It turns out that visual novels are insanely complicated, ridiculously difficult to track and an impossible amount of work. Who would have thought? After getting all excited I did some research and had a go at planning one. The problem was that every choice became a new branch and potentially a new story. The spreadsheet containing my first attempt quickly got completely out of control, branching and branching until I had more sticks than story.
So, after abandoning that attempt I discovered Twine – an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories. Twine allows you to create a more compact branching spreadsheet by building in ‘if this, then that’ constructions. Not only that, it allows you to assign values to each choice. This means that you can manage the size of the spreadsheet much better. It also gives you much more interesting branches that are based on, for example, how much other characters like your reader character according to the cumulative effect of their decisions.
It’s still really difficult. I haven’t even started anything like actual writing yet. I’m just trying to carve out the major events and choices in each of my story paths. After the initial spreadsheet jungle, I’m limiting myself to 6 or 7 possible paths–which still seems like quite a lot. But, because this is me, I’m complicating things further by having each of the paths interact with the others.
On the positive side, my rational, control-freak self loves keeping track of everything and creating the logic expressions so that the reader’s choices progress sensibly. And my creative, artistic self loves coming up with new and exciting ways to complicate things. Hopefully, between them, I’ll end up with an interesting visual novel that actually works. In the mean time, I’m having so much fun!
Also, did anyone else spot the connection between the ‘into the forest’ theme of this blog and suddenly having to deal with the branches of visual novels? It feels like some kind of sign. Spooky…