Whew. Ladies and Gentlemen… Mona’s story is complete.
The script isn’t complete, nor are the character designs, or the dialogue, but the story that I have been faffing about since the inception of the idea is finally down on paper in an orderly fashion…
…and it is EEEEEEPPPPPIIIICCCCC.
It’s been an interesting process to get here. I mean, okay, fine, the key points of
the story have been on the page in point form for over a year. Inciting action is easy, and climaxes are even easier, as far as I’m concerned. It’s those pesky middles that cause all the bother.
At its core, Mona is a linear game. While the player has a casual choice of which missions to accept and which upgrades to buy, there’s still a definite chain of events that needs to unfold in a particular order. All in all, the story is perhaps the most linear I’ve written for a game. Which you’d think would make it easier than your average choose-your-own-adventure.
However, it’s also designed as Free To Play, and Free To Play can’t depend too much on continual custom content… if I have to give you an infinite amount of story, then I need an infinite amount of budget, and an infinite number of monkeys to build it for me. I don’t have that. I have, like, three monkeys.
So… it all comes down to dispensation of information to the player. How much do feed out in one session? What’s the attention span of the average casual player? How often do we drop in a nugget of story-development? And will the players even care?
See, I’m in an interesting situation. I’ve got a game concept that, if I wanted to, could be boiled down to a very repetitive Guitar Hero/Fruit Ninja gameplay style and probably do very well for itself.
At the same time, I love a good story. It’s kinda what I do. As well, Mona Lisa was funded by the Creative Europe MEDIA Subprogramme for the development of narrative driven video games, so by those grounds there MUST be a story.
And so, all these agonizing weeks/months trying to nail down the middle bits of the has really come down to the question of: “How do I build a game with a F2P core, but also with a story where (a) the story isn’t over in a couple of hours (b) the story doesn’t bubble down to an infinite string of ‘sorry but your princess is in another castle!’”?
The answer: a soap opera. Many threads, many stories, many characters, intertwining lives, dispensed in short, punchy nuggets of dialogue to keep it rolling along on the day to day, punctuated by moments of peril, terror and revelation on a central thread that draws the player through all the custom missions. By the time the script is complete, what I hope to have is a story that takes weeks, if not months, to tell.
More on this soon. My fingers need to rest up for the epic battle ahead.