Thursday, March 24, 2016

18,776 Words Later, I Figured Out The Story I Was Telling

Yup. That sure is a lot of words. They are good words, too! I'm proud of many of them. Most of them! Here's the problem: they don't really tell a story. I went into this project with a great setting and a decent character and a vague feeling that maybe I should have a plot. I decided that I would figure out the plot as I went. And I did! After nearly nineteen thousand words and four and a half vignettes.

My original plan to deal with this was to go back through the vignettes I'd already written and add plot. I'd just put in a few extra scenes, throw in some choices, and voila! - a story. I've realized that that's not quite how it works. Often, the best way to improve a work of writing is to take stuff out, not put stuff in. Plus, it turns out that the IF platform I've been using, Inklewriter, makes it incredibly difficult to go back over stuff I've already written and add more choices.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

I Can See The Finish Line (And A New Website!)

Hi all! This week's vignette was fairly short, a little less than 2000 words. But I had a good reason for slacking off, I promise - I built a website! Maybe you are there right now reading this blog post.

It turned out to be kind of a huge project. I decided to code it from scratch rather that use a website like WordPress, because I need the web development practice. It took me maybe ten to fifteen hours total? Some of that time was learning to use the tools. I used a CSS framework called Materialize. It's a great library, with lots of tools to align elements properly, really good responsiveness (i.e. sites that look good on mobile and on a computer), and cool effects and transitions. It wasn't too complicated to use, but I had some problems making my vision for the website conform to what the tools let me do. The back end (the server) is written in node.js, a well-known JavaScript server-side environment. I used a module called Express to handle HTTP requests, which actually lined up nicely with what I'm learning in Computer Networks class.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Onward and Upward

This week's (and last week's!) vignette was a lot of fun to write. It focused on the main characters relationship with his teacher/father figure, a historian and sociologist named Karl. As I laid out last week, it was actually three distinct stories that can be played in any order, just as the entire project will be a series of vignettes that can be played in any order. I had planned to add branching options that change each story based on the decisions the reader made in the other stories, but I ran out of time. I will still put that branching in, but it will have to wait until after I've written the rest of the vignettes.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Evolving the Plan

I really tried to think of a clever title for this post. Something involving evolution and adaptation. Eh, what are you gonna do?

So, here's the deal: I was too ambitious in my plan for the semester. School is really kicking in now, and I simply don't have the time to write a vignette every week. Luckily, the way I organized the project makes it very easy to switch things up.

The original plan was to have 10 vignettes, with some level of branching between them but with a mostly linear narrative. Last week, I detailed a design structure that would let me have more branching without actually having to write completely separate branches - the vignettes will be playable in any order, and the decisions the reader makes in one vignette will change plot points and enable branches in the other vignettes. That way, I can have high replayability without having to write tons of unique content.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Why Writer's Block Isn't An Excuse

Well, two weeks in and I'm still on schedule. That's a good sign! I wrote another vignette this week, about the main character's arrival to the great city of Adriata. Honestly, it was a bit of a struggle. I procrastinated early in the week, which led to a crunch later (hence the Sunday night blog post).

I feel like writing is difficult to schedule. Sometime I sit down to write and my mind just blanks out. There are certain ways to cope with this, like diagramming a scene or conjuring a concrete image in my head and trying to describe it, but it's not like a coding project where I have a clear list of tasks to accomplish and I can just push through it until I've accomplished them.

This makes it very easy to justify procrastination. "I've got writer's block, I can't work right now." Here's the thing: I don't really have the time for that kind of leniency. Not that I'm beating myself up, because things happen and schedules change - but the fact is, I have until the end of this semester, and then I'm starting my senior project and my independent study and my life gets too busy to do development on the side (although I am brainstorming ways I can fit bits and pieces of projects I want to do into that schedule). Anyway, the point is, I have 11 weeks left to write this thing. I'm proud that I finished this week, despite the slow start.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Branches of the Past Project Announcement

I am taking a class called Software Engineering, and I think it's changed my life. In that class, I am working with a group to develop and release a software project using a technique called Agile methodology.

Now, the life-changing part isn't the project I'm working on. It's not Agile methodology specifically, either. It's the simple idea that to get a project done requires concrete goals and a real plan.  In other words, business 101, but I'd never really thought how to put that idea into practice. In this class, we developed a vision of the final goal, then broke it up into achievable tasks and scheduled the semester to plan when we will complete those tasks.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Game(?) A Week(?): Dungeon Generator

You know, I'm running out of quirky ways to say "this took me more than a week, huh". Turns out that going to school full time and working on weekends doesn't leave as much time as I thought I had for game development. Anyway, this project, which is neither a game nor took a week to build, is a dungeon generator! For a rogue-like. I was actually hoping to build a full rogue-like this week but this is all I had time for. I'm quite proud of it.

Rogue-Like Dungeon Generator - total development time 2 weeks

What it is: A program that procedurally generates dungeons in the style of Rogue. There is a player character who can walk around the dungeon, but all the important features of rogue-likes - combat, items, treasure, stairs, field-of-view - are not currently implemented.