Monday, August 5, 2013

Kill your Darlings

Sometimes you can feel that something is wrong with a design, concept or story, without knowing what it is. On some gut level you feel that what you are doing is not beneficial. But how do you transition from gut feeling to productivity?

You see, when your gut is telling you that something is off, it can be difficult to work. Authors refer to it as writer's block. It is a conundrum that has to be resolved so that the work can be the best it can be. Sometimes it will require rework or scrapping a project, but the sooner you realize what is wrong, the sooner you can fix it.

How this May Progress:

Procrastination -

Perhaps the one that can be the hardest to identify. If you procrastinate already, it can be difficult to identify your normal procrastination from that resulting from a problem. This procrastination occurs because you have no solution for the problem, yet you do not quite understand that the reason you're doing this is because of that lack of solution.

Solving Easier Problems -

That is to say, that instead of tackling the big mess, you spend time clearing out your inbox, responding to twitter, etc etc.

Essentially, you do not want to tackle the problem, you are aware of it, and so you fill your time with other things that "have to be done", but are of lesser priority.

Writing or Talking about the fact that you are Procrastinating or Solving Easier Problems -
You are now addressing the issue that there is a problem. You are talking to other people in an effort to find a way to save that problem, or to finally come to the conclusion, that it has to be resolved some how.

Solving the Problem, or Killing It -

And here it is, the whole point of this mess. If you can't solve the problem, then you have to come to terms with killing it off.

How to Kill:

Combine it with something else -

Maybe the character is a bit redundant, maybe their role can be merged with another. Perhaps the mechanic is just not interesting enough by itself. It could be that you don't need jumping in the game, so you can just put any jumping with the other Quick Time events in the game. Have it be context sensitive like other interaction points in the game instead.

Remove it entirely -

Is the scene causing more trouble than its worth? Sometimes, going back and rewriting, or recreating a room is better than trying to shove something where it doesn't belong. The best authors have every scene progressing multiple things at once (character, story, setting up a Chekov's gun). Similarly every area of a game, should be exploring the game world narrative, the character narrative, and the player narrative.

When thinking of moving from controls to touch gameplay, I wondered if I should keep the character icon, or if I could remove it entirely instead of animating it for touch. Sometimes, its better to not waste time on additional animations, while other times, the investment allows the game to feel more "juicy". Think it through and make the decision.

Change its location -

Sometimes a scene doesn't work because it hasn't been set up. Maybe make the scene take place later on, and have the current moment set up that payoff. In a game, you may need to have a room or two where the player can safely play with a new mechanic. You may feel that you have to rush it, because the level is already built, but you should evaluate the space, and attempt to script around this, or simply move the challenge to a later spot.

In the end:

Solutions vary based on why you have to kill your darling. Hopefully, this will at least get you back on track to solving your problem. Good luck!