play them someday. :slight_smile:

5 Likes

Now that I think about it Obra Dinn (which I adored) is almost certainly an influence on this! Good eye.

There’s many awards winning novels out filled with nothing but weird and unlikable characters, so I think you’re good! I think, as you suggest, that playing to your strengths is probably best.

4 Likes

Ooh, interesting. I loved Return of the Obra Dinn so an IF in that vein would definitely be cool to see!

EDIT: I see I was not the first to notice this, lol.

3 Likes

I dislike Zork Zero so much that I often think about writing my own prequel to Zork I

7 Likes

Really need to finish putting together the Meetup game submissions I received so I can send testing copies to all the contributors: I’ve got a couple days off at the end of this week I plan to use for that purpose.

I spent a weekend in July recording notes for a road-trip game. That’s going to take a lot of transcription effort, but I should make a point to implement this game some time in early 2023. I don’t want to lose my grasp on the feelings I wanted to evoke.

However, I’ve recently had a breakthrough in my approach to a long-simmering game idea that needs to be finished before the end of 2026. I made detailed notes, so I can afford to push this off a bit. This one’s conceptually pretty abstract and self-indulgent, but the breakthrough concerned how I can ground this story in much more concrete terms.

My white whale is a parser-based fantasy story that takes the choice-based framework my last two games were essentially proofs-of-concept for and unite it with a progressively transforming map of rooms—that abstract long-simmering game I just mentioned could actually serve as a proof-of-concept for the transforming map, so I should probably not attempt my white whale until afterwards.

I’m sure there are other plot bunnies milling about where I can’t see them, but I’d prefer to labor under the false hope that I only have four projects I’m concurrently working toward.

3 Likes

Yesterday, I found my handwritten notes for a game I really wanted to make, but never actually started working on.

It was supposed to be (typical for me) a Twine puzzler, but with switching back and forth between several characters. It would tell the story of forgotten toys in the attic who fight to save their humans from the invasion of really tiny, mind-controlling aliens. The planned cast of characters included a worry-wart triceratops, a female villain from a military action figures line who’s actually kind and responsible, ans server as the toys’ leader; a botched bootleg Transformer toy who’s permanently half-robot, half-spaceship, and a Barbie doll with a peg-leg (due to an accident and a repair by her owner’s older brother), leading a bunch of toy pirates.

I had some puzzles and interactions planned for the game, but somehow couldn’t get into writing it. At the very least, some gameplay/mechanics elements I had planned for this game ended up being used in Bones of Rosalinda .

Because I’m a “mechanics first” person, I’m also really tempted to make another big, procedural RPG, just because I could write all the underlying systems in a much cleaner, better way (I learned a lot from making a mess of a lot of the code in my 4x4 games). But I’m not sure if I want to invest so much time into one project again, even though I know I would have a lot of fun building it.

9 Likes