DB2 - First Draft Completed
Today I am happy to announce that all chapters of DB2 have passed my "phase two" of testing. They can be read from start to finish, and thus I can also say the first official draft of DB2 has been completed. It clocks in right now at just about 50,000 words, roughly 10,000 more than the first game. I'll be going back and adding plenty more of optional dialogue and investigation-related parts, so the wordcount will go even higher. But the bare minimum has been completed.
A Look Back
One of the biggest mistakes was trying to write DB2 without having planned it all out. Eventually I fixed this by working out the story and fixing all the plot holes, but things would have gone much faster if I had gotten it all straightened out from the beginning.
In programming, there is a concept where it's desirable to "abstract out" features so that you can generalize the problem and solve a wider variety of cases. For example, you might want to write your code so that it can be easily expanded upon in the future. However, using this logic to write a story (or to make a specific product) can be dangerous. When making a product, you are aiming for a specific goal. If you become hesitant to set anything in stone (to make it permanent and not interchangeable) then your product will never be finished. Throughout development, I had gotten worried many times that it was going in the "wrong direction" or that it "wasn't exactly how I wanted it." But these things are just a part of life; inevitably there will be something that can be improved upon, and I could spend many more years trying to "perfect" every little detail. To the average person, it's still going to be just as good to them.
My philosophy changed during last year (naturally, after seeing the process taking me nowhere). That's when I started developing monthly games, to get myself into the habit of accepting something that wasn't perfect. I also learned how to work toward a specific goal with a deadline in mind. With these new skills in tow, I figured it would be good to get back to Detective Butler and finish what I had started. So, the most important thing was creating an outline. I had to know what story I was truly writing. I had to become an individual who would be good at making decisions. This stays, that goes. We're making a story about this, and not about that. And ideally, these should be small things that can be completed in a reasonable amount of time. When things started looking too complicated, I'd just try to cut it entirely, like a reverse-hydra. You have to learn how to cut off all those useless heads without growing any more.
One method, which I had mentioned last time, was to do the inverted Chekov's Gun. That is, write the plot with the bare essentials in mind, then when you get stuck you write a Deus Ex Machina (i.e. something out of nowhere to resolve the plot). Then, go backward into your story and add it back in.
Another method, especially in mystery stories, is to emphasize function over form. Characters should only serve one function each, and if they do not serve a function at all, then get rid of them. And if during the writing process you end up with one character that serves two functions, then split them into two characters. I had made this mistake with the first game by including characters who served no purpose in terms of the mystery puzzle. I could've improved that game's story by making the puzzle involve those characters in some way.
The way things stand right now with the second draft, I have a number of plot threads going on at the same time, and they all wrap around each other into a brilliant conclusion. If just one character or clue had been missing, the detective's final revelation could not have happened. All of the plot threads intertwine with each other, influencing the characters' motives, where they end up going, who they end up talking to, and so on. I am honestly shocked I managed to pull this off. However, I still need to revise the drafts one more time after some peer review, just to make sure it's acceptable for public consumption.
After establishing my outline, I came up with yet another way to make progress. I'd make sure I wrote at least 1,000 words per day. So even if 100 days pass, I'd end up with 100,000 words no matter what. And if I managed 2,000 words per day, it'd happen in 50. That way I know where I'll stand in a few months. I still need to do the coding and we'll need some more art and music. The second drafts will probably be sufficient to figure out precisely what kind of art and music we'll need, but it still takes time to make these things, and I want DB2 to be finished before the end of the year.
Perhaps in the future I can write some blog posts that dig deeper into my inspirations and guides for writing this story. I know that during this long journey I've learned so much from so many sources of inspiration. Whether they are video games, books, movies, or even my own life. I think I will wait to see what other things inspire me on this last leg, and then do a writeup afterward, once all is said and done. In the meantime, I'll be working on programming the writing into the game, and so you can expect to see more screenshots and videos from now on.
Look forward to another blog post toward the beginning of March in which I'll explain my plans for the month. See you then!