If you’ve ever worked with a group of writers before, you know that it can be tough. Everyone has different ideas about where the story should go, how this or that character should behave or react to this other character, whether or not a character should be used to further the plot at this point in the story rather than that point in the story, things like that. It gets a lot more difficult when you’re working on a visual novel: not only do you need to deal with the above, but you also need to figure out how to combine everything into a single, flowing story with multiple endings while at the same time shaping it into something that people will want to read by the time you’re finished with it.
Choices complicate things, and I mean that literally. How do we structure our story in just the right way, where we don’t bombard the reader with choices that decide how the story ends but at the same time don’t let the story drag on? After all, who would want to play another seven hours of non-heroine-related story when they’ve already decided what heroine they want to pursue? It’s something that’s stumped us for a while, and with as many endings as we have planned, as long as our story is turning out to be, it would definitely become a problem for our readers; we don’t want people holding the ctrl button in boredom so they can skip through to the stuff they want to read.
Our options for avoiding all that were pretty limited. We could have each act in the story be dedicated to one specific heroine, but that would make every heroine be available in stages, and that’s not exactly realistic. Most people don’t have a queue of ladies following them around. Another option was to have a sort of heroine select screen when you start the game – an idea that was luckily thrown out almost immediately.
After spending a few days discussing how we could go about structuring the story, we’ve more or less settled on a pretty unique way of solving these problems:
We split the story in two.
Now before you freak out, let me explain: At some point along the line, your choices so far in the game will nudge the main character into a certain mindset or take a certain action that will affect the rest of the game. So let’s say our game is about pirates and there’s a scene where the captain – the main character – needs to decide whether or not he’s going to pull some big heist or another with his crew. A careful, mild pirate captain would probably be more likely to say ‘no’ to the idea, but a reckless and greedy pirate captain would probably jump at the chance. What kind of person this character is would depend on the choices you made earlier in the story, and his decision at this point would affect the story in a pretty large way: if he decides to pull the heist, you would have a story based on that. If he decides not to, you’d have a story based on that.
What we’re doing is similar. Just like with any visual novel, the choices you make along the way will affect the main character’s future actions. The only difference here is that we kind of go nuclear with the idea and take it to an extreme.
Hopefully this will result in a better, more dynamic story with slightly more replayability, since you’ll be able to re-experience the whole story told from a different angle.