Mapping the Cave Crawl of Ideas

by syaffolee

Ideas have a funny way of coming together and melding when you least expect it.  It’s easy coming up with ideas but I find them difficult to implement (whether it’s a story, novel, or in this case, an interactive fiction game) right from the get-go because I often have the nagging feeling that something is missing.  So there’s always this bit of time that I force myself to think about something else and let the idea morph and mature in my subconscious before pulling it out again for reassessment.

I’ve settled on an idea that is a mashup of an escape room game, post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, the sillier aspects of archaeology, the grumpy grad student mentality, inspiration from several BBC documentaries*, and Alice in Wonderland.  I am aiming less for originality and more for something that will let me experiment with some concepts that might or might not fail in the IF medium.

Because this is my first serious attempt at IF, I’m planning to keep the game small and relatively straightforward.  And speaking of planning, there’s going to be quite a bit of that going on before I even start writing the code.  I’m approaching it in several stages: 1) prep work; 2) outlining; 3) fiction writing; 4) code writing.

In the prep work stage, I basically worked out the premise of the story, the motivation and background of the protagonist, and the setting.  All of this sets up my constraints–what I’ve decided what can or cannot be done in the scope of the game.  In the outline stage, I am figuring out where the story should ideally go and other alternatives which a player may take.  While the outline of a regular story–for me, anyway–is a rather linear list or timeline, going the choose-your-own-adventure route makes that linear list explode into a tangled web.

The outline, I’m finding, is a lot more complicated than I had anticipated.  This is where I must consider all the possible decisions the protagonist can make, the puzzles and their solutions, and how each object that I’ve included should interact with everything else.  If I were to be optimistic, I’m probably about halfway through the outline.

But even at this stage, I’m worried about one thing.  It’s one thing to write about altered states in fiction.  But how am I to implement it in code?

*How Long Is A Piece of String? Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
Parallel Universes Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Illusion of Reality Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6