Game Dev Diaries: Starting a Video Game

3 minute read

At the end of 2020, be it coronavirus lockdowns or another excuse, I wanted to change how I practice creative writing. I wrote a book, Changeable Worlds: Deliverance, and published it in 2012. Since about 2014, I have been (slowly) crafting the second volume that continues the story.

For those unaware, Changeable Worlds is a fantasy fiction series that I have been writing off-and-on since 2008. I don’t go out of my way to promote it. I do it for fun, rather than profit, and it taught me a great deal about how books work – ISBNs, publisher catalogues, printing specifications, and more – let alone properly writing long form fiction. Publishing books has become easier over the years, but publishing deals are the relative rarity.

Now, writing has always been secondary to the day job, and that takes up a lot of my time. It’s one of the reasons why I have been slow to complete the second book, but it’s not the only reason. Designing stories, world building, character development, plots and sub-plots, takes a long time. I have an extensive library of design for all this, which totals many hundreds-of-thousands of words… and that’s not even the manuscript.

What changed? I decided to not write the second book. *gasps from the audience*

Instead, I’m doing something different: interactive fiction.

Many years ago in my career as a software developer, I worked in the video games industry. I worked on game engines for both desktop computers and mobile devices. It was a pretty successful run, being exposed to all kinds of cool tech, and I even had a brief hand working with Epic Games on Unreal Tournament, and later on Unreal Engine 4.

Now, dear reader, you might see where I’m going with this. Changeable Worlds, in my head, was always a video game. But I’ve always had other interests in being creative, such as composing music and long-form writing. The book started as a way to write the stories and characters that I wanted to develop. It ended up as a full-length, multi-part novel, by accident.

About Interactive Fiction

Is “interactive fiction” (IF) a “video game”? There are various segments of IF, with a few being more complicated than others. You may be familiar with the Choose Your Own Adventure book series, which were popular in the 1980s/90s. Those are classic, non-technical approaches to IF. This is not the direction I am taking – I am not pursuing to continue writing printed stories, at least, not right now.

IF is not an “adventure game”. How far one goes in terms of interactivity is what sets apart the two things. In an adventure game, the player uses a combination of commands, collected items, clues and environment to act out how the character achieves its goal. In IF, a limited number of choices are available, and the player does not have free rein over the environment.

Changeable Worlds: The Video Game

My plans for IF are bold. Given my history in software development, combined with my creative ability, I feel comfortable about doing what I want to do.

Building a video game in 2021 is a lot more easier than it was 20 years ago. I’m not saying it is easy, the ways of going about it are much more streamlined, and the software available now is a lot more accessible.

In subsequent posts to this blog, I will talk about what I am going to do, the processes involved, and even get right down into the dirt about the code, the story and the design of worlds. There’s the other side about video games – the business behind it – that I will be discussing.