Failing NaNoWriMo

failure

The English equivalent is probably something like this.

NaNoWriMoの失敗

It’s official. I’m a failure. But there are some real lessons to be had.

Goals

I’ve mentioned before that my goal with NaNoWriMo this year was less to write a novel-length amount of words (50000) and more to write the rest of the dialogue for the first part of my game.

Well, I failed. Insofar as I didn’t meet my goal.

But as with any NaNoWriMo experience, it’s not necessarily about completing the task. Finishing is better than not, but as with all things, starting is better than anything else.

Starting is the most important part of any task.

And I did start. And I wrote more this month than I typically do. In that, I succeeded.

Results

Start: Mid-Chapter 4, script of 9678 words

End: Mid-Chapter 8, script of 15,418 words

Reasons For Failure

Whenever I fail, I always look inward in regards to what went wrong. Loser-blaming? Because as much as it’s calming to say that my failure was the result of forces beyond my control, it’s also empowering to believe that I had an effect on my outcome, even if that outcome is negative.

My failure was for two main reasons:

  • I prioritized friends and video games over it
  • I had problems writing when the areas weren’t made

Prioritizing

There are two things that I feel are integral to my life: groups of people and video games. Basically, if I’m alone, video games are there for me. If I’m with people, then people are there for me. If everyone’s together playing video games, it’s basically bliss.

So when I had the option of getting together with friends I hadn’t seen for a long time and to spend a week in an unfamiliar city, I gave that precedence. And then there was the weekend before that trip going to a water park with some other friends that had been planned for a few months in advance. Never mind the school drinking parties, three of which occurred last month.

Then comes the games. I have less of an excuse for them. I’m playing 4 (technically 5 (Bayonetta 2, Radiant Historia, Terra Battle, Clicker Heroes, Tales of Vesperia)) games right now, which is much higher than the 2 I like to have at any given time. So I’m trying to beat Bayonetta 2 so I can get back to Tales of Vesperia and finally beat that. And then I’m past the halfway point in Terra Battle (woohoo for mobile games with a storyline and ending). I’ve also set personal goals for Clicker Heroes, a game with no technical ending, so that I can complete it and not go back. When I reset the game with Cookie Clicker, I considered that the ending. Unfortunately, it’s a little more complex with Clicker Heroes. In any case, now that there are new heroes, my goal is to get all of them. Or maybe get to floor 1000? Good luck to me. Good thing about an idle game is that I can leave it on while I play other games / do other things. Or maybe that’s exactly what’s wrong with it.

How would I solve this problem? Last year, I was better about writing. Why? While I still hung out with friends, I also left early to get back to writing. So the itch was scratched and I could get work done. Hanging out with everyone for 60 mins instead of 90 mins is still legitimate. The key was to limit my time, but not exclude it all together. Problems occur alongside exclusion.

And then with the games, I needed more reward systems. Which is to say, rewarding myself with games for getting stuff done. I also did this decently last year. The real problem this year was Clicker Heroes, which requires a peek every so often to make sure things are going at an optimal pace, messing with my writing rhythm. Again, my fault.

Game Design Problems

The other big failure was in the nature of the task. In other words, writing without working on the game was problematic.

In making a game by yourself, the task of area design, written script, battle systems, music arrangement, cutscene work, optional areas and minigame design, and just about every other thing is your job. Where it’s easy is that all of these things interact, and as the director, you have a solid idea of every asset (since you created them all yourself). Where it’s difficult: working on only one thing can make it seem like the project is going nowhere.

Yes, now the script is way ahead of everything else. Yes, the script incorporated elements of the battle system, making that easier to implement. However, all it is right now is a script. A piece of paper. It’s not the final product. It’s the framework / outline for that product, but it’s not something that the user will ever see. In that sense, it’s like the game has been on haitus, and it’s felt like that in my mind.

Or, it did, until the last week. Because at one point I realized I needed to make the area so I could understand what I needed to do. I was sitting in a KFC writing the script when I realized I needed to know what an area looked like before I could write the scene. So I built the area and then started writing.

関係ある

関係ある

This is how game design works on the macro level. Everyone has a different task and all of these tasks fit together. But every task is also altered depending on everyone else’s work.

You can write a script, but if you don’t understand the area or who the characters are, which might be created by someone else, it’s hard to make it work. So you make a placeholder. Then you find out what the area is like. And you alter your script. And then you put the script into the game, but realize something doesn’t work about it. Maybe they need another prop. So the area gets altered. And because the area gets altered slightly, perhaps something before or after needs adding.

It’s not straightforward, but it works well when everyone and everything is at the top of their game, no pun intended.

The other problem in regards to game design is that at Chapter 4, a huge chunk of the world opens up. Two big towns. A side area in one of those towns. Two small areas connected to two big areas. Another big area. For this section of the game to be playable, a big part of the game needs to be playable. It’s true: I could block off areas with invisible walls. Just a message saying “this will come later”. In fact, I did that with other places. But this also serves as motivation to complete it. I’m just unsure of where the line between motivation and too-big-so-it-becomes-scary lies.

As of now, about half of all those areas are done. One city doesn’t have the insides of buildings. The side area isn’t done. 2/3 big areas are only partially completed. Most of these places aren’t populated by NPCs.

In any case, the script is good enough for now. Enough is done to make this area feel real and complete. By the end of 2014, I think I’ll have enough to publicly show off.

Accountabilibuddy  

The real problem? Nobody to hold me accountable. When I’d created my first game, my students only had a week or so to play it. There was real pressure to get things done. Even more so when I returned a day after the initial release and found many kids had already completed a majority of the content, even beating the first side area. That week I added three side areas, all of which were big, and put a few extra things in the game. I worked intensely, every night, for hours. I lost sleep.

But I did it. And yes, people completed what I added with decent speed. All said however, the game was over. It was complete. I could look back at it and say that it was done.

This game? There’s no timeframe. Nobody is pestering me about it. If I never get it done, only a few people will bat an eye. I doubt someone will beg me. There’s no wild fanbase out there speculating and wondering what’s the next thing that will come out. As a result, there’s no pressure, for all the good and bad that comes with it.

That’s why I want to finish the first 11 chapters. Because that’s the point that the game becomes releasable. And once it’s out there, like the first one, maybe it’ll force me to keep making this. Bring it to greater heights.

Until then, it’s steady work. With each day, the project gets closer to completion. And now with a good chunk of the written script out of the way, I think the next part of the game will be quickly implemented.

Keep on truckin’.

 

P.S.

The RPG Maker scripting community is amazing. Like, the Ruby scripting, not the written script. So far, all my requests for assets to my game have been met quickly and with flying colors. For these awesome people’s sake, I also hope the game turns out well. I’d hate for their work to amount of bubbles (it’s a Japanese expression; deal with it (水の泡となる for those curious)).

 

P.P.S.

Why is there nothing new on the internet?

So, I’ve been away from my typical internet for the past week, thanks largely to being in Kobe for a reunion / American Thanksgiving party. It was fun, but like all vacations I expected to return to a world of new articles on all my favorite sites. I thought my blog would be the only one lacking new posts.

Glad I’m not alone. Kinda. But it’s still not an excuse. So expect at least one more post this week. And sorry for the lack of explanation last week.

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