As mentioned earlier, it’s hard to share information about a game that is still only in the phase of having its script written. Not only do I not have many flashy pictures to show, but there is still so much that could change about the script itself that even sharing that is not really an option.
But now that the first draft of Angelic Orbs: Fallen Angel is finally finished (note: only the first draft), I will instead try and go in depth about another topic that tends to come up when working on the writing itself: and that is the matter of having the player affect the outcome of the game.
Those who have followed the sparce details about Angelic Orbs since its announcement would know that this game is not advertised to have differing endings based on choices. Instead it is officially planned to give you, the ‘observer’, different ways of seeing things unfold as they lead to an inevitable outcome.
However, that is not to say that there are no chances of things turning out differently. Since I began serious work on AO, possibilities and openings for making this into a game with mulitple (maybe very different) branches and outcomes tend to come up. It is something I’d definitely like to do if it turns out to be feasible, and as such it is one of those little things that like to gnaw at a creator’s mind and demand attention.
Advertising the game as linear has been the most sensible and safest way to go so far, I believe. There is still a very large possibility that this is how the game will eventually turn out, and in that case I do not want to disappoint people by delivering something less than promised. Chances are, no matter how much I mention it, there are someone out there who will still be disappointed.
To be honest, I am already worried about making this post at all, in the fear of giving people false expectations, or the idea that the first option would merely be the loser’s version of the second. But here we go, into the brave unknown.
To help understand why all of this is so uncertain, and why it sometimes nags so much at me personally, I will try and go through some of the considerations that could stand in the way of of a truly branching Angelic Orbs:
I am of the belief that if AO has to go multi-ending, it has to do it properly. Which means it won’t just be minor variations of the outcomes, but proper, branching stories that are very different from eachother. I want to make this game the best I can be at this point in time.
Considering the general theme and direction of the script, as it looks at this very moment, there is potential for two, maybe even three distinct branches, that will determine how the story evolves and, ultimately, ends. Angelic Orbs is not a small story to begin with. This means that the amount of script that would need to be written and illustrated/adapted into VN format would see a massive increase. It would most certainly push back release, and increase not only expenses, but also the risk of creating this game altogether. (The “risk” part is something I wish didn’t matter this much, but as a lone, starving artist this is sadly a big issue.)
Angelic Orbs consists of more than one game. The early branching would happen already in the first part, and the transition into the continuation would have to be handled properly.
I already mostly know how to handle the question of whether a player has savegames or not, but there is also another point in this that may affect people’s impression of the game. Chances are that the first part will not have any major differences to its ending, even if your choices so far will still have major impact on what happens further ahead. Considering people’s reactions to to things such as the first episodes of Telltale Games, this is worth keeping in mind, I feel. It’s no fun to finish something that is supposed to have a beginning and an end, and not knowing if what you did actually mattered or not.
This point is still up in the air however, as it can’t really be said how it would work until more of the script would have been completed.
Making sure all branches feel worthwhile.
It goes without saying, but all of these possible turns of the story would also have to be of acceptable quality, and feel like they were worth going through. The best possible outcome is if one player ended up only going through one of the paths, and still felt like they experienced a full, enjoyable story, and not something that was merely tacked on and lacking in substance. I would be glad to see different players have their reasons to choose different outcomes and journies as their favourites, rather than only having one true story that made sense to them. If thelatter was true, I’d rather stay on a more linear path, and keep at telling the story I originally had in mind.
While the existing story of Angelic Orbs is mostly sorted and ready for writing, I must admit that these possible variations are still just very vague ideas and concepts in my mind. And I only want them to be there if they end up working out.
This, of course, links back to point one – workload.
I hope this gives some insight in the challenges of working this kind of game/script, be it one like AO, or a traditional romantic visual novel where the creator has to decide between staying with the three original routes, or maybe adding two more that fans wished were there. We would all love to do the second, if the circumstances are right for it.
(To see more concepts and other art-related news more frequently, feel free to visit my tumblr!)