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Article - 'BoS2- Fleshing It Out' by SMOPHWoD.Y

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Sep 6, 2004

Blurb

Mr. Y helps you turn a decent idea into something you can really tear into!

Body

So, you have an idea. You at least know what your game is gonna be about. But where to go from here?

Well, the truth is that you can go anywhere and work on anything, really. Maybe develop some characters, maybe create some dastardly plot, or maybe just think up some interesting new game system. It's up to you, Holmes. I'm just walking through my usual process. Now that you have a great game idea (Assuming that you do!), the next step is to flesh out your idea some more!

To give ourselves something to work with, I'm going to continue with an example from the previous article. Our good friend Fred is gonna make himself an RPG! After getting some advice from some friends of his, Fred has decided what his game will be about. The game is set in modern-day America, where, following an extremely dirty campaign year and a very close election, radical conservatives and liberals have clashed and touched off a civil war. But this is basically all that Fred has gotten done! Although this is very important information, it is certainly not enough. It needs to be expanded upon!

The first step after getting your idea is expanding it a bit. Off coarse, the entire process of storywriting can be summed up as expanding and building onto, but what I'm basically telling you now is to add a few small ideas to your big, main idea. If your idea is cliched, this is your opportunity to fix it up! Try to add things to your story idea that are very natural, or that can make room for great game systems later. What sorts of things to add? Well, maybe put some names in there, for people or places or events. Or just write more about what's happened, explaining yourself better!

Let's go back to our example for illustration. In Fred's story, hardline liberals and conservatives led by Governer Remoo of California and Governer Dochmur of Pennsylvania, respectively, have amassed private armies and begun a new American civil war. All other world nations have publically sworn to remain out of the bloodshed, but some have sent in covert operators to further their own agendas. Both sides expect a quick victory, and neither is prepared for a very long war spanning two decades. After nearly twenty years, a lengthy stalemate, and many deaths, both sides seem prepared to call a peace, but what they want is unclear. Some are calling for two separate Americas, while others want the United States to be united again. A powerful moderate, James Silverton, is slowly usurping political control from both Remoo and Dochmur, who are struggling to have important parts in the U.S.' future. But a group of shadowy sabotageurs secretly battle Silverton in an attempt to continue the stalemate and further weaken the United States. In the midst of this four-way war, a young lawyer bands together with a brilliant military commander and an anti-war celebrity in a movement to finally end the war... together, these three must pull together the last remnants of America, and create a force that can stand up to all those who would spread chaos in the States.

It's much easier to explain with an example, heh. I have significantly increased the level of detail of the game idea, enough that I can work with it now and really get cracking. I've introduced some of the most important characters, including all the potential heroes and villains. I've changed the story a bit, placing the game about twenty years after the civil war, but that was necessary for an even better storyline. Now for me, all of this wasn't that difficult to do. I made a pretty decent, well-explained game idea without that much effort. For you, it may be harder, but don't get discouraged! Stick to it, and keep trying to find ideas you like. Be sure to run your ideas past friends who can criticize you. And hey, if you really can't think of anywhere to go, maybe a friend can? Bring it up with a smart guy, and ask him if he can think of any neat story ideas.

Oh, but here's the catch! As just about every guy will tell you, having too many cliches in your game will ruin it !

Well, actually, not everybody says that, because some folks realize that cliches aren't that bad. If you're entirely new to the word, a cliche is an idea that has been done to death. And there are a lot of cliches in RPGs! If you've hung around GW, you've probably heard the jokes about loner mercenaries and summoner-white mage girlfriends. If you want an exhaustive, hilarious list of RPG cliches, click here. But let me say this about cliches!

It's true that a more original storyline is more appreciated than a more traditional, cliched one, it is impossible to create an amateur video game that every person who played would agree isn't cliched at all. At this point everyone has gotten a taste of just about everything, really. What can a guy like you do, then? Have you missed out?

Well, no, you haven't missed out on anything at all. This fact will only make your job easier! What I suggest you do is to stay mindful of steriotypes and cliches in RPGs, and to try to stray away from them. But! Don't make your game unrealistic or worse for the sake of originality. And don't bash your head against the wall if you feel you can't make something truly unique. You can make your game your own through a ton of other methods. Maybe you can create a cool battle system? Or maybe you'll draw all your graphics and give the game a unique look? Or, hey, maybe you'll just fill the game up with a ton of awesome mini-games. Even if you don't do any of these suggestions, you can try something else. All I'm saying is, don't hang your coat on an all-original storyline. It's very, very, very unlikely at this point, and doesn't guarantee a great story. Just try to make a very interesting and GOOD story, and include lots of other "trademarks" in your game that will make it stand out of the pack.

Anyways, I'm through for this article. I was expecting to write about other things in it too, but hey, guess I had a lot more to say than I thought. Next article I'll get into some more nitty-gritty stuff that most average gamemakers can use. Nevertheless, I hope you remembered an old trick or tip by reading this through. I want to be a help to you!