When making a game a good rule to have is to not start with your story first. Now, you might be thinking I’m talking complete blasphemy, but hear me out, because I’ve made that mistake as well.
Tangled By The Story
I first started making games with the idea of making amazing roleplaying games. I ended up starting with the game’s story. I would craft the story from start to finish, map out all the characters and create a huge world on papers with lots of characters and different areas and set pieces. But, whenever I did that I ended up with a lot of problems down the line. Why? Because, every part of the gameplay and events in the game’s core loop had to agree with the story first, rather than the other way around.
This meant we ended up potentially sacrificing fun for the purpose of making a story point; that’s how you end up stuck and kill your game’s first point of providing the player with an interactive experience. I would end up not being able to implement certain game ideas that I thought were cool, simply because the story did not agree with my idea for changing the design. I would either have to change the story or change the design. Out of the two, changing the story is a lot easier than changing the design. All that hard work of the art, mechanics, and other assets is very hard to throw away in a large project. I learned my lesson and the industry has also enlightened me that gameplay first is the best way to start.
Games are different from other media; it is an interactive medium of expression. With games being an interactive medium, doesn’t it make sense to focus on the interactions first? The bulk of the game is not the story, but the gameplay itself. Players look at what they can do in a game and get hyped.
As a player myself, when I see games like Breath of The Wild, Nier; Automata, and other games. I’m looking at the gameplay first to see how they can pull me into the world. None of that has anything to do with the story, but also, it’s hard to come up with a story for a world that doesn’t exist yet.
By creating solid gameplay we can now start working on core gameplay that people will actually be interested in. But, that doesn’t mean the story is not important. Story is a little different and equally important as your gameplay.
The story acts as the glue for our game. In the past, we used to have very rudimentary stories as gamers. Mario has to go save Princess Peach. That’s just a means to an end. Things have changed now with bigger games that are trying to push a specific narrative. Now, we need to improve upon what we write and really give life to the game world’s we create. But, it still has to start from the gameplay, because important information emerges from that gameplay.
The story that we have emerges from our game’s design and core gameplay. It pulls the game’s core parts (art, design, gameplay, programming, etc) across the finish line and tells the story the game wants to tell. Now, that’s extremely powerful. At that point, we’ve given the player a reason, a motive, to keep playing to see what the ending is.
So, before you get too in-depth with your game’s story, start with the gameplay of the game you really want to play.
With all that said, I hope you have a good one. Keep working on your games!!