AdventureX Conference notes
I’m at the AdventureX conference this weekend. These are the notes
Dave Gilbert Getting Your Game in Focus
Keeping your focus: how to keep your project grounded and realistic and within a manageable scope
Great thing about being indie is that you can create whataver you want, but that blessing can be a bit of a burden sometimes.
With no oversight, could get overwhelmed by possibilities, or get stuck on a small trivial detail.
How do you direct yourself and give yourself a compass that can keep you on the right path?
Building to an emotional theme: GDC talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao4b4aN7RgE
3 step process: Vision Critique Revision
What are your goals?
Before you can figure out what your goals are, you have to be honest with yourself and figure out what you are capable of and where your strengths and weaknesses are.
For example: The Blackwell series
The overarching story can be a bit of a mess. There are plot holes in the back story etc
BUT - this was not a problem. becuase that’s not wher ethe focus of the game is. the main focus, and objective, was always around the protagonist’s interaction with the lost ghosts
Usually this enables him to get back on the right track, but not always.
So need a secondary focus: Rosa and Joey
By approaching it from a new angle, usually enough to get back to where Ineeded to be. so needed a 3rd focus:
The game itself
sometimes that’s not enough, so, 4th focus:
The whole series.
So, when people say that the backstory and the overarching meta-narrative is a bit of a mess, that’s because it’s at the bottom of the priority list.
Backstory and world-building are probably the things I’m the lest good at. my strengths are in writing about people and covnersations. sure, want to push myself, but it would be dumb to make worldbuidling my main focus. would quickly get myself into the frustration zone.
you want to get things playable as soon as possible, and get to a prototype as soon as possible.
stick figures, placeholder dialogue, whatever it takes to get it out of your head and into a prototype. lots of advantages from testers:
- get feedback early and can adjust course
- if you can get them emotionally engaged even when the game looks unpolished, you know you’re onto something and that can give you an emotional jolt to keep going.
- conversations and back and forth with the testers. Being an indie game developer can be a lonely thing.
uses example of this section of game, set in Staten Island - feedback from testers was negative. it was boring and hard to know why they should care.
thought about what goal of the section was and why you were on staten island: realised that, true goal of the section was to make the player like Vicky, so had to re-evaluate approach.
- gave her more screentime.
- have her help you fight a sea monster
Refocused writing of the scene around the idea that every section of the scene and moment in the game had to tell you who vicky was and help you like her.
In this talk, spoke a lot about motivation and confidence: often why it takes so long to make these games is that i’m extremely unceratin about which direction to take next. know that my reputation and livelihood are on the line. So, one of the reasons why focus is necessary is because this helps give motivation and confidence to keep going.
It’s much better to expand your comfort zone than to try to really get out of it. Just as important to make sure you don’t land yourself in the frustration zone.
Jess Haskins The Politics of Worldbuilding
You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.
World building is politics, and there are some things we have to consider as we tell stories and contruct worlds and meanings.
Why do we have to talk about politics? All art is political, whether the artist thinks so or not. Developers are becoming more mindful and thoughtful about games the creat.
You’ve probably heard lines like “It’s just a game” before, typically right after someone gets into hot water, but “we weren’t making a poilitical statement” = “we made a political statement unconsciously”
When the poltiics of your work go unexamined, they tend to reflect the status quo, or unconscious biases
Dr Katz professional therapist: we did some focus groups, and found out that the target audience are men, my age, who are me.
Worldbuilding is a rhetocial exercise.
As a worldbuilder you get to choose not just how to present those facts, but what those facts even are.
how do you go about building a world in an intentional way?
You are constructing a simplified, comprehensible sociology, geography, etc
for gala collider, had folders with names like ‘space’, ‘time’, ‘timeline of the galaxy’ etc
have different levels:
- Geography and ecology
is usually where we start.
this ia lot of fun but there’s more:
- Simulation of physical resources and material conditions. don’t have to simulate this in the game but need it to make sense
- Political, economic and social systems
- Culture, arts, theology, etc
These levels are all intertwined and related to each other.
World builders are polymaths. In a sense you are what you eat, so watch your media diet.
Often when reaching out in worldbuilding, can fall into orientalism and cultural appropriation.
how to avoid this?
do your research
maybe consider drawing on your own neighbourhood and own knowledge of where you come from.
consult others and involve outside voices
be willing to open your work to critique and other points of view
What happened to ‘write what you know’? Not terribly useful for fanasty
Don’t be afraid to stray from your lane to make mistakes, rock the boat, and stepping outside the mainstream.
Representation really does matter.
Q: How to fix established worlds? A: Sometimes there are older ideeas. Sometimes can maybe, not mention those ideas any more. If character or issue is core to the world, then maybe can bring in new characters to balance representation.
Q: How do you know you’re on the right track? Is it just instinct, or is there something more? A: Have to start with own instinct, but important, too, to show it to others with diverse opinions and get feedback.