Game Dev Diary: Storybuilding

By X-51 | Game Dev Diary | 16 Jun 2020

Things have been pretty quiet here on the game-making front lately. I hit a technical snag changing my maps so the walls were objects instead of tiles which I am still working through - I will hopefully post more about that problem when I figure it out enough to actually tell you what it is!

Otherwise I've been busy working on a 3D model for a potential future business venture. But I still pretty much suck at 3D modeling for now, so there won't be any previews of that just yet!

Plus I'm building a website for another potential future business venture. I really hope I don't suck at that, since web dev has kind of been my job title for the past 10 years 😅 But, again no previews - my business partner and I need to work out some tiny details like company structure before I can think about anything further for that project.

Add to that I've been making some steps towards my exodus from Google services, and I also have a pile of photos to edit from walking around the city with a friend and giving him a photo shoot a little over a week ago.

Meanwhile I really need to start taking my apartment hunt more seriously - I already put it off for one month and it is now rent week again.


But, I'm not here to write about life... I wanted to share how I progressed from having only a very loose concept for my story one day, to having a solid beginning, a semi-ending, and some middle material the next day.

So I'll start with the details I knew before my brainstorming session....

It is Lovecraftian mystery/horror, and I wanted it to be an appropriate period, so give or take some creative license with my assets, my setting, and probably my continuity if I do make more games set in this world, the story is going to be set somewhere in the approximate period of 1900-1940.

I wanted a fairly versatile location so almost anything the story required would be available. Plus the style of the place should be lifted straight from Lovecraft's work without using any of his iconic locations, to help me not get stuck on the details of his locations (I know nobody else is likely to care about those things, but I would!).

So I picked the location to be a large town/small city - one side bordered by ocean, while the other three sides are bordered by a mix of cliffs and forested mountains. The mountain pass on the landward side could easily become blocked by bad weather, a tree fall, or a rockfall, while the ocean side is prone to storms and rough seas, but could also be the perfect route to introduce more exotic elements to the city.

All things considered this gives me a pretty nice mix of features from some of Lovecraft's own locations - isolation & disconnection, foreboding environments, interesting sources for local mythology, and more.


But that was it. Really not much to base a story on, and it had taken me almost 2 weeks to get to this small amount of world data.

So I sat down and literally just asked myself some questions about the story, then answered with a mix of common tropes plus details on how it would affect my storytelling, some of them stupid answers just to rule them out. I purposely started generic, but as I went on the questions and answers became more specific.

As an example here is the first question I asked myself, along with the answers and some sub-questions that came from it:


Why is the character in the city?

  • Resident
    • Makes it harder to believe the character might get lost
    • Will know many people
    • Harder to introduce the player to these characters & places when they are supposed to already know them
  • Previous resident returning after years
    • Things will have changed, people moved on
    • Can know some characters and places, but many can be unknown (or have changed considerably?)
    • Reminiscing as story elements
  • Visiting a friend or relative
    • Why?
      • On holiday?
      • They are sick or dying?
      • They returned from overseas?
    • Will know only a small handful of people
    • Won't know way around well
  • Here for business
    • May know someone through correspondence
    • What business?? 
      • Could be antithetical to allowing a career choice in this (or a later) game?
  • Collecting an inheritance from a relative
    • Will know almost nobody
    • Won't know way around
    • What is the inheritance?
      • Rare artefact?
      • House?
      • Book?


Here are a few more questions that came up, without any of my answers:

  • Who will the character know in the city?
  • Who or what will be the primary source of story progression/quests?
  • Who or what will be the antagonist?


And so on and so forth, and it honestly didn't take too many more of these questions and answers before my brain started forming a cohesive structure around which the story formed itself. Here is a brief introductory blurb I wrote (with some spoilers edited out).


You arrive in town to inherit your uncle's house. Your uncle was estranged from the family for his strongly held beliefs in pseudo-sciences, mythology, ancient treasures etc. Things he spent most of his life chasing across almost every continent of the world.

Arriving at the house you find it being run as a boarding house, and it is a stipulation of the will that the house must continue running as such, with two permanent guests/employees - the woman who manages the boarding house, and her brother who acts as handyman.

Despite their best efforts the house is slowly falling into disrepair due to a lack of business and declining funds. Your uncle had previously mentioned a new source of income based on findings from one of his more recent expeditions.

You need to look into your uncle's belongings to discover where this money was supposed to come from.


From that I have already planned story points and a rough idea of the dialog flow for the first day (well, evening) of the game, which will give the player a brief guided tour of the house and some important locations, although many of the rooms will be locked and unavailable temporarily (for story reasons).

And while it isn't the whole story mapped out yet, it gave me enough that I know approximately where the middle and end of the game are going to be set, thus I know which locations I will use.


So next steps are to ignore the game a little longer and tackle my real-world problems 😅

I've also got another crypto game review I've been researching, so I'm hoping to find the time to write it up soon.

After that I will figure out my issue with changing walls from tiles to objects, then I can finally start compiling the assets I will use!

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Software developer, musician, photographer, traveler, crypto enthusiast

Game Dev Diary
Game Dev Diary

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